Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer held a press availability today calling on House Republicans to act on jobs and pass the bipartisan Senate highway bill. Below is a transcript of the press availability:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. Nice to see you all here -- you missed the crowd of visitors to the Capitol. It's pretty exciting when they come where, what a thrill.
With today's jobs report it is clear that we have work to do. Although this is the 27th month of increased, continued job increases in our economy it is certainly not enough. It's clear from that jobs number that we have work to do. We know it and the American people know it and American families across the country know it. It's clear that one way we can help is to pass the transportation bill. I think it was instructive to read the jobless numbers this morning, the job loss in the construction sector was the largest of them all, once again, if we can -- we have an answer to this and that is to pass a transportation bill, the bipartisan transportation bill. The Republicans will say they sent 30 bills over to the Senate, they sent 30 pieces of message over to the Senate, we don't need 30 message bills, we need one good bill, one good bipartisan bill and that's the transportation bill. It passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate a while ago. We're calling on the Speaker of the House to bring the transportation bill to the floor. This is a bill that historically has been bipartisan for 35 years of current record, it has been bipartisan. The Senate bill is a good bill that will create two-million jobs, let's get on with it. Let's get our work done.
Additionally, I'm calling upon the Speaker to bring a middle-income tax cut to the floor which will build confidence in our economy, grow our economy and will create jobs. We need to get this done and the time is long overdue.
With that I want to yield to my distinguished colleague, the Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer.
Whip Hoyer. Thank you Madam Leader. There cannot be an American who wasn't disappointed with the jobs numbers that were reported out today. The private sector gained 82,000 jobs. The public sector lost 13,000 jobs. We have a net growth in jobs of 69,000. Now the good news is that we have 27 months straight of job growth, 11 quarters of economic growth in our country, but progress is too slow. In part progress is too slow because of the gridlock and lack of substantive agenda that is being pursued by our Republican colleagues in the Congress of the United States.
Gridlock in terms of a highway bill that was passed with 74 votes -- half of the Republican Caucus in the United States -- 75 votes if you count Frank Lautenberg who was for it, but wasn't on the floor. Three-quarters of the Senate passed a highway bill. That highway bill was sponsored by one of the most liberal Members and co-sponsored by one of the most conservative Members, a Republican, Jim Inhofe, they came together because they knew that we needed to invest in infrastructure, to create and grow jobs, and to invest in making our country more competitive.
Unfortunately, that bill could not get through the House of Representatives, notwithstanding the fact I urged Majority Leader Cantor to put that bill on the floor. In my view, that bill has the votes on the floor of the House of Representatives. But unfortunately the Republican leadership won't put it on the floor. So, we find ourselves, now 30-days from the highway bill expiring, which would create jobs, make us more competitive, create economic growth
Leader Pelosi. And "Make It In America."
Whip Hoyer. In the Conference Committee and that is part of, as the Leader says, our "Make It In America" agenda. We believe that we need to grow this economy, invest in our people, invest in creating jobs and if we do so we'll create jobs. Unfortunately, in the Bush Administration, we lost some eight-million jobs, four-million jobs were lost in the last year of the Bush Administration. Seven-hundred and eighty-seventy thousand jobs lost in the last month of the Bush Administration, the month that Barack Obama became President of the United States. We're growing the economy. The recession is ended but we're not growing it fast enough and if you don't have a job this is a depression for you, if your home is underwater this is a depression for you and we need to take bold, vigorous action and we need to give confidence to the market. And one way we should give confidence to the market is not put at risk the creditworthiness of the United States, not pretend that we're going to play another political game with the debt limit of this country and undermine, again, economic growth and confidence. So, I'm hopeful that we will move ahead cooperatively to create consensus, create jobs, pass the highway bill, invest in our economy and grow our jobs.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Whip.
Q: Madam Leader, how would you assess the ways in which House Republicans have been working with the Senate to try to resolve final differences on the transportation bill, on student loans, on the Violence Against Women Act? How are things going?
Leader Pelosi. Well the proof will be in the pudding and that will be when they're ready to bring a bill to the floor. I'm concerned that I'm hearing rumors of another extension and that would just be completely inappropriate. From the standpoint of Senator Boxer, the Chairwoman of the Committee in the Senate, she is optimistic because they have bipartisan support in the Senate. As Mr. Hoyer said, from right to left, you'd almost have to be a contortionist in order to show the expanse of opinion between Senator Boxer and Senator Inhofe and yet they, again, have come together in a bipartisan way on a bill to create two-million jobs. This is so important to our country. This is about the infrastructure of America. This is about how our people travel. How commerce is moved. How water is supplied. How broadband can transmit. It's about our infrastructure and our transportation and they have neglected it.
It's time for the Republicans to stop stalling, to stop stalling on the transportation bill which will create jobs. Stop stalling on the middle income tax cut and stop implying that there is any thought that we would not honor the full faith and credit of the United States of America. This is about confidence. This is about growing the economy. This is about creating jobs. It's time for them to stop stalling and until they can come forward with a bill -- that's how I view their performance.
Q: Would either of you consider a truce on austerity -- say we will extend all of the tax cuts for a year next year and suspend sequestration, just to get the economy through this patch?
Leader Pelosi. I would not support that. I think that it's really important for us to take the matter at hand and deal with it. We know that there should be an end to the high-end tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts and that they are deepening the deficit, they are not creating jobs, so they have to go. If our goal -- we have a moral imperative, I believe, as a nation, to create jobs, to educate our children and to reduce the deficit. The high-end tax cuts increase the deficit and do not create jobs. So, I would not be supportive of that.
