Shutdown Hurts U.S. Enterprise, Thwarts Consumer Protection Efforts, Lawmakers Say

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By Bryce Baschuk  

Oct. 11 --Lawmakers on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee bemoaned the impacts that the continuing federal shutdown are having on U.S. businesses and consumers during a committee hearing Oct. 11.

Committee Chairman Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, (D-W.Va.) said it was terrifying that so many vital federal agencies had been shut down over the budget impasse. The committee released a report that detailed the federal operations and activities that have been affected by the shutdown, including those that conduct oversight of consumer abuses.

“I regret that I had to call this hearing today,” Rockefeller said. “The shutdown is doing enormous harm to our country and it was totally avoidable. All we needed was the House of Representatives to accept reality and accept the clean [continuing resolution] bill the Senate sent them.”

Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and senior counsel at the Consumer Federation of America, said the shutdown “is having a broad impact on consumers.”

“Numerous consumer protections that consumers expect the government to ensure are not being provided due to this shutdown, placing consumers at potential risk,” she said.

Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, told the committee, “A much lengthier shutdown could lead to cascading destructive consequences.”

Telemarketing Registry Offline

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked witnesses whether the Federal Trade Commission's do-not-call registry is being negatively affected by the government shutdown. Weintraub told lawmakers that the do-not-call registry website, which helps consumers limit telemarketing phone calls, was taken offline due Congress's failure enact funding legislation.

“There is no information available there,” said Weintrab. “At many different call centers that the FTC administers and other hotlines that are critical to consumers there are currently not people working there.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) said the commercial satellite industry is suffering from the federal shutdown. “You don't just get to throw up a satellite at any time,” he said. “Timing is everything and the uncertainly creates not just a few million dollars but what could be hundreds of millions of dollars” in costs.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) minced no words about his frustrations about the shutdown's impact on U.S. businesses. “If you're not mad as hell you aren't expressing the way I feel and the way most Americans feel,” said Warner. “I think what we are doing right now is creating a cancer inside our enterprise.”

Republicans, Obama Talking

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said “no one is happy about the current shutdown.” Wicker was one of only two Republicans to attend the Oct. 11 hearing.

Wicker noted that much of the Republican congressional caucus met with President Barack Obama at the White House Oct. 11 to discuss the budget impasse. The White House meeting “lasted longer than people expected and I guess that is a good thing because we were talking about this subject,” Wicker said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bryce Baschuk in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at