Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which passed by a vote of 263 to 171. Below are her remarks, as delivered:
“Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman [Barney Frank] for yielding. I thank him for being such a great maestro in orchestrating this legislation that we have before us, accompanied by so many others: Congresswoman Waters for her tremendous leadership; Congressman Spratt from the Budget Committee; Congresswoman Slaughter for her work on the Rules Committee to bring this bill to the floor; Congressman Rangel for his very, very important work as well.
“Having a piece of this bill, I commend Spencer Baucus for his leadership and some of the great ideas he brought to the table that first night and continued to bring to the discussion as we went on ahead. It's been my pleasure to work with Mr. Boehner and Mr. Blunt on this, with my colleague, Mr. Hoyer, who has invested so much time in this, and our mastermind Rahm Emanuel for his knowledge of Wall Street, his knowledge of Congress. His leadership was essential in reaching the point where we are today.
“And the place that we are today is to debate legislation that I think is much improved from the product that was here on Monday. And as we debate this legislation, we must do so with an eye to the future. We must reassure the American people that this crisis will lead to reforms that will strengthen their personal economic security, that the bright light of accountability will protect the taxpayers and ferret out the abuses that have led to this crisis.
“The urgency is clear. We hear it from our friends, from our neighbors. We hear it every place we turn. In my own state of California, officials including the governor, are urgently calling for federal legislation to avoid economic catastrophe. Those urgent calls are being echoed by Democratic and Republican governors from across the country.
“While the focus has been on the Dow Jones and Wall Street, we are addressing the real pain felt by Mr. and Mrs. Jones on Main Street. They are why we must pass this legislation today. Seniors and those nearing retirement have watched their savings dwindle, and their pensions evaporate. Entrepreneurs seeking a plan for new business are being turned away from credit, undermining job creation. If you're trying to buy a car, you cannot get a car loan. If you're trying to sell a car, you can't get a business loan to purchase inventory. If you're trying to save for your children's college education, you're deeply in doubt as to whether your savings will be there.
“And just this morning, the Labor Department announced that another 159,000 Americans lost their jobs in September--the most in five years. Nearly 800,000 Americans lost their jobs this year alone.
“These are the Americans we must act on behalf of today. They are not the high flyers on Wall Street, but our neighbors and constituents and they need our help.
“Let us be clear: the original rescue bill proposed by the Bush Administration was unacceptable, as has been indicated by Mr. Boehner. It asked us to commit $700 billion dollars in taxpayers' money with few safeguards. We rejected that proposal in a bipartisan way. In our bipartisan negotiations between the White House and the Congress, we demanded tough additions to the bill, and they are contained in this legislation.
“To protect the taxpayers, we insisted on tough oversight and accountability. To further protect the taxpayers, we wanted to make sure that as we bought this illiquid paper that Mr. Paulson was talking about, and as we invested capital into these companies that we are helping to make healthy, that the American taxpayer would profit.
“Mr. Spencer Baucus was quite vocal on that subject when we met that first Thursday night, two weeks and one day ago, about if we are going to make those companies healthier, why shouldn't we just invest capital in them so the taxpayer can benefit?
“Thanks to John Tanner from Tennessee. If this does not pay for itself, as some say that it can't, and if there is a shortfall, the taxpayer will be made whole. That recoupment that Mr. Tanner put forth, I think, is a tremendous advance in this legislation and a protection for the taxpayer.
“We also reformed CEO compensation and an end to golden parachutes. Our message to Wall Streeters: ‘the party is over.' No longer will you drive your business into the ground, take a golden parachute to safety, and have the taxpayer pick up the tab.
“Thanks to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, this legislation will do a great deal to help families avoid foreclosure, and enable them to stay in their homes.
“Since the bill came to the floor earlier this week, it has been further improved by increases in insurance for checking and savings accounts which protect savers, small businesses and community banks across America. I am especially pleased that the plan benefits middle-income families with the extension of the $1,000 per couple for state and local property tax deduction. One thousand dollars for those who do not itemize deduction in their property taxes. And I thank Jim Clyburn, our Democratic Whip, for his leadership in this regard.
“I'm also pleased that the bill includes an extension of tax cuts for clean renewable energy that will create and save half a million good-paying paying jobs in America immediately. This was a part of our energy bill last year; it did not survive the Senate. It now has become a part of this legislation. And it is paid for. And it is paid for. We fought hard to include these critical tax cuts, again as I said, in last year's landmark legislation because they are central to job creation.
“And aren't we all pleased that across America it is a time for celebration that the legislation includes the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Patrick Kennedy and Mr. Ramstad, I hope he's here so I can convey to him the gratitude of the American people to both of them for their leadership, without which we would not be having this important legislation today.
“By requiring that illness in the brain be treated just like illnesses elsewhere in the body, for insurance purposes, we're helping to end discrimination against those who seek treatment for mental illness. This legislation will also save lives.
“So there are some things in here that have been added since the other day that are very important. Legislation has passed the House over and over again, but never could make it through the Senate, and now it has. That doesn't take away from the fact that we've been dealt a mighty bad hand--the core part of this legislation. But it has been improved; it is a compromise, but it is just a start.
“Passing this legislation is only the beginning of our work to protect the economic future of the American people. With the work in these past two weeks, we've seen things we never thought we would see before--in terms of the economic security of our own country.
“With this legislation, $700 billion, we have broken new ground with how we deal with this crisis. But we will not leave it broken. Chairman Waxman, Chairman Peterson, Chairman Frank will hold a series of hearings to determine the origins of the crisis, how regulators and business leaders failed to protect the public interest, and the common sense, reasonable regulations needed to provide security and stability in the future.
“We must look ahead to protect Americans from unsavory lending practices and to bring a better balance to our bankruptcy laws. But today we must begin by passing this bill. And as we do so, we must keep in mind our commitment to fiscal discipline, to not increasing the deficit. That's the overriding question I have from people, among others: ‘Why so much? Will it work?' We'll see. ‘What does it do to our opportunities to invest in the American people?' Well, we hope it will pay for itself and if it doesn't, then the fees will be there to cover it. But apart from that, we cannot get into the thinking that we can just put out all this money without the thought that it would be heaping mounds of debt onto our children unless we have recoupment.
“And so it is a problem for us as we go into a new Presidency and a new Congress. But under the leadership of Mr. Spratt, and working with others in the House and the Senate with the new President of the United States, ‘no new deficit spending' must be our mantra.
“This is a vote with real consequences. A vote that will shape, or begin to shape the financial stability of our country, and the economic stability of our people. This is an important vote, this is a difficult vote, but it is a vote that we must win for the American people. We must win it for Mr. and Mrs. Jones on Main Street.”