House Democratic Leaders: Every American Can Make it in America
WASHINGTON – House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) held a press availability today after the Democratic Caucus meeting on Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction. You can watch the video and read the transcript below:
Chairman Larson: Good morning. I’m proud to b joined by our distinguished Whip this morning. We just concluded a Caucus with Jack Lew. The Democratic Caucus stands solidly behind the President and his efforts to put this country back to work.
The President has put forward a proposal that’s balanced and that’s focused on what the more than fourteen million Americans who are out of work know that they need – the simple dignity that’s come from a job. That will remain our focus as we go out for this break. Frankly, a lot of us feel we ought to be working here to get the job done on behalf of those fourteen million people who are unemployed and some total of twenty-five million who are unemployed and underemployed.
Let me turn over the microphone to our leader, Steny Hoyer.
Whip Hoyer: I want to thank Chairman Larson very much for inviting Jack Lew to join us. I want to first of all say that Leader Pelosi could not be with us at this. She was briefly with the Caucus. She is at the funeral for Kara Kennedy and we want to, on behalf of all the Caucus, extend our deepest sympathies to both the Kennedy families and to the Mondale families, who have both lost two daughters – two wonderful people – who died way too young.
Jack Lew, today, talked about what the President’s focus is and what our focus has been and continues to be, and what we think the House of Representatives’ focus ought to be and what the Senate’s focus ought to be, and that is jobs – jobs for those millions of Americans who are either without jobs or underemployed. They can’t work enough hours to support themselves and their families because the work is not available.
We believe there is no more important agenda before the American people, and therefore before this Congress, than job creation. We believe the President has offered a comprehensive plan – a comprehensive plan to help small businesses, to help consumers, to give tax breaks to individuals to make sure that they can make it in America.
As Chairman Larson said, that’s not just a slogan – it’s a good slogan, but if it were a slogan only, it would not be worth much. It is a substantive focus on making sure that our people can be successful, and we all know that having a job and being able to support yourself and your family is critical not only to your financial security, but your psychological security as well – so that we are very focused, like a laser, on jobs.
The President took an extraordinary step to address the Congress – a Joint Session of Congress, and the American people, and lay out a broad based effort to grow our economy and create jobs. Every economist that has looked at the President’s proposal indicates it will do just that. It will grow the economy, our GDP will increase, and it will increase from anywhere one-and-a-half to two percent – reduced the unemployed. That is literally hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people who will find jobs because of this program.
So we are hopeful that the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, as I indicated on Thursday in my colloquy with Eric Cantor, bring this bill to the Floor. Bring this comprehensive piece of legislation – the American Jobs Act – to the Floor. Let us act on it. Let us move on it. If there are differences, that’s the legislative process. Amendments can be offered. But the President of the United States, elected by all the people of the United States, has presented a program. And that program is supported by more than 60 percent of the American people in each component – part of it. They think it will make the economy much better or somewhat better. In either event, it is important for us to act.
We have been here now for over eight months. No significant jobs legislation has been offered on the Floor of the House of Representatives. It is time to act. Our President, as he spoke to us in Joint Session, said there's 14 months until the next election. No unemployed worker, no underemployed worker, no person who has lost their home, no person who is trying to support themselves and their family can wait 14 months. It is time to act, and act now. Hopefully we will see action in the coming days. Thank you very much.
Q: Mr. Hoyer, what do you think of the House and Senate Republican leaders sending a letter to the Fed weighing in on monetary policy?
Whip Hoyer: Well I think they have the right to do that. I think the Fed has acted very responsibly under the leadership of Mr. Bernanke over the last, frankly, three or four years.
Q: But this letter from Republicans is telling the Fed--tell them what not to do, what to do, on monetary policy. I mean is that – it’s an independent body, isn't it?
Whip Hoyer: Of course it's an independent body, but it's a free country. The Republicans and Democrats and others have the right to make suggestions to the Fed, to the President or to the Congress. And very frankly, that's one of the glories of our country. So they have the right to do it. And of course the Fed, as an independent body, has the right to say, ‘Well thank you very much but we don't agree.’ Dierdre.
Q: You said you didn't think Democrats would support the C.R. with offsets in it. With the vote today, any prediction on how many Democrats will vote against it and are you concerned at all about a potential shutdown?
