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Public Statements

Progressive Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. POCAN. Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to be here today on behalf of the Progressive Caucus, along with other members of the Progressive Caucus. We have long fought for the middle class and those aspiring to be in the middle class. Today, specifically, we want to address Congressman Paul Ryan's plan to help alleviate poverty in this Nation.

Needless to say, we were excited to find out a Republican wanted to talk about poverty, given the votes that we have had this session in this body. Whether it be the draconian cuts that appeared in the House Republican budget, the slashing of food stamps and assistance to the most needy in this country, to see a Republican finally stand up and talk about poverty, we were excited. And we want to have that conversation this evening.

So just what is in Congressman Paul Ryan's plan to help alleviate poverty? I am sure it must be something about raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in the next 3 years so that we can help lift people who are making $15,000 a year out of poverty. I am sure it addresses equal pay for equal work so that men and women are paid for doing the same work. But it doesn't appear that is part of Paul Ryan's plan.

I am sure it addresses some educational issues. I am sure it helps people pay back their loans at lower rates and makes sure we have expanded Pell grants available so that no one should be denied a higher education simply because they can't afford it. No, that is not part of the Ryan plan either.

I am sure there is an investment in early childhood education, because every person in this room must surely know that if we help invest at those earliest years, you can have a lifetime of experiences and opportunities for someone. That is not in the plan either.

Surely, it must address investments in infrastructure. We have crumbling roads and bridges. We have bridges and roads that are old enough that they are eligible for Medicare in this country. Surely, putting people back to work at a time like this and investing in our infrastructure would make sense. It is also not in the Ryan plan.

Let me try one more thing. It has got to be here. We must provide incentives to create good-paying jobs here in America rather than overseas. Clearly, the 21st century Make It In America Act must not be in the plan either.

All those things that I just mentioned--raising the minimum wage, making sure we have equal pay for equal work, expanding opportunity through expanded Pell grants and helping people refinance their student loans, helping people get access to early education and investing in our infrastructure and jobs here at home--are part of the House Democratic Middle Class Jumpstart program. They are what we would do in our first 100 days if we were to take over the majority after this fall.

But surely there must be something we could talk about today in Paul Ryan's plan. There has got to be something equally bold and, hopefully, not just old, a bunch of old ideas warmed over, brought back to us in versions of block grants and not really providing any real assistance that the most needy in this country need.

I am joined by a number of my colleagues today who are going to address exactly what is in Paul Ryan's plan and perhaps how we can offer a little different perspective to help the most needy in our country.

I would like to start out with a very esteemed and respected colleague from Illinois, Representative Danny Davis.


Mr. POCAN. Thank you, Representative Davis, so much for all of your advocacy on behalf of those who are struggling to be in the middle class and for making sure we can try to reduce poverty.

Representative Davis is right. There are a couple of nuggets that are in the Ryan proposal that make sense. I think there could be bipartisan support for criminal sentencing reform. There should be, and it is long past due, and it is good to see that proposed in the plan.

As Representative Gwen Moore from Milwaukee so eloquently put forth, expanding tax credits for childless workers is something through the earned income tax credit we would support except that, perhaps, the Ryan proposal doesn't quite fund it in a way that makes sense.

So there are a few nuggets in there, but there is an awful lot that really doesn't do much about reducing poverty and, in fact, would probably, very likely, increase poverty in the near term.

I would like to yield to another colleague of mine, to someone who has been this body's, really, most outspoken person in talking about poverty. She is leading a task force for the Democratic Caucus that specifically addresses poverty. I would like to yield to my great colleague from the State of California, Representative Barbara Lee.


Mr. POCAN. Thank you, Representative Lee.

Representative Lee and I and Representative Moore all serve on the Budget Committee, and we have had a lot

of time to see the Paul Ryan Republican budget.

When you talk about the SNAP program, I will just give one example. I remember, in this body, we had a debate as to whether we were going to cut $20 billion or eventually $39 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Yet we knew, when the Ryan budget was proposed--the Republican budget that was voted on in this body--the cuts to the SNAP program were $135 billion. Either there has been a rebirth in how we look at poverty from the other side of the aisle or, perhaps, there is just a little different packaging of some of the same bad ideas that just sound a little better, and I really appreciate your bringing those out.


Mr. POCAN. Representative Lee, if you would yield to one more question since we are talking about the bad math that we all too often see from the other side of the aisle: Didn't we also, during the budget, see some incredibly bad math when it came to the budget's repealing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act but its somehow trying to keep the revenue in savings? Wasn't that bad math something like $2 trillion worth of bad math, and now we are supposed to accept this $300 billion, allegedly, ``no cuts'' to the program? What were those numbers?


Mr. POCAN. Again, thank you, Representative Lee. I appreciate it. Your final comments about how hard it is to actually be able to eat a block grant, perhaps, is part of the problem of why we don't quite trust what we see in that it will work as presented. Thank you so much for your time.

I would like to yield to another colleague of mine who is also from the State of California. He is one of my fellow freshman colleagues, Representative Mark Takano.


Mr. POCAN. Thank you, Representative Takano, for all the work you are doing.

Mr. Speaker, next I would like to yield to a colleague of mine from the great State of Wisconsin (Ms. Moore), a great friend of mine going back to the days in the State legislature, not only a great friend, but a great mentor to me.


Mr. POCAN. Thank you, Representative Moore. You have been an advocate your entire life for those who are most needy, those trying to aspire to be in the middle class. Thank you for all that you do, and so articulately explaining the problems with Paul Ryan's proposal.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to now yield to another colleague of mine, a colleague from the great State of Connecticut (Ms. DeLauro), who is the chair of our very important policy and steering committee, and a good friend and colleague of mine in the Progressive Caucus.


Mr. POCAN. Again, thank you so much, Representative DeLauro, for your many years of service to this body and to the people of the country and fighting for those who need help the most.

I now would like to yield to another colleague of mine, but I am not going to say ``Representative Ryan'' because that might be confusing, given the conversation we are having, but let's say maybe the Budget Committee's other Representative Ryan, the Democratic Representative Ryan from the State of Ohio.

So I yield to another Budget Committee member, Representative Tim Ryan.


Mr. POCAN. I thank the gentleman from Ohio, Representative Ryan, for all you have done in your relentless fight on behalf of the workers in your district, and thank you so much, again, for being here today.

Finally, I would like to yield to a colleague of mine--another freshman colleague of mine from the great State of New York, Representative Hakeem Jeffries.


Mr. POCAN. Thank you, Representative Jeffries. I, too, am skeptical. Having served on the Budget Committee with you, we have seen two different Paul Ryans. We are hoping that maybe this is a reformed Paul Ryan, but we are also fearful this is just a repackaged Paul Ryan. So thank you so much.

Finally, I would like to yield to a colleague from the Progressive Caucus from the great State of Texas, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee.


Mr. POCAN. Thank you, Representative Jackson Lee, and I yield back the balance of my time.


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