Senator Collins’ Statement on the Bill to Fund Government

Senator Susan Collins released this statement following her vote in support of the short-term funding bill, which would have prevented a government shutdown and extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years:

“To prevent a government shutdown that would damage our economy and disrupt health care coverage for low-income children, I voted in support of the stop-gap funding bill.

“A government shutdown represents the ultimate failure to govern. Regrettably, we went down this road in October 2013, and the consequences of that impasse reverberated across the country. According to Standard & Poor’s, the shutdown cost the economy $1.5 billion per day—a total of $24 billion. This negatively affected the government’s budget through reduced revenues and increased borrowing costs, including $400 million in higher interest charges. And it particularly hurt people in Maine whose livelihoods depended on tourism when Acadia National Park closed due to the shutdown. In October of 2013, I formed the Common Sense Coalition that drafted the plan that led to government reopening.

“The failure to pass this funding bill jeopardizes health care for children covered through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and does absolutely nothing to advance a solution for the “Dreamers.” CHIP provides health care coverage to nine million children nationwide, including 22,310 in Maine. CHIP expired on September 30, 2017, and the funding for this critical program is in imminent danger of running out in many states. The deadline to extend CHIP is now. In addition to preventing a government shutdown, the funding bill would have ensured that these nine million children continued to receive health care by renewing and funding CHIP for another six years.

“I also believe that it’s imperative that Congress pass legislation to resolve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issue, so that young people who were brought to the United States as children, through no decision of their own, can stop living in fear of deportation. That’s why I joined a bipartisan group of Senators who are working hard to advance a legislative solution for “Dreamers,” while strengthening border security and improving our immigration system. Unlike CHIP, the deadline for resolving DACA is March 5th. By coming together on a bipartisan basis, we can meet that deadline.

“The consequences of a government shutdown will be severe. Federal civilian employees who work to support our National Guard, overhaul our nuclear submarines, and analyze the latest terrorist threat will be furloughed, leaving us less safe as a country. Disabled veterans will face delays in the handling of their claims. Pregnant women and children who depend on the WIC program will be at risk. Life-saving biomedical research will be disrupted. Jobs in the private sector will be affected. The list of harm goes on and on.

“The repercussions of a government shutdown on Mainers and the Maine economy specifically will also be severe. As a result of the 2013 shutdown, Maine residents with mental or physical disabilities were not able to sign up for Social Security disability benefits, the Veterans Benefits Administration’s office at Togus was closed, and small businesses were not able to access loan and assistance programs. In addition, Bar Harbor retail and restaurant sales declined by approximately $1.6 million compared to the previous year.

“Similar negative consequences will occur in another government shutdown. According to estimates I received from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, approximately 50 percent of the PNSY civilian workforce will be furloughed, and work on three submarines will be delayed. More than 500 Maine National Guard dual-status technicians will be furloughed on Monday. If the shutdown lasts longer than even a few days, it will affect preparation for Guard drill and readiness training.

“As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a Subcommittee Chairman, I find short-term funding bills to be particularly frustrating. The Appropriations Committee approved most of the 12 funding bills last year before the start of the fiscal year on October 1, passing many of them with overwhelming bipartisan support. This includes an appropriations bill I authored with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) that would make vital investments in our nation’s infrastructure, help meet the housing needs of the most vulnerable among us, and provide funding for economic development projects that create jobs in our communities. If allowed to complete our work, we could pass these bills rather than needing to pass a stop-gap funding bill that simply locks in the previous year’s priorities.

“Unfortunately, that is not the choice before the Senate today. The American people do not want dysfunction in Washington to lead to a government shutdown. They want us to work together to support solutions that move our country forward. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to act to reverse this irresponsible and unacceptable outcome. We have the opportunity and an obligation to work together to find solutions.”

Today in Washington, Senate leaders plan a vote to fund the government through February 8th.