January 25, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: Republicans in Congress want to hold veterans benefits hostage to enact Social Security and Medicare cuts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu held a leadership press conference with Reps. Yadira Caraveo (CO-8), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37) and Hillary Scholten (MI-3) on protecting reproductive freedom and opposing the GOP plan to cut Social Security and Medicare. 

CHAIRMAN PETE AGUILAR: Morning everyone. First, I wanted to say on behalf of House Democrats our thoughts and prayers go out to the communities of Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and Oakland, California, as well as Des Moines, Iowa, as well.

We're three weeks into 2023 and there have been 2,800 deaths from gun violence. We joined President Biden, Vice President Harris in calling for continued gun safety legislation, and stand ready to build safer communities by expanding the gun safety legislation and building upon the legislative successes that we had in that regard, and look forward to continued efforts to do that.

My colleagues behind me and I joined in welcoming the Vice President of the United States to address our Caucus. She not only talked about advancing reproductive freedom, building off of her speech this weekend and the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. She delivered powerful remarks also supporting House Democrats in our efforts to build upon the success that we have had in the last two years, and talking about the implementation plans that the administration has, in order to make sure we deliver on our promise to help our communities to lower costs, to create good paying jobs, and to make sure that they are safer.

Joined today, not only by the Vice Chair, but Representatives Yadira Caraveo, Sydney Kamlager-Dove, and Hillary Scholten, who will talk about the unique and personal stories to demonstrate the ways that abortion touches the lives of so many women across our country. 

Before I yield to the Vice Chair, I did want to mention some of the latest that we have seen on the prioritization plan that Republicans might put forward in order to address the debt ceiling. This is a plan that would pay foreign investors and enact cuts to Social Security and Medicare, school lunches, law enforcement who aid in investigations across this country, as well as potentially the FAA, that manages 25,000 flights per day. Republicans in Congress want to hold hostage veterans benefits to enact deep Social Security and Medicare cuts. If you don't trust me just read their own words on this topic. Or what's worse is that this plan just won't work. We're going to continue to highlight the economic catastrophe that could come from their proposed plans and Democrats will oppose them at each and every step that they want to enact these deep cuts. With that, I'll yield to the Vice Chair.


VICE CHAIR TED LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar for your leadership and in line with what the Chairman said, I also want to offer my condolences to the victims and families of the tragic mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, in Des Moines, and in Oakland. And what it shows is that the Republicans’ extreme view that more guns make us safer is false. It has now borne out as a failed policy approach. It's time to try another approach. 

Republicans have also been extreme when it comes to our economy. They want to hold it hostage in order to extract cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They want to try to crash our economy in order to make those cuts. Democrats are not going to let that happen. 
Republicans are also extreme when it comes to reproductive rights. One of the first bills they did when they took power, was to criminalize healthcare providers. It was an interesting article that appeared in New York Times not too long ago. It had a picture of an abortion at about six weeks. Most abortions happen at less than nine weeks. So it was a picture of a clump of cells. Now, is that a human being? I don't know. But I do know that politicians should not be making that decision. That decision should be made by the woman. And the Republicans' extreme view is that we all should have government mandated pregnancies. Democrats are going to stop that. 

And it is now my pleasure to introduce to you Dr. Yadira Caraveo, who will talk a little bit more about reproductive rights.


REP. YADIRA CARAVEO: Thank you, Vice Chair Lieu and Chairman Aguilar for hosting us this week as we recognize what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Today, I stand before you as a Member of Congress. But before I was elected to this seat, I spent my life serving my community in Colorado as a doctor. 

I'm honored to have stood by my patients during some of their happiest moments in their lives and some of the hardest moments too. From first steps and first words, to vaccines, and overcoming tough diagnoses. And yes, I have stood shoulder to shoulder with young women, as they face the solemn decision of whether to have an abortion. Having stood in that room, I can tell you this, this is a decision that is never, never made lightly. It is one of the biggest and most difficult life changing decisions a woman can make. That is why I believe firmly that it is a decision that must remain in the exam room with between a woman and her doctor and the people closest to her not on the floor of the House of Representatives. 

Last Sunday would have marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade, the case that protected every woman's right to make decisions about her own body. But this was the first anniversary in 50 years that women no longer have those protections. Today, it is more important than ever that we reinstate the rights that were afforded by Roe because women across the country deserve the right over their own bodies, the choice about when or if to have a family, to control their own livelihood, and the basic assurance that they are protected equally, just as men are, with the laws in this country. 

