Pelosi Floor Speech on Republicans’ GOP Tax Scam

November 17, 2017
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor on the House of Representatives to express her opposition to the GOP Tax Scam which would raise taxes on 36 million middle class families.  H.R. 1 passed in the House 227-205.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

Leader Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman [Congressman Richard Neal] for yielding and thank him for his superb leadership as the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.  I commend him and all of our fellow Democrats on the Committee for standing up for the middle class in our country and fighting for the truth in what is in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, this vote today is a defining moment for our country.  Our votes today will decide the future of the American middle class and those who aspire to it, the future of our children and our grandchildren, the future of the United States of America as the land of opportunity.  Today the Republicans have brought forth a bill that is pillaging the middle class to pad the pockets of the wealthiest and hand tax breaks to corporations shipping jobs out of America and drastically increasing the national debt.

My colleagues, the bill Republicans have brought to the floor today is not tax reform.  It's not even a tax cut.  It is a tax scam.  So many people have written in about it who are affected by it and I’ll submit all of that for the record.  But I do want to say that this is not only a defining moment, it is a moment of truth.  With straight faces and with the speed of light, I have to give them credit: they raced this thing through in the dark of night.

They're trying to sell a bill of goods to the middle class that this is in their interest, that this is a middle income tax cut.  According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, Republicans are raising taxes on 36 million middle class families.  36 million.


Speaker Pro Tempore.  The gentlelady will suspend.  The gentleman is correct.

Leader Pelosi.  Typical of the –

Speaker Pro Tempore.  The gentlelady will suspend.

Leader Pelosi.  Typical of the Republican Party, they don't want you to hear what I have to say as I speak the truth  –

Speaker Pro Tempore.  The gentlelady will suspend until the House comes to order.  The gentlelady can continue.

Leader Pelosi.  I associate myself with the words of Mr. [Steny] Hoyer especially at the end, when he said, look to your soul.  Not to your polls.

I want to speak to Pope Benedict, his encyclical.  It was his first encyclical as Pope.  And in that encyclical, Pope Benedict quoted the wisdom of Saint Augustine – Saint Augustine.  Seventeen centuries ago Saint Augustine said, ‘a state which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves.’  Benedict went on to say, ‘the state must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now.’  And he cautioned against ‘the danger of certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.’

Interesting, in light of the fact that when this bill was brought forward, the Director of National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, he said, ‘the most excited group out there are the big CEO's about our tax plan.’  Is that justice?

Congressman [Chris] Collins said, ‘my donors are basically saying, get it done or don't ever call me again.’

Senator Lindsey Graham said, ‘the financial contributions will stop if this tax scam fails.’  Well, he didn't say scam.  I'm saying scam.  That's my word.

Back to the Pope and the Catholic Bishops – the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote, ‘this proposal appears to be the first modification that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy.’  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops went on to say, this is simply unconscionable.

My colleagues, we always begin our session with prayer.  Many of us attend mass on the weekend, on Sundays.  But we cannot pray and think that that gives us a reason to prey on people the rest of the week.  And that is what this bill does.  It preys on the middle class and those who aspire to it.  It pillages and loots the middle class.  It is a shameful piece of legislation. And the republicans should know better.

They say, ‘it's going to get better in the Senate.’  Oh my gosh!  In the Senate, as Mr. Hoyer pointed out, unanimously the Senate Finance Committee rejected this proposal already.  Was it 26-0, whatever the number was, the zero loomed large.

But getting back to values – because that's what we're here to do, and what we do in our budget, which is - which the tax bill is a part of.  It’s supposed to be a statement of values.

In his study of civilization, the great British historian Arnold Toynbee found that the beginning of a hopeful country, the political leadership formed a creative minority that inspired and led the flowering of civilization.  But in some nations leaders became a ‘dominant minority of exploiters,’ focused on their own wealth and power.  Arnold Toynbee, welcome to the Republican side of the aisle in Congress.

These competing mindsets, he went on, between the dominant minority of exploiters versus the creative minority that inspired and led the flowering of civilization, these competing mindsets and motivations create schisms in a body social and in the body politic.  And lo and behold, the Republican Party has written a bill, nearly half the benefits go to the top 1% in our country.  And 80% of the benefits go to the top 2%.  This is a defining moment, but it's also a moment of truth.

How can the Republicans, with a straight face, say to the middle class, well, we're doubling this or doubling that?  Give with one hand, take with another.  And to hear them cheer, hear them cheer for the provision in here about the estate tax.

Listen to this.  You tell me if you think this is fair:  1,800 families in America, not your family farmer, everybody's taken care in what we have done already with the estate tax.  In this bill, 1,800 of the wealthiest families, filers in our country, will in the life of the bill get the break of $172 billion. 1,800 families.  This is for 1,800 families.  And you know what, the Republicans cheered that. 1,800 families are going to get $172 billion.

They cheer the fact that up to – $1.5 trillion in tax cuts goes to corporate America while at the same time giving them another tax break to send jobs overseas.  At the same time be absolving them of any responsibility – absolving them of any responsibility when it comes to state and local taxes. While insisting that individuals lose the state and local tax deduction but corporations do not.

