Mr. President, we are now entering the second week of a Republican government shutdown. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is still sitting on the one bill that can reopen the government. Speaker Boehner insists the Senate-passed bill to end the shutdown can't pass the House. Well, I am not the first to issue this challenge--it has been issued all weekend and yesterday--and that is, prove it. Bring it up for a vote. If the Speaker really believes the bill will not pass, he shouldn't be worried about bringing it up.
The House, though, if we look at what has happened, has wasted weeks voting--and I have really lost track of the number of times, but I think it is 44 times--the House alone has acted to repeal ObamaCare 44 times. What is the result every time they vote? The same. Truly what Einstein said: The real definition of ``insanity'' is someone who keeps doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If, in fact, Einstein is right, then that is insanity, what is going on over there--to vote more than 40 times on the same thing and lose every time. So let's talk about wasting time. Has that been a waste of time? Maybe after 5 or 6 times they should have maybe gotten the message, but how about 44 times? Talk about wasting time.
Could it be that the Speaker is really worried that reasonable Republicans will join Democrats to pass legislation to open the government? Sensible Republicans have grown increasingly fed up with the shutdown, and they are looking for a way out. Just yesterday Peter King of New York, a Republican, said:
Republicans should not have started this. Closing the government down was the wrong thing to do.
Republican Congressman King called Speaker Boehner's unreasonable strategy to shut down the government unless Democrats agree to defund or end ObamaCare--a law that will help 25 million uninsured Americans gain access to affordable care--doomed to failure. That is what Peter King said.
Again quoting Congressman King:
If we want to defund something, we should repeal it, and do it the same way the President got it signed--elect Republicans to both Houses of Congress, repeal it, and have a Republican President sign it.
Mr. President, it is pretty obvious what is going on. I have known it all the time. We have all known it all the time. When I say ``all the time,'' at least in these last many months. But it was made very clear to the world on Sunday in a front-page story in the New York Times. They worked a while on that story, but basically what the story said is that very rich people in America who don't believe in government have used ObamaCare as a conduit to shut down the government. That is what they wanted to do. That is what they have done, with huge amounts of money. We know this has been led by, according to the news article, a former Attorney General of the United States, Ed Meese, and the Koch brothers, who have been raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get us where we are right now.
But what Peter King suggested is that we follow the democratic process. That has been turned on its head. I know Republicans don't like ObamaCare, but the Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for 4 years, been declared constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States, and millions of Americans--multimillions of Americans--are already benefiting from this law.
There are rumors floating around. One of my rich friends from Nevada called me on Friday. He said: Harry, I am down here in southern California getting a little cosmetic surgery. My anesthesiologist told me one of his friends, who is a general surgeon, took somebody's gallbladder out. Do you know how much money he got back for that?
I don't know if it was a he or a she.
I said: No, I don't know.
He said: Fifty-eight dollars. That is what ObamaCare is all about.
I said: That is not possible because ObamaCare, that aspect of it, doesn't kick in until January 1.
He said: Are you sure you are right?
I said: Yes. All this signing up for exchanges and all that will take 3 months.
These are the rumors floating around out there about ObamaCare.
If Republicans want to propose a legislative way to make the law work better or more efficiently, Peter King is right. We are willing to do that and do it the way our democratic process provides.
(Mr. MARKEY assumed the Chair.)
I see the Senator from Massachusetts has taken the Chair, and he served many years with Peter King. I personally have watched his voting record. I don't like most of it, but at least he is speaking out, and I admire the man for doing that. By shutting down the government--and that is what has happened--we are satisfying the Koch brothers and Ed Meese, but millions of people in America are suffering.
ObamaCare is not going to disappear. It is here. The senior Senator from Arizona gave a speech here within the last week or so, and he said: I don't like ObamaCare. I campaigned against ObamaCare when I ran for President. I campaigned against it when Obama ran the next time. But, he said, we lost. It passed. He is President. Elections have consequences.
That is what the senior Senator from Arizona said, and he is right.
ObamaCare is not going to magically disappear.
Tom Friedman, a renowned journalist--his bipartisanship has been legendary. He is a brilliant writer. He was chief correspondent for the New York Times for many years in the Middle East. He has covered all parts of the world. He has won three Pulitzer prizes--maybe four--and he has had five or six best-selling books. But even Tom Friedman has given up trying to be bipartisan. He wrote in the New York Times, where he writes a column 3 days a week, that ObamaCare is not really at stake in this shutdown, it is democracy that is at stake.
Here is exactly what he said:
When extremists feel that insulated from playing by the traditional rules of our system, if we do not defend those rules--namely majority rule and the fact that if you don't like a policy passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court, then you have to go out and win an election to overturn it; you can't just put a fiscal
He went on to say more:
President Obama is not defending health care. He's defending the health of our democracy. Every American who cherishes that should stand with him.
Mr. President, that is as true as anything could be. We stand with our President. We stand with a President who is President of everyone in America.
We believe deeply that ObamaCare is already saving lives and will save many more in the future, but we are willing to work with Republicans to change it if they think they can make it better. We want to do that.
I wrote a letter 1 week ago today to the Speaker of the House of Representatives--and he knows this--where I said: You know, we are in this position because you asked me to put you in this position to do this.
He said, going back as far as July and confirmed in the early part of September, I--the Speaker of the House of Representatives--want to have a clean CR, and the way we can do that is you agree to our number. He said this in July and early September.
I said: I hate your number. It is unfair. We passed a budget here--$70 billion more than that.
He said: But we have to avoid problems here. We can't have a government shutdown. Work with me, take that number, and we will have a clean CR and go on to other things.
I did that. It was hard. Senator Mikulski, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, hated it, and Senator Murray, chairman of the Budget Committee, hated it, but then they said: OK, we will go ahead and do it. We will work with you to help talk to the caucus.
We did that based on the assurances of the Speaker of the House of Representatives that we would get this out of the way in order to fund the government for 1 year. Well, he didn't live up to what he committed to doing. In our business that is not good.
In addition to that I said in the letter: OK, you have sent us a little piece of legislation over here saying you want to have a conference. We agree. We will talk to you about anything you want to talk about. You want to talk about discretionary spending, you want to talk about the farm bill, you want to talk about postal reform, you want to talk about health care, we will talk, but open the government and extend the debt ceiling.
He read the letter. I called him 45 minutes later. He said: No, can't do that.
He can't take yes for an answer on the number in the CR or what he wants to talk about. I don't know what else is left to talk about.
All we are asking is that government be reopened. Stop threatening a catastrophic default on the Nation's bills. We have to pay our bills. What kind of a country do we want?
As I do every 2 weeks, I met yesterday with someone who briefs me on what is going on around the world with our intelligence services. This person told me his counterpart from a relatively small European country is making fun of our country because of what is going on here. In today's press China is complaining. They are doing pretty well economically. They buy our securities and they need a place to invest their money that is secure. China is now complaining about the fiscal integrity of the United States of America because we are arriving at a point in a few days where we are not going to pay our bills.
This is America. We are not asking the Speaker to do something that is unreasonable. We want him to pass a bill that has his number in it, not ours. Ours is $70 billion higher than that. We are also not asking him to do anything unreasonable. He asked us to go to conference. We say let's do it. All we want is the government open first, and we will agree to conference.