September 28, 2016

Sen. Warren: GOP Threatens Gov't Shutdown By Demanding That Corporate Political Spending Remain Secret and by Withholding Emergency Funding for Flint

With Three Days Until Shutdown, Republican Leader Holds Government Hostage "to Protect the Anonymous Corporate Donors Who Want to Buy Off Politicians"

Any Member of Senate or House Who Refuses to Stand with Children of Flint "Lacks the Moral Courage to Serve in This Congress"

Video of floor speech available here

Washington, DC - In a floor speech on Tuesday evening, Senator Elizabeth Warren called out Republicans in Congress for refusing to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government unless language is included to block a federal rule requiring corporations to disclose political contributions. The senator further highlighted GOP obstruction that has prevented Congress from sending emergency funding to help the children and families in Flint, MI who have been poisoned by lead in the local drinking water supply.

The full text of Senator Warren's remarks is below, and video is available here.

Remarks by Senator Elizabeth Warren
September 27, 2016

Mr. President, the Republicans are threatening to shut down the government again. In less than 100 hours, the U.S. Government will run out of money. Why? What is so important that Republicans are willing to destroy thousands of jobs and cost our economy billions of dollars the way they did in 2013? The answer is money. Not tax money. Not government spending. No. This is all about secret money for political campaigns. Republicans who control Congress are refusing to fund the government unless everyone agrees to let giant, publicly traded companies that spend millions of dollars trying to influence our elections keep all that money hidden.

In just 6 years, the world has turned upside down. Since 2010 when the Supreme Court said in Citizens United that American corporations are "people," those corporations have been allowed to spend as much corporate money as they want to get their friends elected. And, boy, have they spent money--more than half a billion dollars from 2010 to 2015. Today a powerful group of millionaires and billionaires runs around tossing out checks for millions of dollars to influence who wins and who loses elections. Anyone whose eyes haven't been glued shut can see that these waves of money are drowning out ordinary citizens, corrupting our politics, and corrupting our government.

We need to reverse Citizens United and take back our government. We need to reaffirm the basic principle that corporations are not people. But that is going to be a long haul. The first thing we can do--the least we can do, the thing we can do right now--is make sure publicly traded corporations at least tell us when they spend money on political campaigns.

Let's be brutally frank about this. Despite the impression that they usually give on television and in congressional hearings, public companies do not belong to their executives. They are not piggybanks for rich CEOs who want to advance their own personal political ideologies. By law, these companies can spend money only in ways that will benefit their shareholders. So when a public corporation decides to spend $1 million on politics, one of two things is true: Either the corporation is trying to buy a politician or some government favor or it isn't. If it is, then that is corruption, plain and simple, and if it isn't, that is a waste of shareholder money, and it is illegal. Either way, shareholders and the public have a right to know.

The next time you buy cookies or shop on a Web site or use a credit card, you may be contributing to the profits of a corporation that is funneling millions of dollars to political candidates you detest. You may be helping some corporation buy a Senator who will help roll back environmental regulations or privatize Social Security or block a woman's access to birth control. That may be OK with you, but if it isn't, you might want to know about it and buy different cookies. The Republicans don't want you to know. They are saying they will shut down this government before they will let the SEC make corporations tell about the secret money they are pushing into political campaigns.

The American people want to know if giant corporations are buying politicians, and the SEC can make those corporations tell. More than 1 million people and organizations have written to the SEC, asking it to issue such a rule. This massive show of support has spooked Republicans. After all, there is an election in 6 weeks. At this very moment, billions of dollars in secret money are flowing into our political system--much of it to prop up Donald Trump and his Republican friends in Congress. Just turn on your TV and you will see it.

Senator Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Senate Republicans have billions of reasons for keeping this funding secret and billions of reasons to defend this rotten system. They are willing to shut down the government to do it.

If Republicans think they can quietly hold the government hostage to protect the anonymous corporate donors who want to buy off politicians, if they think nobody else will notice, they should think again. If the Republicans really think the American people sent us here to protect political corruption, then let's get it right out here in the open and let the American people see who is standing up for them and who isn't.

There is a second threat the Republicans have issued. They will not help Flint, MI. The people of Flint, MI, have been poisoned by lead seeping into their drinking water; poisoned by a rightwing State government that decided to play fast and loose with the health and safety of a largely African-American town; poisoned by a fraudulent coverup that hid what happened while lead built up in the bodies of thousands of young children and caused terrible developmental problems and chronic health issues that will last for the rest of their lives; poisoned by a philosophy that says: Let's give tax breaks to billionaires and big corporations and then shrug it off when there is no money left to build infrastructure for clean water or provide education or opportunity for anyone else; poisoned by a Republican philosophy that says: No one matters but me and my children. Your children can drink lead; poisoned by the callous indifference of the Republicans who control the United States Congress.

It has been over a year since Flint's water was declared undrinkable. It has been 9 months since it was designated a Federal disaster eligible for our help. During that time, 100,000 residents of Flint--mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, children and babies--haven't had access to drinking water because of a Republican-State government that didn't care about the people living in Flint and a Republican Congress that didn't care either.

Michigan's two Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, have spent nearly a year trying to work out some kind of solution-any kind of solution--that the Republicans who control Congress would agree to. They even got a fully paid for emergency relief package to move through the Senate with 95 votes-95 votes in the Senate--only to watch in horror as Republicans in the House are trying to tank it.

Recently, major floods hit Louisiana. Like Flint, Louisiana received a Federal disaster declaration to make the thousands of people who have lost their homes eligible for our help. Congressional Republicans, urged on by the two Republican Senators from Louisiana, have decided to give Louisiana the support it needs to recover from this disaster as part of the government funding bill, and that is great.

The Republicans who control Congress said: There will be nothing for Flint. This is raw politics. Two Republicans represent Louisiana and two Democrats represent Michigan. Congress is controlled by Republicans so Louisiana gets immediate help, but after a year of waiting, Michigan gets told to pound sand.

Is this what we have come to? Is this what politics has become? There are 100,000 people in Flint, a town where more than half the residents are African-American and nearly half live in poverty. They get nothing because voters sent two Democrats to the Senate?

This is not a game. Flint is not a Democratic city or a Republican city; it is an American city. The children who have been poisoned are American children. The principle of standing up for those in need is an American principle.

I am a Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, but I will help the Republican Senators from Louisiana. I stand shoulder to shoulder with them in their hour of need, but I am sick and tired--I am past sick and tired--of Republican Senators who come here and demand Federal funding when their communities are hit by a crisis but block help when other States need it. Their philosophy screams, "I want mine, but the rest of you are on your own.'' It is ugly, un-American, and just plain wrong.

We must stand with the Senators from Michigan. We must stand with the children of Flint, and we must put aside ugly partisanship that is literally poisoning a town full of American families. Any Member of the House or Senate who doesn't stand with them lacks the moral courage to serve in this Congress.