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Transcript of Pelosi, Democratic Steering & Policy Committee Hearing on Expiring Unemployment Insurance

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee held a hearing today entitled “Expiring Unemployment Insurance: A Financial Cliff Facing 1.3 Million Americans.”  Leader Pelosi, Members of the House Democratic Caucus, and Americans benefiting from this program highlighted its importance and underscored the harm Americans will confront if unemployment insurance benefits are allowed to expire on December 28.  Below are the Leader’s opening and closing remarks:

Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks

“Good morning everyone.  Thank you everyone for joining us for a hearing on this most serious matter, striking right into the hearts of the security of America’s working families.  In the interest of our getting to our witnesses as soon as possible, I will save my further remarks until later.  But I yield to the distinguished Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee who has been a champion on the issue of fairness for America's workers.  Today, our focus is on unemployment insurance.  Now, the very distinguished gentleman from Michigan, Representative Sandy Levin.”

Leader Pelosi’s Closing Remarks

“Thank you very much for hosting this as part of the Steering and Policy Committee.  Thank you, Chairman Levin, for your ongoing, day-to-day, extraordinary, deep commitment to all of this.  We're very proud of so many Members who came.  We've been joined by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.  Thank you for your work on unemployment insurance as well.  

“So many Members came and went, time did not allow all of them to ask questions, but they wanted to pay their respects to you.  I know many more, because I joined them.  We had to be physically present in another room, but we were watching you on TV.  Thank you for the generosity of spirit that you have to share your stories in such a personal way – such strength.  You certainly challenged the conscience of the Congress, and hopefully of the nation as well, as people saw your presentations.  So important.

“Father Snyder, you quoted Pope Francis earlier in the challenge he gave to elected officials and business leaders.  And it was reminding me of Leo XIII, the Rerum Novarum.  In that encyclical, over 100 years ago – Rerum Novarum ‘Of New Things.’  It was an encyclical that recognized the value of work and respect for workers.  It seems to me we should reread that as well as we rejoice in Pope Francis’ very valuable statements.  

“Thank you for Catholic Charity's work.  This is, as you said at the end, this is on top of everything else.  This is on top of the resistance to raising the minimum wage, for cutting $40 billion out of food stamps.  I mean, how unconscionable can that be?  Pell Grants, now wanting to cut Pell Grants which are providing education for low-income families.  Title I for economically disadvantaged areas to have the education.  Congresswoman DeLauro’s committee works on those issues.  The list goes on and on of the compounding of all of these things that are not really a budget that is a statement of our values.  

“But really just – perhaps they don't know.  They either don't know or they don't care, so let’s hope that now knowing, they will care.  And thank you for improving the knowledge base that people have on this.  Yes, indeed, we are making a very clear statement that we cannot, cannot support a budget agreement that does not include unemployment insurance in the budget, or as a sidebar, in order to move it all along.  It would undermine who we are as a country.  Most importantly, it would strike at the heart of what you bring to America.  

“Everything you have said is about the middle class – the backbone of our Democracy.  So thank you for your strength because you strengthen our country.  And we have to just be as bold as we need to be to make sure people all know what is at risk here when they casually toss off a policy like unemployment insurance when it is a very personal matter.  Again, a manifestation you are of the work ethic of the American people, something we should value, something we should respect.  And when people lose their jobs through no fault of their own and are looking for work and we say, ‘too bad,’ that is very bad for our country. 

“Stan Osnowitz, thank you.  Thank you for just being so generous with your story.  As they say, on TV, right up close there and personal for the American people, it was beautiful.  Vera Volk, I don't even know what to say to you for all the challenges that you are facing.  Thank you for your courage.  Lisa Floyd, keep up that fight.  And congratulations on your new job.  Christine Owens, really, thank you for being such a strong, intellectual resource on all of these issues, to help improve public policy.  And Father Snyder, thank you to Catholic Charities for all that you do and for coming to this table to associate yourself with the concerns of America’s working families. 

“Again, I thank my colleagues for their leadership.  And again, Mr. Levin, thank you.  He's just totally relentless.


“Thank you all to our witnesses.”