30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - November 09, 2005)
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MS. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. We have a very important holiday coming up the day after tomorrow, and each of us is hoping that we have an opportunity to go home and look our veterans in the eye and tell them how much we appreciate and honor them. And I know that I will be able to do that in good conscience. I know that I will stand proud with my veterans and tell them that I did everything I could and will continue to do everything I can and House Democrats will continue to do everything we can to ensure that we honor their service.
I certainly would not want to be any Member of Congress with an R next to their name that votes for this bill tomorrow if it comes up on the floor because, growing up, my mom always told me that the guide that I should use when making a decision was whether I was going to be able to sleep well and then wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror and be comfortable with the decision that I made and know that I did the right thing.
Well, I wonder just how well our Republican friends on the other side of the aisle are going to be sleeping tonight. They have a lot for their stomach to be churning about; and for those that are going to wake up in the morning and decide that they are going to vote ``aye'' and support this legislation, I do not know how the very next morning they are going to be able to stand on the podium with their veterans and look them in the eye and say that they continue to honor them.
And, you know, we sometimes stand here and people listening to us or, Mr. Speaker, sometimes people might think that, you know, this is just our opinion, that we are obviously committed Democrats and committed to our beliefs and our agenda. But we are here every night not representing just our own opinion, although we certainly do vociferously express our opinion. We like to make sure that we bring third-party validators to back up the opinion that we are espousing on this floor.
I just want to read an excerpt from a letter that was sent to each Member of Congress, all 535 Members of us, of these two Chambers, on Monday, November 7, 2005 by Robert E. Wallace who is the executive director of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Washington office. And I am hopeful that I am not being repetitive. I am not sure if you have already read his words. But, you know, for those that may question whether or not we know what we are talking about or that we are exaggerating or engaging in hyperbole when it comes to what is in this bill and the priorities of the Republican leadership versus our priorities when it comes to commitment to veterans, he says:
``Dear Senator or Representative. To all Members of Congress, we have at the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, VFW, observed for the past several months astonishing efforts to cast veterans who have been found to be severely disabled by the Department of Veterans Affairs' own determinations as undeserving of the veterans benefits their grateful Nation has provided for them in the law. This assault on the most vulnerable members of the veteran community, disabled in service to this country and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, is broad in its scope and execution. At a time when the VA should be preparing to serve combat veterans returning from the war on terrorism being fought in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, they are expending their limited resources planning a systematic effort to reduce or remove benefits earned by the parents and older siblings of the troops fighting in the field today.''
Well, that is not TIM RYAN saying it. That is not DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ or BILL DELAHUNT or KENDRICK MEEK saying it. That is the executive director of the VFW's Washington office.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I heard some of our friends on the other side of the aisle taking issue or calling into question what we have been saying about what they would propose to do to our Nation's veterans. I did not notice them holding up anything in black and white that disproves what we are saying.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Did you hear about reform?
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I did not notice.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Did you hear about limited government? Did you hear about fiscal responsibility?
You know what is interesting? I served with a gentleman who is a genuine conservative and he was part of the leadership on the Republican side. He chose not to run again. And I guess that must be a very liberating experience, because he recently spoke out and this is what he said:
Our President is publicly oblivious to criticism, although off-the-record reports indicate his patience is running thin inside the White House. He argues the right wing is now spending like profligates with no tomorrow, and is displaying a very real arrogance. What they say about absolute power is coming to reality.
Those words were written by, as I said, a former member of the Republican leadership, Representative J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, a conservative, a man of principle.
As I said earlier, we have heard about reform. We hear about we have got to limit government. Well, what have they been doing for 12 years?
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. And their answer to the deficit that they have ballooned is to not just hurt veterans, but to hurt people just when they are on the cusp of being able to make a change and turn the corner in their life. There are $844 million in food stamp cuts in this bill.
Now, I have heard some of our friends on the Republican side of the aisle argue that there is fraud in the food stamp program and that there are people who are collecting food stamps that do not deserve it or maybe we do not have as many people who need food stamps these days. Well, today, not yesterday, not 5 months ago, not a year ago, today, this is a picture of a line of 25,000 people, 25,000 people in Broward County where I am from, who lined up as early as 3:00 in the morning to sign up for food stamps following Hurricane Wilma.
Now, I checked to make sure that I was being accurate when I came down here tonight. This food stamp application process is through the regular food stamp program, nothing special, no special appropriations, nothing from FEMA. This is 25,000 people, most of whom have never before applied for public assistance.
Now, if the Republicans are going to say that there are not people in need and that it is more important to cut taxes for the wealthy then to provide for the people who are standing in this line, who have already been through so much, then really I guess we are serving with many who are serving in this Chamber without conscience.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Let us just make sure people understand and the Speaker understands that we are not talking about made-up numbers here that we are just pulling out of thin air.
In the Washington Post last Thursday, another third-party validator, they describe the cuts in this bill and they go on to say, The food stamp cuts in the House measure would knock nearly 300,000 people off nutritional assistance programs, including 70,000 legal immigrants, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is the office that we get our economic facts from.
Those immigrants would lose their benefits because the House measure would require legal immigrants to live in the United States for 7 years before becoming eligible for receiving food stamps. About 40,000 children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches, the CBO estimated. The food stamp cuts, if approved, will especially affect 11 States, including Maryland, that use the changes in the food stamp law, approved with the President's support in 2002, to expand eligibility and to simplify the application process.
Under the House measure that we will consider tomorrow, eligibility for food stamps would be tightened to exclude some recipients, get this, who qualify for nutritional support simply because they qualify for other antipoverty programs funded by the Federal welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, not eliminate fraud, not eliminate people who are not supposed to be getting food stamps, but eliminate people who already qualify because they qualify for other poverty programs.
And then today we have 25,000 more people in one county applying for the same program that we are going to cut 300,000 from tomorrow if this bill passes.
Where is outrage? Where is the conscience? I want to know how our colleagues are going to sleep tonight knowing that they have to cast this vote tomorrow.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. But do not worry because last week President Bush rode in on his white steed to the rescue of the American people and addressed the culture of corruption and cronyism and lack of competence that is going on and emanating from the White House.
Mr. DELAHUNT. What did he do?
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. He required all of the White House staff to take an ethics refresher course this week.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Is that mandatory?
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Oh, yes, do not worry. White House staff attendance is mandatory for anyone holding any level of security clearance.
Mr. DELAHUNT. Is this a semester-long course?
Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. No. This is a 4-hour class that actually I think it is being given this week by White House counsel Harriet Miers' office, who, of course, we know has been doing such a bang-up job at guiding the White House through their ethical morass.
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