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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. I thank the gentleman from New York and the gentleman from Nevada for organizing this Special Order, and the gentlelady from Ohio for her leadership in the Black Caucus, and the other Members who are participating tonight.

Mr. Speaker, our economy has been improving very slowly over the last few years, and we need to do everything we can to make sure that we create as many jobs as possible.

Thursday, the United States faces a crisis, and that is whether we will pay our debts or whether we will, for the first time in our history, default on our debts. The debate on the debt ceiling really isn't much of a debate because every credible economist has already concluded that failure to adjust the debt ceiling will cause serious adverse consequences to the domestic economy, and even the global economy. That conclusion really ought to end the debate.

For those who want a little more information, you only have to look back a couple of years. The Republicans made a credible threat on the debt ceiling, and the S&P, just based on the credible threat--although we raised it in time--downgraded the creditworthiness of the United States for the first time in history.

So we really don't know exactly what would happen. We know none of it is going to be good, but we would be looking at possible increases in interest rates, lost jobs, stock market collapse and people's pensions at stake, government checks like Social Security and veterans benefits, and doctors not being paid under Medicare. All are adverse consequences for failing to adjust the debt ceiling.

My Republican colleagues have threatened to use this crisis as an opportunity to gain legislative advantage to pass legislation that they can't pass through the normal process. Unfortunately for them, the Nation Magazine published their wish list. It starts, of course, with undermining ObamaCare, but then it goes on to entitlement reform, better known as cutting Social Security and Medicare; Keystone pipeline; corporate tax cuts; sabotage EPA clean air regulations; offshore drilling. It goes on and on. They published the list.

But the full faith and credit of the United States should not be a bargaining chip held hostage unless some legislative ransom is paid.

Suppose the Democrats played the same game and put on the table immigration reform, gay rights, a jobs bill, or gun safety, and we are going to shut down the government or mess with the debt ceiling unless we get our way on that legislation. How dysfunctional a government would we have then?

In the past, there have been debt ceilings; and people have referred to the fact that in the past, there have been negotiations over the debt ceiling. But those are different negotiations. Those are negotiations on the debt ceiling in the context of, Of course we are going to adjust the debt ceiling. And then you put things on the bill. So if you can get your amendment on the bill, you know you are in good shape because that bill is going to pass. You will get over the line.

It has never been in the context of, If I don't get my way, we will explode the economy--until 2 years ago when the Republicans pulled a stunt and the S&P downgraded our credit rating. About 45 times since the 1980s we have increased the debt ceiling. It has always been in the context of, Of course, the debt ceiling will be increased.

This isn't like a credit card where you increase your credit limit so that you can spend more. We have already spent it. We have passed the spending bills. We have already spent the money. The question is whether we are going to pay the bills; and if you are going to discuss fiscal responsibility, it ought to be at a time when you are deciding whether to spend the money, not after you spend it and then decide whether you are going to pay the bills that you have already incurred.

We are discussing this debt ceiling while the government is shut down. And shut down for what reason? It started off on ObamaCare. Many Republican Senators have already said that this wasn't going to happen, and it wasn't a good idea to shut down the government over ObamaCare. Apparently, they have pretty much given on that and some have said, Well, we have shut down the government; we have got to get something.

The problem with giving something for shutting down the government is that there is apparently a fundamental concept in psychology of positive reinforcement. If you

reward somebody for doing something, they will probably do it again. If they get a reward for shutting down the government, this will become part and parcel of the legislative process that if you can't get a bill passed, you will shut down the government until you get it passed.

Several Republican legislators have praised the fact that we passed some piecemeal bills to reopen government one little agency at a time. It looks to me like every morning they read the newspaper and find out the latest disaster caused by their shutdown and then some things like servicemen not getting death benefits, the World War II Memorial, cancer patients not being treated at the National Institutes of Health, Head Start.

Every morning, they read the tragic effects of their shutdown and then run to the House to address the disaster of the day and try to get some 30-second sound bite to cover up the fact all they are doing is cleaning up part of the mess that they already caused.

Passage of these little piecemeal bills only serves to elongate the shutdown. We need to reopen the government and put an end to all this; and while some of us are working hard to produce jobs, this shutdown is costing hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the Republicans have criticized Democrats for not negotiating. I just want to remind everybody we are talking about the budget. The Democrats started with one number, the Republicans with another number. The Democrats didn't come halfway or two-thirds of the way. They just agreed to the Republican number on a short-term basis so we can continue to negotiate without shutting down the government.

So we need to reopen all of the government and stop losing jobs. Let's pay our debts, and then we can get to the real serious negotiations on the budget.

I thank the gentleman for yielding and look forward to reopening government, paying our bills, and then getting into the tough negotiations.


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