Click here to view video of Murphy’s remarks.
WASHINGTON – Following President Trump’s oval office address to the nation on the partial government shutdown and border security, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) delivered remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate calling on President Trump and Senate Republicans to end the shutdown, which has left 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay, at least 1,500 of which work or reside in Connecticut. During his remarks, Murphy called out the Republicans for repeatedly using a government shutdown as a negotiating tactic, and for passing legislation to keep the government open last month but changing their mind after the president reneged on his pledge to sign it because it didn’t include money for his wall.
“Hundreds of thousands of federal workers all across the country are furloughed as we speak, including over 1,000 in Connecticut,” said Murphy. “When you start having folks at airport security not be able to show up for their jobs because they have to work somewhere else in order to put food on the table, when you start creating questions about whether food stamps are going to go out or Section 8 vouchers are going to get paid, when you can't have the Department of Agriculture functioning to help our farmers, you're starting to affect the whole lot of people, you're starting to drag down the entire economy.”
“We could bring up that same bill that reopens the government…we could all vote the same way that we did back in December, we could send that bill to the House of Representatives and admit that the president shouldn't dictate our votes, just because his position changed doesn't mean that the Senate Republicans' position should have changed,” Murphy added.
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
Thank you. I want to share with the body today my very short New Year's wish list. It is very short because one, two, and three, four, five, and six are all the same. We need to open the government. We need to reopen the one-quarter of the federal government that is shut down today. We need to start acting like adults. We need to start doing the job that we were sent here to do because our nation's security is at stake. Kids' health is at stake. Families' economic security is at stake. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers all across the country are furloughed as we speak, including over 1,000 in Connecticut. But that's not the extent of the damage. When you start having folks at airport security not be able to show up for their jobs because they have to work somewhere else in order to put food on the table, when you start creating questions about whether food stamps are going to go out or Section 8 vouchers are going to get paid, when you can't have the Department of Agriculture functioning to help our farmers, you're starting to affect the whole lot of people, you're starting to drag down the entire economy.
And so my hope, my wish is that we will reopen the federal government. The fact of the matter is, this happens every now and again. Occasionally somebody makes a demand, something that they can't get through the normal political process, and they say that if they don’t get that demand that they're going to shut down the government. Every time I’ve been though one of these, it’s the party making the demand that eventually relents because we tend to all agree that that's not a way, that's not the proper way in order to try to get what you want in the United States Government. Senator Cruz and others shut down the government for two weeks because they wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, eventually they relented.
This time it is President Trump who couldn't get Congress to approve $5 billion dollars for his wall in the budget, so he decided to shut down the government. This is not how we should conduct the debate about legitimate public policy issues, right? The future of the American health care system was a legitimate public policy issue, as is the security of our borders. But we shouldn't be having the discussion amidst a government shutdown, trying to use our nation's security and all of these federal workers and the work that they do as hostages to try to achieve a political result. And of course we all were on the same page just a few weeks ago. This body voted unanimously to open the federal government. And now Senator McConnell says that that piece of legislation that all of us voted for in December can't pass. Well, what changed? What changed in each one of your states that causes so many members of this body to now say that they cannot vote for a continuing resolution that you all voted for back in December? Well, we know what's changed. The only thing that has changed is that the president has decided that he won't sign it but that's not how the constitution works. Right? The constitution doesn't make the United States Senate subservient to the president. The United States Constitution certainly doesn't make the president's party subservient to him. No one here has to follow the orders of President Trump, especially when he is doing something that is bad for the nation.
We could bring up that same bill that reopens the government, at least temporarily, we could all vote the same way that we did back in December, we could send that bill to the House of Representatives and admit that the president shouldn't dictate our votes, just because his position changed doesn't mean that the Senate Republicans' position should have changed. Let's reopen the government so that then we can have a discussion about the question of immigration law and border security. Because I'm more than willing to have it.
