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Democrats Are in Touch With the People

Location: Washington, DC

DEMOCRATS ARE IN TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE -- (House of Representatives - June 23, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Poe). Under the Speaker's announced policy of January 4, 2005, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I was not expecting to come down here tonight. I did because I was very upset by some of the comments that were made by my Republican colleagues.

Many of them said that they were not here tonight to attack the Democrats and the Democratic Party. In reality, that is exactly what they did. And the negative comments that they were making about Democrats and what we stand for were, frankly, very offensive to me, because I have been here as a Member of Congress for 17 years. And I have never seen the Republican Party sink to the depths in terms of their attacks on Democrats and their unwillingness to cooperate with the Democrats and their abuse of power in this institution.

One of the things that disturbs me the most is that I have always thought that Republicans were very concerned as a party about spending money and about deficits. I remember when I was first elected to the House of Representatives back in 1988. There were a group of Republicans who used to come down on the floor of the House of Representatives every night during Special Orders, about this time, and would hold up a digital clock and talk about the huge deficits that the Federal Government was pursuing and how it continued to go up and how it was necessary for the Republicans to take the majority back because they would be the only ones that would try to do something about the deficit.

Well, you do not hear that anymore from the Republicans, the party that historically, at least in the early days when I was here, seemed to be so much concerned about deficits, has essentially ignored the issue.

I hear my Republican colleague saying that it does not matter what the deficit is, it does not matter how much it grows, you know, that it is just some sort of accounting measure and we can spend all we want and we can go into debt and borrow all we want, and it does not make any difference.

In fact, what you find now is Democrats coming down on the floor and holding up the same charts and talking about the deficit being at an all-time high and the negative impact it is having on this government.

So I say to my Republican colleagues, what happened to the Republican Party that cared about the deficit and was concerned about rampant spending? Because they have become the majority now, they can spend whatever they want and not worry about the impact on the Federal Government over the long term?

In fact what we see is the Republican Party abandoning its ideals, abandoning it principles for the sake, essentially, of just being in the majority and in control.

We have witnessed, as Democrats, efforts on the part of the Republicans to simply exclude us from almost every aspect of this institution. The gentlewoman from North Carolina (Ms. Foxx) who spoke before me suggests that she wanted to get together and work together with the Democrats.

How is that possible when Democrats are not allowed to have a hearing in committee, when the committee moves forward without allowing Democrats to have amendments, when bills come to the floor without the opportunity for Democrats to even speak because the amount of time that is allowed on the bill for speaking is very limited or practically eliminated?

The fact of the matter is that the Republican majority has no interest in reaching out to Democrats and hearing their views. All they want to do is force legislation down the throats of the Democratic minority and act as if in some way they are reaching out, when in fact they are not.

I heard some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle in the last Special Order go on and on about how the economy is so wonderful, everything is so rosy, more jobs are being created. I do not know what fairy land they live in. When I go back to New Jersey, all I hear about from my constituents is how factories have closed and moved overseas; how jobs have been outsourced to other countries in Europe and Asia; how people are unemployed, and if they have a job, it does not pay as much as it used to; about how pensions and health care benefits have been reduced.

And for the Republican to stand up here tonight and talk about their accomplishments and how great the economy is, they are simply blind to the realities. At one time, Republicans used to look out for the little guy. They used to be concerned about what the average American was doing, whether or not they had a job, whether or not they, you know, were making an income in small-town, in rural America. They have forgotten about the little guy.

All their emphasis as a Republican majority is not on the average American, but on the well-to-do American, on the millionaire, on the corporate interest. What happened to the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, of Theodore Roosevelt, of Ronald Reagan for that matter?

We did not see anything that comes to this floor that looks out for the interest of the average person. What we see are tax cuts that go primarily to millionaires and corporate interests. We see special legislation come up that gives a tax break to someone who happens to be, you know, the CEO of a major firm. Whether it is pension policies or it is health care policies, everything is oriented toward the corporate interest or the interests of the wealthy individuals.

