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Pelosi on Debt Limit Vote: It's Time for Congress to Get Serious About Debt Reduction, Job Creation and to Stop Assault on Medicare

Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this evening on H.R.1954, which increases the debt ceiling.  Below are the Leader's remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Levin, for your compliment to my great state of California.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

“Mr. Speaker, when I first heard that this legislation was coming to the floor, I anticipated with some positive thoughts of: ‘Yes, this is the right thing to do; America must pay its bills; we know how to do that; we want to go forward assuring the American people that when we decide not to default on our debt that we are showing our strength, even though it may be difficult for people to support that.' 

“Then, I heard that it was going to come up like this.  On Sunday, they told us it would be up on Tuesday, and that the bill is predicated on a false premise. It says that the Congress finds that the President's budget proposed, budget of the United States government for fiscal year 2012, necessitates an increase in the statuary debt of $2.4 trillion.  Well, that's just absolutely not the case.  First of all, that bill never passed the House, and it never passed the United States Senate.   

“What did pass the House though was the Republican budget plan, which abolishes Medicare, gives tax breaks to Big Oil, gives tax breaks to corporations sending jobs overseas, weakens the middle class, and does not create jobs, and, in fact, increases the deficit by $1.9 trillion--$1.9 trillion, increases the deficit. 

“So what are we doing here today?  What are we doing?  The Republicans have introduced a bill which they have now resoundingly said they will oppose.  So where is the good faith effort here?  We are, I believe, in good faith efforts--in a bipartisan way, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans with Vice President Biden--to find ways to make sure we don't find ourselves in this situation again. 

“As a mother and as a grandmother, I have absolutely no intention of passing any bills, personal or official, onto my children or grandchildren.  And let me say, the Democrats know how to clean up the debt.  We've had to do it before. 

“The Reagan-Bush debt that President Clinton inherited, it was a massive debt, and because we took the vote for the economic plan in 1993, we were on a path to fiscal soundness.  The last four budgets of the Clinton Administration were in balance or in surplus.  I believe the Democratic Whip, Mr. Hoyer, addressed these numbers earlier, and I associate myself with his remarks and his passion on this subject.  Coming into the Bush years, President Clinton put us on a path of $5.6 trillion, a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus. 

“One of the biggest turnarounds in this fiscal situation in our country happened under President Bush.  So all this about deficits and their immorality and the rest, I agree.  But where was everybody when President Bush was giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country, which did not create jobs?  Or giving away the store to the pharmaceutical industry in the Medicare Part D bill in tremendous cost to the deficit?  And not paying for the wars? 

“Again, we place our men and women in uniform in harm's way.  They make us the home of the brave, the land of the free.  We want them to have what they need.  They want us to pay for it.  We owe them an obligation to build a future worthy of their sacrifice, and that future does not contain unlimited growing debt, unlimited growing debt.  Never before in the history of our country have we lowered taxes for the rich while we were at war.  This is an all-time first. 

“So here we are.  We inherit this debt of the Bush Administration.  That's why we are in the situation we are in.  So as our colleagues try to characterize this as: ‘We are raising the debt limit so there can be more spending.'  No we're not.  We're avoiding default of the massive debts accrued during the Bush Administration.  That's why we are here. 

“So to predicate this legislation, which I really, coming out of last week thought maybe that was something I would support, unencumbered legislation so that we would pay our bills and not be a deadbeat nation.  Instead, they predicate it, again, on a false premise. 

“The facts are these.  The Republican budget did pass this House.  The Republican budget--they just want to change [the] subject from Medicare.  That's all.  They just want to change the subject from Medicare, so let's bring this up, the drop of the hat with first hours back from Memorial Day. 

“They want to change the subject from Medicare, but the facts are these.  In their Republican budget, which is the predicate for this legislation, they abolish Medicare.  Not only that, they make prescription drugs more expensive for seniors.   They eliminate prevention services for seniors, which make them healthier and lower cost to us.  They do all of this while also, as far as our children are concerned, cutting education for our children, reading teachers for our children, making college more expensive for nearly 10 million young adults--all of this, a travesty in terms of the hopes and aspirations of middle-class, middle-income families in our country. 

“And then, to add insult to that injury, they come in here with a bill that they have to bring up immediately so they can oppose it.  Well, even the Chamber of Commerce has said, ‘We're all in on the joke.'  But it just isn't that funny if you are a struggling family in America hoping to keep your job, your home, be able to send your children to college, save for the future, have some confidence about your economic security.  If you are a senior or others who depend on Medicare, to have it abolished hurts your economic as well as your health security. 

“So this is about priorities.  A budget should be a statement of our national values.  What is important to us as a country: the education of our children, the respect of the dignified retirement for our seniors, job creation that we have a moral obligation to create jobs so we have jobs for our workers and they can have their better future as well as make our country more competitive, reducing the deficit--we've done it once, the Democrats did, we can do it again, hopefully, in a bipartisan way under the auspices that have been created for this purpose.  We are right in the middle of it. 

We come in and say, ‘Okay, let's introduce a bill based on a false premise and then let's all oppose it.'  Well, I am glad you are opposing it, because you are opposing a false premise that you have in this bill.  But let's get serious.  Let's get serious about this.  The American people are crying out for help. 

“Do you know that the tax cuts on which this deficit has grown, the tax cuts for the wealthy, did not create jobs.  They increased the deficit.  They did not create jobs.  More jobs were created in the second year of the Obama Administration in the private sector than in the 8 years of the Bush Administration.  So this talk that tax cuts for the high end are going to create jobs, it just didn't happen.  So, we don't want to talk about the past.  We want to know what we are going to do in the future.  But it's important to learn from the past so we don't do it again, so we are not in this situation again. 

“So as I said, the thought of an unencumbered, if that would be the case, bill that would come to the floor, I looked favorably upon that until I saw what is in here, which isn't right.  And I am glad that--hopefully it will have a big, strong vote against it. 

“I want to commend my colleague, Congressman Welch.  He was, in his letter, he is not demanding anything.  He is saying, ‘Let's get together and talk about how we can have, pass a bill that is a clean debt limit bill.'  That's what he is talking about.  Why don't we follow his lead on that and get together and talk about how we can do this in a way that is clean and/or at the same time has a plan, a bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit so that we can do just that as we increase jobs and strengthen the middle class.  Thank you, Mr. Welch, for your leadership in that regard.  I know that it has been mischaracterized here, but I salute you for your leadership on that score. 

“So my colleagues, you will vote the way you vote.  But the fact is that what is happening on this floor is not serious.  It's not serious, but the subject it addresses is serious.  It's time for this Congress of the United States to get serious about debt reduction, job creation, and to stop this assault on Medicare, which is the basis for this legislation today.”