Chairman Aguilar: Republicans Have Chosen Division and Default
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu held a leadership press conference with House Committee on Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro, House Committee on Ways and Means Ranking Member Richard Neal and House Budget Committee Ranking Member Brendan Boyle on the failure of House Republicans to address the concerns of everyday Americans.
CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Good morning. It's a pleasure to be with three of our Ranking Members and our distinguished Vice Chair at this press conference.
House Democrats are ready. In the 118th Congress, we stand united behind Hakeem Jeffries, whose leadership is astounding bold, courageous, decisive...you get the point. The chaos and crisis on the other side of the aisle has not stopped House Republicans.
After caving to demands from extremists in their conference, Speaker McCarthy has a secret three-page list of promises that will prevent his Caucus from – that he had to put in place to prevent his caucus from voting down their own rules package. Rather than trying to find common ground, house Republicans have chosen a path of division and default. We've not seen a single concrete proposal from Republican leadership that will lower costs for everyday Americans. Instead, they've ratcheted up their attacks on women's reproductive rights, against voting rights legislation, and against codifying Roe v. Wade.
When they're ready to get serious about the most pressing issues of facing this country, House Democrats stand ready to work with them to deliver. Until then, we're going to continue to call out their extremism each and every step of the way. Our vice chair, Ted Lieu.
VICE CHAIR LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar, and good morning. Last week, the American people saw a clear contrast between a unified Democratic Caucus working on behalf of American people and the chaos, confusion, crisis of the Republican Caucus who have been captured by MAGA extremists. And this contrast continues this week.
So while Democrats are putting people over politics and working to lower costs and get better paying jobs and safer communities, what is the very first thing Republicans do, the very first bill they pass? It guts the Office of Government Ethics. Essentially, when you read what they say, you cannot hire any staff after 30 days for that important office, which means if any staff has to leave, relocate, resign, for whatever reason leave the office, they cannot be replaced. So over time, this office could shrink to nothing. And why do Republicans want to do that? Well, they want to stop investigations into themselves.
And we see that again with what's going to be voted on today, which is their Committee to Obstruct Justice. They're going to create a committee to meddle into ongoing law enforcement investigations. Some of these investigations are investigating Republican members of Congress as well as the former failed President. So that is what the American people are seeing. And that contrast will continue to play out week after week after week. And now it's my honor to introduce our terrific Ranking Member of Appropriations, Rosa DeLauro.
REP. ROSA DELAURO: Thank you very much. Thank you. Good morning. Pleasure to be with all of you today. And I want to say a thank you to Chairman Aguilar, Vice Chairman Lieu, for inviting me to join the press conference this morning and also to thank my colleagues, Chairman Neal and Chairman Boyle, for their leadership.
As my colleagues have mentioned, the Republicans’ chaotic process to elect a Speaker of the House – it's unprecedented, and it's also dangerous. Republicans are making side agreements, handshake deals that not only contradict their calls for transparency, but also attempt to short circuit the 2024 government funding process before it even gets started. Appropriations bills are must pass bills. They require bipartisan, bicameral agreement like the House Democratic majority secured when we passed the agreement funding the omnibus bill in December. It appears, quite honestly, that Republicans, they don't understand this process because in his attempt to become Speaker, Kevin McCarthy reportedly already promised to cap spending at the 2022 levels in exchange for votes.
Let me just take a second to tell you about what that means. Now, obviously, we do not have the exact cut that the Speaker traded for votes because the deal was made in secret. But there's a discussion that the cut from 2023 would apply to all discretionary spending, defense and non defense. That's at least $130 billion cut to all discretionary spending. That's about an 8% cut. If you take it all from non defense, it’s about a 17% cut. And while there are some House Republicans saying that they will not cut national security, they would then leave veterans in the lurch. Taking the veterans program back to 2022 would shortchange VA medical care by at least $31 billion. That's 32 percent below what we just enacted in December. That doesn't account for potential increases the department will identify on their upcoming budget request. So these are they're going to slash what are critical investments. And as I said, it's defense, national security, military readiness, and a combat capability. And again, I make reference to service members and their families, the funds that they rely on. This is cuts to VA medical care, mental health services, the homeless assistance programs that ensure that we reach unhoused veterans. They will be making serious cuts to law enforcement. These spending cuts harm families, communities throughout the US that are already struggling with inflation and the cost of living. It is not just a soundbite to say that people are living in this country today paycheck to paycheck. It is a reality.
