Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman John Dingell, Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, and House Democratic leaders held a press conference calling on House Republicans to allow Members of Congress to vote on the Senate-passed continuing resolution to keep the government operating. Below are the Leader’s opening remarks, followed by the question and answer session:
Leader Pelosi. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here. I am very honored to be here with leaders in the Congress who have great experience in the Appropriations process as well in the authorization process. Chairman Dingell called to our attention recently an opportunity for us to keep government open. So, I am honored that he is here to be with us. Mr. Miller has introduced a bill do so. Mr. Van Hollen will speak to that as the Ranking Member on the Budget Committee as well as Congresswoman Lowey as the Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee.
It’s an attempt for us in a bipartisan way to open up government and with that I am pleased to yield to the very distinguished Member of the House, Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, now Ranking Member of that committee, [Congressman] George Miller.
Congressman George Miller. Thank you very much, Speaker Pelosi. We are now on the fourth day of our government shutdown. The question in everybody’s mind is: How does this shutdown end? As we have said before, we believe the best course of action would be for the Republican leadership to bring up the Senate-passed resolution today and for an up and down vote to re-open up government right away. It is very unfortunate that the majority of the House has not been allowed to freely cast its vote to re-open the government. But one thing is becoming clearer is: as the shutdown drags on the growing number of Republican Members of Congress want the opportunity to work with Democrats to end this crisis. We’ve seen this in press reports and I’ve heard it in my own private conversations with my Republicans colleagues.
Today, we are offering my Republicans friends and the American people a way forward. We are initiating, this afternoon, a discharge petition under the rules of the House that will finally allow a majority of the House to freely express their will on whether or not to re-open the government through a clean, funding resolution. If a majority of Members sign this petition, House Members can take up and up-or-down vote on re-opening the government as early as October 14th.
It is time to return the majority rule to the House of Representatives and to get the federal government back to work for the American people. Again, make no mistake, our first choice would be not to have to wait until October 14th or even one more day, but to have the Republican leadership bring up the Senate-passed funding bill and immediately allow us an up-or-down vote on it. We believe that the Senate-funding bill would pass in the House and the government would be re-opened right away. But if that does not happen, we have another way forward.
It is time to allow a true majority in the House to work its will, to be allowed a vote, to open up the government, the entire government, right away. Thank you.
I yield to Mr. Dingell.
Congressman John Dingell. I was so hypnotized by what my good friend was saying. I was like, “Holy, cat – I would listen to more of this.”
Well, good afternoon. Madam Speaker, all of my colleagues, ladies and gentleman, we are announcing something good today. We are about to rescue the Republicans who have gotten themselves in the unhappy position of the dog that caught the car. They have shut the nation down, they are costing the country money, they are jeopardizing our international reputation, they are costing us wasted money, they are having us have employees of the government not being paid and not working, and we are going to have to let them come forward and pay them. In addition to this, they are threatening the stock markets, they are causing huge amounts of difficulty, in the economy potentially and they are probably significantly increasing the national debt.
Indeed, they are disregarding the words of a number of their distinguished leaders like Senator McCain and my dear friend Senator Dole and my dear friends from other places who have pointed out, including Mitt Romney that this is not the way to do. We ought not to hold Obamacare in thrall of the Republican effort to shut down the government and tie the whole mess together into an infernal [inaudible] that is hurting each and every one of us.
But having said this, my good friend George Miller has announced that we’re going to be bringing forward a discharge petition on H.R. 1164. That’s a good Republican bill. It’s co-sponsors include Mr. Lankford of Oklahoma, Congressman Hensarling of Texas, Congresswoman Blackburn of Tennessee and Congressman Huizenga of Michigan – good, solid, conservative Republicans. We are trying to help the Republicans get back to show some real sincerity. Because as you note, they’ve been all of the lot, they have talk about how they are doing this for one reason and how for another. And they have left this country in this awkward position. For every time, they get to be angry about something, they petulantly go about their business like spoiled children to stop the government so that we will negotiate with them that spoil children want and think they get that by blackmailing the country, by blackmailing the Congress, and by blackmailing the Senate and the President. This is no way to do.
