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Public Statements

Congressional Progressive Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. LEE of California. First, let me thank the gentleman for yielding and for your kind words, and also for your tremendous leadership and for really coordinating the message hour of the week, not only on behalf of the Progressive Caucus, but for this entire body and for the American people. It is so important that the truth be told and that we continue to beat the drum to protect the priorities of all of the American people, not just the few. So thank you very much.

We are here today to talk about the budget and its priorities, and also some of the issues that are very troubling, which I'll mention in just a minute.

I'm pleased, though, to see that the President's budget clearly understands the need to create jobs and to grow our economy. This budget makes critical investments in early childhood education and brings down the cost of higher education. The budget protects vital nutrition programs like SNAP and WIC. This budget permanently extends vital expansion of the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, which has lifted about 1.6 million Americans out of poverty in 2010 alone.

In stark contrast, our Republican colleagues proposed yet another $6 trillion tax cut for the wealthiest, while focusing a majority of their draconian budget cuts on shredding our Nation's safety net.

Every Member of Congress may claim to support the goal of cutting poverty in America, but gutting programs that families rely on to put food on their tables is simply not how we achieve that goal. Now, as I said, I was very pleased to see some of the innovative and groundbreaking proposals that the President included in his budget.

However, I have to join Mr. Pocan in our strong opposition to the inclusion of the so-called chained CPI in the budget. As many of us have said, chained CPI is a benefit cut, which it is, to Social Security, and I wholeheartedly oppose it.

So thank you again for beating that drum today on this because this is not the President's ideal deficit reduction plan. We should not be bargaining for Republican goodwill with policies that hurt our seniors. Social Security was established more than 77 years ago, providing economic security to generations of Americans who have made contributions over their lifetime. They worked for this.

Changing the cost of living adjustment now will disproportionately hurt seniors who rely on every single dollar of support as income. The chained CPI would cut one full month's income from a 92-year-old beneficiary's annual Social Security benefits. Seniors cannot afford that. The chained CPI will also cut living standards, and most deeply for the poorest households, which tend to rely on Social Security for all or most of their income.

The fact of the matter is Social Security should not even be a part of this discussion. It should not be a part of this budget. The program has accumulated assets of $2.7 trillion and does not contribute to the Federal budget deficit. Voters across the political spectrum oppose cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits, and we must do whatever it takes to protect these vital benefits from cuts.

Democrats believe that the best way to reduce our deficit and make our economy grow is to create jobs. That's why I join my CPC colleagues in rejecting any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and that they need.

We also know there are commonsense reforms that would reduce health care costs and save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars without cutting benefits. If Republicans are serious about deficit reduction, we really can make additional savings, and they should come from those who can most afford it. We can save over $110 billion just by eliminating wasteful subsidies to oil companies who have already made record profits. We can close corporate tax loopholes--that would save billions of dollars to invest in education--and we can end wasteful Pentagon weapons programs and focus our military on addressing 21st century threats.

So there are many ways that we can accomplish this. Instead of supporting policies that harm seniors, let's get back to the real problems facing our country, and that's creating 21st century jobs and growing our economy for all.

So thank you again for your leadership. This has been a tremendous hour that you have put together, and I hope that the American people are listening today. So much is at stake.


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