Photo by George Lauby
Sen. Deb Fischer told her colleagues it's time to get to work instead of engaging in theatrics in a floor speech Wednesday about the government shutdown and its impact in Nebraska. She also talked about the federal debt. Here is what she said:
“I rise today to give voice to frustrated Nebraskans.
“I rise to testify to the simple truth that a government should not intentionally make life harder for its people.
“I rise to say: enough.
“Enough press conferences, enough brinksmanship, enough dividing people of good will against one another.
“I’m still pretty new here, but I can tell you that in Nebraska and in so many other states across this nation, we actually work together – and not just on small bills, but also on the big issues. I urge my colleagues, let’s remember where we came from.
“While I served in the Nebraska Legislature, we dealt with a major budget shortfall. We didn’t go on TV and Twitter and fight – we legislated. We fixed the problem.
“That’s the Nebraska way – we roll up our sleeves, cut through the talking points, and get to work.
“Nebraskans are pragmatic; they are well informed; and they expect results. And so when Nebraskans look at the dysfunction in Washington, they’re frustrated – and I am too. I’m very frustrated, Mr. President.
“I’m frustrated that this Congress can’t pass appropriations bills that comply with the law.
“I’m frustrated that this Congress can’t agree on a budget.
“I’m frustrated with crisis management instead of responsible governance.
“I’m frustrated with being told one thing, only to learn later that it’s just not true.
“I’m frustrated with the willful ignorance that goes on in Washington when it comes to our debt.
“I’m frustrated with the lack of solutions. The American people don’t want us to just stand in opposition – they want us to put forth constructive ideas to solve problems.
“As a result of Congress’s failure to agree on a spending plan, the government has shut down.
“Yesterday’s Omaha World Herald reported that Nebraska farmers are unable to cash their checks when they bring their grain in after harvest. The article noted:
State law requires elevators to include a lender’s name on a check when a farmer has a loan against the grain. With no one at Farm Service Agency offices because of the shutdown, checks can’t be cashed when the lender is the FSA.
“We’ve got millions of dollars of grain checks out there that farmers need,” said Dan Poppe, president of the Archer (Neb.) Cooperative Credit Union, with locations in Archer, Dannebrog and Central City. He said entire rural economies count on the money. “It impacts not only our farmers, who are relying heavily on the money, but also the local grocery store, hardware store, the feed and seed,” Poppe said.”
“A dried bean owner from Clearwater called to echo these concerns. He’s out $378,000 until the shutdown ends.
“It’s not just farmers and ranchers, it’s also our manufacturers and investors.
“A constituent from Waco, Nebraska wrote:
“I am a Dow employee living in your district. This impasse is beginning to threaten Dow’s investment in new U.S. manufacturing.”
“‘Not only will a continued delay push back Dow’s plans to create thousands of new, American jobs; it will harm Dow’s competitiveness and directly impact me and my family.’
“‘Greater economic certainty will help Dow, its employees, and our state thrive,’ he concluded.
“The wife of a federal law enforcement officer from Gretna wrote, ‘We are a single income family. We have a 2 and 3 year old and one more on the way. I am due in November. This shutdown will leave us unable to pay our bills.’
“A 23-year Department of Agriculture employee e-mailed me saying, ‘My wife works two jobs to help make ends meet, but we still live paycheck to paycheck. If this shutdown is not resolved within the next few days, we will be devastated financially.’
“A U.S. Air Force veteran wrote to tell me that ‘I applied for Social Security Disability assistance on the 15th of August and my claim had gone for medical review on the 26th of August. I have no money and I just found out yesterday that because of the shutdown, SSA claims are on hold.’
“A furloughed federal worker from Omaha called my office to say, ‘We’re all tired,’ he said. ‘We’re tired of not getting a budget to the last minute. We’re all tired. You guys need to do your job.’
“I hear these same messages over and over again. Nebraskans are tired of the name-calling and the blame games.
“They want to see government work, and work well. They aren’t fooled by the rhetoric, and they expect us to govern responsibly.
“I agree. That’s why I am talking with my colleagues – not publicly in front of cameras – but privately to see if we can forge a way forward.
“But I believe we have to do more than just open the up the government – that’s just the basics.
“We’ve got to address our $17 trillion debt – it’s smothering our country, it’s jeopardizing our national security, and it’s a threat to our children’s future.
“Congress will soon vote on increasing the debt ceiling – the sixth debt limit increase in the past five years.
“Our national debt has almost doubled since 2006 and our debt limit has grown twice as much as our economy in the past two years.
“Shouldn’t the opposite be true?
“Meanwhile, our economy’s lethargic recovery continues sluggishly along at a rate of 1-2 percent. This is unacceptable.
“But instead of growing our economy by reducing spending, cutting regulations, and overhauling the outdated tax code, Congress has continued spending money we just don’t have.
“I didn’t run for office to shut down government.
“I ran for office to help hardworking Americans get back to work.
“I ran to stand up for middle class families who aren’t asking government for a hand up – they’re just asking that government stop holding them down.
“Nebraskans want to know that they can provide for their families. I don’t think that’s asking too much.
“Make no mistake: high public debt depresses economic growth, which in turn dampens job creation.
“Ironically, our country’s debt crisis comes as the Congressional Budget Office is predicting that tax revenues will be at an all time high – $2.7 trillion.
“The problem isn’t that we have too little revenue. The problem is that we are spending too much.
“Part of why Nebraskans are so frustrated is that our problems are so clear. We know exactly what they are – they are no mystery!
“The American people know you can’t keep spending twice what you make.
“They live within a budget, a budget that must balance, and they expect government to do the same.
“Our government is a long way from a balanced budget, but we can – at a minimum – get to work.
“Despite these realities, we are not moving forward.
“For the past several weeks, members of Congress, the president, and the press have been participants in a circus.
“And after nine days, there is still no end in sight.
“Let me repeat that: after nine days of a government shutdown, there is still no end in sight.
“That’s not to say there are no good ideas out there. Several of my colleagues have offered a number of commonsense proposals that have broad support.
“These ideas include repeal of the medical device tax, which was adopted by the Senate as an amendment to its budget resolution by an overwhelming vote of 79-20 in March.
“Other ideas include a commitment to reducing spending – as required by the law – but we would increase flexibility for federal agencies to make smarter cuts.
“We all agree sequestration is a clumsy way to cut spending. That’s why we need to provide program managers with the ability to determine which programs are wasteful, or less efficient.
“It’s a matter of setting priorities so we can make wise decisions. That’s the Nebraska way, and that’s what we need to do in Washington as well.
“Sen. Collins’s sequestration proposal would also allow Congress to continue to exercise oversight on all spending and related cuts. That’s important.
“Even the president has put forth ideas to cut spending by $400 billion over the next 10 years. These offers could set the framework for a real discussion.
“Yet we remain at an impasse, unable to move forward.
“A nation of movers, thinkers, innovators, and entrepreneurs should not be caught in neutral. We should move forward – always forward, always building a better future.
“We are the single greatest nation the world has ever known.
“We have stood as a sentinel of liberty and economic prosperity for over 200 years, yet we find ourselves no longer able to perform even the most basic functions of government.
“That’s just not acceptable.
“Our forefathers – our constituents – and our children and grandchildren deserve better.
“I’m ready to move forward. I’m tired of waiting, and I am willing to work with any of my colleagues to find a reasonable solution. Let’s get to work.”