tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 8, 2013 10:00am-12:01pm EDT
nomination. live to the floor of the u.s. senate as they gavel in this morning on c-span 2. the president pro tempore: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. gracious god, we praise you that although we have merely a feeble hold on you, you have a mighty grasp on us. use your mighty hands to lead our lawmakers to your desired destination, making them
ininstruments of truth and justice. may the tirades of majority be enough to lead our lawmakers for doing what is best for america. may our senators' daily choice be characterized by ethical congruence, as they strive to match their words with deeds. we pray in your great name. amen. the president pro tempore: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to our flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
mr. reid: mr. president? the president pro tempore: the majority leader. mr. reid: following leader remarks the senate will be in a period of morning business for debate only until 12:30 today. during that period of time senators will be permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the senate will then recess from 12:30 to 2:15 to allow for our weekly caucus meetings. mr. president, we are now entering the second week of a republican government shutdown. the speaker of the house of representatives is still sitting on the one bill that can reopen the government. speaker boehner insists that the senate-passed bill to end the shutdown can't pass the house. well, i'm not the first to issue this challenge. it's been issued all weekend and yesterday.
that is prove it. bring it up for a vote. if he really believes the bill won't pass, he shouldn't be worried about bringing it up then. if the house, though, if you look at what's happened, they've wasted weeks, voted -- i really lost track of the time, but i think it's 44 times the house alone has acted to repeal obamacare. 44 times. what is the result every time they vote? the same. truly what einstein said, that the real definition of insanity is someone keeps doing something over and over again, and you get the same result. if in fact einstein is right, and that's insanity what's going on over there. to vote more than 40 times on the same thing and lose every time? so let's talk about wasting
time. has that been a waste of time? maybe after five or six times they kind of maybe got the message. how about 44 times? talk about wasting time. could it be that the speakers really worried that reasonable republicans will join democrats to pass legislation to open the government? sensible republicans have grown increasingly fed up with the shutdown. they're looking for a way out. just yesterday peter king of new york, a republican, said -- and i quote -- "republicans should not have started this. closing the government down was the wrong thing to do." close quote. republican congressman king called speaker boehner's unreasonable strategy to shut down the government as democrats have agreed to defund obamacare
a law that will help 25 million unshourd americans access to affordable care doomed to failure. that's what peter king said. he said, "if we want to defund something, we should repeal it. do it the same way the president got it signed." that's what he said. and that is elect republicans to both houses of congress, repeal it and have a republican president sign it. mr. president, it's pretty obvious what's going on. i've known it all the time. we've known it all the time. when i say all the time, at least the last many months. but it was made very, very clear to the world on sunday, a front-page story in "the new york times." they worked awhile on that story. basically what the story said is that very, very rich people in america who don't believe in government, they used obamacare
as a conduit to shut down the government. that's what they wanted to do. that's what they've done. huge amounts of money. we know, led by, according to the news article, former attorney general of the united states, ed meese, and the koch brothers. raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get us where we are right now. but what peter king suggested is follow the democratic process. that has been turned on its head. i know republicans don't like obamacare, but the affordable care act has been the law of the land for four years, declared constitutional by the supreme court of the united states. and millions of americans, millions, multimillions of americans already benefiting from this law. the rumor's floating around, one
of my rich friends from nevada called me on friday. he said, harry, i'm down here in southern california getting a little cosmetic surgery, and he said, my anesthesiologist told me that one of his friends who is a general surgeon took somebody's gallbladder out. and do you know how much money he got back for that? i said, no, i don't know. he said $5 -l. he said -- he said $58. he is that i had's what obamacare is all about. i said -- i called him by his first name, we're friends, we've known each other all these many years. i said that's not possible because obamacare, that aspect of it doesn't kick in until january 1.
he said are you sure you're right? i said yes, all this sign up for exchanges and all that, that's going to take three months. these are the rumors floating around out there about obamacare. if republicans want to propose a legislative way to make the law work better or more efficient, peter king is right. we're willing to do that. do it the democratic process way. the presiding officer has served many, many years with peter king. i personally have watched his voting record. i don't like most of it. but he's speaking out. i admire the man for doing that by shutting down the government -- and that's what's happened -- we're satisfying the koch brothers and ed meese, but
millions of people in america are suffering. obamacare is not going to disappear. it's here. john mccain -- i'm sorry. the senior senator from arizona gave a speech here within the last week or so, and he said, "i don't like obamacare. i campaigned against obamacare when i ran for president. i campaigned against it when obama ran the next time." he said, "we lost. it passed. he's president. elections have consequences." that's what the senior senator from arizona said, and he's right. obamacare is not going to magically disappear.
