October 16, 2019


WASHINGTON  This week, 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’ signature health care bill, The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, as well as the upcoming SHIELD Act aimed at keeping our elections safe from foreign interference. They were also joined by the co-chairs of the House Democratic Caucus’ National Security Task Force, Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM), Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), to discuss President Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw troops from Syria, leaving our Kurdish allies defenseless and America less safe.

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: […] We promised in advance of November of 2018 that were we given the opportunity to serve in the majority, we would focus like a laser beam on driving down the high cost of lifesaving prescription drugs. The American people pay more for prescription medication than any other developed country in the world. We pay more than Canada or Australia or Japan or Great Britain or France or Germany, oftentimes five or six times the amount for the same drug manufactured in the same location. It's unacceptable. And there's an emerging bipartisan consensus that we need to do something about it. H.R. 3 is the vehicle to accomplish that objective by finally giving Medicare and the federal government the power to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of the American people. And we'll be moving forward expeditiously in advancing this legislation over the next few weeks.


VICE CHAIR CLARK: We had a very busy two weeks at home in our districts. Democrats had hundreds of events, meeting with constituents, meeting with people at home to discuss the For The People agenda and following through on our promise to fight as the Chairman highlighted, for lower prescription drug costs to make sure that we increase pay through strong economic growth.


Just this week, we're going to be passing the SHIELD Act of 2019 to make sure that we are strengthening and closing loopholes to keep foreign interference out of our elections. These are the issues that we are hearing loudly and clearly from home that they want us to focus on. We are not sure how Mitch McConnell is taking a paycheck any longer because he is refusing to work on the bills that we have sent over. These are the bills that Americans sent us here to do their work. And we are going to do both things. Continue to legislate. Continue to bring those issues from home to talk about here at the Capitol and also to investigate.


REP. TORRES SMALL: As a new member of Congress, I have the honor of serving in the House Armed Services Committee and as a civilian I have the opportunity to learn from the men and women in service and veterans who have taught me a great deal about our national security and what true service means. One of the things that I've most learned from these men and women with valor is how important it is to build trust with the people with whom you fight. And that's why the situation in Syria is so concerning because our Kurdish allies fought with United States Special Forces and others to protect the world from ISIS and took that fight all the way to Raqa and then held the line. And because of that work, we were able to secure a very unstable situation. Now, the challenge is, is that the president's impulsive decision has created a chaos that has allowed President Erdogan to make these dangerous and reckless actions. And it has disturbed the balance with our allies.

It is deeply unsettling that we are proceeding without a long term strategy, and that is what we all have to work together to do. Because in this chaos we are emboldening our enemies. And that is why I am pleased that at least we have a bipartisan call to action that we have to protect our Kurdish allies. This is the issue that Secretary Mattis quit over. This is something we have to work together for. And we can, we must do this work and not allow other things to distract us. So as we work together to protect our allies, we must reinforce the importance and stand up against impulsive decision making that has reckless consequences and stand for a long term strategy to provide stability in the Middle East. 


REP. KIM: For me, about five years ago, I was at the White House National Security Council working on the counter-ISIS issues. I was there in the room when we were deciding how to move forward with the Syrian Kurds, as well as with President Erdogan at the time. We knew that this was going to be an issue of reckoning, one that we would have to confront. But I would tell you, we never would have imagined at that time that it would come to an end in the way that it has with the level of recklessness and dysfunction that we've seen over the last two weeks.

You would ask any counterterrorism expert, anybody that's been out there working on the counter-ISIS fight, they will say that our work there with the Syrian Kurds, with the with the SDF has been the pinnacle of the type of work that we've done in terms of partnering with local forces, in terms of train, advise, assist. And they say that because of the level of precision and the level of strategy that went into this work and how we were able to have an outsized influence given the low level forces that we had out there. It was really an example unlike anything else we'd seen across the world. To see that level of precision being torn apart and dismantled in the way of the recklessness that we've seen, it just gives nothing in terms of the credit due to the people that were doing the fighting and it leaves us terribly exposed to the resurgence of ISIS and other terrorism groups in the region.


REP. CROW: As an army ranger when I served in Iraq and Afghanistan, we frequently worked with local forces, not just because it was important, but because it was essential. We could not have accomplished our missions without them. They knew the terrain. They knew the culture. They knew the language. And they knew how to help us fight and win the battle. So we now know that America is strong because we have friends. Since the end of World War II, we don't go it alone. We have friends. We have partners. We have allies. And that is a huge source of our strength. I have seen it firsthand on the ground fighting overseas for this country. But the bottom line is the reckless decision of this president sends a very clear message to those friends and to those partners. And that is the American handshake doesn't matter. That we won't be there for you when you need us. And that's a dangerous message, and it will make it much harder for us to recruit partners, recruit allies and work with people going forward to secure our country.


We also know in the last couple of days, several hundred ISIS sympathizers have now escaped. So this is a huge danger to America, to our national security. We are in a much worse position now than we were two weeks ago. America is less safe. I'll end with this. I learned a long time ago in the Army that you don't do anything without a plan and without consulting your allies. So, Mr. President, what is your plan? The American people and Congress deserve to know: How you are going to keep this country safe? How are you going to build our alliances and our partnerships and move us forward?

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