US Senator Barbara Boxer warns of harsh El Nino, looming government crises

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — California’s U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer was in San Francisco Friday expressing her concerns about a potentially fierce El Nino this winter and three crises that have been “self-inflicted” by politicians in Washington D.C.

Boxer said those crises are the expiration of the Highway Transportation bill on Oct. 29, the Nov. 3 deadline to raise the country’s debt ceiling and the Dec. 11 deadline for the U.S. Congress to act in order to avoid a government shutdown.

She said the government shutdown stems from Republican senators moving to defund Planned Parenthood, the controversial non-profit organization that provides complimentary reproductive health services.

However, President Barack Obama has said he won’t sign a bill that strips Planned Parenthood of federal funding.

Now Congress has until Dec. 11 to act in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Boxer said the last shutdown, which occurred in 2013 and lasted for 16 days after conservative members of Congress attempted to defund the Affordable Care Act, cost the U.S. economy an estimated $24 billion.

Boxer said that this time conservatives are threatening to cut more than $500 million from the Environmental Protection Agency, $400 million from community healthcare centers and $245 million from the Center for Disease Control.

She said they are also threatening to cut job training services for 1.4 million Americans, cut roughly $91 million from the community policing program and cut 40,000 affordable housing units.

“We cannot agree to this because this will plunge us back into a recession. It will cause unemployment to go up. It’s devastating,” Boxer said.

Boxer, as the current ranking member of the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the construction and maintenance of highways, bridges and related infrastructure nationwide, which is overseen by the Environment and Public Works Committee, is at stake.

“In 14 days, we have no more federal program for transportation,” she said, explaining that California alone gets $4 billion, or 45 percent, of its transportation funding from the federal government each year.

She said if the U.S. House of Representatives doesn’t pass the Drive Act, which provides for transportation maintenance, millions of jobs will be lost nationwide and the safety of Americans will be at risk. She said she’s hoping the House of Representatives will compromise and come up with a bill that stops “a transportation shutdown.”

With an estimated 61,000 deficient bridges across the country and 50 percent of the nation’s roads in poor condition, Boxer said transportation is not the place to cut funding.

“The Golden Gate Bridge is on that list,” Boxer said, adding that the bridge, and other old bridges across the country, weren’t designed to support such heavy vehicle traffic that they must now accommodate.

Boxer said California and the West needs to be preparing for harsh El Nino weather and said she wants to know what federal agencies plan to do if torrential rainfall and storms hit the U.S. causing mudslides. Federal agencies need to ensure that they have enough resources, especially after a particularly bad fire season in the West, Boxer said.

Another crisis, Boxer said, is the raising of the debt ceiling before the Nov. 3 deadline. She said if the country fails to do so, it could have negative repercussions on the value of the U.S. dollar.

“We have these three manufactured crises,” Boxer said, noting that she wants to see the Democrats and the Republicans work together on addressing these issues.

The House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2016 Budget states that the $5.5 trillion in proposed decreased spending over the next decade and end to annual deficits will come about by simplifying tax codes and by streamlining or repealing regulations “conjured up in the halls of agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).”

Boxer said in all her time in Congress she’s never seen the Republicans move so far to the right and be so unwilling to compromise.

“I’ve never seen such a mess, it’s a complete mess,” Boxer said. She said it’s a shame that “education, transportation, sensible gun laws” aren’t part of the Republicans’ agenda.

“This is unacceptable,” Boxer said.

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