PRESS CONFERENCE WITH HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERS
SUBJECT: THE ECONOMY
PARTICIPANTS: HOUSE MINORITY LEADER JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH); REP. MIKE PENCE (R-IN); REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R-WA); REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA); REP. JOHN CARTER (R-TX); REP. DAVID CAMP (R-MI) LOACTION: HOUSE RADIO/TV GALLERY, WASHINGTON, D.C.
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REP. BOEHNER: Well, good morning, everyone.
Clearly, yesterday was an historic day. And I thought the president did a marvelous job in outlining for the country the challenges we'll be facing. It's clear that American families, small businesses, entrepreneurs, the self-employed are facing much difficulty in the economy that we have. And helping to fix this economy, put money back into this economy to create jobs and to preserve jobs has to be the number-one goal of all of us here in Washington.
This morning we sent a letter to the president asking to meet -- for him to meet with our economic working group. I asked Eric Cantor several weeks ago to put a group of our members together to develop our ideas -- frankly, at the president-elect's request at that a time. We want to sit down with the president and talk about our ideas, because it's clear that trying to get money back into the economy quickly to preserve jobs and to create jobs has to be the goal, and fast-acting tax relief, we believe, is the best way to do that. When it comes to slow-moving government spending programs, it's clear that it doesn't create the jobs or preserve the jobs that need to happen.
So we're looking forward to hearing from the president. We'd like to sit down with him to walk through this because I think we all share the same goals.
With that, let me turn it over to Mike Pence.
REP. PENCE: Thank you, Leader, and the members that are here.
And there's no question that the American people are hurting. Many Americans have lost their job. Many millions more are worried that they'll be next. And House Republicans agree with our Democrat colleagues and with our new president that it's imperative that Congress act.
But Congress shouldn't just do something; Congress should do the right thing. It should take the kind of action that will have an impact in this calendar year in ways that will put Americans back to work and will get this economy moving again.
Last week, House Democrats unveiled their plan, and House Republicans, in the coming days, will unveil our proposals.
But there is a clear conflict of visions between the two. House Democrats apparently believe that we can borrow and spend and -- our way back to a growing economy, but House Republicans believe that, by enacting fast-acting tax relief, we'll be able to release the inherent power of this economy in the form of the resources, the ingenuity and the resilience and the character of the American people.
And so we see the choice between fast-acting tax relief and a Democrat plan outlined last week that involves slow and wasteful government spending. And make no mistake about it: The Democrat proposal that will begin to be marked up today and in the coming days, in various committees, as the Congressional Budget Office reported, less than half of their spending on highways and schools will be disbursed in the next two years. Less than 6 percent of this bill is attributed to highway construction.
And the American people deserve to know that spending in this bill includes such items as $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts, $200 million for National Mall repairs and $600 million to, quote, "prepare our country for universal health care." This is stimulus?
Republicans think not. We believe that, by bringing forward fast-acting tax-relief proposals, we'll have a -- we'll have the opportunity to get this economy moving, and get this economy moving in the near future.
We're on the side of the American taxpayer. As the leader said, we look forward to the opportunity to meet with our new president and present the details of our working group and the kind of proposals that we believe will really get this economy moving again.
REP. MCMORRIS RODGERS: Okay. Well, as we're wrapping up the inaugural activities and starting the 111th Congress, yesterday we were challenged to roll up our sleeves and get to work, and the House Republicans are ready to do that.
And we are -- we're encouraged that the president, President Obama, has reached out to us and asked for our ideas on how we're going to stimulate the economy. Without a doubt, this is the issue that's on the forefront of every American right now. And we are -- we've been working hard over the last couple of weeks to be coming up with our ideas.
We are encouraged that President Obama recognizes that this is not the time to be raising taxes and that he's included significant tax relief in his proposal.
But we are concerned, as we're now moving through the process, that the House Democrats are yet to ask for our input. And we are -- we're hopeful that we will be able -- you know, as we do roll up our sleeves and get to work and actually start putting together a package, that it will be a bipartisan package.
As I listen to people back home -- whether they're businessmen, whether it's my wheat growers -- they recognize that the federal government has been spending beyond its means. They recognize that many in America have been spending beyond their means. And now is not the time to be adding to -- adding too much to the debt, but now is the time to be taking action that's actually going to stimulate the economy, create jobs.
