US Representative Jill Tokuda (HI-02) took to the House Floor today to deliver her inagural floor speech representing Hawaiʻi’s Second Congressional District. Tokuda spoke about the need to raise the debt ceiling to fulfill our country’s financial obligations to pay for past debt and uphold responsibility to Americans relying on Social Security, Medicare and other critical federal programs.
Tokuda also highlighted the extreme high cost of living in Hawaiʻi where residents on average must spend 42.06% of their income on housing costs, the highest in the nation.
Floor Speech on Debt Limit and Impact on Working Families
Rep. Jill Tokuda (HI-02)
January 25, 2023
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Everyday Americans across our country are forced to take “extraordinary measures” just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Now, because of the extremist agenda of some of our Republican colleagues, the Department of the Treasury has begun to do the same to avoid a default.
The consequences of such a default could be catastrophic. The first real default in U.S. history could lead to a sudden jump in interest rates and raise mortgage, car, and credit card payments for working families. As the federal government struggles to maintain its financial commitments, payments for Social Security, benefits for veterans, and paychecks for military servicemembers could be delayed and suspended.
By one estimate, a default could add $130,000 to the cost of an average 30-year mortgage, eliminate over three million jobs, and increase the national debt by an additional $850 billion. As much as $15 trillion in household wealth could be wiped out in the ensuing recession. And our competitors across the world like China and Russia would surely see a U.S. default as an indication of American decline and be further emboldened.
As the Representative for Hawaii’s Second Congressional District, I speak on behalf the diverse constituencies I represent, spanning all eight major Hawaiian Islands. I am here to fight for working families struggling with highs cost of living, small businesses providing jobs and opportunity for our residents, senior citizens seeking security in retirement and old age, and above all, our children and their futures.
In my first month on the job, we find our country inching towards a debt crisis at the national level that could devastate my constituents and their ability to care for their families – all caused by the extreme politics of my Republican colleagues.
This is not a short-term, one-off issue. The implications for our economy, on our foreign policy, and on our communities are severe and long term. When I sit down at the kitchen table and look across at my sons, I worry. Will they have their own kitchen table filled with family, in Hawai‘i? If Republicans force our country into a default, their future will be even more challenging – to afford to own a home or rent one, to own a car to get to work, to save for their children’s future.
And while Hawai‘i is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, with residents paying on average 42 percent of their income on rent, the highest of any state, I know that workers and families in every district are struggling to make ends meet.
The American people need to see solutions, not grandstanding. They need to see progress so they can hope for a better future.
That means we’ve got to build and act on the progress delivered by the first two years of the Biden administration and one of the most productive Congresses in modern history. In these two years, Democrats have lowered health care costs, created nearly 11 million jobs, supported over 10 million new small business applications, put shovels in the ground on 7,000 new infrastructure projects, and invested in a revival of American manufacturing.
This Congress should be building on the progress of the last two years, not tearing it down by flirting with default and making unacceptable demands to cut Social Security, Medicare, and other critical programs that working families across the country depend on.
Why would House Republicans hold our economy hostage and the American people in anxious suspense for months when they can pass a clean debt limit increase now?
When House Republicans tried this in 2011, they forced an unnecessary economic shock to our country that resulted in the first time our credit has ever been downgraded in our history.
We cannot do that again.
We can have a reasoned debate and negotiations over the right level of government spending, as Congress does every year through the budget and appropriations process. But whether the United States pays its bills on time must not be a pawn in a Republican political game. Our families work to pay their bills on time – their country should too.
I have heard from many how much they love Hawai‘i. If you have the chance to visit our home, stop and take a look. One in five residents depend on their Social Security benefits coming every month. One in ten people who call Hawai‘i home are veterans or active duty servicemembers. These are the faces of the people held hostage and hurt by Republicans.
We have an opportunity to rise above our differences and give them a Congress that has their best interests squarely in sight.
I urge my Republican colleagues to work with us to pass a clean debt limit raise as soon as possible. The American people deserve no less.
Mahalo, and I yield back the Floor.