tom freedman, a renowned journalist, his bipartisanship has been legendary. he is a brilliant writer, chief correspondent for "the new york times" for many years in the middle east. he's could have had all parts of the world. he's won three pulitzer prizes, maybe four, he's had five or six best-selling books. but even tom freedman has given up trying to be bipartisan. he wrote in "the new york times" -- he writes a column three days a week, where he said obamacare is not really at stake in this shutdown. it's democracy that's at stake. here is exactly what he said --
and i quote -- "when extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional roles of our system --" let me start over. "when extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules, namely, majority rule and the fact if you don't like a policy passed by congress signed by the president and affirmed by the supreme court, you have to go out and win an election to overturn it. you can't just put a fiscal gun to our country's head. then our democracy is in peril if that happens." he went on to say more. "president obama is not defending health care. he's defending the health of our democracy. every american who cherishes that should stand with him." mr. president, that's as true as anything can be. we stand with our president. we stand with the president of everyone in america.
we believe deeply that obamacare is already saving lives and will save many more in the future, but we're willing to work with republicans to change it if they think they can make it better. we want to do that. i wrote a letter a week ago today to the speaker of the house of representatives. i said -- and he knows this. we're in this position because you asked me to put you in this position to do this. he said, going back as far as july, confirmed in the early part of september, i -- the speaker of the house of representatives -- want to have a clean c.r.. and the way we can do that is you agree to our number. he said in july and early september, i hate your number. it's unfair. we passed a budget here, $70
million more than that, but we've got to avoid the problem here. we can't have the government shut down. work with me, take that number, we'll have a clean c.r. and go on to other things. i did that. it was hard. senator mikulski, chairman of the appropriations committee, hated it. murray, chairman of budget, hated it. and then they said, okay, we'll go ahead and do it. we'll work with you. they helped me talk to my caucus, and we did that based on the assurance of the speaker of the house of representatives that we would get this out of the way to fund the government. for a year. he didn't live up to what he committed to doing. in our business, mr. president, that's not good.
and then, in addition to that, i said in the letter, okay, you've said -- you've sent us a little piece of legislation over here saying you want to have a conference. we agree. we'll talk to you about anything you want to talk about. you want to talk about discretionary spending, you want to talk about the farm bill, you want to talk about postal reform, you want to talk about health care, we'll talk. but open the government. extend the debt ceiling. he read the letter. i called him 45 minutes later and he said, no, can't do that. he can't take "yes" for an answer on the number of the c.r. or what he wants to talk about. i don't know what else is left to talk about. all we're asking is that government be reopened. stop threatening a catastrophic
default on the nation's bills. we have to pay our bills. what kind of a country do we want? i met with one -- yesterday, as i do every two weeks, with someone that briefs me on what's going on around the world with our intelligence services. this person told me that his counterpart from the -- from a very small european country, relatively small, is making fun of our country because of what's going on here. in today's press, china is complaining -- you know, they -- they have -- they're doing pretty well economically. they buy our securities and need a place to invest their money
that's secure. china is now complaining. about the fiscal integrity of the united states of america, because we're arriving at a point in a few days, we're not going to pay our bills. this is america. we're not asking the speaker to do something that's unreasonable. we want him to pass a bill that has his number in it. not ours, his. ours is $70 billion higher than that. we all -- we're also not asking him to do anything unreasonable. he asked to go to conference. we say let's do it, anything you want. all we want is the government opened first. we -- we'll agree to a conference.
a senator: will the senator yield for a question? mr. reid: i will be happy to yield to my friend, the distinguished president pro tempore of the senate. mr. leahy: mr. president, the senate -- and i was there when i saw how hard he worked to pass a continuing resolution at the number the republican leadership of the house asked for, based on their assurances that they would use it. mr. president, i'd ask my friend, the majority leader, was that sort of a classic bait and switch operation? because if it is, i think of another one where they asked us to pass a budget and senator murray led us in passing one, we finished our last vote at 5:30,
6:00 in the morning on a saturday, having gone around the clock, and then we wanted to go to conference after they, the republicans, had demanded we pass one. they then refused to let us go to conference with a republican-led house. are these bait and switch? mr. reid: mr. president, through the chair to my friend, the senior senator from vermont, we had a law in place. the presiding officer voted for it when he was a member of the house of representatives. we voted for it. it was a law that set spending levels for multiyear. we did that. that was part of the deal. it was a law passed. but in spite of our having passed a law that set those standards for two years, the republicans kept coming to the floor many, many times, saying well, democrats need to pass a budget. we didn't need to pass a budget. we already had those numbers in place.
