Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning urging for an end to the Republican government shutdown and for Congress to take action to ensure America can pay its bills so that Congress can then work toward a balanced, bipartisan long-term fiscal solution. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“The previous speaker said that the shutdown should be unacceptable. I agree with that. And we could all, within the next half an hour, vote to make the unacceptable not the policy that we are pursuing.
“Mr. Speaker, our government has now been shut down for over a week, and the American people are looking to Congress for solutions, not spin. Thousands of dedicated federal employees here, but more profusely around this country, continue to be furloughed without pay. All because a faction of Republicans insist on keeping government closed until we repeal the Affordable Care Act, a demand that has nothing to do with keeping our government open.
“Debate about the Affordable Care Act is legitimate. There are people who disagree with it and people who agree with it. But holding ransom the people's government is, and should be, as the previous speaker said, unacceptable. Americans are tired, I’m tired, I think most Members are tired of hearing the same rhetoric from politicians over and over. Instead, they want real solutions that can restore fiscal sanity, end the irrational sequester – which Hal Rogers, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, conservative Republican from Kentucky, says does not work and cannot work – and break the cycle of manufactured crises that do nothing to help our economy and, in fact, are doing it great harm.
“So the question, Mr. Speaker, we must ask ourselves is: how do we reach a solution? How can this Congress achieve the big balanced deal that our constituents expect from us?
“First and foremost, we must end the shutdown. Mr. Speaker, two hundred Democrats – we have a vacancy – 200 Democrats will vote this very day, this very hour, to open the government. That means, Mr. Speaker, we only need eighteen Republicans. The previous speaker said it's unacceptable where we are. We can change it, and we can change it within the hour with only eighteen Republicans joining 200 Democrats to say: let the people's government be open. Let the people's government be serving them. First and foremost, Mr. Speaker, we must end this shutdown – and take action to prevent the United States from defaulting on its bills for the first time in history. A solvent nation should not be taken hostage to accomplish an objective.
“Once these immediate threats are removed, Congress should then vote to go to conference on the differences which are legitimate between our two budgets. Republicans have refused for the last six months in the House and in the Senate to go to conference. The Speaker talks about negotiation. That is where you do it. That is the mechanism that is set up under our democracy to resolve differences. Go to conference. There, we can have the opportunity to agree on a comprehensive, balanced plan to put our country on a fiscally sustainable path – not for the next week, the next month, the next 180 days, but for decades to come. And if we do that, our economy will explode, jobs will be created, and Americans will again feel good, not only about their country but about their Congress.
“The shutdown and the threat of default are standing in the way of a real negotiation process for a long-term solution.
“Democrats, I say, Mr. Speaker, are ready to sit down and talk with our Republican colleagues about a long-term agreement. We know that will require tough decisions, but Republicans should not demand their own policies as ransom required to reopen the government and make sure America pays its bills. Democrats have already made the difficult choice to accept the Republicans’ preferred budget level for the short-term funding bill. How do I know it's their preferred funding bill? Because they voted on it and sent it to the Senate, Mr. Speaker. And the Senate said we will accept your number, and they sent it back here, and my Republican colleagues will not say yes to their own number.
“A big and balanced agreement on a budget - after we take the Republican number to open up government, go to conference, have discussions - a big and balanced agreement on the budget and on getting our debt under control will require real compromise and difficult decisions. My colleagues, we should have the wisdom and, yes, the courage to make them. And if we do, future generations will thank us.
“I continue to believe, Mr. Speaker, that there is a bipartisan majority of Members in this House who are ready to work in good faith towards achieving such an agreement. My observation, however, is, after 33 years in this body, that there is a small faction on the Republican side of the aisle - it may be fifty, it may be sixty - that is holding captive the 170 of their colleagues who want to make sense and move forward.
“I hope that Speaker Boehner will take the important steps necessary to enable those negotiations to begin by allowing a vote on the Senate's bill at the House number to reopen government and another one on a clean measure to prevent an unthinkable and economically catastrophic default. Once those occur, Mr. Speaker, we'll be able to resume work on achieving real and lasting results for the American people when it comes to our long-term fiscal health.
“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Cantor, I would hope that the Majority Leader, Mr. Speaker, would bring the bill to open our government, the people's government, to the Floor this day, and I yield back the balance of my time.”