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Public Statements

Highest Debt in History

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

HIGHEST DEBT IN HISTORY -- (House of Representatives - June 20, 2007)


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Mr. Ryan and Mr. Murphy.

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to be here with my colleagues from the 30-Something Working Group once again.

Just to jump off what our good friend Mr. Murphy was talking about, we are in the midst of the ``New Direction Congress.'' Mr. Ryan, Mr. Meek and I spent the last several years on this floor railing about the ``culture of corruption,'' railing against our good friends on the other side of the aisle, whose only interest when they spoke about tax cuts was providing those tax cuts to the wealthiest few in this country.

Now, what is amazing about our ability to move this country in a new direction is that we can really focus on those targeted tax cuts that will help the average working family, the regular folks, the people who don't have the ability to just kick back, put their feet up on the desk and live on Easy Street day in and day out.

We are talking about people who live paycheck to paycheck. Not poor people who live paycheck to paycheck, but people in middle America, who make sure that all their bills are paid, just like we are trying to do here with our PAYGO provision, but make sure all their bills are paid. But it takes every dollar they have to do it.

Then you add to their budget the increased price of gas, which increases the price of food, which impacts everything that regular, everyday working families have to deal with. And we hit them under the Republican-led Congress with an Alternative Minimum Tax, that was never supposed to be directed at them, but ultimately scooped up so many of those hardworking taxpayers. And you know we listened to the garbage rhetoric that is so tired on the other side.

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. Mr. Speaker, it is like the 1992-1993 talking points have been taken off the shelf somewhere in the cloakroom and dusted off.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, I am glad the gentleman jumped in. It is like either they have a tape recorder that is stuck on rewind, or maybe we are trapped in ``Groundhog Day'' and we don't know it, or maybe they are just tired.

We used to be in meetings, and I have sat in many meetings where I have had colleagues and supporters express frustration because they marvel at our Republican friends' ability to come up with these pithy, cute, packaged messages and that ours aren't as cute and pithy and succinct.

Well, do you know what? That is because we don't have purely simplistic solutions to complex problems. The American people saw right through the pithy, cute, succinct, tired slogans that the Republicans have been throwing at them year after year and don't believe them anymore. They reached the point where they won't just take what they say when they repeat it over and over again at face value.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, they also talked about earmark reform. They were railing on and on about earmark reform.

Who brought earmark reform to Congress? We did. Who brought about the beginning of the end of the war in Iraq, hopelessly mired in a chaotic conflict in another country? If you rewind back to pre-November 7, what was their cute, pithy, succinct little saying? Stay the course. We can't pull out. We can't cut and run.

Who is scrambling to make sure they can protect their own political hides now and be supportive of making sure that we can withdraw, but in a responsible fashion? Well, it is they that spend plenty of time talking about that. We are the ones that are bringing about the beginning of the end of this war by putting those votes up on that board and bringing those bills to this floor that they refused to yield on.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Speaker, when we bring an energy package the week before we leave for the July 4 recess that really begins to make sure that we end our addiction to foreign oil, they will know it was the Democrats. When we make sure we bring about an end to this war in Iraq, they will know it was the Democrats. And they will say repeatedly, ``they'' being the smart American citizens, American voters, they will say to our good friends on the other side of the aisle exactly what they said to them on November 7, after listening over and over to the same tired slogans, ``Talk to the hand. We don't want to hear it anymore. We see through your garbage. And we are voting to make sure we can move this country in a new direction.''


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. You stand here and scratch your head and wonder how it is they could allow it to get to this point. There is no logical, rational explanation. The only thing I could come up with is, A, they think we are dealing with Monopoly money here and it is not real money and it is not real debt; or, B, it is not really my personal debt, so it doesn't affect my personal bottom line, so it doesn't matter; or, C, which is the worst, they just didn't care.

It just didn't matter. Their rhetoric was of the utmost importance to them. Making sure they could continue to pass tax cuts that benefited the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, the debt be damned, the deficit be damned, none of that mattered to them, as long as they could keep their contributors happy.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Murphy, to add insult to injury, the administration, now that they are not in power here, the administration is using its ability through their agencies to try to cram new formulas down the throats of our hospitals so their reimbursement rate is dramatically impacted, dramatically cut, so that they aren't able to serve the people who need the most help.

