November 07, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: The only way forward is for both parties to come together

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu held a press conference alongside DPCC Co-Chair Lauren Underwood and House Democratic Caucus National Security Task Force Co-Chair Mikie Sherrill on the MAGA Republican chaos preventing lifesaving aid to Israel and putting the country on a collision course for a government shutdown.

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Good morning. If there was any doubt that House Republicans have completely abandoned bipartisanship in order to address the needs of the American people, last week put an end to that. Instead of passing lifesaving aid for Israel that had an overwhelming majority of support within Congress, Speaker Johnson and the MAGA Republicans, for the first time in Israel's history, said that aid would only be available if we agreed to their demands to pass public policy changes that make it easier for billionaires to cheat on their taxes. 

They would rather increase the deficit [with] bad economic policy than pursue a bipartisan path forward. They would weaken America’s standing as a leader in the free world in pursuit of political games. 

And yet, we find ourselves on a collision course just ten days from a government shutdown. House Republicans are pushing harsh and unworkable cuts to critical services and rolling back access to abortion. House Democrats, Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans are all on the same page while House Republicans would rather spend time on baseless and partisan impeachment. 

The only way forward is for both parties to come together. House Democrats are ready to work with our colleagues to pass funding that prevents a government shutdown and invests in working families and keeps our government open. But we need responsible partners on the other side of the aisle. 

Pleased to be joined with Representative Mikie Sherrill who's on the National Security Task Force within the Democratic Caucus and Lauren Underwood who's Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications office in the House Democratic side. And I'll now turn it over to the Vice Chair of the Caucus, Ted Lieu.

VICE CHAIR LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar. Let me first say my heart goes out to the family and friends of Paul Kessler. He was killed yesterday at a protest regarding the conflict in Israel and Gaza. The coroner has ruled it a homicide. They don't know exactly what happened yet. Law enforcement is investigating. Depending on the facts, it could be a hate crime, and I urge law enforcement to hold the perpetrators accountable. 

We’re also seeing a stunning rise in antisemitism across the world and in America. That is completely unacceptable. It is antisemitic to rip down posters of hostages that Hamas has taken. Some of those hostages, by the way, are Americans. It is antisemitic to deface restaurants, Jewish delis and synagogues, such has happened in my district. It is antisemitic to link any Jewish American with the governmental actions of the State of Israel. It is antisemitic to treat any Jewish American differently because they are Jewish. I'm on the Bipartisan Task Force to Combat Antisemitism. We’re going to be meeting this week with the head of the ADL to look at ways to counter this  rising antisemitism. 

And then let me conclude now by saying we are ten days away from a government shutdown. And what is the Republican plan? They have none. Once again, the Republicans, the controlling majority party, are bringing us to the brink of another government shutdown. I urge Republicans to pass a clean CR. The reason we're here is because they themselves shut down the floor of the House of Representatives for three weeks. They own this problem. They caused a delay. They should not inflict this on the American people. I urge them to pass a clean CR. And with that, I'm so honored to introduce their wonderful Co-Chair of our Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, Lauren Underwood.

CO-CHAIR UNDERWOOD: Good morning, everyone. We are here today, as the government shutdown looms once again in just ten days. It is yet another crisis in a series of them this year created by [the] extreme MAGA Republican Majority. Let's just take a moment and recap. Earlier this year they engineered a devastating default threat that would have created a global economic meltdown before finally agreeing to a bipartisan deal. Then they went back on that deal and brought us to the brink of a government shutdown at the end of September. Then they abruptly threw out their own Speaker, leaving the House without a Republican leader for almost four weeks in October. 

This is not governing, it’s grandstanding. And yet every step of the way, despite this Republican led chaos and dysfunction, House Democrats have been here, united as always, putting People Over Politics. Once again, we are ready to pass legislation that fully funds our government and keeps our promises to the American people. But with only ten days to go, extreme Republicans, on direct orders from their new Speaker, are still playing political games and pushing harsh and unworkable cuts to services and investments that working families are counting on. Cuts that would devastate our communities and undermine our investments in everything from health care to saving future generations from the threats of climate change. 

Enough is enough. Our community sent us here to deliver results, to create jobs and bring down the cost of living, to grow our middle class and defend our freedoms. It is long past time that this majority stops playing political games and starts working with us to fulfill those responsibilities. I'm so pleased to yield to my colleague and friend, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill.

CO-CHAIR SHERRILL: Well, I just want to thank everyone for being here this morning and tearing yourselves away from the New Jersey elections. But it is great to be talking about such weighty and important issues because over two weeks ago, President Biden sent Congress an urgent supplemental funding request to address the crisis we face around the world, including a terrorist attack against Israel and more than 200 hostages held captive by Hamas, a humanitarian crisis in Gaza with innocent civilians running out of water, food and medicine, Ukraine's continued defense against Putin's brutal invasion and China's rising aggression towards Taiwan and regional ambitions. The President clearly underscored the danger if we let terrorists or tyrants act without consequence. 

House Democrats agree that we are at an inflection point, that America's response to these crises matters and that inaction is unacceptable. As a former Navy helicopter pilot and Russian policy officer I know that the U.S. cannot walk away from these fights if we want to preserve and protect democracy. But Speaker Johnson has decided to retreat as the world is in crisis. Instead of sending a strong message about America's resolve, he abandoned allies and politicized aid to Israel with an unserious and inadequate bill. A bill with supposed offsets that in fact add billions to the deficit, fails to include humanitarian aid to Gaza and that's dead on arrival in the Senate. 

This is no way to lead or govern. We must instead address these crises as a whole because they're connected in the fight for freedom and democracy. We've seen that Ukraine's enemies are in fact, also Israel's enemies. Russia recently hosted Hamas leaders in Moscow, and a Hamas spokesperson called Russia their ‘closest friend’. Iran is working hand in glove with Putin. Supplying drones and munitions for the war in Ukraine as they supply Hezbollah and support attacks against American assets worldwide, 38 and counting in the last month, with 46 Americans injured, eight attacks since Friday alone. 

So, it's time for House Republicans to wake up to this reality. The Senate is working together on a package but House Republicans are missing in action when it comes to standing up for democracy abroad. If the U.S. retreats, imagine the message that sends to China as they eye an invasion of Taiwan. Imagine the message it sends when Putin wants to go beyond Ukraine's borders further into Eastern Europe. Walking away now would be a win for Hamas, a win for Putin and a win for Xi. But bundling our assistance would show the rest of the world, especially China, Russia and Iran, that despite the work of extremists on the fringes, the vast majority of American lawmakers stand ready to support our democratic partners. Congress must meet this moment. We cannot let petty politics diminish America's leadership or responsibilities on the global stage. Thank you, and back to Pete.

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