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Public Statements

Disapproval Resolution Regarding the Debt Limit Increase

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Madam Speaker, I'm a great fan of the tradition of comedy in America, and I want to salute my Republican colleagues for this tribute to one of our great comedians who died tragically early, Gilda Radner, who in the early days of ``Saturday Night Live'' invented the character of Roseanne Roseannadanna, who would get on the news segment and say something outlandish. And then when she was corrected, her response was, ``Never mind.''

This is the ``never mind'' resolution that the Republicans have brought forward. People should understand what this says. It says that the bill that we passed that kept the government from shutting down--and I didn't like the bill, but I liked the part of it that kept the government from shutting down. I was ready to vote just for an increase in the debt limit. Singling out the increase in the debt limit and canceling it, that's what this does. What this says is--and here's the problem. We have a majority that has a problem with reality. They have a problem with reality in the field of science. They have a problem with reality in the field of the economy.

One of the manifestations of that is their objection to raising the debt limit that was in large part necessary because of debt they incurred. You know, when the debt limit came up, it struck me: It wasn't my debt limit; I didn't vote for the war in Iraq at a cost of a trillion dollars; I didn't vote to give millionaires a tax cut that they didn't need and that had no beneficial effect on the economy. But I did, out of a sense of responsibility, vote to raise the debt limit. Now, I voted against one of them, but I voted for several others.

What this bill says is this: Yes, we had to, because we were getting a lot of pressure, vote to raise the debt limit, but now that that is safely behind us, we're going to pretend that we were really against it. So this is the ``never mind'' resolution. People should understand this. What this resolution would do would be to undo what just happened.

So we have Members on the majority side who have trouble explaining to their primary voters why they had a temporary embrace of reality. Now they're not comfortable with that. Their primary voters aren't comfortable with that. So having done what they had to do, they now want to pretend that they're going to undo it.

The Senate has already killed this. They don't want it to pass because, understand what it would do, it would put us right back in the debt limit situation crisis.

And, by the way, these are people who are putting this resolution forward who purport to believe that a major concern with the economy today is the uncertainty that faces investors. So what do they do? They bring up a resolution today that would re-create--if anyone took it seriously, and I will give them the credit of saying that they don't. But if anyone took it seriously, it would re-create the greatest source of uncertainty we've seen in a long time, whether or not the Federal Government was going to shut down. So that's the phoniness of this.

Now let's talk about the substance. My colleagues claim to be against spending. Apparently, in their world, the nearly $700 billion that is spent annually by the Pentagon isn't spending. I don't know what it is. We have a situation in which this year in the budget the Republicans brought forward a bill to increase military spending by $17 billion while funds for local police and funds for local street repair were cut. So that's the problem.

Yes, I am for reducing spending. I am for reducing a swollen Pentagon budget. We had the President reduce by 10,000 the troops in Afghanistan. Many on the Republican side, including their leadership, criticized him for that. Do they think 10,000 troops in Afghanistan are paid for with ``funny'' money?

The fact is that while on the one hand we hear these complaints about spending, we have people who are pushing for more and more spending. And I have to say here that I would include my administration in this. And I think if the President expects us to go along with certain restraints elsewhere, adding billions of dollars to what we have already wasted in Iraq by keeping thousands of troops in Iraq beyond this--and, by the way, why are we keeping troops in Iraq? One of the leading advocates for keeping troops in Iraq, a leading Republican Senator, Senator Graham, said we must keep our troops in Iraq because we have to police the border between the Arabs and the Kurds, that at a time when we are denying funds to our cities to police their own areas.

So, let's be clear. First of all, this sham says, You know what? We had to vote to raise the debt limit. We're now going to engage in this mock exercise of taking back what we did. If anybody takes it seriously, it will send waves of uncertainty back into the economy. But, secondly, going forward, yes, join us. And that includes some on the Republican side--unfortunately, a small minority. Don't give more and more and more for the military not to defend America, not to fight terrorism. Those things are not in controversy, but to subsidize the wealthy European nations.

Madam Speaker, the NATO nations outside the United States spend an average of 1.7 percent of their gross domestic product on the military. We spend 5.4 percent--more than three times as much. And my Republican colleagues have resisted reducing that. What they want to do is subsidize the social safety nets and the spending of Western Europe at the expense of spending here. And how do we do that? By allowing them to hold down the military.

So people who want to keep troops in Iraq; people who objected when the President began a withdrawal that was too timid, in my judgment, from Afghanistan; people who want to continue to spend unnecessarily and unwisely not to defend America but to keep America the worldwide policemen have no credibility in complaining about spending.

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