Ok, I didn't exactly tell the truth. I do have two other wishes beyond reopening the government, but they are connected to my primary wish. My second wish is that the president would stop making up things as he proceeds through this debate. The worst of his lies was the idea that there were 4,000 known or suspected terrorists that came across our southern border. That was a number proffered by the press secretary at the White House and repeated in various ways, shapes and forms by the president's allies. Of course we now know there have not been 4,000 suspected terrorists that have come across the southern border, there have been six since the beginning of this year. That’s six people who are on a terrorist watch list who weren’t U.S. citizens. You know how many people who fit that description came across the northern border in the first six months of this year? 41. 41. So if you really care about the security of this country, if your primary reason for getting up every morning is to make sure that terrorists don't get into this country, then we should be putting up a wall with Canada, not a wall with Mexico. The second fiction is that all of these drugs coming into the United States are crossing the U.S.-Mexican border at places where there isn't a wall. That's not true either. That’s not true either. The vast majority of illegal products that come into this country come through ports of entry. Now, we should all talk about why that is and what we can do to beef up protections, but putting up a wall along the treacherous portions of the Rio Grande are not going to stop smugglers who right now can find lots of other ways to get their goods into the United States. So I want to make sure that when we have this debate we are having a fact-based debate.
And my second wish in this new year is that the president and his allies would just start telling the truth, would just start telling the truth, and the truth is that there is not a new security crisis at the southern border. Right? Illegal crossings have been coming down since 2000. The terrorists -- the people that are on the terrorist watch list that occasionally do try to come into this country, they predominantly trying to get in through Canada, not through Mexico. And so I want to talk about facts. Here is my last -- my last wish, and again one, two, three, four, and five are reopen the government. But if I had six and seven, it would be that the president start talking about the real facts and the other would be this. Let's not get into this very dangerous conversation about trying to do an end-around on the political process with a national emergency. And I guess I'm talking to my Republican colleagues here. I get it that I often have some of the sharpest words for this president. But I hope that we can come together on the idea that declaring a national emergency because you can't get what you want through the political process is a really bad precedent to set.
It is true there are a whole bunch of national emergencies that have been declared. But none of the circumstances of those national emergencies, none of the powers that were utilized in those national emergencies compare to what the president is reportedly considering. If the president is really talking about declaring a national emergency on our border, despite the fact that there's no set of facts that suggest what's happening on our border is fundamentally different today than what was happening a year ago or ten years ago, if the president is really contemplating by executive order reprogramming billions of dollars that this Congress set aside for military construction projects to a border wall, that is a Pandora's box which once opened cannot be shut again. That is a genie escaping out of a bottle that will not be put back. I said in jest last night that if President Trump can use a national emergency declaration to build a border wall, what would stop a Democratic president from declaring a healthcare emergency and declaring a national emergency to create a single-payer health care system in this country? I wouldn't advise a Democratic president do that, but I'm not sure what the precedent would be if President Trump, having not been able to get Congress and the American public to get behind a border wall with Mexico that nobody really wants, declares a national emergency and builds it anyway. What would then stop any future president from doing the same thing on a host of other policy areas? Really, what would stop a president from declaring a health care national emergency, because he or she can't get their legislation passed through the United States Senate, and reordering our insurance markets, our Medicare, and our Medicaid program to cure that national emergency? Simply shifting money around from place to place. I don't think that this is an avenue that the federal government should go down. Because there will be a Democratic president someday, and if you can just declare a national emergency and move billions of dollars around because you can't get your way in Congress, that is a horse, once out of the barn, that's not coming back.
So that's my wish list. Open the government, open the government, open the government. Pass the bills that we passed back in December. Don't let the president dictate your votes. Let your constituents dictate your votes. I hope the president and the White House start telling the truth about what's really happening with border security. And I hope this nonsense about declaring a national emergency goes away. And I hope it goes away in part because Republicans in this body recognize the really dangerous precedent that that sets for this country, and they recommend publicly and privately to the president that he shutter that idea.
We could reopen the government today. If Senator McConnell came down here and decided to put a continuing resolution before this body, said that it's the right thing to do for the country, it would pass with flying colors. If Senator McConnell exercised that kind of leadership that he has shown in previous shutdowns it would pass with flying colors we all know it would, we all know it would. I'm sure there would be a handful of Republicans that maybe just got elected with President Trump’s support who might not support it, but it would pass, just like it passed three weeks ago, and it would likely pass the House of Representatives by a veto-proof margin as well, once the signal was given by Senate Republicans that the adults needed to step up and reopen the government. So this whole crisis can be over tonight. It can be over tonight if there is some leadership shown by Senate Republicans. And why spend all this time trying to control this body? Why spend millions of dollars trying to run for office to become the majority party in the United States Senate if you're not willing to step up at a moment of crisis and lead the country through it? It's still possible, and I hope, as my New Year's wish, that it gets done sooner rather than later. Thank you, Mr. President.