Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley, and Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen held a press availability today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a transcript of the press availability:
Chairman Becerra. Well we just finished a standing room only, three hour long, Caucus meeting in which the Vice President not only roused the entire membership but also gave us a very thoughtful and detailed explanation of what’s gone on and how it was that he and the President, working with the Democratic and Republicans leaders in both houses, were able to come together on this compromise.
We first want to say thank you to the Vice President for being so gracious, but quite honestly, so frank in his conversation with us in explaining as much as he could about what has transpired over the last several weeks. We now are waiting to hear from our Republican colleagues whether or not they want to do what the Senate did, in a very bipartisan fashion, and give the American people the opportunity to have a vote. There are people throughout this country who might look at this deal and love it, some might hate it, some may not understand it, but we firmly believe that every American in this country should have a right to have a vote in the people’s House. The Senate has sent us a bill, we’re hoping that the House will respect the wishes of the American public and let the representatives of those people vote up or down on that legislation.
And, with that, let me turn now to our Leader, Nancy Pelosi.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much, Chairman Becerra. Last night, the United States Senate – or, well, I guess it was early this morning – the United States Senate voted in an uncharacteristically, very strong, bipartisan way – 89 votes in favor of compromise legislation. That was historic. That legislation was sent over to the House, up until our Speaker has said: “when the Senate acts, we will have a vote in the House.” That is what he said. That is what we expect. That is what the American people deserve. And so, we look forward now, as we go forward in this day, to see what the timing will be for a straight up or down vote on what passed 89 to 8 last night in the United States Senate.
Today, we had the privilege of, as our Chairman has said, of hearing from the Vice President. He talked about what’s in the legislation and what lies ahead and difficult negotiations as we go forward. We had a frank, as you said Mr. Chairman, a frank discussion in that regard. Right now, our Members, after very thoughtful deliberations and review, are continuing to review the legislation – weighing the pros and cons, and weighing the equities of not going over the cliff, but we’re all very eager to see the form that the Republican leadership will put onto the floor today.
I think that we’ve made gigantic progress, I hope that we can have a bipartisan agreement as we go forward. But as I said, our Members are marking their decisions now and we look forward to hearing from what the Republicans have to say. The person who will know best what our numbers are in this regard, at some point during the day, as our distinguished master counter, our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer, and I’m pleased to yield to him.
Whip Hoyer. Thank you very much, Madam Leader. The 112th Congress has 48, well about 46 hours left to go. This Congress, unfortunately, has been most known for an unwillingness to compromise, an unwillingness to come together to act on behalf of the American people. Today is January 1st, taxes will be going up on everybody in America if we don’t act. Those who are relying on unemployment insurance – millions of Americans are relying on unemployment insurance to make sure that they can support themselves and their families. If we don’t act, we’ll be at risk. Vice President Biden has worked very hard to come to a compromise. By definition, a compromise has elements in it that each party does not like, but by definition it has things in it that each party should like. The Speaker said that if the Senate passed a bill, he would put it on the floor for a vote. The Leader has pointed out that we expect that to happen. We think that’s in the best interest of the American people.
We hope that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle can reach compromise. Our Members are reviewing the specifics of the compromise that has been reached to determine whether they can support that compromise. I am hopeful that this Congress will, as one of its last acts, act, not only on this compromise, but I’m also very hopeful and would expect we would provide the emergency assistance needed for the victims of Sandy. One of the country’s worst storms in history, that damaged the northeast so badly. So, I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to move on both of these issues, and that we will have Members on both sides who perhaps will not agree, but hopefully we will have Members on both sides who will agree and we can act as the American people expect us to do so.
[Reporter Attempts to Ask Question]
Chairman Becerra. Why don’t we also hear from Mr. Van Hollen and then we’re going to hear from the incoming Vice Chairman as well.
Ranking Member Van Hollen. Well, thank you. Thank you, I’ll be very brief. I think the difference between a divided government and dysfunctional government is the willingness to compromise. We saw that in the Senate as Leader Pelosi and our Whip, Mr. Hoyer, have said. That means looking at an agreement and deciding whether on balance it helps, not Democrats and Republicans, but whether it helped move the country forward. And we’re hopeful that Republicans on the House will do as Democrats and Republicans did on the Senate and weigh all the equities here, but decide at the end of the day that not everybody gets 100 percent of what they want, democracy means, as I said, a willingness to come together for the good of the country, and that’s what compromise is all about, especially in an era of divided government.
