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Ms. LEE. I thank the gentleman from Maryland for yielding and also for his very bold and effective leadership.
I rise in strong opposition to this unbalanced debt ceiling bill. This is an unbalanced approach. We all know that. We've heard that. Furthermore, this debt ceiling bill should have never been an option in terms of having to come to this floor to debate this and to do this. Like we have done for Democratic and Republican Presidents in the past, we should have lifted the debt ceiling.
Rightfully so, many of us are concerned about these discretionary cuts. What are these cuts going to do as it relates to our senior citizens, low income individuals and the poor? This debt ceiling bill does nothing to address the real crises in our country, the lack of jobs and economic growth. At a time when investments are needed to jump-start our economy and put people back to work, this deal and its cuts-only approach, which it is, it's the wrong approach. It's an outrage that as we stand here today that we could not raise the debt ceiling by voting for that.
I intend to vote "no'' on the bill.
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Ms. LEE. Mr. Speaker, the House passed unprecedented legislation tonight.
We passed a bill that put unprecedented limits on our President to act to protect our nation, to invest in our futures and to safeguard our poor and our vulnerable.
I opposed this bill because it fails to take a balanced approach to how we set our nation's priorities.
This bill totally fails to address the urgent and most pressing crisis in the country: the lack of jobs and economic growth. At a time when investments are needed to jump start our economy and put people back to work, I believe this deal and its cuts-only approach is the wrong approach.
Should we, as Members of Congress, closely guard our nation's tax dollars and work hard to cut waste and to make sure that every program that we fund is necessary and helps the most Americans possible?
Of course we should and I believe that we all work hard to do so.
But, let me be clear, what we have is a revenue problem.
We would not have needed to raise the debt ceiling if Republican's did not ram the Bush tax cuts down the throats of the American People.
Let me be very clear.
Tax cuts do not pay for themselves and they do not create jobs.
The Bush tax cuts created the deficits that my Republican colleagues decry and there were no new private industry jobs created during the entire Bush Administration.
Let me be crystal clear.
The Democratic Clinton Administration had higher tax rates and created millions more jobs than the Bush Republicans and we had a robust and growing economy. The Democratic Clinton Administration left George Bush a revenue surplus, which he promptly squandered and drove the economy into a ditch, twice.
We have a revenue problem.
When we do not ask the super rich and the corporations who make billions of dollars in profits off of the engine of the American economy, we will not have the funds to keep that engine running.
We must have the revenue to invest in our schools and high tech industries; we must have the funds to rebuild our nation's manufacturing base that Republicans shipped overseas, we must have the revenues to take care of our seniors and provide world class healthcare for every American, we must have the critical revenue to keep the United States the strongest, smartest and most democratic nation on earth.
We have a money problem, but it is not about how this body budgets for our nation.
The money problem is the one that plagues our politics. There is too much influence of the rich on our politics.
Despite the catastrophic failures of Republican financial policies, we are still the strongest and wealthiest nation in the world and our Treasury's debt is still the world's safest investment and continues to sell at historically low rates.
But this bill that tied our budget to the passing of debt ceiling is a huge step in the wrong direction for our nation.
Is it critical for us to prevent an unprecedented default? Of course it is.
Is it just as critical to make sure that we can meet our nation's obligations to our seniors, our children and our poor? Of course it is.
But this back room deal-making on preventing a national default is not a way forward for our nation.
We must not be making critical decisions about who and what we are as a nation while we are held hostage to the debt ceiling and the extortionist threats of the extreme Tea Party wing of the Republican party.
This should not be the process by which we decide how we budget and set our nation's priorities into the future.
The debt ceiling plan is deeply flawed. The only thing it succeeds in doing is enacting a short-term reprieve from a catastrophic default on our debts.
It fails in almost every other way.
It fails because it is not a balanced approach that insures that we have the resources necessary to protect our most vulnerable seniors, children, the disabled and the poor.
It fails because it opens the door to deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
If fails because it does not make sure that we actually reduce the deficit.
Making cuts in federal spending during the middle of the worst economic downturn in a generation will only make the economy worse and will reduce future revenue and end up increasing long-term deficits.
