May 16, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: Where are the so-called moderate Republicans?

WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu held a leadership press conference with DPCC Chair Joe Neguse and Co-Chair Veronica Escobar on House Republicans and Speaker Kevin McCarthy putting their extremist demands in debt ceiling negotiations over the needs of everyday Americans.

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Good morning, everyone. Honored to be joined by some of my colleagues here. [The] usual – Vice Chair Ted Lieu, but also our Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Joe Neguse, and DPCC Co-Chair Veronica Escobar. 

First, I want to just – on behalf of House Democrats – let everyone know that we are in constant communication with Gerry Connolly. A lot of us reached out to him via text and via calls yesterday about the violence that ensued at his district office, making sure that he and his staff know that we’re rolling this with them and we want to do everything we can to help them. But it was something that was quite jarring to all of us who have district offices and staff whose responsibility it is, oftentimes, the difficult task of making us look good, and they do such an amazing job. And so, our thoughts are with Gerry and his team. 

But I wanted to begin by talking about Speaker McCarthy, who continues to put the demands of the most extreme members of his conference over the needs of everyday Americans. We are on the verge of a Republican-led default because these individuals want to cut veterans’ health care, manufacturing jobs and so many other important areas.

House Republicans can end this at any time they want, but they refuse to give up on the ransom demands that they have passed. They have yet to take any meaningful steps to lower costs, to make health care more affordable or to help our economic recovery—led by the Biden-Harris Administration’s over 12.7 million new jobs created. They have not addressed anything related to gun violence prevention and making sure that our children and our families are safe. Their top priority this Congress is to make it easier for the wealthy and the well-connected to cheat on their taxes. 

Where are these so-called moderate Republicans as well? They say one thing back home and then they come back and they give their voting card to Marjorie Taylor Green, George Santos and Speaker McCarthy. 

We cannot go down a path toward default. Three times under the prior Administration, without incident or hostage taking, Democrats joined Republicans to pass a debt limit increase. Unless these reasonable Republicans can come to their senses and reject extremism, we’re afraid of the path that they are on currently.

VICE CHAIR LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar. This is National Police Week and Democrats honor the brave and courageous law enforcement officers and their families, and I just want to give you some facts. Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan that funded law enforcement agencies and provided a significant amount of money to local jurisdictions to keep law enforcement personnel on the job and from being laid off during the pandemic. In contrast, Republicans recently voted for the Default on America Act that would cut thousands of law enforcement positions. 

Last week, a prominent member of the Republican [Conference], the member purportedly known as George Santos, was indicted by law enforcement. 

And recently the Republican front runner for a nominee for the presidential election continues to praise the mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6th. Donald Trump called January 6th a beautiful day. Those are the facts.

CHAIR NEGUSE: Thank you first and foremost, Vice Chair Lieu, and, Chairman Aguilar, for your leadership. I want to underscore, start rather, by underscoring a point that our Chairman articulated so well, which is in the last 24 or 48 hours or so, we’ve heard quite a bit from Speaker McCarthy and some House Republicans as they attempt to lay blame for a Republican default that grows more and more precarious by the day. 

The only group of people in Washington threatening a default, are House Republicans – no one else. House Democrats from day one have made clear our obligation to pay our bills, to do the right thing by the American people and prevent a disastrous default. Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans have taken the exact opposite approach. They have manufactured a crisis, forced a false choice on the American people: to choose between draconian and cruel cuts in the Default in America Act, on the one hand, or a catastrophic default on the other. And now, attempting to leverage this crisis of their own making. So, it's important, as Vice Chair Lieu said, for us to understand and be cognizant of the facts. There is only one party that is threatening default and it is House Republicans. 

One note, I would just close on. There was some polling that came out just a few days ago. And I would encourage all of you to take a look. It shows what we all know to be true, which is that the Default on America Act is deeply unpopular with the American public. 58% of Americans, when they find out what is in that disastrous bill, oppose it. That includes, by the way, 32% of Republicans, 1/3 of Republicans across the country. Why is that? Of course, the reason is obvious because their bill would lay off teachers, lay off first responders, strip away food assistance from millions of families across the country, impose draconian cuts on health care for seniors and so many others. It's why, by the way, House Republicans and Speaker McCarthy declined at every turn to talk about what is actually in their bill, because they know that it is deeply unpopular with the American people. It's time for them to get serious. Do the right thing by the American people.

CO-CHAIR ESCOBAR: Thank you so much Chair Neguse, thank you, Chair Aguilar, Vice Chair Ted Lieu. 

As many of you all know, I represent the beautiful community of El Paso, Texas, which has been in the news for some time now because of the number of migrants fleeing their homeland who have been arriving at our nation's front door. 

First, some context we know that this is not just an issue that El Paso's facing it's not just an issue, in fact, that our country is facing. We are seeing a Western hemispheric refugee crisis of historic proportions, and every country in our hemisphere has been impacted by hundreds of thousands of displaced people who are fleeing their communities, their families, their language, their homeland, in search of safety and a better life. 

First, let me share with you what's happening in El Paso. Our apprehensions and encounters have dropped dramatically and significantly. The challenge that we are facing right now, as a community, comes from a ruling by a Republican judge, a Trump judge, who is essentially halting a policy that has been in place for a number of administrations and that is once migrants are processed, once their criminal records checks are complete, and they have sponsors they have been paroled into the country to await their asylum hearing with their sponsor. But this Trump judge suddenly outraged by a policy that the Trump Administration engaged in has put a stop to that temporarily. That has meant that our processing facilities in El Paso are seriously overcrowded.

They are not at the same level of overcrowding that we saw during the Trump Administration when I brought colleagues of mine to El Paso where we saw hundreds and thousands of people outside in triple-digit heat, where we saw at least six children die in custody, but we are very concerned about the overcrowding, nonetheless, and we hope that the Administration is successful on its appeal, and can relieve that overcrowding that that is unsafe, not just for migrants in American custody, but it's unsafe for the agents and personnel at the facility as well. 

I want to provide additional context about how we got here, many of us, myself included, have long talked about the fact that Title 42 was making things worse, title 42 essentially created a revolving door and incentivized multiple crossings by the same vulnerable populations over and over and over again. 

Late last year, when the Administration asked for adequate funding, they warned Congress, the Administration warned Congress that they needed sufficient resources in order to adequately address the lifting of Title 42, but out of the Senate came an appropriations bill that slashed the Administration's request in half. When that bill got over in December to the House, the vast majority of Republicans voted against it. Included in that bill was funding for more Border Patrol agents, for more technology, for more funding for communities, like El Paso all the way to New York City, that would help these communities process and provide hospitality and support to migrant populations. In this bill, also, was more funding for immigration judges so House Republicans almost to a person voted against those investments, and some of those same Republicans parachute into communities like mine, take their selfies at the wall and hold press conferences denouncing the Administration's lack of resources, so they cannot have it both ways.

I would encourage everyone to hold them to account. It's not what they say, it's what they do, and speaking of what they do, last week, they passed a draconian border bill, which by the way, would make illegal the NGO support that communities across the country rely on for migrant populations. So, we are at a moment where it's long past time for Republicans to work with us in a bipartisan manner to truly address the challenge that has gone unaddressed for decades, mostly because of Republican intransigence, but we stand ready to work with them for real and comprehensive bipartisan solutions. 

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