Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, let's make it clear where we are at this moment in time. There is an agreement. There is agreement on the budget number. It was an agreement reached between the President with Speaker Boehner and with Senate Majority Leader Reid--an agreement on the spending cuts for the reminder of this year. It was reached last night at the White House.
Then it fell apart, not because of a change of heart when it came to the number but, rather, because of the insistence of the House Republicans that they would not let us keep this government functioning, they would not let us pass a budget resolution for the reminder of this year, unless we were prepared to virtually devastate the title X family planning program.
Let me ask you something: In the big national debate in the last election over the future of our country and what we would do with our deficit, how many times do you remember that issue coming up? Exactly. None. This issue over title X has been brought in by the House Republicans at the last moment. It has virtually no impact on government spending--virtually none.
Yet they insist on it. Why? It is because of some problems within the House Republican caucus. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, whom I know and respect and like, is surrounded by lean and hungry colleagues challenging his value, his resolve, and his leadership.
This House power struggle has now reached a point where we face a government shutdown and a slowdown on whether we are going to provide basic health care access for women across America. First, understand, not one penny, not a penny in title X funds can be spent on abortion, other than the strictly limited provisions of the Hyde amendment, which have been the law of the land for decades, agreed to by virtually all Republicans and Democrats.
It is about access to cancer screening, it is about pap smears, breast screening, it is about screening for infectious diseases. Here is what it means: If we cut off the funding, as the Republicans ask, for women to have access to affordable health care for their basic health, it is not, as the Senator from Arizona says, just a matter of whether they will knock on the next [Page: S2291] door down the street at a doctor's office, it is whether they will have any care at all.
This is the lowest priced health care for people who struggle to survive day by day. If we fail to provide that health care, we endanger their health and we run the risk that without access to family planning, they will have unintended pregnancies and, sadly--sadly--even more abortions in this country.
If you believe, as I do, personally, that we should try to reduce the number of abortions in America, how can you do what the House Republicans are asking us to do and close down access to family planning? In my State of Illinois, it is estimated that if title X were eliminated, we would have a 24-percent increase in abortions in the State. I do not want to see that.
I consider myself a person who is personally opposed to abortion but believes it is up to a woman and her doctor and her family and her conscience. But for goodness' sake, should not women, rich and poor alike, have access to family planning? That is part of what this debate comes down to.
I would say to my colleague over here, Senator McConnell, the Republican leader, he blames us for not coming up with a spending bill for this year and putting us in this mess. My memory is a little better than his. I remember, in December, when we brought the spending bill to the floor, he objected to it. He objected to it, even though the spending targets in that bill were exactly what he had asked for before the Senate Appropriations Committee. That put us into this current showdown.
Here is what I think we should do: Let's not close down this government. Let's face this decision responsibly. Let's say to the millions of committed Federal employees across America who are basically keeping America safe, making sure our planes are safe in the air, tending to the business of this great Nation, that they can come to work because the government will not close at midnight.
Let's acknowledge that we have agreed on the amount of deficit reduction, the amount of spending cuts, and move forward. But let's also agree, let's agree to save for another day all those other debates about all those other issues, whether it is the EPA or title X.
There is plenty of time and opportunity for Senators and House Members to give speeches until they are red in the face over these issues and to call for a vote. But let's not close down the government of the United States of America over the access to women's basic health care. That is what the House Republicans are insisting on. It is the wrong fight at the wrong time.
It is important for us to step up and step forward and understand that if we do not invest a modest amount in preventative health care so women can learn their health status before small problems become large problems, so women can plan their family future, so people understand what their health status is, if we do not invest in that preventative care, we will pay dearly for that not only in terms of dollars spent but in terms of human suffering. That is something we should rise above.
That is something we should care about enough to put aside and say keep the government open. My plea now to Speaker Boehner is: You have fought the good fight. We are at the 11th hour. Do not let us reach the depths of despair by closing down our government and sending a message across the world that there is something wrong with this American form of government.
There is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with it that people of good faith, responsibly stepping forward and accepting their duty in the House and Senate, cannot cure by agreeing today. Let's do it. In this hour of decision, let's get it done.
Senator Kerry spoke yesterday at our Senate Democratic caucus lunch. JOHN, I still remember your words of what an embarrassment it will be to the United States if our government is shut down. In the eyes of the world, so many people respect this great Nation and I am glad they do and I do too. But to allow a government shutdown at this moment in our history is a sad commentary. Let us not shut down the Government of the United States of America over the question of whether women will have access to affordable health care and preventative health care across the United States.
I yield the floor.