House Dem Leaders: Bathtub Republicans Trying to Sink America
WASHINGTON – Noting that the clock is running out on the 112th Congress, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT) and Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA) were joined by Congressman Tim Walz (MN) for a press avail after the Democratic Caucus meeting this morning to discuss the need to break the partisan gridlock to create jobs and get our country back to work by passing a transportation bill. You can watch the avail and read the transcript below:
Chairman Larson: Well good morning and welcome back. This is a breakneck schedule we've been working on, I say with tongue in cheek, of course.
At the start of our caucus this morning, we talked about the fact that there are only 35, just 35, legislative session days left before the election.
Of those 35 days, seven of those days will be days when we are returning for, in essence, taking up the suspension calendar.
So in reality, there's 28 working, legislative days left for this Congress to accomplish what it needs to do.
The outrage across the nation, and here in our Caucus, as these deadlines come upon us, as we face a transportation bill that will expire, as we witness student loans that will double. The Republican party would rather see Obama fail than their fellow Americans succeed.
Potholes and bridges that are structurally damaged are neither Democrat or Republican, they're American. And they require our immediate attention.
We have enormous tasks in front of us. And an obstructionist Congress that refuses to deal with these realities.
This is creating a perfect storm for November.
This may be good politics; we'll see how that plays out come November. But what does it do for the American nation? Look at what's on the agenda after November: the Bush tax cuts expire, the estate tax cut expires, the payroll tax expires, the tax extenders expire, the AMT patch must be renewed or it expires, the Recovery Act refundable provisions expire, unemployment insurance expires, the SGR – what is commonly referred to as 'the doc fix' – expires. And with all of that, we see again the other side willing to take us to the cliff and the precipice of the whole battle over the debt ceiling? Add to that the resolution of sequestration, the issue of broader tax reform, continuing resolutions and, with all likelihood, a highway bill, and you have a recipe for chaos.
Washington warned against this. He said the most dangerous element that can take place in a government is when you find a party within the government at war with its own government, and would rather see bringing that government down or halting that government from any progress at the expense of the American people.
I'm proud that we're joined by Tim Walz today, who knows this in a manner in which Minnesotans can appreciate, having dealt with infrastructure problems there, and he's introduced legislation this week that we're going to take up.
Congressman Walz: Thank you, Chairman. Thanks Chairman Larson and Vice Chairman Becerra, I appreciate it.
I'd like to take one of those things off the Chairman's list and that's the highway bill.
I think we, as the Chairman also stated, we've had an inordinate amount of time in our districts. The good side of that coin is that I've had the opportunity to listen to an awful lot of folks that simply, the frustration level of not doing something as basic as the highway bill, prescribed clearly in the Constitution, a bill that the last five times we voted for it, passed with 375 votes. We're sitting here in a conference committee that’s moving nowhere. We have a Senate bill that – I can hardly fathom this – the Senate bill passed in March with 74-22 in the vote. They couldn't agree it's Tuesday at 74-22, and yet this highway bill had that ability.
And so, 20 years of supervising the high school lunch room gave me a lot of patience, but my constituents' patience are running thin. The window of opportunity for the construction season is closing. There are literally hundreds of thousands of jobs in the short-term that will help the economy. But what my constituents know, what the national Chamber of Commerce knows, what business groups and contractors know, is that for this country to compete in the 21st century, it's not good enough that my district leads the nation in producing soybeans or corn or turkeys or hogs; they've got to be moved to market. And right now, we're stymied. There's bottlenecks, everything from crumbling bridges to locks and dams on the Mississippi, that put us at a competitive disadvantage to other nations.
And so this is a piece of legislation, my MTI says go back, work hard – you've only got 33 days to get it done – finish by Friday. If you can't finish, we've got a piece of legislation that passed with 75 percent of the vote in the Senate, the two-year Senate extension. It was a bill that at one point here a few months ago, Representative Boehner said we need to move it to the Floor. It's prepared to go. There's enough of us over here; we'll vote for this. They got 412 votes the last time we did a highway bill. So I can't stress enough – when Caterpillar, the executives from Caterpillar, came to my office and they said they're talking about a 90-day extension, Caterpillar said that just gives them 90 days to plan layoffs. That's all that does. And I think we need to be very clear: that's not why we were sent here.
