Menendez Delivers Remarks on Government Shutdown and Debt Limit

Menendez Delivers Remarks on Government Shutdown and Debt Limit

WASHINGTON, DC - Earlier today, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the government shutdown and debt limit:

"Here we are again, at the same crossroads. We know the landmarks. We know the signs. We've been here before. We negotiated in good faith to avert the last shutdown, the last default threat. We imposed the sequester, but that wasn't enough.

"So here we are once again and we will be here again, in a week, a month- 6 months, a year - being asked for more concessions to a minority of extreme Republicans who seem to have forgotten that we operate under the rule of law. They simply have chosen to ignore it.

"The fact is we passed the Affordable Care Act. It went through the legislative process - was signed by the President, tested by the Supreme Court, but - so what, they say - it doesn't count. Like the schoolyard bully they want a do-over or they'll take your lunch money.

"This right-wing Republican minority claims to love the Constitution - adheres to the strictest interpretation of its tenets - but apparently is not interested in living by it, or by the rule of law that this nation stands-for and lives-by.

"They say Democrats have failed to negotiate in good faith and voted against trying to reach a compromise. The fact is, for 6 months, Senate Republicans have stood in the way of Budget negotiations by blocking requests for Budget Committee Members to conference with the House. They have objected over 20 times to budget negotiations.

"The Senate followed regular order and passed a Budget Resolution for fiscal year 2014 on March 23rd. Our Budget Resolution provides just over $1 trillion by replacing the irresponsible sequestration cuts while following the spending limit imposed by the Budget Control Act.

"The House wants to keep sequestration cuts by funding the government at $976 billion, or $80 billion less than the Senate. The fact is, we have already compromised with the House by agreeing to the CR at a level of $986 billion - much closer to their number than ours.

"If you ask me, that is more than $70 billion in compromising. But they simply won't take yes for an answer.

"What the past weeks have shown us is that this isn't even about budget numbers, they just want to make a political point and they're holding the country hostage in order to make it. They simply do not want either the Affordable Care Act- or this President - to succeed.

"But that train has left the station. The President is already turning the economy around from the massive deficits he inherited when he took office. And the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.

"Make no mistake, it is not a coincidence that we are here again doing the same thing, much like Groundhog Day. And - mark my words - we will be here again tomorrow and in the future, if the Republican shutdown strategy continues.

"We are being asked to capitulate yet again at the threat Republicans that will keep the government shut-down, that they will force America to default on its obligations, and risk a global consequence and America's leadership role in the world.

"It is a deliberate - if fatally flawed- Republican strategy. One might go so far as to call it a "conspiracy" adopted to achieve through bullying what they could not achieve at the ballot box.

"We know it is a deliberate effort hatched many months ago. In fact, it goes back to 2010 when the House Republicans threatened to push the nation into defaulting on its obligations and shutdown the government unless we agreed to aggressive and deep structural cuts that met their political objectives in the midst of one of the deepest recessions in our history- a recession that President Obama inherited when he took office.

"In November 2010, the anti-tax, anti-government, anti-spending, anti-progress side of the Republican Party exercised their new-found power and hamstrung their leadership into rejecting any kind of compromise, forcing the House Speaker and Majority Leader to reject any grand bargain proposed by the Democrats.

"And they did it gleefully. It was part of their strategy to block any successful effort to actually govern. They chose, instead, to fuel the right-wing flames, burn the House down, and bring government to a halt until they achieved their objectives.

"From December 2nd to December 21st, 2010, we enacted four separate Continuing Resolutions - four of them - to keep the government functioning until March 4th and let's not forget that these appropriations actually cut the CBOs projection of discretionary spending from 2013 through 2022 by $400 billion. But that wasn't enough. They wanted more.

"On March 2, 2011, as the new deadline approached we passed another short-term CR taking us to March 18th that cut spending by yet another $4 billion. Still not enough.

"On March 16th, the deadline approaching again, we passed another Continuing Resolution taking us to April 8th, with another $6 billion in spending cuts. Was it enough? Of course not!

"On April 4th, House Republicans applauded the Speaker's announcement to begin preparations for what? Yes, a shutdown of the government.

"Clearly, nothing is enough. On April 14th, just before midnight, the Speaker agreed to the 7th short-term extension with more cuts that analysts said would amount to $350 million in that year alone.

