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Public Statements

Full Faith and Credit Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOYER. I thank my friend, the ranking member.

I rise partly in sadness, wholly in disappointment, that we are playing this game. How sad. I tell my other friend from Michigan, his amendment is sad, too, I want to say. It's a device to try to get people to vote for a bill that has no merit by making Members' pay somehow present in this bill. We ought to consider things on their merit, not on this political gamesmanship.

Madam Speaker, for the second time, House Republicans have decided to put our country at risk by defaulting on its obligations. They know this bill is not going anywhere. They know the President would veto it, and they know Republican economists think this bill makes no sense. I won't ask the gentleman who chairs the Ways and Means Committee his real view on this bill.

This so-called "debt prioritization'' bill mandates that, in the event we hit the debt limit, we will pay China first, not our contractors doing business with us, not our Federal employees, not veterans--yes, Social Security is taken care of--not our military. We'll pay China first. That's what this bill says. No major creditor in this country would have a debt prioritization. Now, the secondary lenders and tertiary lenders, yes, have prioritization, but no major lender, no big corporation. They say, if we incur a debt, we'll pay it--not we'll pay this one first and you second or third or fourth. We'll pay China first and other creditors before we pay our troops, seniors, health care and veterans benefits. Yes, you've made an exemption for Social Security, not in the original bill, but politically that was too hot to handle, so you added Social Security.

Just yesterday, Speaker Boehner admitted that this bill means the United States of America will voluntarily act like a bankrupt corporation and pay China before we pay our troops. How sad. How patently political. How transparent that we are trying to give a fig leaf so that we can play around with the national debt. Ronald Reagan would be deeply disappointed, and he expressed that.

Speaker Boehner said:

Those who have loaned us money, like in any other proceeding ..... the bondholders usually get paid first. The same thing here--pay China first.

This partisan bill is not a feasible solution to our debt problem, and even Republicans recognize this won't work.

Tony Fratto, a former Bush administration spokesman on economic policy--this is a Republican spokesman--said:

Prioritization is impossible. Is the government really going to be in the position of withholding benefits, salaries, rent, contract payments, et cetera, in order to pay off Treasury bondholders? That would be a political catastrophe.

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Mr. HOYER. Former Bush chief economic adviser Keith Hennessey--this is an economic adviser, not a spokesperson--said this:

If the U.S. Government legally commits to paying someone a benefit or agrees to pay a firm for a good or a service, the U.S. Government should fulfill that agreement in a timely fashion. To do otherwise is taking the first step to becoming a banana republic.

That's Hennessey, not Hoyer, not a Democrat. That's a Bush economic adviser.

Madam Speaker, we should not be admitting defeat and ranking the losers as this bill would do. Instead of choosing to pay China or any other holder of our debt before we pay our troops--and we ought to pay them, and we ought to pay them on time, but that's not the issue. The issue is the United States of America, the most creditworthy Nation on Earth, ought to pay all its debt in a timely fashion--all--not prioritize--all--across the board. For our wounded veterans and for the seniors who have worked hard to build this country, we should be working to fix the problem by coming to a consensus on a big and balanced deal to reduce our deficit, including tax reform, which the chairman is so assiduously seeking.

Playing politically motivated games with the creditworthiness of the United States will only risk another downgrade.

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Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I have already spoken about this amendment. I think this amendment is as sad as the bill.

We continue to play games because we think that, in a way, we will compel people to vote for something they don't want to vote for--and, in my view, are not going to vote for. I think it's sad. I think we continue to demagogue this institution and its Members. That's sad. We leaders should not do that. This is a serious bill.

Now, I want to tell the gentleman from Michigan, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, I know what the debt is. And I know that debt has been incurred because we bought a lot of things we didn't pay for, including over $1 trillion of Afghanistan and Iraq, including a prescription drug bill that projects over $2 trillion, including tax cuts that were $2.3 trillion that not a penny were paid for. I understand, and I think it's serious.

The sad thing is that this is not a serious response. This is an irresponsible response. This is a response that, as I said earlier, says that we will pay some people first, but we won't pay all our debts. The richest country on the face of the Earth, the most creditworthy nation on the face of the Earth, we won't pay all our debts.

There is a simple way to do this: stop demagoguing one another. And I want to say to the gentleman, as he knows, Democrats have demagogued this issue when we've had Republican Presidents and Republicans have demagogued it when we've had Democratic Presidents.

We all know that we've incurred debts and we're going to pay them. That's all this is. It's very simple: we're either going to pay our debts or we're not.

Now, I want to tell my friend, the gentleman from Michigan, I know about the debt. The gentleman refers to $5 trillion. I'm sure the gentleman knows these statistics:

Under Ronald Reagan, the debt was increased 189 percent; under George Bush, 55 percent--the first George Bush, 55 percent; under this President so far, a little over 40 percent.

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Mr. HOYER. Every Republican President with whom I've served, Madam Speaker, every Republican President has increased the debt as a percentage of GDP higher than either Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Bill Clinton was the lowest, 37 percent. This President is a little over 40 percent of GDP. It's just like saying the minimum wage now is $7.25, which is so much higher than it was in 1970--which is not the case. Now, as a dollar, a nominal figure, it's higher, and the gentleman knows that very well. He is my friend and I have great respect for him. But this bill is unfortunate. This amendment is--I won't characterize it as harshly as I feel about it.

We have to stop playing games. We have to be serious. We need to come together and adopt a big plan that's balanced, that can pass and will put this country on a fiscally sustainable path; and, in the process, we ought to pay our bills because we incurred them. We incurred them honestly for objectives that this House, this Senate, and the President of the United States signed for.

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