4/07/2011 — 

 Mr. REED. Thank you very much, Mr. President. We are on the verge of a possible government shutdown, which is extraordinarily regrettable.

   Controlling the deficit and paying down the debt is a critical priority of this country and must be done. It is a difficult challenge, but not insurmountable. We have done it before. In the 1990s I was a Member of the House of Representatives under President Clinton. We were able to push through an economic program that did not focus exclusively and entirely, as the Republican proposal does, on domestic discretionary spending. It looked across the board at not only domestic spending but defense spending. It looked on the revenue side. It also looked at some of our entitlement programs. The result from the 1993-1994 action of the Democratic Congress was that by 2000, when President Bush was sworn in with a Republican Congress, there was a projected multitrillion-dollar surplus. We were looking at robust employment.

   I think it is sometimes difficult to listen to some of my colleagues talk about the deficit and President Obama when recognizing, under their leadership, President Bush and a Republican Congress, a surplus was turned into a huge deficit. In fact, President Bush doubled the national debt in 8 years. It had taken almost more than 200 years to accumulate a debt he doubled.

   So we are here and prepared to make those reasonable and responsible decisions that will lead us forward to a balanced budget and, hopefully, to what we accomplished under Democratic leadership and President Clinton in the 1990s--hopefully--even some surpluses going forward. But it can't be done in 2 weeks. We can't undo what has taken place since 2000 in 2 weeks or 2 months. It is going to take a concerted, collaborative effort.

   One of the problems we have had, frankly, is that the goalpost has been continuously shifting in terms of Republican proposals. My recollection is that last year the Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee insisted on a cut of roughly $20 billion from the President's budget request for fiscal year 2011. Then, this year, the House Appropriations Committee, under Republican leadership, proposed initial cuts of $33 billion from the fiscal year 2010 level. Days later, the Republican leadership decided that was not enough, so then it became more than $60 billion, with cuts in everything from EPA water and sewer grants to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to Head Start--programs that are critical to working families and communities. Also, these investments are critical at a time when our economy is just beginning to regain some of the economic traction it had before. We are seeing some encouraging employment numbers. We are seeing some increase in consumer demand. This Draconian approach to cuts could very seriously undermine the emerging--not yet complete--but emerging recovery.

   In addition to the numbers that keep moving around, the proposal of the Republican House is studded with special interest riders--social policies, not fiscal policy. In fact, there is the impression sometimes that the deficit reduction claims are an excuse to try to advance not through the legislative process but through the appropriations process--through the threat of a shutdown--very conservative social policies. These policies should be debated. They should be voted upon. But to try to present them as nonnegotiable demands with the penalty for failure to heed to their demands the shutdown of the entire U.S. Government is, I think, inappropriate.

   The President and Leader Reid have been meeting with House Republican leadership continuously. There was a sense that a proposal of about $33 billion in cuts from the appropriate baseline could be accomplished, but then that seems to keep moving again. This is unlike 1995 when we saw the last shutdown of this government by a Republican Congress. Again, this is becoming almost ritualistic. A Republican House is elected, and then within months there is a shutdown of the government. The 1995 shutdown lasted about 26 days. It cost about $1.4 billion in essentially dead weight lost to the economy and to the government. We are on the verge of repeating that mistake.

   Back in 1995, we weren't engaged in two conflicts with American service men and women engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. We were not participating in a very volatile NATO operation involving Libya. We had yet to see the threat of international terrorism unleashed so dramatically on our shores as it was on 9/11. Again, if this government is shut down, there are thousands of civilians and civilian contractors who are part of our intelligence services that are at least in limbo as to whether they can continue to provide us the information and the insights we need to protect ourselves against a still existing and now clearly obvious threat. These are much more challenging times.

   Indeed, for months now, in terms of a response to why the economy isn't growing, many of my colleagues have said, Well, it is the uncertainty of the Obama policies. That was the argument last year for the extension of the income tax cuts not only to middle-income Americans but to the wealthiest Americans. That uncertainty would breed a lack of investment, a lack of focus on job recovery. What could be more uncertain than shutting down the Government of the United States without any plan to bring it back and, indeed, without any clue as to what is the critical issue that must be addressed? At one point it is deficit; at another point it is social policy. That uncertainty I think could lead--I hope it does not--to a lack of confidence in our capacity to govern which will ripple through economic markets worldwide, and which also I think could challenge perception of the United States as a coherent world leader.

   There are some things that would unfortunately result from such a shutdown. We know military Federal pay will be delayed. In fact, uniformed military will be required to come to work, as they do, so dedicated to the service of this Nation, but their pay will cease the moment we shut this government down. Literally, there will be soldiers on the ground--sailors, marines, airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan--fighting and they will not be paid and their families at home will not receive those benefits. The Federal Housing Administration will not be able to endorse any single-family mortgage loan. So if you are ready to close on your loan next week, you have the downpayment and you are ready to go, because the FHA will be out of business. SBA-guaranteed loans for business working capital, real estate investment or job creation--for those

   things that are trying to move the economy--stopped, dead in their tracks. So if you are a small business man or woman, you are ready to expand your company and hire more people, sorry, the SBA is closed until further notice. The IRS cannot process tax refunds for those who are filing paper returns and are depending upon their tax refunds, as so many working families do, to get through the next several months.

   We didn't get here overnight. In 1993, Democrats saw these same problems: a deficit that was prolonged and gnawing at the economic fabric of this country. We took deliberate action. It took several years, but within those several years, by the end of President Clinton's administration we saw a surplus, a robust employment situation, and the future looked very good to working families.

   In 2001, as I indicated, President Bush came into office with a surplus, but after tax cuts that were unpaid for, two costly wars that were unpaid for, and an unpaid-for extension of our entitlement program in terms of Part D Medicare--the largest, by the way, expansion of government entitlements in many decades--we are now looking at a huge deficit.

   President Obama came into office at a time when unemployment was, in my State, reaching beyond 12, almost to 14 percent. He was, I think, required to take appropriate action. With the Recovery Act, we were able to begin to restore some of the jobs. We have seen over the last year growth in civilian jobs, the private sector workforce, that we didn't see under President Bush. In fact, recent reports suggest over 200,000 jobs. Those are the kinds of numbers that have to be sustained, not undercut, and you don't sustain them by shutting down the government and shutting down agencies such as SBA and the Federal Housing Administration.

   We are and have to work diligently. I hear my colleagues talking about reaching out, collaborating, and I hope that is the spirit we embraced in the last several hours. But we have heard many other statements coming, particularly from across the Capitol in the other Chamber, about how we have to shut this government down, how we have to go ahead and make a point, not make sound policy. That is not going to lead us to a better future for American families.

   I believe we have to be responsible. We have to recognize the problems before us will take months, if not years, to fully resolve, because it took years, not days or weeks, to accumulate. We have to respond to the troops in the field, not only to order them into battle but to support their families at home.

   We have to be responsible to families all across this country and give them a chance to use their talents to contribute to this country. I urge responsibility at this moment, not a shutdown of the U.S. Government.