July 13, 2022


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Vice Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA) held a leadership press conference where they highlighted House Democrats’ continued efforts to lower costs for everyday Americans and protect every woman’s right to abortion access. They were joined by National Security Task Force Co-Chairs Reps. Crow, Kim and Sherrill to discuss the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act.

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Good morning everyone, thank you for your presence, good to be back in Washington, D.C. and to be joined today by our Vice Chair Pete Aguilar and three distinguished co-chairs, leaders in the national security space and the leaders of the National Security Task Force. We had a very active discussion today on a variety of issues that will be before the Congress this week. House Democrats continue to work to make life better for everyday Americans, to lower costs, to deal with the inflationary pressures that the American people are experiencing, and at the same time grapple with the challenges that we confront as a result of the Supreme Court's devastating decision to end Roe v. Wade and take away a woman's freedom to make her own reproductive health care decisions.
And of course, while we've taken a substantial first step in dealing with the gun violence epidemic that we confront here in America, we know that more needs to be done and we continue to work to address this challenge, and there will be legislation on the floor this week with respect to ensuring our local law enforcement has the tools necessary when they confront an active shooter situation, which occurs far too often here in the greatest country in the world.
We also will have the NDAA on the floor this week, which is incredibly important given what we see happening throughout the world, and I will defer any comments on the importance of moving our National Defense Authorization Act to our three co-chairs, other than to say President Biden has demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the face of tremendous pressure that the world is confronting, particularly in Ukraine, where Vladimir Putin's tragic invasion of that democratic country. All the more reason why ensuring that we have a robust infrastructure for our national security apparatus is critically important.
VICE CHAIR AGUILAR: As the Chairman mentioned, we talked about protecting a woman's right to choose in Caucus. I also appreciate our colleague, Congressman Brad Schneider sharing his experience as a representative for Highland Park, what he went through on that day and some of the stories that he heard from constituents on these weapons of war that were used in that mass shooting.
But Democrats are also focused on protecting our democracy. Yesterday's January 6 hearing discussed another topic, the link of extremism to the activities that happened on January 6 and the fact that the extremists and the former president both had the same goal, which was to stop a peaceful transfer of power and that that rhetoric meant something. And that the president had a meeting on December 18, tweeted on December 19 and that became, in part, a call to arms for those who sought to come to the Capitol. Then we heard directly from someone who joined in that effort, I was particularly taken by Mr. Ayres' comments as someone who participated in the rally and then took the president's charge and wish to come march on the Capitol, how it has changed his life, was particularly moving.
But this is exactly what Republicans wanted when Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy chose not to move forward with an independent commission, that all of my colleagues behind me sought. That's what happened. They chose not to hear these voices. They chose not to find out the truth, not to seek to find out what happened on January 6 and that threat to democracy that we all experienced.
CO-CHAIR CROW: The bottom line is that the Democratic Party and the House Democratic Caucus is the party of national security in the 21st century. We are the party that's dedicated to the rule of law, to affirming our connection with our allies, to addressing the largest national security threat facing our planet and our country, that is climate change – which is both a threat multiplier and a threat magnifier – and dedicated to doing this in the right way.
So when we pass the National Defense Authorization Act this week, we have a couple of really important goals. One is we have to keep faith with our servicemen and women, those men and women who stand up and raise their right hand and take an oath and are willing to give their life to keep it and to keep faith with their families. We have to address the threats, the very real and very deep threats from our adversaries. We have to send a message to our allies around the world that America is here, that we are firm, that we will stand with them in their greatest hour of need. And we have to address climate change and the various threats that we face. That's what this bill does, that's what the House Democratic Caucus has done and I'm very proud to be a part of that effort and to join with my colleagues to say, we will protect this nation, we will discharge our duties and we will do so in the right and responsible manner.
CO-CHAIR SHERRILL: The National Defense Authorization Act is one of the most important bills Congress passes every year, and that only strengthens our national security and sets vital policies for our service members. It also invests in jobs, innovation and modernization.
In NJ-11 with Picatinny Arsenal and our defense manufacturing base, the importance of this bill is clear, and it will also have an impact on the everyday lives of our service members and our veterans. My top priority in Congress is to make life more affordable for New Jersey families. Just last week, I held a roundtable in my district to discuss the impact of high prices and inflation on NJ-11 residents. During that conversation, I heard from a local veteran who has struggled to find steady employment since his time in service, even after utilizing his G.I. benefits. This year's bill takes that problem seriously and addresses it head-on.
This bill also increases pay for our service members, the largest pay raise in two decades, to ensure we maintain our ability to recruit and train the most professional and capable military in the world. I'm proud that this year's bill will take serious steps to increase affordability, such as expanding access to child care for our service members and their families. With our provisions and the FY 2023 NDAA, the Department of Defense will be able to prioritize climate change, a critical national security threat, as you just heard from my colleagues.
CO-CHAIR KIM: One thing I just wanted to add on to what Jason and Mikie said is that, you know, the NDAA, this is a reflection of our priorities. It is a reflection of what we believe our country needs when it comes to our national security. And for me, what I'll say over the last, what, three and a half years that I've been here in Congress, something that has really hit me and struck me is just the need for us to be able to focus on our service members, on our civilians, the personnel side of things.
You know, one of the efforts I've been pushing is trying to increase health care for our troops. In fact, I have the Health Care for our Troops Act. We weren't able to get that full amount in, but we have what's called the Dental Care for our Troops Act which is now going to give dental care benefits to all people that are wearing our uniform. I don't know if many people know this, but there are a lot of people that wear the uniform of the United States that serve our country, especially in the Guard and in Reserves that don't have health care. I just think it's absolutely ridiculous that people wear the cloth of the United States and they're not given the care that they need. It's not just about support for them and their families. It's also about readiness, about making sure that we have the troops that we need when we need them. And dental care being actually the number one reason why people can't activate on a moment's notice if they're not able to be able to keep up with that.
So these are the types of things that I just want to highlight. I know it's easy to focus in on the big ticket items, the hardware and see where we're going on that front. But I really hope that we can raise up the stories of our service members, make sure that they know that they're being looked after, make sure that they know that they're our top priority, as it always should be.
Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.