Transcript of Pelosi, Hoyer, Democratic Leaders Press Availability Urging GOP to Prevent the Tea Party Tax Hike

Dec 20, 2011
Press Release

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

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and House Democratic leaders held a press availability today in the Capitol Visitor Center calling on Republicans to prevent a tax increase on 160 million American families and the loss of unemployment protections for millions of Americans. Below is a transcript of the press availability:

Leader Pelosi. Just when we think we have seen the last of each other, here we are again. And we are prepared to stay here until the job really does get done, when the American people will have a payroll tax cut.

As you know, people across the nation and even across the political spectrum, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, all have said one thing to us: They want us to work together. They want us to work together, and they support the payroll tax cut to the middle class, 160 million people to benefit. They want us to work together to create jobs, which a payroll tax cut does do.

The Senate did just that. In a bipartisan way, they overwhelmingly passed a payroll tax cut, which continues the economic growth and momentum of our [economy] and does get that $1,000 tax cut into the pockets of the American people. It also gave us hope. It gave us hope that here was an example of how we could come together, work together in a bipartisan way, sharing a purpose, which was to give the tax cut and tax fairness to the American people.

The Republicans in the House would not take yes for an answer. This is too bad, because it rejected the bipartisanship which was so hopeful and the tax cut which was so necessary, as well as the unemployment insurance extension of benefits and the SGR. So they didn't take ‘yes’ for an answer because they are ‘no’ on the tax cut.

The record shows that, our distinguished Whip will speak to the statements made by Speaker Boehner and others. It wasn't until President Obama took this message across the country as part of the American Jobs Act that we would have a payroll tax cut which would give immediate relief, put $1,000 in the pockets of America's working families, 160 million workers, and inject demand into the economy. The American people responded very positively to it. Probably 60 some to 30 some percent of Republicans support the payroll tax cut. And we had the opportunity. We still have the opportunity to do that.

After the Senate acted on Saturday, we were hopeful that we could take this up and our work would be done, but apparently the Tea Party tail is wagging the elephant. The American people have a right, I think it is really clear. The fact is if we do not, and I hope this doesn't prevail, but if we do not have a tax cut, middle-income tax cut, if we do not have a payroll tax cut from January 1st, it will be because of the Tea Party minority within the Republican majority. The Tea Party's minority there will be holding up the tax cut when the Republicans in the Senate, Republicans across the country and some Republicans in the House support this payroll tax cut. That is why they didn't give us a chance to vote on the Senate bill. They were afraid they would lose.

And so you see the Speaker come in with great confidence talking about process. It is not about process. It is about results. The American people have the right to ask the question, ‘Why are you putting process before a payroll tax cut?’

The President has said, and the Senate deliberations indicated, that we all want, as we have said, a 1-year tax cut, payroll tax cut. The Senate said they needed more time to get this done, but in the meantime we would remove all doubt that this tax cut would be there for the next 2 months.

There is time to negotiate how we go further into the next year, but right now we have to remove all doubt that this tax cut will be there for the middle class. So we have on the House side, under the leadership of our ranking member, Sandy Levin of the Ways and Means Committee, reintroduced the Senate bill so there is no procedural barrier to us just voting on this bill today, in the next 10 minutes, in the next hour, in the course of the day.

Thank you, Mr. Hoyer.

This is signed by Sandy Levin. This is a bill which right within the first instance of reaching out to our colleagues garnered 170 co-sponsors.

Thank you for your leadership, Mr. Levin, on this.

So this is the reintroduced Senate bill. So there is no procedural process, whatever it is, obstacle, to passing the bill.

Again, the Speaker said our work is finished. It is not finished. We have work to do. And while we are on the subject of work to do, I call upon the Speaker to make sure we are in, regardless of how this goes on the tax cut and I hope that we can accomplish it as soon as possible in the next hours or days, but regardless of how this goes, we should be here in the first week of January, second week of January. Why, when the American people are out of work, are we not working the first half of the month of January?

With that, I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished Democratic Whip, Mr. Hoyer.

Whip Hoyer. I thank the Leader for yielding.

“Another little short term gimmick.” Heard that phrase? Speaker Boehner, June of this year, speaking about a 1-year extension in the payroll tax cut. He called it then “another little short term gimmick.” So the proposition that 60 days is too short is not new to Speaker Boehner. He thought a 1-year was too short and that it was a gimmick.

