Transcript: Press briefing Q&A with Rep. Xavier Becerra and Rep. Joe Crowley on the debt ceiling & government shutdown – Oct. 15, 2013

Partial transcript of press briefing Q&A with Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California) and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York) on the debt ceiling and government shutdown on Oct. 15, 2013:

Question:
Congressman Becerra, you described the Senate with the work that they’re doing as reasonable. Are you saying that if that comes to fruition that House Democrats would put out a significant number of votes to support something like that?

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California):
Well, we don’t know exactly what the Senate will produce but we know that they are talking. And while they may disagree, what they’re willing to do is try to come up with solutions even though they may disagree. At least they’re demonstrating that they’re open to different or new ideas. As we in the House have said all the way through, we are open to any new and different ideas that our Republican colleagues may have but we just don’t want is for them to put at risk our economy or American families’ livelihood by shutting down our government in order to be able to discuss those new ideas.

Let’s keep our economy going. Let’s keep our government running. And let’s discuss all those new ideas together and come up with some common sense solutions. We got the impression because both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate were saying they were having good conversations that maybe there were some reasonable ideas that were percolating in the Senate and for the House Republicans to now come out and say they’re going to do something contrary to what even Senate Republican colleagues are discussing. Seems to be a reckless attempt to try to circumvent what the Senate is doing, which at this late hour – less than 2 days before we for the first time go over the cliff and allow our economy to be put at risk by not paying our bills – our past bills. So that to me seems very irresponsible and it certain falls far short of being common sense.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California):
Disagreement with the Republicans? Well, what we’re being told is that Republicans are going to re-hash old ideas and they’re going to try to insert political ideas into a budget bill where these political ideas have no place. And they’re also now talking about – continuing to talking about inserting these political ideas on a measure to keep the economy running. If they want to shut the economy down the way the Republicans have already shut most of the government or a good portion of the government, that doesn’t help any American.

And certainly when the President made very clear he’s open to new ideas but not with a gun to the head of the American family and the American economy. So we’re ready to have that conversation and all those different ideas to see if we could reach some common sense solutions. And the Senate seems to be moving – trying to move in that direction. We have yet to see what the Senate would propose.

But what we are hearing our Republican colleagues in the House are proposing flies not only in the face of what Senate Republicans are preparing to move forward with, but it also flies in the face of what the American people want and what our American economy needs.

Question:
[Inaudible]…

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York):
Well, I do think that the traditions of the House and the Senate are somewhat different. But I will say also that I know that there have been discussions by the Speaker with the Leader as well. It’s not completely – as you’ve indicated – shut down in that respect.

At the end of the day, Mr. Boehner has the majority of the votes. They elected him Speaker of the caucus. I believe that he enjoys that position and because the majority of the vote within his caucus as well. And he has a responsibility to bring to the floor the legislation that will pass and that will avert what we believe is an irresponsible approach to governing.

He can bring a bill right now to the floor that can re-open government. He can bring a bill to the floor right now more easily that the Senate can to avoid defaulting on our nation’s debt. So I’d say a great deal of responsibility lies in the hands of the Speaker because the differences in the way the rules of the House and the rules of the Senate are in place. And I believe that gives John Boehner a great deal of ability to move on his own to avert the second – what I believe would be a catastrophe not only for the United States but the entire world economy. And all for what? Political gain. And they don’t even know what they want at this point in time.

So once again, we’re back to a bill here in the House. It’s a hodge podge of failed issues – issues that have not stirred even their colleagues in the Senate. Republican colleagues in the Senate have said they don’t agree with the tactics that Mr. Boehner and the Republican majority are using right now. So I think it’s time for Mr. Boehner, the Republican caucus to bring a bill to the floor right now that would re-open the government and not allow the U.S. to default on its debts.

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California):
And I’ll just add that I think it’s pretty obvious that there is some pretty strong disagreement here in Congress on what to do. But we keep telling the Speaker and our Republican colleagues, “We can disagree but we can still talk.” And it would surprise you when you find how when you talk you can come to an agreement. And so while we don’t always agree, that’s not a reason not to talk. And we would urge the Speaker to engage in that conversation.

For a long time, Republicans in the House would criticize the President, claiming that he wasn’t willing to talk or negotiate. All along, the President’s been willing to talk to our Republican colleagues in the House. The difficulty is this: If they want to have a conversation, they should have it with the folks who are next door to them here in the House of Representatives as well. And they’d find that we’d probably would be not only willing to come to some common sense solutions, but we could do this without jeopardizing our economy and scaring the American people so much.

Question:
[Inaudible]

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California):
Well, you’ve mentioned some of them. And the President made it very clear that he wants to keep the economy moving, and he doesn’t believe any American should be left without work simply because of a political fight. We’ll that’s where we find ourselves. Republicans in the House decided to shut down the government so more than 800,000 Americans haven’t been able to work for 15 days.

We’re now hearing that the markets may gyrate as a result of this uncertainty that Republicans are creating here in the House about not paying our past debt – our past bills.

And so when we hear Republicans say that in order for them to be able – in order for them to move forward and allow Americans to go back to work and our economy not to be put at risk, they have to have a vote on repealing all or part of our new health security law, which by the way we’ve done over 45 times. That’s an old idea. We’ve been there. We’ve done that.

We’re willing to talk about new ideas. But for Republicans to rehash old ideas that are part of their political agenda and do it while they have a gun to the head of the American people who want to go to work and who want to make sure that their interest rates don’t jack up, that’s the political agenda that we speak of. And we hope our Republican colleagues will understand that we could come to some good common sense solutions together even if we disagree so long as we’re willing to talk. And so we would hope that this desire to be reckless and irresponsible would just end because it’s gone too long, the gun is too close to the head of the American people…and the economy. And no one should put at risk an American family that’s working hard or an economy that’s finally recovering and has created 7.5 million jobs in the last 3.5 years.

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York):
Let me just end with this point. I’m going to make a prediction. The bill the Republican will put on the floor, if it is drafted in the way which we believe it’s going to be drafted, may not even pass the House. But even if it does pass the House, I’ll predict it will never pass the Senate. It will never pass the Senate the way…And what statement is that to the American people two days before the 17th of October, the day that the Treasury said we will run out of the ability to pay our debts. We will default on our debts. What message does that send to the American people? What message does that send to the world as well? I would suggest once again – a irresponsible message, a reckless message.

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