So, our Members are taking a look at the bill and, you know, we just would ask our Republican colleagues to bear in mind the good of the country as they also weigh all the equities here.
And with that, I turn it over to the distinguished Vice Chairman of [the] Caucus, Mr. Crowley.
Vice Chairman Crowley. Thank you Chris. I will just add very briefly, we all appreciate the Vice President coming to the Caucus today in a very straightforward, very thorough way, explaining the process, the negotiation, and why we are where we’re at today. I do think though the time for discussion, for talk, is coming to an end and it’s going to be time for us to vote soon or all this would have been for naught – our being here New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, and Happy New Year to everyone – would have been for naught if we don’t come to some point and have a vote. And that’s what the American people deserve, that’s what the American people expect, as well, out of this process. We can either move forward in a bipartisan way, hand in hand, to avert the fiscal cliff, or our Republican colleagues could help lead us off that cliff. We hope that’s not the case.
Chairman Becerra. Questions?
Q: Madam Leader, if I can?
Leader Pelosi. I think you were first.
Q: Can I just ask: what are your spies on the other side, in a sense, telling you how it’s going over there because you have to count heads with them as well?
Leader Pelosi. Spies? I – I’m not stipulating to any characterization of any information that we receive from our friends in the press.
Q: [inaudible] sources
Leader Pelosi. I really have no idea.
Q: But you have to count heads with them as well to try to, to approve this, what are you hearing from the other side?
Leader Pelosi. Why don’t – I think that what your question’s, your question’s better addressed to the Republicans coming out of their conference. We just came out of ours and we know what you tell us as to what’s coming out of their Caucus.
Whip Hoyer. Let me just say, we haven’t had an opportunity to talk to their leadership at this point in time about votes.
Leader Pelosi. Since our meeting, yeah.
Q: Madam Leader, you said just a moment ago you would prefer a straight up or down vote on that.
Leader Pelosi. Absolutely.
Q: Is that because of the time, or is that because this was a deal brokered by the Vice President?
Leader Pelosi. No, it was a bill that was passed in the United States Senate 89-8. Tell me when you’ve had that on a measure as controversial as this.
Q: On the payroll tax last year, and they had problems with that one, almost to the number of…
Leader Pelosi. Well, I hope that we don’t have a reenactment of that, where the Republicans in the House paint themselves in the extreme of not wanting to find compromise and a solution. But let’s be optimistic. Let us all, as Mr. Hoyer and others have said, hope that they decide in favor of the country as we go forward. But the issue of whether we have an up or down vote shouldn’t even be a question. It shouldn’t even be a question. We were told when the Speaker – we would not have any legislation on the floor until and unless the Senate acted, and when they did, we would have a vote. And so, we want to have that vote. And we look forward to what the timing is on that. And this is all about time, and it’s about time that we brought this to the floor. As I think Mr. Hoyer mentioned, or he did in there, that it’s only been a matter of a couple of months since the election, eight weeks, and in that period of time we’ve been pushed, even into a new year, it’s long overdue for us to have this solution to go forward and remove all doubt as to how we go, what comes next for our country.
So, we expect, the American people deserve an up or down vote on what was passed in the Senate.
Q: Madam Leader, if there is an up or down vote, how many Democratic votes would you have, would you be able to deliver?
Leader Pelosi. That isn’t a subject that I will be talking about right now. As we mentioned, all of us…
Whip Hoyer. Membership, considering membership, considering the legislation – they just heard from the Vice President – and we will find out which Members…
Q: So, what you’re saying, you’re saying you want bipartisanship from the other side, don’t you have to say that you’re willing to support this piece of legislation?
Whip Hoyer. Well, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ll have bipartisanship. She asked me for the number and I don’t have a number, but I can tell ya we will have a bipartisan vote at – if the Republicans vote.
Chairman Becerra. Thank you.
Q: When will you start whipping?
Whip Hoyer. Your premise is incorrect.