THE 30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - June 16, 2006)
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you to my good friend from Florida, Mr. Meek.
We are proud to wear the colors today, Mr. Speaker, and we have got the beads on. And because we could not be with the Heat in south Florida during their triumphant victory last night and the other night, we decided to stir up some spirit here and send some good karma home to them. And I can tell you that I have a little gastronomic wager with our good friend Ms. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas. I am looking forward to enjoying some lunch, courtesy of her and her staff after the Heat grabbed the championship. And hopefully, we will be able to be down there with them on Sunday and take home some of the spirit that we have been able to generate up here.
Thanks to your good leadership and firing up the Heat troops up here. I have worn these beads all over the place the last couple of days and yesterday in the mall, walking with my husband and my kids, got stopped by a tourist up here saying, ``Go Heat.'' So we can feel it all the way up here.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Thank you, Mr. Meek. It is a pleasure again to be here with you and spend some time talking about the priorities of the Democratic Caucus.
Mr. Speaker, I know when you were in the Chamber this afternoon you talked about what you would like the American people and the Republican Caucus, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, would like the American people to believe. And I know it sounds good to continue to say that the Democrats do not have an agenda. Well, sadly for you, Mr. Speaker and our Republican colleagues, that is not true. Fortunately, for the American people we do have an agenda. We have had one for quite a long time. It is right here.
Many times it is easier to graphically depict things as opposed to just using words, and we can take you through, as Mr. Meek just did, our agenda so that, Mr. Speaker, when you are finding yourself standing in front of a chair behind the podium on this floor, you can keep this in mind when you would like to say that we don't have an agenda because that is absolutely inaccurate. The Democrats' New Direction for America, as Mr. Meek said, pledges that we will make health care more affordable, unlike the rising health care costs that continue to skyrocket out of control in this country led by the Republicans for the last 14 years that they have controlled this Congress.
We will make a commitment to lowering gas prices and spend--yes, spend--the American taxpayers' dollars on exploring alternative energy sources instead of just having things like President Bush putting words in the State of the Union where he said out loud, America has an addiction to foreign oil and then proceeded to do nothing about it. No meaningful policy on the part of the Republicans in this body. No meaningful change in the energy policy. No reduction in gas prices.
I want to digress from this chart for a minute. First of all, let's just demonstrate the difference between what a new direction for America would be versus the same old Republican policies that have failed the American people and don't work.
Under Republicans for the last 14 years, Mr. Speaker, you have college tuition that has increased 40 percent. You have gas prices that have increased 47 percent. You have health care costs that have increased 55 percent. And median household income, Mr. Speaker, that has decreased by 4 percent. If that is the direction that Republicans would like the country to continue to go, then, you are right, the American voters in November should vote for the Republicans and continue more of the same. But if they want a new direction, if they want to make sure that we can have a leadership in this Congress and in this country that is committed to making sure that college and higher education is more affordable, not less, if they want to make sure that we can expand access to health care and instead of adding more people to the rolls that do not have health care and that go uninsured and that have to wait till their family members are so sick that they have to take them to the emergency room before they can get them some health care treatment, then they should continue to vote for more of the same and elect Republicans. If they want to make sure that they can move this country in the direction that most Americans would like to go in, then they will choose Democrats in the fall and we will make a commitment to expanding alternative energy sources, expanding our commitment to making sure that we don't have a continued addiction to foreign oil.
Mr. Speaker, I find personally that sometimes graphic depictions, sometimes three-dimensional demonstrations are really incredibly helpful.
You see, Mr. Speaker, this is a gas pump. Apparently our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, many of them don't appear to have seen one of these since they looked like this. The gas pumps from what I understand looked like this, oh, in about the 1950s. It appears as though many of our Republican colleagues haven't put gas in their own car since they looked like this, because if they had then they would realize that in most places in this country, gas is now more than $3 a gallon, that it costs a mom or a dad that drives their kids around in a minivan or in an SUV more than $50 to fill up their tank, and I feel quite certain that if our Republican colleagues were actually pumping their own gas, were actually having to observe the counter on the gas pump that shows, Mr. Speaker, just so you know, those gas pumps actually show you how much you are spending per gallon while you are pumping the gas into your car, maybe we could just pass this around on the floor and our colleagues could see what a gas pump looks like so that they could remember the pain that Americans go through when they have to spend that much on a gallon of gas. Then maybe we would have our colleagues on the other side of the aisle not continue to vote like the rubber stamps that my colleague Mr. Meek always talks about. Maybe they would get some courage. Maybe they would realize that they shouldn't be voting for an energy policy that actually gives money away to the oil industry, to an oil industry that has made record profits, Mr. Meek, more money than any corporation in American history in the last quarter of last year. It is just unbelievable.
