December 04, 2022


WASHINGTON, DC – In case you missed it, incoming Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss House Democrats’ priorities in the upcoming 118th Congress.  
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Democrats made history with their choice this week, voting unanimously to make Hakeem Jeffries their leader. He will be the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress, and he joins us now. Good morning, Congressman. Welcome.
JEFFRIES: Good morning, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And congratulations to you. What’s your mission in the new Congress?
JEFFRIES: Well, our mission is to find ways to work with Republicans whenever possible to get things done for the American people, to work on issues related to the economy and inflation and lowering costs, fighting for better-paying jobs and safer communities. And I hope that Republicans will look for common ground with us, but we will also oppose them when we must, particularly as it relates to any effort to go down this rabbit hole of unnecessary, unconscionable, unacceptable investigations of the administration.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to talk about that more coming up, but, first, why don’t you lay out specifically where you think there can be some bipartisan compromise.
JEFFRIES: Well, from my view, the American middle class, and those who aspire to be part of it, have been under assault for decades. There have been a series of forces conspiring against us – against them. Whether that’s the globalization of the economy, outsourcing of good-paying American jobs, poorly negotiated trade deals, a decline in unionization, a rise of automation, it’s it difficult for folks to pursue the American dream. That’s not a Democraticproblem or an American –
STEPHANOPOULOS: What’s the solution? That’s what I'm asking.
JEFFRIES: Well, I think the solution relates to several things. One, we can build upon the work that has occurred already. The Inflation Reduction Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, making sure we bring domestic manufacturing jobs, other jobs back home to the United States of America, implement the historic legislation that has already been put in place, and to find common ground to look for other ways to build upon that great work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you had any conversations with Republicans about that yet?
JEFFRIES: Have not had any conversations with Republicans yet. We are in the process of organizing as Democrats. They are in the process, of course, of organizing as Republicans. But I look forward to those conversations, certainly.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You expect that Kevin McCarthy is going to be speaker?
JEFFRIES: Well, that’s a question, at the end of the day, that the Republicans are going to have to work out. He seems to be having a difficult time at this moment getting to 218. But we’ll see what happens on January 3rd.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It may involve Democrats as well. I've seen that some Republicans have suggested perhaps putting forward a moderate Republican as a challenger to Kevin McCarthy, hoping to draw Democratic votes. Any chance that Democrats will cooperate with that?
JEFFRIES: Well, we have to organize on our side and be prepared to hit the ground running on January 3rd. They have to organize on their side. And we’ll see what happens. But –
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, it’s a possibility?
JEFFRIES: I wouldn’t say that it’s a possibility. Right now Democrats are preparing to get ourselves ready as we transition temporarily from the majority into the minority, continuing to work with the Biden administration, with Democrats in the Senate, building upon the great work led by Speaker Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn that has been done over the last few Congresses when we’ve been in the majority. And then let’s see what happens on the other side of the aisle.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But – but – well, wait, but that’s only part of it. I'm going to press this one more time because this – you talk about your main mission is finding a way to have bipartisan compromise. If somehow Democrats and Republicans can come together to elect a Republican speaker who’s willing to compromise, wouldn’t that be good for Democrats, wouldn’t that advance your mission?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think the question right now is, what are the Republicans going to do? From our standpoint, we know what our mission is, fight for lower costs, fight for better-paying jobs, fight for safer communities,defend democracy, fight for reproductive freedom, put the public interest first and insure economic opportunity in every single corner of America.
The question on the other side of the aisle is, what will the Republicans do? Are they going to double and triple down on the extremism that we’ve seen from people like Marjorie Taylor Greene. That would be unfortunate. And if that happened, then there’s not going to be real, meaningful cooperation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if they don’t, the door may be open?
