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Public Statements

Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Chair, I rise today in opposition to H. Con. Res. 25, the Ryan Republican Budget, and the coarse meanness it embodies. I rise today in defense of those who are the subject of this legislation's contempt. I rise today in support of the New Deal, the Great Society, and the programs that have pulled our people out of poverty and our Nation out of depression--the programs that Mr. Ryan's budget demolishes to pay for tax breaks to the already wealthy.

There is so much wrong with the Chairman's budget I do not know where to start. It attacks the poor, the working, and middle class; it guts programs that protect our seniors, our children, and our environment; it relies upon fuzzy math and budgetary tricks that are not befitting of federal legislation. It is quite simply a perfect distillation of the disdain its authors have for everyone who is not a millionaire.

Mr. Ryan's budget is one of the cruelest that has been introduced in the House of Representatives. It shifts Medicare to a voucher system, which virtually assures that many seniors will be unable to receive the care that they need. It destroys two million jobs with the same wrongheaded austerity measures that have Europe standing on the precipice of economic calamity. It hands a six-figure tax cut to millionaires. But then you see the other side of the Chairman's budget--the fantasist side. That is the side that imagines all those tax cuts will be paid for by eliminating deductions; the side that imagines that those deduction eliminations will not harm the middle class; the side that imagines that after a majority of Americans roundly rejected this ``tax cuts now, tax revenues later'' platform last fall, it is a good time to double down.

Earlier this week my friends across the aisle seemed to admit a hard to swallow fact: they are out of touch with Americans. The report that came out Monday suggested that Republicans need to reach out to a broader segment of society; that they need to court voters outside the insular world of the million dollar a year club. Given that a majority of Americans last fall cast their vote for a Democratic President, a Democratic Senator, and a Democratic Representative--I would tend to agree. But let me offer you some friendly advice about outreach--the answer is not to keep making the same base attacks on the poor we heard last summer and last fall. The answer is not to weaken Medicaid and TANF; the answer is not to weaken Social Security, or turn Medicare into a voucher system; and the answer is not to eviscerate all labor laws--as the Republican Study Committee budget would. The answer is none of the above--the answer is creating a budget that helps more than just the small crescent of the wealthy who make it into rooms where they can hear about how much better they are than 47% of Americans.

If you want answers, take a look at the budgets put out by the Congressional Progressive Caucus' ``Back to Work Budget'' and the Congressional Black Caucus' ``Pro-Growth, Pro-People, Pro-America Budget.'' If you want to show Americans that your party cares for those who are not already millionaires, you need to provide the answers they are asking for. Those answers involve federal investment in the programs critical to having Americans who are prepared in mind, body, and spirit to build a new economy for the next generation. Those answers address concerns about our educational system, our infrastructure, and the critical services that will make sure our children are prepared to lead the world in the 21st Century. Those answers understand that any changes to Social Security need to be made separate from the yearly budget process. Those budgets understand that Social Security is a multi-generational pact--not a ``pay for'' and that it should not be changed to reflect the whims of a particular wing of a particular party.

The answers that the American people are looking for reflect the fundamental proposition they voted for last fall--that those who have benefited the most from our society's bounty are blessed to have the most to give back.

The American people recently spoke to the Budget Committee Chairman, but sometimes I wonder if he was listening.

As much as you may wish that it is the answer to your political problems and the economic issues facing our country, the answer Americans are searching for does not involve continuing to repeal the Affordable Care Act again and again and again--you'll excuse me if I don't say ``again'' for each time my friends across the aisle have voted to repeal the ACA. It would seem a rather pointless exercise and it would take quite a while. While we may be tired of the gimmicks and the pointless political theatre, we are not too tired to defend a century of progress. You cannot exhaust the conviction of Americans that Social Security is a promise to our seniors; that Medicare should not be a voucher; that Medicaid should not be a block grant left to the states; and that children should not be left to fend for themselves. These repeated attempts to do so are wastes of our, and by extension, America's time.

I know sometimes it is tempting for my friends across the aisle to engage in name-calling and class warfare: implying that those who need federal services are lazy, laying about on hammocks. But not everyone is born into a family made wealthy through government infrastructure contracts. Some children are born to parents who simply are not prepared to provide all the skills and knowledge that our modern society requires of students, workers, and citizens. That is where Medicaid and CHIP come in: ensuring that children grow up healthy.
That is where food assistance comes in: ensuring that children are not too hungry to learn, too hungry to care about their future. That is where Head Start comes in: ensuring that children receive the early engagement critical to success.

When we consider the Chairman's budget--I want us to think what we would want for our own children if we were rendered unable to help them. I hope you will consider that question. What if it was my child who needed the programs I am cutting to give six-figure tax cuts to everyone who makes more than a million dollars a year? What if it was my child who was struck by a chronic ailment--but they could not get treatment? What if it were my child who needed the support I am now denying to other people's children? No, we would want them to have the services protected and improved in the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus' budgets. Whether you care to admit it or not, no child who goes to sleep hungry or in pain, is comforted by the thought that millionaires have a few extra hundred thousand dollars in their banks.

So instead of Chairman Ryan's budget, which guts federal assistance to the poor and threatens to plunge us into a deep recession, I encourage all my colleagues to endorse the budgets offered by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. These bills get Americans back to work; they invest in infrastructure improvements and repairs which necessity dictates must happen eventually. They know that the key to addressing our deficit is not cuts, but economic growth, that is why the Congressional Black Caucus adopts my Humphrey-Hawkins legislation, which puts every American who wants a job to work. And they provide trillions in deficit reduction over the next decade, but they do so through cuts and revenues that reflect a balanced approach. For example, they keep the Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than a quarter million dollars a year. And they treat the income of hedge fund billionaires just like they treat the income of a bus driver, something even President Ronald Reagan supported.

I want to praise these budgets for their focus on the future. In the great choice that we face as a Nation, they do not simply abdicate responsibility as H. Con. Res. 25 does. They do not simply shovel money to the wealthiest Americans in ruinous tax breaks that are all but assured to explode the deficit--instead, they invest. They invest in infrastructure across the nation; they invest in our youth, providing increase in Pell Grants and workforce training; they invest in our public servants, the men and women who teach our children, guard our streets, and pull us from burning buildings. And they actually pay for all that with specific proposals rather than accounting gimmicks.

Mr. Chair, let us end the division. Let us end the giveaways to those already lucky enough to make more than a million dollars a year. Let us come together--not just some, but all of us--and pass a budget--one that benefits not just some, but all of us. I urge all my colleagues to vote against H. Con. Res. 25, and for the CBC and CPC alternatives.

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