Debt Ceiling Crisis

Floor Speech

Date: May 24, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. HIMES. Mr. Speaker, in 1 week, on June 1, the country and the world is going to witness something that we have never seen before.

There will be an office in the United States Treasury, less than a mile from here, in which a group of people will decide: Are we going to pay the soldier deployed in Syria to combat ISIS, or are we going to send out Social Security checks?

Are we going to pay air traffic controllers, or are we going to support the Medicare program that provides healthcare for retirees?

That is tragedy in and of itself, but the world is going to see something it has never seen before. It is going to see that the United States is no longer trustworthy; that we don't pay our bills; that we don't abide by the obligations that we freely took in this Chamber.

Even worse, Putin and Xi and the leadership of North Korea and Iran are going to say, look, democracy does not work. The supposedly greatest country in the world won't pay its bills.

Now, are we in this place because we don't have the money? Of course we are not. We have the money. We are the richest, most powerful country in the world.

We are in this place because my Republican colleagues have figured out that they have a perfect hostage situation; that if this Congress-- and make no mistake--it is the Congress' obligation to raise the debt ceiling.

It is not the President's obligation under the law. It is the Congress' obligation to raise the debt ceiling. They understand that if we don't raise the debt ceiling, catastrophe ensues.

They have a list of ransom demands, and we saw it because it passed in this House 2 weeks ago. It would require veterans with mental illness to work in order to receive food stamps.

It would reverse the historic measures that the Congress took to turn around the tragedy of climate change.

We know what the ransom demands are. Now, I happen to disagree with those ransom demands, and we have a mechanism by which the Republican majority could pass those.

Anybody who ever watched ``Schoolhouse Rock'' knows what that mechanism is. You pass it in the House, you pass it in the Senate, the President signs it, and you get your way.

Of course, they can't get their way because they understand that that list of ransom demands is deeply, deeply unpopular with the American people.

Instead, they are saying, unless you do this stuff, Mr. President, Mr. Schumer in the Senate, we are going to destroy the global economy and the reputation of the United States of America.

Now, am I being unfair and saying that it is a hostage situation? My colleague from Florida said yesterday: ``I think my conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow''--that is, by the way, the ransom list--``and they don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage.'' A Republican Member of Florida: ``They don't feel we should negotiate with our hostage.''

Now, Democrats, because we feel some sense of obligation and responsibility to the full faith and credit and the dignity of the United States, didn't do this under Donald Trump.

Three times Democrats acceded without a ransom list to a raise in the debt ceiling when Donald Trump was President.

Donald Trump, when he was President, said this about the debt ceiling. ``That is a very, very sacred thing in our country, the debt ceiling. We can never play with it.''

Let me quote the Speaker of the House yesterday. The Speaker of the House says, when he is asked, What do the Democrats get in this negotiation?

You get reversing climate change. You get work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps. What do the Democrats get?

The Speaker said, ``We are going to raise the debt ceiling.'' The quiet part is being spoken out loud. This is a hostage situation.

The implications here, and I try to make this case to my Republican friends, eventually we Democrats will learn from this level of irresponsibility.

The next time there is a Republican President, we will have a ransom list. Is this the way we want to legislate in the greatest country in the world? I don't think so.

To illustrate how corrupt this enterprise is, how corrupt the reasoning is, here is what is happening. The Republicans passed the Trump tax cuts, $2 trillion in deficit addition.

By the way, a quarter, a full quarter of the national debt was accrued under one President, Donald Trump. A quarter.

This country has a 245-year history. One quarter of the debt was accrued in the 4 years of Donald Trump. Here is what is happening.

We have a big old dinner. We order the appetizers. We order the hors d'oeuvres. We order expensive wine. We order four courses.

This is the spending and the tax cuts that this institution likes, and then we say, we are not paying the bill. My friends, that doesn't work. Let's get past this debt ceiling insanity.