So, we are going to announce, help them by putting one of their bills on the floor, which will speed things forward in terms of getting the country back on again. And we will stop this radical Republican Shutdown of our government, something that the American citizens want and are insisting that we do. Thank you.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Thank you to the Dean of the House. It’s great to be with my colleagues here. I think all of you know from the beginning we’ve had a very simple message, which is: We want to vote in the people’s house on a clean continuing resolution to keep the entire government open now.
The President has indicated he would sign it as soon as it got to his desk. If the Speaker would allow us to have a vote on that bill, we could go upstairs in the next five minutes, vote on it, and send it down to the President who would sign it and the government would be opened up. The Speaker has blocked that. I think the American people would be shocked to learn the lengths the Speaker and the Republican majority have gone to undermine the democratic process here in the house in order to keep the government shut down.
We learned from the parliamentarian just two days ago that on October 1st, the Republican majority here changed the standing rules of the House in a way to keep the government shut down. How did they do it? The standing rules of the House say that when you're in the situation we are between the House and the Senate, in this situation back and forth, that any Member of the House, any of my colleagues up here, any Republican Member, could bring up the clean Senate-passed resolution for a vote. That's what the standing Rules of the House say. It's Rule 22-4. They changed that rule in the Rules Committee to say: “Only Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader or his designee could call for that vote.”
So, not only has the Speaker of the House denied us the opportunity of the democratic process work, but they deliberately rigged the rules in an abusive way to keep the government shut down. So today, we're calling on using the standing rules of the House, the real rules of the House, to get us a vote by October 14th.
We want the vote today. Make no mistake. We want it right now. But this will, at least, start the clock ticking so that by October 14th, unless they once again try and abuse the rules of the house, we would at least by then have a chance to have a clean up or down vote to keep the government open. We should do it now. But our Republican colleagues who keep telling us, many of them, that they want to keep the government open, now have an opportunity to join us in signing this discharge petition seven days from now, so that we can put an end to this ridiculousness. Open the government. Open it today, let's start the process and get it done.
And now I'm very pleased to yield to our terrific colleague in the Appropriations Committee, Ms. Nita Lowey.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey. Enough is enough. It is a national disgrace that the government of the greatest and strongest nation in the world should be shut down and held hostage to the demands of a small faction of the most radical tea party Republicans led by Senator Ted Cruz.
It's time to end this reckless and dangerous Republican Government Shutdown. At this point, the majority can't even tell us what they're trying to accomplish. One Republican made what some call a gaffe, a moment of unintentional honesty. Asked why the majority would not end the shutdown he said: “We're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this and I don't even know what that is.”
Well, Democrats know exactly what we must accomplish and it could not be simpler. We want to end the Republican Shutdown immediately, put 800,000 Americans back to work, restore all the services American families depend on. That is why this discharge petition is so important. If Speaker Boehner will not allow a vote on a clean Senate-passed bill to open the government, we should force one. I call on all Republicans to up stand to the Tea Party, end this reckless political game, join us to re-open the government, put Americans back to work, and get on to the business Americans sent us here to accomplish.
Leader Pelosi. I thank my colleagues for their leadership on this issue. Remember, this is a bill that was introduced by the Republican Conference. This is their bill that we’re asking them to support.
I just want to acknowledge that we have been joined by Congressman Crowley who left out to vote, who’s been such a great Member of our leadership and of course, our very distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer.
Q: Leader Pelosi?
Leader Pelosi. Yeah?
Q: Considering how the debt ceiling deadline is October 17, and that’s coming up, any negotiations that were to start now would end inevitably include that as well. Is there a chance that this government shutdown last all the way until that deadline?
Leader Pelosi. I hope and pray that it does not because it is really harmful to our country. And as dreadful as the full faith and credit of the United States of the America being discredited, this is hurting our fiscal picture is hurting our credit rating as well. So, the sooner we can shut this down, the better and perhaps this leverage of having something to go forth to the 14th, is something that will encourage the Republicans to go earlier because defaulting on our full faith and credit is horrible, but this is terrible. And the combination is really catastrophic.
