(House of Representatives - July 20, 2011)

Text available as:

Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.


[Pages H5276-H5282]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                           MAKE IT IN AMERICA

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 5, 2011, the gentleman from California (Mr. Garamendi) is 
recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
  I am going to be joined by my colleagues today, and we are going to 
talk about the financial situation here in the United States and about 
the meaning of the various ideas and proposals that have been put 
  I want to compliment my colleagues on the Republican side for their 
tenacity in putting out their sound bites, but I think it's very, very 
important for the American people to understand in detail exactly what 
is being proposed here. Yesterday, we did have what was called the Cut, 
Cap, and Balance proposal. You might also call it the ``Cut, Slash, and 
Burn'' proposal because, once you get past the sound bites and get into 
the details of what has actually been proposed, you've got to stand 
back and go, Whoa. Wait a minute. Is that really what a balanced budget 
amendment is all about?
  We're going to go into that in a few moments to really understand 
exactly what this balanced budget amendment is and the effect that it 
will have on Americans, particularly on women in America; but before we 
go there, we need to step back a bit and understand how it is that we 
got into this situation with this deficit of $14 trillion. How did we 
get here? It's really important to understand that. Before you go off 
and try to solve the problem, you need to know what is the situation, 
what is the circumstance.
  This little chart here lays out where the deficit came from. Now, 
understand that, at the end of the Clinton administration in January 
2001, the United States Government was running a surplus, a $300 
billion-plus surplus. It had run that for the previous 2 years. So we 
had a surplus, and we were on the path during the decade 2001-2010 to 
literally pay off the entire American debt. It would be paid off. Now, 
whether that's a good idea or not, you can debate that, but that's what 
we were on. So the trajectory was, had we maintained the same policies, 
the same growth in our economy, we would have paid off the total debt. 
However, something happened.
  Now, what happened?
  What happened was a change in policies and two wars: the Iraq and the 
Afghanistan war following the 9/11 event in 2001 and then the Iraq war 
in 2003--neither war paid for. For the first time in American history, 
neither war was paid for--all borrowed money for the first time ever in 
America's history. Another thing happened along the way, and that is: 
in 2001, the first George W. Bush tax cut followed in 2003 by the 
second George W. Bush tax cut.
  Here is what they meant. Take a careful look at this. This is where 
the deficit started. We started here with the Bush-era tax cuts and 
then over the years so that in 2019--20 years--we have this 
extraordinary growth in the deficit caused by those tax cuts. Of course 
it assumes the tax cuts will continue on into 2019.
  The red area here are the wars. Again, not paid for. So the Iraq war 
and the Afghanistan war.
  The other thing is this downturn in the economy. The downturn in the 
economy occurred in 2008. How did it happen? Why did we have that crash 
of the American economy?
  We had it because the Federal Government stepped back from regulating 
the financial institutions, allowing them to run wild, assuming that 
they would be smart enough to regulate

[[Page H5277]]

themselves. That didn't happen. They were smart enough to be 
extraordinarily greedy. Wall Street went on a greed binge, and the 
result was the collapse of the financial industry. Needless to say, 
there are other players in this game. Many Americans, hundreds of 
thousands of Americans, joined in the game and took out mortgages and 
bought houses, but there was no way they could possibly afford them. It 
was the financial industry, the mortgage industry and the Wall Street 
bankers, and we wound up with the great collapse of 2008.
  To deal with that, the bailout of Wall Street occurred. Most of that 
has now been paid back. It worked. Did it work for the benefit of 
Americans? It stabilized the financial institutions, and it certainly 
worked for the benefit of Wall Street. That program occurred in the 
final months of the George W. Bush administration. Unfortunately, the 
American economy has not recovered despite the spending of some $700 
billion in the stimulus program. It actually worked. It didn't work 
enough to get the economy moving forward, so we wound up with this huge 
  Going forward, the deficit remains in place because the wars 
continue: $178 billion a year spent on the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. 
Also continuing are the George W. Bush tax cuts. This is where the 
deficit is coming from. Thirdly, the economy has not recovered. That's 
where the deficit is.
  Now, what do you do about that? Do you put in place a constitutional 
amendment that has something really interesting? When the American 
public understands what is in that amendment, it's not just a balanced 
budget; there are real things in that amendment. Then that amendment, 
if ever put in place, will have extraordinary consequences for 
America--in my view, none of them positive.
  A sound bite is great: Balance the budget. Force the government to 
balance the budget just like we do at home. Hello, America. Do you 
really balance your budget every month? every year? I don't think so. 
We take out a mortgage to buy a house. That's borrowing money, folks. 
That's not balancing your daily budget. That's borrowing money, and now 
you've got to pay the mortgage, pay the interest. When you lose your 
job or when you're laid off or when you're cut back in hours, what do 
you do? You do your best to cut expenses, and then you probably are 
going to borrow more money--maybe the home equity loan, maybe the 
credit card--to get by. We all do that, all of us. It's not so easy to 
at the end of every year balance the budget.
  Forty-nine States? Yes, they have balanced budget amendments. I'm 
from California. Democrat Jerry Brown: facing a balanced budget 
amendment. Guess what? He borrows money. He doesn't balance the budget. 
Oh--and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger--Republican, said he was 
going to ``blow up the boxes'' and balance the budget. It happened 
twice in the 7 years that he was Governor that he was able to balance 
the budget.
  Why did this happen? Why did it happen? America, ask the question: 
What is in the balanced budget amendment? I'll tell you what's in it: a 
requirement that a two-thirds vote be enacted for every expenditure and 
every tax increase--a two-thirds vote. This is a fundamental shift in 
the very nature of American democracy.

