Local Viewpoints
2:17 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Heinrich: This Is Not How Our Democracy Works

Credit Senator Martin Heinrich (D) New Mexico

  Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling on House Republicans to pass a clean continuing resolution and end the government shutdown. His remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Mr. President, we are here today with our government's doors shuttered because of a failure of leadership. 

Frankly, this "my way or the highway" brinksmanship has been building for so long here in Washington, that I won't be surprised if the American people just say "a pox on both your houses."

But why are we in this fix, Mr. President?  How did we get here? 

Sometimes when you are lost in the woods, it helps to retrace your footsteps so you can find the way back out. 

We are here because some of our colleagues have forgotten their middle-school civics lessons.  They have forgotten that "I'm just a Bill" episode of Schoolhouse Rock, which reminds us all that to pass or repeal a law in this country requires meeting certain tests. You need a majority of the House of Representatives, a majority of the Senate, sixty Senators if there is a filibuster, and the signature of the President. 

We are here because, my colleagues who want to repeal the Affordable Care Act don't have a majority in the Senate and they certainly don't control the White House despite waging an entire election over the health care law. 

And since they can't repeal the health care law the way we all learned about in middleschool they have decided to try something new. 

They've taken the government hostage.  They have said, if you don't give me what I want, we're going to close down the government.

Can you imagine, Mr. President, what it would look like if Democrats employed this kind of reckless and irresponsible tactic? 

What if we said, unless you raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, we aren't going to pass a spending bill?

Or remember in 2009 when my party tried to pass a Cap and Trade bill?

We didn't have the votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, so I guess the lesson here is that we should have refused to fund the government until Republicans relented and passed a Cap and Trade bill. 

Can you imagine? 

That is not how our Democracy works.  That is not what our Founders envisioned. And that is not compromise.

It is our job to pass a spending bill...every year. We can fight about how big or how small that bill is, but constitutional duty, is not optional.   

Now some are saying there needs to be further compromise in the spending bill, but it's clear that the Republican House doesn't know when to declare a victory.  They actually got the spending levels that they asked for.  

In the interest of keeping the government open, the Senate accepted House spending levels-sequester levels-in our funding resolution. 

I don't like those spending levels, most Democrats don't like those spending levels. But we aren't willing to risk the entire economy, or the well-being of our constituents, just to get our way.

The bottom line here, Mr. President, is this...

It is time to re-open the government.  No strings attached, no policy riders, no more hostage taking. 

Just a clean funding bill that stops hurting our public servants, our communities and our economy.  A clean funding resolution that keeps the lights on while we negotiate over the long-term budget.

The Senate had the votes to pass such a bill and we did. 

The House also has the votes to pass a clean funding bill, but Speaker Boehner won't bring it to the floor. 

He won't put it up for a vote, because the most extreme members of his caucus want to play hostage politics.

It's time to end this, Speaker Boehner.  It's time to drop the hostage politics and simply pass the one plan that has the votes to pass both chambers.  A clean funding bill. 

So Speaker Boehner, let them vote.  Let your members vote their conscience on a clean funding resolution. 

It is your duty, Mr. Speaker.  Let them vote.