but after this haranguing that went on for so long, we said okay, we want to get along, we don't want any problems, so senator murray, the chairman of the budget committee, worked very, very hard to pass a budget, and we did that. and lo and behold, after the republicans kept talking about regular order, we wanted to go to regular order, they said no thanks, so she has been waiting six months. the president pro tempore's description of what happened is absolutely true. let me close by saying this. all we ask is the speaker to be reasonable. he brings his bill, his resolution to the floor, it will pass. and then we -- you have my commitment, everyone has my commitment. open the government, raise the
debt ceiling, and we'll talk about anything you want to talk about. we're not afraid to go to conference. we are happy to go to conference. that's what we used to do here all the time, but we've had a little problem. the republicans won't let us go to conference. maybe they will in this instance because that's what he said he wants. open the government, we'll get back to the so-called conversations he talks about, we'll get back to the negotiating table, work out our budget disagreements. we can even start talking about ways to make the affordable care act better. not worse but better. we can get back to the business of legislating. that's what our job has always been and should be. i would ask the chair to announce the business of the day. the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for debate only until 12:30 p.m., with senators permitted to speak therein for
up to ten minutes each. mr. leahy: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. leahy: mr. president, one, i appreciate the remarks of our distinguished majority leader, and he has probably the most frustrating job there is because he has continuously brought up and had passed things that would get us out of this, would reopen the government, and he is blocked by the republican leadership in the other body. today marks the eighth day of this unnecessary government shutdown. more than 182 hours since the world saw the doors to the united states government closed for an embarrassing and needless shutdown. and while the republicans in the house have the ability to end this shutdown right now, before noon today, they refuse to pass a clean continuing resolution. it's already been approved by the senate.
now, i have joined other senators that have come to the floor to speak about the pervasive impact of the shutdown. there isn't a family in vermont or america, republican or democratic or independent, that this shutdown hasn't affected. all these families have been affected, but now we have cascading, worsening effects to come the longer this senseless shutdown continues. i have joined the chorus of voices urging the relatively few in the house of representatives who are holding up this process, put an end to this political act of destruction. it might allow you to send out bumper stickers and raise money from your supporters, but it's not helping the country. if the human toll of the impact,
if vermonters are not able to buy a home or if children are turned away from potentially life-saving clinical trials or the mothers of our fallen soldiers who won't receive death benefits to pay for their funerals. that's not an exaggeration, mr. president. the news points out today we have always had a program that when one of our soldiers dies overseas in combat, there are benefits that are set up for the family to at least be there when the basket returns at dover air force base and to provide for the funeral. even that is cut out. we send our soldiers to war, we tell them we're there, we will take care of their families if something happens, and now because of a small group of tea party republicans, we say we can't even take care of your family when you die in the service of the country.
