On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz took to the Senate floor to call out House Republicans for their unprecedented and reckless refusal to vote on a Continuing Resolution without unrelated amendments.
Because of their “temper tantrum,” people in Hawaii are suffering, he said.
Schatz highlighted some of those people and their situations in his floor speech.
Text of the speech:
Mr. President, most people believe in compromise. Coming from Hawai‘i, I certainly believe in compromise. It is part of who we are.
When you live on an island — no matter how contentious issues may get — because of your geographic limitations, you will always see someone the following morning at the Safeway, at the coffee shop, at the bus stop or back at work. So I am deeply personally inclined toward compromise, and so are the people that I represent back in Hawai‘i.
The problem here is that the House Republicans’ supposed compromise is not a compromise at all. Absent from their press conferences and their photo ops is the truth. They are attempting to extort the end of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for doing the job that they were elected to do — a job that 800,000 Federal employees need them to do — which is to simply just pass a bill to fund the government.
Passing observers, people who were busy last week may be tempted to cast blame on both parties, but the reality is that there is no question, by any objective measure, of whose recklessness has forced our government to halt many of its most important services. This shutdown is on the Speaker and the tea party.
Meanwhile, my friends and neighbors back home are suffering. About 25,000 people in Hawai‘i are civilian Federal employees, and most of them are going without paychecks. More than 36,000 women and children in Hawai‘i depend on the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which makes sure that low-income mothers and infants are fed. Without funding, these families could actually go hungry. More than 3,000 children in Hawai‘i participate in Head Start programs. Head Start is a program that provides early education and related social services to children and their families. Without funding, these kids will have no place to go every day.
Only 3 weeks after 250,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor — one of the worst environmental catastrophes in the history of the island of Oahu — Federal support for investigation, cleanup, and restoration activities have essentially had to stop. Those Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees responsible for assisting are not allowed to report to work.
At the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, 2,600 employees are furloughed. Workers are forced to stay home, causing real economic hardship. This continued uncertainty not only affects them, but affects the decisions of future shipyard workers who may now choose other professions rather than become the naval engineers that Hawai‘i and our Nation desperately need. With nearly half of their workforce at home, officials at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard are forced to make hard choices about what work they can perform. We need to end this shutdown so that the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard can continue to ensure that our entire naval fleet is ready to respond to any contingency in the Asia Pacific.
These are not theoretical hardships or decisions. My constituents have been sharing their situations with me. I have received many letters. Let me give an example of a person from Kailua on Oahu, who wrote to me saying:
“Let me start by stating that I am a U.S. citizen. I love my country, I love my job, I want to work and am proud to support the war fighters when I can work. But I am truly disappointed and feel a sense of betrayal over the past three months of furloughs, budget cuts and being worried about my job and career.”
Another constituent of mine from Mililani on Oahu serves in the Reserve. She relies on the money she receives from her monthly unit training assembly to pay her mortgage. She knows she may not be able to meet all of her financial obligations at the end of this month, which is when her paychecks may stop arriving. But she asked me not to give in on the Affordable Care Act because millions of uninsured Americans deserve access to health care.
Even residents who do not collect a paycheck from the Federal workforce are suffering. One small business owner from Makawao, on the island of Maui, is suffering because her business relies on traffic to and from the Haleakala National Park, which has been closed since Monday. She says:
“Many small businesses like mine felt an immediate impact on our sales as tours cancelled their trips into Hawai‘i’s most visited attraction.”
Last night I got an e-mail from someone who is waiting on a small business loan that is not coming through because of the delay in processing SBA loans. This person is expecting to have to lay off 40 individuals from their small company.
So the idea that this is somehow a pro-business shutdown, the idea that they are protecting the rights of employers, the idea that this is in any way good for the economy is just belied by all of the facts.
Personally, working with a reduced staff, I began answering phone calls myself this week and many of the stories were similar: Without pay and Federal services, life has become uncertain and worrisome for thousands of families. This is all because House Republicans are throwing a temper tantrum and refusing to take a reasonable vote to reopen the government. This really is a tea party temper tantrum, and it is totally unprecedented. It is a low point for the Congress.
But there is a solution to this, and the senior Senator from Michigan pointed it out. It is simple. All that has to happen is for the Speaker of the House to put our legislation on the floor and let the House vote. There is a broad bipartisan majority of Members of the House of Representatives who want to reopen the government.
So I have two questions. First, for the media and for the constituents of Speaker Boehner: Please ask him, why in the world — if there is a majority of Members of the House of Representatives prepared to reopen the government — why he would not use his authority to put that legislation on the floor?
And I ask everyone to ask all of their Members of Congress to let the House vote. If we let the House vote, this crisis will be done on Monday morning.