                              {time}  1700

  We had a dozen wonderful Representatives of the Republican Party talk 
for an hour here, and not once did they mention that the American 
democracy will be forever changed. No longer majority rule. A 
fundamental tenet of American democracy, majority rule, pushed aside. 
And now should this ever become law, a minority rule, one-third of this 
House, one-third of this Senate dominating the will of 65 percent of 
every elected Representative and Senator. The end of the most 
fundamental tenet of American democracy, the end of majority rule.
  It also works in a very pernicious and bad way. You can cut taxes 
with a majority vote. It takes a two-thirds to raise taxes.
  So years and years ago, the oil industry had the opportunity in our 
democracy to receive a tax reduction. They got a tax reduction. And the 
oil industry went on with that tax reduction, called a subsidy, so that 
they can explore for oil and gas. For a hundred years they have had a 
tax break. Now, we can give them another tax break; but under the 
balanced budget amendment, it would take a two-thirds vote to take away 
the tax reduction, the tax break, the subsidy that they have received 
for a hundred years, a century, would take a two-thirds vote to do that 
because that would be considered to be a tax increase.
  So what does it mean to the oil industry? Well, here's their profits 
from last year. Let's see: Exxon, $10.7 billion; Oxy, $1.6 billion; 
Conoco, $2.1; Chevron, $6.2 billion; BP, of gulf fame, $7.2 billion, 
that's their profit. Part of that profit is your tax dollar. Part of 
that profit is the tax dollar of every American that has been given to 
the oil companies for more than a century so that they can go explore 
for oil.
  Is there an American that believes that the oil industry needs our 
tax dollars to continue to be viable? I don't think so. But if the 
constitutional amendment passes, becomes part of our Constitution, a 
majority of this House and the Senate could increase the subsidy, but 
it would take a two-thirds vote to get our money back. We need to 
understand the details of what a balanced budget amendment means.
  I've been joined by my wonderful friend and extraordinary 
Representative from the great State of New York representing the Hudson 
River Valley in the capital region.
  We had a discussion last night about a piece of this, and I've been 
waiting for you to arrive when we could talk about how the balanced 
budget amendment and the cuts in the legislation that was passed 
yesterday would affect women.
  We just had 20 women from the Republican Party here telling us that 
we ought to enact a balanced budget amendment. What does it mean for 
women who are 65 and over?
  Would you please join us and enter this conversation.
  Mr. TONKO. Thank you, Representative Garamendi, and thank you for 
bringing us together on some very important discussions and laser-sharp 
focus which is essential as we face this default crisis, where there 
are those who are dragging their feet and not resolving the default 
crisis and refuse to have us pay our bills. And when we default on our 
debt, it's very problematic because it can disrupt our pensions, it can 
disrupt our 401(k)s, it can disrupt our mortgages because of the 
interest rate being somewhat fluctuated by that default crisis and our 
failure to pay our bills.
  What I think is important here is that you outline how unfair this 
process can be, how it can be routed to support easily deep pockets, 
efforts to give windfall industries a mindless handout, the big oil 
companies getting a handout. It's much easier to retain that benefit, 
and it's very difficult to save Medicare. It's a simple majority that 
can end Medicare.
  Many of us go home every week, others as frequently as they can 
because of the distance they have to travel to get to their districts, 
and we're greeted by signs like this: Hands off my Medicare.
  And it's no wonder, because what we've seen yesterday was the third 
attempt in this given few months of the 112th Congress to end Medicare. 
Three votes. One with the Republican Study Committee, one with the Ryan 
plan, a Path to Prosperity--which we have redesignated as the Road to 
Ruin. And then yesterday with this cut, burn and whatever, slash-and-
burn attempt. I won't even get into the nomenclature because it's 
misrepresenting what would really happen.
  Yesterday, we had a vote on this floor to make it easy to end 
Medicare and easy to maintain handouts to the oil companies. And when 
we look at the dollars that are saved by ending Medicare, we see where 
they somehow are transitioned over to tax cuts that are maintained for 
the millionaire-billionaire community, mindless handouts, the Big Oil 
  So this is buyer beware week. We've seen this three times over, and 
it's an assault on the middle class.
  When you talk about the impact on women, you know, an armchair 
scientist can take a look at the population of seniors and understand 
the proportional representation to the greater degree is women in that 
category. So this is an assault on senior women who require Medicare.

