Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on the need to avoid catastrophic default and House Republicans’ plan to hold the nation hostage over the debt ceiling. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Yesterday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen released a letter warning that the U.S. government will likely default on its obligations as soon as June 1, only thirty days away.
Rather than listen to reason, Speaker McCarthy has caved to extremists. By passing the Default on America Act, he’s handed the keys over to the House Freedom Caucus, many of whom are more than happy to let the U.S. default if they don’t get every last cut—and every last unrelated, hard right policy—that have been added to this bill chock-a-block. Every one of them they want.
As one House Freedom Caucus member said plainly: Speaker McCarthy “cannot get to 218 with changes to this deal.”
Let me read that again, so everyone hears it. This is where we are at: a House Freedom Caucus member – each of whom, as we know, has great power in the House because they did not change their rules – as one House Freedom Caucus member has said plainly, Speaker McCarthy “cannot get to 218 with changes to this deal.”
But, as is obvious to just about anyone who looks at this, the Default on America Act has no future in the Senate. Consequently, Speaker McCarthy has created a situation where he knowingly passed an extreme bill, has been boxed by his Republican colleagues into a corner, and now has little room to maneuver, lest he provoke the ire of the House Freedom Caucus.
Speaker McCarthy is giving us two terrible options: either default on the debt or default on our country, with steep, severe, devastating cuts to things like law enforcement, veterans, families, teachers, kids, even cancer research. The only real option that does not hurt the American people is a clean bipartisan bill to avert default.
As Americans look into the Default on America Act that the House has passed, they’ll discover that it reads less like a plan for averting default and more like a House Freedom Caucus manifesto.
The Default on America Act would tear at the fabric of American society: impose dramatic cuts to our public security, cutting law enforcement dramatically at a time when we need help from them; the cruel abandonment of veterans, when we should be defending our veterans; terrible job losses, at a time when this last Congress, under Democratic control, started bringing jobs back from overseas to America on Chip-Fab, on manufacturing, on batteries and so many other things; blocking access to affordable health care, over 21 million Americans would lose their healthcare gains that we have made over the last while; and brutal attacks on working families across the board.
In fact, nothing about the Default on America Act has been on the level. Let me quote something that Speaker McCarthy said after becoming Speaker, this is a quote from Kevin McCarthy:
“I want to give all Americans a personal invitation, you are welcome to see this body at work. No longer will the doors be closed, but the debates will be open ”... “ from the committee rooms to this floor, we commit to pursue the truth passionately and embrace debate.”
Well let’s go over that one.
No more closed doors? Give me a break. The Default on America bill was written entirely behind closed doors, without a shred of transparency. This bill, which so dramatically and deeply and harmfully hurt America, was done entirely behind closed doors.
Debates will be open? How many Committee debates did the House GOP hold on their Default on America Act? How many expert witnesses were invited? How many amendments from the Democratic side were allowed to be presented?
Again, the truth is Default on America is an extremist bill that would never have a shot at passing muster with the American public on its own. Everything about this bill was rushed, was secret, was the antithesis of open and transparent. Speaker McCarthy’s words ring hollow. The American people deserve better.
Now if Republicans refuse to level with the American people about their bill, Senate Democrats are more than happy to do it.
We will show the American people how the Default on America Act will decimate federal law enforcement in this country, erasing nearly 30,000 law enforcement jobs and leaving border security hanging out to dry.
We’ll show how the Default on America Act is a direct assault on families: it slashes child care, cuts Pell Grant funding, even takes aim at programs as popular and beneficial as meals on wheels. I mean, do Republicans seriously think that that’s the way to avoid default, by depriving our country from the critical resources to feed hungry Americans?
And we’ll show the American people how the Default on America is chock full of totally irrelevant, hard right goodies that would deregulate fossil fuels, empower the biggest corporations, gift tax giveaways to the ultra-rich, and impose cruel and unpopular attacks on working families.
We will take the first step to expose these atrocities on Thursday, when the Senate Budget Committee holds hearings on how the Default on America Act will weaken our economy and slash hundreds of thousands of jobs.
It will be the very first legislative hearing in either house that looks at what Default on America does, and there will be more hearings to follow.
If Republicans want to sell their awful agenda to the American people, they are welcome to do so in debates about the budget and the appropriations process. That’s where these debates have happened, not in the middle of a default crisis that now stares us in the face.
As Democrats expose the Default on America bill for what it is, our position remains the same: both parties should do what we have done in the past the last three times default faced us. Both parties should pass a clean, bipartisan bill to avoid default together, before we hit the critical June 1st deadline.