We have 11 days, 11 days before 160 million Americans see their taxes go up, 2.3 million people seeking jobs get dropped from unemployment, and 48 million on Medicare have their access to doctors put at risk if we don't act. The Senate acted. We could pass the Senate bill this afternoon, send it to the President and provide certainty.

The Republicans talk a lot about certainty. If any American, having watched the Senate operate for the last 12 months, very frankly, has certainty as to what they will do in the next 10 days or 15 days, God bless them, they haven't been watching very closely. The fact is we can give certainty to those 160 million Americans passing the Senate bill. We can give certainty to those 48 million seniors by passing this bill. We can give certainty to the unemployed. That they won't be out on the street.

We have heard from the President. We have heard from Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans. There is a wide agreement that the House must pass the Senate short-term compromise so that time doesn't run out on these 160 million or 48 million or 2.3 million. The House Republicans have refused to even bring the Senate's bipartisan compromise to the floor, and that is shameful.

Now, let me say something to you, because there is a lot of talk about not agreeing with the Senate and how the Constitutional framers, which didn't set up a conference at all, that’s a creation of the Congress. This is the walk away caucus with a walk away leadership that are walking away from 160 million Americans, walking away from 48 million seniors, walking away from the unemployed.

On December 3rd, they walked away from the Bowles-Simpson Commission to solve our fiscal problems. On March 15th of this year, 54 Republicans walked away from a continuing resolution. That wasn't the Senate's continuing resolution, and it wasn't the Democrats' continuing resolution. Fifty-four Republicans walked out on their leadership on March 15th. On April 14th, 59 Republicans walked away, again, on their leadership. On June 23rd, Mr. Cantor walked away from the Biden talks in which Mr. Van Hollen participated so ably. On July 22nd, Speaker Boehner walked away from a deal with the President. On August 1st, 66 Republicans walked away from a bill that would ensure our nation pays its bills, a bill put on the floor by its Republican leadership. On November 17th, Republicans walked away from a conference report by the Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Science and Transportation Committees. Why is that important? That was their bill, not our bill, not even a Senate bill.

Walking away is a pattern for them, as you can see. They walked away from their leadership once again on November 17th. November 21st, they walked away from the Committee on Joint Deficit Reduction. And just a few days ago, December 16th, 86 Republicans walked away from an omnibus appropriations bill again offered by the Republican leadership.

Speaker Boehner was in constant communication with Mitch McConnell. Does anybody in the American public believe, watching this past year, that Mitch McConnell would have agreed to an agreement he thought the Republicans in the House were against when he consistently has not done so, consistently has not done so, and said consistently Speaker Boehner has to agree to this? Is there any doubt that Speaker Boehner agreed to this deal? And then what happened to it? The same thing that happened on each one of these occasions: His caucus walked away and put at risk those 160 million Americans who don't want to see their taxes go up, who put at risk those 48 million seniors who want to make sure their docs are going to see them, who put at risk the 2.3 million who will lose their unemployment.

I plead with Mr. Boehner, the Speaker of this House, take this bill up that we have just introduced, and pass it, and, yes, then let us talk about extending this for 1 year. But give us time, remove anxiety from those people of whom I talked. Make sure that they don't lose the benefits we want them to have and in doing so help bring our economy down when we want to build it up. Walking away, I tell my Republican friends in the House of Representatives, is not the answer.

And now I will yield to…

Leader Pelosi. I want to just say that the walking away that the distinguished Whip described has consequences that we in the House on the Democratic side avoided. The 66, is that the number, Mr. Whip? Who voted against the legislation that would prevent a default. That is so many votes that even though it was their bill, and their people didn't vote for it, the Democrats did so, that the full faith and credit of the United States of America would be upheld. Imagine that 66 of them voted against a Republican bill that would uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. We didn't write the bill, we didn't like the bill, but we didn't—but the choices that we had made it imperative that we do what was right for the American people and not just say, ‘Well, it is not the bill that I wanted.’

I will be prepared to take just a few questions because we have to go back to the floor.

Q: Leader Pelosi, [Speaker] Boehner has named some conferees in this conference. Are you not in some ways to blame for the stalemate by not naming your conferees?

Leader Pelosi. No. It is not a question of blame for stalemate. It is a question of there is a bill that has passed the House and Senate that was designed to pass. The Republicans have put forth a path that is designed to fail. This bill that the Republicans passed in the House was not even brought up in the Senate. The Republicans in the Senate objected to it being brought up because they said they knew it would fail. And the bill that is in the House was not brought up by the House Republicans because, the Senate bill, because they knew it would pass.