for shame, mr. president, for shame if that happens. now, if all of these examples don't motivate them to do the right thing, maybe i can speak their language for a moment and point to the fiscal costs of this republican shutdown. the estimated cost for each hour of the republican shutdown, the government remains shut down, each hour, $12.5 million. that's $300 million a day wasted or $1.6 billion per week. what do the american people get for that? they get to watch fake budget conferences, stage photo-ops. some of the small groups shutting down the government, running to every single tv camera they can find. and over the last eight days, we have spent more than $2 billion for the government to not work, not function, not serve the
american people. can you imagine the actual good that could have been done with that $2 billion that was just wasted? and that figure only covers the costs of work and services the government can't perform because 800,000 federal workers are furloughed. it doesn't take into account the ripple effect throughout our overall economy. where are the deficit hawks who claim we don't have enough money to provide benefits to hungry americans in the farm bill? where are the members who shamefully held up the disaster relief after tropical storm eye reason and hurricane sandy while insisting spending be offset? surely they would want to put a stop to the shutdown to end this wasteful government spending, and yet here we are waiting for the republican leadership in the house of representatives to pass the clean continuing resolution to put an end to the shutdown. instead of passing a clean senate-passed continuing resolution pending in the house, based on budget levels that as the leader pointed out that the republicans themselves wanted,
the proposals being offered by house republicans would actually expand the deficit. first the house proposed we repeal the affordable care act because of claims it was harmful to our economy, but if we repealed it, we would actually accelerate the health care costs, we would boost the federal deficit by $109 billion. they don't tell people they are voting to add another $109 billion to our deficit. and so then they suggest we repeal just a portion of the affordable care act, but it adds $30 billion to the deficit, they don't want any offsets for that. where are the members in the house who attack appropriations bills, the system of cuts for funding to law enforcement officers and disaster preparedness and medical research? where are the members who insisted the devastating costs of sequestration must remain in place because we simply can't afford it? we have to reduce the deficit at
all costs, no matter what it does to law enforcement or medical research or disaster preparedness. they ditch their principles and now they have forced a government shutdown which is costing more than if we had stayed open because of the money wasted. it appears that the only time the house is willing to compromise is when it comes to adding to the deficit in order to prevent access to affordable health insurance for millions of americans. we're here right now because the republican leadership in the house refuse toss act. they can end this shutdown right now and -- refuses to act. they can end this shutdown right now and make this the last day that we spend $300 billion on nothing. this action within the majority of the house has now brought the government of the united states to a halt, perversely insists on wasting hundreds of millions of dollars each day, day after day, and they will not relent. they talk about the affordable
care act. a lot of -- that allowed us to have children in college to be on your insurance policy. they want to do away with that, but they don't have any alternative. a lot of you have a member of your family with a preexisting health condition, heart, cancer, whatever. the affordable care act allows them to get insurance. they want to do away with that. they get nothing in return. well, i'm going to get back to work for vermonters. i want the vermont company that can't start their new product because the certificate is sitting on the desk at the department of agriculture, but nobody is there to sign it. i want those vermonters who are going to see their children go hungry so they don't -- they are unable to get the full benefits of the education they are supposed to be having, i want to see them fed. i want to see our farmers be able to have the ability to
continue to work as they do every single day and know that a farm bill has been passed. let's stop the sloganeering. let's stop the rushing to the tv cameras. let's actually do what is best for america. wouldn't that be a wonderful step in the right direction? mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the gentleman is recognized. mr. thune: mr. president, we're now in the eighth day of a completely unnecessary partial government shutdown. last week, there was an official at the white house who said they are winning the shutdown debate and that they're not concerned about how long the shutdown lasts. well, mr. president, there may be folks at the white house and democrats who are content with the current situation, but republicans remain focused on finding a solution to open up the government. the republicans have offered multiple solutions to fund the government and will continue to find common ground, work to find common ground while providing obamacare relief for middle-class americans. middle-class americans deserve the same relief from obamacare the democrats have already given themselves and big business. senate democrats even had the opportunity to give the same one-year relief from obamacare to their constituents that president obama has already given to big business. we believe, mr. president, this is an issue of basic fairness. we believe this law should be
delayed, not just for big businesses, not just for the favored constituencies, but for all americans because of the harmful impact that it's having. there is bipartisan support for giving individuals and families relief. a colleague of ours on the other side of the aisle, a senate democrat, recently said the delay for individuals would be very reasonable and sensible and there have been a number of votes in the house where democrats have voted with republicans in support of providing that delay to middle-class americans. mr. president, i would say in regard to where we are right now that we have got a near-term issue and we have a slightly longer term issue, but the near-term issue is we have got an awful lot of folks who are increasingly concerned about the impact that the government shutdown is having on people across this country, and so the house of representatives has passed now nine bills that have been sent to the senate that are sitting here at the desk that would provide funding for some
of these programs, for some of these services that impact people across this country that could be picked up today and passed by unanimous consent. and by the way, mr. president, many of those have passed with bipartisan support. as recently as saturday, the house passed a bill that would provide back pay for federal workers. there were 189 democrats in the house of representatives who voted in support of that bill. there have been up to 57 democrats in the house of representatives who have voted to give pay to our national guard and reserve, the same thing that we have done for active duty military, who have voted to provide relief to our national parks so that they can open again, that have voted to provide funding for national institutes of health so that those life-saving medicines could continue to be provided, who have voted to provide funding for fema so that fema can respond to the natural disasters that are occurring across the country. and so, mr. president, there are nine bills here sitting at the desk in the united states senate that could be picked up and passed today by unanimous
consent. there wouldn't be a single republican that i know of that would object to any of those measures being passed that would provide funding and relief to -- and support for the services and the programs that impact people across the country. the house will pick upper a -- up a couple of more bills today. they will do one that funds head start and send it over here, so that will be the tenth bill that is sitting at the desk in the united states senate. they are going to pass a bill that funds impact aid, something that's very important to the people that i represent in south dakota, to make sure that that's funded. that will be the 11th bill that will be sitting at the desk here in the united states senate awaiting action, all of which, as i said earlier, would be passed by unanimous consent. you wouldn't have a single republican, that i know of, who would oppose to any of those being moved. so it's not a question, mr. president, of addressing the funding concerns and making sure that the programs and the services that impact people across this country are being funded. that can be done. that is being done. it's been done by the house.
