CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES ON CNBC'S SQUAWK BOX: “THE BUILD BACK BETTER AGENDA IS GOING TO HELP REVIVE THAT GREAT AMERICAN MIDDLE-CLASS DREAM”
WASHINGTON, DC – In case you missed it, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box with Becky Quick to discuss President Biden’s transformative Build Back Better agenda.
QUICK: Joining us now with more on what we can expect is New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He's the Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Hakeem, you've had your hands filled just trying to make sure that you can wrangle everybody for the votes on this. It's been difficult progress. Why do you think we can expect a vote later this week?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Well, first of all, good morning, great to be with you. Yesterday was a great day for the American people, for the economy and for America's future. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement is going to create millions of good-paying jobs. It's going to fix our crumbling bridges, roads, tunnels, airports, mass transportation system in a way that will allow America to win the 21st century, and that's going to be critical. Moving forward, I was very pleased by President Biden's announcement that Mitch Landrieu, a very accomplished public servant, is going to oversee implementation of the infrastructure agreement, and that should be tremendous for everyday Americans.
In terms of the Build Back Better Act, that is also essential for us to get over the finish line because it will help create additional good-paying jobs. It's going to cut taxes for working families, and perhaps most importantly, it's going to lower costs for everyday Americans, lower the cost of housing, lower the cost of life-saving prescription drugs, lower the cost of child care — all things that are incredibly significant in the day-to-day livelihood of the American people.
QUICK: You've had some holdouts, though, in your own party. They're concerned about the cost and whether it's going to be paid for and are waiting to see the CBO scoring on this. What do you expect we'll see from that scoring? And do you think you have the votes to actually proceed with this later this week?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Well, from a timeframe perspective, let's see when the CBO score comes in and then we can proceed from there. In terms of whether the votes will ultimately be in place, I'm absolutely 100% confident that that will be the case because everyone within the House Democratic Caucus understands that it is essential to bring this part of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda to life. The President promised that we were not going to go back to pre-pandemic normal. We know prior to the pandemic, half the American people reported that they couldn't afford a sudden, unexpected $400 expense. This is in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world. That's unacceptable. The great American middle-class dream, which is if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to provide a comfortable living for yourself and for your family and retire with grace and dignity -- that is under assault. The Build Back Better agenda is going to help revive that great American middle-class dream, which at the end of the day is, you know, is good for everyone. It's good for our democracy. It certainly is good for the economy.
QUICK: Congressman, we had Josh Gottheimer on yesterday. He's one of those Democratic congressional holdouts who's been a moderate. He did sound like he was willing and open to consider it, assuming the CBO score shows that it's paid for. But you have a lot of tougher critics when you get over to the Senate, especially Joe Manchin, who has said he doesn't want to put this on a fast track, thinks we should hold off, especially with what we've seen in inflation. Are you convinced that even if it passes the House, that you'll have the votes in the Senate?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: That's a great question. I've been here for a little over nine years, I've learned not to predict what may or may not happen on the other side of the Capitol over in the Senate. All we can control at this particular point in time is what moves out of the House of Representatives. We'll have great leadership from Speaker Pelosi in that regard.
The President has promised two things, one, that no one who is making $400,000 or less will pay a dime more in taxes. We're going to keep that promise. He also indicated that the bill is going to be fully paid for over the 10 year period of time contemplated through this reconciliation process. We're going to make sure we keep that promise as well. When we do both of those things, I'm confident that we'll have the 218 votes necessary to pass the Build Back Better Act in the House.
QUICK: Inflation has been a big problem. That's one of the things that Senator Manchin has cited. You were looking at inflation at better than 6% just for the month of October. Even if you don't anticipate those incredibly high numbers continuing for the foreseeable future, you are talking about a lot of money that the people that you're just talking about, low- and middle-income people are having to pay out at the grocery store, at the gas pump, in different places. There is a concern that if you inject even more money into the economy, fiscal money that you're talking about with this new plan, that it could exacerbate inflation. What do you say to that concern?
CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Well, we have monetary policy, of course, and we have fiscal policy. In the context of monetary policy, there are some things that perhaps the Federal Reserve will need to take a look at in terms of making sure that the economy doesn't overheat. We find ourselves in a situation where we experience unexpectedly prolonged inflationary pressure. It hits the people that I represent back home in Brooklyn and Queens and everyday Americans all across this great country, while at the same time we do have the responsibility to make sure that we're executing upon fiscal policy that will lower costs for everyday Americans. That is what the Build Back Better Act is going to do. It's going to lower the cost of child care. By some estimates, the American people pay on average about $8,500 a year. That is an extraordinary amount, more than any other developed country in the nation. We're going to drop that down to zero for middle-class families, working families and low-income families. We're going to invest approximately $150 billion in the creation and preservation of affordable housing. That is going to create access to housing that will ease the month-to-month pressures that the American people are experiencing in terms of increasing rents. We also, of course, are going to drive down the high cost of life-saving prescription drugs. There's pretty much agreement on that. Right now, seniors, for instance, pay on average about $6,000 per year. We're going to make sure that that's no more than $2,000 per year. That is a significant gain, and we're going to bring our country in line with other developed countries because we pay far more for life-saving prescription drugs here in America than any other place, certainly, our competitors in Western Europe. That's unacceptable, and the Build Back Better Act is going to deal with that. So it's going to drop costs for everyday Americans in a way that will improve their quality of life.
Watch the full interview here.
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