November 19, 2019


WASHINGTON – This week, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Caucus Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MA) held the House Democratic leadership’s weekly press conference, where they continued to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the Bipartisan Background Checks Act up for a vote in the wake of recent mass shootings. They were joined by Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), a strong advocate for gun safety legislation, whose father died in a senseless act of gun violence.

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: We had a robust Caucus meeting discussion on a variety of issues and perhaps most importantly was a focus on making sure that we move forward with a continuing resolution to fund the government, which we will do later on today, so that we do not find ourselves in the midst of another reckless government shutdown inspired by the president of the United States of America. It is our hope that he has learned his lesson from the reckless government shutdown that he initiated last year that lasted 35 days that put hardworking public employees and federal workers and their families in jeopardy and at risk in terms of their well-being because of an inability to provide for themselves and for their families. We are entering into another holiday season, and it should shock the conscience of every single American that the Senate still has not gotten its act together. So we're going to pass a continuing resolution later on today that will extend the deadline for funding the government through December 20 and we're going to urge the Senate to do its job. Let's find common ground so we can fund the government and move the country forward in a responsible fashion.

It's also time for the Senate to act to address the gun violence epidemic that we have in the United States of America. We dedicate this countdown clock to Do-Nothing Donald and Missing-in-Action Mitch McConnell because of their failure to do anything about the gun violence epidemic in the United States of America. Shame on them. Lives continue to be lost, including at this most recent school shooting in Southern California. The House acted over 250 days ago on February 27, passing and sending over to the Senate universal criminal background check legislation that is broadly supported by the American people, including a clear majority of Republicans and gun owners. What is Do-Nothing Donald and Missing-in-Action Mitch waiting for? How many more Americans have to die before the Senate acts to do something about gun violence in America? Shame on them.


VICE CHAIR CLARK: Our Democratic House majority ran on a promise of working for the American people, and we have delivered on that promise with over 400 bills to support the needs of everyday Americans. As the Chairman stated so eloquently, for the safety of our communities, we sent the Senate common sense, bipartisan gun violence prevention bills 264 days ago. Our country has suffered three mass shootings in just the last 72 hours. For America's women, we passed strong reauthorizations of VAWA and the Paycheck Fairness Act. For our veterans we have passed dozens of bipartisan bills and legislation to reduce barriers for women, veterans and accessing the VA. For our Dreamers, we passed the Dream and Promise Act. For LGBTQ Americans, we passed the historic Equality Act. For our democracy, we passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, the SAFE Act and the SHIELD Act to strengthen our democracy against foreign attacks. For our planet, we passed the Climate Action Now Act and multiple bills to protect our public lands for generations to come. For working families, we passed the Raise the Wage Act to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. That is a raise for 33 million Americans. This week, we will pass legislation to protect our nurses and social workers from workplace violence, and we will pass a continuing resolution to ensure that we can prevent another reckless government shutdown.

Every day we are working For The People. Yet Senator McConnell, calling himself the Grim Reaper, still refuses to take these bills up. Put them up for a vote. More than 300 bills that have been passed are stuck in the Senate. That's 80 percent of the bills passed by the House. 276 of these bills were passed in a bipartisan vote. Where the House Democrats have funded 10 budget bills, funding 96 percent of government, Mitch McConnell has passed four. Mitch McConnell said this week that we need to have more civility in Congress. We also need the Senate to do their fundamental job in whatever manner they choose to do it. The American people deserve and demand action. They deserve a working government. And we are not going to back down until Senator McConnell does his job and puts these bills up for a vote.


REP. MUCARSEL-POWELL: When I was asked to come today and speak in front of you, the frustration that I felt, just trying to find the words once again are indescribable. Here we are, once again, having yet another press conference to talk about another shooting in America. In the past three days alone, we had three shootings losing ten lives. They were daughters, sons, mothers, fathers.

I came to Congress making a promise to people in my community that I would do everything in my power to legislate common sense gun reform laws that will protect our communities. I made a promise to my kids that I would do everything in Congress to make sure that they could go to school safely. I made a promise to my sisters that I would do everything in Congress to avoid yet another family member to receive the phone call that I received when I was 24 years old. The pain and the frustration is there every single time I see or wake up to another shooting.

When I hear about the shootings, like the ones in Duncan, Oklahoma; Fresno, California; Santa Clarita, California, I think about the survivors like myself, like Romania Dukes, like MJ Wright. That for many of them, their pain, their heartbreak is just beginning. The mental and emotional toll that these events take on survivors is immense. We have to make sure that survivors have every resource they need to thrive.

We have to have resources to provide counseling, programs to make sure that we provide mental health services that are available to them, programs to educate communities and law enforcement that after an incident of gun violence, they need to also think of the family members left behind and programs to make sure that groups are funded to train and build survivor networks. But before we do that, we have to stop the gun violence epidemic that we see in America today. We are living in a culture of guns, in a culture where Americans love their guns more than they love their children. We must change that. The House has acted. We passed H.R. 8, H.R. 1112, a universal comprehensive background check bill. 90 percent of Americans are in favor of that bill and Mitch McConnell sits in his desk completely disregarding the will of the American people, ignoring the fact that if we take action, we can save many lives.

Today, I ask Mitch McConnell, the president, the Senate to find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and do what they need to do to protect America. We must demand the Senate to do their job. 


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