Transcript of Press Conference on Republican Inaction on Jobs and Debt Ceiling Negotiations
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson (CT), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (SC), Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA), Rep. Betty Sutton (OH), House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (MD), Steering and Policy Committee Co-Chair Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT), Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO), Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva (AZ), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairwoman Judy Chu (CA), New Democrat Coalition Chair Joe Crowley (NY), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY), and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) held a press conference to highlight more than 200 days of Republican inaction on jobs and the debt limit. You can watch the press conference and read the transcript below:
Chairman Larson: Thank you for joining us this afternoon. We’ve now seen more than 200 days of Republican control here in the House of Representatives without a jobs agenda. Every weekend that we go home and travel to our respective districts, what’s uppermost on the minds of the citizens we’re sworn to serve is job creation. What are they seeing down here? What they see is ongoing fear—a fear that quite frankly doesn’t need to be. We commend the President of the United States for continually reaching out to the other side and trying to get them to come to a compromise. At each and every turn, they simply have said no. We continue to focus on what we believe the American people desire, and that’s to put them back to work. We can’t continue down this path where not only the world economy, the national economy, but the household economies of every American is being held hostage by the Republican majority. It’s time to pass the debt ceiling. To get it done we could meet tomorrow and do a clean debt ceiling and move on and deal with the intended issues as they relate to as we have worked on here in our Caucus —as we’ve presented time and again—the cuts that are necessary to deal with our debt. But let us be clear about this, 18 times under Ronald Reagan, 7 times under George Bush, we’ve passed a clean debt ceiling without any hostages, without any complications. Yes there were political differences, and they were sorted through, but what’s really on Americans’ minds is putting them back to work.
You can say it no better than what a constituent said to me in a letter, he said:
“How, how can you not agree that this is comparable to a natural disaster, when individual lives are at stake. It’s as if you have left us to be swallowed by an abyss of dark uncertainty.”
Let’s end the abyss of dark uncertainty. Let’s pass the debt ceiling, but more importantly let’s put Americans back to work. Let’s follow the lead of Steny Hoyer in Making it in America and jobs surrounded around innovation—out innovate the rest of the world, out build the rest of the world and out educate the rest of the world. And how can we do that best? By making it here in America.
Whip Hoyer: Thank you very much Chairman Larson. I’m pleased to join the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus in focusing on the—the last election, Americans were very concerned. They expressed that concern—and what they said is:
Congress, pay attention to jobs and pay attention to the fiscal stability of our country. As the Chairman of the Caucus said, we’ve now been here for 7 months and what we have seen is fiscal irresponsibility and the ignoring of the jobs agenda. That is inconsistent with what the American people pose.
The Republicans repeatedly said that certainty and confidence were absolutely essential to grow jobs. So, not only do they have no jobs agenda but what they have done is undermine the very thing they talk about, as we see a nation roiled by concern that the Congress of the United States under Republican leadership—and very frankly, the Republicans of the United States Senate refusing to come together and make any compromise to get our finances in order. Make sure that America does not default on its debt. Make sure consumer wounds do not go up. 401 K retirement plans do not go down. Make sure that credit cards will still be used, make sure that the dollar in everybody’s pocket is worth what it is today and does not become devalued because of our inability to meet our responsibilities to America. The Chairman talked about a Make it in America agenda.—about out -building, out-educating and out-innovating the rest of the world. We know we’re in a tough competition—what we have seen over the last month of walkouts by Republican leaders on responsible compromise has undermined our ability to compete with the rest of the world, and has undermined the worlds confidence in America.
The public, the citizens, the voters, whether they be young or old, working Americans, and yes, invested American’s are extremely loyal by the favors of the Republican leadership and House of Representatives with creating jobs and realizing fiscal responsibility.
We have offered a Make it in America agenda. We are going to make it in America if we have sound finances, job focused legislation and a sense in America that we are coming together and we can be adults and move this country forward. I am hopeful that we can do that. We Democrats are going to be focused on both, fiscal responsibility, bringing our debt down, bringing our deficit down, and creating jobs with our Make it in America agenda.
