May 31, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: President Biden, House Democrats stood up for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Democratic Leadership held a press conference on the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, which avoids a devastating default while protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other vital programs for everyday Americans.

LEADER JEFFRIES: Good morning, everyone. We just completed a Caucus meeting with the White House negotiators and presenters, and it was a very thoughtful, comprehensive, clear-eyed discussion about the moment that we are in and, of course, about the importance of avoiding a catastrophic default. 

In that meeting, I made clear that I'm going to support the legislation that is on the floor today and that I support it without hesitation, reservation or trepidation. Not because it's perfect, but in divided government, we of course, cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And President Biden did an incredibly good job under difficult circumstances in protecting some key priorities and values for the well-being of the American people.

This process has been one where the extreme MAGA Republicans were determined to take the country down one of either two directions. Door number one: they wanted dramatic, draconian, devastating cuts that would have adversely impacted the health, the safety or the economic well-being of the American people. And they were going to use a hostage-taking situation to force those extreme right-wing cuts down the throats of the American people. Door number two: if they are unable to get the draconian, dramatic, devastating cuts, consistent with what was in their extreme Default on America Act that they passed on the House floor with the deciding vote being a serial fraudster George Santos, on April 26th – if they were unable to get the Default on America Act, they were willing to walk America through door number two.  And door number two was a devastating, dangerous default. Crash the economy. Trigger a job-killing recession because, as many of them indicated, including the Chair of the Republican National Committee, that they believe that a default and a crashing of the economy would benefit them politically in 2024. Those are the options that they presented to the American people.

So, I'm thankful for the leadership of President Joe Biden, who found a third path, and it's a third path that does three important things. One: it avoids a devastating default, avoids crashing the economy, avoids triggering a job-killing recession here in America and throughout the world and avoids hurting millions of everyday Americans. The second thing that President Biden and his team were able to do successfully, in partnership with House Democrats and Senate Democrats every step of the way, was to make sure that America would not be forced in another hostage-taking situation for the balance of this Congress. And it was incredibly important to make sure that the debt ceiling was suspended through the early part of 2025, so that the American people don't have to be subjected to this type of turmoil for the balance of this year and all throughout next year. And it gives us the space to work through how we can prevent this type of hostage-taking situation legislatively, legally or administratively ever again. And then the third important thing that the Biden Administration was able to accomplish is that they protected some things that were incredibly important to the American people, all of which were on the chopping block because of the extreme MAGA Republicans and their ransom demands from the very beginning of this year. But because President Biden held the line, some very important things were protected in this resolution. President Biden protected Social Security. President Biden protected Medicare. President Biden protected Medicaid. President Biden protected veterans. President Biden protected the Inflation Reduction Act. President Biden protected the clean energy tax credits that will be transformational. President Biden protected billions of dollars in funding to combat environmental injustice. And President Biden protected the American people from the types of devastating cuts proposed by right-wing extremists that would have hurt millions of everyday Americans. That was all accomplished as a result of this resolution. 

I'm thankful for the leadership of President Biden, House Democrats who stood strongly behind him and his Administration, Leader Schumer and Senate Democrats as well. 

It’s now my honor to yield to the distinguished Whip of the House Democratic Caucus, who has held this Caucus together in such an extraordinary way, from the first week of the 118th Congress through the Default on America Act, where every single House Democrat opposed the extreme MAGA Republican legislation, giving the Administration tremendous strength in the negotiating room, all the way through, making sure that every single Democrat, New Dems, Blue Dogs, Progressives, all points in between, sign a discharge petition to strengthen the leverage that the Biden Administration needed to bring about an outcome that protected the well-being of the American people. Thank you. Katherine Clark.

WHIP CLARK: Thank you, Mr. Leader. We are inspired by your leadership, and it continues to be demonstrated, and we were we are still to this day, so proud to have passed 3,179 votes for Hakeem Jeffries for Speaker. 