And listen to all of it.  They're cheering when they say to a teacher; ‘you may bring supplies to your school because your school and classes need that, Gods bless you for that.  But we're taking away your tax – the tax deduction that goes with that.’

What?  Is that something to cheer about?  They're saying to students who get a $2,500 tax deduction on interest on student loans, ‘forget about that.’  Even though it may make the difference between you attending college or not, forget about that.  ‘We're too busy giving a tax cut to 1,800 [of the] wealthiest families in America, so they can get $172 billion in tax breaks over the next 10 years.’

They're saying to families, where they have a child with a disability, a senior with Alzheimer’s, and everything in between, if you have extraordinary medical expenses, and since 1944 you have been able to deduct them, no more.  No more because we’ve got to give it to the high end.  So take that away.

Do you have any idea what that means to America’s working families and what it means for them, if they have Alzheimer’s?  We had one person come to our event in San Francisco last week we had one person come from [Congresswoman] Barbara Lee's district, she said it cost over $170,000 in costs for her because her husband has Alzheimer’s.  The tax deduction enabled them to survive.

She said, ‘I can't even imagine the cruelty that decided that this should happen in this tax bill.’  So understand what this means in people's lives, and tell the truth about it, tell the truth about it.  Republicans want to you believe that their trickle-down tax break for the rich will pay for itself.  Never has happened.  Never has happened.

As Bruce Bartlett, architect of Jack Kemp supply side economics, said, ‘it's not true.  That this trickle-down economics pays for itself, it's not true.  It's nonsense.’  And he went on to say, ‘it was B.S.’  In the full extent of those words.

This tax scam won't create jobs.  It won't raise wages.  It will only fill the coffers of the donors and the fat cats.  The GOP Tax Scam will add trillions to the debt and stick our children with a bill that you cannot pay off.  None of us will probably be around by the time the full impacts of the hemorrhaging of the debt in the second 10 years of this bill, [it] will require big tax increases.

Look to the Kansas example.

Speaker Pro Tempore.  The gentleman is correct.  The House will come to order.

Leader Pelosi.  I thank the gentleman.

Speaker Pro Tempore.  The gentlelady will still continue to pause. The gentlelady will still continue –

Leader Pelosi.  Maybe I’ll have to use my mother-of-five voice so that you will listen –

Speaker Pro Tempore.  The gentlelady will pause.  The Members made a valid point.  The Chair will get the House in order before the gentlelady continues.  The gentlelady will now continue.

Leader Pelosi.  As I always like to say in my Caucus, Mr. Speaker, maybe I have to use my mother-of-five voice to be heard.  But as a mother of five, and a grandmother of nine, we're supposed to be thinking about our children and their futures and our grandchildren and their futures.

God willing, one day some of will you have grandchildren.  I always ask you the question, do they breathe air?  Do they drink water?  Why are you messing that up in other areas of our policymaking here?

But getting back to this – the tax scam won't create jobs.  It won't raise wages.  It will only fill the coffers of donors and the fat cats.  The GOP Tax Scam will add trillions to the debt.

Oh, where, oh, where are the deficit hawks?  Have you become extinct?  Is there not one among you who understands what this does to the national debt?  And with all due respect to your Leader, for him to put at our door step the debt when it was a creation, President Bush went into office on a path from President Clinton of deficit reduction.

The last five Clinton budgets were in balance or in surplus.  President Bush turned that around by repealing pay as you go, tax cuts for the wealthy, didn't trickle down, two unpaid for wars, giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry.  Taking us to a place – remember, September of 2008, when we were in the worst economic downturn since the great depression.  But anyway.  Back to here.

As Republicans know, our Republican friends have already shown us their playbook.  In this bill, corporations will get a cut of $1.5 trillion, the same $1.5 trillion that Republicans planned to slash from Medicare and Medicaid and the GOP Budget.

In their bones, the American people know they’re getting a raw deal under the Republican bill before us.  You know it.  You know why you're here.  You know what you're doing.

Democrats believe the American people deserve better, A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.  We want to create good paying jobs, raise workers' wages, lower the cost of living for families, and give Americans the tools they need to succeed in the 21st century – but you can't do that if you have a budget that does not invest in that future and is hampered by the cuts.

Let's go back to the drawing board, let's write a bipartisan bill that raises wages, creates jobs, promotes growth, reduces the deficit, to get to that place we would want to go to the table in a bipartisan way.

What are you afraid of? In a bipartisan way, to put together a tax bill that is good for the American people, instead of one that does violence to the American dream.

I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote no and deliver a better bill for America’s working families.

I want to return to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to put their fabulous statement about this tax bill in the record and I return to one of their statements.

‘This proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut for the wealthy.’  And the Senate is not going to make it better.

They said they're raising taxes on those making under $75,000 and giving tax cuts to the wealthy.  They’ve said they're going to take affordable care away from 13 million Americans.  I don't know how that's making it better.  That might be something you applaud but I hope you would not vote for.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.