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Pelosi Floor Speech Calling on House Republicans to Allow Vote on Balanced Plan to Avert Sequester

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took to the House floor today to call upon House Republicans to allow a vote on the balanced proposal introduced by Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen that would replace the sequester by cutting spending responsibly, ending wasteful tax breaks to special interests, and ensuring that millionaires pay their fair share.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, for giving me this opportunity to support his proposal, Chris Van Hollen’s proposal as our Ranking Member on the Budget Committee, a proposal that is fair, responsible, and balanced.  Mr. Van Hollen has put forth an initiative that cuts spending responsibly, ends unnecessary, wasteful tax breaks for special interest, and advances the Buffett Rule, ensuring that millionaires pay their fair share.

“I think it’s really important to note, as he did, that this would be, yet again, another time – we’re coming to the floor asking for the Republican leadership to allow a vote.  And what they boast of, an open Congress, and open to other ideas – they have blocked over and over again the mere consideration of Mr. Van Hollen’s proposal on the floor. 

“Instead today, we are engaged in subterfuge.  What can we do instead of doing what we really need to do and make it look as if we’re doing something responsible?  Yeah, ok, let’s get the calculation.  But let’s reduce that deficit.  Let’s reduce that deficit.  And it’s important to note that this debate happens in the week that we will be taking up the Continuing Resolution, four days since the sequester went into effect.  The Continuing Resolution that the Republicans are putting forth is a bill that reinforces, it enforces the sequestration.  So what does that do?  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, take it from him; he said, he told Congress last week, that the cuts of this size, made this quickly would hurt hiring and incomes, slow the recovery, and cost the economy 750,000 jobs this year, and keep deficits larger than otherwise.

“So we’re not reducing the deficit by what is really happening on the major legislation coming to this floor last week and this week in terms of sequester and Continuing Resolution.  That’s what we should be doing, is figure out a way to get rid of the sequestration.  What does sequestration mean?  Whatever its Latin roots, it equal job loss, 750,000 by the estimate of the Chairman of the Fed.  And why are we – why, what is the point of all of this?  There is an answer.  We already have agreed in the Continuing Resolution, the President and the Congress has agreed, to $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.  We all recognize we must reduce the deficit.  We’ve all agreed to spending cuts of that magnitude.  That was in addition to $400 billion of other spending cuts in the last term of Congress.

“So $1.6 trillion in spending cuts, which dwarfs the $600 billion, as significant as that is, in the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of last year, but we need more revenue and there’s a place to get it.  Our distinguished Speaker has said there’s $800 billion in tax loopholes that could be closed.  I think there’s more than that.  But many of those loopholes, many of the deductions that we would want people to take strengthen the middle class.  I think we should separate them out from what the Republicans want to do.  The Republicans in Congress are protecting tax loopholes, wasteful spending in the tax code that increases the deficit, instead of solving problems.  Instead of closing tax loopholes for Big Oil, the Republicans want cuts in Head Start for little children.  Big Oil over little children.  Instead of closing tax loopholes for corporations that ship jobs overseas, 750,000 jobs will be lost here because of the sequester and the Continuing Resolution that contains the sequester – the fix that we’re in because the refusal of the Republican leadership to close those loopholes.  Instead of ensuring millionaires pay their fair share, our military readiness will be impaired – our military readiness, we have kids that won’t get the proper training unless the Defense Department can reprogram the money to proper training to take them into harm’s way and health care for America’s military families will be cut.

“So there’s an answer to all of this, and that is that we need to close, stop the tax, the spending in our tax code.  Everybody talks about reducing spending, as our colleagues on the other side of the aisle do.  And we all agree that we need to reduce it.  That’s why $1.6 trillion in spending cuts, and we can try to find more.  But why can’t we stop the spending on the tax code, the spending of tax giveaways?  They’re called tax expenditures, they cost the tax payer, if you’re so concerned about how much the tax, the deficit is costing every individual American, why don’t we calculate how much the tax break for Big Oil, corporations sending jobs overseas, the list goes on and on, how much those tax expenditures cost America’s working families?  And they do so by increasing the deficit, by not creating jobs in our own country.

“So, again, there is an answer here to be hopeful, we can come together to say: ‘ok, we all agree, reduce the deficit, cut spending, make some changes that we can without hurting beneficiaries in mandatory spending, but why, why, why are these tax loopholes for special interests such sacred cows for the Republicans?  Such sacred cows that they will not even allow Mr. Van Hollen’s bill to come to the floor?  Are they afraid of the debate, are they afraid of the outcome of their vote?’

“With that, I thank the gentleman, again, for his leadership on putting forth a balanced, fair proposal to reduce the deficit, to avoid sequestration, which we didn’t, but as a counter to what the Republicans are putting forth.  And more than a counter, it’s about leadership, it’s about what is possible if we can work together in a bipartisan way to get the job done for the American people.  I thank you Mr. Van Hollen and yield back my time.”