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Blue Dog Coalition

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BLUE DOG COALITION
House of Representatives
April 04, 2006

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

And I yield to the gentleman from Georgia. Glad to have you with us this evening, Mr. Scott.

Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Always a pleasure to be with you, Mr. Ross, and with you, Ms. Bean. It is always a pleasure.

You were talking about the young kids, and you have got to think about those young kids. You have got to think about the generations coming behind us. Some of those are watching C-SPAN tonight as we speak, and hopefully all across America they are beginning to pay attention to what is happening here on the floor of this Congress.

And as I stand here, I am reminded of what happened on the floor of a Congress and a Senate a few centuries back and is captured really greatly in a play by the great William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare wrote a brilliant play called Julius Caesar. And in that play, a very important part was as Caesar was on the floor as the senators were surrounding him and knives going into him, he looked out at all of the senators and saw them, Cicero and Cassius, and then he leaned over and he looked over caught the eye of Brutus and grabbed him as Brutus stuck the knife into his ribs. And he said ``Et tu, Brutus. Yours is the meanest cut of all.''

Well, I am here to tell you and tell America, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Ross, Ms. Bean, that the meanest cut of all in this budget is the cut to those law enforcement folks, those people that are on the front lines at home, who have our security in their hands, our police officers, our firemen, our first responders and the military, our veterans, our Air Force, our Navy, our Marines, who are being cut unmercifully, Brutus-like, in this budget.

I just want to highlight for the American people so they can actually see and hear how this budget is devastating those that we place our security in their hands. Just think that this budget includes a cut in the funding of first responders by 25 percent at a time when we are in such great need.

Police Departments nationwide do not have the protective gear to safely secure a site after a detonation of a weapon of mass destruction in this country. Fire Departments have only enough radios for half the firefighters on a shift.

And yet, this budget, this Republican budget that they are asking us to vote on in the next day or two, includes a cut in first responder funding within the Department of Homeland Security of $573 million, 25 percent. And within this total, the budget slashes the Firefighters Grant Program by $355 million and eliminates all funding for the law enforcement terrorism prevention, reduction of $385 million.

When we look at our veterans, we are treating them so badly under this budget. It increases the health care costs for one million veterans.

America, we need to pay attention to what this Republican budget is doing. For the fourth year in a row, the budget raises health care costs for 1 million veterans by imposing new fees on veterans, costing them more than $2.6 billion over 5 years and driving at least 200 veterans out of the system.

It doubles the copayment for prescription drugs from $8 to $15, America, and imposes an enrollment fee of $250 a year for Category 7 and 8 veterans who make as little as $26,000 a year.

This is the truth. This is what they are asking us to vote on. And I pray and I hope that we will have enough Republicans to stand with us Democrats and reject this as not in the best interest of the American people.

It fails to address the strain on our troops. Now, Mr. Ross, I have been over to Iraq, just came back in January; went over to Afghanistan. I have been in the hot spots. I have seen our military, and they are doing a fantastic job in extraordinary circumstances. We are talking about 19- and 20- and 21-year-old kids out there handling extraordinary pressures.

And I will tell you an experience that I had that I will never forget. When I was in Iraq, I went into Camp Victory, standing in the middle of Camp Victory, and I met and was hugged by a soldier. And both of us in the middle of Camp Victory hugging, tears coming down my eyes and down his, and he says to me, ``Congressman Scott, when I am hugging you, it's like I am hugging a piece of home.''

I vowed in Iraq on that spot that night, having dinner with those soldiers in Iraq, that I would fight tooth and nail on this floor to treat our veterans and to treat our military right.

And, Mr. Ross, as I told it to you, what is in this budget, it refuses to end the disabled veterans tax. This Republican budget fails to repeal the veterans tax, which forces disabled military retirees to give up $1 of their pension for every dollar of disability pay they receive. Added to that it fails to end the military family tax, the survivor benefit plan, penalizes survivors, mostly widows, of those soldiers who are killed as a result of combat. That is what this budget does. That is why I say that the meanest cut in this budget is to our military, to our veterans, to our law enforcement people who put their lives on the line for little or no pay. And the only reason to do it is to offset this tax cut for the 1 percent wealthiest people in this country and then have to go borrow the money to pay for that at the sacrifice of our first responders.

