January 19, 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 President Biden’s historic achievements in his first year in office and the need for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and end the era of voter suppression once and for all. 

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: We had a very active Caucus meeting earlier today as we acknowledge and mark the one-year anniversary of President Biden's inauguration. Of course, there were three important Wednesdays in 2021: we had Insurrection Wednesday, followed by Impeachment Wednesday — that was accountability for an out-of-control president — and then, of course, the third Wednesday of January of last year was Inauguration Wednesday. That was an incredibly important moment, recognizing, really, the arc of the American journey.

We've got turbulence, but ultimately, we always get through that turbulence and it leads to triumph. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris being inaugurated as the President and Vice President of the United States of America was an affirmation of the rule of law, the transfer of power — even in this case reluctantly — and the robustness of American democracy. It's one of the things that gives us all hope, even as we navigate our way through the challenges right now in the Senate, and trying to deal with the voter suppression epidemic that has taken hold all across America in the aftermath of the January 6 violent insurrection.

You would think that my Republican colleagues, after seeing this Capitol overrun by people incited by the former so-called twice-impeached President of the United States, the Capitol was overrun by Trump supporters who wanted to assassinate Speaker Pelosi, hang Mike Pence and hunt down Members of Congress. You would think in the aftermath of that, they would run toward democracy. Instead, they run away from democracy. That's what's going on right now in the United States Senate, as a result of Republican refusal to back the John Robert Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Joe Manchin Freedom to Vote Act.

Republican refusal to support commonsense voting rights legislation that is supported by large swaths, majorities of the American people. Support for voting rights in America — which really should be bipartisan in nature at this moment — because in the aftermath of the passage of the original 1965 Voting Rights Act, voting rights in America has largely been a settled question. So the question that we now are asking of our Republican colleagues: "What happened?" Because the original Voting Rights Act was reauthorized four different times, and each time the original Voting Rights Act was reauthorized, it was passed in this Congress with bipartisan majorities and signed into law by Republican Presidents — 1970: Richard Nixon, 1975: Gerald Ford, 1982: Ronald Reagan, 2006: George W. Bush. Four times the Voting Rights Act has been reauthorized into law, four times signed by a Republican president, and in 2006, the Senate vote was 98-0, 98-0. There are 16 Republican senators who voted to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act 2006, who are still here. All you need is 10 of them. All you need is 10 of them, and we can have voting rights protections in place in the United States of America.

So we're asking the question and we'll continue to ask it: What happened to the modern-day Republican Party? Was it the election that took place in 2008? Did that disturb you? Did that throw you off? Were you confused by that? Still trying to figure out how it occurred? What happened to the modern-day Republican Party, that you've abandoned your own principles, principles that Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush espoused, and that 16 of you voted to authorize in 2006? What happened to the modern-day Republican Party? It's a cult right now. Is it because the cult leader has told you to oppose voting rights?


VICE CHAIR AGUILAR: One of the things we also want to highlight is the work that House Democrats have done working with the Biden-Harris Administration. Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary since President Biden and Vice President Harris took office. Weekly unemployment rates and claims are down to levels not seen since 1969. We're the only economy in the world that is stronger today than before the pandemic began. President Biden rescued the American economy, and he set a course for unprecedented economic revival if we are able to successfully beat this pandemic. On that front, the Biden-Harris Administration is succeeding where the previous administration had failed. 200 million vaccines, 75% of adults, protected, teenagers and children across this country, including my own two kids, are vaccinated. 96% of schools are open today. The racial equity gap in vaccines has been closed.

Just last week, funding for bridge repair under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill was announced and more announcements are forthcoming. We will not stand by and watch the radical right sabotage our economic success and divert us from paying attention to what's important, which is voting rights and ensuring opportunity throughout this country. We will continue to fight every day for the American people, so we can deliver for working families. That's what House Democrats are committed to, and that's what we hear overwhelmingly from our colleagues of what we should focus on.


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