Maureen Beach, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in opposition to the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act (H.R. 2112). See below for a link to the video and a transcript of his remarks:
“I thank you, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chairman. I thank Mr. Bartlett from Maryland for making the case. I tell my friends that when they say ‘women and children first,’ it means to save them, not to throw them overboard. ‘Women and children first’ means that they are the most vulnerable and need to be lifted up, need to be protected, need to be given the hand up, not the handout. Ladies and gentlemen of this House, I rise in opposition to this bill, and I thank my friend from Maryland, for whom I have great respect. I think in fact he did put this in context.
“We will not balance the budget on the backs of children. We will not balance this budget on the backs of women who need nutrition and health care. That's not how we're going to balance the budget, and the gentleman from Maryland made that point, I think, very effectively. If we cut out all defense and discretionary spending, we wouldn't balance our budget. That's the magnitude of the problem that faces us. But a great country, America, should not ask our children who need nutritional programs, who need health programs, to pay the price of our irresponsibility, because we have failed to pay for what we buy.
“But let us not repair to our little children and their mothers to pay the bill that we refuse to pay. While at the same time we pass a rule, the first day in this House that provides for $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest in America, including me. I don't want a tax cut if it means that a child goes hungry in America, the richest nation on the face of the Earth. That is not my priority. That is not my morality. That is not my faith. Lift up the little children. Surely, surely, America is not a country that wants to see its children go hungry or its pregnant women go without services they need for healthy babies. Surely, America is a generous enough country to feed those who need food. My faith tells me to feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe those who have no clothes.
“I rise in opposition to this bill, and I rise in strong opposition to attempts to dramatically cut the food programs that serve some of our most vulnerable constituents. Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and Alan Simpson, a Republican and former member of the United States Senate, just issued a report, and in that report it lays forth a number of premises. And one of its first premises is: do not hurt the vulnerable in America, because, as my friend from Maryland points out, that won't get you to where we need to get. And we need to get there. And I’m going to work with my friend from Maryland, a Republican, and all Republicans who know that we need to balance budgets, to reduce debt, and my friends on my side of the aisle.
“This appropriations bill would sharply reduce funding for vital nutrition programs for women, infants and children. Surely, surely Americans did not send us the message to go to Washington and undermine women, infants and children, at a time when we are still recovering from the worst economic crisis in a generation, where unemployment is unacceptably high, where people have lost their homes, where too many people are in great distress; surely this is not a time to say, ‘we turn our back on you.’ Further, this bill would cut $37 million in support for hungry, low-income seniors. Not just women, infants and children—this bill cuts seniors as well. Surely, our people did not send us to this Congress to cut food assistance for seniors. It would also cut $11 million for our community food banks—and by the way, if you visited your food bank, you know there is more demand on our food banks than there has ever been. Ladies and gentlemen, reject this bill. Stand up for the values of America and of our people.”