Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with House Democratic Caucus leaders on the government shutdown & debt ceiling – Oct. 8, 2013

Partial transcript of press briefing with House Democratic Caucus leaders on the government shutdown and debt ceiling on Oct. 8, 2013:

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.):
…I have just been informed that earlier this morning Speaker Boehner responded to a reporter’s question about the fact that the votes exists to pass a clean budget and we could re-open the doors to government and put Americans back to work, and my understanding is his eloquent response was “Doo doo”.

I mean, we have Americans who are suffering because they can’t go to work or they’re working without pay. We have Americans who are losing confidence in their economy. The Speaker knows the votes exists for us to stop this gimmickry and that’s his response.

As I said before, if this weren’t so serious, it would be absurd. And it’s time to stop the game playing.

Speaker Boehner, you know you have the votes to pass a clean bill which you yourself had agreed to put on the floor when you had your negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate. You backed away from that. How can we trust you when you’re not willing to abide by your own negotiated agreement and when you treat with such cavalier attitude the question of why you won’t let Americans get back to work and have our government re-open?

We’re about to face in the next week, week-and-a-half, the possibility for the first time in our country’s history watching as we tell the world we’re not willing to pay our past debts. Is this the same way that the Republican Speaker of the House will run the show when we have to deal with that in the House? We certainly hope not because there are true consequences not just to a government shutdown but to a default on our past bills.

With that, we’ll take questions.

On the idea that Boehner said this morning that the votes aren’t there, is he trying to say he could whip those votes to be no’s? I mean, is there any thought of where that type of assertion might come from?

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.):
You know, it’s possible since he controls what comes to the floor that he’s really saying, “The vote is not there because I’m not going to let it be there” because he has that prerogative of whether to allow a clean CR to come to the floor. So that may be the real definition of what he meant when he said the votes aren’t there. He’s just not going to let them be there.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.):
Let me just add to that as well. We’ve been talking for quite some time now that Mr. Boehner has either enabled the Tea Party faction of his caucus to run his caucus or as you may be suggesting now it’s part of his plan. That this is maybe not so much even the Tea Party shutdown as much as it is Speaker Boehner’s shutdown. Either way, the responsibility falls at his feet.

He has the ability, as Jim said, to have a clean vote on the CR. We can do it at any moment now. We could go upstairs and within a half an hour we can pass a bill out of the House of Representatives.

We know that there are enough votes between the Democratic caucus and a handful of the majority to pass that bill. He simply will not let that come to the floor.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.):
You know, in the 19th century pogroms in Russia when villagers were persecuted, they gave a benefit of a doubt to the Tzar and the expression often used was, “If only the Tzar knew.” But of course it was the Tzar who was behind the pogroms.

You know, we’ve got to stop giving the benefit of a doubt to John Boehner. He’s in charge, and he has – as Joe said – enabled, if not, encouraged this reckless behavior. It’s time for him to lead and be the Speaker, the title which he possesses.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.):
I do want to add I think the Republicans in the House are proving what happens when partisan politics infects policymaking. For a party to be able to dictate to a democratic body what will happen is when I think you start to undermine and destroy what the founding father set up for us.

This so-called Hastert rule – you could read any page of the House rules that governs the operation of the House of Representatives, you’ll never find a mention of the so-called Hastert rule. You could read the entire Constitution of the United States of America and you’ll never once find a mention of the so-called Hastert rule. The Hastert rule is not a rule. It’s a Republican Party dictate where the Republicans have said they will not let anything come to the people’s House for a vote unless the political party – in this case Republicans – decide to be willing to let that measure come up for a vote.

And so here we have party politics dictating what America’s democracy will do. At some point, you’ll have to put country before party. And I hope that John Boehner’s reading the news about how Americans’ confidence in its economy has eroded and will recognize it’s time to put country ahead of party.


Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.):
…To have to negotiate with a gun at your head – actually, the gun at the head of the American people – makes no sense to most of us. We’re willing to have conversation and that leads to negotiated agreements. But remember, John Boehner negotiated this agreement to have a clean vote on the budget resolution. He has walked away from that agreement that he had with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and that’s why we had this government shutdown.

Sen. Reid, a Democrat, essentially accepted the Republican proposal to extend the operation of government. It was Republicans who couldn’t take yes for an answer and have walked away from their own negotiated agreement.

And so when John Boehner walks away from what he was willing to do, he negotiated this and he’s then willing to impose a partisan rule to dictate what will happen in the House of Representatives, you can see the level of dysfunction we now have in the House of Representatives.

So we can talk to our Republican colleagues, but if they’re going to always walk away from those negotiations and if they’re going to then – I’m not sure how to say this – the dishonesty of it is – to not accept what you yourself have offered when it’s been accepted, it’s tough to negotiate with folks.

So whether we talk to rank and file Republicans or not, if the leadership – if John Boehner will sit there and reach an agreement then walk away from it and get up there and say he can’t put it up for a vote because he’s got a partisan rule that determines that he cannot put it up for a vote, it is tough to make any progress.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.):
…It does show that Peter King and Charlie Dent are correct. There are Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats to pass a temporary CR. That we know. In fact, Peter King and Charlie Dent have said a clean CR can pass the House. I think it would actually pass with more than 20 Republican votes if that bill came to the floor.

It comes back to what we talked about before. The Speaker’s refusal [is] no longer just a Tea Party Republican; it’s clearly the Speaker’s doing. He is continuing to shut down this government by not allowing for a temporary CR to pass so that both parties can continue to discuss and to negotiate the passage of a full budget for our country.

