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The 30-Something Working Group

Location: Washington, DC

THE 30-SOMETHING WORKING GROUP -- (House of Representatives - December 17, 2005)


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Ryan, I am the new kid on the block here, and I do not sit on the Armed Services Committee; and I completely agree it is a privilege and honor to have Mr. Spratt join us tonight.

But, you know, Mr. Spratt, my observation being of the shortest tenure among the four of us is, at least since I have been here, we should not be surprised that they would do this, because you start at the beginning of this year, and it was very clear that the leadership here has no regard for the process, no regard for the system of checks and balances, they have no regard for the judiciary.

At the beginning of this year, 10 weeks into my tenure, they put the Terri Schiavo bill on the floor, even though you had months and years of court decisions that made it clear that it was not appropriate for Congress to insert itself into one family's tragedy. Yet to them it was seemingly the right thing to do, to insert the legislative branch of government into an area that was clearly the jurisdiction of the courts.

Now you fast forward to the end of the year, and throughout this year they have had other examples of their lack of regard for the governmental mechanics and the lack of regard for decency into what the American people support. Adding campaign finance provisions or anything other than the protection and defense of this country to the Defense appropriations bill? I mean, really.

If they were so concerned about campaign finance reform, why are they waiting until less than 24 hours before we are supposed to adjourn here? Really, we were supposed to adjourn weeks ago. I mean, they have so little regard for process that they are not able to get the job done. I mean, we are here, and it is a week before Christmas and Chanukah and the beginning of the holiday season, and we are still here in the Chamber debating things that should have been settled long ago.

So it has just been obvious to me since I began my term that they have no regard for the process, no regard for the American people's priorities, and they just keep setting example after example.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. We thank the gentleman from South Carolina so much for joining us. Your expertise is incredibly helpful in terms of us highlighting the problems that we are trying to address in this Chamber.

Do you know how I would analogize the fact that the Republican leadership has now allowed the drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to be added to the Defense appropriations bill, that they have actually agreed to that? I would analogize it this way, and analogize the addition of any extraneous material, campaign finance reform, well, I would say, we almost would have to say ``reverse campaign finance reform,'' because the 527 legislation that they are talking about is more insidious, not being done in a way that would be designed to help add to the public discourse.

But the addition of campaign finance issues or oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to the Defense appropriations bill, the way I would analogize it is similar to insurgents in Iraq and in other areas of the world using children as shields. When our troops go into a neighborhood in Iraq and the insurgents put women and children in front of them so that they get killed instead of the insurgents, that is exactly what the Republican leadership is trying to do here. They are trying to put things in that they cannot get passed on their own because they cannot stand on their own merits.

They are putting the Defense appropriations bill, analogous to the women and children in war-torn countries, in front of items that have no merit, that do not have broad bipartisan support, and that cannot pass by themselves and, as a result, causing significant, unnecessary harming to this country. It is just absolutely unconscionable.

It is another circumvention of the process. It is another example of not dealing straight; another example of the incompetence, of the corruption, of the cronyism. Why can they not just be straight?

I serve on a committee where we work together in a bipartisan fashion. We lay our cards on the table in the Financial Services Committee. We agree on some things; we do not agree on others. But there is no clandestine backroom dealing. There is no attempt in that committee to try to stick things in that they can hide what they are really trying to do.

The American people want openness. They want us to vote clearly. I want a clear shot to vote tomorrow. I support defense of this country. Since I have been here, I have taken every opportunity to vote ``yes'' on defending this country to the degree that we need to. But I have serious problems, and so do my constituents, with drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. Quite honestly, we have a raging debate about oil drilling off the coast of Florida. Fortunately, that is not in this bill, but it could have been.

If we are going to continue the debate that we have had on campaign finance reform, then it should be done in the open. It should be done not at the last minute when we are trying to get out of here for the holidays. It should be done in the deliberative fashion, in the appropriate place, in the committees of jurisdiction. But they cannot get it in the honest and straight and fair way. It has to be the back door. It has to be clandestine. And it has to be putting things that they feel like most Members could not vote against in front of, just like insurgents put women and children in front of them so that they can get hurt first.

The American people are going to get hurt first when extraneous material that has nothing to do with the defense of our country is in front of some awful proposals that would never be sustained on their own.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Before you change the subject, I just want to say, on veterans, because if we are going to talk about tails, there is the tail the size of a doberman and one the size of a German shepherd. I want to do the length of a German shepherd on this.

