Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today against the Republican so-called balanced budget amendment. Below are the Leader's remarks.
“I thank the gentleman for yielding and for his kind words and his great leadership on all of the issues that are important to America's working families.
“Mr. Speaker, I came to the floor to talk about the balanced budget constitutional amendment, but before I get into my comments specifically to the amendment, I want acknowledge that the distinguished Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Smith, has talked about what the deficit was in 1995 and how much bigger it is now. And the distinguished maker of this amendment, this resolution today, Mr. Goodlatte, said about the problem of having such a big national debt. Recognizing those two facts, I want to speak about them.
“First of all, if this were just about talking about how we can reduce the deficit, the best way to do that is job creation and we know that. If we want to talk about what happened in the ‘90s, we have to reference the fact that under President Bill Clinton, the debt that he inherited, the Reagan-Bush deficit that he inherited, he turned around and five of the last budgets of the Clinton budgets were in balance or were in surplus. He put us on a trajectory. He and the growth of jobs in our country, in the public, and largely in the private sector, took us to a path, a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus.
“Along comes President George W. Bush and in record time he reversed that. It was the biggest fiscal turnaround in our nation's history, taking us to a trajectory over $5 trillion in debt. That's an $11 trillion turnaround. Two unpaid for wars say the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that was because of two unpaid wars, the Bush tax cuts, particularly at the high end, which did not create jobs, and a giveaway pharmaceutical bill to the pharmaceutical industry. There were the three main reasons for the fiscal turnaround and how we got deeply in debt. I don't remember a lot of complaint coming from the Republican side of the aisle while President Bush was taking us down this path. Mr. Goodlatte referenced two paths. Well, this is one path that President Bush took us down.
“And so now we have to deal with that because the deficit is a concern to all of us. We believe that the best way to deal with that is what President Clinton did, to have a great economic agenda to generate jobs and here we are 320 days of the Republican Majority, nearly 320 days of their Majority, and they have taken no action on any serious job-creating bills.
“Here we go again debating legislation that will not create jobs. In fact, according to experts, enactment of this proposed amendment to our constitution would destroy 15 million jobs, double the unemployment rate, cause the economy to shrink by 17 percent.
“As Bruce Bartlett, a former economic advisor to President Ronald Reagan and President George Herbert Walker Bush said recently, ‘Even if we were not in an economic crisis and fighting two wars… a rapid cut in spending of that magnitude would unquestionably throw the economy into recession just as it did in 1937.'
“This legislation is an attack on our economy. It is an attack on our seniors. According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, it could result in cuts over 10 years of $750 billion to Medicare and $1.2 trillion in cuts to Social Security.
“These cuts would be devastating to the 40 million seniors who rely on Medicare and Social Security every day. They are even more draconian, more draconian than the cuts in the Republican budget, which effectively repealed the Medicare guarantee.
“And just one week, just one week after our nation celebrated Veterans Day, we are debating potentially cutting $85 billion over the next ten years from veterans' benefits.
“Despite the claims of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, that this is not a clean balanced--they claim it is a clean balanced budget amendment. It is not.
“Because this proposed amendment to our Constitution will require a supermajority in both chambers of Congress to raise the debt limit, it puts the full faith and credit of the United States of America in the hands of a minority. This, after we went through all of the stress and strain and uncertainty and a downgrading of our credit rating, when we couldn't even get a majority--and now we're thinking of a supermajority vote for a debt limit increase?
“Again, that was never a requirement for when President Bush was President, that there would be a supermajority to raise the debt limit.
“This amendment promotes further brinkmanship and uncertainty, enshrining extreme ideology into the Constitution, at a time when Americans have been very clear that they expect us to set differences aside and to get to work.
“It is our duty as Members of Congress, indeed we take the oath of office to be the elected guardians of our Constitution to protect and defend it, to do no harm to our founding documents. Yet if this proposed amendment is adopted, it will have far-reaching and adverse consequences.
“Mr. Speaker, it was a Democratic President, President Clinton, I repeat, who balanced the budget in the 90s--five of his budgets were in balance or in surplus. We can do it again without harming our Constitution, our economy, our seniors or our veterans. We must start by creating jobs and strengthening our economic growth--the key to reducing the deficit.
“It was interesting to me to hear others on the other side of the aisle talk about our children, our responsibility to them. Yes, that's what we said when President Bush was amassing his deficit. I didn't hear anyone on the other side of the aisle talking about that.
“But this is about our Constitution, so we owe it to the vision of our founders, the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, the aspirations of our children, to get our economic and fiscal house in order. This is the exact wrong way to do it.
“We must reignite the American dream, and we have work to do. So let's get to work to create jobs so many more people can achieve the American dream. I urge my colleagues to vote no.”