Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a photo opportunity with the Hunger Fast Coalition this afternoon in the Capitol. The coalition is composed of dozens of faith organizations and their progressive partners that are fasting to protest proposed cuts to critical initiatives under the Republican budget. Below are the Leader's opening remarks and closing statement.
Leader Pelosi's Opening Remarks:
"Good afternoon. It is truly a privilege to be here with the Hunger Fast Coalition because what they are doing is pointing out, in a more eloquent way than anything we could ever say about the urgency of decisions we are making here in Congress.
"In one of the bills before us, 6 million seniors are deprived of meals--homebound seniors are deprived of meals. People ask us to find our common ground, the middle ground. Is middle ground 3 million seniors not receiving meals? I don't think so. We've got to take this conversation from a debate about numbers and dollar figures and finding middle ground there to the higher ground of national values. I don't think the American people want any one of those 6 million people to lose their meals or the children who are being thrown off of Head Start and the rest of it.
"So the Hunger Fast Coalition, again, is taking us to a turning point in this conversation. This isn't about dollars. This is about values. And if you want to reduce the deficit, the best thing you can do is invest in our people.
"So I am very honored to be here with our very, very special guests. Each of them will say something about the challenge that we face. Isaiah said it very well. He said: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?'
"This issue is something that the American people must be made aware of. This fast will take us to that point."
Leader Pelosi's Closing Statement:
"Thank you. I thank all of you. Thank you for your leadership in bringing people together for the fast coalition.
"When I hear you speak about this issue, of course it's the Gospel of Mathew: When I was hungry, he gave me to eat and the rest of it goes on. And when I hear Reverend Wallis talk about priorities, I can't help but think about the fact that in these same budgets, we are talking about, they give tens of billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil to drill when they are making a trillion dollars over 10 years in profits, that we are giving tax breaks to companies to send jobs overseas. We're doing that as we say to seniors, homebound seniors: "You no longer will have food coming to you in your homes.
"One of the things we are talking about here, are initiatives that subsidize a low wage in America and subsidize the lack of job creation in America. If we instead would say part of our morality is job creation, part of our obligation is job creation that pays a living wage, we wouldn't even be having to have some of this debate.
"I said to Tony Hall in 1993 when he went on that fast, I said "Tony I hope the people you are trying to speak to with this fast are worthy of your sacrifice. I hope they have a value system that understands what you are saying to them.' I fear they may not. But, what I will say is this. Putting all politics aside, if we could win the hearts and minds of the American people on this subject, which I think that's where they are--but as long as they know about the issue, I think that's a winning issue.
"If we could persuade our colleagues that this is about the values of our country -- it's not about Democrats or Republicans, forget that. It's way above that. It's way beyond that. It is about the purpose of our country, the sense of community that has made us strong.
"And so the fact that you are willing to make the personal sacrifice in addition to your public policy statements about the right way to go--to make the personal sacrifice of going on a hunger strike, being part of the Hunger Fast Coalition, to call attention to this. Well, we're all in your debt for that because I do believe that the American people--this transcends politics.
"One of the things that motivates me in my work here is that every morning and every night I pray about the one in five children in America who lives in poverty. How could it be? How could it be in this, the greatest country to ever have existed in the history of the world, that we could tolerate such a thing? How could it be now that we have this debate that there is not clarity in the public mind as to what these choices are? To reduce the deficit? Of course we have to do that, but why did we have to start with poor and children? Why don't we start with tax cuts for the rich? Why don't we cut with subsidies to drill for Big Oil that is making a trillion dollars in profit. And why don't we start with tax cuts for companies that are sending jobs overseas, undermining the ability of families to provide for themselves in our country.
"So thank you. Thank you for calling attention at the highest possible level. This is so far beyond politics. And the greatest thing for us is, it doesn't matter what the outcome of an election is if the outcome of a debate is that we will care for our people and have a sense of community in our country. So thank you Tony. Thank you, my colleague, Mr. Ambassador, and his many titles in leadership. Reverend Wallis has always been there for us. Thank you."