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Public Statements

Congressional Progressive Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ELLISON. Congressman Pocan, thank you. Thanks for holding down this very important Progressive Caucus progressive message. The fact is that the Progressive Caucus and the Democrats generally are about protecting seniors. That's who we are. That's our brand. That's our identity. Social Security came out of the Roosevelt administration, came out of core Democratic values. That's what we stand for, that's what we believe in, and that's why we are standing opposed to the chained CPI. We're not going to relent. We've been fighting this thing for months. We're not going to give up the fight. We're going to keep on pressing until this thing is settled.

The reality is that this chained CPI takes place within the general debate on budget, a general debate on fiscal items. And I happen to know that the chained CPI is an idea that emerged from Republican leaders only a few months ago. That's who came up with this. And so now the President has offered a budget in which he says, Okay, we're going to try to compromise from the beginning. We're going to try to take some compromise ideas and put them in here, along with some other good ideas like early childhood education, like investing in infrastructure and jobs. Those things are okay. But I think it was a mistake to ever include anything about Social Security in a budget because the Social Security does not contribute to the deficit. And so if you want to deal with lifting the sequester, deal with something that has to do with taxes or spending. If you want to deal with the budget, deal with something that adds to or takes away from the budget. If you want to deal with deficit reduction, deal with something that has to do with that. But don't drag in something that is actually irrelevant.

The fact is that Social Security is one of the oldest, best programs that this country has ever seen and it has taken care, literally, of millions of people. It's not an entitlement. It's an earned benefit program. It is social insurance people pay into. They earn it and then they pay into it. And then they expect it at the end years of their lives. Congressman Pocan, I think it's important just to point out that a full third of widowed women on Social Security rely entirely on Social Security.

Some people like to say chained CPI is not that big of a cut. Well, it depends on how much money you have, doesn't it? It depends on what you start with. If you're getting by on $13,000 a year, or under $20,000 a year, $250 may seem like a lot of money. My own experience as a Member of Congress is that people would ask me at community meetings all the time, Are we going to get our COLA check? Are we going to get that $250? Why? Because that's a lot of money to folks who are really trying to get by.

And so what I'm saying is let's embrace our core Democratic values. Let's look after our seniors. Let's take care of this great program, Social Security, that has done so much for so many for so long. And let's reject this idea of chained CPI, and let's stand together and say chained CPI is not a good idea. It's not something we should offer as a bargaining chip for a grand bargain. Let's just take it off the table.

I yield back to the gentleman.


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