[[Page H5278]]

  We talked about this last night on the floor, that things have 
changed since 1965 when President Truman and Mrs. Truman were the first 
to sign up for Medicare with that wonderful legislation. They began a 
process of dignity for our Nation's seniors where affordable, 
accessible care, a certainty in their lives, became a much-needed 
concept because there was cherry-picking going on. There was the 
unaffordable notion, the inaccessible notion of health care insurance 
  And to put that now at risk and develop and mess with our 
Constitution to make that all work, it's no wonder Wall Street, The 
Wall Street Journal, called it a very foolish approach. They labeled it 
in just very negative tones.
  And certainly Bruce Bartlett, who was the economic adviser to 
President Reagan, said that it was akin to an intern writing a bill on 
a napkin. Well, I think that's a pretty tough slam for our interns. 
They would do better.
  So we need to go forward with sensible strategies. We need to solve 
the default crisis. And let's face it, it should be about investing in 
  The jobs crisis is the number one priority of the American public. We 
see it in public opinion surveys over and over again. And that job 
crisis when we resolve it addresses any revenue crisis, any spending 
crisis, any deficit crisis. This is the best solution: Create jobs, 
invest in innovation, infrastructure, education.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Tonko, once again you are on the right track here.
  Earlier before you came in I was discussing our Republican 
colleagues, Women's Day, and they were all talking about the great 
value in the balanced budget constitutional amendment.
  My colleague from Colorado, Jared Polis, came running over and said, 
They don't understand. They need to know what's in this. And I'd like 
you to explain.
  I started off with the majority, two-thirds vote. You're a 
constitutional specialist. What does all of this mean to America if 
they really understood and got past the sound bite? ``Balanced budget'' 
sounds good, but what does it actually mean?

                              {time}  1710

  Mr. POLIS. It's particularly ironic that this session of Congress 
opened with a recital of the United States Constitution which really 
just, in the vote yesterday, has been debased. And our democratic 
Republic has been debased to an extent that I certainly have not seen 
in this body prior under either party.
  Let's talk about exactly what was attempted yesterday in this 
constitutional amendment that would have essentially passed as part of 
a resolution. It's one thing to say that we want to eliminate Medicare. 
The House worked its will through the Ryan budget, phasing out Medicare 
for those who are under 55 years of age. The people of this country 
will have the opportunity to change that. We saw an election in upstate 
New York where I think and most people think that the people of this 
country soundly rejected the effort to eliminate Medicare.
  But regardless, that's what elections are about. I know that in the 
last election, Democrats didn't fare too well. A majority of this House 
was elected that wanted to phase out Medicare for people under the age 
of 55. Likewise, in the next election, if people run on that, a 
majority might arise in this body that supports keeping Medicare 
solvent for the next generation.
  What was attempted yesterday was circumventing the public will by 
inserting into the United States Constitution exact fiscal policy that 
essentially wouldn't allow Medicare to exist in any form similar to 
what it is today. It would actually specify an exact percentage of the 
gross national product that the public sector can contain in our 
governing document.
  This is unprecedented. Who hears of putting numbers, 19.7 percent, 
19.5 percent, 20, 21 percent--we're talking about the percentage of the 
economy that can be public sector versus private sector. Who knows what 
the ideal percentage is? That's what elections are about. That's what 
we fight off every day here on the floor of the House. Some will say we 
should have it a little bigger; others will say we should have it a 
little smaller. The people of the country have their say. To somehow 
take that out of the realm of public discourse and insert that into our 
governing document is unprecedented. It castrates the United States 
Congress. It castrates and eliminates our ability to make public 
policy, for better or worse.
  I had an exchange with one of my colleagues on the Rules Committee as 
we were bringing this to the floor the other day. I said, This is such 
an absurd concept. Imagine for a minute that there was a Democratic 
majority and we were saying, You know what, we want to put in our 
Constitution that public expenditures have to be at least 22 percent of 
GNP or--but it never even crossed our minds. There is no Democratic 
proposal like that because it just doesn't make any sense. That's what 
elections are about.
  And yet here the Republican majority is trying to insert into our 
governing document--the one that they say that they have great respect 
for, the one that they began this session of the House by reading--
inserting exact formulated fiscal policy regarding the exact size of 
the public sector, taking that ability away from the voters of this 
country, taking the discussion away from the deliberative bodies of the 
House and the Senate, taking it out of the hands of an election for 
President of the United States, removing the fundamental issue of what 
role government should play from political debates.
  That is grossly undemocratic. It should be an insult to all of us who 
value our democratic Republic, who value our democratic institutions.
  However flawed, our representational system of democracy is the most 
effective in the world. The people's voice will be heard. By taking 
away the people's voice and castrating the United States Congress to 
specific policies prescribed in the Constitution, we remove the ability 
of present and future voters of the country to have their voices heard. 
Regardless of where anyone comes down on the policies, regardless of 
what percentage of the GNP you think it should be, I hope that most 
Americans believe that it's a fundamental value to have a say in our 
system of governance and to have these debates and to have them be part 
of the public discourse, and that was proposed to be taken away 
completely by a bill that passed yesterday in this body by a majority 
vote from the Republican side.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you so much for bringing our attention to the 
way in which the balanced budget amendment would fundamentally alter 
the very nature of our government.
  Earlier I talked about the majority vote versus the minority rule 
that is in this amendment. And now you bring to our attention the 
percentage that is in the amendment. Those percentages have real 
meaning beyond the issue of just a very, very important issue, the very 
nature of our government, and the reason why we have representative 
government, why we have the Senate, why we have a Congress.

