Democratic leaders on Friday stood side-by-side with Americans affected by the government shutdown to send one message to House Speaker John Boehner: Let the House vote.
Democratic senators asked Boehner and the House Republicans’ to once again put the Senate’s clean “CR,” bill, or continuing resolution to fund the government to a vote. “We can’t function like this,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland said. “This is the United States of America. Behind these numbers and statistics [of furloughed workers] are men and women who have great educations and a desire to serve their country.”
The government shutdown began Tuesday after the House and Senate failed to agree to a stopgap budget solution. The House bill had insisted on changes and delays to President Obama’s landmark health care law–a nonstarter with the Senate and the White House.
Mikuski added, “I say to the people over in the House: say goodbye to the Tea Party shutdown. Say hello to the fact that the Senate has sent you a clean CR.”
Sens. Tom Harkin and Ed Markey raised concerns over the impact of the shutdown on medical research centers, pointing out that the flu season, along with cases of foodborne illnesses, could only get worse with limited staffs at federally funded agencies and programs.
“The congressman from Iowa I serve with says, ‘We’ve passed the witching hour of midnight, and the sky didn’t fall, nothing caved in,’” Harkin said referring to Rep. Steve King’s remarksearlier this week. “Is that what has to happen for us to come to our senses? We have to have a flu outbreak and people have to die?”
Markey added that Republicans now claiming to want to refund the National Institute of Health during the shutdown with a separate spending bill also voted over the past few years to decrease NIH’s budget by 13%.
Republicans, under Boehner’s leadership, have put forward a series of mini spending bills to fund critical federal programs such as FEMA, the NIH, and backpay for furloughed workers. Democrats and the White House have called for the House to pass a “clean” spending bill to fund the whole of the government to stop the shutdown.
Outside of the Capitol amid chants of “Shut down John!” and “Let us work!,” House Democrats, alongside furloughed federal employees and labor unions, held a separate protest against the Republicans’ tactics to hold the government hostage over the Affordable Care Act.
“We want to vote,” Wisconsin Congresswoman Gwen Moore said. “I don’t know who they’re fooling, but they aren’t fooling the American people.”
Dan Rotenberg, a furloughed aviation safety inspector, stepped up to the mic to describe the work going undone because of the shutdown—from runway maintenance to processing applications for employment. ”Speaker Boehner, don’t be the speaker of just the Tea Party. Be the speaker for all Americans and end this shutdown now,” Rotenberg said.
Boehner, just moments before the Democrats began their conferences, blamed Democratic leaders for prolonging the government shutdown. But as Republicans continue to bring forward partial funding bills, Democrats insist they will remain firm.
“We cannot have a wholesale shutdown and a piecemeal startup,” Rep. Al Green said at Friday’s protest.