Whip Hoyer: The answer to your last phrase there is: obviously I am concerned about a shutdown of the government. That will undermine, I think, the confidence of the American people that we can act rationally, that we can act collegially, that we can come together and do something that everybody knows should be done, and that is keep the government operating. We can decide what size it is, we can decide what it does, but there is no American that I know of that wants to shutdown the government. I was very hopeful and my expectation was that we would be extending the ability of the United States government to operate through November 18 in a bipartisan, non-controversial way. Speaker Boehner gave a speech just the other day in which he said we cannot operate on our-way-or-the-highway concept.
I expect the great majority of Democrats to be voting no on the C.R. today. I expect and will vote no on the C.R. today. Mr. Dicks will be voting no on the C.R. today. And I believe the overwhelming majority of our Caucus will be voting no. Not because we don’t want to keep the government in operations – we do, but because we believe there is an emergency. The C.R. includes emergency money for people who need resources now. And they should not be involved in this debate which is extrinsic to – Mr. Cantor says that we ought to pay for what we buy. Unfortunately of course the Bush administration did not pursue that philosophy, nor did the Republican Congress when Republicans were in charge.
In this instance, I have made it clear to Mr. McCarthy that we want to support the C.R., that we will support the C.R., if it is a non-controversial C.R. Now I talked about Make it in America. I talked about creating jobs. What the Republicans have done, have chosen to reduce by half a billion dollars and an additional billion dollars in paying for emergency relief of people who are the victims of Irene and floods and earthquakes, by cutting America’s ability to create additional jobs. This money that they’re cutting, which deals with making sure we have advanced technology for automobiles that are competitive in the global market and that will create jobs here at home now, is a bad policy in and of itself – forgetting about the CR. And it’s unfortunate that the Republicans have chosen, once again, to put in a poison pill that they knew that we would not agree to, in a piece of legislation they know has to pass.
I would hope Mr. Boehner and the leadership on the Republican side would reconsider. As you recall, if any of you were listening to the colloquy on Thursday that I had with Mr. Cantor, I made it very clear. Last week, this was a real concern to us that we were undercutting America’s ability to create jobs and to be competitive in international markets with respect to advanced automobile technology.
Q: About the jobs package. In the Senate, a number of the Democrats have concluded that the pay-for aspect, the tax increases, the elections coming up – what – to what extent are you…
Whip Hoyer: In the House of Representatives, elections are always coming up. So, that that concern – that concern in my view is we need to show the courage to act on behalf of the American people, on a piece of legislation that we think will in fact expand the economy and grow jobs. Are there items in there that are controversial? Yes there are. The legislative process will be to try to address those and see if we can come to a consensus on a program that will effectively grow the economy and create jobs, so that although there are concerns, I would hope that the Senate would consider the package, and I would hope the House would consider the package and then it will be open to amendment and we can make such changes as both bodies deem to be appropriate.
Q: Just as a follow up. Would you support the pay-for aspect as the President has…
Whip Hoyer: I personally would be able to support the pay-for’s, yes.
Q: Moving to the Medicare/Medicaid side of the ledger…
Whip Hoyer: I speak for myself personally on that.
Q: Could you describe the way that Mr. Lew explained the savings and cuts within the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and more importantly, how is that message playing among your Caucus, among the Democrats?
Chairman Larson: Well First of all I’d say the Caucus was both relieved on the one hand and also reinforced on the other with the President’s message. His commitment when he stood up and talked about his ability to veto if the other side determines it’s going to cherry pick in such a manner it will impact the value-added programs of Medicare and Medicaid got great applause from the Caucus.
There’s still concern in our Caucus about the President’s proposal, but I think the President has been clear. We want to see what the other side is going to put forward in this continued debate. And I’d just add one other thing with regard to the question that was asked about the CR and what’s happening with our colleagues on the other side of the House. I come from a state that’s been impacted by this – by a hurricane. There were others that were impacted by earthquake, and tornado, and wildfires. People who are coming from those states who have been impacted are voting “no”. They are tired of having the victims of a storm being held hostage to an ideology that was never imposed by anyone else on any other state or individual. That is flat out morally wrong what these guys are attempting to do, and that’s why we feel so strongly about it.
Q: Are you a no vote Mr. Larson?
Chairman Larson: I am a “no” vote.