I’m now pleased to yield to my very close, dear friend of South Carolina, the Assistant Leader of the House of Representatives, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Assistant Leader Clyburn: Thank you very much Steny, and thanks to my colleagues for being here today. I just rushed in here from the airport and came in from South Carolina, where last week we saw unemployment kick up to 10.5%. Where 3 of the congressional district that I represent unemployment over 20%. One of them had 25%. Those are depression numbers. People are very, very unnerved as we speak—they are looking to us for leadership. They want some certainty in their lives and they are reading headlines—one of which two days ago indicated that if we fail to lift the debt ceiling, not only would it be catastrophic for us here as a nation, but the state of North Carolina will be one of 5 states, another one being Maryland, that will see a downgrading in their credit rating. In fact, we have an infrastructure back in South Carolina—it means that the bonds that are required to fund that infrastructure back and create jobs at the levels of our community levels, we will see the costs of those bonds going up.
So, I come today to join with my colleagues in saying to my friends on the Republican-side—it is time for us to find common ground. We have competing proposals from Democrats in the Senate, Republicans in the House—it is time for us to narrow those proposals, find common ground, lift the debt ceiling and let’s restore stability in the lives of our citizens.
And with that, I am pleased to bring to the mic my long time friend and classmate, Xavier Becerra.
Vice Chairman Becerra: Thanks Jim, let me join with our Chairman and the House Democratic leadership, and every one of my colleagues that are here today to say that we recognize that the biggest deficit that this country faces is a jobs deficit--and the sooner we put American’s back to work, and thereby paying taxes, the quicker we get this economy going.
The President knew this very well, the month he was sworn into office and given the keys to the White House by George Bush, 790,000 Americans lost their jobs. And so we all got the President working with Democrats in congress to pass an economic recovery package, which created or helped Americans stay in their jobs to the tune of 3.5 million Americans—and in 2010 we started to see Americans were going back to work. A quarter of a million Americans were going back to work on a monthly basis, but then we started to see the gamesmanships being played here in Washington, D.C. and guess what—the economy started to slow down, and today what we’re seeing is that gamesmanship has its consequences. We want to get past this issue of America paying its bills—never before has this country failed to pay its bills—but the real consequence of this gamesmanship is the jobs that are lost because the markets won’t have the confidence to go out and produce—they won’t have the confidence to go out and manufacture goods that American’s make so well. So, what we’re here to say is that it’s time to stop the gamesmanship. It’s time to put Americans back to work. It’s time for our Republican colleagues to stop leaving the negotiating table and do what every American must do when they sit at the kitchen table and make those tough decisions—let’s do them together, let’s do bipartisan—but there’s no reason to cost any more Americans their jobs simply because we’re playing politics with the issue. We urge our Republican colleagues to join with the President and Democrats and not leave the table until we reach a solid agreement on behalf of the American public.
With that, let me turn it over to a woman who’s been a leader in the Democratic Caucus, on our Jobs Task Force for quite some time, really articulate well what Americans want to see and that is Congresswoman Betty Sutton from Ohio.
