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Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. PELOSI. I thank my colleague, Congresswoman Lowey, for her leadership and for yielding time on this important debate.

I listened, too, attentively to Mr. Frelinghuysen and the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and I heard Mr. Frelinghuysen say how awful sequestration would be. And I completely concur with him on that. I also heard him say nothing in this bill does anything on sequestration. Well, if it does not, why is it in the bill? Is it to get votes on the Republican side because there's not the support for the investments that were called for in the Budget Control Act? If that's the case, let's be clear about it and put it forth. But if it has nothing to do with sequestration, Mr. Frelinghuysen, why is it in the bill? Is it a waste of time and space? Is it a topic of discussion that is fruitless because it has nothing to do with sequestration but it's in there because it sends a very serious message?

And why are we in this place? We're in this place, the Chamber of the House of Representatives, to represent the American people. We recognize that a thriving middle class is the backbone of our democracy and that we are here to meet the needs of the American people and strengthen that democracy. With the legislation that is before us today, we undermine all of those efforts.

With the sequestration, which is reaffirmed in this legislation, we go down a path that is harmful to our economy and harmful to our national security. Don't take it from me. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress last week on more than one occasion that cuts of this size made this quickly would hurt hiring and incomes, slow the recovery, cost the economy 750,000 jobs, and keep deficits larger than otherwise.

Why are we in this place? We're in this place because the Republicans have said that they would not close any tax loopholes except to lower rates--not to lower the deficit, but to lower rates. Because they will not close any loopholes to reduce the deficit, we have to reduce the deficit in other ways.

For example, they will not close the loophole for tax breaks for corporate jets. Instead, they want to cut 4 million Meals on Wheels. Instead of closing loopholes for Big Oil, they want to cut investments in little children's education. Instead of closing tax loopholes for corporations that send jobs overseas--that's my personal favorite, tax cuts for corporations that send jobs overseas--they want to lose 750,000 jobs here in our country. Instead of ensuring that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share, our military readiness will be impaired and health care for our military families could be cut.

On a personal basis, we have teachers educating children of our military families who will be harmed by this. We have psychiatric nurses who meet the needs of our returning vets with PTSD and other challenges who may be furloughed because of this. What do we say to them? Oh, it's more important for us to have loopholes for tax breaks for corporate jets and millionaires and billionaires to send jobs overseas and the rest of it?

We had an opportunity to today in our previous question to bring to the floor the proposal advanced by Mr. Chris Van Hollen, our ranking member on the Budget Committee. Mr. Van Hollen's proposal is responsible and fair and it is balanced. It cuts spending responsibly. It ends unnecessary tax breaks for special interests, some of which I just named, and advances the Buffett rule, ensuring that millionaires pay their fair share.

I mention it because it's yet, again, another time where the Republicans on at least four occasions shut down the opportunity to debate an alternative to what the Republicans are proposing. And this is on top of all that we've already agreed to.

Many of us in a bipartisan way voted for the Budget Control Act, which cut $1.2 trillion in spending. That was in addition to over $300 billion already cut last year. That is in addition to the President and Members of Congress saying we are prepared to make further cuts in waste, fraud, and abuse. And some things are not wasteful. Maybe they're just not a priority anymore or we found a better way to do it. Maybe they're duplicative or obsolete. But, nonetheless, we can't afford them anymore.

So let's subject every dollar to harsh scrutiny; but we also have to subject to scrutiny all the spending on these tax breaks, because that is spending. When you give a subsidy to Big Oil of $38 billion as an incentive to drill, you are spending the taxpayers' dollars. Let's cut that spending, too.

Now, what's interesting about this is that, in what the Republicans are supporting, they are totally out of sync with the American people. Republicans across our country are opposed to the corporate jet loophole. They want to close the corporate jet loophole. And Republicans, by majority, support that. They want to eliminate oil and gas tax breaks. Republicans, by majority, support eliminating that. Republicans across the country say we should limit deductions for millionaires and billionaires. Republicans, of course, say we should end tax breaks for corporations to send jobs overseas. The list goes on.

Republicans, by majority, support the Buffett rule. Even some Republicans in the Senate say we must look at closing some of these loopholes--not just to lower rates for corporate America, but in order to lower the deficit--instead of going to our children, our seniors, our workers and all the rest to make those cuts.

So we are in a situation here today that is created not because the Republicans passed two bills last year. I know the gentlemen speaking on the floor know that last year is over. That Congress has ended. Those bills have no weight. The spending cuts that we agreed to last year are for over 10 years.

The bills that the Republicans passed last year ended at the end of the last Congress. How to make a law? Just read the book. I realize that you would hardly recognize that civics lesson if you see what's happening on the floor here today and over the last period of time.

But I have enormous, enormous respect for the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. We sat on that committee together for a number of years. I appreciate that he wanted to bring a bill to the floor that honors the Budget Control Act.

I disagree with the tactic of putting a reinforcement of a sequester into law. It exists. We have to do the sequester unless we can head it off, unless the safety of our troops and their training, our national security, the education of our children, the safety of our neighbors, unless that takes precedence over protecting tax breaks for corporate jets, businesses that send jobs overseas--the list goes on, and I have mentioned it now more than one time.

So I urge my colleagues to think carefully about this vote. This isn't a vote to shut down government or not. That vote will come at another time.

The Senate isn't going to accept this bill. The Senate is not going to accept this bill. When they don't, they will send back another bill. And we'll just see how many votes are on the Republican side to keep government open, because we have absolutely no intention of having the government shut down. We will just see how many Republican votes there are for that, for a bill that will be a better bill than this.

Although, with the threat of sequester and what that will do to our economy--and our job creation and our reducing of the deficit--that's one thing; but think of what it does in the lives of those 4 million meals not delivered to seniors. Think of those seniors who are not getting those meals, those children who are not getting Head Start--or even beyond Head Start, the education of our children. Some of them are being educated by teachers who are teaching children of military families who will now have to lose their jobs or be furloughed. This has an impact right to the kitchen table of the American people. So we have to think very seriously about what we are doing here. But whatever we do, let's just have it be on the level, Mr. Speaker. Let's have it be on the level.

This is a bill that reinforces the sequester; if it didn't, it wouldn't be in the bill. So this bill, I think, has no merit, and it will not have my support.

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