Pelosi Floor Remarks Opposing Tax Extenders Legislation

December 17, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the floor of the House opposing the tax extenders bills. Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership on bigger paychecks for America's working families and then so many areas. Mr. Levin, thank you for your leadership.

“And congratulations to you, Chairman Brady, for assuming your new position. We all wish you success and look forward to working with you.

“The bill before us today is a very – causes for a very serious discussion. We, in this body, have a very big responsibility to make decisions as architects of our children's future – architects of our children's future where we are making decisions that strengthen the middle class and that takes us to our responsibility to be custodians of our democracy. The middle class is the backbone of our democracy, and this legislation undermines the success of the middle class. In terms of children, their education, the financial security of their families, the pension security of their grandparents, the health of the environment in which they live, all of that is seriously affected by this legislation.

“But let's put it in perspective because this is part of a grand scheme that started after President Clinton left office. In his term of office, because of the Budget Act of 1993, which passed with Democratic support – it unleashed a remarkable era of job creation, and it took us on a path to deficit reduction. In fact, five of his last budgets were in surplus – even or in surplus – and that was taking us on a path to reducing not only the deficit – of course, it would be eliminated – but the national debt. Along came tax cuts for the middle class, and in just a few years, all of the progress in reducing the deficit that occurred during the Clinton Administration were reversed by the Bush tax cuts – unpaid-for for the wealthiest. And that unpaid-for is really what my problem is here today because there are many provisions in this bill that we, Democrats, take ownership of, and I personally take some personal pride in having worked on.

“For example, the EITC, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Childcare Tax Credit – those initiatives, we negotiated with President Bush to take them to the place where they are, and they are a stimulus. They were debated and passed at the time as part of President Bush's stimulus package. When it comes to some of the initiatives, like R&D, we've all been talking about modernizing and making permanent the R&D Tax – the research and development tax credit. Make them permanent. But the problem is unpaid-for.

“When we talk about 179, that is a creation that Democrats were very much a part of, the initiative to help small businesses. We fully subscribe to that, but when we make them permanent – and that might be a good idea – and they are unpaid for, it also hurts our ability to do something broader in the tax code and take advantage of that opportunity. So low-income housing tax credits – again, I don't think I'm second to none, except maybe Mr. Rangel, in this body in my advocacy for that – oh and Mr. Rostenkowski was the Chairman of the Committee. It's important they're in this legislation.

“And they should be permanent, but they should – my problem with it all is, why are these things – this is an engine to send jobs overseas with some of the provisions that are in the legislation. So, it's like a Trojan horse. There are many good things, and then all of a sudden, you find out what's in the belly of them. So the fact that they are permanent means that some people – in other words, for certain things like bonus depreciation and things like that – if they are for a short term, people will take advantage of it [and] we get the boost in our economy and our treasury from that.

“But here's what it comes down to: you go down this path of 600 billion-plus dollars of permanent unpaid for tax extenders, largely benefiting corporate America, and say that doesn't have to be paid for – oh, but by the way, you want to do 7 billion dollars to honor the work of 9/11 first responders? You have to pay for every penny of it. Find a way to do it by cuts or some other way.

“So what is it the symmetry in all of this? Tax cuts for businesses to send jobs overseas, unpaid-for and permanent? 9/11 – which is an emergency, would you not agree? If there ever was an emergency, it would be 9/11, and the costs related to honoring our commitments both in health and compensation to those workers should be held up because we couldn’t find pay-fors, and now we have so that's good. We had to find the pay-fors.

“But what really is – I question very seriously, what are the costs in the out years? It's hard to determine, but they are there. And what they are going to do is take such a serious – increase the deficit with such seriousness. Our country will have to borrow from the Social Security Trust Fund to stay afloat – seriously undermining Social Security. And as Steny – our distinguished Whip said, Social Security and Medicare and the rest. Seriously affecting this legislation, seriously affects our ability to make the discretionary investments in the education of our children, promotion of growth and the rest of that.

“So I think what it comes down to is, yes, there are some good ideas in here. We developed them, we support them, we don't even care if some of them are permanent. But it's the unpaid for part of it that is mortgaging our children's future, that is threatening Social Security, that undermines our ability to reduce the deficit and reduce the interest payments on the national debt. And, again, walking away from what President Clinton did so successfully with a very difficult vote – we lost the Congress after that because it was a very challenging – for that and other reasons, and some Members did. But they said, ‘I did the right thing.’ It took us on a path to fiscal soundness. It took us on the path of economic growth. This, of course, was reversed in the Bush years. 5.5 trillion dollars of deficit reduction was – so it was 11 trillion dollars reversal – one of the biggest up until that time of a reversal.

“So, my colleagues, I sympathize with some who say, ‘I've always been for R&D Tax Credits and others who say, ‘Well, it has to do with the tax stuff in my state and all that.’ I appreciate that and I respect your judgment on it, but there is a bigger picture here. And the bigger picture is our responsibility to the future. And the chickens will come home to roost on this. We will have to pay. And you know who's going to pay? Our children, their families, the Social Security system and the rest.

“So for that reason, I urge my – I will not be supporting this, and I join my distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer, in urging our colleagues to vote against it as well. I know it sounds good, but as I say, it's a Trojan horse, and we should not be fooled. With that, I yield back the balance of my time.”