Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this evening in opposition to House Republicans' plan to “Cut, Cap and End Medicare.” Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I commend him for his tremendous leadership as our ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, for bringing to that debate and that discussion at the table the values of the American people and the concerns that they have as they sit around their kitchen table. They are concerned that this Saturday will mark the 200th day of the Republicans attaining the majority in the House of Representatives. And yet today, another day goes by when we do not have a jobs bill on the floor. Indeed, we should have a jobs bill. This isn't a jobs bill. We should be working together to lower the deficit, to grow the economy, to create jobs, and we should be doing so in a balanced, bipartisan way.
“Instead, we have before us what is called the Republican plan to ‘Cut, Cap and End Medicare.' This legislation is the Republican budget that was voted on earlier this year all over again. Wildly unpopular among the American people, the Republican budget, again, ended Medicare, made seniors pay more for less while it gave tax breaks to Big Oil and corporations sending jobs overseas, made kids pay less [more] for their education while it gave tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country.
“As our Republican colleague has said, Congressman Jim Jordan, Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which is the source of this budget, he said on Sunday, this legislation ‘basically mirrors the budget proposal that the House passed this year.'
“And indeed it does. For it, summed up in one sentence, it ends Medicare, making seniors pay more while giving tax breaks to Big Oil and corporations sending jobs overseas. Furthermore, economists believe that the result of this legislation will be the result of, the loss of 700,000 jobs. This legislation harms the middle class families. But don't take my word for it. Nearly 250 national organizations oppose this legislation, saying it: ‘…would almost certainly necessitate massive cuts to vital programs [including] Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' benefits and… lead to even deeper cuts than the House-passed budget.'
“Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you about--I heard the previous speaker say we have to preserve, we have to think about future generations as we go forward in this debate. And indeed, I agree. And for that reason, I called young people to my office over and over again--most recently last week, a large group of college students, some just newly graduated, and I said, ‘You know, your name is used at the table of the debt reduction, your name is used at the table that we owe this to future generations. I'd like to know if you, as a member of the next generation, as a leader of the next generation, what do you think about what's going on at the debate table, the discussion table in the White House? What do you think of that? What values do you want me to bring from your generation to that table?'
“With great wisdom, they talked about the fact that education was central to their success and to America's competitiveness now and in the future. They talked about jobs. They said, ‘Please don't have the cuts in the legislation deter job growth and growth of the economy.' They said, ‘Please don't harm Medicare and Medicaid because that's very important to our families. In fact, for many of our families, that enables them to afford our ability to go to college. We just wouldn't make it without that.' They talked about, actually one other thing they talked about was, ‘We want to share in reducing the deficit. We believe that everyone has a responsibility to do so. But we want our voices to be heard, and we are concerned with voter suppression now around the country, that barriers will be thrown up that will hurt our participation in the electoral process.' So when I went to the White House, I spoke about that.
“But yesterday, I met with high school students, maybe well over 100 high school students. I asked them the same question. They had similar answers. They also said, tell them if they care about the future generations they should care about our education, they should care about the budget deficit, they should care about jobs. They should also care about the environment, the environment because the condition of the environment is important to us.
“Going back to those college students, that day I went to the White House. I told my colleagues, the President, the Vice President, and our Democratic and Republican colleagues what those college students said about education, for example. And then I listened to the discussion, and I thought, who is going to tell the children? Who is going to tell the children? Who is going to tell the children that at this table the suggestion is made that young people should spend $36 billion more, $36 billion more for interest on their student loans so that we can reduce the deficit, but not touch $37 billion--almost the same number, $37 billion--in tax subsidies for Big Oil? Who is going to tell the children that that is what the values are that are being proposed by the Republicans at that table? $36 billion more charge to student, $37 as a gift to Big Oil--but don't touch that to reduce the deficit.
“It's stunning. It's stunning to me. So as we use the name of the next generation and what we owe them and what they expect as they come out of school or they need in order to afford school, in some cases that increase in the cost of interest payments will make it prohibitive--not more expensive only, prohibitive for young people to go to school.
“One young man said to me yesterday, high school, he said, ‘I just graduated from high school at the top of my class. I had great grades and scores and everything, but I can't afford to go to college. I can only go to the community college in my town because I can only afford to be close to home and go to a community college. So please, in whatever it is you do, don't hurt community colleges.'
“But isn't that--and community colleges, they are wonderful and they do a great job for our country and the education of our children and the training of workers and the rest. I had the privilege of speaking at the graduation, the commencement ceremony of San Francisco Community College last month, so I value what they do. But this young man, had no choice, had no choice because the cost of other education to him will be prohibitive and again, because of the economic situation, he had to stay close to home.
“So let's listen to these people whose names we use, the next generation, the young people. We cannot heap mountains of debt on them. Indeed, we shouldn't. And indeed, we didn't. When President Clinton was President, he took the deficit that he inherited into a path of fiscal soundness, into a path--four of the five of his last budgets were either in surplus or in balance. You've heard that over and over again, came in at $5.6 trillion trajectory, into surplus only to be reversed by President Bush with his tax cuts for the rich, his giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry and not paying for the wars. Took us on a trajectory of, a swing of $11 trillion, the biggest swing in fiscal situation in the history of our country, and that's the path we are on.
“I didn't hear anybody on the Republican side say, ‘boo, boo' when the President was taking us so deeply into debt. And every time we stepped up to the plate and lifted the debt ceiling because that was the right thing to do.
“Much has been said, if we don't lift the debt ceiling what that mean to our economy. We hear sounds from the tables and boardrooms about what it will do to the stock market, the credit markets, what it will do to the fiscal soundness of our country, our reputation overseas, and that's very important.
“But not only important is what is said around the boardroom table, it's important to what this means around the kitchen table for America's working families. American families could soon see an increase in their cost of mortgages, car loans, credit cards and student loans. Social Security and veterans' checks could be held up. Stock prices, which are important to our economy, could fall, with a direct hit on families' 401(k) pensions and savings. It would be a job destroyer--a job destroyer--for keeping more insecurity on America's families and the concerns they have about the education of their children, the health of their families and the security of their retirements around that kitchen table.
“Rather than making progress on the debt limit to prevent these widespread consequences for America's middle class, this legislation takes us backward, throwing up further roadblocks to increasing the debt limit.
“Mr. Speaker, we still have time to come together in a bipartisan and balanced way for a ‘grand bargain' that would ensure our nation meets its obligations while working toward a long-term plan to reduce the deficit, create jobs, grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. Let us recognize that the best way to reduce the deficit is to get the American people back to work. Let us do as the president called upon us to do to: out-build, out-educate, out-innovate the rest of the world, to win the future by creating jobs. And together we can keep America number one.
“I see my distinguished friend from Indiana is here, and I heard his one sentence summation earlier. I won't repeat it, but I will give you my one sentence summation on this: this legislation ends the Medicare guarantee, making seniors pay at least $6,000 more while giving tax breaks to Big Oil and corporations sending jobs overseas. I hope that some of our Republican colleagues will do what they did before and voted against this budget plan. The majority of the Republicans voted against this budget plan when it came to the floor the day of the Ryan budget. I call upon all of us to do the right thing for the next generation and vote no.
“I yield back the balance of my time.”