  But there's something else to it and that is, the percentage that 
they have chosen would force the government expenditures to go back to 
the 1965 level where there was no Medicaid and no Medicare program in 
America. So, once again, there are different ways of assaulting and 
terminating Medicare. One was the direct way that was in the Republican 
budget that passed this House earlier in which they explicitly said 
that for all Americans who are not yet 55, there would be no Medicare. 
They would be given a voucher, and they would have to go buy insurance 
from the private insurance market, which all of us understand is a very 
difficult place to get a fair deal. The other way of doing it is in a 
constitutional amendment, as was proposed yesterday, that would make it 
impossible to fund Medicare and similarly impossible to fund things 
like natural disasters.
  Let's assume we were at 18 percent, which is the number they've 
chosen, of GDP and the Federal budget, and we have the great 
Mississippi flood or the great Missouri flood or the earthquake in 
California or the hurricane in Florida, billions of dollars. The 
Federal Government would have no ability under this amendment to step 
  Let me turn to Mr. Tonko. I know you had some other things that you 
wanted to bring to our attention.
  Mr. TONKO. Well, by their own acknowledgement, their own leaders 
indicated that this would enshrine the Republican agenda to end 
Medicare in the

[[Page H5279]]

United States Constitution. So what we end up with is that we have 
these very bold statements made, that right there after the freedom of 
religion and the freedom of thought, the freedom of assembly, we can 
have the freedom from health care for anyone age 65 and older. That's 
not quite an honorable position to follow or to promote.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Freedom ``from'' health care.
  Mr. TONKO. Yes. I just think that what we have witnessed is a messing 
with a very precious document, one that governs this democracy, this 
Republic in a way that was carefully planned by our founding parents. 
And to take that precious document and to use it in order to promote a 
political agenda and one that denies access to a health care concept is 
  When we look at this 1966 threshold, when we take it back to spending 
opportunities at that vintage, we need to keep in mind that Medicare, 
assisting grandparents, grandma and grandpa, means that they're denying 
the fundamental fact that since 1966, grandparents, grandma is living 
10 years longer, on average. So it's not real to take us back to this 
unwarranted threshold of 1996. And also, we've had much progress in 
technology and research in medicine so that there are new opportunities 
for which we avail ourselves the funds.
  So I think that a lot of this is not based on reality. It's not based 
on the desire to serve. It's rather based on denial. And that's not 
what this should be about. There is a certain bit of dignity. There is 
a respect factor shown to the senior population. And I can tell you, 
when you get messages like this at home, Keep your hands off Medicare, 
we're getting this in letter format, email format, faxes coming into 
the office, phone calls. Nine to one, every 10 calls coming in, you'll 
get nine phone calls of advocacy to not only keep Medicare but to 
strengthen it.
  And what we did, as you know, Representative Garamendi, we went 
through and provided those screenings and those annual checkups and 
made certain that no copayments or deductibles would hold back the 
opportunity for our seniors. We made certain that we began the process 
of filling the doughnut hole, and we found savings in the Medicare 
  And, yes, they're right. They talk about cutting back. We found 
savings by reducing the profit columns of the insurance industry when 
it came to Medicare and then transferred--in a very fungible way, we 
transferred those savings into the development, positive outcome for 
seniors in the pharmaceutical area because we know that the doughnut 
hole is a very pricey thing for many people. In just a few months into 
a calendar year, seniors are dipping into their own pockets to pay for 
the pharmaceutical costs in order to stay well or to recover from an 
  So there was great compassion shown here, and we moved forward with a 
way to fill the doughnut hole completely, completely. And we began that 
process last year. That is denied again in this process.
  Again, to the fact of being concerned about women, if you are 
concerned about women, why would you cut Head Start programs? Many 
working moms require Head Start, not only to maintain a career or 
perhaps work, because you may be a single parent, or even a double 
income household still needs that job.

