Pelosi Floor Remarks on Payroll Tax Cut Compromise

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the House floor today in support of the compromise legislation extending the payroll tax cut for our nation’s workers, Unemployment Insurance for those workers laid off through no fault of their own, and the right of seniors to see their doctor under Medicare.  Below are the Leader’s remarks.

“Thank you Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding.  And I thank him for his relentless, persistent advocacy on behalf of a thriving middle class in our country.  And has worked to ensure that we would have this payroll tax cut, as well as the extension of Unemployment Insurance.  He fought so hard on that.  As well as making sure that our seniors are able to see their doctors under Medicare.

“Congratulations, and thank you Mr. Levin.

“I rise today, Madam Speaker, in support of this legislation.  Of course, I identify with the concerns expressed by our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer, and of Mr. Van Hollen, regarding our public employees.  Before I talk directly about what it is in the bill, I do want to say, that for our country to thrive, and for us to do our very best, we must have a great relationship between the public and the private sector.  The private sector is the driving engine of job creation in our country.  But it cannot succeed unless we also have an effective and thriving public sector.  It’s about so many things that relate to our public safety, the courts, the implementation of laws passed in Congress–they don’t exist unless public sector then implements.  So, this is a symbiotic relationship that has existed from the beginning of time in our country.  And it is not a zero sum game.  We cannot say that we’re going to do this in the private sector, at the expense of the public sector.  So, I salute them for their persistent leadership in recognizing the important role that the public sector plays.  And, it was not necessary for us to go down the path that has been taken in this bill, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

“But first I want to say that this represents a victory for the middle class in our country.  And I salute President Obama for going out there so strongly in taking this message to the American people.  That it was very important for us to have a payroll tax cut for the middle class.  It’s important to those families because it puts 40 dollars more into a paycheck, to buy groceries, to buy gasoline, to make ends meat, to make ends meat.  But, in addition to being personally helpful to families, it has a macroeconomic effect.  Because these families will immediately spend that money, inject demand into the economy, and that is a job creator.  And any economist will tell you, that this is very important to continuing the economic recovery in our country, to have rejected it, as had been in the mix earlier, would have halted, if not turned back, our economic recovery.

“So, let us recognize that–we have three pillars, that we insisted be in this package.  We on the Democratic side.  One, that we would have a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans, preferably unpaid for.  And that it is the way it is in this bill.  What is unfortunate, is that we did not use our choice of a pay for, should it be paid for, the surcharge, to cover the unemployment insurance, that would have been a preferable place to go–the extension of unemployment insurance.  It could of also been used to pay for the SGR, the ability for seniors to see their doctors, instead of taking money out of the prevention piece of the Affordable Care Act.  Prevention makes America healthier, it saves money, it expands opportunity for people to get in the health care loop.  That’s unfortunate.  And it could have been avoided, as well as the unfortunate provision relating to our public employees.  And even on that score, as Mr. Hoyer and Mr. Van Hollen said, there was a further compromise that could have been made that addressed some of the needs of the Republicans to vote for this bill, without doing more harm to the, as Mr. Hoyer said, the recruitment, the retention of public employees–the best, the best public employees to help implement our laws.  And I want to salute all of them for their patriotic duty to our country: to keep us safe in every possible way, to allow commerce to proceed in a very positive way.

“Now, lets get back to why this is important, this victory for the middle class.  This was a fight, why should it of been a fight?  There’s something out there in the public, the ground truth, the common sense, coming up from the ground, that this was an important thing to do.  And the American people overwhelmingly supported it.  There’s a ground truth out there from the public–common sense coming up from the ground, that in order for us to meet our needs, and also reduce the deficit, that we should have a surcharge on the wealthiest people in our country.  People making over $1 million a year, not having a million dollars, making over $1 million dollars a year.  That was not contained in this bill, but it will be part of the debate as we go forward.

“So, lets take a moment to say, that we recognize here, on this floor of the House, that we recognize the importance of a thriving middle class to our democracy.  And that this action taken today is an important step, but we have much more work to do.  Democrats are committed to reigniting the American dream, to building ladders of opportunity for all who want to work hard, play by the rules, take responsibility–but we have work to do.  In this reigniting the American dream, it’s about recognizing the role of entrepreneurialism in our system, of small businesses, and what they do to grow our economy, and how we have a public-private relationship there, to encourage small business.  And, also, again, all of this relates to a thriving middle class.

“So, I urge my colleagues to be ever vigilant, about every opportunity we can take to support the middle class.  Today is a good day in that regard.  It’s just one piece of it though.  We have much more work to do.  In every bill that comes up, there are things that you may not like in it, and you say: ‘well, I’m not going to vote for it for that reason.’  On balance, I come down in favor of supporting what the President asked us to do, which he did do, what the American people want us to do.  But I don’t want to go forward without registering the concern that we could have done better in this.  And one place we can start, on our next legislation, is to look at the surcharge for the wealthiest people in America.  Instead of taking billions of dollars from preventive care, so that we can offset the costs in here.

“None of it needed to be offset.  The payroll tax cut has not been.  Unemployment insurance has not traditionally been paid for, and we didn’t have to do it now.  In fact, paying for it diminishes some of its stimulative effect.  As economists will tell you, Unemployment Insurance benefits paid out, are immediately spent, spent back into the Treasury, as the payroll tax cut will be too.   And stimulates the economy, by injecting demand and creating more jobs.  SGR, we should of gone all the way with it.  We should of done it permanently.  We could of paid for it with our war savings, or with a surcharge at the high-end.  The Republicans said no.  Having said all of that, having said all of that, the fact that we are here today is an admission that this is the right thing to do, in terms of the payroll tax cut, and unemployment compensation, and our seniors.  And, it’s a recognition, that the American people are watching.  And they have little appetite for us to be fighting over, what they know is the right thing to do, which is to take every action we can to grow our economy, focusing on the middle class, small business entrepreneurial spirit, and the rest.  And that, again, we have important work to do to reignite the American dream in an even bigger way.

“So, with that Madam Speaker, I urge our colleagues to support the legislation.  And I yield back the balance of my time.”

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