Pelosi Floor Speech Opposing Omnibus Spending Bill

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered a speech on the House floor today speaking in  opposition to the Republican Omnibus spending bill.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentlelady for yielding.  I commend her for her tremendous leadership, and with great pride, we point to her as our Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee.  Thank you for yielding, and for your leadership.  Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for your leadership.  As an appropriator for many years, I know the hard work that goes into putting an appropriations bill together.  There was a day when we did them individually.  It seems lately, we just keep putting them on a ‘bus,’ on an omnibus.  That’s too bad.  But in any event, I appreciate the work you’ve done to bring this bill to the floor.

“And that’s why I was really so heartbroken.  I don’t think I’ve ever said that word on the floor of the House – ‘heartbroken,’ to see the taint that was placed on this valuable appropriations bill from on high.  I’m sorry that we cannot have a full Homeland Security bill – that’s for sure.  We knew that was possible.  As the Speaker says, in January, we’ll vote on a full Homeland Security bill.  I hope that that is the case.  But the taint I refer to is what the President described in his letter today as a ‘rider that would amend the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk.’

“So when people are talking to you about what’s in the bill and this or that, I want to say to you what you’re putting your name next to if you choose to vote for this bill.  And why I’m so appalled – well, I’ll tell you why.  It was September, 2008.  Things were happening in the financial services industry.  Lehman Brothers down.  Merrill Lynch down.  AIG.  Whatever.  It all happened within a matter of days.  I called the Secretary of the Treasury, and I say: ‘How can we be helpful?  What is going on?’  And he said: ‘It’s terrible.’  I said: ‘Is one of the major financial institutions going down?’  ‘No, it’s bigger than that.  We’re in a serious meltdown.’  ‘Why am I calling you, Mr. Secretary Paulson?’  ‘Well, the White House wasn’t ready for Congress to know about this.  But you’re the Speaker’ – at the time I was – ‘I’m the Secretary of the Treasury.  You’re asking me.  I’m telling you.  We’re in a terrible situation.’

“So they came to my office that night, the Speaker’s office.  House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans – we came together and we heard about an appalling meltdown of our financial institution.  And I said to the Chairman of the Fed, Mr. Ben Bernanke, who was there: ‘Mr. Bernanke, what do you think about what the Secretary said?’  And he said: ‘If we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday.  We will not have an economy by Monday.’  By the policies that were in place at that time, we were taken to a place where we wouldn’t have an economy.  No commercial paper.  ‘No economy by Monday.’  And here we are, 2014, going down the same path.

“Earlier today, the Republicans put a bill on the floor that would make certain tax incentives permanent and unpaid for.  We should be doing revenue reform, but not that way, because the revenue policy of the Bush Administration contributed to the great recession, taking us close to a depression.  So their tax policy jeopardized our economy.  And then their laissez, laissez, laissez-faire attitudes of no regulation took us to a meltdown of our financial institutions – to the point where we, the taxpayers, had to rescue the financial institutions to the tune of $700 billion.  That’s twice as much as the domestic discretionary spending in the bills that will come before us – two-year’s worth of nondefense discretionary domestic spending.

“We put provisions in the bill so that the American taxpayer would be paid back.  But that wasn’t enough for the Republicans to vote for it.  They voted against it by and large.  It was the Democrats who voted for the TARP, the most difficult vote for Members to vote for, and the most politically harmful to them.  So here we are in the House, being blackmailed – being blackmailed – to vote for an appropriations bill.  I’m not asking anybody to vote one way or another.  I’m just telling you why I would not put the name of my constituents in my district next to a bill that does, as the President says, ‘weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk.’

“At that time, you accused us of bailing out Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.  The public still doesn’t understand fully why everybody would benefit from what we had to do.  But we shouldn’t have had to do that – $700 billion, because of laissez-faire attitudes and the trickle-down tax policies of the Bush Administration, which got us to that place.  And because of the initiatives taken by President Obama, when he became President, working with the Democratic Congress with our initial Recovery Act, we were able to reverse some of that and pull ourselves out of the ditch Republicans took us in.

