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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 807, Full Faith and Credit Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCLINTOCK. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Once again, the dominant theme from our friends on the other side seems to be China first, this pays China first. That's the constant refrain we're hearing.

Let me again remind them, China holds about 10 percent of our debt; Americans hold more than half of it. All of our spending from this government depends on maintaining our credit.

That means whoever is loaning us money, whether China or Timbuktu, whether it's the Teamsters pension fund or a child's savings bond that they've gotten for their birthday, we are borrowing over a quarter of everything that we spend. If we cannot borrow, if the confidence of the credit markets is ever compromised, this whole house of cards collapses around us, a house of cards constructed by this administration's profligate borrowing.

Our credit is now bearing a greater burden and strain that it has ever borne before. All this measure suggests is that we should at least reinforce that credit with exactly the same guarantees that most of our States have successfully employed for generations and, I would remind my friend from California, California has had in its Constitution for over 100 years.


Mr. McCLINTOCK. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this rule to bring the Full Faith and Credit Act to the House floor.

I had hoped that amidst all the controversies gripping this Congress that certainly we should at least be able to agree that the full faith and credit of the United States Government should not hang in the balance every time there's a fiscal debate in Washington. Unfortunately, even so commonsense a proposition as this cannot produce a consensus in today's Congress.

This bill simply guarantees the debt of the United States. No matter what political storms are raging in Washington, the public credit must be maintained. Yet this President and his followers--who have taken our Nation on the biggest borrowing binge in its history, who have run up more debt than almost all of his predecessors put together--oppose this commonsense attempt to assure credit markets that whatever else happens in Washington, their loans to this government are absolutely safe.

You know, most States have had similar provisions in their laws or constitutions guaranteeing their debt for generations. Last year, in testimony to the Senate, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke praised these State provisions for maintaining confidence in State and municipal markets. He told our own House Budget Committee that a similar measure at the Federal level would help protect our Nation against the threat of default.

The President and his followers argue that this is somehow an excuse for not paying our other obligations. What absolute nonsense. I challenge them to name one Member of Congress who has ever suggested that this measure is an acceptable alternative to not paying our other bills.

Their reliance on this falsehood is a measure of the bankruptcy of their argument. Do they actually suggest that all of these other States--that have guaranteed their sovereign debts for many generations--have ever used these guarantees as an excuse not to pay their other bills? On the contrary, by providing clear and unambiguous mandates to protect their credit first, they actually support and maintain their ability to pay for all of their other obligations.

The gentlelady from New York puts forth the argument that this measure would put foreign creditors ahead of programs serving Americans. Well, I would remind her that public credit is what makes possible all of the other programs of this government, from paying our troops to seniors' health care. Without it, we cannot pay our other bills.

I would also remind her that most of the public debt is held by Americans--much of it through American pension funds. China holds less than 10 percent. So the overwhelming effect of this measure is to protect the investments that Americans have made in their own government while protecting the credit that supports every other expenditure of this government, including our troops.

In its original form, this measure restated the already existing authority of the Treasury Department to prioritize the other obligations in order to assure prompt and full payment of the debt, and added a mandate requiring it to do so. The committee's much simpler and more practical approach directs the Treasury Secretary to pay the debt, even if it means temporarily borrowing outside the debt limit in order to do so. I want to thank it for this improvement, which I gratefully acknowledge and wholeheartedly endorse.

Let me say this again: no one advocates that this government delay paying any of its bills, and this legislation does no such thing. Indeed, this measure protects our ability to pay all of our other bills because paying those bills depends on maintaining the Nation's credit.

But given the precarious nature of our Nation's finances, principle disputes over how the debt limit is addressed are going to happen from time to time. I remember just a few years ago when then-Senator Barack Obama vigorously opposed increasing the debt limit sought by the Bush administration. Well, I've never equated Mr. Obama's opposition to the debt limit increase as anything other than a principled and well-placed concern over the proper management of our finances. It's sad that he cannot grant the motives of his opposition the same courtesy.

But when these controversies erupt--as they inevitably will do in a free society--it is imperative that credit markets are supremely confident that their loans are secure.

So I say this a third time: an impasse on the debt limit is something much to be avoided because it could do enormous damage to our Nation's prestige and its prosperity. But there is one thing that could do even more damage than delaying payments on our other bills, and that is the threat of a default on our sovereign debt. This measure takes that threat off the table. It assures credit markets that their investments in the United States are as certain as anything that can be had in this life.

Mr. Speaker, let us pass this rule and proceed with consideration of the bill.


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