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“We have struck a new low… U.S. Must Pay Its Bills” Rep. John Lewis Fires Back at Republican Default Plan

April 10, 2013
Press Release

WASHINGTON— Rep. John Lewis castigated the direction of a House Republican hearing today which explored the possibility of default on America’s debt instead of simply raising the debt ceiling.  The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing examining the government’s ability to prioritize its financial obligations while continuing operations, if the U. S. Treasury should reach its statutory debt limit. 

Rep. John Lewis, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight subcommittee said in his statement, “The clear message of [this panel] is that … House Republicans as a body are thinking about a debt default by the United States government.  This is obvious from their testimony because in the absence of default there is no reason to consider the order in which we pay our bills.” 

Lewis along with other House Democrats resoundingly rejected this option, especially because it would mean putting international interests before the needs of American citizens. 

“The leading house Republican bill discussed here today would pay China first, yes would pay China first before the Social Security checks of 56 millions seniors, if they are even paid at all, “ Lewis continued.  “This bill would pay China before the salaries of 2 million military personnelm if they are even paid at all.    This bill would pay China before food and nutrition programs for low-income American families.   This bill would pay China!  

“We’re not going to not enact laws that fail to pay hundreds and thousands of American business that provide goods and services to the government.  This is not the American way.  We will not enact a law that will pay China first before we pay unemployment compensation to Americans looking for work.  It is unbelievable that House Republicans would think this is an option to cast aside American families and American businesses.”   See Rep. Lewis Video , See House Democrats on the Issue      

TEXT OF LEWIS OVERSIGHT SUBCOMMITTEE STATEMENT VIDEO:

Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  Thank you for yielding.  I join you in welcoming all of our colleagues here today, and I want to thank you for your testimony.  But I must say to my colleagues and to you Mr. Chairman, the simple answer today is that the United States of America must pay all of its bills as they become due.  Despite the testimony, our only legal option is to pay all of the bills in the order we receive them. 

The debt ceiling is about paying our bills, about paying for spending that the Congress has already approved.  This great nation will not default on its bill.  It will not.  That is our history.  The leading house Republican bill discussed here today would pay China first--yes would pay China first--before the Social Security checks of 56 millions seniors, if they are even paid at all.  This bill would pay China before the salaries of 2 million military personnel, if they are even paid at all.    This bill would pay China before food and nutrition programs for low-income American families, this bill would pay China.  

We’re not going to not enact laws that fail to pay hundreds and thousands of American business that provide goods and services to the government.  This is not the American way.  We will not enact a law that will pay China first before we pay unemployment compensation to Americans looking for work.  It is unbelievable that House Rep. would think this is an option to cast aside American families and American businesses. 

We have struck a new low.  I have been here now for 27 years almost.  This is a new low.  After listening to the testimony I would like to make an observation.  The clear message of the Members panel of the Senate is that they and perhaps the House Republicans as a body are thinking about a debt default by the United States government.  This is obvious from their testimony because in the absence of default there is no reason to consider the order in which we pay our bills.

The Treasury Department has made it clear that the only option we have if we reach the debt ceiling is to pay all bills in the order they are received as money becomes available.  There is no fair way to pick and choose among the bills that become due.  The Treasury Department makes over 80 million payments each month. 

Mr. Chairman, I am submitting for the record a letter written by the Council of Inspectors General of the Dept. of Treasury to Sen. Hatch dated August 24, 2012.  This document makes clear that the only option is to pay all bills in the order they are received.  And with that Mr. Chairman, I yield back and I thank you for your kindness.

 

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