Larson and Becerra: GOP
Must Work With Democrats to Get America Back to Work
January 23, 2012
Congressmen John B. Larson (CT-01) and Xavier Becerra (CA-31) held a
press avail before the Democratic Caucus meeting today on the need for
Republicans in Congress to put aside partisan interests and address jobs
and a full extension of unemployment insurance and the middle class
payroll tax cut before Congress. You can watch the avail here.
Below is the transcript:
Larson: Good morning to everyone and welcome back. Happy new year and
good cheer in general.
We’ll be joined by the Vice Chair of the Caucus, who is also one of our
conferees, and I’ll leave it to Mr. Becerra to discuss some of those
concerns. But we come back after a long recess with what my constituents
still believe is the dark abyss of uncertainty, or lack of jobs that
they need vitally. And with the opportunity for the leadership of the
Republican party to place on the Floor the President’s bill that will
put this country back to work.
Instead, what we read about is that instead of addressing the need to
put America back to work, we’re going to be just further mired in
political debate aimed directly at the President. That’s not how the
country is supposed to work. It’s most unfortunate. I hope that our
colleagues on the other side of the aisle are ready as we are to roll up
our sleeves and address the important issues that face this country. And
the number one issue that continues to face this country is to put the
nation back to work.
We also understand that we have items left over from the last session,
most notably dealing with the payroll tax , dealing with the extension
of unemployment, and dealing with what we commonly call the doc fix – to
make sure that we protect our seniors on Medicare. We have to put
choices on the table, again, that I think are important to the American
people, not the least of which – especially as we observe the debate in
the Republican party and we learn astoundingly in the case of what many
consider to be their ultimate presidential candidate – that he paid 15
percent in taxes. Secretaries, rank and file citizens all across this
country pay far more.
Is it fair to continue to protect the nation’s wealthiest one percent
and have those amongst us, especially the middle class that are feeling
the squeeze, have to bear the burden of two wars that are unpaid for, to
pay for tax cuts to the wealthy – people in this country will have to
suffer and continue to see programs cut so that the Mitt Romney’s can
pay fifteen percent taxes? C’mon.
a better way to do this. There’s a fairer way to do this. And the
American people understand that. This is a time of shared sacrifice.
This is a time when we need to roll up our sleeves, put this nation back
to work, do what the President has asked – extend this payroll so we put
money – this payroll tax – so we put money back in the hands of people,
make sure that doctors are going to see their seniors, and for those
that are out struggling to get a job and through no fault of their own
can’t find any, extend them the benefits so they can continue to pay
their taxes, not see their mortgages go into foreclosure, and then have
Congress roll up its sleeves and address the issues of the day.
Put the President’s jobs bill on the Floor. Vote it up or down if you’re
opposed to it or if you’ve got a better idea, bring it to the Floor, but
extend the courtesy of a vote. That’s what the American people expect –
not this political gamesmanship, where they’re going to continue to try
to block everything that the President does. That’s just flat out wrong.
I hope our colleagues will reconsider that as we go forward. I know that
they – the Conference, will go on their retreat starting this afternoon.
We wish them well. We wish them all the good luck in the world but we
want them to come together in a way that they can work with us to put
America back to work.
With that, and I know that our Vice Chair will be here shortly, we’ll be
happy to take any questions.
Q: Can you address the rhetoric from the Republican side, when they’re
saying, well the President is asking for this debt ceiling increase? We
all know – people who really understand how this debt ceiling agreement
is, how they’re trying to pin this on the President. And secondly, how
will you vote on the resolution of disapproval today?
Larson: Let me start with this being a manufactured crisis from the
outset. And I think that anyone who has witnessed the events of this
past summer where they took us to the precipice on an issue that Ronald
Reagan did 18 times, that George Bush did 8 times in terms of addressing
the nation fundamentally paying its debts. That’s what this issue is all
about. And all this issue – the reason the Republicans are bringing this
up is a face-saver for their hard line people, who make the wrong
association between national debt and paying what you already owe. And
so, that’s why we believe this is a fraudulent issue, a totally
manufactured issue with respect to the debt ceiling.
And do we really want to go through another process where after we vote
we watch the stock markets tumble all around the world? Are we going to
do the right thing this time or will we see a repeat of what we’ve seen
all throughout last year, where the Republicans bring us to the
precipice of either shutting down the government or causing chaos, only
ultimately to relent, but not until the damage has been done to the
economy and what they see, and what they hope, is damage done to the
President. That seems to be their agenda – to see what damage they can
inflict on the President, not what good they can do for the American
Q: And how will you vote – the other part of my question, and for that
matter also, Mr. Becerra, on the resolution of disapproval?
Larson: On the resolution of disapproval, I’ll be voting with the
party on that.
Q: And how is that?
Larson: Look, we think that this is a manufactured crisis. We think, and
we support the President and the country’s obligation to pays its debt.
Q: Given that we’re now in an election year again, how productive do you
think this Congress can actually be compared to last year, which as
you’ve said, there was a lot of moving from crisis to crisis.
Larson: We’ll we’re disheartened by what we read in the papers to say
that this is going to be, you know, just a focus on aiming at the
President and creating political opportunities to go after him when
there is ample opportunity. I have to believe that when Republicans went
home, they hear the same thing we do.
