Dem Caucus Leaders: Time Running Out to Help the Middle Class
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 act to help middle class families before it’s too late. They were also joined by members of Larson’s Congressional Youth Cabinet to announce the introduction of a resolution calling on President Obama to institute a Presidential Youth Cabinet to help engage with America’s youth.
You can watch the avail and read the transcript below:
Chairman Larson: Good morning. We’re joined this morning, by the Vice-Chair and we’ll soon to be joined by the First Congressional District Youth Cabinet; something that we are starting and they actually have introduced a piece of legislation to have a presidential cabinet comprised of youth all across the country.
But we were, at our caucus today we had Alan Krueger, who was the President’s economic advisor, who was here to discuss not only the economy, but of course, the tax cut that the President has proposed. We’re dealing, quite frankly, with a compression of time and we have addressed this issue over the last several months, but we now have seven days, legislative days, and one of those days, next week, will be a day when we come in and vote on suspensions to deal with enormous problems that the nation is facing.
The problem that this creates for us, is that it is bringing us once again to the fiscal cliff. As bad as the fiscal cliff was last year, where we witnessed the results of a downgrading by this economy, we’ve also learned this week from a report that it cost the nation $1.3 billion. $1.3 billion over an artificially orchestrated event.
I said last week and I’ll say it again, the leadership in the Republican Party would rather see Obama fail than the nation succeed. Fourteen million people still remain out of work and yet we can’t bring the President’s job legislation to the floor.
And yet we've voted more than 31 times to repeal the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Within the context of what we're dealing with and what is being postponed until after we return from Labor Day is enormous. All of you know this.
But I think for the American citizens to understand how negligent Congress has been in dealing forthrightly with issues that will impact their livelihood and their lives. The willingness, again, to drag the country to this fiscal cliff, is incredible. We need to take action now! We definitely need to take action before October 1st. We know what will happen with sequestration. We know what will happen in terms of the layoff notices that the industry has said that they will send out in California and in New York and then, ultimately, across the nation.
How can we put the country through this again? Instead we’re going to adjourn and go home? The Leader has said several times and you will hear us reiterate this, "Let us get the job done now on behalf of the American people."
And for God’s sake, with respect to something that we all agree on, Democrats and Republicans all agree on a tax cut for the middle class. We all agree that we ought to step up to the plate and guarantee that everyone, everyone as the Vice-Chair points out all the time, including millionaires, gets a $250,000 tax break that they enjoyed under the Bush tax cuts. Everyone should be allotted that so that we make sure, we make sure, that in these difficult economic times that we’re continuing to provide the working class with the certitude and certainty that so many small business and so many families are requiring of us.
Instead, here we are, being pushed towards the edge of a cliff. Let’s agree on what we can agree upon and that’s us also agree and take this matter up, take all of these matters up before we adjourn this September.
I think that’s the least that we can do on behalf of the American people. What I’d like to see is us take up the President’s jobs bill.
But at least with respect to what is required of us, and of all of you know this. The Bush tax cuts, about to expire, the estate tax cuts, about to expire, payroll tax cuts, expire, tax extenders, expire, AMT patch, unemployment, SGR "Doc Fix", the Recovery Act refundable provisions that expire, the child tax credit, the American opportunity tax credit, the earned income tax credit, all of which happens in a context which some say that we can still have: broader tax reform, a farm bill, the continuing resolution, and all with the potential debt increase and the resolution of sequestration. And yet Congress is not going to be here and working and addressing these issues?
This is what we’re up against. It is time for us to act.
Vice Chairman Becerra: Mr. Chairman. I think it was conservative commentator P.J. O’Rourke who said, Republicans campaign as a party that says government doesn’t work; then they get elected and prove it. And I believe that 2011 and 2012 are proving P.J. O’Rourke extremely correct.
Whether it’s what the Chairman just outlined, where we have seen a manufactured crisis on the debt ceiling increase cost taxpayers over a billion dollars, or whether it’s the $50 million or so that taxpayers have paid so that Republicans in the House of Representative could put up over 30 votes to try to repeal the landmark health care law that the Supreme Court validated, what we are seeing is a Congress, a House of Representatives governed by Republicans, which is just showing how government doesn’t work. It won’t work if you don’t want it to work.
