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Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments, and I would remark that I was pleased that he had the opportunity to go to Selma with John Lewis and others of us who had the opportunity to go to the birthplace of our colleague, Terri Sewell. Congresswoman Sewell is on the floor.

The March to Selma, of course, which was interdicted by members of the Alabama State Police at the direction of the Governor, was one of the advances, the gentleman knows, that led to the introduction, passage, and signing by President Johnson of the Voting Rights Act. We are privileged to serve with someone whose contribution to this country and to the realization of its promise of equality to all was so enhanced by the life and commitment and courage of John Lewis, our colleague. And I was glad that the gentleman participated with us on that. I also am very pleased to hear about the Web site. I think that's a very positive step. I want to thank the gentleman also for the information about next week.

Mr. Leader, I would first like to ask about the budget resolution that you referenced that will be coming next week. I wondered if there's any plan on the floor to replace the sequester, which all of us seem to think is irrational--at least I think it's irrational and most of the colleagues I talk to think that it is irrational in that it is a meat-ax approach, and we have offered a number of times to get to the same budget savings--but notwithstanding that, whether there was any thought of replacing the sequester with its cuts to high priority and low priority by the same percentage to replace that. Is there any plan to do that, as far as you know?


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments, and that would be a positive effort, I think, towards that. Of course, if we could adopt a budget and if we could adopt appropriation bills and Ways and Means recommendations pursuant to such a budget, that would be a very much appreciated option to the sequester. Having said that, the Budget Committee did a markup this week on Wednesday, and I know members of the committee worked well into the night, both Republicans and Democrats. And I wanted to ask the gentleman, I know that normally when we bring a budget--both sides have brought a budget--which does in fact allow for substitutes, but for the most part it does not allow individual amendments.

Now I say that because so many amendments were rejected in the committee. Mr. Cárdenas from California offered an amendment to protect the mortgage interest deduction for the middle class. That amendment was voted for unanimously by Democrats and unanimously opposed by Republican members of the committee. Mr. Cicilline offered an amendment to protect workers from privatizing Social Security. Again, on a partisan vote, with Democrats supporting the Cicilline amendment and Republicans opposing it, it was rejected.

Mr. Jeffries from New York offered an amendment to prevent the student loan interest rate from doubling, which as the gentleman knows is set to occur on June 30 without our action. Again, unfortunately, on the same partisan vote--the Democrats voting for the Jeffries amendment and Republicans voting against it--it failed. Mr. Pocan of Wisconsin offered an amendment to protect middle class Americans from tax increases. It seems to me that we have agreement on that; but, nevertheless, that amendment was rejected, again, on a partisan vote, with Democrats voting for it and Republicans voting against it.

Mr. Leader--which I don't understand--Kurt Schrader from Oregon offered a sense of Congress amendment on the need for long-term, balanced deficit reduction. That was also rejected on a party-line basis. And I could go on and mention other amendments--there were approximately 28 of them.

My question to you is, Mr. Leader, is it possible that any of those amendments would be made in order so that the House might work its will on those propositions? And I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments.

I would suggest that the amendments put forward do in fact express policy, which of course is what the budget does. Those policies are pretty straightforward in terms of not raising taxes on the middle class, on making sure that students don't have to pay higher interest for their loans, and making sure that we do in fact proceed with a comprehensive agreement not only to replace the sequester, but to, in a bipartisan way, get us on a road to fiscal sustainability.

Regrettably--as I think the gentleman probably knows--most budgets are usually partisan documents, whether they're offered by Democrats or Republicans. I understand that. Rarely have we been in the position that we now find ourselves in, however. Rarely have I experienced, in the 32 years I've been here--if ever--the fiscal crises that occur on such a regular basis here. The public, I think the economy, and I think the business community, and indeed the international community, is hoping that we get on a solid path.

The gentleman mentioned that the budget was a complex document. I think that's a fair statement. But, unfortunately, the budget that has been proposed--which the gentleman is very pleased to say balances within 10 years--unfortunately doesn't tell us how it's going to do so. It is in fact filled with conclusions, but not with policies to get us to that end.

In fact, Dana Milbank of The Washington Post--I think you probably read this--said there are so many blanks in the Ryan budget that it could be a Mad Libs exercise, which I understand is a children's book that sort of has a couple of sentences and the rest is fill in the blanks.

This, of course, is not a game; it's black budgeting, in my opinion, an expression of lofty aims--that is, that we balance within 12 years, which I think, frankly is--if there were no Democrats in the Congress of the United States, I tell my friend with all due respect, if there were no Democrats in the Congress of the United States, in my view you could not implement the Ryan budget. You couldn't get appropriation bills passed, and you could not pass a Ways and Means tax provision that would meet the requirements of the Ryan budget.

In addition to that, Mr. Leader, you and I both know we voted over 30 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It's not going to happen. If we want to do something in a bipartisan fashion, if we want to get to an end here, we ought to stop pretending that we're going to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We had an election about that. We won. The President won. Very frankly, even in the House there were more people who voted for Democrats than voted for Republicans for the House of Representatives.

