November 13, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: It's going to take Democrats and Republicans to prevent a shutdown

NEW YORK – Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar joined MSNBC's Morning Joe with Mika Brzezinski, Jonathan Lemire, Elise Jordan, and Rev. Al Sharpton to discuss the looming government shutdown.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Speaker Mike Johnson is indicating that there is insufficient evidence at the moment to begin formal impeachment proceedings against President Biden. That's according to The Washington Post, citing people who attended a closed door meeting with House GOP moderates last week. Meanwhile, with just four days until a potential government shutdown, House Republicans unveiled their Stop Gap funding bill over the weekend to keep the government open. House Speaker Mike Johnson has asked for a two-step continuing resolution. What does that all mean? Joining us now, Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Congressman Pete Aguilar of California. Are Republicans going to lead you guys out of a government shutdown? What is this two-step resolution?

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Well, it seems to us that two steps means two opportunities for them to shut down the government in the future. That kind of seems, that’s kind of their plan here. But we’re still trying to figure this out and where they want to go. But we have been very clear that we don’t want steep cuts in government funding and we don’t want to criminalize abortion care. And they have done all of those in their appropriations bills. I’m on the appropriations committee and that’s what they have done each and every time. So for them to step back, this is a new strategy because they’re continuing to fight themselves within that room on where they go and how they fund government.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Can you see a way forward with especially Mike Johnson as the Speaker of the House? Is there a way to negotiate and avoid a shutdown?

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Well, we hope so and we know that it’s going to take both parties. We know it’s going to be Democrats and Republicans who are going to avert a shutdown. That’s always been the case. That was the case weeks ago before Republicans got rid of the last Speaker. By the way, one of those things, one of the cardinal sins that the far right had said, the extreme right had said was that he passed a continuing resolution with Democratic votes. It's always going to take Democratic votes to fund government, the sooner that our Republican colleagues work with us on these issues, the better off we'll all be. It takes them a little while to get there though.

JONATHAN LEMIRE: Sorry to be shifting topics slightly, the new speaker said in recent days behind closed doors to GOP moderates, whatever that actually means, that he doesn't think there's sufficient evidence right now to really proceed with the impeachment inquiry into President Biden. At the same time, we saw Congressman Comer put out subpoenas for the President's brother, for the president's son, to testify in the next couple of weeks. What do you make of this? And do we think the Speaker actually is trying to be clever here by punting the Impeachment Inquiry deeper into an election year?

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: I think he's I think he's just trying to appease the Donald Trump wing of the party. I think that's exactly what they're doing. So they're going to continue this on. But he said the quiet part out loud, right. He said the quiet part out loud by saying that it's because of the President's poll ratings that we don't need to continue. You know, for them, this has always been the case. This has always been the case about impeachment in general, it's about weakening your political opponents. It's not about evidence. It's not about seeking the truth or what's good for democracy or governing. This is about your political opponents. And so he just said that part.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Congressman, the Republican National Committee Chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel was on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday where moderator Kristen Welker asked whether the Republican Party's stance on abortion was a losing one.

RONNA MCDANIEL: We have to talk compassionately, we can't attack women. We also have to define ourselves before the Democrats define us and this is my number one message: if you're digging yourself out of a hole you're going to lose. But if you go on TV, and you say to the American people, listen, we all are passionate about this issue. And it's confusing right now. But in a time of consensus, can't we agree on reasonable limitations at 15 weeks when a baby feels pain? And I think when you do that, will Democrats join me here? Democrats are so extreme on this issue. We win voters but you have to define yourself first. These are things we can win on, but we have to talk about it, and you can't hide in a corner and think abortion is not going to be an issue. This is what Democrats are running on because they can't run on crime. They can't run on the border. They can't run on fentanyl. $350 million in 2022 was spent on this issue. We just saw it again in Ohio and Virginia. There are lessons we have to take.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: What do you make of what McKenna had to say there that Democrats are extreme on the issue of abortion, which we also I think need to use the word women's health care when we talk about abortion because, again, they stereotype the word.

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Absolutely. And Democrats continue to support women's health care, women's reproductive rights, including abortion care. We saw this play out in Virginia, exactly what the chairwoman had mentioned. That exact position was played out in Virginia, and they lost races up and down the ballot on that message alone. The American public had been very clear. They want women to have the reproductive freedom to make their own health care decisions, period. Across the states, ballot referendums are succeeding, because they're doing just that. Part of what we're going to talk about over the next 12 months is our desire to ensure that that is the law of the land: that we protect women's reproductive care.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: Congressman, the talk about how one of the real problems when you deal with the so called Freedom Caucus of the far right, is that some of them have goals around women's health care, others they are pro con, but some of them really the goal is they don't want to see government really function and work and then just disrupt us no matter what, and how do you therefore bring in enough people that are not in that to solve this problem? Because some people, they want to see the government shut down so they can operate in the chaos.

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that's true, Rev. I think that's exactly what a group of them want. And that group, by the way, continues to grow and win elections in Republican primaries. We saw this play out when Speaker McCarthy was negotiating with the most extreme members of his party, and when he lowered that motion to vacate a rule that by the way, cost of his job. You also put some of these members on the Appropriations Committee, bowing to them and acknowledging that he needed to put them on the Rules Committee, he needed to give them prominent positions in committees, and that's been part of the chaos. It's been fueling the chaos because some of these folks just don't want to get to yes, we know that it's going to be bipartisanship. Democrats and Republicans coming together to fund government, to do big things: the infrastructure bill. All of these accomplishments that we've been able to complete have been in a bipartisan way and there is an element within the Republican Party that just doesn't want to govern.

Video of the full interview can be viewed here.