“So, here we are today.  This should be a day where we say: ‘Isn’t it too bad we can’t do more for the American people?’  But in the interest of bipartisanship, we have put together a bill on the Appropriations Committee that helps meet the needs of the American people.  Wouldn’t that have been just fine?  Except popping out of the wilderness come two things: One, this provision. This provision as I described I it, the President described – and then another one to make matters worse, to make matters worse: a bill that lifts political contributions to such a height that it’s really unimaginable as to why those who put this in there thought that that was a good idea.  They told me it was $90,000 for the convention.  It turns out to be millions of dollars from a donor or from a family in that regard.  So, we aren’t even on the level of how it was portrayed.  But be that as it may, what’s important is what’s in the bill.  And as Congressman Sarbanes said: It’s quid pro quo, quid pro quo.  You have quid: Give Wall Street what they want, relax the responsibility.  This is a moral hazard.  We are being asked to vote for a moral hazard.  Why is this in an appropriations bill?  Because it was the price to pay to get an appropriations bill.

“I was told we couldn’t get all these other things that have been described here so beautifully unless we gave Wall Street this gift.  And on top of that, that we gave their donors, high-end donors, all the opportunity in the world to pour money into the process.  Now maybe the public is right about Washington, D.C.  I heard this funny line about Lily Tomlin when she was the Ernestine the operator, when she said: ‘Am I communicating with the people that I am speaking to?’  Are we communicating with the people we are speaking to when we say to them it’s an important priority and we have to put it in our budget bill that we give donors the opportunity spend endless money, undermining the confidence the American people have in our political system, at the same time as we say to Wall Street:  ‘You can engage in risky activity with your derivatives and the FDIC will insure your action.’  That’s just plain wrong.

“Under this bill, under the Dodd-Frank Act, if the bank wanted to engage in those risky activities, they had to be pushed out to another entity and that entity could engage in those activities, but they were not insured by the American taxpayer.  With this bill now we are saying, the exposure, the recourse is with the U.S. taxpayer.  Just plain wrong.  And what is it doing on an appropriations bill except to have this bill be taken hostage?  This is a ransom.  This is blackmail.  You won’t get a bill unless Wall Street gets its taxpayer coverage.

“So it’s really so sad that something as – which I respect enormously, the appropriation process, because it’s hard.  There are so many competing calls on resources, so much that we have to try to invest in the American people: their health, their education, the economic stability, their families, the air they breathe, the water they drink, and how we fund all of that.  And I have some questions about some of that in this bill.  But the fact is: it’s all a compromise.  And it could have been a good compromise.

“So whatever Members choose to do, and I’m enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a bill is to go along with this and that would be the only reason they would sign such a bill that would ‘weaken a critical component of financial system reform aimed at reducing taxpayer risk.’  Those are the words in the Administration’s statement.

“I feel sad for the American people today because we are saying: ‘In order for us to invest in the education of our children and all of the responsibilities we have to the American people, we have to pay off Wall Street.’

“And you know, I don’t regret Wall Street and I don’t paint everybody there with the same brush.  What I am saying is: the taxpayer should not assume the risk.  Back to the same old Republican formula: privatize the gain, nationalize the risk.  You succeed, it’s in your pocket.  You fail, the taxpayer pays the bill.  It’s just not right.

“So I think we have a missed opportunity today to have some strong bipartisanship.  And there will be bipartisanship for this bill.  But the fact is, my colleagues, you are being asked to put your name next to privatizing the gain and nationalizing the risk.  You are asked to put your name next to practically unlimited contributions.  Just at the time when we are trying to reduce the role of [money in politics] and increase the voice of the American people.

“So again, it’s a missed opportunity.  But I respect decisions that Members will make because there are equities to be weighed here.  But the biggest equity we have is our responsibility to the American people to do the right thing.  And what was added to this bill, which may be a good bill, but was added to this bill is not the right thing.  And that is why it has bipartisanship, it has good things in it, but it will not have my support.  I yield back the balance of my time.”