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30-Something Working Group

Location: Washington, DC

30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - November 04, 2005)


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Our good friend, the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier), was defending the Republican leadership's position here that they are committed to cutting the deficit, and that that is, you know, a major reason why next week they are going to rain down these horrendous terrible cuts in the budget on the people who are the most in need.

I was not very good at math when I was younger. But you know, the most simplistic mathematical calculation would tell you that if they are going to cut $50 billion out of the budget next week, yet still provide $70 billion worth of tax cuts, than I guess I just wonder how they are going to reduce the deficit when you are still adding $20 billion to it.

I mean, and then that is to say nothing of the fact that when you cut the budget, you are doing nothing to reduce the deficit. That is just what is so mind-boggling.

I think if we can, I would like to translate, because words like deficit and reconciliation and big Washington-speak words like that are sometimes hard for regular folks in our districts to understand, so let us talk about what this reconciliation budget-cut document that we are going to take up next week, what it really means for people.

In the Agriculture Committee, they voted to cut $844 million from the food stamp program, which would kick 300,000 families out of the program and leave 40,000 children ineligible for free school lunches. Now, that is not whining. That means a little boy or little girl is going to have a grumbly tummy day after day.

Do you know what it feels like? I know what it feels like to not have anything in my tummy. I do not have anything in my tummy right now. But I have the ability to go out and buy a sandwich. People who get free and reduced school lunches do not have that luxury.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Where is their moral outrage? Where are their morals? That is what I want to know. I am a mom. I have three little kids. The gentleman from Florida (Mr. Meek) has two young children.

Can you imagine a circumstance where you would allow your children to go hungry if you could do something about it? Our role here as Members of Congress, we are supposed to look out for the people who cannot look out for themselves. That is what government is for.

Children are our most vulnerable citizens. Laws are written and government exists so that we can take care of kids because they cannot make their parents earn enough money to be able to pay for their breakfast and their lunch. That is where we come in. That is where government fills in for the individuals, society.

It is not fathomable to me. When I gave birth to my children, my life transformed overnight. Overnight. In a matter of hours. And my whole life became not about me any more, or my day-to-day needs; but about their day-to-day needs. That is why we are here, because we are supposed to be taking care of the needs of people who cannot do it for themselves


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Connecticut (Mr. Larson). He is incredibly eloquent, and I tremor following that eloquence.

I want to just follow up with some specifics, because our good friend from California (Mr. Dreier) was here earlier challenging our description of our inability to make an impact and offer our ideas here. He described this mythological bipartisan process. Well, let us counter some of the facts he threw out there.

There have been 85 pieces of legislation that have had rules applied to them. For those who are listening that do not know what that means, we have restrictions placed on our ability as Members to offer amendments and offer our own ideas and help shape legislation every time, almost every time a bill is introduced on the floor. There have been 85 such bills that have been introduced.

Of those, 38 of them have had restrictive rules, meaning the Committee on Rules decides which, if any, amendments we are going to be allowed to offer. Fifteen of those rules, 15 individual pieces of legislation, have been entirely closed, meaning no Member is allow to offer any amendments whatsoever. Three additional closed rules were added into an entirely separate bill. Of the 85 pieces of legislation that have come on this floor that have had rules apply to them, there has only been one substantive bill that had an open rule, meaning any Member can offer, meaning any Member elected in our own right, each by the same 633,000 people that we all represent, only one substantive bill has had an open rule where we can offer any amendment and any idea that we would like to offer.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. What we are here going to say is that the emperor truly does have not clothes. If you remember that story, everyone in the kingdom in that story refused to acknowledge that the emperor was buck naked because they were worried about the consequences. They wanted to make sure that nothing happened to them. Well, we are not afraid. We are not afraid.

It needs to be highlighted and underscored. What they are doing to the American people needs to be brought out, and we are saying do not believe us. This is not what Kendrick Meek and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are saying or Tim Ryan or any of the other Members that have come to this floor to share angst and concern.

We are saying look at the third party validators that we have saying the exact same thing. We are saying look at the religious leaders who are urging and who just yesterday came to the Congress to urge the congressional leadership not to put forth these drastic cuts that are going to hurt people.

This is from today's Washington Post. This is not a quotation from someone else. This is in the story on the budget cuts. It says, With so many controversial provisions, the House measure is forcing Republican leaders to scramble for support in what could be the most difficult vote of the year. Well, I would agree. This should be the most difficult vote of the year. When you are cutting people's food stamps, when you are cutting their children's ability to get free and reduced lunch, when you are cutting $4.9 billion from child support programs that help people collect money from deadbeat dads, yeah, I would guess that is a tough vote. Lord, I would hope so.

It goes on to say, Some Republican moderates are balking at cuts to anti-poverty programs, especially in light of the $70 billion tax cut that could come to a vote soon after the budget bill, more than wiping out that bill's deficit reduction.

Well, here it is. It is not what Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kendrick Meek are saying. The article describing the budget cuts, the reconciliation bill, specifically says that there is no deficit reduction in what they are doing. What they are doing is to try to preserve the tax cuts for the wealthy, make sure that their right wing, that their right flank does not go absolutely ballistic, because that wing of the party does not care about taking care of people. They are trying to make sure they preserve what they have and what the upper echelon has.

