Chairman Larson: GOP Needs to Stop the Political Theater and Get America Back to Work
WASHINGTON – House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT) held a press avail before the Democratic Caucus meeting today on the need for Republicans in Congress to stop the political theater and address jobs and extend unemployment insurance and the middle class payroll tax cut before Congress leaves for the holidays. Watch and read the transcript below:
Chairman Larson: Good afternoon, and I somewhat apologize for being a little late.
And for a little congestion – remember that great poet – my grandfather Nolan who would say, ‘when comes the Spring – where goes the snows – how did I get this – this cold in my nose?’ [laughter].
It’s not the Spring, but nonetheless let me first and foremost wish everybody a happy holiday season and let us hope that we’re able to complete the work of the Congress so that all of you folks are able to get home to your loved ones as well.
It is that, that our Caucus will be focusing on this morning as we continue to note that 14 million Americans are still out of work – more than 25 million are underemployed, and what they get out of Washington is more theater than actual results. And let us hope that our erstwhile colleagues on the other side of the aisle get serious about making sure that we’re going to extend full unemployment benefits to people, who through no fault of their own find themselves in this situation, and also to make sure that we extend taxes to the middle class by making sure that they’re going to get that payroll tax deduction before Congress concludes its work.
I would add of course that I think it would be just as easy, as well, to enact the President’s jobs package and put the country back to work. Let’s embrace this holiday season – with its signs of hope – and give the American people what they desperately want, and that’s a job. And that’s a job that will fortify them throughout the year. Instead, we see recalcitrance on the other side and dug in with seemingly one objective in mind, and that’s to defeat President Obama. And while that, from their perspective, may seem to be a laudatory goal, politically for them – what does it do for the American people?
And too many Americans are suffering. Too many Americans are out of work. Too many Americans need this tax cut. And most importantly they need a Congress that’s going to work on their behalf and not on behalf of a political agenda.
With that, I’ll take any questions that you might have.
Q: Hal Rogers, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, said that Democrats were threatening a government shutdown – holding this megabus bill hostage now. Is there – I mean, what do you say to that? I mean, I understand there are definitely concerns from your side about the payroll tax bill, but with the idea that you don’t want that train to leave the station…
Chairman Larson: What are we holding in hostage. Where’s the – how could we possibly hold a majority hostage? They must clearly have the votes for this, right?
Q: But on the megabus – on the megabus…
Chairman Larson: On the megabus?
Q: That has been – that is what has been thrown into play in the past 24 hours. That’s what Hal Rogers said – that Democrats are holding that bill hostage.
Chairman Larson: We’re holding it hostage for what?
Q: You’re holding up the vote – the Senate Democrats are holding up the vote in order to get the payroll tax package they want – is what he’s said.
Chairman Larson: Oh, they’re holding up the Republican passed bill over in the Senate. Is that what they’re saying?
Q: They’re holding up the appropriations – the megabus bill – passing the appropriations bill. They’re going to hold that up before they – until they get their version of the payroll tax cut package…
Chairman Larson: Well, I guess when you’re talking about megabus, omnibus – when you’re in the back of the bus as we are in the minority in the House, you are not in the inside of Mr. Rogers’ conversation, but I can’t really comment on that other than the fact that needless to say, the bill that I believe they have the votes for here today to pass – it’s certainly unacceptable to House Democrats. I don’t see why the Senate Democrats wouldn’t embrace that.
Q: Could you face the cameras, sir?
Chairman Larson: Yeah. I’m sorry – I’m sorry about that. But it’s just that they’re such an attractive and good looking group of people – I’m just drawn to them. [laughter]. Sorry about that.
Q: At least one House Dem is going to vote for the GOP bill. Do you have a sense of how many others might join them?
Chairman Larson: I do not have a sense of how many will join them, but I doubt that it will be many.
Q: Do you think that – I mean, back to this megabus issue. Do you get the sense that there has to be something worked out on payroll first, before…
Chairman Larson: Well, I think all of this frankly – I think all of this is theater. Let’s be honest about this. I mean, this is all theater. This is done – the machinations, the dance of the tarantulas, that goes on here is now – let’s placate the right wing of our party so that we can come up with something that we know, even from Republican Senators, can’t pass in the Senate, but let’s go through that dance here in the House so it can be waltzed over in the Senate, and so then ultimately it can come back here.
I’ll tell you – the House is in danger of becoming an irrelevant body, and largely because of rules in the Senate that dominate it – most notably the cloture rule. And also, in my 14 years in Congress – we don’t do any bills in regular order. And at the end – as we’re winding down the days of this session, you guys are asking questions of me about minibuses, omnibuses, off the bus, waiting for the bus, whatever the case may be, this is – this is why the American people are frustrated. This is why the President of the United States is frustrated – in terms of trying to get something accomplished with the legislative branch of government and doing the job for the American people. And imagine you’re at home, you’re out of work, and you’re listening to this conversation and someone is saying, what’s an omnibus bill? What’s a – oh, they’re going to do a minibus bill.
Think about your readership, and you guys are all sophisticated, and so you get it. You understand the nomenclature. You are with that. But for most of America, listening to this – they’re going – what happened to my job? What happened to this jobs bill? And that, I think, is what I think leaves a – makes this very frustrating, and it become exacerbated when you look at proposals that would deny people a tax cut and deny people unemployment benefits; Merry Christmas.