Dem Caucus Leaders: Congress Should Stay In Session & Get Work Done
WASHINGTON – House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT) and Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA) held a press avail after the Democratic Caucus meeting this morning calling on the Republican leadership to keep the House in session to complete the nation’s business.
You can watch the avail and read the transcript below:
Chairman Larson: Good morning.
And this of course is a very solemn day of observance, here at the Capitol, in New York City, and in Pennsylvania. And the mood of our Caucus was reflected in that and we clearly will never forget what had transpired on that day and commend successive administrations for keeping us safe as a country as the work continues to go on and certainly commend this administration for its continued prosecution in eliminating al-Qaeda.
People will gather throughout the country and in fact at 11 o’clock today we will be gathering on the east side steps. Again, a place that we gathered on the evening of September 11th.
But we also note that time is running short for us. And we feel deeply that we have an obligation to those who continue to be in the field and those that are here at home. With more than 12 million people still out of work and with enormous tasks that need to be taken on. We have been out for more than five weeks and there is discussion already about canceling the final week of the session in October.
What the American people require is the same kind of sacrifice that our men and women have been making overseas on our behalf. The least the United States Congress could do was stay here and work.
We have those opportunities in front of us. We’ve had legislation that would provide everybody with a $250,000—who are at that limit, a tax break that they richly deserve. We have a jobs bill that’s ready to go that they continue not to bring up and all the other issues that we have outlined here on our chart. And whether it’s middle class tax cuts, whether it’s tax extenders, whether it’s the AMT, whether it’s unemployment insurance, whether it’s Medicare fees for doctors, health extenders, the Recovery Act refundable provisions, child tax credits, the farm bill, resolution of sequestration and Post Office reform, just to name a few. And yet just but six days to accomplish that.
We owe this to the American people to be here, doing our job.
Vice Chair of the Caucus Xavier Becerra.
Vice Chairman Becerra: Mr. Chairman you are right, I agree with you, that this is a day of commemoration and of remembrance. We remember those who fell on 9/11, we remember their families, and certainly we remember those who have fought to try to bring to justice those who inflicted the pain on Americans back on September 11, 2001. And we wish to extend to all those families, all those warriors, our appreciation for the efforts they have undertaken to try to help us build back America and move forward and I believe we can say with some confidence that we continue to move forward.
It’s been tough. It was tough right after 9/1 and it’s been tough over the next several years both in terms of our security and in terms of our economic security. But we continue to move forward and that’s the greatest thing about this country is we figure out a way to move ahead.
America is safer and together we have made it possible for us to move forward. We didn’t do this as Democrats or as Republicans. We did it as Americans and the more we do things together, the farther we go. The moment we decide to do things alone is the moment, is the point where we start to see how America breaks apart.
And I think it’s important on this day of remembrance to remember that America is still at war. We still have men and women in uniform overseas, fighting the good fight. And at a time that they have continued to show us the way, it’s time for us here in Washington, D.C. to show that we understand that as we sacrifice, we share in that sacrifice. As we make gains both on the battlefield and in our economic recovery, we share in those gains and we don’t do it by ourselves.
We have but six days—if you include today, seven days—left, we’re told, of session, with so many things to do. And yet after 616 days in this Congressional session we’ve had no jobs agenda put forward in the House. The President’s jobs bill continues to sit without a chance for a vote and we have an opportunity to do some things. So if we do these things together we can still get quite a bit done, but we have to get our work done.
Many others continue to sacrifice. Many others continue to do it together. We in Congress should set an example that we see what our men and women in uniform have done and we, too, will work hard, sacrifice, and get this done together.
Chairman Larson: The objective on the other side, it seems, has always been they would rather see Obama fail then the nation succeed.
We would add that by taking up the President’s bill, by the time it was passed and put into law, it would have little effect on President Obama, but would have great impact on the American people and that’s who we’re sworn to serve.
The same thing is where we agree on tax cuts. Everybody agrees. There is not a difference between anyone in this Congress that everybody should receive a tax cut who earns $250,000 and below. Millionaires, billionaires get that same tax cut. Everybody should get that tax cut. There should be agreement on that. There should be agreement on a jobs bill that we can come forward.
Listen, the time is dwindling down. There isn’t the time if the goal has been to stop or block or obstruct President Obama’s success. That time has come and gone. Think first, about the American people. And on this day of memorial observance, think deeply about the American people and the office we take an oath to serve and the people that need our assistance.
We’ll take questions.
Question: Since you were talking about the tax breaks issue, is there any concern that the numbers that your side has provided—that $200,000-$250,000 level—of how that would effect, in a negative way, small businesses? There were some coalitions of small businesses, small manufacturers who argue that they don’t make that much money and that they would be hit, injuriously, by that threshold. What’s your response?
Chairman Larson: Well in our look at this, and we say this and we understand that there could be a few, but when we look at the break as the way the President has laid this out, the vast majority of Americans will benefit, including a number of small businesses.
Now there are those small businesses, you know, like the Kardashians and others that have small businesses, yes, that could be impacted, but many of them have the means.
And certainly, in this case where we—where everyone agrees, Chad, this is the point I want to make: everyone agrees, minimally, that everyone up to $250,000 should get a tax break. So that means whether your are the Kardashians or whether you’re the Warren Buffets of this world, the first $250,000 you’re going to get a tax break on. It's dollar one after that that gets taxed, and that's the import, and that's where it has such a de minimis impact. So I think the way that it's been skewed oftentimes misinforms people in terms of its impact.