This is why I am praying with every ounce of strength in me that this body will stand up to this Republican budget and vote it down because it is not in the best interests of our Nation's security, our national security, or our homeland security.

Mr. ROSS. I thank the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Scott) for his input and would encourage him to stay for what I hope will be a meaningful discussion with the time remaining this evening as we talk about the budget and the debt and deficit. And I want to thank the gentlewoman from Illinois (Ms. Bean) for staying with us as well.

Some of this has been mentioned tonight; some has not. But let us just take a look at some of the cuts that will be included in the budget this week. Education, the Republican budget resolution that will be voted on on the floor of this Chamber this week is identical to the administration's proposed budget cuts to education, training, and social services, including $2.2 billion in cuts to the Department of Education.

Let us begin by putting this thing in perspective. We spend more money paying interest on the national debt in 100 days than we spend funding education in 365 days. What does that say about our commitment to our children?

Ms. BEAN. To future generations.

Mr. ROSS. To future generations. And yet they propose to cut $2.2 billion from the Department of Education. The President's budget fully eliminates, fully eliminates, 41 Department of Education programs.

I had folks in my office this week, today, from my district. They are involved in the HIPPI program, programs that are helping young people get ready for kindergarten. They reach those young people at ages 3, 4, and 5. And they also go into the homes and teach the parents how to teach the children. It is a wonderful program.

And I had a meeting yesterday in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, with the chancellor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, which is an historically black college, Chancellor Lawrence Davis, and he was telling me that we have a crisis in America with African American males because 60 percent of African American males who do not finish high school end up in prison. And his concern and my concern is that America does not seem to be nearly as alarmed about it as they should be. The way we address this is by investing in education. If we will get to these young people at age 3, 4, and 5, we can spend pennies on the dollar compared to what we are spending warehousing them in their adult life in prison. It is about priorities.

Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. ROSS. I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. Excellent point. And there is no greater emergency in this country than addressing the plight of African American males. No group in this country has paid the price, has made the contributions, has gone through the struggles, and has faced the vicissitudes of racism as the African American community. Structure, discipline, sanctioned by law. And yet if there was just one tenth of the effort to correct that imbalance, but on every score, you go down the line, and you mentioned them, education, the college grant. They say No Child Left Behind. An excellent idea but underfunded by 3 or $400 billion, not putting the money in. Black college Presidents have come up to this Congress hat in hand, begging, pleading for money for scholarships, and have not gotten a response.

In this budget itself, do you know that the fastest growing part of this budget is the interest we are paying? And the interest we are paying is more than all that we are spending totally on primary education, secondary education, college education, everything education, as well as the environment and veterans. This is dastardly wrong.

Mr. ROSS. The gentleman is so right. And I was sitting there in a meeting in my office today listening to a group pleading with me to vote against this budget, which I am, pleading with me to vote against this budget because it cuts programs that give 3- and 4-year-olds a fighting chance to be ready when they enter kindergarten that can help us be able to give them a chance at success in life.

We live in a free country. We get to choose what we eat and where we worship and whom we marry. Some people do that several times. And one of the few things in life we do not get to choose is who our parents are. Some children, both black and white, get really lucky. Some do not. And I think as a Nation we have a duty and obligation to be there for all young people. And if we can get to these young people at age 3 and 4 and get them ready for kindergarten, then we can have an impact on their lives and turn them into a productive citizen instead of spending $20,000 a year paying for them to sit idly and wastefully behind bars.

Yet these programs, these preschool programs, are being cut in this budget. And one of the women that was in my office today talking to me about it, she said, I was one of those in one of these programs. They came to my home and they taught me how to teach my child, and I started teaching my child, and my child started making the honor roll. And this woman today, she is from my district, she said, Mike, I want you to know I am now going back to college to become a school teacher. She went and got her high school degree. She is now going to college to become a school teacher because of one of these programs that not only has had an impact on her daughter's life but has now had an impact on her life. Yet these programs are either cut or eliminated in this year's budget.

Ms. BEAN. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. ROSS. I yield to the gentlewoman from Illinois.

Ms. BEAN. So much of what we have been talking about, whether it is education, whether it is the environment, it is all about future generations and our commitment to them.

