Lujan Grisham: Protect New Mexico’s National Labs

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham

U.S. CONGRESSIONAL News:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01) spoke on the House floor Saturday night about the importance of New Mexico’s national laboratories and the need to pass a clean funding bill that will reopen the government, restore funding to the national labs and prevent lab employees from being furloughed.

Below is a transcript of her remarks and a link to the video.

Click HERE to watch the video.

“Thank you very much to my friend and colleague from California.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw attention to the hard work of the men and women at New Mexico’s national labs who protect our nation’s security and help grow our economy.

“Sandia National Labs in my district is home to 9,000 of those dedicated public servants. These are the best and brightest physicists, chemists, mathematicians, engineers and technicians. They’ve chosen to serve our country instead of taking more lucrative jobs in the private sector because they’re passionate about the Lab’s mission.

“Sandia is a national security asset that uses technology to find solutions to the most challenging problems that threaten our nation. Their work supports numerous federal, state and local government agencies, companies and organizations. During the BP oil spill, Sandia employees were called in to help cap the well.

“The work they do is absolutely remarkable. Since 1976, Sandia has received 101 coveted R&D 100 Awards – often referred to as the ‘Oscars of Invention’ or the ‘Nobel Prizes of Technology’.

“Now, while New Mexico’s national labs have been able to use carryover funds to stay open during the shutdown for the past 11 days, that money is quickly running out. Within the last week, employees at both Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs received letters informing them that they would face furloughs if the government doesn’t reopen soon.

“Despite the fact that they play a crucial role in our nation’s security, the employees at New Mexico’s national labs are technically not federal employees. As a result, the legislation we passed to provide back pay to furloughed federal employees – which I was proud to support – unfortunately does not protect employees at these labs.

“So earlier this week, Congressman Luján and I, along with Senators Udall and Heinrich, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Moniz requesting that he allow the labs to use their funding to back pay any employees furloughed because of the shutdown.

“I remain hopeful that the furloughs can be avoided, because I’ve heard stories about the damage they can do and I’ve seen firsthand the damaging and devastating effect that the other federal furloughed employees and their families have suffered in Albuquerque, my district and the entire state of New Mexico.

“In fact, last Sunday in Albuquerque, I hosted a roundtable meeting with lab employees, furloughed federal employees and members of the business community. They told me that any missed or delayed paychecks would prevent them from paying their mortgage payments, household utility bills, car loan payments or credit cards on time.

“But they’re not just worried about their pay. They’re also worried about their careers. Lab employees who hold security clearances are in danger of losing their clearances if their credit scores are impacted because they cannot pay their bills.

“After the meeting, I reached out to community partners to see if they would be able to help us in any way. Several credit unions, banks, utility providers and other community partners reached out to me because they all want to help.

“If non-profits and the business community can step up, then it is time for Congress to step up too. We need to do our job. We need to pass a funding bill to keep New Mexico’s national labs open.

“National labs should not be forced to operate under the threat of shutting down just because a few dozen reckless Tea Party Republicans decided that destroying the Affordable Care Act was more important than keeping the government open.

“New Mexico’s national labs deserve and require the certainty and stability of a full funding bill, and so does the rest of the country. We need to vote on the Senate-passed clean funding compromise right now.

“I yield back to the gentleman from California, and thank him for his leadership in protecting our national security interests and the labs in my home state.”

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