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In Case You Missed It: Shaheen Leads “Reopen the Government” Effort on the Senate Floor

1.9.19 Floor

**Watch Shaheen’s remarks in full here**

(Washington, DC) – Last night, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) led an effort on the Senate floor calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow the Senate to vote on legislation to reopen the government and end President’s Trump’s shutdown. Senators participated throughout the evening, highlighting the more than 800,000 federal employees furloughed or working without pay, and the millions of Americans impacted, including Granite State families, who cannot access critical government services.

“We could reopen government’s doors today if Senate Republicans take up the bills that were passed by the House – bills that were written and overwhelmingly approved by the Republican-controlled Senate just a few weeks ago,” said Shaheen on the Senate floor. “So, if there’s bipartisan and bicameral agreement on the appropriations bills, why has government shut down? Well, sadly it’s because the President wants to force American taxpayers to foot the bill for an ineffective and costly wall on the Southern border — a wall that the President promised Mexico would pay for and that is opposed by the majority of Americans. Meanwhile, the men and women who work in agencies that protect the American people and who protect our borders are either not working or on the job but not getting paid.”

Shaheen underscored the significant impact of the government shutdown on New Hampshire, noting “This shutdown affects the entire country, including New Hampshire. Because it is not just the thousands of federal workers who are affected by the shutdown. It’s also harming millions of Americans who depend on essential services provided by the affected agencies.”

Last week, Shaheen met with members of the New Hampshire Farm Bureau to discuss the hardship this shutdown and the trade tariffs have placed on their businesses and their families. In her speech, Shaheen highlighted this burden, discussing the ongoing closure of the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency and how farmers are not receiving essential services and loans they need to prepare for the spring planting season. Shaheen also mentioned how the shutdown affects New Hampshire dairy farmers, who are losing money because of the Trump administration’s tariffs. The 2018 Farm Bill made important improvements to the dairy safety net program, but these necessary reforms are not being implemented due to the shutdown.

The shutdown is also impacting efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, and Shaheen noted that, “Furloughs have also slowed work at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and the programs that it oversees that are integral to New Hampshire’s effort to fighting the deadly opioid epidemic... Last year, New Hampshire had the second highest rate of deaths due to opioid-related drug overdoses, and continued delays from the agency will the pull the rug out from under our first responders who rely on essential ONDCP resources and critical federal opioid response efforts. You know, just as we’re beginning to see some progress in fighting the opioid epidemic, because of the work of Congress, we’re seeing steps backward.”

As the Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice and Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Shaheen highlighted the effects of the shutdown on law enforcement, “More than 41,000 law enforcement agents at the Department of Justice, including agents within the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Prisons – they’re working for IOUs. We’re hearing this directly in New Hampshire, where every staff member at the Federal Correctional Institution in Berlin, New Hampshire, which is in northern New Hampshire, they are “excepted,” that means they’re required to report for work and they’re not being paid.”

Shaheen also read an excerpt from a letter she received from Chris Allen, the President of the union at FCI Berlin that represents 180 staff members, noting the tough choices that staff members are being forced to make, especially when they are relying on the Justice Department for two incomes, “While some staff members can call and potentially have a mortgage or car payment excused if they are missing only one source of income, even buying simple groceries or paying for childcare becomes difficult for a family when all sources of income have been stopped and you are required to continuing working.”

In closing, Shaheen urged Senate Republican Leadership to allow a vote on bipartisan legislation that would reopen the government, stating “One of the most fundamental constitutional duties of Congress is the appropriations process – to supply annual funds for federal programs that support national defense, transportation, small businesses, food assistance for low-income families, research and development and so much more. And right now, by refusing to allow legislation to reopen the government, this Senate, this Congress is failing millions of Americans who are suffering as a result. So I urge President Trump, Senator McConnell and Congressional Republicans to reopen the government to allow Americans to get back to work.”