This is not a sound way to reduce our deficits or our debt. The only way to reduce our deficits long-term is to invest in a strong and growing economy that creates millions of new jobs just like we did during the Clinton Administration.
The only sound long-term deficit plan is a strong jobs plan that puts Americans back to work in jobs that pay a livable wages and provide American benefits.
Finally, it fails because it undermines that proper functioning of the American democracy and restricts our ability to react to future crises and economic downturns.
Tying the hands of future Congresses is not the way to strengthen the United States. This bill will severely limit what we can do as a nation.
The Tea Party Republican's vision of America is one with a powerless government that cannot stand up to the big banks, big oil and multinational corporations that want to keep shipping U.S. jobs overseas. The Republican's vision of America is one where you are completely on your own, without access to health care, Social Security, or unemployment protections. The Republican's vision of America is one without any safeguards for clean air, clean water or access to safe and clean food and drugs.
I don't believe that this is a vision that the American people believe in.
I believe in a strong America with a functioning democracy that is able invest in the future of our nation and create jobs to grow our economy.
That is why I join my colleagues here today--because the Congressional Black Caucus is focused on helping the American people get jobs by hitting the streets during August. Across the country, from Cleveland, Miami, Atlanta, Detroit and L.A., the Congressional Black Caucus is doing both town halls and job fairs.
The Congressional Black Caucus knows that people need jobs and so the CBC is bringing employers that have jobs together with people that need jobs.
Also, the CBC is bringing in experts to run job training sessions including how to write a resume, how to interview, and how to network to improve your chances on getting a job.
We will be working hard in Washington to create jobs for the people, but we must do more which is why we have put together these events.
The town hall will give Members of the CBC a chance to interact directly with those people struggling to get a job, so that we can bring their words, their frustrations, and their worries to Washington to share with our colleagues and be the voice of our nation's most vulnerable population here in the halls of Congress.
Our nation's average unemployment rate is 9.2 percent, but for African Americans it is 16.2 percent and for Latinos it is 11.6 percent.
Worse than this drastic gap between the national average and the unemployment rate between people of color, a recent Pew Research Center study shows the drastic impact that the economic downturn has had on minority communities, pushing the wealth gap to record high numbers.
Unfortunately, the daunting statistics speak for themselves--the median wealth of white households is 20 times that of Black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households.
When I was a Member of the Financial Services Committee, my colleagues and I warned about the dangers that deregulating financial services would pose on minority communities.
I am sad to say that our fears were well founded. Unscrupulous banks and completely unregulated mortgage brokers targeted vulnerable minority communities with predatory loans and often engaged in outright fraud.
We must commit to strengthening the safeguards in place that protect consumers from unfair and predatory practices that strip our communities of what little wealth they have.
It is clear that this `recession' has been nothing short of a depression for communities of color with disproportionate loss of wealth, housing, increased unemployment and poverty rates that are on the rise.
It is time we begin to allow our economy to grow and invest in the needs of our nation's most vulnerable communities. We do this by creating jobs for the people.
The House Republicans have been in charge for well over 200 days now and have yet to bring a single jobs bill to the Floor for a vote.
I have urged Speaker BOEHNER for months to bring H.R. 589 The Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act to the Floor for a vote.
This bill is important because those people who have been unemployed for over 99 weeks can no longer receive unemployment benefits--how are they surviving?
H.R. 589 would give 14 more weeks of benefits to those who have reached the end of their rope and are still struggling to find work.
This will stimulate our economy--they will immediately spend this money to buy the necessities of life that you and I take for granted, like food, water, shelter, and maybe some form of medical attention.
But these 99ers are not the only people facing hardship across the country. Americans want to work and Americans need to work, and Congress needs to create jobs, and since Congress is moving slow, the Congressional Black Caucus is hitting the streets in cities across the nation, bringing employers that have jobs together with people who need jobs.
I am pleased to be a part of the Congressional Black Caucus For the People Jobs Initiative, and I applaud the hard work of the CBC Members and staff, including staff across the country, who are making these events happen.
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