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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks Calling On House Republicans Holding The Debt Ceiling Hostage To Lay Out Which Critical Programs They Want To Cut

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor in response to MAGA Republicans holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage, risking the financial well-being of millions of Americans. Leader Schumer called on House Republicans to lay out to the American people what programs they are attempting to cut in risking a first-ever default by the United States government. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here: 

This week, for the first time in the 118th Congress, both Chambers gavel into session to begin anew the work of serving the American people.

It’s a new era here in Congress, an era of divided government where both parties will have to demonstrate they can work together to solve our nation’s problems.

Democrats begin the 118th Congress with an open hand of cooperation, and I urge my Republican colleagues to respond in kind so we can hit the ground running. We have a lot of difficult and important work ahead of us, perhaps none more important than working together to raise the debt ceiling and protecting the full faith and credit of the United States.

In America, when it’s time to pay the bills, we have followed through on our obligations without any exception.

In the months to come I expect we’re going to hear a lot from our Republican colleagues about the debt ceiling, so let me begin by making a few things perfectly clear at the onset.

First, few issues require more bipartisanship, cooperation, and serious-mindedness than making sure America is able to pay its debts on time.

At stake is the health of our economy and the very stability of the global financial system. Should the U.S. default on its debt, the consequences could be severe and it’s going to affect just about every average American family. This is not some esoteric issue that’s just abstract and way up there in the clouds – it’s going to affect all of us.

Listen to what could happen if we default: interest rates will go up on mortgages, on car loans, on credit cards. Pensions – the money people had put aside – will lose billions. So will 401(k)s in all likelihood. Home values will decline because when mortgage interest rates go up, people are willing to pay less for homes. That’s lots of money to lots of people. For many people their home is their rock – it’s all they have – and by playing brinkmanship, some of the MAGA Republicans on the other side in the House are risking just that.

So, again, this is not an abstract issue – real Americans will see real dollars from so much of what they own disappear from their pensions, their IRAs, their home value. Merely approaching a default could raise costs on everything from mortgages and car loans to credit card interest rates. So, it’s going to hurt average families. This is not an abstract argument, and as the months go on, as we get closer and closer to the day that we have to act, the American people will see this and we’re going to make sure of that.

Second, raising the debt ceiling has consistently been a bipartisan responsibility for decades. Neither party has played brinksmanship. Since 1960 the debt ceiling has been raised approximately 80 times under both Republican and Democrat Administrations, under both unified and divided government. I will note once again that while President Trump was in office and Republicans had the House and Senate, Democrats voted to raise the debt ceiling. We did it not once, not twice, but three times—including twice under Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Of course, we could have done what some MAGA Republicans want, threatening to block debt-ceiling extensions unless we got our way, but we knew how badly it would hurt the American people and we didn’t do it.

This time should be no different: brinksmanship, hostage-taking, default on the debt should be off the table. Both parties should work together to ensure we can continue to pay our debt on time, and we Democrats are ready to move quickly in order to make that happen. Indeed, we are ready to move well in advance of default because even brinksmanship over the debt ceiling can cause serious damage to the economy and to individual American families.

Unfortunately, House Republicans have kicked off their new majority by saying “yes” to brinksmanship, “yes” to hostage-taking, and “yes” even to risking default, all because of draconian spending cuts pushed by the hard right.

House Republicans’ approach to the debt ceiling is dangerous, destabilizing, and the only thing it accomplishes is making a bipartisan solution less likely. If Republicans want to show they can govern effectively, they’re off to a pretty poor start.

If House Republicans are serious about taking the debt limit hostage in exchange for spending cuts, the new rules that they adopted require them to bring a proposal to the floor of the House and show the American people precisely what kind of cuts they want to make. It’s not enough to hide behind the old GOP talking point about “wasteful spending”; when you’re in the majority, substance counts.

If Republicans are talking about draconian cuts, they have an obligation to show Americans what those cuts are, and let the public react. And let’s let them do it now, not six months from now when the danger of default is much closer.

House Republicans: you voted for rules that require regular order for bringing bills to the floor. So put your proposals for debt ceiling on the floor, let the entirety of the House debate it and vote on it, and let the American people see and assess these cuts for themselves.

Otherwise, Americans are going to be left with some pretty big questions. Republicans say they want spending cuts; well, does that mean cuts to Social Security? Or Medicare? Or Child care? Or Pell Grants? Or our military? Or pay raises for our troops? Or funding police and law enforcement?

Many House Republicans are serious about cutting national defense in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. I hope they are not but many seem to be. Or maybe they’re pushing cuts to public health and nurses and hospitals.

Whatever the case may be, Americans deserve to know what kind of cuts Republicans want to make and why they think it is worth forcing an unnecessary crisis that will hurt most American families.

Frankly, I expect the House Republicans themselves will struggle to come up with a serious answer because deep down they know that no matter what they propose, their cuts are likely going to be deeply unpopular with the American people.

This is the central quandary of the new majority: by yielding so much to the whims of the MAGA hard right, House Republicans have boxed themselves in, and now have to choose between serving the American people or pleasing the extremists within their ranks. We are already seeing this play out when it comes to the debt ceiling.