7:26 PM EDT
Jackie Speier, D-CA 12th

Ms. SPEIER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In some respects, I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone. Can anyone explain, when we are 144 hours from crossing the brink, from going over the ledge, to have this country come to a screeching halt financially, tell me why we are debating the appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior? Why aren't we dealing with what the American people want us to be dealing with right now, and that is the debt limit, raising the ceiling on the debt limit? But, no, we're going to spend hundreds of

hours here over the next couple of days talking about the Interior appropriations bill.

Let me tell you what I'm hearing from my constituents, and maybe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle aren't getting phone calls from their constituents, but I am, and let me tell you what I'm hearing.

One woman wrote me and said:

``My mom is 79 years old, worked all her life in a factory and retired. Her pension was handed to her on her very last day of work, $25,000. The plant closed, moved the work to Mexico, and her husband died 8 years later. That $25,000 didn't last long. Now her only source of income is Social Security. She lives in a senior retirement center that she loves. Last Thursday, she and my aunt, who is 83 and also widowed, called me to pick them up and take them to the bank. They were going to withdraw

from their savings money to pay their rent, as they, along with all of the other seniors they live with in that retirement center, are convinced they will not get their Social Security checks come August 1. My mom has a doctor's appointment on August 5, and she wonders if the doctor will continue to see her if the government doesn't pay for Medicare.

``I care deeply about them. I know for a fact that my mom is losing sleep over this. Last week, I thought she was foolish. This week, I'm beginning to think that I'm the fool. How do you look your mom and your aunt in the eye and say with great certainty that the U.S. Government will send them their Social Security?''

That was just one letter I received, and I've gotten lots of phone calls. A 52-year-old woman who's self-employed as a court reporter paid $13,000 into the Social Security system last year and she's calling me saying, ``What are you all doing? The interest rate on my mortgage is going to go up. Interest rates on my credit cards are going to go up. Why aren't you fixing this problem?''

No, we're standing here talking about the Interior appropriation budget.

A woman from Daly City, 68 years old, previously suffered a stroke, has had seizures and relies on Medicare to treat her rheumatoid arthritis. Her husband, a cab driver, will turn 70 in December, at which point he will go on Social Security and hopefully go from working 5 to 6 hours a day to maybe 4 hours. If he loses his Social Security, he will probably have to work longer hours again.

[Time: 19:30]

They're all anguished. They all want us to do our job. They want us to lift this debt ceiling, protect Social Security and Medicare, and fix our attitude that we have here that somehow it's okay to just stall. It's okay to just try and make points, make political points while they're all wringing their hands and while they're taking money out of their savings accounts because they can't pay their rent if they don't get their Social Security check come August 1.

Well, for my colleagues who maybe haven't heard from their constituents, I want the American people to call this telephone number. Call this telephone number and call your Member of Congress and tell them what you think we should be doing. Should we be debating the Interior appropriation bill right now, or should we be fixing this debt limit? A debt limit, I might add, which virtually every economist of every political stripe has said: You have to lift it. President Ronald Reagan said: It has

to be lifted.

Why should Congress always take us to the brink before they act? It's time for us to be responsible.

I yield back the balance of my time.


The Acting CHAIR. The Chair would remind all Members to address their remarks to the Chair and not to the television audience.