March 01, 2022


WASHINGTON, DC – In case you missed it, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08), Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, appeared on MSNBC's Hallie Jackson Reports ahead of President Biden's State of the Union Address, where he outlined the President's accomplishments thus far and his vision for the future of America.

HALLIE JACKSON: You know, there is the potential for this, as we've talked about on the show, a split-screen moment for President Biden tonight to be delivering this speech against the backdrop of whatever we may see happen overseas. How would you like to see the President address the crisis in Ukraine, Russian escalation? What do you feel is appropriate in this message to the American people at this moment?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: I think the President is going to do two things, and we're all looking forward to his State of the Union address. The President will make clear that Democrats have a plan to Build a Better America. We've undertaken a substantial amount of work in that regard — 6.6 million good-paying jobs created during President Biden's first year. That is a record in American presidential history. Of course, the rate of economic growth — the fastest in 40 years, unemployment down to pre-pandemic lows of 3.94%. Yet, of course, there's still more work that needs to be done in terms of lowering costs for everyday Americans, and I expect that the President will articulate a plan to do just that.

At the same time, I think he has to speak, as it relates to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, in very clear terms that this is really a battle between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and repressive government. And we're standing on the side of freedom and democracy with Ukraine, and Russia and Putin represent something very different. I'm hopeful that my Republican colleagues will understand that this is not a moment to play partisan politics.

HALLIE JACKSON: The President will be delivering a speech not just to the millions of Americans watching around the country, but in the room — both Republicans and Democrats, members of your party, some of whom would like to see him move more to the left, some of whom would like to see more of a hold on the moderate middle, you can call it. We know there are at least three Democrats, I think, expected to respond right after the President's speech — Members of Congress Rashida Tlaib, Josh Gottheimer, Colin Allred. Do you see that as a sign of division inside the Democratic Party? Or do you think the President's going to welcome that, let's say, diversity of perspectives?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Well, I think there will be a diversity of perspective, but it will all be unified around the fact that, you know, President Joe Biden and Democrats are Building a Better America. That's the reality. That's the facts on the ground. Yes, we have to do more, but we've made tremendous progress. And House Democrats, we're a coalition, we're not a cult. It's a lot easier to be a cult in some ways, but we're a coalition and we embrace the fact that we represent the American people in the broadest possible way — racially, in terms of gender, sexual orientation, as it relates to religion, life experiences, region and, of course, ideology from the center, to the center left, to the progressive, to the super progressive. That's what makes us who we are as Democrats, the most authentic representatives of the American people, and I believe that President Biden embraces that.

HALLIE JACKSON: We talked about the certain angles, or the buckets, if you will, of President Biden's speech tonight, not just, obviously, foreign policy but of course the pandemic and the response and there's an interesting piece of what you might call symbolism here. You have the Capitol's Attending Physician who says masks are optional. We heard from the House Speaker on our air here at MSNBC earlier today, she's not going to wear one. You know, do you think that mask-optional stance will be a symbol to Americans that we are past Covid, that we are putting the pandemic in the rearview mirror?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: Well, certainly we're moving in that direction, and I'm thankful for the leadership that President Biden has provided. When he first took office, there were approximately 2 million Americans who were fully vaccinated. One year later, more than 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated. That doesn't happen by accident. That's a result of his leadership, embracing science, an evidence-based approach to dealing with a public health crisis and, of course, passing the American Rescue Plan, which occurred without a single Republican vote in either the House or the Senate. But it saved the economy and put in place a public health infrastructure so we could ultimately crush this virus, and it put us in a stronger possible position to emerge at this moment after dealing with the omicron variant. And so, yes, I do think that the mask-optional moment, as city after city across the country are beginning to embrace, is a powerful symbol.


Watch the full interview here.