So not only are our seniors getting nailed by not being able to make sure that they have truly the lowest possible prices that they can pay, that we could negotiate on their behalf for prescription drugs, but our hospitals are facing major cuts at the hands of the administration without any input from elected officials, just bureaucrats in the Bush White House's administration.

They actually have one proposed formula change that would presume that hospitals are just going to game the system, so they are cutting money out of their budgets, just because. Pretty much just because they think they are going to play with their numbers. Because they are going to make that assumption, they are going to take the money away, rather than prove that they do that and then take the money away.

That is accountability? That is like what is that game that you play on the street, Three Card Monte. They are playing Three Card Monte with people's health care. I don't know. Maybe it is because most of the people who run this country in the Bush administration can afford to pay their own medical bills, so maybe it is just they have hired too many people who don't understand what it is like to try to pay the bills every month. Really, it is just beyond baffling.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. It is people who need to be able tomorrow pay for their gas in their car and who are running businesses who need to pay for the vehicles their employees are operating so they can make sure they can serve their customers so they can stay in business and pay their employees. Those are the people they are not thinking about.

I had a press conference a couple of weeks ago with Congressman Klein who also replaced a Member in a district that had not been represented by a Democrat for 26 years. We were out there with some of our small business owners who talked about the impact of gas prices on their bottom line.

I have a constituent in Southwest Ranches who runs a repair business. He literally last year employed 24 people, Mr. Ryan, and now employs 14. He directly attributes this to the fact that he can't afford the gas that he needs to be able to run his trucks around to the businesses that want to hire him to do the repair work. That is just unbelievable.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Could I ask you a question, Mr. Ryan? We are both on the Appropriations Committee and the committee is working very hard in a bipartisan way, I might add, to produce a product that we can really have the American people be proud of.

Is the President talking about signing this bill into law?

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. The President is talking about vetoing this bill, my good friend.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Vetoing this bill. Isn't this the same President that talked, again more words, no action, talked about the need for America to end our addiction to foreign oil in his State of the Union that we sat right in this Chamber and heard him say?


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. You know, Mr. Murphy, what you and Mr. Ryan just outlined is what Speaker Pelosi always talks about when we are in our Caucus meetings and when I have heard her talk about the direction that she is helping us lead this country, and that is the budget, and by extension the appropriations bills, are an expression of our values.

Mr. Ryan, you talked about our colleague on the other side, and I was in the Chamber when you stood up and talked about that. It really is an expression of our values and a stark contrast in the difference between ours and theirs. Their values were expressed in the energy bills that they passed in the 109th Congress, which gave away $14 billion in subsidies to the oil industry, which when we came into the majority we included in our first 100-hour agenda. The first six bills we passed, one of those was repealing those $14 billion in subsidies so we could responsibly use that money to expand alternative energy research. We earmarked that money appropriately and are holding it so that we can make sure we spend it on really ending our addiction to foreign oil.

So if you look at the Homeland Security bill, the Military Construction bill, the Energy and Water bill, all of the appropriations bills that we are going through right now, they are an expression of our values. They

show these stark and clear differences between the way we choose to take this country, in the direction we choose to take this country, versus the direction that they had us on, which was careening into oblivion.

Mr. MURPHY of Connecticut. I think I work pretty hard. I get back to the district every minute I can. I see as many people as I am able to. But you don't have to work that hard to hear what the values of the American people are. I mean, you don't have to be everywhere at all times in your district to understand that when people were crying out for energy reform, energy reform wasn't giving more tax giveaways to big oil.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. No, but you do have to be listening. It is very easy to stand as a Member of Congress in front of a group of people, have a town hall meeting, be in a room sitting on your couch in your office, and you are there but you are not listening.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. These are bills, because it is plural, that truly think about what the needs are of the average person, the person that we have been talking about for this whole hour that has a paycheck come in and has to figure out how they are going to pay all the bills with the money that comes in.

The help that we need to give them to do is to make sure not that we put money in their pocket, because like you said, Mr. Ryan, government can't do everything. Government is here to provide assistance when it is needed, when the person doesn't have the ability to deal with the issue on their own.

Like the cost of a student loan, like making sure that they earn a minimal amount of money so they can pay their bills and making sure that the government ensures that the domestic homeland security needs are taken care of, that we have an appropriate number of Border Patrol which has been woefully and inadequately funded under the Bush administration.