Rep. Betty Sutton: Thank you so much. Here we are, 200 days into the Republican led congress and still no plan to create jobs in America. Why is that? Well because they’ve been busy. They’ve been busy defending tax breaks for big corporations and the super-rich. They’ve been busy planning to cut Medicare and Social Security, and they’ve even been busy trying to get rid of energy efficient light bulbs. But we’ve been busy too. Busy focusing on what the American people need. Priority number one, making sure that there are secure and solid jobs out there for the American people to work. That is where our priorities must lie. Those of us who have been busy working to create jobs in manufacturing, we know that it’s important that this is a country that makes things that takes something of lesser value and turns it into something of greater value, creating real value for our country – strengthening our economy – strengthening our national security, and delivering to the American people what this country stands for. We’ve been busy standing up for small business owners, and fighting for common sense ways to address our fiscal problems, and as you’ve heard up here today, we understand that it’s so critically important that Americans have the opportunity to work – that that is a key to solving our long-term deficit problem. So here we are today to invite once again our Republican colleagues to join us and to answer the call of that sign that says, “We want jobs, we want jobs.” That’s what the people I represent want, and that’s what we on the stage here today are here to call for. Join with us. Help us solve the challenges that face us as a country. Help us put America back to work. And with that I want to introduce to you – call to the mic – our leader on the Budget Committee, the man who’s been in there fighting the fight, Representative Chris Van Hollen.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen: Thank you, thank you, Betty, for all your leadership, and my colleagues. Look, the American people deserve better than they’re seeing. As my colleagues have said, we’ve been months now in a Republican-controlled Congress, and have seen zero legislation on creating new jobs. But it’s even worse than that because what they’re doing right now not only doesn’t create new jobs, it threatens to put millions of jobs at risk, and it also threatens the financial system of the United States as we see us countdown toward August 2nd with the Republicans taking the position that unless they get things 100% their way, they would prevent the country from paying its bills. No American family can choose to wake up one morning and not pay their bills, and yet that is the position they’re taking if they don’t get their way. And the latest proposal they’ve got is well as bad as things are, as much uncertainty as there is today, let’s just lift the debt ceiling until about December or January. Let’s put the country six months from now in exactly the same precarious position it is right now. And the American people need to understand that’s a choice. They don’t have to make that choice. They don’t have to choose to put the country’s economy in the same uncertain position just six months ago. They want to do that in order to extract concessions to get things 100% their way. So, I think it’s really important that the American people watch very carefully what they’re proposing. To govern is to choose, and they continue to choose to try to balance the – try to deal with the deficit – only by cutting deeply into things like education, Medicare, Medicaid, and at the same time protecting tax cuts for special interests and for the folks at the very top. That’s our choice – that’s their choice. Our choice is very different. Let’s not cut transportation funding by 35%, which is what their bill will do even though you have 20% unemployment in the construction industry. So I’m really pleased my colleagues are here, Betty Sutton and the Chairman of the Caucus, Vice-Chairman. Thank you for coming together to put together a jobs agenda and show the clear differences between what the two parties are proposing. With that I want to introduce someone who has been a great champion to working people, George Miller, a Ranking Member of the – well I guess another champion of working people and kids, Rosa DeLauro.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro: Thank you. Thanks very, very much. I’m delighted to be with my colleagues today, and you don’t need to be repetitive over and over again, we are here to talk about what this nation ought to be doing, and that is creating jobs. This nation, represented by us, needs to be out there making sure that we in fact pass job creating legislation in this institution instead of being mired in political games. And it isn’t because the Democrats have been without ideas on creating jobs. We have a Democratic agenda under the umbrella of Making it in America, and I’m just going to talk a second about a piece of legislation I have championed for a long time, a national infrastructure bank. My colleague Jim Clyburn talked about what South Carolina is doing. Other states are doing this. Europeans are doing this. Asians are doing this. China is spending 9% of its Gross Domestic Product on rebuilding. India 5%. The United States 2%. What we need to do in order to create jobs here is to create a national infrastructure bank that in fact leverages private capital toward public investment. A concept that has broad bipartisan support, it could help us close the $2.2 trillion gap that we need to restore roads, bridges, water systems, energy grids, telecommunications. Allow us to build that 21st century infrastructure. Create jobs, jobs that can’t be outsourced. Create them all over America. Help the development of technology for the future, putting us on that cutting edge of technology once again. These will be good jobs, well paying jobs. So one more time that we can build in this nation, we are a nation that consumes today. We don’t build. We consume from other economies. Let’s take this bull by the horns here. Let’s introduce legislation. While American families are struggling today, we don’t have the luxury for political games. We need to get employment expanding legislation now, investments in our future that will create the jobs, and that will rebuild America. And with that let me introduce my colleague Emanuel Cleaver.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver: Jobs.
