Floor Speech in Support of Legislation Extending the Debt Limit

October 12, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of legislation to extend the public debt limit through at least December 3rd.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, for his ongoing leadership to bring this important legislation to the Floor and to the work of the Rules Committee on the ongoing – to make sure that we have the right discussion on the Floor to meet the needs of the American people. 

Mr. Speaker, multiple times now, the Democratic House has taken action to honor our responsibility to address the priority of the debt limit.  We have done so because this is about protecting families.  The failure to lift the debt limit could result in a loss of up to six million jobs, the elimination of $15 trillion in household wealth and drastic increases in the cost of loans, car loans, mortgages, student loans, credit card bills and other borrowing.

Our action also protects the American economy.  When we say ‘domestic economy,’ we’re talking domestic – we’re talking kitchen table when we talk about car loans, car loans, mortgages, student loans, credit card bills, et cetera, as well as jobs and trillions of dollars in household wealth. 

In terms of the domestic economy writ large, our action protects the climate, preventing a decline in real GDP of up to four percent, a surge in the unemployment rate, as I mentioned, and what JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon called, quote, ‘A catastrophe of unbelievable proportions and damage to America for up to 100 years.’  Up to 100 years. 

This is also about the health of the global economy.  Kitchen table, broader domestic, national economy – the global economy.  The Council of Economic Advisors has stated, ‘A default would send shock waves through global financial markets and would likely cause credit markets worldwide to freeze up and stock markets to plunge.  Employers around the world would likely have to begin laying off workers.’ 

It goes on to say, ‘The 2008 financial crisis had ripple effects throughout the global economy that ricocheted back to the U.S. shores, causing firms to lay off workers’ – here we are again – ‘and cut private investment.  A financial crisis driven by a default has the potential to be even worse, in addition to hitting a global economy not fully recovered from the pandemic.’ 

Addressing the debt limit honors our duty to the Constitution.  The Fourteenth Amendment, Section IV states: ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States authorized by law… shall not be questioned.’   

So, my question, Mr. Speaker, to you, is – and to our colleagues – what is it that they have against families when they want to increase unemployment, decrease household wealth and have families charge more – be charged more for car loans, credit card loans, mortgage payments, and other borrowing?  Don't you care about that?  What do you have against our own economy, where this ‘catastrophe of unbelievable proportions’ could have impacts for over 100 years?  Don't you care about that?  

Also, the health of the global economy, which I described so clearly, causing credit markets worldwide to freeze up and stock markets to plunge and employers around the world have to begin laying off workers – again, coming back to our shores.  

Certainly you have respect for the Constitution of the United States, to which we take an oath to protect and defend, which states: ‘The validity of the of the public debt of the United States, authorized by [law]… shall not be questioned.’  

Let us be clear about what this means.  Addressing the debt limit is not about future spending, as some have tried to represent.  This is about meeting obligations that the government has already incurred, including from the bipartisan COVID relief legislation passed last year.  Only three percent of the current debt that we are addressing here has been incurred during the Biden years.  Under President Biden: three percent of what we are talking about here.

We are talking about the Trump debt incurred – and some of it in a bipartisan way to address the COVID crisis.  Not all, though.  We were not complicit in the Republican tax scam to give 83 percent of benefits to the top 1 percent in our country, adding about $2 trillion that we have to cover here now.

Let us remember: this should not be controversial.  The debt limit has been a long-time bipartisan issue.  Congress also has passed the debt limit 78 times since 1960 – 29 times with a Democratic president in the White House, and 49 times under a Republican president.  Almost twice as many times under a Republican president.  But it has always been bipartisan.  It has not always been unanimous.  People have registered their concerns, their complaints, but up until now they haven't stood in the way of passing legislation.  

More recently, [since] 2011, each of the seven times that the debt limit was addressed, Congress did so on a bipartisan basis.  This includes three times under the last Administration, when Democrats cooperated in order to protect the economy from catastrophe.

I want to remind that when President Obama was President and the Republican Majority in the Congress was threatening to not lift the debt limit, just the threat of that had an impact on our credit rating.  Our credit rating went down.  The mere discussion of not lifting the debt limit had a negative impact on our credit rating.  Don't you care about that?  It is sad that Republican obstruction has delayed action for so long.  And it's sad they will not join us for a longer-term suspension.

The full faith and credit of the United States must never be questioned, and the financial security of families must never be gambled with, as our Republican colleagues seem to be doing, even though, as Mr. Hoyer mentioned, that Mr. McConnell at one point was saying – was playing Russian Roulette with the economy.  Russian Roulette for Moscow Mitch.  Interesting.  

Democrats are For The People, and I urge a strong bipartisan vote for this legislation and for protecting the economic strength of America's working families.  With that, Mr. Chairman, I again commend you for bringing this to the Floor.  I ask for [a] unanimous vote on this important legislation and yield back the balance of my time.

Thank you.