Transcript of Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn Press Availability on the 'Republican Do-Nothing Congress'

Dec 16, 2011
Press Release

Contact: Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn held a press availability today in the Capitol Visitor Center calling on Republicans, who have held the House Majority for 346 days without producing a jobs agenda, to take action to put the American people back to work and reignite the American dream. Below is a transcript of the press availability.

Leader Pelosi. Good morning. Just when we thought we had seen the last of each other yesterday, here we are again—perhaps as the first session of the 112th Congress comes to an end, that it will happen this weekend.

In any event, the holidays are fast approaching, and Democrats want all of the American people to look forward to the new year with some measure of hope. That is why President Obama and Democrats in Congress said we are not going home unless we pass a payroll tax cut which benefits 160 million workers in our country, putting as much as $1,500 in their pockets. That is why we are not going home unless we extend the unemployment insurance benefits that affect millions of people in our country.

These initiatives are important to individuals, to individual families in our country. They are also important to our economy. Macroeconomic Advisers have said that it will make a difference of about 600,000 jobs to our economy. Putting this money in the pockets of the American people, who need it so desperately and need to spend it on necessities, will inject demand into the economy and create more jobs.

Again, as we come to the end of the [first session of the] 112th Congress, it can clearly be labeled the “Republican Do-Nothing Congress.” It’s a year of missed opportunities and made-up crises. 346 days without a significant job-creating agenda. This is the logical outcome. The statement of purpose made by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that I referenced yesterday, when he said “the single most important thing that we [want to] achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.” Putting up those obstacles has not been a good thing, obstacles for job creation, and it has not been good for the American people.

Democrats are proposing a different path. Democrats are committed to reigniting the American dream, building ladders of opportunity for all Americans who want to work hard, play by the rules and take responsibility. And we know we have much work to do. Our ladders of success have rungs that speak to “Make It In America.” Mr. Hoyer will be speaking about that, about building the infrastructure of America, American-made, build America, and community recovery with a trained workforce, creating jobs, education our young people, lifetime learning, promoting innovation, ensuring dignified retirement for our seniors, growing small businesses, honoring the entrepreneurial spirit of America. This is what we should be about. Today and every day, Democrats will work to make sure that the American dream becomes a reality for all Americans. Again, we want to talk in a very positive way about what we need to do to make that possible.

With that, I am pleased to yield to the distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer.

Whip Hoyer. Thank you very much, Madam Leader. I join you in the lament of 346 days of a “Do-Nothing Republican Congress.” There was a pledge made to America that things were going to be done differently. They were: less substance, more contention, more confrontation, less focus on jobs, less focus on infrastructure, less focus on a positive agenda for the American people. Americans are, indeed, tired of their House of Representatives failing to represent their greatest hopes and aspirations. The [112th] Congress so far has been truly, as I said, a “Do-Nothing Republican Congress.”

When comparing this year to the year Democrats took over the House in 2007—and I’ve talked to you about some of this—the numbers speak for themselves, but as the Leader has pointed out, even more dramatically does the substance speak to the difference. And when comparing this year to 2007, Republicans passed 165 bills and 62 were signed into law. In 2007, we passed 478 bills with 131 signed into law. Those bills were signed into law by George Bush, Republican President of the United States, with whom we worked on behalf of the American people. That is our responsibility, not as Mitch McConnell would say, to come here simply to hope for the failure and work towards the failure of the President of the United States who happens to be a Democrat. A famous American said there are too many people in Washington who, in order to drown the captain, are prepared to sink the ship. That is not what American expects of us.

The more than double the number was, in my opinion, quintupled in terms of the substance. That year we also had to contend with a President from the other party, but we still were able to work together to make progress for our country.

The most disappointing statistic from this Congress though is 0. That is the number of jobs bills the Republicans have put forward or called up for consideration. Now I know they’ve called some of their bills jobs bills, but no economists believe that those bills were jobs bills. As a matter of fact, a Republican Member of the United States Senate said that they were forgettable bills not the forgotten bills.

We have been engrossed in a year of manufactured crisis, with multiple threats of a government shutdown, and an increase of uncertainty for businesses in our markets as a result of the debt ceiling held hostage this summer.

