From the office of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Speaking today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) warned of the dire consequences a government shutdown would have on the economy, on families, on communities and national safety, and on civil servants.
“I’m against a government shutdown,” Senator Mikulski said. “Shutting down the government breaks faith with federal employees, jeopardizes our economic recovery, threatens the viability of small- and medium-sized businesses that do business with the federal government and even threatens the safety of our families and our economy.”
Senator Mikulski outlined how the shutdown would impact thousands of jobs in the public and private sector, all over the United States, and urged her colleagues to come to an agreement on the budget before the government shuts down.
Audio of the statement is available at http://demradio.senate.gov/actualities/mikulski/040611_MIKULSKI.mp3.
The full text of Senator Mikulski’s statement follows:
I rise to the floor to comment on the terrible situation that we find ourselves in. We’re in a terrible situation. The clock is ticking on a shutdown. I have a couple of principles as we head into the midnight witching hour on Friday.
First of all, my first principle is no shutdown – let’s have a sit-down. Let’s not shut down government and cut off funding for private-sector contractors who do business with the government. Let’s have a congressional sit-down and arrive at an orderly, rational agreement that does create a more frugal government but does not torpedo our economy.
My second principle is, if we shut down the government and federal employees and contractors don’t get paid, Congress shouldn’t get paid. And not only should Congress not get paid, no back-pay, no way. I spoke about the Congressional no-pay position yesterday. Today I want to talk about the consequences of the shutdown.
I’m against a government shutdown. Shutting down the government breaks faith with federal employees, jeopardizes our economic recovery, threatens the viability of small- and medium-sized businesses that do business with the federal government and even threatens the safety of our families and our economy.
That’s why I’m for a Congressional sit-down, not a shutdown of the federal government. Democrats and Republicans should negotiate over spending cuts, but what’s not open for negotiation is whether the federal government is worth keeping open or not. Parties must come together.
You know, there’s a belief that a shutdown will occur only in Washington. That the lights will go out in the Washington Monument. Maybe a museum will be closed here or there. Maybe even a national park will be closed here or there. On the Senate floor, on the House floor and even in the media, it’s followed by kind of a snicker or even a snarl. How foolish. They don’t understand the functioning of the government of the United States of America.
I’m afraid that the lights will go out. I’m afraid that government agencies will be shuttered. I’m concerned that people who work on behalf of the federal government, as contractors – small- and medium-sized contractors, disabled veteran contractors – will not get paid. Now, I’m for cuts. I voted for the Democratic package with more than $51 billion in cuts. In my own appropriations bill, I reduced agency overhead by 10 percent. I cut out conference budgets by 25 percent.
There are other ways of doing it, and I will talk about that more tomorrow, about how we can actually pay for this. But today I want to talk about the consequences of what we’re doing. There’s nobody on the Senate floor talking about it. If nobody’s going to talk about it, I’m going to talk about it. A possible government shutdown creates uncertainty in consumer confidence and further damages the economy.
Mark Zandi, the chief economist of Moody’s, says that it will damage the confidence in the economy and could result in the loss of 700,000 jobs. Well, let me tell you – and everybody says, ‘Oh, well that’s government.’ ‘Oh, well, that’s government.’ I’m going to talk about ‘Oh, well, that’s government’ in a minute. Let’s talk about private sector.
Let’s take that snickering and snarling over national parks. You know, we have 300 million visitors at national parks. Do you know that those national parks generate 270,000 private-sector jobs in camp grounds, restaurants, gas stations, vendors to the national parks? Oh, yeah, you can laugh about closing down Yellowstone, and maybe that’s not the explosive thing. Two-hundred seventy thousand jobs, mostly in the West. I didn’t hear that they have such a low unemployment rate that
they don’t give a darn. Local communities at national parks lose $14 million per day. So that’s the national park argument.
Let me go to the contractors. I represent the state of Maryland, where we have a lot of contractors. Take Goddard Space Agency – 3,000 civil servants who do everything from help run the Hubble Telescope to figuring out how we can fix the satellites through robots in the sky. But there are 6,000 contractors – 6,000 contractors, some of them small business, working their way up. Some of them are women. Many of them are veterans who started small- to medium-sized businesses. These people, if there is a government shutdown, will not get paid.
Hello, colleagues? This is not only going to happen in my state. This is going to happen in your state. This was a major article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about what the shutdown means to the private sector. Well, let’s wake up here and let’s move more quickly to this sit-down.
I’m going to talk about essential versus non-essential. In my state, I represent over 130,000 federal employees, three of whom were Nobel Prize winners. Nobel Prize winners who are civil servants. And that’s not even the gang at Hopkins or University of Maryland. That is the three Nobel Prize winners who are actual civil servants. Now, under this shutdown that we’re heading for, they’re going to be told they’re non-essential.
We have a Nobel Prize winner at NIST for the development of new work on laser light. Secretary Chu was his partner. We have a Nobel Prize winner at NIH who won the Nobel Prize for proteins and cellular communication that could lead to a cure for cancer and a Nobel Prize winner at Goddard in physics. What am I going to do midnight on Friday? Am I going to call up these three Nobel Prize winners and say, ‘Hey guys, you’re not essential. We know you could be in the private sector making millions of dollars, but you’re staying here to do research to save lives, save the planet and lead to saving our
economy. But, hey, guys, you’re non-essential.’ In other countries, they carry you around on your shoulders and so on. But here we’re told they’re non-essential.
It’s not only Nobel Prize winners, it’s all the other people who are working. We’re going to turn out the lights at the National Institutes of Health. We’re going to say to a researcher – I know you’re working on that cure for cancer, I know you’re working on that cure for Alzheimer’s or autism or arthritis, but you know what? Washington, the Congress says you’re not essential.
Hey, what about Social Security? I have over 10,000 people work at the Social Security Administration. You say, well, my God, that’s a lot. That’s 24/7 to make sure that all functions properly and efficiently. We have the lowest overhead of any “insurance company” in America. But the windows and doors are going to be shuttered at the Social Security. Not only in Senator Barb’s or Senator Ben Cardin’s state, but it’s also going to be shuttered in all states when people come to apply for benefits they are eligible for, when people who are disabled want to apply for those benefits. They’re going to come to a shuttered Social Security office. And they’re going to be told they’re not essential.
Well, then let’s wait until Monday morning. Aren’t they going to come to work fired up, ready to work for America, ready to help America be great again? We are essential. That goes on at Social Security, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Look at commerce. I represent the great Port of Baltimore. Ships are going to come into the port. Who’s going to inspect their cargo? Traffic coming in to airports, who’s going to inspect their cargo? But no, we’re going to tell them they’re non-essential.
This is not going to be good. But you know what’s not really good? Not only the consequences, but the way we’re functioning here.
I’m telling you, this is a situation of enormous negative consequences, and I think we’re going to rue the day the way we’re functioning here. We need to come to the table, and we need to sit around and act like rational human beings.