Transcript: Press briefing remarks by Rep. Chris Van Hollen on the government shutdown – Sept. 30, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on the Senate’s “clean” continuing resolution to avert government shutdown. The press briefing was held on Sept. 30, 2013:

…We’re gathered here at a really very sad point in the history of this Congress because what the House Republicans are doing right now is voting for a government shutdown.

We have 45 minutes to go and instead of passing the bill already adopted by the Senate which would guarantee that we keep the government open, they’re rejecting that and instead saying that they want to go to conference with 45 minutes left, which is a recipe for shutting down the government.

Now, I just want everybody to be clear on one thing. We have been pressing our Republican colleagues to negotiate on the budget since last March. The House passed a budget and the Senate passed a budget.

You may remember our colleagues making a big deal about no budget, no pay. Well, it turns out they weren’t serious about getting a federal budget. We did get a House budget. We did get a Senate budget. But no federal budget.

So why don’t we have a budget? Because the law requires that by April 15th you have negotiators between the House and the Senate meet and work out these differences, try and make compromises for the greater good.

They refused to do that. I just want to call your attention to a resolution that we introduced here in the House – Democrats – way back in April – April 23rd. Resolution – very simple – expressing the sense that the House of Representatives that the Speaker should immediate request a conference to appoint conferees to complete work on a fiscal year 2014 budget resolution with the United States Senate. That’s what we introduced way back in April.

What did the Speaker do? He said no. He refused to appoint anybody to negotiate on the budget.

We had votes calling upon the House, calling upon the Speaker to appoint budget negotiators. They voted no. They voted to deny the House an opportunity to appoint budget conferees.

What happened in the Senate? I believe at least 15 times – 18 times – the Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Budget [Committee] Chair Patty Murray asked to appoint conferees to work out these budget issues, and 18 times Republicans led by people like Sen. [Mike] Lee said no. They blocked them. I would point out that Sen. McCain at the time said that it was “insane” for Republicans to be blocking a negotiation on the budget since they spent all of last year calling upon the Senate to have a budget.

Now, the Speaker of the House earlier this year said he didn’t want to engage anymore with the President and the White House on negotiations, that he want to go through the regular order. Well, the regular order means appointing budget negotiators.

So the reason we’re here today is that the Speaker of the House refused to name budget negotiators and the Senate Republicans blocked budget negotiations.

Now, why would they do that? Because you have to compromise when you go to a budget negotiation – a comprehensive budget. They didn’t want to do that.

And so instead, we have a very deliberate, very calculated strategy not to go through those negotiations but to wait ’til the government is on the precipice of shutdown because then they’d figure they don’t have to compromise. They can just demand that Democrats in the Congress adopt their radical propositions – getting rid of the Affordable Care Act – and they’ve threatened that the federal government will no longer pay its bills as their next step. They believe that that way they would not have to compromise by driving the federal government to the edge of shutdown as we are 40 minutes away and threatening the United States will not pay its bills on time.

So we are eager to go to conference on the budget any time but let’s not shut down the government in order to get there. Let’s keep the government open, which we can do if we adopt the Senate bill and then let’s do what we have been asking for – Leader Pelosi and the Democrats in the House, Democrats in the Senate have been asking for since April of this year. Let’s have the negotiations. Let’s make the compromises. And let’s get away from this idea that you’re going to drive the country to the precipice in order to demand your very radical agenda.

That’s what we’d like to do. Let’s not shut down the government.

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