Let me now introduce the man who never wavers from the Progressive Caucus, Raul Grijalva.
Rep. Raul Grijalva: Let me follow that. Thank you very much. Progressive Caucus has been on a – up to now—on a five city tour where we have invited the local communities to come and talk to us about jobs, and about what they see the American dream being and how it needs to be rebuilt. These are heart wrenching, very serious, anguished discussions with part of the unemployed, the underemployed, and those people that are looking for work and can’t find it. I would suggest to my colleagues – the Republican colleagues – that they need to listen to the American people. They need to have a jobs agenda. They need to look carefully as they slash these budgets what it means. For example, $100 billion cut from Medicaid translates into 800,000 to 1,000,000 jobs. So as we go forward the jobs agenda has to be number one. They way to get out of this deficit issue, the way to begin to deal with the debt is to put Americans to work, so they can help us dig ourselves out. Thank you, and let me now introduce the Chairwoman of CAPAC, Ms. Judy Chu.
Rep. Judy Chu: National unemployment is at 9.3%, but for Pacific Islanders it’s 13.2%, and for Samoans it’s 17%. And Asian-Americans stay unemployed longer than any other group. The American people know job growth should be Congress’s top priority, but the Republicans aren’t getting the message. In 200 days they’ve passed 81 bills. And how many of those have created jobs? Zero. In 200 days they’ve in fact tried to put two million Americans out of work. And now with the default negotiations, they are holding America’s economy and the American people hostage to their agenda of tax cuts for the rich and loopholes that help corporations. We need House leaders looking out for the American people and creating jobs, not cutting them. We need strong House leaders who will truly do something about the economy, not just promote corporate interests and the rich. And now I have the pleasure of introducing my esteemed colleague, the Chair of the New Democrats, Joe Crowley.
Rep. Joe Crowley: Thank you Judy very much, I’m very pleased to be here today joining my colleagues and the leadership of the House Democratic Caucus. Many of you may remember 100 days ago today, I stood on the floor and gave what we believe is the first speechless speech, and that was in reaction to the lack of any jobs bill in the first 100 days of Congress. Today I have no tabulated poster board to tear away. And although I am still speechless, more importantly today I am dumbfounded. I am dumbfounded we are now 200 days into the Congress and we have not had a single bill on the floor that will create a single job in this country. My question today is, “Mr. Speaker, where is the jobs bill? Your caucus ran on creating jobs, and yet not one single bill in 200 days of Congress to create a single job in this country.” I hear the American people asking for jobs loud and clear. I hear it in my district, I hear it in Washington, I hear it across this country. My colleagues behind me are hearing it from the American people. They’re asking for jobs. Good jobs. Jobs that pay well with pensions. As the Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, we believe in innovation, we believe in investing in our infrastructure, we believe in investing in education, and we believe in Making it in America. We call upon our colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle not to lead us to the brink of disaster. We simply cannot stand by and see what happens if we don’t pass a debt ceiling increase. I don’t want to be around to see what might happen. We in government shouldn’t be playing those kinds of games. We should be getting down to doing the business the people have sent us here to do, and that is get passed this debt ceiling and start focusing on putting Americans back to work. And with that I’d like to introduce my good friend Congressman Ben Ray Lujan from New Mexico.