He is not Lucy. I'm not Charlie Brown. We are not falling for that football stunt again. Senator Mitch McConnell fell for it, but we are not falling for it. This is not about getting a bill passed. This is about not getting a bill passed.

So the stalemate is that there is a bill that can pass, that can be signed this very day. There is plenty of time to talk about the 1-year proposal. They have never been for it. They weren't for, as the Whip said in June, they weren't for it as a 1-year bill at that time. It was only that the President made this bill too hot for them to handle.

So this is clearly, and make no mistake, the fact is a clear one, if we do not have a payroll tax cut, it is because the Republicans in the House of Representatives have chosen to paint themselves in a different place than the Republicans in the country and the Republicans in the United States Senate. They are clearly isolating themselves. And I will not play Charlie Brown to their Lucy. They have pulled this football every single time. We are not going to let them mislead the American people.

Q: Madam Leader, both the House and the Senate [legislation] have a provision in there forcing the President to make a decision on Keystone XL within 60 days. That is something that is not necessarily popular within your caucus. What should be done about Keystone?

Leader Pelosi. The President will have to make a decision. In other words, we are not madly embracing what the Senate did. That would not be the bill we would embrace. But it is the bill that can get the tax cut done and done in a timely fashion, that can pass the House and pass the Senate, and the Democrats stood ready to support that bill.

Whip Hoyer. The Leader has said, with respect to other pieces of legislation, you bring up a perfect example. Our position is not our way or the highway. We understand in the democratic process you have to make compromises. Some you don't like, but for the country and for the sake of those 160 million people, for the sake of those 48 million people seemingly, and for the sake of those unemployed 2.3 million, we are making compromises not because we agree with a particular position, but because we know that that is the way the legislative process works. Unfortunately the walk away caucus has not learned that lesson.

Q: Leader Cantor, on the floor today, said that he thought both sides were very close in terms of reaching an agreement on a 1 year deal. Does that sound correct to you?

Leader Pelosi. No. I don't think that is so at all. But if that were the case, then we should come back the first week in January and get to work on that 1 year deal, but let us right now, right now, pass the Senate bill so that we remove all doubt in the public's mind.

There is an illusion going on here that the Republicans, one, support a payroll tax cut, which the record shows they have not. Two, that bipartisanship and working together is a goal that they would like to achieve. Not so. They are not honoring what the Senate did in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way. And so whatever they say is irrelevant; what they do is important. And what they are doing is not giving a payroll tax cut to 160 million Americans.

Mr. Levin. Just quickly. It is a delusion when he says that. They cut 40 weeks out of unemployment insurance; 3.3 million people would lose benefits under the bill that they passed. And for him to talk about 90 percent is totally, totally self-serving.

They need to step up to the plate today, today, and pass the bill that the vast majority of the Republicans in the Senate voted for, including every single member of the Republican leadership, just every single member. It is totally, I think all of you should ask them, I don't know if you did, why not bring this bill up for a vote? It would pass or they [don’t] want those who voted ‘no’ to be on record. It is as simple as that. So if you haven't asked that question, please ask them why not bring this up for a vote.

Leader Pelosi. And we have gone all the way down the path of compromise. You point out one area where we did not have unanimity in our caucus, be it the Keystone pipeline—whether you're for it or not is not the point. The point is it doesn't belong in this bill. There are other provisions in this bill that don't belong that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.

But in addition to that, they don't believe in a payroll tax cut for the 160 million Americans, and they don't believe in unemployment benefits to those who need them. Millions of people will be cut out under their plan. And for many of those people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, they will now lose their benefits because of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and some of them have no other means of income.

This is bad for those families. It is also bad for our economy and our job creation. So the public has to be concerned then and wondering why on Earth are we not getting a payroll tax cut when everybody says they are for it? Because those of us who say we are for it on the Democratic side are for it. Many on the Republican side are for it. They have voted that way. But the Republican leadership in the House is not, and this is just a delaying, stalling tactic. And as I said, Charlie Brown is not falling for that football trick again.

Q: Will the Democrats be leaving after this vote series?

Leader Pelosi. We are here to stay as long as it takes.

Q: Madam Leader, if the Senate doesn't reconvene, is there another way to avoid the cuts? Is there another way to avoid the cuts in payroll?

Whip Hoyer. Yeah, let them vote on it. Pass our bill; the Senate bill or pass our bill.