While House and Senate Republicans attempt to reopen specific federal agencies, Senate Democrats have formed a united block against what they call a “piecemeal” approach. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has slammed Republicans for trying to “cherry-pick” which parts of government to keep open. Never mind that Congress used to budget this way; it is also what the Senate Democrats agreed to unanimously just last week to keep open the nation’s “helium reserve.”
Yes, the U.S. has a “strategic” reserve of helium. For over a decade, Congress has tried to privatize and divest the government’s helium holdings, but a significant amount of helium is still held by the government. On Wednesday, President Obama signed into law continuing funding to maintain the government’s “strategic” helium reserve. The legislation was passed by the Senate unanimously last week, on the cusp of a government shutdown.
On Thursday, GOP Rep. Doc Hastings went to the House floor to urge Senate Democrats to approve funding for the entire Department of the Interior, which manages the helium reserve.
“Let’s not forget that one week ago today, Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid and the entire Senate unanimously approved a bill to keep the Federal Helium Reserve open and operating,” Hastings said. “Last night, the President finally signed this bill to prevent a helium shutdown into law. The helium program is part of the Interior Department, just like our national parks.”
“One has to ask,” Hastings continued, “[W]hy will the Senate pass and President Obama sign it into law a bill to specifically prevent the closure of the federal helium program, but then refuse to act on a bill to end the closure of over 400 national parks that are visited by millions of Americans?”
On the eve of the government shutdown, Senate Democrats also passed a “piecemeal” bill to ensure that the military is paid during any shutdown.
So, preserving the nation’s helium reserve is of vital national interest, but everything else in government is just “cherry-picking”, according to Senate Democrats. In other words, they were for a “piecemeal” approach before they were against it.