                              {time}  1720

  Head Start is a good way to develop the social, the educational, and 
the cognitive skills of youngsters. Why would you deny a quarter of a 
million of children Head Start? That's that attack on women, working 
  Why would you reduce education by 12 percent in title I areas, as 
they had suggested, as they did with their budget. That's an attack on 
educators, most of whom are women. It's still a very highly predominant 
field for women.
  So when we look at some of the attacks here by gender, by age, by 
income strata, it's clearly assumed here, and documented, that it's an 
assault on middle class America, on working families. And it is time to 
grow the middle class, strengthen the middle class, enhance their 
purchasing power. In so doing, you develop a stronger America.
  And so we need to go forward with a laser sharp focus and an honesty 
that's built by truth, not fiction, and do what is best as we go 
forward to invest in infrastructure, education, and certainly the 
improvements that we need to make in innovation.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Before we leave the balanced budget amendment, the 
bill that was on the floor yesterday had two other pieces to it. One of 
them was to go after the budget of the United States and reduce it by 
$111 billion, beginning in October of this year. That has real impact. 
Part of that impact would be felt on Medicare.
  Let's just put some understanding into what Medicare is all about. 
Our colleague from Connecticut did this last night, but it really, I 
think, is well worth repeating, and so I am going to just read off some 
statistics, so please bear with me.
  In 1965, when Medicare was established, 44 percent of all seniors 65 
and over did not have health insurance. Now, of those, 40 percent of 
the seniors lived in poverty. So you had heavy poverty and you had no 
insurance. The two are tied together. You get sick, you lost your 
money, you spent everything you had. The life expectancy at that period 
was 70 years.
  Now, what's happened in the intervening years since 1965? Now, 40 
million seniors, nearly every senior in the United States, has health 
insurance. Not just a little health insurance, they have a 
comprehensive health insurance policy that covers most everything they 
need--doctors, hospitals, and drugs.
  The poverty rate for seniors has fallen from 40 percent to 10 
percent. Why? Social Security and Medicare.
  Now, they lived to 70 in 1965. Today, seniors live to an average age 
of 78\1/2\ years. Why? Because they have medical care and they have 
Social Security providing them with the basics of life.
  Now, what happens if the Republican budget were to pass and Social 
Security were to end, not only for those who are 55 years of age now 
and want to have Social Security 10 years later in their lives when 
they become 65, but immediately for seniors, now, if the Republican 
bill passed, would become law that passed yesterday, and the previous 
one, the budget bill were to become law? $880 billion would be removed 
from Medicaid.
  Medicaid's a different program than Medicare. This is for 
impoverished people in America, almost all of whom are in nursing 
homes. $880 billion, over 10 years, removed from Medicaid. So those 
seniors, most of whom are women--and I would remind you that we heard 
from the Republican women here earlier promoting a program that would 
cut $880 billion out of Medicaid, 70 percent of which goes to nursing 
homes, the majority of whom in those nursing homes are women. This is 
not a women's program that they've put forward.
  And on the drug side, you were talking about this, Mr. Tonko. This is 
an immediate reduction, an immediate reduction in the drug benefits, so 
that 3.9 million seniors would wind up paying $2.2 billion more 
immediately if the Republican budget were to go into law because of the 
reduction in the Affordable Care Act that provided this benefit.
  These are just some of the things that the American public needs to 
understand when you get past the sound bites. We must balance the 
budget and, therefore, the balanced budget amendment.
  Well, wait. What is it? What does it really do? It terminates 
majority rule in America and institutes minority rule so the 
fundamental of American democracy is trashed; requires that the budget 
of the United States be ramped back, back, back to the 1965 percentage 
of GDP, before there was Medicare, which, inevitably and inextricably 
means that Medicare is over once that balanced budget amendment passes.
  Mr. Tonko, please continue.
  Mr. TONKO. Representative Garamendi, what I didn't hear, though, was 
the resolve of the default crisis. I didn't hear advocacy from the 
other side about paying our bills. I'm hearing about cutting away at 
middle class values and middle class needs. I didn't hear about the 
default crisis and paying our bills.
  We're saying we need to respond to a default crisis, and we're also 
talking about a jobs agenda. We haven't seen one jobs bill in the House 
brought forward. And that is a major concern, because the jobs crisis, 
when resolved by

[[Page H5280]]

producing jobs and investing in jobs, resolves the revenue crisis, the 
spending crisis, the deficit crisis. So we need to go forward.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. You've moved to a subject that we really want to get 
to, which is jobs, but this is my favorite.
  Mr. TONKO. Just on the Medicaid/Medicare piece, if I could just say 
one thing.
  When we fall short on the Medicaid side, it falls again upon the 
property taxpayer, and again, if you're on a fixed income, as many 
seniors are, and again, the disproportionate number of women in 
households in the senior years are going to be, again, impacted by a 
property tax that, when levied on that home, doesn't know if you're 
unemployed, on fixed income, underemployed, so it will be hitting a 
retiree on fixed income very, very hard.
  And so we're transferring from a progressive income tax and a 
progressive series of taxes at the Federal level on over to a State 
situation where it's going to trickle down into a property tax, which 
is grossly unfair.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. And on the individuals.
  Let's move on beyond it. But this is something that I always put up 
when we talk about Medicare, and that is it was 1965. This is a 
tombstone, and it says: Medicare 1965-2011. Created by LBJ. Destroyed 
by the GOP. No doubt about it.
  Mr. TONKO. We've had three votes to end Medicare.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Three votes in the first 6 months, now 6\1/2\ months 
of this new Congress, three votes by the Republicans that have put up 
three different measures that terminate Medicare as we know it.
  Mr. TONKO. To give tax cuts to the job creators.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Oh, to the job creators. You must mean those wealthy 
  Mr. TONKO. We're told it's the millionaire-billionaire tax cut that 
responded to the needs of the job creators.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. We've been joined by an individual from the great 
State of Vermont who has spoken many times on this floor about jobs and 
about what we need to do.
  Thank you for joining us. Share your thoughts.
  Mr. WELCH. We are in a very serious situation now. We're what, 11 
days away from perhaps, the first time in the history of this country, 
not paying our bills. And it's extraordinarily damaging what that will 
do to our economy. I mean, interest rates will go up. If we have a 1 
percent increase in our debt service, that's going to mean $140 billion 
more in taxpayer expense to service the debt. And I don't care whether 
you have a Nancy Pelosi point of view that we could use that money 
better on infrastructure or an Eric Cantor point of view that you could 
use that for tax cuts, that's money out the door. That is squandered 
money. And the damage to the economy and to this asset, the AAA rating, 
is enormous, and that ripples through the economy and starts hurting 
people, individuals.
  If you have a mortgage, your mortgage rates can go up on an adjusted 
rate loan. If you want to buy a car, you have to borrow some money, 
your rates are going to go up. If you have put aside money for your 
kids to go to college, which is, as we all know, incredibly expensive, 
the markets are going to create an immense amount of turmoil, and the 
likelihood is you'll take a real hit on that.