But today, let me start off with what we know. It's been nearly three months since President Biden released his budget, his vision on how we can invest in the American people and, at the same time, reduce our deficit. And every day since, it has been Democrats and the President who have been fighting on the side of the American people. It is Democrats who've been the adults in the room. It is Democrats who prioritize Americans over political gamesmanship. It's Democrats who've opposed this MAGA hostage situation. It's Democrats who have always been clear, we will not allow this country to suffer a devastating default. 

The question is whether Republicans today will decide to join us and do the right thing. This is a deal that Speaker McCarthy negotiated. When his predecessor negotiated an agreement on the debt ceiling, she guaranteed the votes from the vast majority of her Caucus. Now, nobody is mistaking Speaker McCarthy for Speaker Pelosi, but he should be able to do what he said he was going to do and produce 150 votes from this Majority. That should be on the table, and the fact that it is still an open question, the fact that we still don't know if the votes are there, that he is depending on Democrats to avert disaster. That is a reflection of the extremism, of the brinksmanship and the ideological rot that has taken hold of the Republican Party. Like all of you, I am eager to see the Republican's final tally, but this Caucus will remain unified with the President and, most importantly, with the American people in this fight.

And I am very proud to yield to our Chairman, who has been helping us at every step of the way keep our Caucus informed and together. And that's Chairman Pete Aguilar.

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Thank you, Whip Clark. Thanks to Whip Clark and Leader Jeffries, for their leadership, for their comments to the House Democrats this morning, for the unity of purpose that they exude every day. 

This week, we'll bring an end to the Republican-led, the Republican-manufactured crisis. House Democrats look forward to continuing to tout the achievements of the Biden-Harris Administration – 12.7 new jobs created. 

But when we reflect on this week, it's important to know this wasn't about deficits. This was never about deficits to Republicans. They turned down every reasonable opportunity to close loopholes that would affect our deficits. They want to stand behind their billionaire friends so they can pay less than teachers on their tax rate, than teachers in San Bernardino. That's what this is about. And they're going to show us throughout the summer. 

Our prediction is that they're going to mark up a tax bill that would blow another hole, over $3 trillion in the deficit. This is not about fiscal sanity. This is about them, each and every step of the way, protecting their billionaire friends. But House Democrats stand poised to help, stand poised to be the adults in the room, and we will ensure that we put this crisis behind us. 

We've had a number of briefings with the Administration Officials. I’m appreciative of them. I continue to appreciate the President standing up for Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid. Without that leadership and support, those programs would not have been protected in this deal and in this year. We got a number of Administration briefings, six briefings. The Administration just spent two hours briefing House Democrats, and we appreciate their willingness to do that.

And a partner in that process – all of the Members of the Leadership team were on these Zooms and all these calls and there today – but a partner in this has been Vice Chair Ted Lieu.

VICE CHAIR LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar. Let me first start off by commending Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar for their strong leadership and for putting the American people first. 

And what all of you have seen since day one of the 118th Congress is that President Biden and House Democrats have remained calm, cool and collected in the face of repeated Republican chaos.

This is a GOP-manufactured crisis. This is a routine vote. It was so routine that, three times, it happened under the former President with no fanfare. But Republicans chose, because of how extreme they've gotten, to take us to the brink of a disaster, and Democrats are not going to let that happen. And what we see now, in particular for President Biden, is that he gets stuff done. President Biden and Democrats negotiated a Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to rebuild your roads and bridges and highways. President Biden and Democrats negotiated a bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act to bring back high-tech manufacturing to America. President Biden and Democrats negotiated the PACT Act to protect our veterans. This bipartisan agreement today protects all of those historic laws. And in particular, as a voter myself, I'm very pleased that this agreement fully funds veterans' health care at the insistence of Democrats. It was not that long ago that Republicans passed the Default on America Act that cut veterans funding by 22 percent. And because of the leadership of Democrats and President Biden, we were able to restore that funding and fully fund veterans' health care, as well as toxic exposure fund in the PACT Act. And because of that, I will be supporting the bill today.

And now, I yield back to Leader Jeffries.

Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.