All-in-all, we agreed to $40 billion in total cuts. And we've cut even more since then, including the current Senate-passed clean funding bill that would reopen the government today if the House would just pass it.

"This is a clear pattern, a clear strategy. They will not stop. They will not take yes for an answer, and they clearly will not govern until they achieve their political and ideological goal to end government as we know it.

"This has been their plan all along.

"In fact, last Sunday, the New York Times reported that after the President was sworn-in to his second term, a coalition of top conservative activists, including former Attorney General Ed Meese along with the Koch brothers, devised a "take-no-prisoners legislative strategy" to derail health care by shutting-down the federal government.

"Now we are being blackmailed again.

"As further proof of this take-no-prisoners strategy, Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine recently reported on something called "The Williamsburg Accord." Mr. Chait wrote: 'In January, [this year], demoralized House Republicans retreated to Williamsburg, Virginia to plot out their legislative strategy for President Obama's second term...'

"They called it 'The Williamsburg Accord.' He said (and I quote): 'If you want to grasp why Republicans are careening toward a potential federal government shutdown, and possibly toward provoking a sovereign debt crisis after that, you need to understand that this is the inevitable product of a conscious party strategy...

"His article goes on to say: 'The way to make sense of it is that Republicans have planned since January to force Obama to accede to large chunks of the Republican agenda, without Republicans having to offer any policy concessions of their own.'

"And we saw the implementation of that strategy beginning early in the spring when we did exactly what Republicans wanted - we passed a budget in the Senate and the House passed a budget and we attempted to go to conference to work out the difference between the two...actually we have attempted to do that more than 20 times now, and every single time Republicans have blocked action.

"For six months they've refused to talk, they've refused to negotiate- they've refused to have a conversation.

"As we now know, they had this all planned out from the beginning, going back to their January Williamsburg Accord. They've intentionally driven us to the edge of the cliff to serve their own political interests at the expense of the nation's economy, the jobs of working families, and the retirement savings of our seniors.

"Now the GOP's solution to get us out of this Republican shutdown is "whack-a-mole" governing- whatever issue pops up, they draft a bill to address that single issue. Last week it was national parks, this week it was death benefits for soldiers - what will it be next? Anyone who has played the arcade game "whack-a-mole" knows you can never quite get ahead of those pesky moles that keep popping up. How long do they plan to play this game?

"Bill Moyers recently wrote in an essay: 'Despite what they say, Obamacare is only one of their targets. Before they will allow the government to reopen, they demand employers be enabled to deny birth control coverage to female employees; they demand Obama cave on the Keystone pipeline...

"'...they demand the watchdogs over corporate pollution be muzzled and the big bad regulators of Wall Street sent home. Their ransom list goes on and on. The debt ceiling is next...

'At least, let's name this for what it is: sabotage of the democratic process.'

"Kevin Drum of Mother Jones wrote: 'How do you get across how insurrectionary this is? Raising the debt ceiling isn't a concession from Republicans that deserves a corresponding concession from Democrats. It's the financial equivalent of a nuclear bomb.'

"Warren Buffett used equally stark terms when he said in Fortune magazine, "It ought to be banned as a weapon,"..."It should be like nuclear bombs, basically too horrible to use."

"Clearly, in the name of some misguided allegiance to an extreme ideology, a handful of ultra-conservative extremists in the Republican Party are putting at risk the rule of law. They are putting at risk the full faith and credit of the United States, America's influence -- as well as our obligations -- around the world, and our national security, embassy security, intelligence collection apparatus, and American diplomats, foreign service officers, and contractors serving in posts around the world.

"M. President, this is not a game. And real people are already being hurt by these tactics.

"I find it pathetic that Republicans are willing to risk the full faith and credit of this nation and inflict unnecessary harm on hard-working families, and put the very principles of this democracy on the line - all just to show how ideologically pure they are.

"It's one thing to come to Washington wanting to destroy your government, but it's quite another to destroy our economy in the process.

"If you want to negotiate, let's negotiate - let's do it constructively, in good faith, and without threats. Let's reopen the government, let's pay our bills, and then we'll negotiate.

"It's time to reject the school-yard-bully political strategy the Republicans hatched months ago, ratchet down the rhetoric, and do the hard work of solving problems together."

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