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Do-Nothing Congress

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. PELOSI. Thank you very much, Mr. Hoyer. I appreciate your yielding and your leadership in bringing us together on the floor of the House. We are after-hours, and it is only 12:40, but it's after-hours on a Friday afternoon. That is in the context that we left here on August 3. We're not due back until November 14, and yet we have had only 8 legislative days of work in that period of time.

I thank you for calling that dereliction of duty to the attention of the American people because we have work to do. It's not as if our work is finished. As you have indicated, there is critical legislation that is expiring that has passed even in the Senate; yet Republicans have blocked the vote in the House, whether it's middle income tax relief, postal reform, violence against women, the farm bill and then, of course, initiatives proposed by President Obama to create jobs for our economy.

I was so pleased to hear what our colleague, Congresswoman Schwartz, had to say about Medicare, because our names are all on the ballot in this year's election. But what is really at stake is Medicare. Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. As you said, Mr. Hoyer, they offered nothing except to raise costs to seniors for getting less as they phase out Medicare.

I wanted to talk about another subject because it's a larger issue as I hear this question bandied about. You hear people say, Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago? The Republicans have the nerve to pose that question that when you look back to 4 years ago, this very week, Mr. Speaker, you would know that we are indeed fundamentally and unquestionably better off as a country today. This week, 4 years ago, September 18 to be exact, but this week, there was a meeting in my office when I was Speaker of the Democratic and Republican leadership

of the House and of the Senate gathered together to hear a report from the administration that was very alarming.

Mind you, September 18, 2008, the Secretary of the Treasury, Hank Paulson, described for us a financial system in imminent danger of total collapse. Chairman Bernanke at that same meeting, the chairman of the Fed, told us if we did not act immediately, we would not have an economy by Monday. This was a Thursday evening. You remember, Mr. Hoyer. You were there. If we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday. How on Earth can people who perpetrated that situation on our country have the nerve to turn around and ask that question? At the end of the meeting, we all went out in a bipartisan way and spoke to the press. I said at the time, Time is of the essence and that Congress would act. I was trying to lift confidence in our financial situation.

Despite there being a Presidential election 7 weeks away at that time, it was no time for partisanship. The crisis demanded that Democrats and Republicans work with President Bush to rescue our economy from depression or, as Chairman Bernanke said, from our not having an economy 4 days later.

In the days ahead, our country confronted the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The costs were staggering: more than $8 trillion lost in household wealth, more than 8 million jobs lost, and more than 4 million families losing their homes to foreclosure. Nonetheless, the Democrats voted with President Bush to restore confidence in our markets, and the Republicans even walked away from their own President.

In the 2 years after that September 18 meeting, we continued to take actions to reduce spending and to address what was inevitable from the policies of the 8 years previous to the November 2008 election. When we took the majority and with President Obama in office, we took action to reduce spending, create jobs, keep people in their homes, and passed Dodd-Frank, the toughest Wall Street reforms in generations. With it--the most historic for the first time--protections for American consumers in that bill. All of it was fought vigorously against by the Republicans.

Now we have President Obama, and we have a Republican Congress. Under President Obama's leadership, we have added private sector jobs for 30 straight months, compared to losing 700,000 jobs a month as he entered office; the auto industry, which was facing extinction, and the loss of over 1 million jobs in that industry is again competitive and hiring and thriving; the Dow Jones average, which is one reflection of the security of tens of millions of American investors and pension funds, has already doubled; and housing prices are slowly rising again. We need much more progress there. Imagine, from that time the Dow Jones has doubled.

We still have work to do to continue the American recovery. If the Republicans had cooperated at all with President Obama in the last 2 years, we would be much farther down the road to recovery. We cooperated with President Bush; but they would not offer an ounce of cooperation to President Obama, and our economy has paid the price. We have reaped the benefits of some of what happened in the 2 years when we were in the majority and President Obama was in the first 2 years of his term. But so much more could have been done with some cooperation from the Republicans.

We get back to the question: Are we better off this week in September than we were this week 4 years ago? You be the judge.

I know America's families are hurting. We want to do more to create jobs, et cetera, and we have to have bipartisan cooperation to do that. The Republicans have resisted that. From that standpoint, yes, we can do better.

But from the standpoint of this country when there was a financial crisis, we were on the verge of a total collapse where the chairman of the Fed told us that if we did not act immediately, we wouldn't have an economy by Monday. Yes, we are fundamentally as a country better off and, therefore, the prospects for the future are better for all of America's families, and that's what we are here to work on, the future.

Too bad our Republican colleagues have cut and run from town, but we stand ready to welcome them back to work in a bipartisan way to make concessions to get the job done for the American people.

I thank you, Mr. Hoyer, for giving us all the opportunity to express our views on the subject today.


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