Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in support of Senator Reid's debt bill. Below are the Leader's remarks:
“Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding, applaud him for his superb leadership of this bill today, recognize the great leadership of Mr. Van Hollen as our Ranking Member on the Budget Committee--and he and Mr. Clyburn representing the values of the American people at the negotiating table for this.
“I rise in support of the Reid legislation, urge my colleagues to support it because it protects Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, because it is fair.
“But I want to use my time in the following way. I listened very carefully and very attentively to our Speaker yesterday when he spoke. And he used the term, ‘the bill is not perfect, but we did our level best.' Our level best--one might infer from that that this process is on the level. How can it be on the level if we are bringing a $2.5 trillion bill to the floor under suspension, the same way we might bring the naming of a post office? $2.5 trillion dollars, 20 minutes on each side. Members have said on both sides of the aisle, this is a very important debate. Well if it is, why is it brought under suspension, which requires a two-thirds vote, guaranteeing that it will not prevail? Not on the level.
“The word level, of course, enters into, is this a level playing field? Is it on the level for America's seniors to pay more for Medicare for fewer benefits while we give tax subsidies to Big Oil? Is it on the level for us to throw people out of nursing homes by reducing Medicaid so we can give tax breaks to corporations sending jobs overseas? Is it on the level for us to make young people and their families pay more for their college education so we can give tax breaks to the high end?
“Is it on the level to bring [the] Boehner bill to the floor that makes all those cuts, undermines Social Security, eliminates Medicare, and doesn't charge one red cent to people who have benefitted so much from the greatness of our country. Is it our best? It is our best to drag this out for all this time, to keep in suspense as to whether we would honor our Constitutional responsibility to pay our debts? The Constitution says the national debt has to be recognized. It has to be recognized.
“And recognized we did--president after president, 32 times in recent memory, including when President Bush was president. At that time, even though many of us did not agree with the war in Iraq, did not agree that tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, did not agree the giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry. We didn't agree with that policy. That's how we got into debt, turning around from the surplus direction we were going in with President Clinton, whose last four budgets were in balance or in surplus.
“We didn't agree how the President Bush took us into debt, but we never, never stood in the way of honoring the full faith and credit of the United States. Why then, would this one time, with this President decide that we would put up barriers so extreme like changing the Constitution in order to lift the debt limit. That's a mathematical requirement.
“Of course, we must all reduce the deficit. But is it our best to say we are going to use the debate to reduce the deficit to destroy the public space? Look at their Appropriations bills they're bringing before us, destroying the public space of clean air, clean water, food safety, the education of our children, the health, financial security of our seniors through Medicare and Medicaid. That's what they are doing.
“This isn't--if we are just reducing the deficit here, we have come to those conclusions. We have to do it. We know how to do it. But if they want to take it to the next step of destroying the public sector, we cannot go to that place when it affects the air our children breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, the education they receive, the safety of the neighborhoods in which they live.
“The Speaker also said that the bill was not perfect. Well, no bill is perfect, but I think that I disagree in one respect. I think this bill is perfect, in its absurdity. His bill was perfectly absurd, perfectly absurd. Perfectly absurd, again, to say to a President after 32 times lifting the debt ceiling, ‘We are going to change the game for you, Mr. President.'
“It's perfectly absurd for them to say that the bill they brought to the floor yesterday, the Boehner bill that they brought to the floor, was an agreement of the four leaders of the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican. Either you don't know what you're talking about or it's a perfect absurdity--I will not yield to you.
“It is very, very important that we all take a deep breath. We have important work to do, an important decision to make. Senator Reid has given us a direction to go--no cuts in the benefits for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security beneficiaries.
“I wish that we had revenues in there so that those who have benefitted from the greatness, the last 50 years of bipartisan progress for the American people, would be able to make their contribution, but not one red cent of revenue while we are saying kids should pay more for their student loans.
“So it's time to end this theater of the absurd. It's time for us to get real. It's time for us to get real and listen to the wisdom of the American people. They have said to us that they support, in overwhelming numbers, a bipartisan, balanced approach, in overwhelming numbers that we should all pay our fair share. And they all agree that we should get this over with so we can get back to work putting the American people back to work by creating jobs.
“The Speaker chose, when he didn't have the votes, instead of to reach out in a bipartisan way to see how we could work together, he chose to go to the dark side. Let me repeat. And I repeat, he chose to go to the dark side by putting forth a bill that he himself told his Members [it] would sink in the Senate--and I add, lead to default, lead to default. We cannot default. We are the greatest country that ever existed in the history of the world. We are the United States of America.
“So let's go from the dark side to the bright side of the American people. Vote ‘yes' on the Reid bill. Thank you, my colleagues.”