Katie Grant, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today on the need to extend middle class tax cuts, extend unemployment insurance, and fix the Medicare physician payment rate before Congress adjourns for the year. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“I thank the Gentle-lady for yielding. I want to join her in saying that there were some minuses in this bill. The minuses in this bill historically has been as it relates to the District of Columbia that the Congress has treated the District of Columbia as its own possession as opposed to an independent political jurisdiction and has been granted home rule. And the Congress ought to honor that home rule. And as we urge democracies around the world or dictatorships in the world to honor the views of their people , the Congress of the United States ought to honor the wishes of the people of the District of Columbia. And I always lament when we put in these individual provisions.
“I also want to say to the Gentle-lady from the District of Columbia how outstanding a job she does representing this jurisdiction in which we have the capital of our own country. The only capital of a free world country whose citizens do not have a representative in their parliament who has the authority and privilege of voting. It's a lamentable fact that Ms. Norton, who is speaking to us today, this afternoon, does not have that vote. And all of us ought to recognize that's a blight on our democracy. But I congratulate her on representing the District of Columbia in such an extraordinarily positive fashion even without the vote, and it would be awesome what she could do in addition to that with a vote.
“I rise as well to make a couple of comments, Mr. Speaker, about the business that is pending before this Congress. We have passed an omnibus appropriations bill. This bill that is on the desk here, 1,207 pages, reported out last night – a conference report. I urged support of that bill, but it was not, of course, consistent with the pledges that were made to do appropriations bills discretely. That is, one after another. It is difficult to do that, unfortunately – the way we should do it. But we didn't do it this year, and we have not done it in years past under Democratic and Republican leadership. But I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, that we have some critically unfinished business pending in the Congress of the United States.
“We passed a bill here through the House some days ago which provided for the extension of the payroll tax cut that we gave to 160 million Americans last year. Our economy is still not as robust as we want it to be, and the President of the United States has said, let's continue that tax cut for middle-income Americans. We have not done that yet, and unfortunately the bill that we passed through the House had items in it that obviously the Senate does not agree with. The Majority Leader tried to put that bill on the floor for consideration by the Senate, and the Minority Leader objected to that consideration, so it has not moved.
“In addition to the middle-class tax cut, we must not leave Washington without providing for the extension of the unemployment insurance. This great nation, this wealthy nation should not abandon those who cannot find work through no fault of their own. If we do not act, millions of Americans may go off unemployment insurance that helps them pay their housing bills and continue to afford to look for work. In the month of February, another two million will find themselves similarly situated.
“Lastly, we must pass an extension of the compensation of doctors who are serving Medicare patients. That is critical to do so we can ensure health care for our seniors, there isn't a member of Congress who doesn't want to see that happen or at least none who say want to see that happen, so I want to join Ms. Norton as we stand here today and as we're leaving for the weekend, but I also want to call the House's attention to a concern that I have.
“The Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, announced to us the schedule this afternoon and said that we would not be meeting today, later in the day after our business, which has now concluded. We would not be meeting Saturday and Sunday, and we may come back on the 19th, which is Monday. Now, one of the things I was concerned about is that he said on the floor it is difficult to predict if or when we need to return. Now, he meant by that that he wasn't sure when the Senate was going to act. I understand his meaning. But I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I hope the American people will demand that we return and that they will demand that we act before we adjourn sine die, before we conclude this first session of Congress.
“Yes, Christmas is coming. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, other celebrations, but there will be no celebration for those people who cannot find work and who believe that the support system that this country has extended to them will be ripped out from under them.
“So I am here on the Floor to join my colleague in talking about the omnibus appropriations bill to say I am pleased that we passed it. It will keep our government operating. It has not yet passed, but hopefully in the next 48 hours the Senate will have acted – hopefully in the next 24 on the conference report – and we'll get ready to send it to the President. But I am very hopeful that all 435 members of this House and that all 100 members of the United States Senate are committed to the proposition that we will not leave this town, that we will not abandon our responsibilities to assure the adoption of the three measures which I have referenced.
“The middle-class tax cut, which will affect 160 million Americans – I frankly think we should pay for that with a slight surcharge. Not a sacrifice, just an additional contribution by some of the best off in America. Not because of class warfare but because they want, I’m sure, to help their fellow citizens who need help. Not leave here without making sure that that middle-class tax cut continues, that unemployment insurance is available, and that doctors will be compensated.
“So I thank the Gentle-lady for yielding for this comment, and in closing let me say that I wear a yellow ribbon. There's a great song about ‘tie a yellow ribbon around the great oak tree.’ We wear that yellow ribbon for the troops who have been overseas, defending freedom, in harm's way. We wear that yellow ribbon to remind them of how pleased we are that so many of them are coming home. The President has met his commitment to end our participation in the war in Iraq and bring our troops home. We welcome them home. We honor them for their service. And we pledge to them our continuing care for their needs resulting from their service. I thank the Gentle-lady for yielding this time, to call our attention to the important work that is yet to be done in this first session of this Congress.”