Having said that, you're in charge. That's the law, and you won fair and square. But having said that, we're going to need to get to an agreement. I would hope that as we deal with the budget--and I will oppose the Ryan budget. I think the Ryan budget is unrealistic. I think the Ryan budget will not possibly be able to balance within 10 years. I wish we could. But if we do that, we're going to badly damage the economy that the gentleman talks about. We're going to undermine the creation of jobs. I don't say that; CBO says that. CBO says the sequester itself is going to cost us 750,000 to 1 million jobs. The Ryan budget, if adopted, would cost us over 2 million jobs.

So I'm hopeful that as we consider the budget--and my expectation is your budget will probably pass this House, but my hope is, and urging, Mr. Leader, is that we deal with this budget--and I don't know whether the Murray budget is going to pass or not through the Senate. I hope they pass some alternative, not because the budget-for-pay bill passed--which I think was a terrible bill to put on this floor and a terrible bill to pass. I think it sets a terrible precedent about you've got to pass something or you don't get paid. That's not what our democracy is about. People voting their conscience is what our democracy ought to be about, not about whether they get paid.

But in any event, Mr. Leader, I'm hopeful that in fact we can get to, in some form or fashion of another, a budget and appropriation bills and a Ways and Means bill that can be signed by the President, passed by the Senate, passed by this House so we can put our country on a fiscally sustainable path.

I yield to my friend.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for his comments.

Mr. Speaker, the majority leader says that his side is against the Affordable Care Act. He's said that regularly since it was first considered. He's said they're against revenues. Mr. Speaker, he's said that repeatedly, and the majority party has said that repeatedly. Of course, pursuant to the Republican tax bill of '01 and '03, rates went up on January 1. They went up substantially.

You could look at it half full or half empty, and the gentleman looks at it, as we increase $600 billion in taxes--actually, taxes would have proposed $4 trillion had the tax law that was in effect at that time stayed in effect. The gentleman knows that, so you can look at it as a tax increase or a tax decrease, ensuring that middle class taxpayers didn't get an increase.

The American people, of course, 80 percent of them say what we did is the right thing. Now, we had an election, and the gentleman's position did not prevail in that election. But we are still hoist on the petard of saying, We disagree; do it our way or the highway.

The gentleman mentions the SKILLS Act. I wish we'd had an opportunity. We need to make the programs more focused and more effective, and the gentleman is absolutely right on that. Unfortunately, the majority gave no ability to have bipartisan input into that bill, and so its prospects for passage are almost minimal, maybe nil, so that the gentleman's party continues to, in my view, keep us in this gridlock. We understand your position. You understand our position. We've both got to come off our positions.

The American public elected a House of Representatives that's led by Republicans and a Senate run by Democrats. The only way democracy is going to work is if we come to an agreement. And simply restating what I know to be your position or my restating what I know my position is, we've already come, I think, a pretty far way towards your position in trying to reduce spending, about $1 trillion worth, which, by the way, your budget takes credit for.

We have a baseline that's been reduced because of the revenues that are in the Affordable Care Act, which you take credit for. You take credit for the $715 billion in your budget while repealing the Affordable Care Act, but you take credit for the $750 billion that reduced the baseline. So that on the one hand, you want to say, I'm against this; on the other hand, you want to use the revenue that it produced or the baseline that it reduced.

We have this same debate every week. It doesn't get us anywhere. The American public is pretty upset with all of us. They ought to be. I tell the press that 10 percent of the people think we're doing okay. They're wrong. We're not doing okay, and our country, as a result, is not having the kind of success in growing jobs that it ought to have.

Now, let me ask you, because I don't think you're going to change my mind or I'm going to change yours right now----


Mr. HOYER. I wish I had the figures in front of me, and I don't. It's my understanding the SKILLS Act was introduced February 25 and marked up shortly thereafter. There may have been hearings in the last year when the SKILLS Act was passed in a partisan vote, but the reason the members walked out was because they didn't believe they were given an opportunity to interface. I don't have the facts as strongly as I ought to have them, but I believe that the proximity of introduction and markup was very, very close, and therefore the opportunity and the inclination of the committee to engage in a bipartisan discussion of what the bill ought to look like--what should have been a bipartisan bill--was not there. But let me get my facts straighter so we can discuss that perhaps a little further at some point.

April's schedule, Mr. Leader, Mr. Speaker, if the majority leader could give us some information on the April schedule as we go forward.


Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman.

We're ending now, but I know you have an extraordinarily able assistant sitting to your right who advises you on issues of great importance to our country. The gentleman to my right does the same thing for me.

The gentleman to my right went to Wake Forest. Maryland played Wake Forest last night, and I hope as we play Duke tonight that we are equally successful. Mr. Nevins, who is a graduate of Duke, it's going to be a little tougher game than Wake Forest. I understand that. But we look forward to trying to be successful in that effort.

Kyle Nevins is a wonderful member of the majority leader's staff. He worked for my dear and close friend, Roy Blunt, for some period of time, and he began working for Mr. Cantor in 2008 as his floor director. He's been a real delight to work with, and I know Mr. Burnes and my floor staff all appreciate all the work he has done.

While I want to be very effusive today, I want him to know that I will be rooting very vigorously against Duke tonight when they play Maryland.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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