Transcript: Press conference remarks by House Democratic caucus leaders on the federal budget compromise – Dec. 11, 2013

Partial transcript of remarks by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-New York) on the budget deal. The press briefing was held on Dec. 11, 2013:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland):
…This was a hard-fought negotiation, and I want to thank Leader Pelosi and my fellow conferees for making it clear as recently as 12 to 24 hours ago that the way the agreement was taking shape would absolutely not be acceptable to members of the Democratic caucus. It’s now in a form where members of our caucus will have to decide for themselves.

Speaking individually, my view is that it is a small step in the right direction, because we are able to restore many of the cuts that would otherwise take place as a result of the sequester, those very deep and immediate cuts, and especially restoring some of the cuts that would have taken place in important domestic investments in our kid’s education, in science and research, in places like the National Institutes of Health, law enforcement. In those kinds of areas, this will help restore almost two-thirds of the cuts that would have otherwise taken place in fiscal year 2014. And I believe the way those cuts are paid for is not at all perfect, but a lot more equitable than it was 48 hours ago.

Our caucus will have to look at the details as individuals, and obviously we’ll be doing that over the next couple of days.


Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina):
…I am very, very pleased to stand here today in support of this legislation.

…I want to say one thing though: A lot of headlines going out in reference to federal employees. I want to emphasize now that nothing in this agreement affects current federal employees. All of this has to do with federal employees who will be going to work for the federal government after Jan. 1, 2014. Nothing affects current employees…


Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York):
…I just want to add a few points.

Number one, as an appropriator, since this bill has restored two-thirds of the dollars for appropriations, we will now be able to write appropriation bills.

Number two, I am not happy with the 2% cut to Medicare providers but it does not go to beneficiaries.

Number three, I think it is absolutely urgent that we restore and continue the unemployment insurance benefits. It is absolutely outrageous that we should leave this Congress and go home for the holidays when too many people – over a million people – will not be getting their unemployment benefits.

So overall, I do think it’s important that we were able to work together but I want to make it clear, if we get the House back, it would be an even better bill. And when it comes to the National Institutes of Health, education, jobs, the economy, we can do better. But I think this is the best that we can do at this point.


Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California):
I want to thank our conferees for their leadership and their effectiveness, and their opinion is important. Their opinions are important to our caucus.

However, they are very familiar with the particulars of the legislation and our caucus is just finding all of this out this morning. And so they will carefully review the provisions of the proposal and ask questions of our conferees and members will make their decision.

I don’t know where that will come down because, as you know, our budget that Mr. Van Hollen and our conferees were putting forth was quite different.

It was about growth. It was about investing in infrastructure in the short-term growth and long-term growth, investing in early childhood learning. It was about ending the sequester but doing so in a way that enabled us, again, to support growth as well as to extend the unemployment insurance.

It’s absolutely unconscionable that we could possibly consider leaving Washington D.C. without extending those benefits. Some of you were at our Steering and Policy hearing the other day – a few days ago – and saw the impacts that it has in the lives of people who worked hard and played by the rules. Work ethic is strong and respected in our country. And people losing jobs through no fault of their own and in an economy that has people with Master’s degrees going to entry-level jobs just to be able to have some income so they can stay in their homes. It’s a remarkable thing. And you’d ask why would the Republicans not just automatically do this? It’s our responsibility to do this. Perhaps they don’t believe in that, and that’s a fight that we have to make…

Again, we would have preferred something quite different, but we do recognize the value of coming to a decision so that we can go forward with some clarity on some other legislation that we want to see.

If we had included immigration [reform], that brings over $150 billion early on – over $900 billion over time. It could have helped in this budget agreement.

If we had closed even a couple of tax loopholes, but that was off-limits as well, we would not have to go to user fees for TSA or anything on the public employees. But I think that our conferees did a really good job in mitigating the damage for the federal employees and holding off even much, much, much bigger cuts for them that the Republicans had in mind.

So we’ll see…Our members are now studying this and will do so very carefully…


Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-New York):
…This budget deal, I don’t believe, on first blush is representative of the values of our overall conference in total, but there are very good aspects to it.

And as we go through it, each member will decide how they will vote on this…

But let me say this: I received an email this morning from a very, very good friend of mine who lives in Long Island. He’s been out of work for quite some time. His unemployment is running out at the end of this month. He’s married with children. He just worked out a deal with the bank that holds his mortgage that they will allow for a $25 payment for the next five months but at the end of the five months he has to come up with all of the mortgage payments that will be due. That’s the kind of pressure that many Americans are facing right now. They’re losing their homes. He asked me about food stamps. He said, “We’ve already seen a cut in our food stamps and this is before the holidays.” And he’s asking me whether or not, as someone who is in the know, whether or not unemployment insurance will be extended. That’s a real life and that’s a friend of mine. I think we all – every American in likelihood have an example of that.

And what’s the answer to him, to his family? Under the Republican-led Congress, the answer so far has been no and unfortunately it looks as though we will leave here this week without addressing unemployment insurance. It’s unconscionable and it’s immoral.


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