Whip Hoyer. I want to say, punting should not be an option. Punting will undermine confidence even further. One of the reasons for a lack of confidence, one of the reasons that, I think, that major corporations and banks, who have a lot of money on-hand, more money than they've ever had, they're not participating in growing the economy because they lack confidence. Why do they lack confidence? Because of gridlock here in Washington. We're not solving problems. We're not investing in growing our economy. So, punting, in my view, will continue to undermine the confidence that the Congress can work. The Congress needs to work. How does Congress work? It comes together, creates compromise not confrontation. The three bills that were referred to earlier have all seen compromise reached in the United States Senate. All of them with significant Republican participation in bipartisan resolution of differences.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to do that in the House of Representatives. And the American economy sees that and so punting will simply be another indication that "there they go again, they can't reach agreement, they're simply punting this down further for decision sometime in the future.' I believe the single biggest thing we could do for the economy is to show the American people on the highway bill, student loan bill, on the violence against women bill, and a big-bold-balanced plan for putting our country on a fiscally sustainable, credible path, I think those are some of the biggest things we can do to not just have 82,000 private sector jobs but 164,000 jobs, perhaps 400 plus thousand jobs as occurred from time to time in the Clinton Administration when we grew the economy by 22 million jobs over eight-years.
Q: We get some bad news out of Europe almost every day, is there a concern that, you know, regardless of what is done here that this could drag things down -- if Greece gets out of the euro, the Spanish banking crisis, I mean -- what is the concern that ?
Leader Pelosi. There is no question that we are part of the global economy and what has happened in Europe has had an impact on our economy in terms of confidence, in terms of markets for our products, and the rest. But the fact is: we're in charge of our own house and we cannot have a policy or a practice of obstruct, stall, and punt because that is not an agenda for making progress growing our economy, restoring confidence, sending a message to the world that whatever is happening elsewhere, our house is in order. But I fear, as I said to you before, that this obstruction is not just about trying to make the Obama Administration look bad, which is what some people say. I won't subscribe to that. I do subscribe to the fact that doing nothing is the Republican agenda. Their jobs bill is a bill that says: "tax cuts for the rich and then trickle down and if jobs are created that's good, if not, that's the free market,' and in the words of the Speaker: "so be it.' Well, we don't say "so be it.' We don't say "amen' to that. What we say is: "we have an obligation to give incentive to the private sector to create jobs.' Confidence is essential to that and so we must be concerned about what is happening there because they're part of the global economy and because we care about what happens in Europe we, again, have a responsibility to be strong ourselves. That requires decisions, not punting. That requires strength, not stalling and that's what we see. We're saying to the Republicans: "stop the stalling, stop the punting, stop the obstruction, pass the transportation bill, remove all doubt that we will honor our full faith and credit and that we will do our budget in a way that is responsible, reduces the deficit as it creates jobs.'
Whip Hoyer. I want to just say one additional thing because I am convinced that [when] the Europeans see stability, consensus, and movement in the United States, it will help the Europeans deal with their problem. A strong, secure, thoughtful program in the United States of America to put our country, which is the key country in the world, on a fiscally sustainable, credible path, in my view, will have positive affects in Europe. Obviously, the European economy is affecting ours, but we are the leaders. And if we lead I think it will help them as well.
Q: Leader Pelosi, one of the final issues holding up the highway bill is the Keystone Pipeline language, which is supported by a lot of Democrats, opposed by Obama, is that something you would be willing to compromise on in the interest of moving the highway bill along faster?
Leader Pelosi. We're waiting to see what the bill is that they put forth. I do not know what you have just said. I trust that you think it is a fact that there is no other obstacle to the bill going forward.
Q: I'm not saying it's the only one, I'm just saying it's the main.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, I thought that you said that it was the only thing holding up the bill.
Q: No, it is a major
Leader Pelosi. Well, I'm interested to see the bill. I have not been on record one way or other on Keystone but the fact is that that issue should [not] intervene in this bill that over the years has been bipartisan, has sought consensus rather than finding a snag, I don't think that this is about Keystone. I think it's about obstruction.
Whip Hoyer. I think the Leader is absolutely right on that. Keystone, I personally have said I'm for Keystone but I think Keystone, like every project of that magnitude, needs proper consideration and to go through the proper consideration to make sure it's environmentally safe. Having said that the Senate has strong views on Keystone as well. It didn't hold them up from passing a bill, why? Because that was not the central part of the highway bill which has always, historically been passed in a bipartisan fashion, as the Senate did. Failure of the House to come to agreement -- House Republicans to come to an agreement, as the Senate Republicans did, is undermining the growth of jobs and the growth of our economy.
Leader Pelosi. So we're calling upon the Republicans to stop stalling on the transportation bill, create jobs now, bring it to the floor, and we hope that they will do that soon, as the question was asked, but with concern that we don't see it coming now, and recognizing that the construction trade was the biggest source of job loss that we're talking about here. That's just shameful because it's urgent for our country to build our infrastructure; it's part of who we are, the people that you see in these halls, they were part of what they called "public improvement,' to build the Erie Canal, the Cumberland Road, all of the things -- the Transcontinental Railroad, and I smile because we celebrated this weekend the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's also the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge and we'll acknowledge that soon. But the fact is, that was in a depression and the public had the confidence, knew the urgency of building infrastructure, bringing people together, we need to do it now, stop stalling.