Reid Remarks on a Republican Government Shudown

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“According to a new CBS poll, 80 percent of Americans – including 75 percent of Republicans – oppose the Republican strategy of holding the government hostage to extract political concessions.”

“Those of us who remember the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 know the story didn’t end well for Republicans.”

“This country cannot be governed by one faction of one party on one side of the Capitol. Governing must be a cooperative effort that sets aside ideological or parochial concerns in favor of what is best for the nation, for the economy and for middle-class families.”

Washington, D.C.Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the economic impact of a government shutdown.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

This week I have warned Republicans of the economic consequences of forcing a federal government shutdown. Already the stock market has slipped as Tea Party Republicans insist they will shut down the government unless Democrats defund and repeal Obamacare. And the dark consequences won’t end there.

If the federal government closes its doors, seniors applying for Social Security and veterans applying for disability could be forced to wait until federal workers return to their posts. Across the country, mortgage loans and small business loans could be delayed. Members of the United States military could be forced to defend this country without even a paycheck as thanks. And billions of dollars will drain from the economy every day the government is closed for business.

These costs aren’t conjecture. When Newt Gingrich and Republicans in Congress shut down the government for 27 days in 1995 and 1996 because President Bill Clinton wouldn’t meet their every demand it cost the economy about $60 billion of today’s dollars.

This week I have urged Republicans to consider the impact of a shutdown on the recovery. But the economic price of shutting down the government shouldn’t be the only thing keeping Republicans up at night. They should worry about the political consequences as well. According to a new CBS poll, 80 percent of Americans – including 75 percent of Republicans – oppose the Republican strategy of holding the government hostage to extract political concessions.

Those of us who remember the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 know the story didn’t end well for Republicans. Just ask Charles Krauthammer, who has penned a conservative column for the Washington Post since the 1980’s. This is what Mr. Krauthammer wrote last month: “Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution.”

As they did in the ‘90s, today’s radical Republicans have called for concessions they know Democrats will never agree to. The Senate will never pass nor will President Obama sign a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act and denies millions of Americans access to life-saving health care. Tea Party Republicans have demanded the impossible, and vowed to shut down the government unless they get it.

Mr. Krauthammer and I don’t often agree, but he aptly measured the fallout from the shutdowns of the mid-‘90s and correctly predicted a similar result from a modern shutdown. Mr. Krauthammer wrote what nearly two dozen mainstream Republican senators have also said: that this gambit is doomed to fail. Krauthammer wrote: “This is about tactics. If I thought this would work, I would support it. But I don’t fancy suicide. It has a tendency to be fatal.”

I commend Republican senators who have spoken up in favor of reason – calling the Tea Party’s shutdown ultimatum a “box canyon,” a “suicide note,” and “the dumbest idea ever.” Although these reasonable Republicans dislike Obamacare as much as their more radical colleagues, they also realize the futility and the danger of political hostage taking. They know this country cannot be governed by one faction of one party on one side of the Capitol. Governing must be a cooperative effort that sets aside ideological or parochial concerns in favor of what is best for the nation, for the economy and for middle-class families.

On November 14, 1995 – the first day of the first government shutdown – President Clinton urged Republicans in Congress to govern with him instead of fighting against him. This is what President Clinton said: “There is, after all, a simple solution to the problem. All Congress has to do is to pass a straightforward bill to let government perform its duties and pay its debts. Then we can get back to work and resolve our differences… in an open, honest, and straightforward manner.”

I offer that same advice to my Republican colleagues today. The way out of this predicament is as simple today as it was in 1995. And so I invite my Republican colleagues to return with me to the time when we resolved our differences in an open, honest and straightforward manner.

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