Senator Boxer's Statement on the Federal Government Shutdown
October 16, 2013
(As prepared for delivery)
Before we get into the substance of this press conference to show the harm that is being done by this shutdown which is now in its 16th day, I want to give you a report on where things stand at the moment.
As I said on the floor yesterday, there are two paths Congress can take: One is partisan path that goes right off the cliff and brings with it chaos in our economy and our government. And the other is a bipartisan path, which is windy and sometimes difficult, but it will lead us to where we all need to go: an open government, a country that pays its bills and averts default, and a framework that sets up negotiations to discuss any issue that either side wants to discuss.
I understand that the leaders are working very hard on this bipartisan path and progress is being made.
What I do know is that the clock is ticking. Every hour, every minute that this continues to go on, it's hurtful to our nation, it's hurtful to our families, and it's hurtful to our communities.
Let's be clear: The two crises we are facing are self-inflicted wounds. That's the bad news. The good news: There is a way out of this, and I am hopeful we are now on that bipartisan path.
We are joined today by a business owner, industry leaders, and community representatives who will discuss how the government shutdown is impacting local economies, families and communities nationwide. They will tell us about the real world impacts and how local communities across the country are suffering.
Because some comments have been made about the impacts of the shutdown, I want to make clear some of the ways Americans have been hurting.
Let me give you 10 reasons -- and there are many more -- why this Republican shutdown is harmful to the American public, puts people's livelihoods at risk, and is hurting the nation's economy.
Number 1: The shutdown is delaying passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is a vitally important water infrastructure bill that will sustain up to 500,000 new jobs. This bipartisan legislation was passed by the Senate in May, but because of the shutdown the House did not take up its water resources bill last week as expected.
Number 2: Approximately 93 percent of employees at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have been furloughed. There is not one single EPA inspector on the job in my state of California, and every other state across the country is facing a similar situation. The employees who protect the environment and safeguard public health have been prevented from going to work. The cops on the beat aren't on the job.
Number 3: EPA's cleanup activities at 505 Superfund sites in 47 states have been delayed. That means that families living near these toxic waste sites, which are contaminated with toxic brews like arsenic, benzene, lead and mercury, have to continue to worry that their children will get cancer or will suffer injury to their brain and other vital organs. It also means that there are homeowners with children living at Superfund sites that cannot be bought out by the federal government, and they have little alternative but to continue to live in areas contaminated by toxic waste.
Number 4: The agriculture industry faces serious harm from the shutdown, because the EPA employees who inventory and inspect pesticides imported from abroad have been furloughed. Because EPA inspectors are not on the job, pesticide products that have been imported are staying on the ports and cannot be distributed across the country. If the shutdown continues, we have heard from California agriculture that processing plants could close down, jobs would be lost, and the tools necessary to protect their crops would not be available.
Number 5: The shutdown has virtually closed the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) - 37 of its 40 employees have been furloughed. Because of the shutdown, all ongoing investigations of chemical explosions - including the one in West, Texas - have been halted.
Number 6: The Executive Order issued in August to improve safety and security at chemical facilities, which will help protect workers, first responders, and local residents, has been halted. Because of the shutdown, the Obama administration is unable to take common sense steps to improve coordination between federal, state and local agencies, enhance information sharing, and modernize safeguards at chemical facilities.
Number 7: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) has just completely shut down the permit process for projects nationwide - which has halted 650 pending actions in just one of the Corps' 38 Districts. Businesses and families rely on the Corps to approve the construction of roads, bridges, houses, and commercial buildings when they impact our rivers, streams, and wetlands. Because the employees who review these applications have been furloughed, the process has been stopped dead in its tracks.
Number 8: The Corps has closed all of the recreational facilities it manages, including parks, campgrounds, swimming beaches, and boat ramps. From October 1-11, the Corps estimates that the shutdown caused a loss of 8.5 million visits to its recreation areas. The 12 million acres of Corps public lands and waters support local businesses like resorts, marinas, outfitters, grocery stores, gas stations, and hotels, which provide goods and services to visitors, as well as a boost to the nation's economy. Small businesses that depend on visitor spending are losing more revenue every day that the shutdown continues.
Number 9: The shutdown has closed the nation's 561 national wildlife refuges, and local businesses that depend on tourism dollars are suffering. In many parts of the country, hunting season is now in full swing, but people who want to hunt, fish, and watch wildlife are being turned away from the nation's refuges.
Number 10: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has furloughed about 92 percent of its employees -- roughly 3,600 out of 3,900 people. The NRC fulfills a critical mission - it was created "to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials . . . while protecting people and the environment." Because of the shutdown, the NRC has cancelled public meetings that were scheduled in California, halted non-emergency reactor licensing, and delayed emergency preparedness exercises.
The government shutdown is having widespread, harmful effects on the health and safety of the American people and on our economy. The longer the shutdown continues, the greater the damage will be. We must end the shutdown and open the government now.