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Pelosi Floor Speech on Fiscal Cliff

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the House floor asking Speaker Boehner and House Republicans to get specific on revenues in the ongoing fiscal cliff negotiations.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I come to the floor very pleased that our Speaker of the House, Mr. Boehner, has brought the discussion of our fiscal challenges to this floor.  Indeed, it is long overdue.  We have been calling upon the Speaker to bring forth middle income tax cuts now for a very long time.  In fact, since last summer when it passed the United States Senate.  The President stands ready and poised with his pen to sign it.  Democrats in the House have a discharge petition to bring that bill to the floor.  What stands in the way is [inaction] on the part of the Republican majority to bring a middle income tax cut to the floor of the House, which across the country has almost universal support, and which, I think, in this body, given the right to vote for it, would have overwhelming support.

“Up until now, everybody in the country, in fact in the world, had been talking about what’s going to happen.  Those who pay attention to such matters – ‘what’s going to happen in the budget debate in the Congress and with the President?’  At last, that subject comes to the floor.  What I would do to respond to what the Speaker has said though is to set the record straight.  The fact is that the President has, and Democrats agree with him, agreed to over one and a half, to around one and a half, $1.6 trillion in cuts in the Budget Control Act, in other Acts of Congress in this particular Congress.  One point six trillion dollars in cuts.  

“Where are the cuts?  They’re in bills that you, Mr. Speaker, have voted for.  Secondly, on the issue of the entitlement, with the Affordable Care Act and with legislation, and with suggestions, provisions in the President’s budget, it amounts to over $1 trillion in savings in Medicare, over $1 trillion in savings which have been redirected to prolonging the life of Medicare, making it stronger for nearly a decade which [increase] benefits for our seniors and those who depend on Medicare.  Not reducing, but increasing benefits.  There’s been a massive misrepresentation about what that is, so I want to set the record straight.

“So, in terms of spending cuts, we’re on the record having voted for about $1.6 trillion.  In terms of entitlement reform, over a trillion dollars already, and more savings to be gained in further discussions on the subject.  A strong down payment.  What is missing are two elements that the President has put forth in his budget: growth, investments in infrastructure.  Yes, the President has called for investments in infrastructure – to build the infrastructure of America and to create jobs, to grow our economy.  And where are the revenues?  Where are the revenues?  Regardless of the cuts, or the changes in entitlements, more demanded in terms of what seniors would have to pay into Medicare and at what age that would happen, while the Republicans refuse to touch one hair on the head of the wealthiest people in our country.  The public, overwhelmingly, two to one, supports the President’s initiative for extending the middle income tax cuts, whereby 100 percent, 100 percent of U.S. tax payers get a tax cut.  Above $250,000, the people making more than $250,000 a year, would be asked to pay a little more to contribute to the fiscal soundness of our country.  To pay our bills, the defense of our country, the support of our troops, the pillars of security for our seniors, the education of our children, the safety of our neighborhoods.  

“This is just asking them to pay a little bit more while they continue to get the same tax cut that everyone does.  So, it’s 100 percent of the American people get a tax cut, the upper two percent are asked to pay a little bit more.  So, I thank the Speaker for finally at least uttering the words, on the floor of the House, about what the decisions are that need to be made.  Again, we’ve committed to the cuts, we’ve acted upon the entitlements, the President has more in his budget, all of this would be a down payment for as we go forward into the next session of Congress to talk about tax simplification and fairness, how we can perhaps lower rates while plugging up loopholes, and having a tax code that encourages growth in our economy.  But that’s a longer discussion.  As we address the issue of how we strengthen our entitlements, not by diminishing benefits, but by getting more for what we are spending.  So, if it’s Social Security, any changes in Social Security should be left to strengthen Social Security.  If it’s Medicare, any changes should be there to strengthen Medicare, not to underwrite and subsidize tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country.

“So, again, I welcome the Speaker’s statement that he wants to resolve the problem.  The President has put forth his budget, which has his initiative in it.  He has said that he’s willing to make some changes.  But it’s really important that any changes not hurt the middle class.  It comes right down to this.  Again, I’ve said it’s not about the price of the high end tax cut, it’s about the money that it generates.  You can find the money another way at the high end, let’s see what that discussion is.  But it’s not to burden the middle income in order to have bigger tax cuts at the high end.  Those high end tax cuts only increase the deficit.  They have not created jobs; it’s simply unfair; and it doesn’t work.

“So hopefully – the clock is ticking, we’re getting closer to the holidays and that means closer to the end of the year, which is fraught with meaning in terms of time and the rest of this.  I don’t think there is any reason for us not to come to the table, to make an agreement, to give confidence to consumers in this holiday season, to the markets and their end of year decisions – so that we will have the growth, the growth, the jobs that produce revenue.  That jobs, that approach is the way to reduce the deficit.  Create jobs to reduce the deficit.  We fix the deficit, grow the economy, and do so in a way that makes responsible cuts, strong investments for our seniors and pillars of economic security for them and for their families.  It is not a time to inject even more uncertainty into the lives of the American people and the economy of our country, and what that means globally.

“It simply isn’t the time.  Many of these ideas are bad at any time.  But they’re particularly harmful at this time.  So again, I thank the Speaker for bringing the issue, finally, to the floor of the House of Representatives.  I look forward to how we can move quickly because time is of the essence and every day that we can remove all doubt about the full faith and credit of the United States of America, our investments in the future, our creation of jobs, and our respect and support for the economic and health security of our seniors, every day we can do that, but more quickly, is a good day.

“With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.”