BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, I certainly thank my colleague for yielding me the customary 30 minutes and yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by saying to my colleague, Mr. Dreier, we've served together here for many years on the Rules Committee. I think that his knowledge of both the Rules Committee and its functions and the rules of the House are unsurpassed, and I think he will be very greatly missed.
I want to wish him the very best in his new endeavors in the rest of his life. Nothing but happiness and joy. And thank you. I feel I've learned a great deal from you, David. Thank you for that.
Mr. Speaker, the legislation before me, as my colleague said, is no great victory. It's only a partial answer to a much larger problem, and it sets our Nation up for another fiscal showdown in mere months. As we vote, let every Member of this Chamber reflect on the dysfunctional legislative process and the irresponsible leadership that brought us here today, and the need for the majority to come back to the bargaining table in good faith as our work continues. And I share Mr. Dreier's hope that from now on we will put this all behind us and that this next term will be a bipartisan term.
Let history show that the fiscal cliff and the dire economic consequences that would come with it were the deliberate creation of this House. Because of hyperpartisan actions taken by the majority, the body has pushed our Nation closer to a self-created economic recession and the greatest displacement of workers that the Nation has known since 1929.
The idea behind the fiscal cliff was that the potential for a self-inflicted wound would force Congress to address the growing deficit and debt. Yet from the beginning, the plan was flawed. Over the last 10 years, our deficit has ballooned because of the cost of two wars and massive unpaid-for tax cuts. Yet discussion over the cost of war--conflicts that have cost the lives of thousands of Americans and forever changed the face of American families--has been almost nonexistent. At the same time, the majority's desire to protect tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires quickly hardened into intransigence and has led us to where we are today. Just a week ago today, it looked as though Congress was close to a solution, until the House majority walked away.
Instead of seizing an historic opportunity for compromise, the majority introduced a so-called ``Plan B,'' which quickly morphed into Plan C before being scrapped altogether and leaving us with almost no time to avert the fiscal cliff. By making tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires their biggest priority, the majority not only endangered our economy but they led the House through a legislative process that violated any sense of regular order and transparency. Indeed, as my colleagues and I sat in the Rules Committee last week, the legislation we were considering was changing by the minute, leaving us to guess at what would actually be included in any bill that required our vote.
Sadly, such dysfunctional governing comes as little surprise. For the past 2 years, the majority has led with a toxic combination of extremism and hyperpartisanship that has resulted in the 112th Congress being the least productive in history. During the summer of 2011, the majority threw our Nation into crisis when they took our economy hostage and threatened to default on our Nation's debt. This dangerous and irresponsible approach rattled investors around the world and led to the first-ever downgrade of our Nation's credit. In addition, over the last 2 years, the majority has voted more than 33 times to repeal the historic Affordable Care Act, despite knowing full well that the repeal votes would never be signed into law because the Senate would not do that bill. In so doing, they took up valuable time from other legislative priorities. And CBS News reports that these votes consistently trying to repeal health care, Mr. Speaker, cost the American taxpayer almost $50 million.
For over a year and a half, this type of irresponsible and unproductive governing failed to provide any solutions to the American people. And coming out of the November elections, our mandate was clear. The American people demanded an end to the political theater and the dangerous legislative games. They demanded that we finally get to work and solve the looming fiscal cliff in a balanced, responsible, and bipartisan way.
In the middle of last July, all of the ranking committee members in the House of Representatives sent a letter to the Speaker asking that we begin in July to find a solution to the fiscal cliff and sequestration. We called for a bipartisan approach and something we could get finished before the August recess so that we could spare the American people and most other people in the world and financial markets the worry that we have put them through. We got our answer tonight.
So, unfortunately, today, what we are doing here does not give the American people a solution worthy of their full approval--and I'm sure we don't have it. The legislation before us fails to seriously address the deficit and debt, protects too many wealthy Americans, and sets the Nation up for another round of high-stakes negotiations. However, what we do have before us is a product that can avert the worst of the fiscal cliff and begin the process of balancing the budget and returning fairness, we hope, to the Tax Code.
Under today's legislation, millions of Americans will be spared from a tax increase, and valuable tax extensions for middle-class families and students will remain in place. In addition, today's legislation extends unemployment insurance for millions of Americans struggling to find work.
In closing, this legislation is far from perfect, and the process that has led us here is an utter disgrace. Yet in this time of crisis we must act first and foremost to try to protect the American economy. And today's legislation will do that. In the coming weeks, we must continue the hard work of creating a fair Tax Code and ensuring we reduce our deficit in a balanced, responsible, and bipartisan way. And as we do, I urge my fellow Members to avoid brinksmanship and partisan games and to come to the table in good faith on behalf of all the people who sent us here and put their faith in us.
I reserve the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Ms. SLAUGHTER. Mr. Speaker, if I could inform my colleague, I have no further requests for time and I'm prepared to close if he has no further speakers.
Mr. Speaker, failure to avert the fiscal cliff could lead the Nation back into an economic recession and create the largest displacement of workers in the Nation's history. The dangers are avoidable, and it is our solemn obligation to avert the fiscal cliff and protect the American people.
As I said earlier, today's legislation is far from perfect; but in this time of crisis, legislators must act. In the months to come, we will face more fiscal challenges and be asked to act again. When that time comes, I hope that we will avoid the brinksmanship that we have seen to date and come to the table in good faith. If we do, I'm confident that we can finish our work and provide solutions for a better future for America.
I yield back the balance of my time.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT