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Pelosi on Passage of PAYGO Legislation: This Will Put Us on a Path of Deficit Reduction

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in strong support of pay-as-you-go legislation, which requires Congress to offset the costs of tax cuts or increases in entitlement spending with savings elsewhere in the budget, thereby restoring fiscal discipline to the federal government.  The legislation passed by a vote of 233 to 187 and will now be sent to President Obama for his signature into law.  Below are the Speaker's remarks. 

“Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman [Allen Boyd] for yielding.  I thank him for his extraordinary leadership on this important issue--an issue of importance to our country, to our economic stability, to our fiscal soundness, and to our children and our grandchildren.  This is an issue, pay-as-you-go--who could oppose this great idea? 

“It has a provenance in the Democratic Party that goes back almost 30 years, but it has been in practice in a bipartisan way over time.  To my progressive friends, I say that Congressman George Miller of California introduced a resolution in 1982, at the Democratic mid-term convention in Philadelphia calling for pay-as-you-go.  It was passed and adopted as part of the Democratic platform, a measure for fiscal soundness recognizing that even those of us who see a role in government, a limited role in government and investments in our children's future know that it must be paid for, or else we are heaping debt onto our children. 

“That was in 1982.  It wasn't until later with a Republican President, the first President Bush, and a Democratic Congress that PAYGO was implemented.  Then later, under a Democratic President, President Clinton, and a Republican Congress PAYGO was implemented.  And all of those times, it brought down the deficit and under the case of President Clinton, led to a path of, a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus.  I wouldn't say a bump in the road, I would say a giant mogul when the second President Bush came in with a Republican Congress and the Republican President abandoned PAYGO.  And now for the past eight years, up until January 2009, we have these growing deficits.  Here we are again sweeping up behind them to get rid of the trajectory that we are on of increasing the deficit. 

“So here it is.  It is a historic day.  I am so very happy.  When I became Speaker of the House, the very first day we passed legislation that made PAYGO the rule of the House.  Today we will make it the law of the land.  I talked about the progressive provenance of this idea but this is because of the extraordinary leadership of the Blue Dog Coalition in the Congress.  This pay-as-you-go is part of a blueprint for fiscal responsibility that has been their mantra, and which they have made the mantra of the House Democrats, and I hope today in a bipartisan way in the House of Representatives.

“I commend Mr. Boyd for his relentless leadership on this subject.  Baron Hill, author of the legislation, Jim Matheson, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the leadership of the Blue Dog Coalition and a person who has been a relentless and an articulate spokesperson on this issue, John Tanner, whom I had the honor of following in this debate.

“As I said, the Blue Dogs have made this a priority.  But it's out there also with subjecting spending to the harshest scrutiny.  Every federal dollar that is spent must be subjected to scrutiny to make sure the taxpayers gets his or her money's worth.  Subject the spending to scrutiny and that's what President Obama is proposing with his budget freeze and cuts.

“Pay-as-you-go -- this largely applies to the entitlements, which are the largest part of, the biggest increases in the deficit. 

“And third, the commission to review the entitlements and how we can control cost.  This is an obligation that we have to our children.  It is an important part of the work that we do.  To be able to make difficult, difficult choices on how we make investments -- understanding that they must be paid for.  And so the luxury of just heaping bills with projects or whatever or in terms of new entitlements -- especially in terms of PAYGO -- that day is over, unless it is paid for. 

“So how is it a reflection of the values of our country?  How important it is to meeting the needs of the American people.  Would we put it before something else?  That is what this is about -- about prioritizing.  So that we can get on the path of deficit reduction -- reducing the national debt, reducing the debt service.  Hundreds of billions of dollars of interest on the debt, which gets us really nothing -- gets us really nothing in return. 

“So the time is long overdue for this to be taken for granted.  The federal government will pay as it goes.  That we will be on a path of deficit reduction and that every action that we take and any bill that we take will have to meet the test: Does this reduce the deficit?  Does this create jobs?  Does this grow our economy?  Does this stabilize our economy well into the future? 

“Central to all of that and a very strong pillar of fiscal responsibility is this PAYGO legislation that we have here today.  I couldn't be more thrilled for what this means about the fundamentals of how we govern, how we choose, and how we honor our responsibility to future generations to reduce the deficit. 

“With all the respect and admiration and gratitude for the Blue Dog Coalition for being so persistent in passing this and my congratulations, if I may, to the Senate for passing the bill.  It has taken a while but they are there and now, after this and it goes to the President, it will be the law of the land.  I think this is cause for celebration.”