those have moved over here to the united states senate. all that's necessary is for the majority leader to come over, pick it up, ask unanimous consent to pass it, and those things would be passed. so i -- i see the near-term issue as being at once very easy to solve, and all it entails is for the leadership here in the united states senate to pick up those bills and pass them. the other issue that i mentioned that's a little bit longer term but not much, mr. president, because it's about nine days away is we're going to hit the debt limit which means that the united states of america will no longer have borrowing authority. we will hit up against the amount that we're able to borrow on our credit card to fund the services of our government, and there is a request, obviously, to increase the debt limit to allow the federal government to borrow more money. i expect and i have had in private conversations with members of the administration's team that they would like to see a debt limit increase that would take us through the next
election, through november of 2014. to do that, you would be looking at somewhere in the trillion-dollar range. and it strikes me at least and i think it's something that's supported by the american people that if you're going to have a debate about increasing the debt limit, you ought to do something about the debt. and i think that's a sensible position to take. by a 2-1 margin, polls show that the american people believe if you're going to raise the debt limit, you ought to do something to fix and address the debt. and so what we're simply saying, mr. president, is let's sit down and have a discussion about things that we can do that will put us on a different fiscal trajectory for this country, on a more sustainable fiscal path, that won't saddle future generations of americans with massive amounts, trillions and trillions of dollars of additional debt. and so that issue is looming out there not very far away. we don't have a lot of time to deal with that. it's not, as i said, as immediate perhaps as the government shutdown, which can be addressed here by the
majority of the united states senate, but the debt limit is going to require, i think, both parties here in congress and the president and his team to get together and figure out what it is that we can do that would not only raise the debt limit, the ceiling, the amount that we can borrow but address the underlying fundamental problem, and that is the fact that we have got a $17 trillion debt. now, there has been a lot said about things that various senators have said in the past here on the floor and in the course of these various debates that we have had about debt limit increases, and i wanted to point out that the president of the united states, president obama, when he was here back in 2006, said that raising the debt limit is a failure of leadership, that it's a failure of leadership and described it as unpatriotic. unpatriotic, failure of leadership to raise the debt limit. well, now he's saying that he wants a clean debt limit
increase, no negotiation, period, no negotiation on the debt limit. well, at the time when he said that not raising the debt limit was a leadership failure, the total federal debt was $8.3 trillion. today it's $16.8 trillion, $16.9 trillion. so the federal debt literally is double what it was when the president said, current president said back in -- i should say in 2006 as a member of this chamber in the united states senate that raising the debt limit would be a failure of leadership. now it's twice that amount. $8.3 trillion in 2006. now we're over -- going on $17 trillion. and so it seems to me that the president of the united states, who described raising the debt limit in 2006 when the debt was half of what it is today as a leadership failure, ought to be willing to exercise some
leadership, to engage himself in a process that would allow us to sit down and talk about what we can do to get this debt under control. there are a series of spending reforms that have been put forward by many of my colleagues here on this side of the aisle that would deal with the out-of- control spending, particularly on what we call the mandatory spending part of the budget, those entitlement programs that currently are on an unsustainable path to try to get that spending under control, and there are a number of other things that have been proposed that frankly would be good for the economy, and one of the best ways to get our fiscal house in order is to get the economy growing and expanding at a faster rate. when the economy is growing and expanding, more people are working, more people are investing, more people are paying taxes. government revenues go up. so when you have an economy that's growing at 3% to 4% instead of an economy that's growing at 1% to 2%, which is what we have today, you get a dramatic increase in the amount of tax revenue that comes into the federal treasuries.