                              {time}  1730

  If your retirement savings, if you're about to retire and you've been 
saving all your life, that can get whacked. This is reckless and 
irresponsible. We have to pay our bills.
  Now it is true that we've got a long-term fiscal challenge that 
requires a long-term fiscal plan, but this first time in the history of 
our country literally holding hostage our obligation to pay our bills 
to getting your way on your design of how we should have a long-term 
fiscal plan, that's never been done before.
  You know, in all candor, both sides in the past have tended to 
grandstand when it comes to the debt ceiling. The custom has been 
around here that the party that's out of power and doesn't have the 
responsibility to get the debt ceiling passed so that we pay our bills 
grandstands about it, but neither side has ever actually held that debt 
ceiling and that obligation to pay our bills hostage.
  Ronald Reagan, who was not at all shy about engaging in tax fights 
and budget fights, raised the debt ceiling. He never would use the full 
faith and credit of this country to win his battles because he knew 
that would cause too much harm to the economy; it's putting a 
loaded gun at the head of the American economy. We have got to get back 
to the basics here. We've got to pay our bills.

  My hope is that then we would work together because we don't have to 
cut Medicare to get to fiscal solvency. We do have to reform the way we 
deliver health care to bring down the cost of health care, but if we 
have a balanced approach where we include revenues, we include the 
Pentagon, and we, as Democrats, look very hard at various spending 
programs and are willing to share in the effort to get ourselves onto 
fiscal solvency, we can do that. So we can make progress if we work 
together and just recognize the obvious: we've got to pay our bills, 
and we also have to work together to get a long-term fiscal plan.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Peter, as we stand here on the floor of this House 
debating an extraordinarily important moment in time about the 
direction we're going to go, this issue of paying our bills, we need to 
understand that what we're really talking about here is not tomorrow's 
bills; we're talking about expenditures that have been made over the 
years dating back to World War II and even before World War II, 
expenditures that have been made, votes by the majority of this House 
and by the Senate, signed by the President, America decided to spend 
the money. Earlier, I put up a chart here talking about where it came 
from--this House. And George W. Bush voted to reduce taxes, created a 
deficit, had to borrow money, voted to start and to carry out two wars, 
Afghanistan and Iraq, borrowed money to do it. These are past 
expenditures. And here we are 12 days away from the default crisis 
where our Republican friends are using this moment in time where we're 
not really discussing tomorrow's expenditures; we're talking about 
yesterday's expenditures, and they're saying give us our way or else 
America defaults.
  Mr. TONKO. Representative Garamendi, I think that the message from 
the Democrats in the House of Representatives is straightforward and 
very logical: Don't end Medicare. We saw three votes to end Medicare in 
the House. We say save Medicare, make it stronger. But then we talk 
about cutting, cutting programs that don't create jobs; do those cuts 
where there are not jobs created. Where there are, save those programs, 
strengthen them; provide for jobs by investing in education, in 
innovation, and in infrastructure. And it's very easy when you take the 
education investment, the infrastructure investment, and certainly the 
education investment, that equals jobs for Americans, for middle class 
Americans. And that's what it's all about. If we create jobs, it drives 
down the unemployment factor, drives down the deficit. And there's no 
stronger form of medicine, bar none, than jobs being created. It solves 
a revenue crisis, it solves a deficit crisis, it solves a spending 
  Some of these programs are correlated directly with unemployment. 
There is a need to address the needs of the unemployed, the poor. If 
you put people to work, if you invest in retraining programs, 
education, if you invest in R to grow, move ideas along to a 
manufacturing mode and then you make it in America, these are the 
values that we embrace as a party in the House.
  I think it has been a refreshing message, one that really gets to 
something here. And at the same time we're speaking to the default 
crisis, we're saying this is how we resolve that default crisis. Don't 
walk away from the obligation, the responsibility to pay our bills. And 
as you said, two wars, a pharmaceutical deal for part D for Medicare, 
and millionaire and billionaire tax cuts were all spent, those were all 
forms of spending. And all of that, all of that was borrowed in order 
to spend on tax cuts. And now the bills have come home to be paid. It 
happened a decade ago--it doesn't matter,

[[Page H5281]]

they are bills that have to be paid. We cannot put the economic 
vitality and viability of this Nation at risk or trigger an 
international economic crisis by not paying our bills.
  So we address the default crisis, we save Medicare and strengthen 
Medicare, and we have a formula of innovation, education, and 
infrastructure that equals jobs for Americans, working families, and 
middle class Americans. It's straightforward. It's straightforward.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. We kept hearing from our Republican colleagues that 
what America needs is a cut, balance--how does that work?
  Mr. TONKO. I don't know because it was messing with the Constitution. 
And The Wall Street Journal advised, don't mess with the Constitution, 
leave the Constitution out of this. And there were those who were 
economic advisors to President Reagan who said this is frightening--the 
exact words were very denouncing. And so no one took that seriously. 
And we spent hours here debating on a format that adjusts the 
Constitution, and some of the best minds who have worked in government 
from very conservative perspectives have said this was a wasteful 
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Well, the Republican--we heard it here over and over 
again, it was cut, balance--whatever. What I kept hearing is cut, 
slash, and burn because they're going to cut and slash critical 
programs for seniors.
  I think what Americans really, really want, they want a job.
  Mr. TONKO. They want to work.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. They want to go to work. They want an invest, grow, 
and build policy--not a cut, slash, and burn policy, but an invest, 
grow, and build. They want to invest, as you say, in education. They 
want their kids to have an education. They want to build the 
infrastructure. And they want to see the economy grow. But I'll tell 
you what happens when you start cutting, slashing, and burning. Here's 
what happens: If you take a look at the American economy, beginning in 
December of 2009, just start right there, just say that's the 
equilibrium point--wasn't a good day at all in America, a lot of jobs 
were not available. But we've seen 2.8 million jobs created in the 
private sector, okay. Simultaneously, we have seen cut, slash, and burn 
at the Federal level, as the Republicans have taken control and put in 
their continuing resolutions and reduced the Federal budget--and at the 
State level, and we've seen 378,000 jobs lost in the public sector. 
These are police, firemen, teachers, people that are out there making 
sure that our food is safe, and so forth.
  So the reality is, we're seeing the government jobs go down. For 
every 100 government jobs that are cut, 30 private sector jobs are lost 
because those people depend upon the payroll from those government 
  The Simpson Bowles deficit commission said it very clearly: This is a 
long-term problem. We need to solve the deficit over the long term. We 
cannot and should not solve it with immediate cuts because it will 
impair the recovery of America. And here's what's happening: We're 
seeing the growth in the private sector retarded as the public sector 
reduces. This is the effect of the cut, slash, and burn strategy that 
our Republican colleagues want to put forward.
  So what's going on in Vermont?