Let us talk about because if you do not believe the Washington Post, you think it is paper that is off the mark, let us just go through what some of our religious leaders are saying. We are not talking about liberal religious leaders or progressive religious leaders. We are talking about mainstream religious leadership that came here yesterday and joined in prayer at the Capitol.

They included Reverend Dr. Bob Edgar, who is the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of the United States; Jim Wallis of Sojourners magazine; Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center; and Eleanor Giddings Ivory of the Presbyterian Church. Let me go through a couple of things that they said in urging the Republican leadership not to do this, not to harm and cause harm to the people that this budget will affect.

Reverend Jim Wallis: ``As this moral battle for the budget unfolds, I am calling on Members of Congress, some of whom make much out of their faith, to start some Bible studies before they cast votes to cut food stamps, Medicaid, child care and more that hurt the weakest in our Nation.''

Rabbi David Saperstein: The budget reconciliation package with its $50 billion in program cuts and $70 billion tax cuts giveaway is morally unjustifiable.

Reverend Eleanor Giddings Ivory of the Presbyterian Church: I am here today to express concern for the Federal budget reconciliation packages under consideration in the House and the Senate. Our Nation is about to balance its budget on the backs of the poor. Is that a moral thing to do? Clearly the answer is, no, it is not.

Let me just tell you, I was so moved by Rabbi Saperstein's comments in their effort yesterday. He, as is the practice of many of our religious colleagues on both sides of the aisle but particularly because the Republican leadership and its Members like to use their faith so often to underscore how they have injected values into government, Rabbi Saperstein urged our colleagues and said that they ought to remember that the Bible urges us to ``deal thy bread to the hungry,'' not ``steal thy bread from the hungry.'' He asked us to remember Proverbs' stern warning: ``Do not steal from the weak because he is weak and do not oppress the poor in the gate.''

I could go on, but there have been many more than just the religious leaders that were here yesterday who have urged this Congress not to take these actions. It not only will harm people, cause grave harm for people who have already been on the brink, it will not improve anything. It does not reduce our deficit. It does not improve our economy. It only brings harm, and I think if we are going to subscribe to anything it is the physician's oath. That should be something we live by, which is first do no harm. When we get here, we should commit to doing no harm, and it appears unfortunately as though the Republican leadership came here to do the opposite.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. You know, I have been seriously considering coming to the Chamber next Friday in my pajamas, given the track record of controversial votes, where they make their Members, the Republican leadership makes their Members puke blood in not allowing them to decide what to do, to stand on the courage of their convictions. They keep the board open, and we watch it light up like a Christmas tree up there, red to green, green to red. It is just unbelievable.

Sometimes I think the board is malfunctioning. Maybe it is not functioning. Maybe we should get an electrician in here. Maybe we should have the electrician check the wiring behind the Republican Members' names and their lights, because they do not seem to be able to pick one and have it stay there. Every time they have to cast a controversial vote, it goes from no to yes, then yes to no; or they do not appear to be able to turn their own light on for a very long time, because they cannot decide. Is it that they cannot decide?

I just want to make sure, because it is deeply concerning to me that they would not know when they came to the floor how to vote on a bill that is going to cut food stamps, that is going to cut financial aid, that cuts access to affordable energy, that allows drilling around the entire coastline of the United States of America where it is not currently allowed. So there has to be something wrong with the wiring.

Next week, I am going to be here in my pajamas and a teddy bear with a nice cup of coffee because we are really going to have to settle in for a long night. It is not going to be a normal 15-minute or a normal 5-minute vote, because I think the wiring under that board is going to go haywire next week. They are clearly not going to get their way right away because this is going to be a gut-wrenching angst-ridden vote. Woe to the Member on their side that does not vote how the leadership wants them to.

Sometimes when we talk in trillions and billions and millions it is a hard concept for people to understand. I know it is hard for me. A trillion is such a huge number. An $8 trillion deficit is what we are in the middle of right now. That is a huge number. I sometimes cannot understand how big that number is. It is also hard to understand what an $844 million cut from the food stamp program is, or the kind of cuts they are going to be passing down in this budget reconciliation document that is going to affect affordable housing.

I want to show this picture. This picture is of me standing in the apartment of one of my constituents whose roof caved in on her during Hurricane Wilma. These are the people that, on top of what they have already gone through, on top of what they have already gone through, now we are going to cut the budget that funds the very programs that exist to help them.

There are people in dire straits in south Florida after Hurricane Wilma and in the gulf coast region after Katrina. There are people who before the hurricanes hit were in dire straits. This is what the problem really looks like for people. These people cannot live in homes like this because this home was condemned. Obviously, nobody can live in the apartment in this picture, and I wish that there was only one that looked like this in south Florida. This is the plight that we are putting people through.

Before we give out the Web site, I want to close by saying that we are in the middle of adding ``C'' after ``C'': with the culture of corruption, cronyism, and the lack of confidence that the American people have in their government, and now we have the coverup Congress. That is what came to light here this week. We have repeatedly asked for investigations, that this leadership stand up and do what is right. And Leader Pelosi has tried to get them to do that, and they have unanimously rejected that.

We are going to continue to come back to this floor and stand up for the American people, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue with my colleague.


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