So the funding for high poverty schools, post secondary education, early learning programs hang in the balance. Access to childcare, training programs are at risk. We will cut the benefits for small businesses. But I guess my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, they consider that all of these services are unimportant, not to be taken into consideration. Because you know as well as I know that budgets are statements of values, and it tells you precisely where their values are or are not.
In our bills, we provided 43.5 million people the SNAP benefits they need. This past year alone, our bills created over 21,500 affordable housing units. Progress made to help those in most need put food on their table, roof over their heads. All of that is jeopardized. Republicans have created an institution that governs in the shadows at the expense of hardworking families and a Speaker who traded funding that helps communities, that protects our national security for personal gain. I hope this troubling, this dangerous trend is reversed soon and that transparency is restored to the government funding process.
And with that, let me introduce you the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Richard Neal.
REP. RICHARD NEAL: Thanks to the leadership team here for having us get out front on some of the issues that we're going to confront in the course of the next few months. Even for those of you who had a chance to witness the debate last night on their first funding bill, $114 billion it adds to the national deficit. And if you listen to the debate last night, I also thought what was compelling to the battle, they came unarmed. It was pretty remarkable to listen to the back-and-forth last night where we dealt with facts and specificity and they dealt once again, in generalities and kind of empty talk.
What I also think is noteworthy as we get to what eventually will be a vote on the debt ceiling and certainly putting the question in front of the American people. They voted for the CARES Act. They voted for more money, for national defense spending. Some of them voted for the infrastructure bill, and then they also voted for $5 trillion worth of tax cuts in 2001, 2003, and 2017. Although it comes out to about $4.7 trillion of tax cuts. And it allows them, in this instance, after what they've done, to sort of set the fire and then call the fire department. So it's been kind of the recklessness that they've embraced in this fiscal debate and discussion, but it's going to bring us to the precipice because it will allow us to have a full throttle debate over the role of Social Security and Medicare in our lives. I’m looking forward to that.
It’s really important to remember – as I’ve just described it – where the tax cuts were, where the spending increases came from, and then how we intent to defend Social Security and Medicare, and do the responsible thing and raise the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling shouldn’t be held hostage to this sort of conversation particularly when you participated in increased spending, which by the way was all valid. All valid.
The CARES Act, Speaker Pelosi and I with Secretary Mnuchin we negotiated that legislation in their office. Many of you were witness to it when you saw the final product and we came out of the Speaker’s office at the time with Secretary Mnuchin calling in back and forth over eight days. They all voted for it. And I call attention to that because now they want to say well, we’re not going to raise the debt ceiling until you agree to irresponsible cuts in domestic spending. Better to have the discussion right now. Let’s set the table, let’s get to the debate of Social Security and Medicare. Happy to engage.
REP. BRENDAN BOYLE: Thank you for that wonderful introduction, Richie. So I am Brendan Boyle – Brendan not Brandon – incoming Ranking Member of the Budget Committee. And actually, let me build off what Richie just said and focus on one area as part of the adopted rules package last night and that’s CutGo.
You know you can always tell when there’s a Democrat in the White House because the Republicans colleagues suddenly become concerned again about deficit and debt. When there’s a Republican in the White House, they conveniently forget that topic. But every time they take over and there’s Democrat in the White House, suddenly there’s this focus on deficit and debt. Well, here’s the hypocrisy in what they’re saying. As part of CutGo that they reinstated last night, any tax cuts that they propose do not have to be offset. So all of those critical investments that Chair DeLauro spoke about – critical investments in the American people, education, jobs creation, helping veterans – all of those have to be offset, according to their rules. But another big round of tax cuts like what they did the last time they were in the Majority – $2 trillion tax cuts, 83% of which went to the wealthiest 1% – not one dime of that would have to be offset. So keep that in mind when they’re crying crocodile tears about our national debt.
I would also say as Chairman Neal did, the debt ceiling should not ever be something we play around with. It is too dangerous. This country has been able to get through and weather government shutdowns. We would not be able to weather a compromise in the full faith and credit of the United States. It would cripple not only the U.S. economy, but the world economy. This Caucus has the responsible position not to play politics with this. The other side has been threatening repeatedly, as recently as last night, to refuse to raise the debt ceiling because they’re so hell bent on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We own’t let them get away with it.
Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.
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