Well, when you have that all coupled together with the lack of any focus on a jobs agenda, when you add to that Republicans votes twice so far to eliminate Medicare, that will cost seniors some $6,400 by doing so, where they, Republicans, have also slashed, now we’ve learned, the budget of the Social Security Administration’s operating budget by $800 million for one year. That was done in the House of Representatives, in the committee, it hasn’t yet come to a full vote. But that’s where they’re heading in terms of cutting Social Security, which has a surplus of over $2.5 trillion, but they’re, Republicans, are willing and prepared to cut $800 million out of the operating budget of Social Security, which provides over 54 million Americans with payment of benefits on a monthly basis.
And so, what we do find is that P.J. O’Rourke is probably right: Republicans do campaign saying government can’t work. And then they did get elected, and I believe they have proven that if you don’t want it to work, it won’t.
Chairman Larson: Thank you, Xavier, again. And the time constraints that we’re operating under are enormous.
We are now being joined by the—please, come up here—the First Congressional District Youth Cabinet and I’m very proud to say that they have introduced a piece of legislation, well, I have introduced it on their behalf, along with Lacy Clay and many other co-sponsors as well of the bill.
I wish you all had the same opportunity that I have to look at this extraordinary group of people that have become so vitally important to our nation’s future and their involvement and their commitment.
Matt Wilson will come forward and say a few words about the bill.
Matt Wilson: Thank you, Congressman Larson. I'm so proud to be here today with Congressman Larson on behalf of the First Congressional Youth Cabinet.
Today, we share our excitement to present a resolution to create a Presidential Youth Council. The structure will be similar to that of existing youth cabinets. This legislation that Congressman Larson is introducing will actively engage youth in all levels of government, from the presidential level to the level where Members of Congress have their own cabinets. Each of these levels of advisory youth programs connects back to the experiences of peers in our hometown. The youth cabinet of the First District has majorly influenced legislation on a wide range of issues and we hope this can continue throughout the entire country.
For example, the Congressman and other state lawmakers have held field hearings on a wide range of issues, but more specifically on those about children in the recession. This has influenced state legislation that puts in place social programs to correct poverty caused by the recession.
It is time that the youth of America are not only seen but also heard as well. The government youth advisory opportunity means more future citizens will feel positively connected to their government and better realize outcomes in youth programs that our government spends precious, finite resources on. We hope that every Member of Congress and each Senator signs on to the bill to help ensure a healthy democracy for tomorrow and to help us protect our democracy for tomorrow's citizens. Thank you.
Chairman Larson: Thank you, Matt. Matt also did an extraordinary job at Central Connecticut State University several months ago, making the case on behalf of his fellow colleagues and so many students across this country to make sure that the interest rate that students pay didn't double. And they had the opportunity to listen to Joe Courtney today and Chris Murphy, Steny Hoyer and, of course, our Leader, Nancy Pelosi.
With that, we'll take questions that the press might have.
Q: Why are so many Democrats on Ron Paul's audit-the-Fed bill, so many Democratic co-sponsors?
Chairman Larson: Well, I think that, well, Ron is a well-known populist. I think that a lot of the angst that occurs out there in the public oftentimes is directed at the Fed. Certainly Ron Paul has become an iconic figure. And I think a number of people, in their districts at public and town hall forums, have heard that similar kind of message.
But I think, as all of you know and understand, that in order for the Fed to conduct strategy, that the Congress has long ago ruled and determined that the idea that you would, in terms of negotiating with other countries around the globe, would open up your strategy sessions, probably doesn't make a little sense in terms of developing that kind of strategy.
So I will oppose the Ron Paul bill and I know several Democrats will. But inasmuch as I think a lot of people see this vote as a vote that's probably going nowhere but keys into what is populist sentiment out, perhaps—that's what I would postulate; I don't know. It's nothing that has come up, certainly, in the Caucus.
Q: By advocating early action on all these unfinished business, you seem to be going against the strategy that was outlined by Senator Murray, which was let's use our leverage to get a better deal in December. Wouldn't dealing with sequester now be essentially a disarmament of your party and the President?
