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Pelosi Floor Speech on Legislation to Lift the Debt Ceiling

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today after House Republican leadership announced a plan to bring a clean bill to lift the debt ceiling up for a vote. The clean debt ceiling bill passed the House by a margin of 221-201.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“I thank the gentleman for yielding.  I thank him for his leadership on this important issue, to him, to Mr. Levin and the Members of the Ways and Means Committee.  Thank you for making clear what the stakes are in this vote on the floor today.

“Mr. Speaker, the 14th amendment of our Constitution declares, and I quote: ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.’  That has always been the standard upheld and advocated by House Democrats.  In each of my conversations with Speaker Boehner, I have conveyed the unwavering support of the House Democratic Caucus for a clean bill to lift the debt ceiling.  That means, no goodies for one side or the other.  There's nothing you could add to it that would say, ‘Okay, since it's something I like, then I don’t mind if it isn't clean.’

“I said to the Speaker, even if you added something I cared about a great deal, that our Caucus cared about a great deal, that does not make it right.  Because the full faith and credit should be unquestioned and it is not negotiable.  I thank the Speaker for giving us this opportunity.  This is really important – to bring legislation to the floor that is consistent with the intent of the Constitution and with the best interests of the American people.

“Well, I’ll tell you this, we have heard from all kinds of leaders of finance, from the boardroom, to the kitchen table.  The boardroom tells us, the conference table, then, writes to us and says: ‘We urge you to again take the necessary steps to preserve our nation's financial standing in the world and help ensure that the American recovery continues in its current path toward restored prosperity by the uncertainty as to whether or not we will incur an historic default in raising the debt ceiling.’

“I wish to submit this full letter to the record, with the signatories who represent the captains of finance and industry in our country, but more important than that – as important as that is – our global standing in the world.  More important to each and every person in our country is what Mr. Neal spelled out: what this means to you. 

“If you're a consumer with a credit card, if we did not take this action today, interest rates could skyrocket, making it harder for families to get loans, for small businesses to invest, spend and hire.  Again, on your kitchen table, as you pay the bills each month, you would have higher interest rates for your mortgage, your car payments, your student loans and your credit card bills; higher interest rates once again on small business loans that are used to pay employees or expand business.  Significant blows would come to 401(k)'s as a result of the stock market reaction to our not lifting the debt ceiling.  Credit markets could freeze; the value of the dollar would be negatively impacted. 

“So there's a great deal at stake in this vote today.  And, again, at the time when we have to lift the debt ceiling, it is appropriate to have a discussion of spending priorities, of budgets that should be a statement of our values.  But there should be no question that those debates would be something that would not just be a debate, but would be a barrier to lifting the debt ceiling.  That's why I'm grateful to the Speaker and the Republican leadership for giving this House this opportunity to act in a way that is consistent with the Constitution.

“When this measure passes today, Congress will state unequivocally that the full faith and credit of the United States of America is not in doubt.  I thank my Democratic colleagues for never wavering from this position and standing firm on behalf of all Americans.  And I thank, once again, the Speaker for giving us this opportunity to associate ourselves and support the Constitution and the American people.  With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.”