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Public Statements

CBC Hour: The People's Budget

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. LEE of California. Let me thank the gentleman from Nevada first of all for his tremendous leadership on behalf of the people of Nevada, and also thank you for those kind words and thank you for really helping to put together not only this Special Order tonight on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus, but for your leadership on so many fronts. Thank you.

Let me first say, I serve as a member of the Budget Committee, and I have seen close-hand the Republican vision for our country's future; and believe you me, it is not a vision of shared prosperity or economic growth. Having a sound and balanced alternative, like the Congressional Black Caucus budget, exposes the Republican budget for the disaster that it really is.

The Republican budget shortchanges 99 percent of the American people so it can give even more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, and to protect tax loopholes for special interests and Big Oil. At a time when we need job creation the most, the Republican budget would kill more than 2 million American jobs in 2014 alone. That's unconscionable. Cutting infrastructure development would also kill jobs that are important to our communities, communities of color. Jobs in the construction sector and in the public transit sector, these sectors employ many people that other sectors do not employ.

The Republican budget would take away food from hungry children and families, kick thousands of children off of Head Start, and close the door to college for thousands of graduates next year. Two-thirds of all of the Republican budget cuts target programs for people who are poor or low income, and communities of color would be the hardest hit.

Communities of color still bear the brunt of the last economic recession. Unemployment remains high. As of January, 9.7 percent of Latinos and 13.8 percent of African Americans were unemployed, compared to the national average of 9 percent. And income inequality continues to grow.

Federal unemployment benefits already under sequestration would face greater cuts under this Ryan budget as he proposes an additional $900 billion in cuts to nondiscretionary spending.

The Republican budget's vision for America is very clear. Their budget would shred the social safety net. It would shatter our economic recovery and would push millions of struggling families over the edge.

In stark contrast, the Congressional Black Caucus budget shows that we can choose a different way forward. It is a document that shows our Nation's priorities and values, for, after all, a budget is a moral document. The CBC budget protects and enhances Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, all of our vital safety net programs that save millions of people from poverty.

We believe strongly that any savings derived from changes to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid should be used to extend their solvency, not to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and we do not support a cut in benefits.

For four decades, many of these programs have received support as the first line of defense against hunger and alleviating poverty, helping to ensure vulnerable families in our Nation that they have a stable life. While protecting important antipoverty programs, the CBC budget would also make sound invests in critical areas like infrastructure, education, innovation, and poverty reduction to strengthen the economy for all.

I'm very proud of the fact that the CBC budget includes supporting language for developing a national strategy to eliminate poverty with the goal of cutting poverty in half in 10 years. Fifty million people in the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world are living in poverty; 16 million are children.

We've also included in our budget a formula that Leader Clyburn continues to champion. That's our 10-20-30 formula, which targets resources: 10 percent of Federal funds into certain accounts where there has been a poverty rate of 20 percent for the last 30 years. That is extremely important as we begin to cut poverty in half in 10 years.

The Republican budget, of course, is a pathway to poverty, with cuts to social safety net programs, jobs, as well as programs that serve as a bridge over troubled water for millions of low-income and vulnerable families. The fact of the matter is, when the economy grows through sound policies and investments that lift up struggling families, everyone benefits.

Also, let me just mention the section with regard to national defense. Congressman Horsford, thank you very

much for reminding us about these two wars, quite frankly, that have been off budget and that are responsible for the deficits and for the lack of jobs and the unemployment rates that we see throughout our country. Our Congressional Black Caucus budget brings our defense spending in line with our legitimate security needs, and we also have a budget that measures our growth in terms of our economic footing as it relates to investing in our national economic security here at home. Whatever savings can be achieved, we put into mental health, veterans' health, and also support and research treatment for traumatic brain injury.

Also, let me just remind you that the Pentagon is the only Federal agency that's not subject to an audit. The Pentagon has lost tens of billions of dollars to waste, fraud, and abuse. There have been reports of suitcases full of dollars, U.S. taxpayer dollars, being stolen or lost as it relates to Iraq and Afghanistan. We've got to be able to audit the Pentagon, and so our budget uses the $300 billion of the savings from cuts also to the ballistic missile defense program for implementing the remaining GAO recommendations. I think we have now 1,682 of them, which would save about $89 billion. And so our budgeting insists that we begin to audit the Pentagon. That is a very important function that the Congressional Black Caucus understands very clearly.

Finally, let me just say, we restore harmful cuts to the military Tuition Assistance program. I can't believe that the Republicans would cancel military tuition assistance for veterans who have fought so hard in these wars. Don't they deserve better? The Congressional Black Caucus believes they deserve better, and so we restore those harmful cuts.

The Congressional Black Caucus knows we can do better. We know that a shared prosperity is the most important key to sound growth and sound fiscal policy. First, let me just urge everyone to reject the ruinous Republican budget and to support the CBC alternative budget.

I have to thank Congressman Bobby Scott and the Budget Task Force and all the staff for their tremendous work and their support in putting forth and writing a budget, really, that speaks to the aspirations and to reigniting the American Dream for all Americans.

I thank you again, Representative Horsford, for your leadership.

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