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan: Thank you Joe. You know a lots been said already. But it’s so sad that after two hundred days we have yet to see any commitment from our Republican colleagues to job creation, any notion of what we can do to embrace what America has always done well, with innovation. Making sure to invent things that we manufacture, that we commercialize, that we mature technology in this great nation of ours. Coming from a state with national laboratories where the greatest research takes place, we just can’t believe how our Republican colleagues continue to slash and burn R&D budgets, abandoning the notion that we can close these loopholes that incentivize countries from America to take jobs out of the country and build things out of this great nation of ours. Rather than closing those and incentivizing these very companies to go—to come back to the country, to build things in America, Make it in America, make it all over this great nation of ours and put people back to work. So concerned across New Mexico and all across America with the unemployment rates hitting Hispanics, Native Americans, leaving people behind. It’s time to wake up to our Republican colleagues, listen to the American people and let’s make sure we get some job creation packages moving. It’s already been two hundred days. It’s gone long enough. Let’s make sure we’re doing what we can to get people back to work. With that we’ll turn it over back to our chairman, Mr. Larson.
Chairman Larson: We have-- All of our speakers have spoken, but I would defer to my colleague, I’m-- deferring to my colleagues if they weren’t on the list and they would like to speak. Carolyn, I’ll recognize you and then—
Rep. Maloney: First of all I want to thank Chairman Larson for – for organizing this and recognizing as all Democrats do that this is a – a three-legged stool to answer and respond to our challenges. We need revenues, we need to cut our expenditures, and we need to create jobs. Yet we’ve been here two hundred days, not one single jobs program or jobs idea has gone to the floor of Congress. Instead of giving incentives to –and tax breaks to companies to move jobs overseas, we should be giving tax breaks and incentives to companies that bring jobs back or grow jobs here in America. We need to solve and find common ground on this debt crisis situation. Because it’s causing insecurity, it’s causing a lack of moving forward with businesses. If you’re a business and you didn’t know whether or not they were gonna raise the debt ceiling or not you wouldn’t be go out and be hiring people, you wouldn’t be growing your business. We need to find common ground, make a decision, avoid default, and start thinking about the future, investing in the future, and innovation, transportation, and education. We need to solve this and move forward. The Republican idea of having a series of default votes is just plain wrong and will hinder our already fragile economy. We need to invest in the future. We need to solve this default crisis, and make jobs and jobs creation for the American people our number one priority. Thank you John.
Rep. Jackson Lee: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. I’m very pleased to stand with those in the Democratic leadership and members that believe in representing the people. And I want to thank Chairman Larson and all of the Democratic leadership. And I want to thank President Obama and Chief of Staff Daley for being on the phones, for talking to market leaders to ensure—and to assure them that we are going to get this happening and make it right. We all want no default, but I want you to look at this party, at the Democrats, as protector of the most vulnerable, and we are proud of that stance. And that’s why we’re here talking about helping working Americans, middle-class working Americans. We’re talking about helping the vulnerable, protecting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. And I would simply say, go get a clock and be reminded of the gap in decision on the Bush bailout that we were required to do to save our financial stability about two, three years ago. Just imagine on August second, when no adult shows up, and the hard working American 401(k)s begin to lose first a trillion dollars, then two trillion dollars, and it keeps going up and up and up. That is why we’re standing in the gap, calling upon every leadership member of our esteemed colleagues, don’t walk out of any other meetings, stand as adults and let’s fix this problem and if anyone doesn’t understand why we don’t need to move on our short term, watch that clock come up in April or March and another trillion goes because we’re in this debate again. Most Americans don’t know about the debt ceiling but they know about loss of jobs, the lack of interest rates that they can tolerate, and they know about their families not being able to survive. This is what we’re standing here for today, and I’m glad to be standing here with my colleagues, supporting jobs, and protecting the most vulnerable Americans.
Chairman Larson: Thank you Sheila. You’ve already heard from our leadership and a number of the leaders and from our respective caucuses withing the Democratic caucus and the bottom line is this, we can not default on American economy, and we shouldn’t be defaulting on American jobs. We should be creating American jobs, and that’s what the business on this floor, and the meetings that should be taking place, should be focused on job creation. With that though time has run out and expired on the clock, we’ll take a couple of questions if we can.
