Floor and Committee Statements

"Madam President, I wasn't going to come over here today--I just got off an airplane a little while ago--but I am here because of what I have been hearing.

"What I have been hearing is that we need to be talking about the shutdown and not other subjects. When I met with the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] agents on my plane flying up here, they said: 'Why don't you get our work back for us?'

"We are not even talking about TSA. We are not even talking about the shutdown. We are talking about different opinions at different times and different things that don't really matter in the scheme of things.

"I appreciate what the distinguished ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee just said, but quite frankly, last week he was talking about how important it was for us to stay on the shutdown and not do anything else. Now the leader on the minority side says it is important for us to get this Russian gentleman or oligarch--whom we are already punishing, and then we will go back to the shutdown.

"My point is this: There is only one thing we need to be doing--restoring the confidence of the American people in the Senate and the House. They don't have it right now. We haven't given them anything to hang their hat on--not a single thing.

"We have been shut down for 23, 24 days. I am not a Johnny-come-lately--pardon the reference--to the issue of shutdowns. I have been in the Senate and House for 20 years. I voted against five shutdowns--every one I had a chance to. Shutdowns cost the government more money; they don't save the government any money. They don't solve any single problem whatsoever, even when you mask them by only shutting down a little bit of the government, like we are right now. Not much of the government is really shut down--just the part that hurts the smallest income earners from our government. We are doing the wrong thing, punishing the wrong people, and that is just not right.

"All the speeches you are going to hear today, including mine, don't matter at all unless we, first of all, get on the shutdown, correct the problem, and find a way to bridge the gap. The President is not moving. The Democrats aren't moving. The majority leader is not moving. We are not doing much. That doesn't solve anything. Somewhere along the line, we have to agree to find a way to do something different that may not be the end deal but the bridge to do an end deal, or else we are all going to look silly.

"The truth is, everybody in this negotiation right now is sitting in their office or sitting and talking to some people, having a beer or doing whatever, and saying: 'How are we going to stick them--meaning the other party--and get this shutdown over before our people drive us crazy?'

"We are caught in our own trap. Things like what we are debating this afternoon just emanate that.

"This oligarch, who has a huge investment in the largest aluminum company in Russia, is being divested of his interest down from 75 percent, I think, to 45 percent.

"My home country of Sweden--one of the largest consumers of their product of aluminum and one of the biggest sellers of aluminum to the United States of America--has called me and said: You all are killing us.

"We have driven him down from 75 to 45, and we have some more things to do. They are losing their vote. I think their vote is now down to about 25 percent of the board. They have restricted him every way they can. I am a businessman; I know how you restrict people and tie them down. This deal does that. It doesn't give them anything they don't want--it gives them a lot of what they don't want to have.

"So I just want to appeal to everybody listening to this, all of my colleagues--I love all of you. We all play political jokes. We can talk about how the Democrats did this and the Republicans did that. But the fact is, we are not doing a damn thing while the American people are suffering.

"The TSA agents I talked to in Atlanta today were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. A lot of the guys and ladies are not showing up for work, and there are going to be more of them.

"We have the Super Bowl coming to Atlanta, Ga., in about three weeks--the biggest tourism event in the world this year. What if the largest airport in the world that is going to bring all the people to the largest football game in the world goes out of business because of the TSA strike? You will have just cost millions of dollars for the United States of America, for my home city--the city of Atlanta--and others. There are thousands of examples just like this.

"I have had three people from my state call me. A convention is coming up in one of our cities, and this shutdown is going to hurt the ability to bring that here. We are going to lose the revenue we would normally get from that. So we need to think about what we are doing. We are not winning any points with anything.

"A lady who was waiting with me to get on the plane just laughed when I gave my answer to the TSA agent. I turned to her and almost asked: Why are you laughing? I said: 'You know, I understand why you are laughing because I can't explain it either.'

"We need to understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. What we are doing doesn't make any sense. What does make sense is resolving to go out and solve the problem. Senator Schumer, Senator McConnell, Senator Crapo, and I--and all of us--should get together in a room and give the press something to really write about--of our having a meeting of 100 people who caused the problem and saying: Let's find a way to solve the problem or to at least agree to get us back to business, to at least agree to not affect the lowest income people on our payroll, because the higher income people aren't suffering. Let's get the work done. Let's get it worked out. Let's not call it a Republican shutdown or a Democratic shutdown. It is an American shutdown.

"I see that Senator Schumer is coming. I don't usually get this riled up, Chuck. I apologize because I am riled up a little bit.

"It is just silly. I used to be able to explain anything. I was a pretty good real estate salesman for a long time. I could close a deal. I can't close this one. I had to three or four times on that Delta plane today, as I came up here, and I couldn't do it. When I listened to the answers I was giving these people--good, old American citizens--as to why we can't get the government open, I thought, if I were they, I would not vote for me either.

"So let's get to work. Let's stop blaming everybody else. Let's put the blame where it belongs--on all of our shoulders collectively. Let's do what we elected officials were elected to do, and let's make a deal.

"I yield the floor."

 - Continued –

"Madam President, I will follow up on the senator's points.

"We need to do what we did last year when Republicans and Democrats stayed up here for two weeks while the government was shut down. We worked out an immigration agreement, and we got the DACA situation fixed. The president came out for a large number of DACA improvements. We almost got there. We fell short, I think, by six votes. The leader and I were on the same side, and a lot of us in here, from both parties, were on the same side. Those are the types of answers we need. We need to push to get that done."