Hoyer: Congress Ought to Vote to Ensure America Can Pay Its Bills

For Immediate Release:

February 11, 2014

Contact:

Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130

WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor in support of S. 540, legislation to ensure America can pay its bills, which passed the House tonight.  Below are his remarks and a link to the video:

Click here to watch the video.

“I thank the Speaker. And I thank the Gentleman from New York, and I thank the Gentleman from Michigan. Let me start by saying, this issue ought not to be subject to a debate.

“America, the greatest land on the face of the Earth, and one of the most economically successful countries in history, won't pay its bills. I can't believe there's any American that thinks America should or would welsh on that which it owes. That's not a very sophisticated argument. I can make a more sophisticated argument. But when it comes down to it, that's the issue. Will America pay its bills? Will it give confidence to the investor community? Will it give confidence to the business community? Will it give confidence to our own citizens? Indeed, will we give confidence to the world that the world's leader can manage its own affairs responsibly?

“I want to join Leader Pelosi in congratulating the Speaker for bringing this bill to the Floor. He brings it to the Floor because he knows, as I’ve just said, there is no alternative for America but to pay its bills. He brings it to the Floor because he knows if he doesn't, the business community is going to think that the Majority party in this House cannot manage the affairs of the United States of America in a responsible fashion. Amenably, he brings it to the Floor apparently with some doubts as to whether or not those who have elected him Speaker will follow him in taking the responsible path.

“My presumption is, although I don't know, is that the Gentleman who chairs the Ways and Means Committee will vote for this. My presumption is Mr. Cantor, the Majority Leader, will vote for this. My presumption is that Speaker Boehner will vote for this. My presumption is based on upon the fact that they've represented that there's not an alternative that's a responsible one.

“Now I doubt that there are many people on this Floor who have urged us to pursue a big deal more than I have. I voted against the last budget agreement, otherwise known as Ryan-Murray, because I thought it was too small and did not move us towards fiscal responsibility and sustainability in the magnitude that it should have. Having said that, however, there is no alternative to pay the bills that we have incurred, that the House, the Senate and the President – on behalf of the American people – have incurred. And because we are a great nation, we will certainly not welsh on our debts.

“So we come to this time with not many people on the Floor. Although we have demagogued this issue in the past – we, both sides, let's be clear. On our side we said that the Republicans cut revenues, therefore they were responsible for the debt. On their side they say Democrats spent money and invested money and, therefore, they're responsible for the debt. The fact of the matter is, we were all responsible for the debt.

“The fact of the matter is, under the Reagan Administration, when I came to Congress, we substantially increased the national debt and we could only do so with Ronald Reagan's signature. And then under George Bush the first, we substantially increased the debt – we could only do so with George Bush's signature. And, under Bill Clinton, we brought the debt down for four years running, and we ran surpluses for the next four. And, of course, Republicans were in the House and in charge for six years. So it was a team effort, if you will. And we had a budget surplus. And then, in the second Bush Administration, we substantially increased the budget deficit. We had two wars and we paid for none. One trillion dollars plus in additional deficit. Many trillions over time.

“And so, my friends, we come to the Floor today to do the only responsible alternative available to us. But that does not mean that anybody who votes for this believes that it is not critically important for us to have America on a fiscally sustainable path. The Business Roundtable has urged us to pass this bill. As Leader Pelosi quoted, the Chamber of Commerce said not to do so will put our country and our economy at risk. And yet I fear there are going to be apparently a significant amount of people who will come and vote no. Vote no on paying America's bills. Vote no on giving confidence to the international community that America is, in fact, able to manage its affairs.

“There ought to be no debate, as I said, when it comes to making sure we pay our bills on time – the bills Congress has incurred. As I said, the Business Roundtable was quoted as saying, ‘urgent action is required’ on the part of Congress in order to prevent a default. In fact, it said, if we defaulted, every American, all 315 million-plus, would feel the negative effects. Why would anybody vote against such a bill?

“This is not a partisan vote and should not be viewed as such. Republicans and Democrats have voted to protect the American people, provide for the national defense, and provide for the general welfare of our country, pursuant to our constitutional responsibilities. Having done so, there is no responsible alternative but to pay our bills. That's what this vote is about. Let's show the courage, the wisdom, the common sense to do just that. Vote yes.”

###