Reporter: Hi, as you said there have been many many raises of the debt ceiling before. 18 under the Reagan administration and the markets weren’t spooked by that at all. So the Democratic opposition to having a short-term deal—I mean at this point the only motiviation to that would have to be political to get you guys to the next election cycle. Can you just talk to me about that a little?
Chairman Larson: Hardly political at all. As I said in my opening comments, when I go home and people ask me—the lady that said to me that she feels that she’s in the dark abyss of uncertainty had very little to do with politics and everything to do with the situation she is currently in. So this is a manufactured crisis to the extent that the debt ceiling, which has traditionally been lifted, for President Reagan, for President Bush, for President Clinton, is being held hostage to a Republican ideological agenda of saying no we want these deep cuts in Social Security, in Medicare, in other programs, because of the problems find ourselves in with the debt. We acknowledge the fact that there are problems that exist with the national debt, but we further say why are we putting it at the feet of the American people and the core programs that they come to depend on in these difficult times, as well as create the kind of anxiety that exists around the globe, in this nation, and now adding that to the household concerns that every single American now is having a discussion over as the Republicans play high-theater, and beat-the-clock here, in Washington. This isn’t Texas Hold’em, this isn’t some kind of poker game, this is real in terms of what happens to people in their lives. Two-thousand and eight wasn’t that long ago when people saw their 401(k)s become 101ks. This is real.
Reporter: Right now it looks like the Republicans are going to put forth a plan tonight that’s going to be voted on Wednesday that does have a two-step solution in it. That involves possibility a bipartisan commission to figure what is going to be the next steps. Couldn’t that be seen as quieting the market –
Chairman Larson: How does that get the lady of the abyss of dark uncertainty? If the clock is only extended, if the problems are only kicked down the road, if the cloud still hangs over the American public’s heads, so what? So there can be more machinations, more meetings where people walk away from the table, so that they can continue the high-theater and drama? No. Democrats stand united behind the fact that what we need is that for everybody to be an adult in the room and do what was done for every single other American president. The nation has never defaulted on its loans and that’s why Congress came together along with presidents – whether it was President Reagan and Tip O’Neill – they came together to reach an accommodation because they knew what was at stake for the American people.
Chairman Larson: We have to take a look. We don’t know what they’re doing – it’s their plan du jour. But what we do know is this – and our colleague Carolyn Maloney left, but I think she said the other day that Republicans walked out on the Vice President, they walked away from McConnell and Reid, they walked away from the Gang of Six, they walked away from President – not once, but now twice – and I think she concluded by saying, I think if Barack Obama created a cure for cancer, they might walk away from that as well. That is the theater; this is where the politics are being played. We’re saying put that politics aside. You want to sit down and seriously discuss the deficit, which they’re were an awful lot of ground that was made, but every time they said a lot of ground was being made – we have a grand plan, we have a small plan – they’ve walked away. So it doesn’t give a great deal of confidence. We’d like to see them come up with their proposal and certainly it should be, at least I feel personally, it should be a clean vote and move on to the other issues.
Reporter: Have you seen the Reid plan that is coming forward with $2.7 trillion and no revenues?
Chairman Larson: I have not, but I would imagine that plan – we are having a Caucus this evening, at which we hope we’ll be able to take a look at both those plans, both the Reid plan and also what the Republicans are proposing, but our understanding, just based on the core principles that Nancy Pelosi and Steny and Jim Clyburn before and Chris Van Hollen, that it does not include ending the benefits of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and so from that standpoint it’s something that Democrats have always stood solidly on.
Reporter: Would you accept that it doesn’t have any revenues…[inaudible].
Chairman Larson: We’d like to see revenues, you know if we’re going to have a balanced approach, of course we’d like to see revenues, if we’re going to, in fact, rebuild the country, there’s no economist that we know of on either side that hasn’t said, you’re gonna to have to raise these revenues. Now, what I think has been politicized is that the President hasn’t said that we have to do that tomorrow, recognizing the very fragile nature of our recovery here, but they’re going to have to be included in any sort of plan.