Pelosi Floor Speech on House Republicans' Deficit-Exploding Tax Bills

February 12, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today on the House floor on House Republicans’ unpaid-for permanent tax extender bills that would explode the deficit.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker.  I thank the gentleman for yielding, and for his leadership on helping to have a budget that produces growth, to reduce the deficit.  Today, we're talking about issues in which we are very much in agreement in terms of the policy toward charitable giving.  In fact, some of this legislation has been introduced by Mr. Levin and Mr. Thompson on the Ways & Means Committee – in fact, offering an amendment in Rules last night, which was rejected by the Rules Committee – to go forward in a way that was fiscally sound and was paid-for.

“So here is the problem that we have: we all want to have comprehensive tax reform, where we can close loopholes and we can lower the tax rate and we can have transparency in our tax code.  In order to go to the table to do that – as I know there's bipartisan interest in doing so – we should go to the table with as much freedom as possible, and not constrained by taking rifle shots on the floor of the House for certain pieces of the tax code that will cost – the whole package the Republicans are putting forth is about $800 billion.

“That's a lot of money.  It's important for people to know that, in our budget, every year, we have a part of the budget that are called tax expenditures.  They're well over $1 trillion.  Some of them are worthy, and we want to protect them.  Certainly charitable deductions fall in that category.  But many of them are not.

“And those tax expenditures – that means giving a tax break, whether it's a special interest loophole in the tax code, to special interests – many of those tax expenditures do not create growth and they increase the deficit.  And they are just like spending.  They're called an expenditure, because they're giving a tax break to certain special interests.

“How does that fit in here?  We want to go to the table, put everything on the table, subject it to agnostic scrutiny –  to say: what works for growth?  What is fair, about transparency?  How do we proceed in a way that lowers the corporate rate, increases the revenue to the budget, and has fairness, simplicity and transparency?  What the Republicans are proposing this week is totally in opposition to our being able to do that effectively.  What they are saying is: ‘Let us take $800 billion permanently unpaid-for out of the mix,’ and then we have less to negotiate on.

“And then, in terms of what we can do on the other side of the budget, which are investments into the future, I have always said, and I think that most economists would agree, that nothing brings more money to the Treasury or reduces the deficit more than investments in education – early childhood education, K-12, higher-ed, postgrad, life-long learning.  That's about growth.  That's about bigger paychecks, confidence to spend, demand injected into the economy, jobs created, revenue produced.

“And it's all part of how we can go forward with a budget for the future that creates growth and reduces the deficit.  And so, we have this obstacle, which sounds very good.  How do you vote against these provisions, which are good provisions, about nonprofits and conservation and all these other things?  We agree.  As I said, our colleagues have introduced them.  But to say that they are permanently, permanently unpaid-for and, again, mixing some of the good with the not-so-good – it's like a Trojan horse moving in.  It looks good, but wait a minute, there's a lot in the gut of that horse that is not good for growth or for reducing the deficit.

“So all we're saying to everyone today is, we can come to agreement on some of the principles about tax deductions for charitable organizations.  It's curious to hear our colleagues talk so movingly about people who are providing food for hungry people, when very few of them want to vote for food stamps.  That's a whole other issue.  But it just shows some inconsistency in all of this.

“So just remember this one thing: if we want to have comprehensive tax reform, if we want to reduce the deficit, if we want to have balance in terms of investments plus how we produce revenue, we have to do it in a comprehensive way.  That's what a budget is about.  And what we are doing today is to just stack the deck against any investments in growth, because we've already taken $800 billion off the table if we go down this path.

“What we're doing today is saying: other tax reforms that we want to make for fairness are already in jeopardy because of some of what is in this.  As I say, some are positive, some are not.  Let's be discerning in how we make the judgment.  But you can't be discerning by saying: ‘I'm going to vote for permanent, unpaid-for tax expenditures,’ which, as I say, have a blend of positive and negative in it.  But it's hard to make a distinction without seeing the whole big picture of it.

“So I urge my colleagues to say: ‘While I support some of what is good in all of this, I do not support permanently taking it off the table for consideration and not paying for it at this time,’ in order to talk this through and have a clear, instead of this drive-by, approach to tax policy, a deficit exploding spree that our colleagues are on – while they profess to be deficit hawks.

“While we're working this out and having a discussion about this, we in our Motion to Recommit will have a one-year extension of the provision that we're talking about here so that, okay, in the course of this time, we'll extend it as a tax extender for one year.  And hopefully, in that time – under the leadership of the Budget Chair, who is also from the Ways & Means Committee, understands these issues very well – in fact, his own budget would be not consistent with what he's putting on the floor today.

“[He is] former Chair of Ways & Means, now of the Budget Committee – no, it's the reverse.  It's related.  They’re so related, because how we produce revenue is so essential to how we do our budget.  The gentleman knows that, because his own budget would be inconsistent with what is on the floor today.

“So I say to my colleagues: hold on.  Vote ‘No’ on this.  Vote ‘Yes’ on the Motion to Recommit, which gives us a year to talk this through – but to do so in a way that reduces the deficit, produces growth, makes bigger paychecks from that growth to increase more revenue, and to have these provisions go forth in a way that is fair, that is paid-for, and that is part of a comprehensive tax reform.

“With that, again, I thank the gentleman for his exceptional leadership, the Members of the Ways & Means Committee for their courage in opposing something that has popular appeal.  And there's a reason why – because they're not bad policies.  It's just that they're not paid-for, and they're permanent.  And we should do this.  But we should do it right.  So I urge our colleagues to vote ‘No’ on the bill, ‘Yes’ on the Motion to Recommit, thank the gentleman for his leadership, and yield back the balance of my time.”