I’m going to yield to my colleagues who have been working on this. None of us has voted. Maybe [Congressman] Steny [Hoyer]…
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. I’ve voted.
Leader Pelosi. Well, you take the floor because we have to vote.
Q: Did you talk first about the discharge petition?
Whip Hoyer. Yes.
Q: Talking about October 14th, isn’t this sort of a “non-starter” because – and the rule is you can only consider a discharge petition from the second and fourth Mondays of the month. That is a federal holiday, so we don’t know if we’re going to be here and doesn’t that drag that out? I realized you might have another legislation option, but doesn’t that…
Mr. Miller. It’s a question of what legislative options you have. We don’t have many. We chose to do this if everything worked right. We can bring it up if we get Republican co-sponsors. The leadership can provide an alternative. The leadership can allow us to take it up when we return from Columbus Day.
The point is: the clock is ticking. The more this gets combined with issues around the debt limit, the more complicated all of this becomes. And I think the point it: we ought to open up the government now. The government should be open. When we are discussing the debt limit, when the leadership of the House, the Senate, and the President are discussing the debt limit, I think to have the government closed down, the same time you are doing that, you are sending a horrible, horrible message to the world markets about the United States.
And you have heard all of the discussion about how important we are to those markets, how we’re the reserve currency, and the role that we play, to have the government shut down when you are discussing the debt limit, I think the Republicans are asking for double trouble for the American economy and they are going to end up standing on the throats of job opportunities if they do that.
Q: Also on the procedure, are you certain that it is a petition? Or how do you expect to get…
Mr. Miller. This resolution, we will make an order, a discharge petition, to discharge the language of the Lankford bill, but we will have a complete substitute for that language which will be a clean continuing resolution to open up the government.
Q: So, how do you get to 218 votes? The procedures…
Mr. Miller. How do you get them? You round them up. You…
Q: But how long do you think, how long do you think that will take?
Mr. Miller. In seven day they’ll be eligible to sign, to sign the discharge petition and we expect that we can get them all in one day.
Q: With the debt limit deadline coming up Republicans seems to want to broaden out the discussion to include budget issues. Including even possibly the sequester. Is that, is that going anywhere?
Mr. Miller. Well I think what, I think all you’re seeing there for the moment is a signal that they understand that the idea of holding the government hostage and people’s jobs hostage and the services of the country hostage to their vision of repealing the Affordable Care Act is not failed and they’re trying to shift to some other topic. But on the budget let me have our budget senior person, Chris Van Hollen.
Mr. Van Hollen. Well, look we have said from the very beginning, as you know, that we’re prepared to sit down with the Republicans to talk about all the budget issues. We’ve been trying to do that since last March, when the House passed a budget and the Senate passed a budget. We’ve been blocked three times on votes here in the House asking the Speaker to name budget negotiators so that we could have that negotiation between the House and the Senate. And the Senate, Senator Reid and Senator Murray have tried 18 times to try to appoint budget conferees. They were blocked by Senator Lee, Senator Cruz, and some of the other Tea Party Senators in the Senate. So they’ve blocked that conversation to date. We welcome that conversation. The President has a budget with a big jobs package in it. He’s got a balanced approach to reducing the long-term deficit. The Republican budget takes the country in the entirely wrong direction. But we’ve always wanted to have that negotiation. They stayed away from the negotiating table for months and months in order to very deliberately push this government and the country up against the wall because they thought that they could get through process what they could not get through negotiation and compromise.
So, we stand ready. Ready to do that. I would just say that the irony here, of course, is that the underlying bill that we’re amending as part of this process, the underlying Republican bill, as Mr. Dingell said is called the Government Shutdown Prevention Act. Now, obviously they worked hard to make sure that the government did shutdown. We are going to be using that vehicle, that is the vehicle to make sure that we have a chance to open government. Again, we could do it in the next five minutes if the Speaker would allow a vote, but this is an opportunity for Republicans who claim that they want to vote on a clean CR to keep the government open to actually put their signature where their statements are.
And I’m going to yield to our Democratic [Whip].