With that said, Democrats are still committed to working with our Republican colleagues to restore the American dream. The American dream is at risk, and, therefore, there is a lot of work to do. We believe in the American dream. We’re the party of the American dream, and we’re going to keep fighting for the American dream for average working men and women in this country. We want to do it by building ladders of opportunity and tearing down barriers to success for those willing to work hard, play by the rules, and take responsibility. The clock is ticking on a number of items that will help us to do so.

We have an agenda that we put forward when we were in charge, passed six bills in the “Make It In America” agenda and have numerous bills and a plan so that people can make it in America so those middle rungs on the ladder are there for the middle class—and rather than shrink it, expand it, bring manufacturing back, out build, out innovate, and out educate our competitors so that our young people, our families, can see a future of hope, of opportunity, and of a better life. That is what we are committed to today, and that is what we will be committed to in the coming session of Congress next year. We must do better. We can do better. And working together, hopefully we will do better.

Obstructionism and politics ought not to be the focus of this Congress as it has been this last year. Let us hope that is the case.

And now, I am pleased to yield to my good friend, the gentleman from South Carolina, the Assistant Leader, Jim Clyburn.

Assistant Democratic Leader Clyburn. Thank you very much Mr. Whip, Madam Leader. For a year, I have worked trying to tackle the debt and deficit of our great country. I served on the Biden group and we met nine times, averaging two hours per meeting. On the tenth meeting, the Republicans walked away, rather than discuss a way to get us on the program of shared sacrifice. Later, we saw the President sit down with the Speaker, discussing a grand bargain, and we got nothing but positive vibes from those meetings. But, on what seemed to be the closing discussions, we saw the Speaker feeling obliged to walk away from the grand bargain, rather than discuss how to meet a program of shared sacrifice by raising some revenue. Then we moved to the Supercommittee, we met time and time again. I said throughout all of that, those discussions, that I thought that if it were left up to the twelve people in the room, we would be able to get to where we needed to be. Unfortunately, there was always a thirteenth member of the committee, a seventh Republican, who never attended a single meeting, but who was very present in all of our discussions. So rather than get us to a point where we could discuss revenue and come up with a program of shared sacrifice, once again, we failed. So, here we are today. We are approaching the holiday season having missed many opportunities and having responded time and time again to manufactured crises.

And as we approach this holiday season, I would hope, that we would leave town having restored some confidence on the part of the American people. We need, when we get back here next year, to do what is necessary to protect voters and to encourage voter participation. We see before us a sort of lack of transparency in the voting participation of our citizens. Undisclosed money, secret money, coming into campaigns. We see it already in Iowa and New Hampshire and all across this country, money coming into campaigns and we have no idea where it is coming from. We have no idea whether or not the money is foreign or tainted in some other way. Next year, we ought to do what’s necessary to disclose all contributions, to have transparency in this process, I think that’s what it’s going to take for the American people to feel that we are in fact acting on their behalf rather then on the behalf of some secret folks they didn’t know nothing about. I would also hope that we would be honest with our young people. I think there’s something wrong with saying to a student that ‘you can use your student ID, go into a bank and transact any business that you care to transact, yet you cannot use that [student] ID to cast your vote at the polls.’ And we see that coming in state after state, and my state being the marquee in that process. I think it’s time for us to get rid of these 21st century poll taxes. These creative devices, such as was used back in the 19th, century to deny people participation in our election process. So, whether or not you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza, I’m hopeful that all of us will do it in the greatest of spirit and comeback here the first of the year to do the peoples business in a transparent way.

Thank you and I yield back.

Q: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask you about the Speaker’s comments this morning. He said that if the Senate strips the Keystone pipeline from the payroll tax cut bill that the House next week, or whenever they come back to act on it, that they would stick it back in and send it back to the Senate. Are you able to express a similar guarantee that the provision will not be in the bill that eventually goes to the President’s desk?

Leader Pelosi. Right now, the two leaders in the Senate, Senator, Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell are working on what that bill might look like. When we see it, I will have a comment on it. I’d hoped that it would be finished around now so that we could, it could be written up and voted upon one way or another tomorrow. But again, until I see the bill, I’m not going to comment on it.

Q: Madam Leader, you said Members should stay in town until a final deal is worked out on the payroll tax cut…

Leader Pelosi. That’s right.