They spend a whole lot of time beating on their chest and saying how important it is that we have a strong Border Patrol. The Bush administration did not fund as many or even ask for as many Border Patrol agents as the Clinton administration did. It is just rampant hypocrisy. That is all I have seen in the 2 1/2 years that I have been here. It is blah, blah, blah. All they do is talk, and it is hollow and empty behind the words.

They have the wrong kind of transparency on their side of the aisle, and folks see through it. That is why they are counting on us to make sure that we take care of these things.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Mr. Ryan, you try to come up with what you can compare this to as far as the situation we are in and who we are dealing with here. It is like we are in the 21st century and we are negotiating with the Cro Magnon man, people who are stuck in the Paleozoic era. How do you even begin a conversation?

If it is not their values, maybe it is that they are literally--maybe the tape recorder is broken. Maybe they are stuck in the age of dinosaurs. You can watch TV and see there are commercials on with Cro Magnon man. Maybe they have infiltrated the United States Congress.

Mr. RYAN of Ohio. I see a commercial here. They are going to be mad at you. Why are you making fun of the caveman?

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. I know, I know, I am going to offend the cavemen. But we work with a lot of them. People who think like cavemen. That is not a constituency I have to worry about too much right now. Really, that is what we have to deal with.

Can you imagine sitting around the negotiating table with a caveman. How easy would be it to move the caveman off their view. Not very easy. We need the American people to help continue to communicate with our colleagues and tug them into the 21st century where we are dwelling.

Mr. MURPHY of Connecticut. I am excited that we almost got to the end of the hour without a five syllable word until Paleozoic. That is in part why I joined the 30-something Working Group, to get that kind of vocabulary help.

There is a lot of anger coming from the minority side right now, and I think there is probably reason for them to be angry. When 1 or 2 percent of the population gets the run of the place for 12 years.

Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. They brought it on themselves. They have only themselves to blame.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. We need some more bipartisanship. And the Six in 06 agenda, the Medicare legislation to ensure that we can negotiate for lower drug prices, the repeal of the $14 billion in subsidies, the passage of the 9/11 Commission recommendations, the minimum wage, those bills had an average of 65 Republican votes. We are glad to have the rank and file Members who clearly were stymied and strangled by their leadership in the majority who are willing to do the right thing and come along with us.

I wish we could see more of that bipartisanship and wide open eyes on the war in Iraq because we still have a bunch of lemmings who continue to just be willing to walk off the plank and not ask any questions and continue the same mantra. It is really startling.

The bills that we put out on this floor to establish a timeline and to establish benchmarks and to ensure that we can begin to turn this conflict over to the Iraq government, maybe we got two Republican votes on those bills. And one we got one Republican vote on it.

You know, over the weekend, because we have been waiting, and they all say wait until September. There are 14 who went to the White House and said to the President, you have until September. We are going to hang with you, but in September we better see some results or else.

Over the weekend, in my papers we saw commentary from General Petraeus who said, you know, it is not looking like we are going to be able to do any significant draw down or any draw down of troops in September. In fact, we may need to be in Iraq for 10 years. Ten years.

Mr. Speaker, my children will be adults in 10 years. My oldest kids are 8. That means we will have spent virtually because what we are going on, 6 years in Iraq now, that means we will have spent my children's entire life in Iraq. Can you imagine. Their entire childhood twisted and mired in another country's conflict that we created for no good reason or at least for a reason that wasn't accurate with an administration who can't admit when they are wrong. There is no bipartisanship there, and let's just make that clear.

When, God forbid, when we are still twisted in this war in Iraq next year, we will do our best that we vote to bring those troops home and establish those benchmarks and some accountability. But if we don't have the votes to override a veto with our Republican colleagues, we will still be there next year, and that is what is going to decide the 2008 election.

It is not that I hope that happens because I don't. I want to make sure that the troops come home and are reunited with their family, but we will have a Democratic President at that point because the American people are done. Stick a fork in them, done.


Ms. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ. Two things I just wanted to add on that. For veterans, it means the largest single increase in the 77-year history for veterans health care in the Veterans Administration. What that means is that the people that I serve and that you serve that are veterans who are waiting 7 and 8 months to get their health care taken care of at their local VA hospitals, they're going to get taken care of. Actions to match words, just like the gentleman from Connecticut said.


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