You know, when you talk about deficits, deficits of the kind that we see now are basically crippling the American economy. And I used to think that the Republican Party, like the Democratic Party, cared about America first. But that is not the case any more.

Sending jobs overseas is not a problem. Outsourcing jobs, setting up free trade agreements that basically allow other countries to take our jobs, take our resources, this is the face now of the Republican Party. And the saddest thing of all, in my opinion, and this is what I think many of my colleagues, why so many of my colleagues on the Democratic side were here tonight talking about the war and putting up the faces of those who had died in the war, is that Republicans, from what I remember, used to be very wary of getting America involved in overseas conflicts.

Throughout the 20th century, the Republican Party, in many cases, was what we call isolationist, meaning that they felt very strongly that we should not get involved overseas, we should not get involved in wars overseas if they were not in our national interest.

Many Republican Senators and Members of the House of Representatives would come to the floor throughout the 20th century, those in leadership roles, and question whether America should be involved in wars overseas. But we do not see the face of that Republican Party anymore.

We just get involved in wars wherever it happens to be. We do not worry about the rationale for the war. We do not worry about the fact that so many people died or are wounded or the amount of resources we spent on the war.

My colleagues tonight talked about war in Afghanistan and Iraq as if it was going to go on for a long time and last beyond, who knows, 5, 10, 15, 20 years. What is the cost of that? What is the cost in terms of Americans lives and cost in terms of the resources that we have to spend in Iraq and in other places that could be spent on domestic priorities here, educational needs, health care needs, housing needs here at home as opposed to the billions and billions of dollars that are being spent in Iraq?

Do not tell me that we should not think about how we are going to end the Iraq war and how we can end it soon, because every American life that is lost and every dollar that is spent over there could possibly, that dollar could be spent here and that life could be saved. And I would like to know what happened to the Republican Party that used to question our involvement overseas, that used to worry about how much we spent, that used to worry about how many lives would be lost, that suggested that we should only be involved in overseas wars if our national interest was at stake? I do not hear about that Republican Party anymore.

War is supposed to be a last resort. Many Republicans used to say that. They do not say that anymore.

So I will say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, it is not the Democratic Party that has changed. The Democratic Party is still looking out for the little guy. The Democratic Party is still concerned about our economy and our jobs and putting America first. It is the Republican Party that, in fact, has lost sight of that with the Republican leadership that we see here running the House of Representatives.

And I could go on and on. I do not really seek to, because I am not interested in being negative. I would rather be positive. I would like to see the day when we get together and work on issues together. But the only way that that can happen is if the Republican majority and its leadership allows the Democrats to participate, allows the Democrats to provide ideas, allows Democrats to speak, allows Democrats to propose amendments. That is not what we are seeing.

It was very interesting tonight because when we had the first Special Order and we began to read the names of those soldiers who had died in Iraq, there were both Democrats and Republicans on the floor. It was my colleague, the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. Jones) who voted for the war but says now that it is time to get out. And I think what is beginning to happen here is that there are some Republicans who are beginning to realize the Democrats are right; that it is time for us to get out of Iraq; that we have to have an exit strategy; that there is too much abuse of power on the part of the Republican majority; that in fact too much of Republican policy is aimed towards helping the millionaire and the big-shot rather than the little guy; that there is too much emphasis on the Republican side in terms of Republican policy about worrying about free trade and whether or not we can get something cheaper done overseas instead of trying to protect a job for Americans here at home.

And there are some Republicans who have expressed interest and concern about the deficit and the crippling impact it has on the economy and, in fact, that the economy is not that good. So there is hope here.

I would like to end on a positive note because I do believe that there are members of the Republican Party, my colleagues on the other side, that now realize that on many of these policy issues Democrats are right. And, hopefully, we can forge a bipartisan leadership that will address some of these issues in a positive way. But it is only going to begin when my colleagues on the other side realize that they have to give an opportunity for Democrats to speak, that they cannot abuse the power of their majority. And we are not there yet, but hopefully we can be in the next few weeks or the next few months before this session of Congress is over.

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