As the most extreme Members among us push for a federal abortion ban and attempt to criminalize doctors who have cared for their patients, it is more important than ever, that we stand strong on behalf of all women. As a doctor, as a Member of Congress, as a woman, and as an American, I will fight every single day for these protections. It's a priority of mine. I know I stand in good company with all of the Members on the stage and in our Caucus. And we fight, as we will continue to fight for every woman's right to make her own health care decisions. So, thank you very much. And I would love to turn it over now to my colleague, Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove from California.


REP. SYDNEY KAMLAGER-DOVE: Thank you, and I just want to start by saying as a Californian, I too want to extend my prayers to the victims of the mass shootings in Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay, Oakland, and Des Moines, Iowa.
It is no doubt that the pro-choice movement was dealt a massive blow last June. This conservative, activist Supreme Court overturned decades of precedent. They stripped away Americans' freedom to make their own health care decisions, specifically a woman's right to make choices about her own body and a doctor's right to provide her care. And as a result, they are putting all of our lives at risk. 

Republicans across the country are trying to bring us back to the days of back alley coat hanger abortions with deadly consequences. Women are being forced to travel hundreds of miles, leaving their children behind, risking their jobs, all to have access to basic health care. This harms the women who are most at risk of having less access to health care in the first place: poor women, Black and Brown women, women in rural communities. That we will not allow them to drag us back to the 1970s. 

This movement has always been bigger than Roe. We saw it in red state, Kansas where voters shocked the nation by coming out to protect abortion access in their state. We saw it again in November, where voters across the country stood up and showed out for abortion rights. Voters said women matter, healthcare matters, freedom matters, abortion matters. And even still, extreme Republicans have been itching to enact a nationwide abortion ban. Extreme Republicans have already proposed one. They want to control women, take away our freedoms, and limit our bodily autonomy. To them, the Handmaid's Tale isn't a horror, it's a fantasy. But this movement is the Woman King, and we are not going without a fight. 

We will not let the Republican Party erode the rights of women across the country and turn out the light of democracy. I am here to say as a proud member of the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood, Los Angeles that women have the right to control their own personal decision making. Women have the right to fully control our bodies, lives, families and futures. And we have a responsibility to put an end to politicians inserting themselves into doctors’ offices and the uteruses of women throughout the country. I will now you yield to Representative Scholten.


REP. HILLARY SCHOLTEN: One day a few years ago, on a day not too different from this one, my husband and I received some of the most devastating news expected parents can receive. Our hope for our first child, our daughter, had received a terminal diagnosis, Turner Syndrome, was considered incompatible with life.

I remember so much about that day, the look on our doctors face, the phone call to our pastor. But what I remember most distinctly was the absence of government intervention and the freedom my husband and I had to make the choice that was best for us. After much prayer and consideration and with eyes wide open, we chose to give our daughter every chance at life we possibly could.

So much made that choice possible. The knowledge that we could with the love and support of our family and faith community, our good health insurance, flexible, good paying jobs. We could support a child with even severe disabilities. And the knowledge that if we ever got to the point where my health or life was threatened, or the pain for our daughter would be too much, that we could choose to terminate the pregnancy. We had so much freedom to make the choice we wanted. For us. That choice was life.

This week we're marking 50 years since Roe vs. Wade gave women the critical reproductive right to seek an abortion. But today we live in a country where women have less freedom and fewer rights than half a century ago. Last week, Republicans launched the 118th Congress with a regressive, anti-family bill that undermined parental rights, and was not intended to actually pass into law, but rather divide the American people and parents against each other over an issue where, in fact, we actually share a lot of common ground.

As a pro-choice Christian, I deeply honor the sanctity of life. And I'm ready to work with Republicans and Democrats on legislation that will give women more choices and flexibility when faced with unexpected pregnancy situations. Studies continue to demonstrate that criminalizing women and doctors, outlawing abortions does not actually lead to reduced abortions.

If Republicans had really been interested in honoring the sanctity of life, including the life of the mother, and children born into less than ideal circumstances, we could have introduced legislation to ensure access to affordable health care, expand the Child Tax Credit, or increase educational opportunities for parents and children, but they did not. They could have supported working families by raising the minimum wage or helped address housing instability, but they did not. They could have introduced any number of pieces of legislation that would actually support parents and give them more options when bringing a child into this world, but they did not.

I'm here to talk about solutions. It's why the people of West Michigan sent me here. I invite my Republican colleagues to join us in coming together to truly honor the sanctity of life by supporting families facing hard times and difficult choices. I'm ready to get to work. Thank you. I yield back to the Chair.

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