I am hopeful that by my three-dimensional depiction, by my bringing an actual model of a gas pump to the floor, Mr. Speaker, then maybe some of our colleagues will keep in mind the actual difficulty that most Americans are going through when they actually have to fill up their gas tank by using one of these. I just wanted to provide a public service to some of my colleagues.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. You are absolutely right. No apology necessary. It is really important that we have this time on the floor, and that is why we appreciate Leader Pelosi giving us this opportunity to make some substantive arguments that actually demonstrate how we are going in the wrong direction and also to lay out the Democrats' plan for taking us in a new one.
What has really boggled my mind since I arrived in the Congress, at the beginning of last year, is that our friends on the other side of the aisle seem to have no qualms about just ceding their decisionmaking authority here to the executive branch. Why show up for work? Why run for Congress? This is not an easy job. This is a job that requires a lot of responsibility, it requires thoughtful decisionmaking, it requires time away from our family and all of which, at least each of us on our side, and I know many of our Republican colleagues feel this way, that this is an awesome responsibility that we are given when we are elected to the United States Congress.
The Founding Fathers did not separate the United States Government into three branches in order for the Congress to just be a rubber stamp of the executive. They feared tyranny. They feared an executive that was too strong, and they wanted to make sure that there was a system of checks and balances, so that when questions that come from the executive come before the Congress, that we aren't just a rubber stamp, that we aren't here just to say, yes, Mr. President, absolutely, can I get your hat, can I hold your coat, Mr. President.
Our role here is to ask questions, to exercise oversight, to put forth initiatives and to actually represent our constituents, like you said, in the people's House. That is why I was very surprised, but pleasantly, to see the former leader of this Chamber under the Republican revolution, Mr. Gingrich, the former House Speaker, when he cited in the Knight Ridder newspapers, third-party validator that we like to bring out on this House floor, so that that way people understand it is not just what KENDRICK MEEK says or DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ or TIM RYAN or BILL DELAHUNT. Mr. Gingrich cited a series of blunders under the Republican rule from failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to the mismanagement of the war in Iraq. He said the government has squandered billions of dollars in Iraq.
You know, we just had 10 hours of debate yesterday, which if you listen to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, according to them, what President Bush is doing, everything is wonderful. Everything is coming up roses.
Now, I think we could all acknowledge in this entire Chamber that we are, although I certainly am never pleased about any one individual's demise, because, obviously, we value life, but there were not too many
Americans shedding tears about Mr. al Zarqawi's demise and the American contribution to it. The world, such as when we removed Saddam Hussein, is a more peaceful place without him being in it.
But you cannot, based on one individual's demise, in the cesspool that has been created by this President's policies in Iraq, you cannot say, now, you know, everything is great, this is the beginning of the end, this is the turning point.
Listening to our colleagues on the other side of the aisle. In the last 10 hours, one would think that this bombing of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was the be-all and end-all, and that is the thing that Americans were looking for to end this. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is why 42 people were killed in Iraq today, 42.
I mean, it is not like much has changed on the ground in that country. Our real security agenda that would take this country in a new direction, if we were able to win the majority back in November, Americans would see the direction that Democrats would take this country.
We would make a commitment to our troops. We would make sure that we had a real commitment to our troops, that we changed the military into a 21st-century one of military strength, and we would honor them. We would rebuild a state-of-the-art military by making the needed investments in equipment and manpower so that we can make sure we can handle the diverse needs and the diverse activity that we have going on across the globe.