                              {time}  1740

  Mr. WELCH. Well, let's talk about the balanced budget amendment. We 
in Vermont don't have a balanced budget amendment. We're the only State 
that doesn't have it. We have always managed to balance our budget. And 
we have done that when we have had Republican administrations and 
Democratic administrations.
  The balanced budget amendment in Congress I think has some hazards 
because the Federal Government at certain times is the one tool that 
the American people have to be countercyclical. If the economy is 
really going down and it requires the Federal Government to step up to 
try to maintain purchasing power, that is debatable; but it is the only 
tool that we have as citizens is the Federal Government to do that.
  I think what the balanced budget amendment suggests is that you can 
legislate away your future problems. You can come up with a fix that is 
going to guarantee you're not going to have to suffer through trying to 
figure out how to solve very difficult problems, either because it is a 
national security threat, it's a collapse in the economy like we had 
with the collapse of Wall Street.
  And by and large it's not any way for us to avoid making direct and 
difficult decisions where we balance our revenue needs and we balance 
our spending needs based on the circumstances, and that's the constant 
work of Congress. It requires the application of judgment, it requires 
cooperation, and it requires the ability to be flexible and responsive 
to the circumstances that exist.
  A balanced budget amendment is one size fits all that puts us in 
handcuffs in an effort to try to avoid getting out of balance.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Thank you, Mr. Welch.
  The gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Perlmutter) has joined us, and 
directly in front of me is the gentlewoman from Ohio (Ms. Sutton).
  Let me turn to the gentleman from Colorado first.
  Mr. PERLMUTTER. Thank you, Mr. Garamendi.
  I think you all have been focused on the real issue in front of us. 
We have some budget issues, but the best way to handle our debt is to 
put people back to work. The quickest way to reduce the debt or the 
deficit is to put people back to work. All of a sudden you have revenue 
coming in, and you don't have to pay unemployment and COBRA and you 
don't have to pay so much Medicaid. That's the first order of business. 
Plus, it really makes people feel valuable. Anybody knows that a job 
gives you dignity. That's what you're looking for, a good job to care 
for your families and provide for the future. That's what we have to do 

  And Democrats, our formula is innovate, educate, rebuild our 
infrastructure, equals jobs, equals good jobs that are long lasting 
that people can rely on and they can work and feel good about their 
lives and the future for their family.
  Now, one of the things that we have said as Democrats is if we make 
it in America, we will make it in America. Instead of sending jobs 
overseas, let's have them here. We have the finest people in the world, 
some of the most talented and skilled people anywhere, and we need to 
be making things in this country.
  In Colorado, for instance, one of the places where we can see these 
jobs is in our energy sector, both in traditional energy, oil and gas 
development, but also in new energy--energy efficiency, renewable 
energy, solar, wind, biomass, new jobs, good jobs. And so all this 
budget talk, all of this balanced budget stuff that I think does real 
damage to the Constitution, that should be going to the side. We have 
to focus on putting people back to work with good jobs that last a long 
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Let's just get ourselves into a good discussion here. 
The great Midwest, Ohio, the industrial center of America, being 
rebuilt by Betty Sutton.
  I yield to the gentlelady from Ohio.
  Ms. SUTTON. Thank you. I thank my colleagues for being down here 
fighting the fight that the American people want us to fight. And 
that's a fight for jobs. The American people, the people I represent in 
Ohio, their number one priority by all means is about putting people 
back to work. As Representative Perlmutter just stated so eloquently, 
it is really about empowering people. They don't want a lot from their 
government, but they do want a government that works with them and for 
them, and to the extent possible plays that role that will help spur 
our economy, invest in infrastructure which puts people back to work, 
and levels the playing field for our manufacturers.
  I come from a place where we have a very strong manufacturing base, 
and it hasn't always been treated fairly. We have had a lot of unfair 
trade deals that have been passed that hurt the people that I 
represent, and we have a lot of policies that frankly didn't do them 
well. We can do better.
  But here we are 200-some days into this new Congress under this 
Republican leadership and not a single jobs plan to come before this 
body. It is quite amazing to think about. Instead, what are they 
talking about, imposing a budget that ends Medicare and protects the 
very tax breaks that end up shipping our jobs overseas.

