Markey: Helium Bill Passage Shows Congress Can Avoid a Shutdown

Senator authored House bill to avoid closure of helium reserve

WASHINGTON (September 19, 2013) - The Senate voted today to avoid a government shutdown, just not the one everyone is talking about.

In a show of bipartisan, bicameral leadership, the Senate passed its version of a bill to keep the federal helium reserve open to provide this important gas that is used in MRI machines, manufacturing of computer chips, NASA rockets, and yes, balloons. Senator Edward J. Markey (DMass.), who was the coauthor of the House version that passed overwhelmingly earlier in the year, praised the Senate passage of the bill, authored by Senator Ron Wyden (DOre.).

Without passage of these bills the Interior Department has indicated that they will have to begin reducing helium supplies on October 1 to prepare for a possible shutdown of the reserve if the Congress does not act.

"This legislation is proof that we can work together to keep important government services up and running, not shut them down over ideological battles," said Senator Markey. "As the coauthor of this bill in the House, I know this bill can pass and get signed into law, which is more than we can say for most bills these days. Hospitals and technology manufacturers will still get the helium they need, and this bill will provide important transparency for the pricing of this vital resource. I want to thank Chairman Wyden for his leadership with this bill."

The Federal Helium Reserve currently supplies half of all helium in the country. The House legislation authored by Senator Markey and the Senate version both would transition to an auction system for federal helium that will create openness and competition in helium markets to incentivize private investment.

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Contact: Eben BurnhamSnyder, Senator Ed Markey, 2022242742