What happened to Afghanistan, Mr. Meek? I mean, when we first were attacked after 9/11, and we went into Afghanistan, and the Americans were united in that effort, we actually removed the Taliban. We were able to bring that country into the 21st century, restoring quality for women, and making sure that we had a democracy, democratic seedlings planted there.
Now, you fast forward to 2006, because we virtually pulled out of Afghanistan, save for about 17,000 troops that are still left on the ground. Now you have the rise of the Taliban again. You have Afghani women who are saying that they have been subjected to the same inequality and the same requirements of wearing the burqa and not being able to get an education.
We have abandoned Afghanistan; and, instead, we have added our resources in our effort to making Iraq more of a cesspool than it already was. If we are able to implement our real security agenda, we will make sure that our troops are well equipped, that we are funding the appropriate activity and making sure that we actually go after Osama bin Laden. We will make sure that the war on terror is waged both here in the United States and across the globe and that we strike a balance, so that Americans don't have to worry about being attacked in the United States.
We will make sure that we make a commitment to moving the country in a new direction militarily instead of continuing to fund an endless war in Iraq, that no matter what has been said in a 10-hour debate that occurred on this floor, still has no end in sight, still has more than 2,500 troops dead, and we know more to come every day.
Mr. Meek, you are a member of the Homeland Security Committee and Armed Services Committee, so you are certainly more expert in this area than I am. But I literally heard in the last day and a half a policy of denial on the part of our Republican colleagues. It would be nice if they put both hands on the ground and yanked their heads out of it so that we could all come together and have a real debate, a real debate.
Yes, bring out that rubber stamp, because that is exactly what happened on this vote this morning. If we were allowed to have a real debate, if we were allowed to put forward our alternative, if we were allowed to file amendments, I would have been willing to consider to be able to vote for something and would have been appreciative for the opportunity to vote for something other than what the majority tried to cram down.
They certainly did cram it down their colleagues' throats. We refused to allow it to be crammed down ours. You know what, I don't check my brain at the door of the Chamber when I walk in the door. I represent my constituents.
You know, not everyone will agree with me back home in the 20th district of Florida. That is okay, because I wasn't elected to be a rubber stamp. I was elected to be a Representative, a United States Representative, someone who stands up for what I believe in and stands up for what my constituents believes in. I was not elected to rubber-stamp anyone's policy, not NANCY PELOSI's, not Mr. Boehner's, not the President. I was elected as an individual.
Unfortunately, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, they do check their brains at the door. They bring in that big old rubber stamp, and they just pound it on whatever is put in front of them by the Republican leadership and say, yes, Mr. Leader, yes, Mr. President, I am glad to do your bidding and the heck with the checks and balances of the Constitution and our role here as a Member of the United States Congress.
At the end of the day, why be here, why run, why make the sacrifice, why leave your family behind? We only need one of their Members. We only need Mr. Boehner or Mr. Hastert here. They are the only ones that bother showing up to work because these other guys on the other side of the aisle, they just do what they are told to do anyway. Really, they could go spend quite a bit of other time doing something useful and certainly could make sure that the country could begin to see what is really going on in this Chamber.
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Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your leadership so much and really the opportunity to be here with you almost every night. I am going to have to catch back up to the two of you guys, and I have some family in town this week. I look forward to continuing to talk about the new direction that the Democratic Caucus will take this country when we are given the opportunity in November.
I look forward to continuing this debate and this discussion on our commitment to making sure that we do not privatize Social Security and that we enact responsible legislation that truly shores it and does not use scare tactics against our seniors, implying that there is some sort of crisis that does not exist when Social Security will remain solvent for at least the next 47 years; that we make sure we enact a truly effective energy policy, invest in alternative energy resources and make sure that we actually generate the ability to become insulated from foreign oil, instead of giving away the store to the big oil company; that we make sure that we really expand access to health care, that we reduce the number of uninsured Americans and that when a child is sick, when an American is sick, that they can afford to go to the doctor and that cost is not the obstacle to basic health care.
Those are the things that we remain committed to. That is an agenda that we have put forward and that we look forward to talking about as the months progress through to the November election. I look forward to sharing the podium with you and talking about that for the next several months.
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