Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today on the proposed bipartisan budget agreement unveiled by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. She also underscored the harm millions of Americans will face if House Republicans allow unemployment insurance benefits to expire on December 28. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
“Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentlelady from New York for yielding – our Ranking Member on the Rules Committee – and thank her and our colleagues on that committee for trying so hard to have this rule contain an amendment that will allow us to vote on the extension of unemployment insurance for all, for over 1.3 million Americans who will lose those benefits if we do not pass that extension. I would particularly salute Congressman Sandy Levin of Michigan, the Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee, for his relentless championing of fairness to the American people.
“We come here to talk about a bill that is to end the sequester – and end the sequester it does. I commend the conferees. I'm proud of the work of Congressman Chris Van Hollen, the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee on the Democratic side. Nita Lowey, Representative Clyburn – I thank them for taking this to a place, fighting to a draw so we come to the floor. But the opportunity was so much greater and apparently the Republicans never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity when it comes to creating jobs. Mr. Van Hollen had in his bill just a few points in terms of priorities. One was to create jobs and economic growth for our country, in the short-term and in the long-term. If we closed one – close a loophole, build the infrastructure of America. Close a loophole, build a bridge. Close a tax loophole for special interest; invest in the human infrastructure of our country; early childhood education – long-term economic growth. Close a loophole and pay for unemployment insurance.
“I don't think it has to be paid for because it's emergency spending. But nonetheless, let's have an opportunity to vote to extend unemployment benefits. When we do not, when we ignore those investments in the future, we're not reducing the deficit. We're increasing the deficit. Nothing brings more money to the Treasury than creating jobs and the revenue that reduces it. Nothing brings more money to the Treasury than education of the American people, starting with early childhood education. And as far as unemployment benefits are concerned, the economic impact is clear: every dollar spent on unemployment benefits grows the economy by $1.50, according to Moody's Analytics – $1.50 for every $1 we spend. That's a conservative estimate.
“Failing to extend unemployment benefits will cost us 200,000 jobs other the next year. We can't do that. A recent report shows that extending UI instead would produce 300,000 jobs. So again, this money is spent immediately, injects demand into the economy, creates jobs, grows the economy, as well as honoring our social compact that we have with the American people. People work hard, play by the rules, lose their job through no fault of their own. Insurance is what they have. We should honor that insurance. So it's disappointing, yes, because this package is so limited but as I said, it was fight to a draw.
“I recommend that our colleagues vote to support it so we can take it off the table and make way for the discussion we should be having about comprehensive immigration reform. The votes are here. Give us a vote, Mr. Speaker. Passing a farm bill, very important to the economy of our country. Raise the minimum wage. Nearly two-thirds of the people making minimum wage are women. Paycheck equity, tax fairness in the workplace for women. The list goes on and on. ENDA, ending discrimination against LGBT community people in the workplace.
“There are so many items on the agenda that have the support of the American people in large numbers. Yesterday was the anniversary of Newtown…pass the Brady Background Bill. All these things are an agenda we have neglected up until now. We haven't had time for it, I guess. They haven't been priorities for this Congress, but they are priorities for the American people and for the Democrats in Congress.
“One reason to vote for this package, even though you think it's meager and may not like all its priorities, as the gentleman said, is to at least have an agreement on the budget that enables us to move forward to bigger fights that will improve policy, improve the lives of the American people, and honor our responsibilities to them. But I urge our colleagues to vote for the budget but to vote against this rule, because this rule says ‘No.’ It says, ‘No’ to the Congress, ‘we are not even going to allow you to speak or vote on unemployment insurance benefits extension. It says ‘No’ to the American people. If you work hard and play by the rules and lose your job through no fault of your own, the safety net isn't there.
“And that safety net is not there just for individuals. It's there for the system. Our beautiful free market system goes in cycles, and sometimes unemployment is higher than others. And there are outside forces at work that people lose their jobs because of. So it's about a safety net for our economic system as well as for individuals.
“Why would they not allow us to bring this up, this extension? Is it the money? If it's the money, we'll find it. The price? Do you think the price is too hard to give people dignity, to allow them to keep their homes and meet the needs of their children? Two million children would be affected by this. Tens of thousands of veterans would be affected by this. We care about veterans here. We care about children here. But apparently we don’t care enough to extend unemployment benefits.
“So why, my Republican colleagues, would you not allow us to have a vote on this? I know the support is there on the Republican side. I know that the Democrats would vote 100 percent for this. Do you not believe that these people are worthy of receiving unemployment insurance? I say insurance because that's something paid in for a benefit check. If so, let the American people know that.
“But this debate will not end today. While you may not give us the vote on the floor to extend these benefits, we see where everybody is on the subject and why. This fight will continue because this is about the morality of our country, the respect that we have for people, the value that we place on work, and the pride we take in the great work ethic of the American people. Sometimes it just seems the harder they work, the deck gets stacked against them. And this Congress is saying: ‘This deck is not going to include you as we deal out the cards.’
“I can't explain it to anybody except to say it's a values decision. And apparently there aren’t enough shared values on the subject of the respect we should have for our workers to even honor the subject with a vote on the floor of the House. It's an outrageous rule to come to the floor. I thank you, Madam Chair, for fighting it. I urge a very strong ‘no’ vote on the rule. A vote ‘no’ on the Previous Question would allow us to bring – what are you afraid of? Are you afraid of the vote? Are you afraid of working people who are out of a job? What are you afraid of? Let us have a vote on the floor.
“With that, Mr. Speaker, urging a ‘no’ vote on the rule, a ‘yes’ on the bill, I yield back the balance of my time.”