This has bipartisan support, it passed the Senate, it's ready to go, and we can give the American people something they're asking for: a Washington that works, a bill that make sense and is fiscally responsible, repairs our crumbling infrastructure and doesn't do what we've done so well here the last couple of years, is kick the can down the proverbial crumbling road, if you will. Let's take it by there. So my bill, very simple: finish by Friday, or bring this bill to the Floor and let us see how we vote. So with that, thank you Chairman.
Chairman Larson: Thank you. Our Vice Chair.
Vice Chairman Becerra: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. And to our leader on this issue, on transportation, Mr. Walz, we thank him for being here as well.
For most Americans, we're only halfway through the year. For this Republican House leadership governing here in the Congress, it looks like they are almost done. Republicans have called it quits by June 19. When so many Americans are still looking for work, it's kinda tough to believe that they got hired to do a job, yet they feel like they've got less than 40 days or so left in the calendar year to come to Washington, D.C. and get the American people's business and work done. It's a little scary.
The bill that Mr. Walz referenced and Chairman Larson referenced, the transportation bill: two million Americans at stake. That's how many jobs that transportation bill would create throughout the 50 states and the territories of the United States. Two million Americans.
We're talking about trying to reduce the unemployment rate, trying to get Americans back to work, and we in the House are watching the House Republican leadership hold up legislation that we know – because we've done this for the last several decades – we know by passing this transportation bill and returning to consumers the money they paid when they went to the pump to pump that gasoline, the gas tax, back to those communities, send it back home, that they can hire people to fix those roads, build those bridges, get Americans back to work. Two million jobs.
If we were to do the President's American Jobs Act, the American Jobs Act would create another two million jobs. But the House Republicans have been unwilling to allow the President's jobs bill to come to a vote.
So with less than 40 working days left under Republican leadership, with more than half a year to go, it looks like Republicans have called it quits. And that's unfortunate not just for those of us who want to get work done, it's unfortunate for all Americans.
You will see some things occur on the House floor. The Republicans will put some bills up for a vote, but these are bills that are going nowhere. So here we have Republicans trying to make the American public believe that they are doing work, but these are bills to nowhere. And so why the Republicans are busy using precious few days that they want us to be in session working to pass bills to nowhere makes no sense. But that's where we are.
One final bit of good news: Four days ago, the President made an announcement that lets a lot of young men and women in this country, who've grown up knowing America as their home, it now allows them to go on to college or serve in our military because of the President's action for a lot of immigrant children who now have a chance, through the administrative action on what we call the Dream Act, to move forward. A great victory for all of those who have fought so long and so hard to give these kids a chance. And by a two-to-one margin, Americans support what the President did.
The bad news? Day four, Mitt Romney, is AWOL on this issue. Mitt, if you're out there, if you can hear us, where do you stand on helping these young kids in America go on and live productive lives in the country they've known almost all their life? Mitt Romney, day four, you're AWOL. Show up, let us know, you want to be president. Be presidential: tell us what you would do if you don't like what President Obama has done.
With that, I yield back to the Chairman.
Chairman Larson: Thank you very much Xavier. And with that we will take questions.
Question: Congressman Larson, you just gave the insinuation that Republicans are trying to stymie a recovery to help themselves. You said that also a transportation bill would add jobs. Is there a thought that maybe we just bite the bullet on Keystone. That gets it through conference, we pass the bill, we add jobs. What’s wrong with that?
Chairman Larson: What’s wrong with adopting the Senate policy, as Mr. Walz has said has passed with the margins that has?
You know, I believe and as do others, that the Keystone will be built and certainly when it conforms to the environmental concerns that has been raised.
Why not take up Boone Pickens’ bill? A bill again, that passed in the Senate. Why not pass the Natural Gas Act? That again was stymied in the Senate, even though it got 51 votes. We saw that through cloture, that bill was stopped.
Time and again, they would rather see Obama fail, than the nation succeed. And that’s the sad thing here. While we speak, Grover Norquist is going around with the bathtub Republicans and again trying to get agreements to reenlist them. You know what the bathtub Republicans are right? Shrink government up so small you can drown it in a bathtub and so they want to shrink up government so small they can drown it in the bathtub. And what they are doing is sinking the American people and drowning them in, you know, a wealth of unpaved roads and bridges that go neglected and people that need to go back to work.
Everybody talks about the national deficit, but we know the simplest formula to deal with the deficit is as follows: job creation equals deficit reduction. More than a third of the deficit can be reduced by putting America back to work and still, they won’t even expend the courtesy to the President of brining his bills to the Floor. As Xavier has indicated, that would create two million jobs. Another two million jobs that linger in a transportation bill. And the irony is, we know that there are good Republicans out there that if that Senate bill comes to a vote in the Floor, will pass overwhelmingly. They only need 30 Republicans who will stand up in the House of Representatives to support that bill. 30 Republicans who can demonstrate a profile in courage and put the country back to work, put the American people above the politics that unfortunately, have divided our body.
