Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks: If Republicans Want To Avoid A Catastrophic Default And Government Shutdown, They Need To Vote For The House-Passed Continuing Resolution

September 22, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for Senators to vote for the House-passed continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown and prevent a historic default that would lead to catastrophic economic consequences. Senator Schumer added that raising the debt ceiling is about paying the bills that have already been racked up, not new debt. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Yesterday evening, the House of Representatives approved a continuing resolution that will keep the government open through December, provide emergency funding for Afghan Refugees and Americans affected by natural disasters, and suspend the debt ceiling through the end of 2022. 

The bill now comes to the Senate, where both parties must pass it together to steer the United States away from a number of fast-approaching crises.

Absent Congressional action, the government will shut down in just over a week. The United States could face a first-ever default soon thereafter. And it will be American families who suffer most.

Now, our Republican colleagues say they don’t want a shutdown. They say they don’t want a credit default. They say they want hurricane aid.

Then they should vote yes on this bill!

You want to avoid a default, Republican colleagues? Vote yes.

You want to avoid a government shutdown? Vote yes.

You want to provide hurricane aid? Vote yes.

You want to help the Afghan refugees? Vote yes.

That's the bill that will be on the floor. Those who will vote yes will vote to avoid default, to avoid a government shutdown. Those who vote no will be saying we're okay with default and we're okay with the government shutdown. To say do it another way, that doesn't cut it. This is what’s on the floor. This is what the House passed.

And the kind, again, of sophistry that we have heard from the Republican Leader doesn't make any sense either through past history or through practicality and what we need today.

At the end of the day it is how we vote that matters most. Our constituents sent us here to vote. Plain and simple.

So Republicans face a choice: vote yes to pay our bills and keep the government open, or vote no which means you’re okay with default and a government shutdown.

Every single Democrat will support this bill. Whether or not we avoid default is simply, entirely, up to the Republican Senators. It’s up to them, plain and simple. The President has a proposal. The House has passed a proposal. I will put that proposal on the Senate floor.

And remember: This is not just a political fight. The last time Republicans played with the debt ceiling in 2011, the credit of the United States was downgraded for the first time ever. And all indications are that if Republicans succeed in causing a default this time around, the consequences would be catastrophic.

According to a sobering new analysis by Mark Zandi at Moody’s Analytics, a default would erase up to 6 million jobs in the economy.

It would cause unemployment—which we’ve worked so hard to bring down during this COVID season—to spike up again to as high as 9%.

And as much as $15 trillion of household wealth would be wiped out of existence.

Every American family will suffer from the Republican desire to play political games and send our nation into default.

Let me say that again: fifteen trillion dollars of household wealth, and that means thousands of dollars from each family, from many families, thousands. That’s not fair. All for the sake, Leader McConnell, of a political game.

It’s an incomprehensible number. I can’t think of a worse gut-punch to the American people—who’ve spent the last 19 months fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic—than to see their life savings disappear because Republicans won’t pay political bills and are simply trying to gain mere political advantage.

There is no scenario on God’s green Earth where it is worth risking 6 million jobs, 9% unemployment, and $15 trillion in household wealth just to stick it to your political opponents, but that seems to be the M.O. these days of the Republican Leader – not caring at all about the American people and what matters to them, and playing political games in an effort – I believe a futile effort – to gain political advantage. It won’t succeed. Everyone knows who is doing what around here.

Now, over the past few weeks Senate Republicans have advanced a number of dishonest and duplicitous arguments to rationalize their opposition to the debt ceiling, to play the political games the minority leader is involved in. 

I expect we will keep hearing these arguments over and over again, so let’s set the record straight on two of their main points.

First, our Republican colleagues have argued that raising the debt ceiling should exclusively be the domain of one party when it controls all three branches of government. Of course this is nonsense—since 1960, the debt ceiling has been raised about 80 times under both unified and divided government. As recently as 2017, Leader McConnell, as Majority Leader, put forward a bill to raise the debt ceiling when there was a Republican President, a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and urged Democrats to join him and of course we did, because it’s the right thing to do. We don’t want to hurt the American people, we don’t want to play games with the livelihood of Americans the way the Republican seems to revel in.

And rather than play political games, rather than engage in an ill-considered game of chicken, Democrats worked with the other side.

Second, and far more dishonest, Republicans say they don’t want to raise the debt ceiling because they don’t want to clear the way for more domestic spending.

This statement is false, pure and simple!

Our proposal to suspend the debt ceiling is not about future spending. Raising the debt ceiling is about paying the bills that have already been racked up. The proposal the House sent over is designed to help pay for the $908 billion that we approved last year in the depths of the COVID crisis. That legislation was drafted by Republicans, voted for by Republicans, put on the floor by Leader McConnell, and signed by a Republican president. It is Trump Debt that we must now pay. 

For Republicans, after voting for it, after going back to their districts and claiming credit for some of the things in that bill, to now decide that they’ve changed their minds and they don’t want to pay the debt they willingly took on—and brag about the spending that incurred that debt—is the height of irresponsibility and the height of hypocrisy. It’s a dine-and-dash of unprecedented proportions. And if they have their way, it’s going to be the American people who will foot the bill.

The full faith and credit of the United States isn’t a game. It’s the bedrock upon which our economy stands. No lawmaker can vote to refuse to pay the bills and then say they have the best interest of the American people in mind.

So again, here is what’s on the line with this vote: the wellbeing of tens of millions of Americans—everyone from small business owners, homeowners, veterans, active-duty military, social security beneficiaries, and American consumers everywhere.

And Senator Warner has made a very good point. If we default, or even if the risk of coming close to default raises interest rates by one percent, that will cost the government more than some of the spending programs, many of the spending programs, that the Republicans say they don’t like even though they voted for them.

There is a very simple answer to avoiding this entire problem: when the CR comes to the floor, Republicans vote yes and put this needless crisis to an end.

But if they choose to vote in favor of a default, by a cynical, political blame game, it will ultimately be the American people who will pay the price. And the American people will know who did this: the Republicans in the Senate. Because there will be a proposal by the Democratic President, the bill will pass the floor, and Democrats and Republicans which each have to vote yes or no, simply put, on whether we want to default.

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