We are not talking about the fact that a chairman here who was wonderful for veterans was removed from the chairmanship and removed from the committee. We can go much further and lengthen the tail and talk about the commitment or severe lack thereof commitment to veterans and their health care and sustaining veterans who have given not just their lives but dedicated their lives to this country and put their lives on the line.

Just 6 months ago, we finally had a culmination of a debate that we had begun where we, as Democrats, have been insisting that the Veterans Affairs had a significant shortfall in their budget, at least $1 billion, and there was denial after denial that that was the case. I was not here. In fact, I was not a Member of Congress at the beginning of that debate.

Then I joined the Congress, and a few months later, we are on the floor passing a supplemental appropriation because the Republican leadership here had to finally acknowledge that there was a shortfall. We had to come in and pass an emergency appropriation so that our veterans could continue to get health care.

As it is, the Republican administration here makes them wait at least 6 months to get any health care services. Now, in this budget, we are going to be cutting, under the Republican's plan, veterans health care by as much as $600 million, even as we have the number of our veterans growing with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So it is not just what we are doing to veterans by throwing out the Members here on both sides who support them, but we are also totally shortchanging them. I just wanted to add that.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. While we are at it, while we are cutting the budget and basically paying for what is going on in the war in Iraq, we are providing billions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy, and we are all about third party validators here.

On top of what you just outlined, tax analysts agree, and this is in the New York Times, third party validators, tax analysts agree that the overwhelming bulk of the dividend goes to the top 5 percent of income earners. We just passed a $56 billion tax cut package over 5 years one day last week after we passed another tax cut package that is $39 billion over 5 years. There was no argument, no argument at all that the tax cuts that we have been passing go to the top two-tenths of 1 percent of the wealthiest people in America.

When I go home, I represent a fairly middle class district, working families, not the depths of the poor, working families. When I stand up in town hall meetings, I ask my folks to raise your hand if you have benefited from any of the tax breaks that have been handed down by the Bush administration for the last 6 years. Do you know, maybe one, two hands go up in a roomful of hundreds of people? Who are getting these tax breaks? The Rolls Royce Republicans. That is who are getting these tax breaks. That is what this administration and this leadership is all about, the Rolls Royce Republicans.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. We have got to stop thinking about the special interests before we think about the average American because that is really what it boils down to, and those Republicans that you are talking about, I represent a lot of them.

I live in a town that precinct by precinct, 13 precincts in my town, in this city of Weston; every single one of them is majority Republican registration. I cannot walk down the street without interacting with a Republican registered voter, and by the way, I win every one of those precincts with more than 60 percent of the vote. I am certainly not a Republican, and the reason that happens is because it happens to be a community that has some wealth. People stop me in the supermarket, on the soccer field all the time and say: DEBBIE, keep the darn tax cut. I do not need the tax cut. It does not help me that much. I want my kid to have a good education. I want people to have health care.

They understand. They understand that the economy does not boom because the top two-tenths of 1 percent of Americans get a tax cut. They understand that it is kids who grow up and can get a good education and who sit across the desk from these constituents of mine, most of whom are employers, who are bosses who are interviewing kids who graduate from high school unprepared for the path that they choose in life because we are not adequately funding education because they come to work sick and have to go home early because we have 45 million people who do not have health insurance.

They want to know where this Republican leadership's priorities are, where their Republican party that they have chosen to affiliate themselves with, where their priorities are, because it is not with them. I am not sure what our other colleagues' Republican constituents are saying to them, but that is what mine are saying to me.

I think we have got to stop being the Congress of the special interests and return to being the Congress of the American people. While we are on the subject of the success of this administration, and you talk about how significant that deficit, and the combination of 42 other Presidents combined, had a bigger deficit. The President does like to talk about the success of the economy and how it is experiencing a resurgence and how we are really in real good shape right now. I want to just show you a chart that I had made up. It gives you an example of the economic success of America under the Bush administration.

Let us go down memory lane. Under the administration of Bush 41, the Dow went up 10.1 percent. Under President Clinton's first Presidency, 19.6 percent. Second Clinton Presidency, 12.3 percent. Negative. Three percent under this President's first term; now two-tenth's of 1 percent. Literally, President Clinton's Dow went up 225 percent; and under this President, the Dow has gone up 3 percent. Not exactly a stellar record in terms of improving the economy.


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