And to go back to the seventh graders that I mentioned that I spoke with, they are all studying the Constitution right now. Some of them probably in your districts as well as mine are taking their Constitution tests. I was so impressed with their knowledge and their youthful idealism as we talked about the Constitution and what it meant to them.

And we had an open discussion, and we took the preamble of the Constitution apart, and we talked about what does it mean in order to form a more perfect union. And they understood that that meant that we have a commitment to make our country better. We talked about providing for the common defense. And they understood that that meant not just national defense but also protecting Americans from natural disaster like we have experienced in the gulf region and then, sadly, just this week from the tornadoes. They talked about establish justice and what did justice mean. And they understood that that meant there should be basic fairness in our laws.

But the part that really resonated with the kids was when we talked about that as we preserve these liberties and these American values, we do them for ourselves and our posterity. And they understood that that meant we as adults should be making decisions not only for them as well as ourselves but for their children. And so they are very concerned that we are not making the right decisions. So they expressed a lot of those issues. And to go back to the fiscal responsibility theme that we have been talking about tonight, they were able to understand the analogy of what we have been doing with this debt, and driving ourselves into debt essentially would be if I got a credit card and went out on a spending spree, but I put the credit card in my daughters' names and said to them, When you are 18 and you get a job, you get to pay it off. And that is what we are doing to these kids, and that is not justice. That is not making good decisions for our posterity. We can do a better job than we have been doing for them.

Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. The American people are expecting us to.

I just share with you my own experience. Every weekend I get home, by the time I get off the airplane, I get in my tee-shirt and my jeans and I get out and walk door to door in my district, about 50 percent of which is new out in Cobb and Douglas Counties. And there is a certain experience that you get when you go knock on doors and you talk to your constituents and they say, Oh, the Congressman is here. And, Mr. Ross, let me tell you America is worried. The people in America are worried about the direction of this country.

At one stop a lady comes out and she says, Yes, put a yard sign in, and I give her a tee-shirt. And she says, Congressman Scott, what are we going to do about our education? I am not just talking about the money, but I am talking about the fact that my kid is sitting in a hallway because there is no room, there is no classroom. And in many of our counties across this country, they are meeting in trailers because we have not put the money in the budget in order to deal with it.

Now, I got the latest figures because I think it is very important that the American people know why we must vote down this budget come tomorrow or Thursday. The budget provides $15.4 million less, a cut in funding for education, than promised by the No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind, but we are leaving them behind and not only leaving them behind but we are leaving them on the floor, in the hallways to study, overcrowded classrooms, teachers without adequate pay to do all the paperwork and not paying them for it. They are meeting in fire stations. They are meeting down the road in an old church basement. They are meeting in trailers. Damp, unsafe, unsanitary trailers. This is what this budget is doing to our American children.

Under this Republican budget, the cumulative funding shortfall for No Child Left Behind is $55 billion. This Republican budget, as we talked about before about the need, especially in some of our hard cases, this Republican budget completely eliminates several important education programs, including vocational education State grants, educational technology State grants. We are talking about those institutions that are actually taking our youngsters and training them with jobs that are being cut. Americans are worried about that.

Veterans are worried. Down the street another one says he is standing in line, not being able to get his treatment at a VA hospital. We are calling and he says if it was not for this congressional office calling, what would happen? But there are literally thousands of Americans out there, veterans, who are facing these dilemmas every single day. And they are upset about these unwise, foolish, mean, and unnecessary cuts to vital programs not because we cannot afford it, not because we are not wise to do it, but we are doing it just to offset costs for a tax cut for the wealthiest 1 percent in this country.

Even them, even Bill Gates and others at that level, are saying, ``We don't need it.'' But our veterans need it. Our teachers need it. Our children who are in these trailers, they need it.

Mr. ROSS. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I know I feel confident that the Republican leadership will send down a group to follow us. They do that every Tuesday evening. I am honored that they feel a need to do that. I think our message is getting through about trying to restore fiscal discipline and common sense to our Nation's government.

They are going to talk about how we didn't vote for this so-called Deficit Reduction Act. What they are not going to tell you was it was $40 billion to cuts in Medicaid, student loans and the orphan program, and also it was followed by $90 billion in tax cuts for those earning over $400,000 a year.