[[Page H5282]]

  Well, I am proud to stand with you tonight and work on those policies 
that will put America back to work and strengthen not only our 
infrastructure but our economy which will keep our place in this world 
as leaders. And so as we move forward, I hope that our colleagues on 
the other side of the aisle will get focused on what America needs, and 
that is jobs, jobs, and jobs.
  We have a role to play. We can deal with the deficit. We should deal 
with the deficit; but the kinds of cuts that they are talking about, 
ending Medicare, taking this out of our seniors instead of cutting 
those tax breaks that have existed for those oil companies and others 
at the very top that have been a burden to our middle class because 
they are the ones who have to make up the difference, let's focus on 
jobs. Let's encourage our colleagues in the GOP to get on board and 
start working on what America needs, and that is to put America back to 
  Mr. GARAMENDI. And we're going to make it in America. America is 
going to make it. This is a great, strong country. Yesterday, I heard 
during the debate that we're broke. We're not broke at all. We've got a 
deficit problem; we can deal with that with some good policies when we 
put people to work.
  This is America, and we're going to make it in America.
  Let's look at that chart that Mr. Perlmutter has over there. Trade 
policies. We talked about that a little bit.
  Taxes. We're spending our tax money on buying equipment that's made 
overseas when it ought to be made in Ohio--the buses, the trains, the 
solar panels, and the wind turbines. How about doing those in Colorado? 
You have a plant there. Use our tax money to buy American-made 
  Talk to me about research. Mr. Tonko, you come from one of the great 
early research centers of America.
  Mr. TONKO. The original tech valley. Thank you, Representative 
Garamendi. I know we don't have much time. I'll do this quickly.
  The 21st Congressional District that I represent in upstate New York 
is the host community to the Erie Canal barge canal. It gave birth to a 
necklace of communities dubbed mill towns that became the epicenters of 
invention and innovation. That same pioneer spirit is fed today. It's 
part of our DNA. But you need investments in R It's why my region is 
now one of the top five in the country for the growth of green collar 
jobs, innovation that is being advanced simply by investing, as we did 
in the prior Congress, in job creation. Not cutting programs that 
provide opportunities for work.
  Instead, they are going and building up programs like handouts to the 
oil companies that aren't producing a job, tax cuts for millionaires 
and billionaires. They need the dollars for that. They're cutting 
valuable programs that either speak to the dignity factor for our 
seniors through Medicare or advancing research and development that 
grows jobs. That's what we need to do.
  The Democrats are on message. Jobs, jobs, jobs. Solve the jobs 
crisis, you'll resolve the deficit situation, the revenue situation, 
and the spending situation.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. We're going to put people back to work, and one way 
we're going to do it is with a clean energy policy. We need a national 
security policy on energy. I know that part of that solution is going 
to come from Colorado where they are doing the research and where they 
are making some of this equipment and from middle America. And I 
suspect even Vermont will have a piece of this puzzle.
  Mr. Perlmutter, tell us about energy systems in Colorado.
  Mr. PERLMUTTER. I know time is short, but in Colorado, we are very 
fortunate to have the National Renewable Energy Lab which is the finest 
lab of its kind anywhere in the world to help us develop ways to better 
use our energy. A gallon saved is a gallon earned, you know that kind 
of thing, but focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, solar, 
wind, biomass, geothermal, those are new jobs. And to be more efficient 
with traditional energy sources, to be smarter about how we use them 
and how we extract them.
  This is about restoring the American Dream for people, that they have 
good jobs, a good education, dignified and healthy lives of seniors. 
That's what we want to restore for America, not all of this gloom and 
doom and all that we're hearing and cuts. This is about restoring the 
American Dream, and we can do this.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Okay, we are going to have our bullet session here. 
We'll start with Ms. Sutton from Ohio.
  Ms. SUTTON. Thank you again for having this hour. It is so important 
that we do make it in America. I talked a little bit about jobs. I have 
a bill right now that is pending that I would encourage the Republicans 
to join me in passing. It's called the Keep American Jobs From Going 
Down the Drain Act. It says that as we rebuild our infrastructure here, 
our water infrastructure and sewer infrastructure, we do it with 
American iron and steel and manufactured goods. It's a jobs bill; it's 
a strengthening bill. It's good for America. This is a strong and great 
country. And I agree with my colleague, we can do better by it.

                              {time}  1750

  Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Tonko.
  Mr. TONKO. Our country is strong. Our economy is one that is 
bolstered by job creation. And we've said it so many times over and 
over again: Don't cut valuable programs. Allow our seniors the dignity 
of Medicare. That enables them to have economic sustainability, 
vitality. That is important. And we invest from children to seniors in 
a way that produces jobs, strengthens regional, State, and the national 
economies, and we go forward.
  And I think the optimism is there. Our message is one of can do, not 
denial, cuts, slash, burn.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. Mr. Welch.
  Mr. WELCH. Three points:
  One, let's pay our bills. We always have; we always will;
  Two, let's have a long-term budget plan to stabilize our budget with 
a balanced approach--revenues as well as cuts, the Pentagon as well as 
reforming how we deliver health care;
  Three, let's make it in America.
  Mr. GARAMENDI. We're going to make it in America. When we do, America 
will make it. We will put forth, as Democrats, a jobs program. We're 
going to invest, we're going to grow, and we're going to build this 
economy. That's our promise.
  I yield back the balance of my time.