Larson: Democrats Believe that Job Creation is the Best Answer
Washington - House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (CT), held a press avail after 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 Before I being, let me wish and extend on behalf of the entire Democratic Caucus a happy and joyous Thanksgiving season. I'm sure all you are looking forward, as we are, to going home for this uniquely American holiday.
We just concluded a caucus where our focus continues to be putting America back to work. We received an update from the Members of our select committee. And also we had the opportunity to hear from the President of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare as well.
Our Members still remain hopeful, even as the clock winds down, that they will be able to get something that is big, bold and balanced for the American people. And what they mean by big and bold and balanced is putting America back to work. We have long held, and continue to say, that job creation equals deficit reduction and continue to believe that that is something that we all ought to be able to come together on. We are proud of the fact that we have been able to both introduce the President's plan and continue to bring pressure on the committee to address the issue of job creation, and have also, as a Caucus, held more than 1,100 forums and town halls across this country, again, focusing on what Americans truly want, and that's the concept and the dignity that can only come from a job.
And so we're hopeful, as we go forward this weekend, and we give thanks as America pauses and we face a holiday that's uniquely American with hope that we can come together and truly embrace something that will put the country back to work, that will preserve and protect what Americans value in both Social Security and Medicare.
And with that, let me throw it open to questions that you might have.
Q: Congressman Larson, what do you say to some people in the Democratic Party who are saying the sequester actually is a better deal for Democrats than, say, a $1.2 trillion deal? Because you have the $500 billion in defense cuts, it doesn't touch Medicare or Medicaid, that in some ways failure is the best option that Democrats may have on the table right now?
Chairman Larson: Well I never see failure as the best option and I think Democrats continue to believe that job creation is the best answer. There's only--you know, as you look out and our own CBO has indicated that if we take the unemployment rate from 9.1 to under 7 percent, and as we head towards 5, which is generally regarded as full employment for the country, that takes care of more than a third of the deficit. I'll tell you why we think this is something that should be joined by both sides: the other side has been saying they don't want to raise revenues. And I can understand how they get locked into these ideological positions, but here's one, that by having people go back to work, you're not raising taxes, they're contributing to their local, state and municipal coffers. And so you're putting people back to work. What has us concerned is it seems that there's more concern that credit might somehow inure to the President than to the American people.
And the President has been very clear about this. He said two months ago we don't have 14 months to wait. We've now had two months pass. And still though we thank people for coming together at least around a veterans bill, one small portion of what the President has put forward and one small portion of what we could do as the United States Congress.
Do you think though that the sequester is an option? a good option?
Chairman Larson: Well as someone who was not in favor of the process to begin with, we think that things should go through regular order. But when has there been regular order? When you have a cloture vote, we know from experience on our side of the aisle--when we watched 497 bills be blocked--what can happen. And of course, on the House side, there's always the opportunity for a poison pill amendment. The beauty of this committee is that there would be an up or down vote that would not allow for cloture or for a poison pill amendment. In which case we felt that would be a great context to bring forward a jobs bill. Not only the President's proposals, but the Republican proposals as well. I've heard them say more than one time that they're concerned about their legislation that gets held up there. Eric Cantor's introduced a jobs bill; we think those should be heard on the floor. We think the American people ought to have the full opportunity to get back to work, to roll up their sleeves. To get the simple dignity that can only come from a job.
Q: Do you think that the Republicans in this three-month process have shown a little more flexibility on taxes than they were at the very beginning?
Chairman Larson:We've seen some gestures that almost seem to be sleight of hand. So any movement, I think, has got to be categorized as a movement in the right direction. But in the Toomey plan when you put forward 300 then take away 800, that seems more like sleight of hand to us. And any time anyone dare speak about revenue, Grover Norquist flies in and all of the sudden there's a new round of pledges that are taken. I think the American public has taken account of this, and I think they're still hopeful. What they demand are jobs. And I think and believe and hope that there's still a path forward around jobs.
Q:What did your super committee Members tell you about their availability this weekend for talks?
Chairman Larson:That they would be available all weekend.
Q:Will they be here?
Chairman Larson:We didn't ask them about their geographic location, but I assume for the most part that's the case. You'd have to ask them, but I'm pretty sure that's the case.
Q:How do you think the public will react to a failure in the super committee? Would it be a sign of dysfunction--
Chairman Larson:Well the public currently views Congress at an all-time low. I don't think it will do much to improve Congress' standing.
Q:Could it hurt Democrats and Republicans equally?
Chairman Larson:Well I think it's a false equivalence if it does. Certainly people have said a pox on both your houses, but I think there's a huge difference defending Medicare and Social Security and a desire to put people back to work, versus protecting the nation's wealthiest one percent, not being willing to call upon any new revenues there, but a willingness to cut Medicare and Social Security, and a block of, seemingly, putting the country back to work. So I think it's a false equivalence, but how the American people will take I think will--they've seen a lot more of this, in large part thanks to you. When have we had the kind of coverage since early September that this special committee has gotten? So I think the American people obviously are more aware.
Q:Congressman, how much revenue would you like to see in a deal that comes out of the super committee?
Chairman Larson:I would--how much revenue would I like to see? No, what we'd like to see is a program that's big, bold and balanced, and by that, as I said before, we think that by putting the country back to work, more than a third of the revenue needed to lower the deficit comes into play. That's the hugest amount of money coming into our coffers to deal with our deficit. So that's what we'd like to see first and foremost. Then we'd like to see a willingness to make sure that we're able to preserve the core programs that the country relies on, which is Medicare and Social Security.
Q:Do you have a number in terms of revenue increases?
Chairman Larson:Whatever that takes to preserve those programs.
Q:Mr. Larson, do you think that the White House should step in at any point and push these thoughts along?
Chairman Larson:I think the White House has stepped in, and I think the President learned a lesson. The President, you know, during the whole debt ceiling debate, as you'll recall, went for a big, bold plan and unfortunately had the carpet pulled out from underneath them. This has become a problem that Congress has a constitutional responsibility as an equal branch of government to solve. It is part of a deal that was constructed. The President has a responsibility to live up to his end of the deal in this case, and that’s whether or not to pass or veto the final product based on the discussions that emanated from the debt ceiling.
Q:Mr. Larson, your district obviously a very defense heavy district.
Q:If this defense sequester kicks in, can draw, in sort of microeconomic terms, what that means in your district? Some districts are more defense heavy than others. Yours is one that relies on that as an industry. What does that mean concretely for your district?
Chairman Larson:Well, we know what it means from listening to Leon Panetta – that this of course would be very difficult for not only my district, but the military-industrial base across the country. And so that was long thought to be the motivating factor that would bring people together. The unity around the Defense Department in general, not only its industrial base, Chad, but also the men and women who serve and all the various programs associated not only with our men and women in uniform, but veterans as well.
Q:Congressman, do you if the BBA is going to pass today?
Chairman Larson:I do not know if it will get the two-thirds. I know that there are a number of – I think – let me categorize this as initial good will efforts that were put forward and I commend a number of the Republicans who are attempting to do that. But I think with the backdrop of the committee, with the data coming out on Social Security and Medicare, without a glide path to get the balance that makes sense made it a very – let’s say a bridge too far for a lot of Democrats.