And the best way that that can be done is through the tax relief that really does unleash the small businessmen, unleash American middle-class families to make wise spending decisions and to do things that are going to get our economy going.
And so we are anxious to get started on, really, a package that will stimulate the economy in the short term.
REP. BOEHNER: Marsha (off mike)?
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Thank you.
You know, the American people have wised-up to a few things. One of those is the American people know that you cannot spend your way out of this situation. They know that American families can't spend their way out of it, and they know that the federal government cannot spend its way out of this situation.
What they do know, and what they are certain of, is that it's going to take some thoughtful planning. And that is something that the Republican leadership has been working on since the economic issues started about a year ago, when they started to manifest themselves. And so as we've gone through this process, we have some good, solid thoughts, some good solid ideas to place on the table. Our hope is the president will listen to that.
Now, among these is, how do you stimulate the economy? The American people know that, if you're going to do that, it means working with small businesses. It means working with small-business manufacturing. They know that a one-time $500 pop doesn't do any good. What they do know is that the best economic stimulus is a job. And the way you get those is through the small-business sector.
Now, another thing they know is that plan A, the Paulson plan, did not work, and it cost us a lot of money. And they know that by the time you put everything that was spent from March to September, that 323 billion (dollars), on top of the 700 billion (dollars), you're at $1.3 trillion.
And let me tell you, the only industry that benefits from all this may be the calculator industry, because most of those calculators don't go to a trillion, when you're sitting at the kitchen table, trying to peck this out.
They know that plan B, President Obama's stimulus, might not work. So what they're asking is, what happens if there's no more money left for a plan C? Where does that leave us?
That's why it's imperative that we be thoughtful, that we be diligent and that we act in the best interests of the taxpayer.
REP. CAMP: I'm Dave Camp, from Michigan.
As Cathy said, the president really challenged us yesterday to get to work. But he didn't challenge us to find a Republican solution or a Democrat solution; he challenged us to find an American solution.
That's not happening here in the House. We had no hearing. We've had no bipartisan caucuses, no bipartisan discussions at all. We got the text at 5:00 on a Friday of a holiday weekend.
I've asked the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee if the speaker will allow us to do our work in a proper way, to proceed with regular order. I've asked them to delay tomorrow's markup, to allow an actual hearing, so that we can find from experts just how much job creation might be contained in the proposal that we have before us.
I don't think we should make the mistake of rushing through a bill that spends hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money. We believe that using tax cuts to create jobs is the way to stimulate the economy, rather than borrowing money to increase spending and raise the budget deficit.
There are some provisions, in this legislation that's been proposed, that I like, that we like as a group. There are some that we don't like. I think particularly the provisions called Make Work Pay, which is quick cash that actually refunds more to taxpayers than they've actually paid in taxes. I think the real question is, is that fair? Is it fair to give Americans more than they've actually paid in in taxes?
So there are some concerns with some of the provisions in that legislation. And even people like Democrat Senator Kent Conrad have questioned the job creation numbers that they are saying. He thinks it may be even less than half the job creation that they've proposed. We need better estimates. With $800 billion, just how many private- sector jobs are going to be created in this?
So we're asking the Democrats to accept our challenge and the challenge of our new president, for the House to proceed to find an American solution to help grow our economy, create jobs and increase prosperity for all.
REP. CARTER: As everyone has said, the president yesterday challenged us to work together to try to do something about the economy.
The folks back home were sitting, watching this on television. And I think they were encouraged. But I also think that the average American citizen truly believes that we cannot afford a $1 trillion mistake. And that's an issue we've got to -- that oversees all of this.
We will avoid that mistake by working together to come up with meaningful ways to really stimulate the economy and really create jobs and jobs that will last, not just short-term increase in the size of our government, but the real jobs that feed and clothe and house our families across this country.
That's what the American taxpayer is thinking about. That's what the average American citizen is thinking about. And he is challenging us not to make that trillion-dollar mistake.
I think this is important. I think that's what we as Republicans are trying to go forward with a plan to offer as a way to work together, to come up with solutions, the way the president has directed us. This is our position and this is our goal.
Q Mr. Leader, it sounds like, you know, House Republicans are reaching out to the president, saying, and I guess Senator Enzi said this on the Senate side, said, you know, Democratic colleagues in Congress have been -- (inaudible) -- and not inclusive.