We are eight days into this and the Oct. 17th deadline is fast approaching. How is this end? What’s going to break the log jam?

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.):
Well, none of us have answer. If we have an answer, we would propose it. It’s mind-boggling to think that the Congress of the United States would actually even seriously consider allowing our debt to default, to undermine the confidence that the American dollar has been able to generate for 200 years, and the kind of economic implosion that will occur if we actually go past the point of being able to pay interest and principal on our outstanding debt. That’s just beyond comprehension. It should be.

And yet, as Jerry mentioned, there are some members of the House majority that actually comprehend that and don’t seem to be particularly concerned about it.

We don’t know what’s going to happen but it’s going to be bad and it’s probably going to be worse than we could possibly imagine.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.):
You know, it’s really not complicated. I mean, there’s an obvious answer. Let’s pass a clean funding bill for the government, and let’s pass a debt ceiling increase to make sure that we’re good for our debts.

…This relentless opposition to the President hurts the country. You know, adversarial politics – understanding we have a loyal opposition absolutely healthy…

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.):
…I do think…Wall Street has a role to play here. I think the business community has a role to play here. The Chamber of Commerce. The Business Roundtable. People who the Republican caucus respect.

I know they’re weighing in but they need to weigh in even more. They really need to fine tune for the Republican if they haven’t gotten already just how catastrophic this would be for the world.

Maybe their constituents want their interest rates to go up on their home mortgage if it’s an adjustable rate mortgage. Maybe they want interest rates to go up to buy a new car or to pay their bills on their credit cards.

My constituents don’t want that. What my constituency wants is for government to get up and running again. They pay their taxes. They haven’t shut down paying their taxes yet. They’re getting less in services for it. They want to see this government working for them, and that’s what they’re demanding. They do not want a shutdown.

The first time in the history of the United States the contemplation of [not] paying our national debt – it’s never happened before; it cannot happen. It’s unprecedented and the effects would be catastrophic on the world.

Those outside groups need to weigh in in a way which they haven’t done before to make sure my Republican colleagues understand just what the consequences are of their actions or in this case their inaction.

This morning, House Republican leaders announce that they are going to be bringing to the floor as early as this afternoon legislation that would create a super committee – a bipartisan, bicameral working group to negotiate all of the issues relating to this fiscal impasse. I was wondering if you have any preliminary thoughts.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.):
Not again. Not again. My gosh. Wow. We know how well that worked when we did the Super Committee.

By the way, having served as a member of the so-called Super Committee, there was nothing super about it. And it was just punting. It’s another way to get out of doing what you should.

I mean, quite honestly, what was born from that Super Committee was sequester, which we are told by the Congressional Budget Office, the fiscal non-partisan guide to what any legislation cost to this country – CBO is telling us that that sequester is going to cost us a million jobs in its first year of existence.

And is that what Republicans want? Another process that can birth another sequester that will lead to millions of Americans out of work?

There is no reason why we just can’t get our work done now. We don’t need a super committee. We don’t need a sequester to tell us how to vote. The votes exist right now to pass a clean budget bill.

And I think all of us here would stand and tell you that the votes exist to keep America from defaulting for the first time on paying its previous debts. Remember, Republicans voted for these debts that they’re now saying they don’t want to pay for. They were on record voting for this, and for them to all of a sudden say, “No, we won’t” and jeopardize that interest rate that someone is paying on their mortgage on his or her home, on that family that just sent their child to college and had to take out a student loan and now the interest rate on that student loan are going to balloon, it is outrageous, it is reckless, it is irresponsible for anyone to say that we don’t have the votes to move forward to do what Ronald Reagan did 18 times.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.):
Americans just want to get to work. If our Republican colleagues would just put themselves in the shoes of the average American, we would have a vote today. The government would be back in operation. And we would not be risking the livelihood of American families figuring out how to survive, paying the current interest rates on their homes or their student loans or their car loans. This is reckless.

And we don’t need another super committee, which is not super, to have members of Congress do their jobs that they were elected to do in the first place.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.):
…We don’t need to have another committee created when in fact they complained the fact that the Senate hadn’t passed a budget. Well, the Senate passed a budget. The House Republicans have passed a budget. Appoint conferees to the budget.

First of all, let’s pass a temporary budget bill to keep government operating and concentrate on passing the rest of the appropriations bills. There is a way of doing this without re-making a government. They don’t need to do that.

There is regular order that was being followed until now. It’s been interrupted by the failure of Republican caucus to pass a continuing resolution and it’s threatening to go bad on America’s debts. We don’t need to do that. We have the regular order which we could follow if they would just appoint their conferees to the budget.

So the answer is no, right?

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.):
Why would we participate in something you don’t need to do? We could pass both a budget and we can get America’s bills paid if we just do what Ronald Reagan and others have done, and that is stop using extortion to try to get your way on a social agenda that the American people didn’t agree with in the first place.

It’s time to get to work. It’s time to do what every American has to do – get up in the morning and do what you’re paid to do. We’re paid to make progress. We’re paid to help businesses, to help put Americans to work. We’re not paid to shut down the government. We’re not paid to default on our past obligations and put our economy and every American family’s pocketbook at risk.

It’s time to just get to work and we would hope that the Republican leadership would stop playing games with their party, stop letting the Tea Party tail wag the elephant. Let Republicans as well vote on a bill that lets government back to work and our economy moving forward.

We’ve created over 7.5 million jobs in the last three plus years. We could do a lot better if we didn’t have Republicans doing this every few months.


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3 Comments on “Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with House Democratic Caucus leaders on the government shutdown & debt ceiling – Oct. 8, 2013

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