Dem Caucus Leaders: Congress Needs To Focus On Jobs For The Holidays
Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT) and Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA) held a press avail before the Democratic Caucus meeting today on the need for Congress to address Jobs. You can watch the avail below:
Below is the transcript:
Chairman Larson:Well good morning and welcome back from the holiday recess. We will have our Caucus this morning. And again, our focus will continue to be about jobs and putting the country back to work.
Frankly, and I know my colleague will have something to say about this, I’m disappointed that the Supercommittee could not come up with a plan that was big, that was bold, and clearly one that was balanced. And yet I still think, absent any Supercommittee, that the focus on jobs is still something within the grasp of Congress.
The National Journal, and you may have recalled me saying this – this past August – that laid out plans before the President had laid out his full plan, endorsed by both parties, many bipartisan, that would put the country back to work. The one thing that hasn’t changed throughout this whole Fall discussion about the Supercommittee is the need for Americans to go back to work.
With more than 14 million Americans unemployed and 25 million Americans underemployed, it’s time for Congress, who is at an all time low in its ratings, to do the patriotic thing.
Now, when I say ‘the patriotic thing’, what do I mean by that? When we look at veteran unemployment, when we look at the only Americans who are making a sacrifice currently in this economy, it’s the men and women who wear the uniform.
National unemployment is at 9.1 percent. Veteran unemployment is at 12 percent. For people in this country 18 to 24 years of age, unemployment is at 15 percent. For veterans who are from age 18 to 24, unemployment is at 30 percent – up from 18 percent. The President had it right, Americans cannot wait for another election. We need to put the country back to work.
We can do that with the jobs packages that we have before us – introduced by both parties – introduced in a bipartisan way as was outlined in the National Journal. Certainly, the Make it in America agenda that we have put forward on innovation and focusing on infrastructure, is an area that we feel we could accomplish.
And you all know, because we’ve said this repeatedly, job creation equals deficit reduction. In fact, the CBO has said that more than a third of the deficit could be reduced by taking unemployment from 9.1 percent to under 7 percent, and in the process, we’d be putting back the very people who have sacrificed on our behalf, who have been on the frontlines for this country, back to work. It’s a travesty, especially as we’ve just come through a Thanksgiving day holiday, on our way to the Christmas holidays, to focus on what we need to do on behalf of Americans.
OK, the Supercommittee didn’t work. It no longer has the ability to deal with cloture or poison pill amendments. But can’t Congress as an institution come together in regular order – with bills that for the most part have already been through a committee process, who have been vetted, have been heard – and come up and put the nation back to work?
We think so.
If not, Congress will continue down this path. Imagine – the President in this time is also offering a tax cut break – yes – tax cuts. But yet even here, when it comes to tax cuts for the middle class, Republicans have said, no, no – no – no, only tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest one percent. The 99 percenters, well, you have to continue on being more productive than you ever have at any other point in history while you flat line in terms of your economic growth and future.
And while there is no end in sight to the prosperity for the one percenters, we’re dealing with these kind of issues. We need to put this money back in their pockets. Mark Zandi has said that without this money, it could hurt this economy – the GDP by two percent, which would be a further drag on the economy. Clearly, a further burden on the working middle class and this nation. And I guess the other side believes that’s the formula to elect their President. They can’t be the Grinch That Stole Christmas unless they think being a Grinch will elect a Gingrich.
And we are going to make sure that over the next several months that we continue to focus on putting this country back to work – doing what’s fair on behalf of the American people, and reaching out to our colleagues on the other side and saying, bring up your bills, bring the jobs bills to the Floor of the House of Representatives and let’s have an agreement amongst us, without any Supercommittee, to vote them up or down. Jobs for the American people – jobs for veterans – 18 to 24 years old, returning vets – people who have served the nation – 30 percent of them out of work. C’mon, put the country back to work. That’s where our focus is going to continue to be – get the country back to work. Give the people who are working the tax break they need to help us move this economy forward.
With that I turn it over to my Vice Chair, Xavier Becerra.
Vice Chairman Becerra:Mr. Chairman, Amen.
I agree with everything you just said. That’s – that’s the focus of what Congress should be doing – is jobs. And while on November the 21st those of us who served on the Supercommittee were very disappointed, the world did not end on November 21st. And fortunately, Americans still picked up, went to work, celebrated Thanksgiving, did some pretty decent shopping, and they proved that America is still working. But unfortunately for too many Americans, as the Chairman just pointed out, that’s not the case.
And so if we could in Congress do what the President has been doing now for months, saying that job one is helping the private sector create jobs, we’d have a lot more Americans ready to help lift this economy. And so, we pick up the pieces from the Supercommittee and we try to move forward.
And if we’re smart, we’ll finally have Congress focus on a jobs agenda.
It’s interesting – even though the missed opportunity was great with the Supercommittee, we’re still going to see deficit savings – 1.2 trillion if nothing else is done. Hopefully, some more will be done. What’s not in the mix is the job creation that Democrats pursued throughout the entire life of the Supercommittee. We wished our Republican colleagues would have joined us in the effort to include jobs in any package of deficit reduction. But regardless of that and the failure of the Supercommittee to come up with a jobs creation package, we can now get back to work and we can focus on jobs.
And so I hope that after 330 days in the House of Representatives that the Republican leadership will finally be prepared to present a job creation bill to join the President and get this economy moving and get Americans back to work. We do that and guess what? There will not have been a failure of the Supercommittee because we will have done our work through a Supercommittee or the regular process of the Congress of the United States.
