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Fox News Interview - Transcript


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Fox News Interview - Transcript


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MS. SKINNER: Negotiators are apparently finding middle ground on the House and Senate versions of the stimulus bill, negotiations going late into the night and a conference meeting to iron out the final details is scheduled to start in just a few hours.

Democratic Representative Xavier Becerra from California is the Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and a senior member of the Committee of Ways and Means.

Thanks for joining us.

REP. BECERRA: Thank you for having me.

MS. SKINNER: We're hearing a deal by 3 PM and a tab of $790 billion. Is that right?

REP. BECERRA: Everything is still very fluid. There are lots of conversations going on. The actual conference will take place, hopefully, later this afternoon, but the contours are out there.

MS. SKINNER: What are the biggest sticking points?

REP. BECERRA: Well, here in the House, we are very much in favor of providing the school construction money that many of our cities and counties and our neighborhoods have been asking for because so many schools are in need of repair and renovation, so we're going to make a real big push to try to get some of that money back into the package.

MS. SKINNER: You saw yesterday the markets reacted negatively to the stimulus plan. Their concern is that incurring all this debt could just make things worse. What about that?

REP. BECERRA: Well, we have a massive debt that the president inherited of over $1 trillion. If we don't do something to stimulate the economy, what we're going to find is that a lot of these industries won't hire people, in fact, they'll discharge people and we're going to have an even worse situation where the federal government will collect less than revenue because people aren't paying taxes. And so we think it's important and most of the economists, whether conservative or liberal will tell you, you need to kick start this economy and this package does that, it creates up to three to four million jobs in the next two years. That's what you need to get the economy moving again.

You've got to get people back at work so they can keep their homes.

MS. SKINNER: We've seen critics such as Betsy McCoy saying that lawmakers are sneaking in measures that lean toward universal healthcare, McCoy yesterday saying Obama is trying to push that down our throats.

What's your response to that?

REP. BECERRA: Perhaps it's a reference to the COBRA provision that says if you lose your job; guess what, if you're willing to pay out of whatever money you've saved to continue to your healthcare on your own at your own expense, then we should help you do that. That's pretty simple and I think if a person is willing to use some of his or her own savings after losing a job to try to maintain healthcare for him or her and family, we should be trying to help, not hurt that situation.

I think that's an eminently good proposal and I hope we're able to fight to help Americans who are losing their jobs at least maintain their healthcare.

MS. SKINNER: Senator Chuck Grassley was on our air earlier today, a Republican, saying that this negotiating process has been controlled by Democrats and that Republican amendments are not even being discussed.

What is your response to that criticism that this process is partisan?

REP. BECERRA: The senator should talk to Senator Specter, Senator Snowe, Senator Collins, all Republicans who are part of this process and have been part of this process from the very beginning. Republicans are included in all the conversations. The official conference will start today and Republicans and Democrats alike will have a chance to sit down. Stalling will not help the American public; we're hemorrhaging about 20,000 jobs a day in this country, about 1,000 jobs an hour, so every hour that people complain and create obstacles to the passage of this economic recovery package, guess what, 1,000 Americans lose their work.

And so we need to get going. The president made it very clear this is a priority for him. It should be a priority for all of us in Congress and all of America.

MS. SKINNER: You know, Senator Grassley also said earlier that big states appear to be being favored over smaller states.

REP. BECERRA: Once again, I could take you to Los Angeles where the unemployment rate has skyrocketed. I can take you to any part of America where you've got lots of construction, lots of industry where lots of jobs are now being lost. Obviously, in states with larger populations, you have larger increases in unemployment and so if you want to get people back to work, you concentrate a lot of your monies where people are unemployed or losing their jobs. But this is a package that distributes the money in a very fair fashion.

If we're talking about stimulating the economy, if we're talking about creating jobs, you've got to put the money where you can create those jobs. This is not a pork-barrel spending package that you're sending money just to any state for any reason. We're trying to concentrate the money. So, unfortunately, the states that are suffering are going to get more than the states that aren't suffering. Quite honestly, 50 states are suffering, some more than others. We should concentrate the money where we can create more jobs.

MS. SKINNER: All right. Congressman Xavier Becerra, thank you so much for joining us.

REP. BECERRA: Thank you.


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