Question: Congressman, there have been a considerable number of Democratic political consultants who’ve raised concerns about the President’s re-election campaign, the direction it’s heading into. Is that the sense of House Democrats as well? Are you guys ready to stage an intervention?
Chairman Larson: Far from staging an intervention, we stand solidly behind the President of the United States. We understand keenly what this President has gone through. We understand just by the obstruction that we’ve laid out here this morning, and the path that the Republicans have laid out for chaos or catastrophe.
When you look at what will transpire between November the 7th and before the next Congress is sworn in, I don’t think at any time in the nations’ history, save probably the Great Depression, have so many issues come due because an obstructionist Congress who does nothing continues to kick these issues down the road.
And this has ominous overtones. As the gentleman from Caterpillar pointed out -- I happened to meet with them yesterday as well – bemoaning the fact that we’re not doing infrastructure programs. They have to ship to Canadian ports because of the lack of infrastructure improvement in our own nation. And so we continue because the other side thinks that it’s good politics to make Obama look bad not to improve our nations’ infrastructure and invest in our own people.
Question: You mentioned the deportation part of policy change. Wondered if there are any concerns in the Caucus that that’s going to be viewed in the public as prioritizing people who are undocumented for work permits when unemployment is so high?
Chairman Larson: I wish all of you had - and I’ll let the Vice Chair, who’s been eminently involved in this issue speak – but I wish all of you could have heard Louis Gutierrez speak, almost moved to tears, with story after story and members standing up talking about what this means to children, as Xavier has said, who have been in this country most of their lives. And to see the President take the executive action that he has, I think this is a story that will be told and retold with a great deal of pride. That is after all what has made our nation great. In recognizing that these kids, through no fault of their own, but who happen to be American citizens need the same kind of opportunity that every one of our ancestors and forbearers had as well.
Xavier I don’t know if you wanted to?
Vice Chairman Becerra: Chairman, I agree with what you’ve just said and I would only add that, it’s very disappointing when you have people who’ve been elected to be leaders who are denouncing young people who are simply saying I’m a valedictorian of my high school, I got accepted to one of the best universities in the world, or I’m going to give service to my country in the military, and you’ve got politicians who are saying we don’t like that. We think you are bad for the country. I think the American people disagree with those politicians, I believe those politicians are way behind the people when it comes to thinking on immigration reform.
Everyone in this country would agree. Our immigration laws and our immigration system - they’re broken and we’ve got to repair them. But the last thing you want to do is punish children for a broken immigration system. And so when the vast majority of Americans say this is a good thing. I think what they’re acknowledging is that these kids in every way, as the President said, in every way, but perhaps on paper, are American children is an acknowledgement that we’re a better country, that this is not a zero sum game that if you do well, I do poorly. America was always premised on this notion that we can help everyone. That all boats will lift if there is a rising tide and I hope Republicans are not telling us that we’ve reached a point in American history where boats will fall so others can rise.
I still believe, as the son of immigrants, that if you lift that tide that all boats will rise with it. At the end of the day I think those kids, who will become the next leaders, the next officers in our military, will prove that what the President did last week was good for America.
Question: The President’s announcement includes provisions that were in the Dream Act do you have any concern that he will act administratively instead of letting Congress pass the law.
Vice Chairman Becerra: The President said it best, we can’t wait. The American people have been saying to Republicans in the House, that we just mentioned on the transportation bill, we can’t wait. The American people have been saying to Republicans on this corruptive influence of money in our campaigns, we can’t wait for you to finally decide to take out the influence of corrupt money in the political process. And with regards to immigration the public has been saying for years, we can’t wait for Republicans to decide they want to do something. And so, when the President took this administrative action, I think he was listening to the American people when they said we can’t wait for Republicans to decide they want to fix the broken immigration system. And so at this stage I think what the President has done is follow the wishes of the American people to move, even if only administratively, to try and start fixing this broken immigration system. But at the end of the day the President will tell you and we’ll tell you here, Congress has to act. M aybe Republicans should add one additional day to the legislative calendar before we leave so we can get these things done instead of pushing everything into what is called the “lame duck session.” We get elected to do our work today not tomorrow.
Chairman Larson: Thanks Everybody.