But what I'm wondering is, have you talked to Speaker Pelosi? You know, have you reached out to Harry Reid and said, let's include us; we want to be a part of this. Or have you just gone to the president?
REP. BOEHNER: President Obama asked for our input and asked for our ideas. And we've been working to develop those and want to share those with him.
I think we've made clear to the Democrat leadership in the House and the relevant chairmen that we have concerns about what we've seen thus far and want to be heard in this process.
Q (Off mike.)
REP. BOEHNER: No. I think it's pretty clear that we're about to spend a trillion dollars, and we have an ailing economy. Jimmy Carter inherited an ailing economy and, frankly, made it worse over four years. And our obligation to the American people is to try our best to help them, help families, help small businesses, entrepreneurs, the self-employed, revive this economy. Government can't revive this economy. The American people can if we allow them to keep more of what they earn. And so it's about how do we create jobs, how do we preserve jobs. That's the goal. And we have our ideas; we're going to share them with the president.
Q Mr. Leader, Mr. Camp commented there have been no public hearings so far, and there are none scheduled on the Hill. Have you talked to Democratic leadership about getting those scheduled? Is there any indication about whether they will be?
REP. BOEHNER: No indication that I've seen thus far.
Q Do you guys have a finished plan? I mean, do you have something you'd be prepared to show President Obama tomorrow?
REP. BOEHNER: Yes, we do.
Q And what -- (off mike)?
REP. BOEHNER: I -- listen, the president asked for our input. I think it's fair that we sit down with the president and share those ideas with him and not go through a process of sharing them with the press.
Q Well, can you tell us if there's anything (new ?) in it, or different, or is it a lot of the -- (off mike)? Are you offering something (different ?) on your side?
REP. CANTOR: Let me just respond to that. The working group met for several days last week and, as you know, culminated in a hearing that was held in the Budget Committee room last Thursday.
We heard from experts from the private sector, as well as economists, to try and hear as many ideas as we could as to what we can really do to achieve the ultimate goal in the stimulus package.
The goal -- again, the leader has said it; all of us have said it -- goal should be very focused, and that is to stem the job layoffs in this country and then to produce job growth. And the best way to do that, in our opinion and in the opinion of many others that we listen to, is that we provide tax relief to families, to small businesses, to the self-employed and to entrepreneurs.
By doing this, we will see job sustainment and job creation. And if the choice is for us to go along with a package that spends over $850 billion, most of that being government spending, and, as we know now the CBO says, most of that not even taking place until 2011, we feel very, very strongly that we would like to sit down with the president and tell him we are opposed to what the congressional Democrats have said they want to do.
We are in favor of trying to stimulate this economy by providing tax relief to families, small businesses, the entrepreneurs and self- employed.
Q Mr. Leader, it sounds like in a way -- and sort of dovetailing with what Mr. Cantor said here -- that strategically you're using the House Democrats and their plan as a foil, and wanting to work with the new president, a strikingly popular new president, to say, "Look, let's see what we can get accomplished here, because we haven't had much luck with our Democratic colleagues."
REP. BOEHNER: Well, I think you're reading a lot more into this than what is.
The president-elect -- the president asked for our input. We're going to supply him with our input; as simple as that.
Q Mr. Leader?
REP. BOEHNER: Yes.
Q A big part of the crisis now is the banking crisis, which seems to be going into a new level. And I wondered if you think that there's enough money in the TARP program for the government to fix that crisis.
REP. BOEHNER: I have no idea.
Q And do you --
REP. BOEHNER: And neither do they.
Q Yeah, and are you worried, as some investors are, that we could move to some kind of nationalization of some of the worst-hit banks, or quasi-nationalization?
REP. BOEHNER: I don't -- I do not see this government nationalizing banks or any other industry.
We are facing a big challenge, and Republicans and Democrats in this town need to work together to help solve the crisis, to the extent that we can.
And I think that the TARP is there. They're trying to use it effectively.
I'd like to see more transparency and accountability in terms of how it's being used, but clearly they have the ability to use it.
But that's only one part of this. If we don't do something about creating more jobs and preserving more jobs in America, we will not solve the banking crisis with TARP alone. We have to get the economy moving again.
Thank you all very much.