Note: these remarks were prepared last weekend, just prior to the actual shutdown October 1st.
I come to the floor today in a state of disbelief. With millions of people out of work, with an economic recovery still far too fragile, with students and families being crushed by student loan debt, with millions of seniors desperate for their chance at one hot meal a day with meals on wheels, and million of little children pushed out of head start because of a sequester, with the country hours away from a government shutdown, and days away from a potential default on the nation’s debt: the Republicans have decided that the single most important issue facing our nation is to change the law so that employers can deny women access to birth control coverage.
In fact letting employers decide whether women can get birth control covered on their insurance plans is so important that the Republicans are willing to shutter the government and potentially tank the economy over whether women can get access to birth control in the year 2013. Not the year 1913. The year two thousand thirteen. I have a daughter and I have granddaughters and I will never vote to let a group of backward-looking ideologues cut women’s access to birth control. We have lived in that world and we are not going back, not ever. This assault on birth control is just one more piece of the ongoing Republican assault on the orderly functioning of our government and the orderly functioning of our economy. In effect the Republicans are trying to take the government and the economy hostage, threatening serious damage to both, unless the president agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. I see things like this and I wonder what alternate realities some of my colleagues are living in, so let me be very clear about what is happening in the real world. The ACA is the law of the land. Millions of people are counting on it. People who need health care coverage, people who need insurance policies that don’t disappear just when they are at their sickest, women will get insurance coverage for birth control. The law is here to stay and it will stay.
Earlier today the Senate emphasized that reality by flatly rejecting the Republican’s newest ransom note just as we did last week. Now we are just hours from the government running out of money. We have to fix the sequester because of all the obstruction; we have unfinished budgets because of all the obstruction; we haven’t even passed a single appropriations bill because of all the obstruction. The least we can do, the bare minimum that we can do, would be to pass a continuing resolution to keep the doors open and the lights on. We can ensure that over a million federal workers aren’t simply sent home for no reason. We can avoid a government shutdown but the Republicans have refused to do even that. They have continued to threaten to shutter the government unless the president agrees to gut the Affordable Care Act. The Senate rejected that position twice yet the Republican response has been to continue to threaten to shut the government down. These threats may continue but they are not working and they will never work because this is democracy and in a democracy, hostage tactics are the last resort for those who can’t win their fights through elections, can’t win their fight in congress, can’t win their fights with the presidency, and can’t win their fights in the courts. For this right-wing minority, hostage-taking is all they have left, a last-gasp for those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy. The time has come for those legislators who cannot cope with the reality of our democracy to get out of the way so that those of us in both parties who understand that the American people sent us here to work for them can get back to work solving real problems faced by the American people. We have a real work to do and that’s what we should be doing.