Chairman Larson: Not really—well, it would be, I think, in the best interest of the American people for us to do it. And I think where we would disagree with Senator Murray, and I know Congressman Hoyer has gone over this in his pen and pad as well, is that where we can agree, we should all agree. There isn't a disagreement on either side of the party with respect to the need to provide the middle class with tax breaks, to continue those tax breaks on behalf of the middle class. So let's agree what we can agree on.
What the Republicans have said is, "No, no, no, no, no. We want you to agree with something we know you don't agree on." And that is to provide tax cuts for everyone. The Senate, in response, understands, in the majority, that perhaps that they are going to exert a different kind of leverage.
I think the important thing is, for the American people, is that we act in their best interest. The aforementioned list that I went over—there has not been a time, I believe, and I'll be glad to stand corrected by more learned members than I in the press, where this nation has experienced the confluence of issues that will be coming down in a lame duck session. And so we hope and we feel because of the length of that issue, that a number of these issues could be taken up in a timely basis. Certainly they should be taken up prior to adjournment, and then you look at the 16 days that have only been allocated for when we're here. Even if you were to concede that a lot may not get done—unfortunately, we would add—between now and the election, to then say that we're going to be relegated to 16 days or kick the can down the road again, I think, would be an unmitigated disaster and places the country at the precipice of that fiscal cliff unnecessarily when we should be here and acting.
Q: So you're saying House Democrats wouldn't join Senate Democrats in letting all the tax cuts expire to force a showdown?
Chairman Larson: I'm saying that we ought to agree on what we can agree on. In the minority, all we can do is attempt to get them to agree on what we would all agree on. We'd like to get them to compromise, but you may recall, as I said last week, that Washington warned us about this, when you have a party at war with its own government. A party at war with its own government that refuses to compromise on any issue and would rather see President Obama fail than the nation succeed, that creates a real problem for us.
Q: What would you say is the root cause of the reluctance of Democrats to challenge the NRA on gun control issues? Why do you think that the NRA has influence among Democrats even on issues like the contempt of Congress citation?
Chairman Larson: I wish you were in the caucus this morning. We heard from our Members from Colorado. And I think they spoke eloquently and with great empathy. And both Diana DeGette, Jared, but then certainly Ed Perlmutter, who represents Aurora, said that they really appreciated the sensitivity that Members were demonstrating. I can tell you, on the floor, and whether you're speaking to Carolyn McCarthy or Jan Schakowsky or whomever you're speaking with, the passion and the commitment, along with a number of the mayors that exist, whether it's Nutter in Philadelphia or Bloomberg in New York, and other governors who feel very strongly about this, it is a matter of the sensitivity and wanting to make sure that we get beyond the grieving period. But I think you will see Democrats very engaged on this issue.
Q: Congressman, to follow up on that, though, there's a certain amount of timing where you've got the momentum of Aurora to possibly revive your gun control initiatives. Do you think that's at hand?
Chairman Larson: I think that the timing is equally as sensitive from both perspectives and certainly as this grieving process is going on, and as people still remain to be laid to rest, that we think that it's appropriate to respect that.
Q: Pieces of legislation are introduced all the time after tragedies even smaller than this. Why not act now? Why not—how much longer do you need to wait before you decide to introduce legislation?
Chairman Larson: I think that that's an individual question but I do think that it certainly is, and I'll say it again, from our perspective and the sentiment of our Caucus was demonstrating the kind of sensitivity to what Aurora is going through. I will say that along with that sensitivity was also a great deal of determination on the part of the people from Colorado and our Members and particularly Ed Perlmutter, who talked about Aurora and the good people there and, you know, the resilience of those people. So I would agree with you with respect to resilience. Call it a matter of protocol, but I think it's the kind of respect that people feel that they should afford their colleagues and an institution.
Q: Did you already agree to some concrete action in the meeting and you're just waiting to announce it?
Chairman Larson: No. No. No, no, no. We listened to the eloquence of our Members as they told us about events from their perspective as they unfolded in Colorado. And I will say that Representative Perlmutter was extraordinary.
Thank you very much.