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Mr. Speaker, it's about 1 1/2 minutes after 3 p.m. on July 28, 2011. At this moment, we begin the debate on one of the most crucial items that we have had or will have before us.
Since 1962, on 75 different occasions, the United States Congress has chosen to increase the debt ceiling to ensure that we paid our past obligations. It has been done 75 times without ever having any strings attached whatsoever.
Last November, we all know that there was an overwhelming message that was sent by the American people to Washington, DC; and that message was, number one, create jobs, get our economy back on track, and in so doing, rein in the dramatic increase in the size and scope and reach of government that we witnessed in the past several years. We all know that in the last 4 years we've had an 82 percent increase in non-defense discretionary spending. And so the message that was sent was: That has to come to an end.
So Speaker Boehner, when asked by the President of the United States to move an increase in the debt ceiling, said that he was willing to do that. He recognized, as I believe an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans in this institution recognize, it is absolutely essential that we increase the debt ceiling. We have to do everything that we can to ensure that Social Security checks get to those retirees. We have to make sure that the many other obligations that we have are in fact met.
And on that one issue of Social Security, we know that on July 12 the President of the United States in a speech said that if we don't see an increase in the debt ceiling by August 2, he could not guarantee that on August 3 those Social Security checks would go to our retirees. And so, Mr. Speaker, what happened was Speaker Boehner said we want to make sure that those Social Security checks get out. We want to make sure that we increase the debt ceiling so our Nation doesn't default and follow the pattern of Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and other countries in the world that have gone through tremendous economic devastation.
But what the Speaker said is that, while we are going to, in increasing the debt ceiling, meet those obligations of the past, we are not going to do it the way it has been done the last 75 times. We are going to get to the root cause of why it is that we have to increase the debt ceiling, and that is the runaway spending that Democrat and Republican, alike, decries regularly. And so the Speaker said that he would increase the debt ceiling, but he wanted to ensure that we cut spending in an amount that was greater than the level of the debt ceiling increase.
And so he began discussions, recognizing that Republicans--those who won this majority last November--only controlled the United States House of Representatives. Speaker Boehner does not look at the world through rose-colored glasses. He knows that the Republicans don't control the United States Senate and he knows that he has to work with President Obama. But he does know that the last statement that was made by the American people in November of last year was we've got to have a dramatic change in the course that we have been on. And so he began negotiating. He began discussions. He began working over the past several weeks and months to try to put together a bipartisan effort so that Democrats and Republicans, alike, could come together and ensure that those Social Security checks get out and that the other obligations that we have are in fact met and that we do increase our debt ceiling.
We've all followed, and the American people are following very closely, the global markets are following closely, this debate and the discussions that are taking place. It came to a head last weekend when we know that the President of the United States had requested a 50 percent increase in the level of taxes to be increased from $800 billion to $1.2 trillion, and the Speaker of the House said that that was a nonstarter. So the Speaker said that he wanted to work with the bipartisan leadership of the United States Congress, both Houses of Congress. And so last weekend we know that Speaker Boehner and the Democratic Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Harry Reid, came together and fashioned, by and large, the measure that is before us today.
Now, I'm the first to say that Harry Reid no longer supports this measure. Harry Reid has indicated that he does not support it. We have this letter from the 53 Senators. We have word that they're going to table this measure when it passes the House of Representatives. But it's important, Mr. Speaker, for everyone to recognize that what is before us today is, by and large, a measure that is not what Speaker Boehner would write if he were doing it on his own. It's a measure that is the byproduct of bipartisan discussion and, as the Speaker likes to say, the ability to find common ground.
We are, today, in a position where we face, in just a few days, the prospect of those Social Security checks not going out. And, Mr. Speaker, that's why I don't like this measure, but I'm voting for it. I'm voting for it because I want to get those Social Security checks out, I want to make sure that the United States of America does not default, and I believe that that's the responsible thing for us to do.
What we have before us in the House of Representatives is the closest thing to a bipartisan agreement. First of all, we know that, by and large, there have been no other plans put forward, but the plan that does exist--there are very few plans put forward. The plan that has been put forward by Senator Reid is one that does not enjoy bipartisan support and it was not put together in a bipartisan way. This one was, by and large, even though it does not have the support of Senator Reid any longer, was put together based on the discussions they had. I believe that this measure is deserving of strong bipartisan support here in the House of Representatives and from our colleagues in the United States Senate as well.
So, Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues, in the name of sanity and in the name of ensuring that we maintain the solvency and the strength of the greatest nation the world has ever known, that we pass this measure and that we send it to our colleagues in the United States Senate so that they can do the same, and so that when it's placed on the desk of the President of the United States, he will have his opportunity to ensure that what he predicted as a possibility for August 3, that being that Social Security checks do not go out, will not happen.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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