Whip Hoyer. I want Mr. Van Hollen to go vote. As the Whip, I want him to vote.
Mr. Van Hollen. Our Whip.
Whip Hoyer. We’ll just do a couple more minutes because the bottom line is: the Republicans say they want the government open, they don’t want to shut it down. The Majority Leader’s given himself the authority to do exactly that, he ought to exercise it. This is just another legislative opportunity for us to press that point.
Q: It seems a tad unrealistic, we’re talking about the 11th when you could collect signature, the 14th before you could vote, a holiday being in the way. Then we’ll have to go to the Senate and a potential filibuster problem there because it’s not the same bill that the Senate passed. I mean, you’re looking at weeks here. I mean are you throwing your hands up and saying we’re not going to get there any sooner? Or is this, you know, more of what we’re seeing a lot of press conferences and not real opportunities to do much as this point?
Whip Hoyer. I agree with you.
Whip Hoyer. I agree with all of that. We ought to have, we ought to stop the press conferences, stop the rhetoric, put a bill on the floor, let’s vote. And we’ll see who wants to open up the government; we’ll see who wants to shutdown the government. This is a previous question vote. You now have, if we have 178 no’s on this previous question vote. If we had 217, I think is what we need, I think they’re one [below] what they need at this point in time. If we had 217 votes, then the ability would shift to us and we would put on a clean CR. So when you hear people talking about ‘oh, I want to open the government’ you look at these 180 votes that voted to open the government, and the 219 votes, right now, who are voting to keep the government shutdown. You’re right, don’t listen to the words, watch the actions.
Q: Isn’t any Republican that signs onto a discharge petition like this basically guaranteeing a primary challenge?
Whip Hoyer. Well, I think that, that’s part of the problem here. I think Republicans are terrified about Tea Party opponents, I think you’re right, I think that you know. You asked me a question I don’t know the answer to – does it guarantee it? No. But I think the fear factor on the Republican side is very high. And therefore I will tell you, I have a lot of Republicans come to me. I have a very good relationship with a lot, most of the Republican side of the aisle, some of the more conservative Members as well and they tell me that their guys are being threatened if they do anything like that. If they so much, and we had some courageous, we’ve got 17 Republicans who have said that they would vote for a clean CR. I hate that term. Bill to open up government. That they would vote for that. My speculation from looking at those numbers, of 184 who have voted on that side of the proposition, that they haven’t voted that way and the reason being because this is a procedural vote and both sides say procedural votes you should stick with your party. But stick with their party in this instance means that hundreds of thousands of people who want to work, are not allowed to work, and the peoples government is shutdown.
Vice Chairman Crowley. Sorry, can I just. Let me just add. Let me just, let me just follow one point on that. As we said earlier, none of us want to see this come to fruition. We’re hoping that the Republicans come to their senses and that we can have a bill on the floor that can get government open right away. But this is an opportunity. So far I’ve seen two Republicans put their votes where their mouths are. That’s Peter King and Charlie Dent. We hear of others, there are others who have said and have signed letters, but they have not yet heretofore voted against their leadership to get what is known as a clean continuing resolution on the floor.
Whip Hoyer. Keep government open bill.
Vice Chairman Crowley. That’s what we want to have happen. And this is another tool, once again, to demonstrate whether your signature and your vote is where your mouths are.
Whip Hoyer. Last question. I’ve pointed at him already.
Q: Will Democrats in the House support the bill to retroactively pay Federal workers which I under the Administration is…
Whip Hoyer. Is what?
Q: The Administration is working passage.
Whip Hoyer. Absolutely. I can’t, I don’t think there is a Democrat that’s going to vote against it, I hope there is not a Republican vote against it. There are hundreds of thousands of people now worried about are they going to be able to pay their mortgage in November? Are they going to pay, are they going to be able to put food on the table? You know, most of us don’t have a deep reservoir of savings to sustain weeks of non-payment. We’re now seeing the specter of going into a full week of a government shutdown unless, of course, our Republican colleagues put on the floor, which they could do today or tomorrow, a bill which will open up the government of the people of the United States of America.
Thank you all very much.