May 21, 2019


WASHINGTON - On the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment in the U.S. House, House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MA) held the House Democratic leadership’s weekly press conference where they outlined Democrats’ legislative agenda. They were also joined by Rep. Jason Crow and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who bring first-hand military and intelligence experience in the Middle East and worked on some of our country’s most critical national security matters, to discuss the path forward to de-escalating rising tensions with Iran.

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: […] We will be dealing with two issues of importance to our agenda as it relates to making sure that we continue to improve the quality of life of the American people. We will bring to the floor the Consumers First Actlegislation being carried by Chairwoman Maxine Waters to push back against the assault against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that was put into place during the Obama administration to defend the interests of the American consumer. This administration has systematically tried to undermine it. We want to push back against them aggressively and we believe the American people are with us.

We will also bring to the floor legislation being carried by Richard Neal called the SECURE Act. Part of the economic anxiety that the American people are experiencing as we move from a regime of defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans is that far too many Americans aren't prepared for retirement, and a SECURE Act in this new economy will help the country be better prepared for allowing seniors entering into their golden years to be able to retire with the grace and the dignity and the respect that they deserve.

At the Caucus meeting earlier today, we had the benefit of hearing from Ambassador Wendy Sherman the former Undersecretary of Political Affairs for the Department of State in a prior administration and the lead negotiator on the JCPOA or otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement, and of course former CIA Director John Brennan who held that title from 2013 to 2017 and was the CIA Director when the administration negotiated the JCPOA. We had a robust, active, extended discussion on that very important topic and have two distinguished Members of Congress with us here today. Two thought leaders on this issue who bring real life experience in the field, service and sacrifice in the Middle East that help keep us safe. 


VICE CHAIR CLARK: So today […] we also ask that our Republican counterparts take up those bills that we have already passed, whether it's equal pay for equal work, the Violence Against Women Act, H.R.1, which is the bill that protects that right to vote and makes sure that we are getting corruption out of politics. These are the issues Democrats are working on every single day. We wear the yellow rose and the purple ribbon today not only to celebrate the diversity of this Congress, but to make sure that women's voices are no longer drowned out in our history and in our policies.

REP. CROW: I served three combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army paratrooper and Army Ranger. I say this because I know well the dangers that are posed by Iran and its proxies in the region. I know that the threat is real and should be taken seriously, but I also know that when politicians talk tough, real people can get hurt. We saw that in Iraq when Secretary Rumsfeld insisted that this would be a short war, but 16 years, trillions of dollars later and thousands of lives later, we are still in Iraq. And I mentioned that because if this conflict escalates, it won't be President Trump or John Bolton putting their lives on the line. It will be our troops. Our most solemn responsibility as elected officials is the decision to send our young men and women into harm's way. As a veteran, I have seen firsthand the horrors of war. And as a member of the Armed Services Committee, we must always make sure that we use force as a last resort. It's a decision and issue that keeps me awake. And to that end, we need to make sure that we are picking a fight in the Middle East that we stand strong with our alliances, that we send a very clear message to Iran and its proxies. But instead of the saber rattling and chest pounding that we constantly see from this administration, I hope that we take concrete steps towards de-escalation […]

REP. SLOTKIN: I'm a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official. I was actually an analyst on Iranian-backed groups. I did three tours in Iraq alongside the military working to dismantle those Iranian-backed groups that were shooting at U.S forces and plotting against U.S facilities. So let me be clear that I have no love lost for the Iranians. I have friends and co-workers who were killed by these Iranian-backed groups and to enforce Iran's malign activities in the Middle East are threats to U.S. personnel. These things are abhorrent, but what we have learned after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that a quick drive to war must be tempered by a stone-cold analysis of the blood and treasure lost in a long and protracted war in the Middle East.

These are grave matters of war and peace. And as an Army wife and as an Army stepmother, the slide towards conflict is deeply personal for me. Unfortunately, the administration appears to have no strategy. The secretary of state has a twelve-point plan. National Security Advisor Bolton has called for regime change in Iran his entire adult life. The president vacillates between saying that he cares only about the nuclear file and was recently threatening on Twitter to essentially wipe Iran off the map. If I and you cannot understand U.S. strategy, then you can bet the Iranians don't understand it.  And if neither side can determine what actions are offensive versus defensive, it sets us on a course to misunderstanding each other and in a slide towards war. […]

The lack of strategy and incoherence from the administration is something that is deeply, deeply worrisome and potentially deeply expensive. 

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