Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this morning in opposition to H.R. 807, the "Pay China First” Act. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here to watch the video.
“I thank the Ranking Member [Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mi.)]. I rise partly in sadness, wholly in disappointment, that we are playing this game. How sad. I tell my other friend from Michigan [Rep. Camp], his amendment is sad too, I want to say. It's a device to try to get people to vote for a bill that has no merit by making members’ pay somehow present in this bill. We ought to consider things on their merit, not on this political gamesmanship.
“Mr. Speaker, for the second time, House Republicans decided to put our country at risk of defaulting on its obligations. They know this bill is not going anywhere. They know the President would veto, and they know Republican economists think this bill makes no sense. I won't ask the Gentleman who chairs the Ways and Means Committee his real view on this bill.
“This so-called debt prioritization bill mandates that, in the event we hit the debt limit, we'll pay China first, not our contractors doing business with us, not our federal employees, not veterans. Yes, Social Security is taken care of. Not our military. We'll pay China first. That's what this bill says.
“No major creditor in the country would have a debt prioritization. Now, the secondary lenders, tertiary lenders, yes, they have prioritization. But no major lender, no big corporation. They say: 'if we incur a debt, we'll pay it.' Not: 'we'll pay this one first and you second or third or fourth.’ We'll pay China first, and other creditors, before we pay our troops, seniors, health care and veterans' benefits. Yes, you've made an exemption for Social Security. Not in the original bill, but politically that was too hot to handle, so you added Social Security.
“Just yesterday Speaker Boehner admitted that this bill means the United States of America will voluntarily act like a bankrupt corporation and pay China before we pay our troops. How sad. How patently political. How transparent that we're trying to give a fig leaf so that we can play around with the national debt. Ronald Reagan would be deeply disappointed, and he expressed that. Speaker Boehner said: ‘Those who have loaned us money, like in any other proceedings, the bondholders usually get paid first. Same thing here.’ Pay China first.
“This partisan bill is not a feasible solution to our debt problem, and even Republicans recognize this won't work. Tony Fratto, former Bush Administration Spokesman for Economic Policy, said – and I quote – this is a Republican spokesman for the Bush Administration: ‘Prioritization is impossible. Is the government really going to be in the position of withholding benefits, salaries, rent, contract payments, etc., in order to pay off treasury bondholders? That would be,’ he said, ‘a political catastrophe.’
“Former Bush Chief Economic Advisor, Keith Hennessey - this is an economic advisor, not a spokesperson - said this: ‘If the U.S. government legally commits to paying someone a benefit or agrees to pay a firm for a good or service, the U.S. government should fulfill that agreement in a timely fashion. To do otherwise is taking the first step to becoming a banana republic.’ That's Hennessey, not Hoyer – not a Democrat. That's a Bush economic advisor.
“Mr. Speaker, we should not be admitting defeat and ranking the losers, as this bill would do. Instead of choosing to pay China or any other holder of our debt before we pay our troops – and we ought to pay them, and we ought to pay them on time. That's not the issue. The issue is the United States of America, the most creditworthy nation on Earth, ought to pay all its debt in a timely fashion. All – not prioritize. All – across the board. Our wounded veterans, the seniors who worked hard to build this country – we should be working to fix the problem by coming to a consensus on a big and balanced deal to reduce our deficits, including tax reform, which the Chairman is so assiduously seeking. Playing politically motivated games with the credit worthiness of the United States will only risk another downgrade, and I yield back the balance of my time.”