Floor Speech in Support of Legislation Suspending the Debt Limit
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of legislation that would suspend the public debt limit through December 2022 and prevent America from defaulting on its debt. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Madam Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding and thank him for his masterful leadership of the Ways and Means Committee to address many of the health concerns and climate concerns, issues of fairness in our economy, in such an important way – that is in the Rescue package and, now, in the Build Back Better legislation.
Today, we come to the Floor about a very important issue of concern to the economic stability and fiscal soundness of our country. As you recall, Madam Speaker, last week, House Democrats honored our responsibility to the American people by voting on lifting the debt ceiling and on a Continuing Resolution to keep government open to avoid a devastating shutdown. Not one Republican voted to lift the debt ceiling or to stop – or to keep government open, even though there were important measures to address the people affected by Ida and help us help the evacuees from Afghanistan, other issues in there of concern to all Americans.
We know the full faith and credit of the United States of America should not be questioned. This is in the Constitution – 14th Amendment, Section IV states: ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States authorized by law… shall not be questioned.’ Shall not be questioned.
And Madam Speaker, even by questioning it, we brought down – our credit rating was brought down when the Republicans questioned it when President Obama was in office.
Let's just talk about the consequences. Our distinguished Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee talked about what it meant in people's personal lives, and that is really what we are here about – for people and their personal lives, their financial and health security. The consequences of not lifting the debt ceiling would be catastrophic. The nonpartisan Moody’s Analytics found that these consequences could include a loss of six million jobs, the elimination of potentially $15 trillion in household wealth, sending the unemployment rate surging to nine percent and a decline in the real GDP of our country by four percent.
What that means in people's personal lives, according to the Joint Economic Committee: default – not lifting the debt ceiling could prompt a lasting downgrade in America's credit, drastically increasing the cost for car loans. Families have car loans, mortgages, student loans, credit card bills and other borrowing. I don't know if there is anyone in the country who doesn't have such a loan, certainly among America's working families.
JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon predicted that such a default – this is a quote – ‘could cause an immediate, literally cascading catastrophe of unbelievable proportions and damage America for 100 years.’ Let me repeat that. ‘Could cause an immediate, literally cascading catastrophe of unbelievable proportions and damage America for 100 years.’ As I said before, it would be catastrophic. We must act now.
Yesterday, Secretary Yellen announced that by October 18th, the Treasury is said to exhaust extraordinary measures and cash on hand, leading us barreling toward a default. This has been going on since the end of July, when the debt limit expired.
Addressing the debt limit is not about future spending. This is about meeting the obligations that the American government has already incured, including that we worked together on the bipartisan COVID relief legislation last December. Only three percent of the current debt that we are lifting the debt ceiling to accommodate has been accrued under President Biden. A big chunk of this, though, is attributed to – $2 trillion in the tax scam of 2017, where the Republicans gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent. And now, we have to lift the debt ceiling to pay for that.
The debt limit has long been a bipartisan issue. And you could talk about times when Democrats or Republicans voted against it in part. But it’s very hard to find a time when they said: ‘My vote will take down the debt limit.’ Democrats have never done that.
Congress has addressed the debt limit 78 times, as a distinguished Chairman mentioned, since 1960; 29 times with a Democrat in the White House, 49 times under a Republican president. More recently, since 2011, each of the seven times the debt limit was addressed, Congress did so on a bipartisan basis. This includes three times under the most recent, former President, when Democrats cooperated. We did so because the full faith and credit of the United States of America cannot be questioned. The Constitution says that.
Republicans – and because of all of the consequences that would happen if we did not lift the debt ceiling – Republicans refusal to support a suspension of the debt ceiling now, is cynical, hypocritical and downright dangerous. As Mitch McConnell himself has said, about the need to address the debt limit, this is what he said last time: ‘Don't play Russian Roulette with our economy.’
Yet, that is exactly what he is doing: playing Russian Roulette – interesting that he is playing Russian Roulette – with our economy and with the financial security and the well-being of America's working families. The kitchen table concerns: how are they going to pay the bills when the interest rate be higher, if the Republicans prevail?
That is why, today, we will pass the suspension of the debt limit. Democrats are For The People and will never let the full faith and credit of the United States be questioned – because we took an oath to the Constitution of the United States, and that is an oath that we always intend to uphold. And, because we have a responsibility to the health and well-being of America's working families, and this would have a disastrous effect on them.
So, as I yield back the balance of my time, I urge a strong bipartisan vote on this legislation – salute the distinguished Chairman once again and yield back the balance of my time.