Chairman Larson:We’ll take a couple of questions before we go to Caucus.
Q:Yeah, Mr. Larson, Mr. Becerra – you know, a lot has been made about unwinding the trigger. I know there’s been an effort from some Republicans in the Senate to kind of get rid of the automatic cuts that would come on the defense side. And right before the holiday, a Democrat in the House said he wanted to do the same thing for the Medicare cuts. I was wondering, is there any support to kind of rally around that and try to unwind the two percent automatic cuts on the Medicare side?
Chairman Larson:Well, I think that there is a natural movement, obviously, that would look to that, but we also have the President saying that a deal is a deal. And we had John Boehner saying a deal is a deal, and that they think that sequestration should go forward. Now, I think as people begin to look at the – as you said, I think the term was – as this begins to unravel, or as the Supercommittee is unraveling, and the goal that was based on an objective that was big, bold, and balanced, turns out not to be there, thinking can change, and probably will.
People will certainly resort to protecting their interests, but I don’t see anyone diverting from the goal of trying to come up with the savings that can be achieved. And indeed, the committee did an awful lot of good work there. All of which, by the way, we think can be achieved through job creation. In fact, it would exceed what the expectation would be. So we do think that there are remedies. How people are going to coalesce – well I think a lot of will happen over the next several weeks. You’ve all written about and talked about the fencing off of the defense industry and what’s going to happen to not-for-profits and what’s going to happen in effect. The committee did an excellent job of making sure that important issues like Medicaid, and veterans, and Medicare, and Social Security were all protected within that. But that still leaves, you know, a downward pressure on a number of people who are the least amongst us and that will certainly garner more than passing interest from Democrats. And, I dare say, Republicans too.
Vice Chairman Becerra:I’ll just add that the Supercommittee was nothing more, nothing less than a way to come up with a smarter package of deficit reduction than the automatic triggers. That’s all it was. Our job was simply to come up with a substitute for what would take place automatically. And that was where the missed opportunity occurred, because it’s always better to have a human hand on very tough decisions about cuts to services to Americans, especially when they paid for them. And making decisions on how we are going to tax the American public.
That doesn’t end the opportunity to do a smarter package of deficit reduction, simply because the Supercommittee’s authority has ended. That still continues
But smarter means balanced. It doesn’t mean protect one special interest at the expense of the rest of America, including, of course, the middle class. And so, can we do a smarter package to get to 1.2 trillion dollars in savings? Absolutely. Nothing stops us from doing that. Nothing ever stopped Congress from doing that, even while the Supercommittee was functioning.
I would hope that people would understand you just can’t have candy, you have to eat the vegetables at some point. You said you wanted this. You said – you ran on saying you were for reducing deficits. Shame on you, if all of a sudden now you are saying you don’t like the medicine you prescribed and now you’re trying to weasel out of it.
We have a job to do, as the Chairman said, and the President said. Let’s do our work. We can make this a smarter package, without weaseling out of making this a balanced approach to deficit reduction and job creation.
Chairman Larson:: I also think you’ll see Democrats, and this is a related issue, but I think you’ll see Democrats also over these next several weeks stepping up the interest for reform, especially in the areas of campaign finance. And a focus on this area as we see this – as we gear up for presidential races that could be in the billions – that we look at the – while the House was successful in passing the DISCLOSE Act, that it died on the Senate calendar. And also as we look at campaign finance reform, I’m proud to be a co-sponsor with Walter Jones of an initiative that Dick Durbin is sponsoring in the Senate as well. But, clearly, we continue to believe this whole system is in a wash of money, and needs reform. I think the public is increasingly wising up to that. I think you’re going to see several proposals emanating from our committees and from Democratic leaders in our Caucus. And with that, we have a Caucus and look forward to going to…Yes, we’ll take one.
Q:Before recess, Congress passed the Minibus Appropriations Bill with heavy Democratic support to get it over the finish line. Does that give you guys leverage on sort of the omnibus that has to come up by December 16th and tax extenders, UI, doc fix, and things like that?
Chairman Larson:Well it’s hard to say what kind of leverage we have in the minority when the majority holds all the cards, controls the calendar, and is able to do it, but you would think given the common sense, practicality of those issues, and clearly the letter that was sent by, over the interim, by our leaders, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Jim Clyburn, underscores what you have pointed out in terms of what we hope is a clean CR that addresses the current needs that you succinctly laid out for us.
Vice Chairman Becerra:Can I just add that people always forget this – a minority cannot defeat a bill. Only majority can defeat a bill. And so if the majority, if the Republican majority can’t do its work and get a bill done, and they need to seek out support for a bipartisan solution, then they should expect that the minority will have an opportunity to participate in the crafting of that solution. And so, I think Democrats have always been prepared to work with our Republican colleagues to come up with a bipartisan solution. Too often in the House, that hasn’t happened, and too often, what the Republican leadership in the House has found is that they failed to get the votes they need to pass a Republican, a heavily Republican driven bill, especially on very important matters like the budget. So we hope that the House will do its work. Americans are looking at us, wondering if we’ll do our job, because they’re doing theirs. And so I hope that what we find is that we can pass a bipartisan bill on something as important as our budget, the way it was done, at least earlier, on the CR. But we’ll wait to see.
Chairman Larson:Thank you all.