so when you're talking about raising the debt limit, one of the things you ought to be looking at is what can we do in association with that discussion to actually reduce the debt? one would be putting spending reforms in place. the other would be growing the economy and expanding the economy. one of the things that's been proposed that would grow the economy is tax reform, and i happen to believe, and i think a lot of us do, that the best thing we can do to get the economy growing at a faster rate is to reform our tax code in a way that makes us more competitive in the global marketplace. that would mean reducing the tax on business, which is the highest in the world. the united states has the highest corporate tax rate in the entire world. lowering marginal income tax rates, broadening the tax base, doing away with many of the loopholes and deductions and exemptions and preferences that are in the tax code today that benefit particularly constituencies and going to a broader based tax base but one that has rates that are significantly lower, marginal
rates that are significantly lower than where they are today. i think this would dramatically unleash economic growth in this country and get people back to work, get people paying taxes again and get government revenues up. in the context of raising the debt limit, we ought to do something about the debt. that is a fairly straightforward thing, as i said. i would suggest, mr. president, too, that one of the things that's been put forward here is that we need a clean debt limit increase. we can't have any discussion or negotiation about this. that if you look at history, it's been the case that many of the big accomplishments, if you will, when it comes to deficit reduction, when it comes to fiscal plans being put into place occurred in the context of increasing the debt limit. in fact, throughout our history, going back to 1978, the debt limit has been raised 53 times in those 35 years. of those 53 debt limit increases, 27, or more than half, were done around other
policy considerations and policy discussions and legislation that was put forward to address issues. in many cases to address the out-of-control spending and debt that we have in this country. and so for 35 years now and 53 debt limit increases, more than half have involved discussion of other matters. in fact, some of the biggest accomplishments that we can point to in the history of the last 30 years occurred at a time when you had both sides trying to figure out a path forward for dealing with fiscal imbalances that our country faced. the gram-rudman-hollings and in 2011 occurred in the context of a debt limit increase. so there is ample precedent and history for doing big things that are good for the country, good for future generations around a debt limit increase. it just defies history to
suggest that we cannot come to the table, that we cannot negotiate in the context of a debt limit increase. as i look at these issues that are converging on us now and what they mean for our children and our grandchildren, for future skwr-pb -- generations, it seems to me, mr. president, that taking a position that we will not negotiate, period, which is essentially what the president has said and what has been echoed by the senate majority is not only wrong in terms of what we need to do to fix the debt and gut our country on a more sustainable path but it is more completely at odds with what we know to be the case throughout our history. mr. president, we can do better by the american people. we should do better by the american people. it requires leadership. it requires leadership. and when the president of the united states, president obama, when he was senator obama in 2006 said at that time that raising the debt limit would be a leadership failure and
described it as unpatriotic, here we are this many years later but double, double the amount in debt that we were back when he made that statement. this situation that we're in today cries out for leadership, mr. president. it cries out for leadership from the president, from those of us here in the congress. i hope that we can find our way to get together, to sit down, to negotiate, to come up with solutions that are good for the future of this country that would deal not just with raising the borrowing limit so that we can borrow more money to fund government, but to address the underlying problem. that is the fact that we've got a $17 trillion debt that continues to grow at $600 billion or $700 billion a year. we continue to have a chronically high unemployment rate. we continue to have a labor force, a workforce that is historically low levels. in other words, the number of people who are working today as a percentage of those who could work is at the lowest level that
it's been in 35 years. we have a sluggish economy that is growing in the 1% to 2% range. we have take-home pay for most americans that has gone down since the president took office by about $3,700. we need to get middle-class americans back to work, middle-class americans earning more, being able to provide for their families, increasing family household income and take-home pay in this country. the way to do that is to get the economy growing and expanding again. the other way to do that, mr. president, i would argue is to get spending here in washington under control so that we're not out there borrowing more and more money all the time, that more and more of our country posts assets and resources can be deployed toward things that will yield a return that will put more people back to work, grow the economy and expand the standard of living and quality of life for people across this country. time's short. the clock is running. time's a wasting. we need to get this done.
in the near term pick up the nine bills sitting here in the senate that have been passed by the house that would put a lot of these services and programs that impact people, that have been expressed so many times by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that would put funding back in place for those. and secondly, let's get together the president, democrats and republicans here in washington, d.c. to talk about not only raising the debt limit but what we're going to do to address the underlying debt. mr. president, i yield the floor. mr. president, i suggest the absence of a quorum.
