Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rep. Louise Slaughter — The No Spin Zone

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter on the House floor

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (the ranking Member of the Rules Committee) is a Democrat from Rochester (serving New York's 25th District). Here she is, speaking on the House floor of the 114th Congress on their very first day in session:

Mr. Speaker, we rise today to set a new course for this Congress, though, with the record of the past Congresses, we know we have a lot of work to do.

During their tenure, the [Republican] majority has careened from crisis to crisis, sued the President for doing his job, brought the House to new heights of dysfunction and closed debate with the most closed rules in a single Congress in our Nation’s history, chased nonexistent scandals in Benghazi and at the IRS, and, since 2011, had this House vote more than 50 times to take health care away from their own constituents.

This legacy of dysfunction, of partisanship and prioritizing political games over the public policy has dealt the American people a bad hand. By governing this House in such a haphazard way, the majority has closed down the process and shut out the American people.

Sadly, the majority is poised to double down on their partisanship and even reinvent the mathematics of public policy. By using what is called "dynamic scoring" to pretend that tax cuts pay for themselves, Republicans will require the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and Joint Taxation Committee to use math that Bruce Bartlett, an economic adviser for both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, called "smoke and mirrors." [link here]

This new math cooks the books in favor of the majority to pretend that the tax cut bills are revenue neutral. Time and time again, the falsehoods of dynamic scoring have come to light. The first President Bush even called this tactic "voodoo economics." [link here] But even so, the House Republicans want to change the rules and inject their partisan ideology into even the mathematics which underlies our Nation’s public policy.

Rising above partisanship, the House Democrats will propose today two measures that would do immeasurable good for the American people:

First, giving average Americans the paychecks that they deserve, our commonsense legislation would deny CEOs the ability to claim tax deductions on incomes over $1 million unless their own employees get a well-deserved raise first. This would ensure that average workers share in the fruit of the Nation’s productivity, not just the millionaires and the billionaires. Today, as our Tax Code stands, CEOs get a break and their workers are left out. The CEOs get the money, the deduction on taxes, and we get the bill to pay for that deduction. It is destroying the middle class. [See CEO-Employee Pay Fairness Act and an article on the subject at The Next New Deal]

Second, Democrats will bring forward the Stop Corporate Expatriation and Invest in America’s Infrastructure Act [link here], which prevents U.S. corporations from renouncing their citizenship to dodge paying their fair share of taxes. It is time to stop rewarding companies that move overseas and, instead, use those dollars to create good-paying jobs here at home and rebuild our Nation’s crumbling infrastructure. By closing this loophole and ending the so-called "tax inversions", we would raise an estimated $33.6 billion to invest in our roads, railways, and bridges which are falling apart all over the country.

Last fall, I stood by a 100-year-old bridge in Bushnell’s Basin that fell into such disrepair that firefighters stopped using it for fear the bridge could not bear the weight of the engines. It endangered the safety of the people they were expected to serve. In my home State of New York, 40 percent of the bridges have been rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, which is even worse.

I wonder what the number is for the United States. This is an unconscionable state of affairs. Repairing the Nation’s highways and bridges is now, literally, life or death. We can do it with the Democrat proposals. We can, and we must.

These are the types of bills that we hope to be bringing to the floor in this session of Congress. We will debate them and ultimately pass them. That is what Congress is about, not a legislative branch that silences half of this Nation by bypassing the committee process and bringing to Rules emergency bills that silence the Representatives of half of the people in the United States.

It is my fervent hope that the new Congress will bring about an era of willingness to tackle the big problems facing our Nation, a renewed call for true bipartisanship, and a culture of enlivened debate, and I promise that our side will be a willing partner.

In describing how the Bill of Rights came to be, former Supreme Court Justice, the late Harry Blackmun, said that the Founding Fathers survived a "crucible of disagreement" to give us a more perfect Union. Forging through that crucible is not only good for the legislative branch, but good for the Nation.

Truly, it is the debate that makes us stronger, and time and time again, debate in the House has been stalled, strangling policies and solutions that could have benefited the Nation. Sadly, this is the legacy of the last Congress...

...Mr. Speaker, the past does not dictate the future. We can right our path forward. We may be able to prioritize that the American people will win over politics; and, today, we have the opportunity to do that with the beginning of this, the 114th Congress.

* Editor's Note: My question for members of the Tea Party, "What part of her speech do you disagree with, and why?"

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