Have said that, why not pass that? And then we have an interim session. Why not let everybody know going into this interim session, why not send the signal to everybody in the marketplace that yes, we're going to be doing this, we're going to be providing this kind of tax cut? And then we're going to this lame duck session as well and there's an opportunity for them to make their case and for us to make ours. But minimally, shouldn't we be here on behalf of the American people doing what we know they need? A) a tax break, B) jobs.
Vice Chairman Becerra: Can I just add that I don't have the number right at the top of my head, but I believe that less than three percent of all small businesses in America would fall above the $250,000 mark. But even, as I think the Chairman so eloquently explained, even if you're a so-called small business and your income is well over a quarter of a million dollars, you're still going to get the tax break for the first quarter of a million dollars in your small business. So Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton—who have companies—their companies, as small as they are by number of employees but not in terms of their profits, will still get that tax break that goes to folks under $250,000.
We believe that if you're going to have—if you're going to really work towards fiscal responsibility, you've got to stop somewhere. And you have to be honest about this: if you continue to give millionaires and billionaires these mega tax breaks, you're never going to be able to balance the budget. Not in a time of war. And that's why I said before: if this is a time of sacrifice for many Americans who are in uniform, it should be certainly a time of sacrifice for those who've done the best during these hard economic times.
Question: Do you all support the FISA amendment act that's scheduled for a vote tomorrow?
Chairman Larson: Well I think that our Caucus will have some disagreement with respect to that. As you know, the two committees that it was reported out of—it was hotly contested in the Judiciary Committee and it passed I think nearly unanimously out of the Intelligence Committee.
And the concern in the Judiciary Committee I think is a valid one, and that's the fact that there'll be no amendments allowed to be offered. And so—and the concern there was the lack of the ability to have a sunset. And while Members spoke eloquently here both in defense of, citing the protection inherent in that, there was also caution with respect to the essential freedoms and a call for a reasonable sunset on the bill. Unfortunately, that will not be allowed or made in order, and that's why I would oppose it, but I don't know about the—
Vice Chairman Becerra: I agree with what the Chairman said. I would simply add I am concerned about the security of my family, of my nation, but I believe firmly in the Bill of Rights and I will never do anything as a Member of Congress that will undermine the protections and the rights that we secured through our founding fathers and the birth of a nation to provide us with our civil rights and our civil liberties under the Bill of Rights.
Question: Moody's announced this morning that if lawmakers don't come to some sort of a satisfactory deal on the fiscal cliff that the U.S. would likely face a credit downgrade. Are those kind of warnings—is that going to actually pressure Congress to act earlier on the fiscal cliff—
Chairman Larson: It absolutely should. That is, in fact, the whole point. What amazes me, what amazes me is that—I don't know about my colleagues on the other side of the aisle but when we went home, what I heard from people is, "How is it that A) you can be home now? How is it we hear you are leaving without doing the complete work of the Congress knowing what's at stake here? Knowing how this was visited last year? Knowing how there seems to be this blind drive towards another fiscal cliff problem that the Chamber of Commerce, that small businesses, that certainly the markets and everyone are signaling that Congress should stay and do their work and create the certainty that is required from doing the job here that's required?"
So it is beyond the pale that we would be not only leaving, but leaving early without having completed the work of Congress. Vital work. It's like you're facing a catastrophe and you're saying, "Yeah, we just don't have time to address that; we've got to go home and campaign." When the campaigns become more important than the people, you know that the system is terribly flawed and wrong.
Vice Chairman Becerra: If I could just add: I'm not sure I necessarily believe everything the credit rating agencies tell me. We learned during the Wall Street bailout crisis that occurred that the credit agencies were nowhere to be found to tell us that we should watch out for what was going on with the banking industry. And so I'm not going to use them to judge whether our country is strong or not.
I will say this: I don't care if it's the average family sitting down at the kitchen table balancing its budget or whether it's the smallest business on Main Street or whether it's the largest economy in the world, this is not a way to run a fiscal budget and I would hope our colleagues on the Republican side would recognize after two years of running this place in the House that you don't budget by fiscal cliffs. I know of no family that sits down at the kitchen table and says, "Well honey, I think we're about to go over the cliff again. What should we do today?" We should not be running the government that way and once again, the American people are way ahead of the politicians on how to get this done.
Chairman Larson: It's not the time to cut and run.
Question: Can I ask a local political question as well? There's been some movement in some of the polls here in the Connecticut Senate race—Linda McMahon who wasn't successful last time but they moved that from a solid Democratic seat to a leaning. What is different this time besides her opponent, and is that potentially the problem? There's been some criticism that Chris Murphy might not be performing as well—
Chairman Larson: Chris Murphy is an extraordinary Member of Congress. He will be the next senator from the state of Connecticut.
I think both went through a primary and Chris Murphy's been, frankly, outspent 10 to one in this process and anyone who thinks that money isn't an advantage in politics, take a good look at the state of Connecticut. Credit the McMahon team with repackaging her from the Blumenthal race but Chris Murphy I think now, with Labor Day having gone by, and marshaling the resources that are needed, will be there to make the case because he is on the side of the people and the state of Connecticut that support the Medicare guarantee, that believe in the benefits of the Affordable Healthcare Act and what is provided, and in the outstanding effort and job that has been done by the Connecticut delegation to focus on manufacturing and making things here in America that will be an immediate impact and benefit to the state of Connecticut. So I believe once Chris has had the opportunity to fully make his case on TV—he's never going to be able to match her, but he will have the resources essentially there and he will prevail. By polling—both sides have different polling data et cetera, but it's a dead heat. But we think with a soaring President Obama and with the efforts by Chris Murphy, an extraordinary grassroots campaign, excellent field, Murphy will be the next senator from the state of Connecticut.
Thank you very much.