vitiate the quorum call. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. hagan: i request permission to speak for up to ten minutes. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. hagan: mr. president, i rise today to address the negative impact that this government shutdown is having on my home state of north carolina. it is a shame that some in congress are playing political games with the most basic function of keeping our government open. i didn't get elected to shut down the government, and with each minute that goes by, more and more north carolinians are feeling the impact of this irresponsible shutdown. mr. president, north carolina is proud to be home to almost one million veterans, but as of this spring we are also home to one of the worst v.a. disability claims backlogs in the country. we've pushed to have senior v.a. personnel be dispatched to north carolina and more caseworkers have been added. and after a lot of attention and work, we were finally beginning
to see the needle move in the right direction. claims were being processed faster, which means veterans were getting the benefits they deserved faster. but as of today the winston-salem regional office is closed to the public, and with claims processors furloughed and just a skeleton staff operating inside, this government shutdown threatens to reverse the progress we have made in that backlog. is it worth shutting down the government over a political game when veterans get caught in this cross-fire? no. in my home state, we're also proud to have 11 national parks that are not simply just beautiful places in our country and in our state, but also important drivers of our tourism economy. as families flock to enjoy these affordable destinations, they stop at our local small businesses.
they eat at our restaurants and they stay in our hotels. in 2011 out-of-state tourists to national parks in north carolina spent $720 million during these trips, which supported nearly 12,000 jobs. i don't know how many of my colleagues have been fortunate enough to visit western north carolina at this time of the year, but right now the fall leaves are turning and western north carolina is opening its arms to welcome tourists from around the country and from around the world who come to see this beautiful landscape. and on the other side of the state in the east, we have cape hatteras national seashore, cape lookout. they're both closed. october is the most popular surf fishing month of the year. but with beach access closed, our fishermen cannot get to the fishing areas. with parks from out west all the
way to down east closed, we fear that too many families will decide to cancel their vacations. so i ask, is it worth shutting down the government over political gain when our small business owners who support our economy, they will be the ones to shoulder this burden? no. in my home state, we are proud that our university system includes a number of distinguished research institutions that are on the cutting edge of new technologies and therapies that will make our world better. n.i.h. supports roughly 20,000 jobs in north carolina, but that n.i.h. will not take any actions on grant applications or awards or admit new patients to clinical trials while our government is shut down. so i ask, is it worth putting medical advances and thousands of jobs at risk just to play a tired political game?
no. i could go on and on. while flu vaccines are still being delivered, the c.d.c. is not able to track flu cases as usual, and they can't support state and local partners who help monitor infectious diseases. the f.d.a. is not able to support the majority of its food safety activities. pell grants and direct student hraopbts could -- loans could be delayed for 14 million american students. school districts, colleges and job training centers could face major cash flow problems without money for federal programs and grants coming in the door. our research universities, in addition to doing this cutting-edge research that benefits our entire country, are huge employers. some of them receive tens of million dollars a month in reimbursements for work already performed for the federal government. without those funds coming in the door, these universities can
be put in an incredibly difficult position with respect to managing their expenses. and then not to mention the time lost here in congress. we should be talking about thousand continue repairing our economy. we should be talking about how to improve job training programs. we should be talking about growing manufacturing in our country. but instead, we are just manufacturing crisis after crisis after another. there is no reason we can't end this shutdown, and fortunately there is a simple solution. the senate has passed a responsible bill that keeps the government running at currently reduced spending levels. the house of representatives could pass that bill today, and this shutdown could end within a matter of hours. then we could have the time and space to come together on a long-term balanced and
bipartisan plan to finally put our fiscal house in order. instead the other side of the capitol insists on sending us bills that they know have zero chance of passing, of becoming law over here, just to stage a political stunt. but political stunts won't process v.a. claims. political stunts won't help restaurant owners in western north carolina make payroll while the national parks are closed. and political stunts won't get this government open back up for business. i urge my colleagues in the house of representatives to stop playing this partisan game. take up the senate-passed bill. end this government shutdown. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: i ask unanimous consent to extend the period of morning business for debate only until 5:00 p.m., with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each, and the majority leader be recognized following morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. schumer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from new york. mr. schumer: madam president, i rise today with just nine days left until the united states hits the debt ceiling. never before in our history have we failed to pay our bills, but