I wasn't real good in math back in high school or college, but $90 billion in new tax cuts and $40 billion in cuts to the poorest among us equals what, $50 billion of new debt. Only in Washington would they call that the Deficit Reduction Act. That was the name of it.

Then they are going to say this budget we are opposing is making the hard choices and the hard cuts and eliminating important programs in the name of trying to restore some fiscal discipline and balance the budget. What they fail to tell you is it is really about priorities, because their budget includes $1.7 trillion in new tax cuts over 10 years.

Look, I voted for the biggest tax cut in 20 years back in 2001, and a lot of my Democratic colleagues are still mad at me about it. We had a surplus, it was before 9/11, before Iraq and before Afghanistan. We really were giving people some of their money back.

Yet now, every time since then that we have passed a tax cut, because we no longer have a surplus, we have a deficit, every tax cut we have passed since that time has been funded with money that we are borrowing from places like China.

In 2000, we had borrowed a total of $62 billion from China. From 1976 up until 2000 we owed $62 billion to China, and at the end of 2005 we owed $257 billion to China. Japan, $668.3 billion. Our government, we are borrowing $1 billion a day and spending half a billion a day paying interest on the debt we have already got. That is half a billion that can't go to fund our agricultural research centers or build I-49 or I-69 or many other opportunities and priorities and needs we have in Arkansas' Fourth Congressional District, because our Nation is in debt and running record deficits and borrowing money from all these foreign investors and foreign central banks.

Put it this way: Foreign lenders currently hold a total $2.174 trillion of our public debt. Compare that to only $23 billion in foreign holdings back in 1993.

Here is the top 10 list. Here is who is funding your tax cuts. Here is who is funding our government. We have borrowed $668.3 billion from Japan; we owe now $262.6 billion, and it goes up every week, to China; the United Kingdom, $244.8 billion, Caribbean banking centers, have you ever heard of that? I never heard of a Caribbean banking center before, but we have borrowed $97.9 billion from them; Taiwan, $71.6 billion; OPEC, you wonder why gas is $2.50 a gallon? We have now borrowed $77.6 billion from OPEC; Korea, $68.3 billion; Germany, $65.2 billion; Canada, $54.9 billion; and Hong Kong, $48.3 billion. Those are the top 10 countries that we are borrowing money from to help fund tax cuts in our country to pay for tax cuts for those earning over $400,000 a year.

I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. SCOTT of Georgia. And here is the danger. Here is the danger when you put your financial security in the hands of foreign nations at the rate that we are doing it. Now we have to worry that some of these nations could very well sell their U.S. dollars in their reserves and then they could switch their currency into other nations. They could do a lot of things when they have our debt.

What happens if they lose patience here? By having so much of our debt in the hands of foreign interests, we place our whole financial security in great peril.

China now has $250 billion of our debt, Japan has $687 billion of our debt, Taiwan has $117 billion of our debt and Hong Kong has $67 billion of our debt. I mention these because these are countries in the Asian Basin. If collectively they came together, for surely geography puts their direct interests more at stake than it does us over here in the Western Hemisphere, if they came together with a pact and just made a decision on what to do with our debt or whether they are going to sell U.S. dollars or reinvest in other countries or do things that will drive down our financial security, look at the bad position that places us in. And when you combine that with the fact that India and China have taken over our manufacturing capabilities, it shows the seriousness of the situation.

Mr. ROSS. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, I thank the gentleman from Georgia and the gentlewoman from Illinois for joining me this evening.

At the beginning of this special order, this was the national debt, $8,378,143,406,405 and some change. Just in the hour that we have spent here on the floor in this special order discussing the Nation's debt and the deficit, the debt has gone up approximately $41,666,000. So the new number is $8,378,185,072,405 and some change. Just in the hour we have been here, we have seen the national debt go up that much, $41,666,000, approximately.

So, until our government gets its fiscal house in order, as Members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, we are going to continue to come this to this floor every Tuesday night and talk about restoring some common sense and fiscal discipline to our Nation's government. We will be talking more about the Blue Dog 12 point plan for curing our Nation's addiction to deficit spending and will be talking about our plan, our vision for a better America, a vision that includes a balanced budget and so many other provisions that just make good old-fashioned sense.

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