Q: But the Speaker said this morning that he is planning to let Members leave for the weekend and come back on 24 hours notice. Is that something the Democrats will…

Leader Pelosi. Well that’s—you know, we are saying we are not going to…you know, we can go home for the weekend. I hope we don’t. I hope the bill is ready today, that they all write it up by tonight. So if it’s a question of writing up the bill and the mechanics of a bill and we vote on it next week, there’s no reason for Members to sit here to wait for the mechanics of it to happen.

But I think the President has been very clear that we need to pass the omnibus bill that will keep government running, and part of that initiative is also to pass a payroll tax, a cut for 160 million Americans and the unemployment insurance extension. Whether it’s Friday or Monday and who takes time off to go to church, that’s not important. What is important is that we do not adjourn for this year, of this session without getting that work done.

Q: Madam Leader, you said that the Republicans have been responsible for manufactured crises…

Leader Pelosi. Yes.

Q: …over the course of last year. Didn’t Democrats sort of risk taking the blame for threatening to shut down the government this week when they held up the omnibus?

Leader Pelosi. No, no, that’s not the case. The Republicans took us to this place. Let’s be very clear, part of the made-up crises that the Republicans, from day one with the first Continuing Resolution, which we voted on, what at midnight Steny, was it, late at night, they always take it to the brink so that the option for clarity in the public mind on it all is, and our options for legitimate debate, are narrowed. They did the same thing, no, I’m talking about made up crises like the first CR that threatened to shutdown government because of the timing.

When you control the agenda, you control the timing. I’m talking about another, which was to question as to whether this Congress would uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America by waiting to bring a bill to the floor so that we didn’t default and then not even having the votes to pass it. Again, we had to come through with Democratic votes to get that done, and now, by again taking all of this to the last minute, it is up against the wall, but the timing is theirs. We do not want to shut down government, this is not, I don’t agree with your characterization, although I have respect for your view, I don’t agree with your characterization. I think this a made-up crisis by the Republicans. This could all have been done a long time ago, in fact we have a very good bill that is coming to the floor right now, and that’s why we’re going to have to leave in a moment, to go vote for the rule. Steny do you have…

Whip Hoyer. Let me make a quick comment on that and I spoke to that in my pen and pad, I think you were there. What Senator Reid said is, ‘everybody had agreed that three things needed to happen at least, SGR’s the fourth. Three things needed to happen. Number one, we needed to pass all of our appropriation bills. In this case, in an omnibus in a bill that’s 1,207 pages long. I don’t know how many of the Tea Party folks have read that bill or whether their out on the front lawn saying “Read the bill before you pass it.” But I don’t hear a lot of that.

Secondly, now we’re standing, their initial opposition, now every Republican says we ought to do a 160 million people, make sure their tax cut stays in place.

And thirdly, almost everybody agrees, at least publicly, that they don’t want those who can’t find jobs to fall through the cracks and get a lump of coal in their stocking. So we all agreed on that. So what did the Republicans do? And what apparently have they done today? They have added an item that the President says he’s going to veto. Contrary to their ‘Pledge to America,’ in their ‘Pledge to America’ said they ‘would not add extraneous matter to must-pass bills.’ So when you asked about the manufacturing of the crisis, it was manufactured by adding extraneous matters to must-pass bills that essentially we have agreement on. The megabus, the appropriation bills, the tax cut for the middle class, working Americans and making sure people who can’t find jobs don’t fall through the cracks.

Leader Pelosi. May I just add. I want to add to that, I want to add to that this: Mr. Hoyer made it very clear to the Republicans that when bills come over that do not have policy riders attached to them, poison pills, that we can cooperate and vote together on them and we did so. In this omnibus they had hundreds of such riders in the bill. Hundreds of such riders in the bill. And so it took sometime to talk them out of them, to show them the wisdom of getting rid of those unwise riders.

Mr. Hoyer and I, and Mr. Clyburn, we’re all appropriators, we’re from that culture, we respect the appropriations process, and it is not to be a vehicle to put things on that could never get a Presidential signature or pass the House and Senate unless they were on what Mr. Hoyer calls a ‘must pass bill.’ So the time that we had to take to take us up to this last day was to get rid of hundreds of obstacles to passing a bill that would be signed and that is called a made-up crisis.

Thank you all.