in nine days, that possibility reaches our doorstep. even though defaulting on our debt could send our economy into a tailspin, even possibly another great depression, there are already those who are denying the impacts of default. the debt ceiling deniers try to claim this won't be a big deal and that middle-class families won't be hurt. well, madam president, these debt ceiling deniers need a dose of debt ceiling reality. the truth is failing to pay our bills on time would most probably be worse than 2008 when lehman brothers and a.i.g. went under and the economy went into a tailspin. we still haven't recovered from that debacle. to this day, there are people out of work, there are middle-class families whose income is lower than it was then
because of what happened in 2008. now, why could it be worse? in all likelihood, it would be worse? because just as housing securities had to be marked down because of the lehman crisis, if government bonds, which are much more widely held, have to be marked down and lower value, we could have a freeze where banks are not able to lend money. what happened, madam president, in 2008 was simple. banks and other financial institutions had all these mortgage securities on their balance sheets. all of a sudden, their value seemed to be a lot less so the bank balance sheets were in the red. that meant they couldn't lend money, not just for long-term mortgages and car loans but also for overnight lines of credit. businesses were shaken up. many businesses couldn't function. wire transfers weren't allowed to be made, and the whole
financial system came to a startling and devastating halt. now the effects would be worse, in all likelihood, for this reason. mortgage securities were widely held but not close to as widely held as u.s. treasuries are. can you imagine on the day of default or, god forbid, even a day or two before default, all of a sudden the markets determine -- and they are mystical in some way -- that treasuries should be written down significantly. of it could. a very real possibility. not 5%. significantly higher than that. i estimated 30%, 40%, 50% chance of sending us into a tailspin that might make the 2008 recession look like child's play. and how would it affect the average family? well, if the u.s. defaults, middle-class families' paychecks will be raided by higher interest rates on everyday
expenses. already interest rates on short-term treasury bonds are creeping upward as the possibility of default looms over us. if we default, investors who are already considered u.s. debt-free risks will demand higher interest rates due to the heightened risk that they might not be paid. for the first time ever, investors question whether the u.s. two honor its commitments. the domino effect on interest rates that affect families' budgets would be endless and it would be cataclysmic. credit card interest rates goes up, adding hundreds of dollars to monthly bills. young families seeking to take out a mortgage on a new home would be faced with thousands of dollars in higher payments over the life of the mortgage. many might not even buy that home, putting a crimp in one of the bright spots of our economy, the housing market. want to take out a loan to buy a new car? prepare to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars more in higher interest rates so car sales would decline.
automobile manufacturers could lay off people. do you have privately held student loans, prepare for monthly payments to shoot upward. innocent families, millions of them, tens of millions would be hit with thousands of dollars in additional bills through no fault of their own if u.s. treasuries are devalued. and the damage doesn't stop there. if we default on our debt, the dollar loses value. a trip to the gas station or the grocery store gets more expensive. the dollar won't go as far. americans will have to shell out more for gas, for milk, to feed their kids. think of defective default on 10,000 baby boomers who will retire each day. in 2011, the stock market lost 2,000 points. how much more might it lose now? we gain that back by the beginning of 2012, but that's no comfort to the thousands of people retiring every day, and when you're dealing with u.s.
treasuries -- these are not certainties, but these are possibilities -- it could be a lot worse. they went to check -- you could check your 401-k and see that political brinkmanship took a huge bite out of your retirement savings. imagine the pain of saving wisely, making smart choices, only to have your retirement account and family budget wrecked by dangerous brinkmanship from tea party republicans in washington. if there were ever a governmental action that merited the words playing with fire, this is it. and the devastation doesn't end there, madam president. if we don't raise the debt ceiling, the federal government will be faced with impossible choices. do we pay foreign benefits, foreign debts? because if we don't, those countries won't lend to us anymore. or do we pay veterans' benefits? do we make sure social security
benefits go out? or medicare? to we -- do we pay our troops, fund border security? or do we pay for education? these are all tough, tough choices. make no mistake about it, if the debt ceiling is not lifted, we can't immediate all our obligations. so, madam president, the chances of this are not 80%, but they are close enough to 50% that anyone who risks this, particularly for this forlorn goal, we won't raise the debt ceiling unless we repeal obamacare, which we know isn't happening, is madness. risk the economy of the united states, the be possibility of going through worse than what we went through in 2008 because you demand obamacare be repealed when you know it won't happen? wow. i have rarely seen such madness coming out of legislators i