I have to believe that they have town hall meetings and that they hear
from their constituents – that they understand the need to put America
back to work. And so I would hope that they would minimally – minimally
put the President – he’s laid out an agenda. Put his – give the
opportunity to have his jobs bill have a vote. That’s not a big request.
That’s not a big ask. If you’ve got the votes and you disagree with it,
vote against it. But for God’s sake, at least give the American people
and give the President the courtesy of a vote.
Q: Question for both of you…
Larson: Let me – go ahead, ask the question and I’ll allow the Vice
Chairman an opportunity to…
Becerra: I agree. I agree. (Laughter)
Q: Do you think that the payroll tax package should be paid for in its
entirety? And I ask because Leader Pelosi yesterday said in no uncertain
terms that the UI portion of that and the payroll tax extension should
not be paid for because they would harm the stimulative affect of…
Larson: Well I’ll let one of the conferees, who understands this issue
better than most, respond.
Becerra: Mr. Chairman thank you very much. We’ve always treated
emergency unemployment benefits just as it applies: as an emergency.
Just as we wouldn’t expect a state suffering from a natural disaster
requesting emergency funds to have to pay us in order to get the support
of Americans throughout the country, I don’t believe that most Americans
think that Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their
own and are therefore seeking a handout through unemployment benefits
should have to find that other Americans will suffer the consequence by
having to pay that.
The reality is that Republicans have taken both sides of this issue.
They pay for some things. They don’t want to pay for others. They never
paid for the Bush tax cuts yet they say that we must pay for the tax
cuts that go to middle income Americans. So there’s a great discord in
terms of what they say they want unless they’re saying only tax cuts for
the wealthy don’t have to be paid for and tax cuts for the middle income
So we’re trying to figure out why it is that they’re pressing so hard
for something that’s so important to Americans, especially those who
have lost their job through no fault of their own. We’d have to suffer
the consequences as a result. So we will see what happens. I think the
leader has spoken well for Democrats.
Larson: And it continues to gnaw away, certainly at our Caucus and
certainly with my constituents: why it is that those who pay fifteen
percent that that is so sacrosanct that the wealthy cannot pay more? But
we will ask secretaries, we will ask senior citizens to pay more for
Medicare or to give up benefits? C’mon.
We’ve got to start getting real about the choices that are out here for
people. And the people that are suffering the most during this difficult
recession have been the middle class. The squeeze that they’re feeling
the most and the relief is very obvious. For fellow Americans, who are
living quite comfortably, not to partake in sharing the burden of two
wars, an expansive tax cut is flat out immoral. And what we need to do
is make sure that remains on the table and let the American people see
the clear choice that exists.
We continue to try and compromise, but compromising in light of these
facts. – and when you hear this, I have to be honest, when you hear this
yesterday: Mitt Romney saying, yeah, I paid 15 percent in terms of taxes
and I only earned a little bit of money last year. I earned just a
paltry amount of money from book sales – $385,000.
You know, the disconnect between what’s happening to average American
citizens and the race that’s going on for the Presidency of the United
States. And why, constituents will always ask me, why are they so dug in
on this issue? Why are they dug in on protecting those who only pay
fifteen percent in terms of their taxes? It is extraordinarily troubling
and disheartening, especially when we know we have a jobs bill that
could be taken up, payroll taxes that should be extended, doctors that
need to be paid so that they’ll be able to see their patients and, as
the Vice Chair pointed out, an unemployment extension for people that
are out seeking jobs already, as well.
Q: Does that mean that you want to pay for the extension for the middle
class tax cuts by hiking taxes on the wealthy or does that mean you just
want to not pay for either, as the Republicans haven’t paid for the…
Larson: I would prefer, and speaking for myself, I would prefer, and I
think the Democrats have long stated that we would prefer to see the
taxes paid for, but paid for by making sure we go back to the Clinton
rate when people were doing extraordinarily well and have people pay
their fair share. But I know, and the Vice Chair has articulated this,
we look at unemployment as an emergency. When in our history have we had
to pay for unemployment before? This is a crisis. This is an emergency.
The worst recession since the Great Depression. Albeit, our people have
been at the table willing to work together to make sure that we extend
the payroll tax cut, that they get the benefits.
Becerra: If I could just add – this is an issue of being responsible in
governing. Now, you also have to be consistent in how you govern. If
it’s an emergency and you recognize that the urgent nature of the
funding means that you do it now for Americans who are hurting, then
it’s an emergency and you do whatever you can as Americans pull together
to help out your fellow Americans. That’s the case of the unemployment
benefits for those who have lost their job through no fault of their
When it comes to the middle class tax cut, there are ways to do this
responsibly. You can treat this, if you want to be consistent, the way
Republicans have treated other tax cuts, where they have never paid for
tax cuts; or, you could decide that they are ways to responsibly pay for
anything, including a middle class tax cut. There are ways to do this
without harming the middle of America and we have proposed – Democrats
have proposed ways to pay for the middle class tax cut in ways that are
responsible, that are supported by the vast majority of the American
public, and which would not undermine the recovery of our economy.
If Republicans choose not to join with us, then it’s simply a signal
that 2012 is picking up exactly where 2011 left off. We hope that’s not
the case, because the American people sent a very strong signal at the
end of 2011 when Republicans were trying to block the middle class tax
cut that the American public get it. They are watching and we should try
and do some pragmatic, practical things that the public all agrees we
should do. Once again, the people way ahead of the politicians when it
comes to moving the country forward.