JEFFRIES: Well, let’s see. David Joyce is a colleague of mine. We’ve actually worked together on legislation, introduced the PREPARE Act to prepare the federal government to move towards the legalization of cannabis, which state after state, blue states and red states and purple states all across America are doing. There is opportunity for common ground. I've worked with the Trump administration in the past on criminal justice reform. We’ve worked on trade agreements, particularly with respect to the U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement. And, in fact, as you know, at least in the Senate, gun safety legislation that we passed for the first time in 30 years, that was bipartisan. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, bipartisan. The CHIPS and Science Act, where we’re working to bring domestic manufacturing jobs back home to the United States of America, that was bipartisan as well. These are foundational things that hopefully we can build upon as we look to the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You got a pretty stinging welcome from Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday. He took to the Senate floor and said this.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The newly elected incoming leader of House Democrats is a past election denier who basically said the 2016 election was, quote, illegitimate, and suggested that we had a, quote, fake president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Suggesting the equivalence there with Donald Trump. What’s your response?
JEFFRIES: Well, you know, it’s unfortunate that Republicans have chosen to focus on me. House Democrats are going to focus on solving problems for the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you – you did say that history will never accept Donald Trump as a legitimate president and the Republicans are making quite a big issue out of that. What is your response?
JEFFRIES: Well, here’s the Republican playbook, facts don’t matter, hypocrisy is not a constraint to their behavior. And, in many cases, they believe that shamelessness is a superpower.
My view of the situation has been pretty clear, I supported the certification of Donald Trump’s election. I attended his inauguration even though there were many constituents and others across the country pushing me and others to do otherwise, and found ways to work with the Trump administration, being the lead Democrat in negotiating historic criminal justice reform. That track record speaks for itself.
At the same time, I will never hesitate in criticizing the former president. I think I'm in good company there throughout the world.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We saw yesterday President Trump taking to Truth Social, tripling down on his election denial, even suggesting – I want to put it up right here, I'm not going to quote it all, but he said that a massive fraud of this type allows for the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution.
What did you make of that?
JEFFRIES: I thought it was a strange statement, but the Republicans are going to have to work out their issues with the former president and decide whether they’re going to break from him and return to some semblance of reasonableness or continue to lean in to the extremism, not just of Trump, but of Trumpism.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Suspending the Constitution.
JEFFRIES: Suspending the Constitution is an extraordinary step, but we’re used to extraordinary statements being made by the former president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about President Biden? We saw this major move by him and his allies in the DNC this week to rejigger the primary calendar, putting South Carolina first. Of course, South Carolina, many would argue, made Joe Biden president back in 2020.
Do you expect him to run? Do you want him to run?
JEFFRIES: I certainly expect him to run. And I absolutely look forward to strongly supporting him. If you think about President Biden’s track record of success, it includes, but is not limited to, the American Rescue Plan, saving the economy, shots in arms, money in pockets, putting kids back in school. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, creating millions of good-paying jobs, fixing our crumbling infrastructure all across America, urban America, rural America, suburban America, small town America, the heartland of America. Gun safety legislation for the first time in 30 years. It will save lives. We’ve got to do more, but it was an incredible step. The CHIPS and Science Act, to bring domestic manufacturing jobs back home. And the historic Inflation Reduction Act to strike a decisive blow against the climate crisis, lower energy costs, strengthen the Affordable Care Act, lower health care costs and drive down the high price of life-saving prescription drugs for millions of Americans. Those are just the highlights, George. That’s an extraordinary record. And on top of all of that, Ketanji Brown Jackson is seated on the United States Supreme Court.
That is a compelling track record of success. I know he’ll have a vision for the future. I look forward to strongly supporting President Biden’s re-election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Both Democratic leaders in Congress now from Brooklyn. What does that mean for your hometown?
JEFFRIES: Well, it’s been an honor to be able to work with Chuck Schumer ever since my days in the New York State Assembly. I look forward to working closely with him. And certainly, we’ll make sure that the issues of importance to America are going to be dealt with in a way that lifts everyone up. But there’s a lot of pride back at home on the streets of Brooklyn and I certainly understand that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Jeffries, thanks for joining us today.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, George.
The full interview can be watched here.