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Public Statements

The Progressive Message

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. I thank the cochair of the Progressive Caucus for once again reminding America of America's greatness. That's why over 90-plus Members join together to be members of the Progressive Caucus. We have a sense of optimism that reflects our commitment to investing in human capital.

Earlier today, I had the opportunity of listening to a discourse about the transportation bill, and I will point to what we've done with infrastructure. There was the representation by the majority leader that we're living in hard times, we don't have money, that we can't be looking, for example, at the Senate bill and we can't move forward. And I just listened as our minority whip spoke about the urgency of moving forward on an infrastructure bill.

What I think is important, and really the theme that I wanted to focus on as I listened to you in my office--I just left about 12 constituents who are the beneficiaries of community health clinics, one of the items that we've supported as a Progressive Caucus for a very long time and championed along with the Tri-Caucus, to put in the Affordable Care Act, which, by the way, the 2-year anniversary is tomorrow.

The point is that we have optimism. We have the sense that America can get it done. You've just put up a very telling poster that when our Republican friends begin to talk, we're headed toward a pathway of devastation: no Medicare, no Medicaid, allowing reckless investments or speculation to occur, jobs overseas, and not focusing on our recovery.

By the way, we understand a balanced budget. We are using war savings for the people of the United States of America. Our troops come home, and we realign our national security focus. I think most Americans will understand that, even national security experts will tell us that it is probably a challenge to think we will have a ground war invasion like we've had years past ever again, that we're now fighting a war on terrorism or acts of terrorism.

Certainly, as we look to tell others to, in essence, become unnuclearized, we too must join the world's family because it's only one-upmanship.

I would just say that we do not disarm our Nation. We believe in defending our Nation, but we believe in doing it in a smart way. What we have done is that we have these words, ``comprehensive economic recovery,'' but I'd like to say this is a smiley-faced optimistic pathway for Americans.

Don't you think young people who are now sophomores, juniors, and seniors in college looking for their bright day--does anyone remember as we come upon May how exciting it was to look forward to a college graduation, a trade school graduation? You were just tickled pink. You were making sure your invitations were out. You were hoping that all relatives could make sure they had no conflicts. You really wanted Grandma there or your aunt there or your favorite brother there or Mom and Dad there or family there. This was an exciting time. The Progressive Caucus budget speaks to that excitement and optimism and hopefulness.

Our budget has an infrastructure bank that allows the private sector to come together and effectively bring about infrastructure projects in all manner of areas, from the hamlets that are so small, to the villages, to the county governments, to the city governments and State governments.

I introduced a surface transportation bill that has been slowed, another bill that would generate income and transportation security and recognize that we must secure our surface transportation. In this bill, we proposed a 6-year $556 billion reauthorization bill that, over 10 years, would lead to a $213 billion increase in transportation funding. What it would also do is create many jobs that provide for small contractors, minority-owned contractors, women-owned contractors. It would create work. It's an optimistic view.

The making work pay tax credit from 2013 2015 is about let's let folks who are working, let those get a benefit that makes sense. Then we have more than $2 trillion in domestic investment packaging.

Just let me mention the idea of when you work with emergency jobs to restore the American Dream, getting people out where improvement is needed--student improvement, park improvement, student jobs, neighborhood heroes, community health clinics, federally qualified clinics, and child care corps--getting folks to work.

In my town, Mr. Ellison, in the Southwest as you well know, we had a great drought in the last year. Volunteers are trying to plant trees, but I tell you we could stand for a Heroes Corps, we could stand for a Community Corps to get out there and help us re-seed America, if you will. We know that. We know the Job Corps. But this is a concept that gets folks out working.

I also want to congratulate the University of Houston-Downtown that is heavily minority that just won the distinguished honor roll recognition for the largest amount of community service done by a campus across the Nation, cited by the Department of Education. That means people are ready to put that to work.

Tax credits for investment in advanced energy. I've got a company right in my community that's been awarded for its new, innovative work on energy, manufacturing, capital access for entrepreneurs of small business.

Now, let me just say this. I am excited about the 3 million Apple 3s that were sold because I think that is optimistic, and it employs the genius of America and it goes against the sad, deflated concept.

Now, let me be very clear. I am not ignoring the unemployed Americans. I want to be very clear on that. I don't think the Progressive Caucus has for a moment. We did a job tour. We're going back out again. We have no reason to dismiss the person who is now sitting unemployed.

What I want to say is there is some optimism. We've got to get all of those folks to be part of this new surge of optimism which this Progressive Caucus budget, if passed, would generate.

But I want to just say this to my good friends at Apple. Bring the jobs home. You are manufacturing Apple 3 in China. I certainly believe in an international framework. I know that everything can't be made in America, made at home. But I do know that aspects of the talent that you're using in China can be found here in the United States. And the cost of shipment--I can tell you you can save some dollars. Let's put our thinking caps on for companies like Apple and find a way that you can balance those resources.

I'm just going to cite General Electric. I know that we had put a real heavy heat on General Electric. I am told by their employees they are bringing jobs home. I met with some employees in my district who have indicated that they have been bringing them on home. I looked at them. They were real. They were alive. So, they have jobs, and they said they work for General Electric. Let's have a number of companies looking that way.

Let me quickly just mention because this is all exciting, and I think people need to hear about excitement and opportunity.

We already talked about the manufacturing community's tax credit, tax credit for the production of advanced technology vehicles. Again, everybody is saying we're slow on the hybrid, we're slow on the electric car. But all of that can create opportunity, tax credits for alternative fuel commercial vehicles, which is very possible. Double the amount of expense startup expenditures. So that means that if you've got a startup, we're going to double what you can expense. I think that makes a lot of sense.

Young people are the ones that are always starting startups. We need to encourage that. Enhance and make permanent the research and experimentation tax credit. That is right in the line of the Texas Medical Center. Many of our medical research hospitals, MD Anderson in the 18th Congressional District, while it's our neighbor, is working on new technology. This fits an optimistic view on how we can cure the worst of the worst.

Let me also say that I want to make mention that we are dealing with tax brackets, and we are looking, I think, at sensible policies dealing with capital gains and State policy. What I would say to people who are listening to us: Get on our Web site and give us your input. We're interested in what you have to say.

As well, let me just put in a pitch that no one likes the season when April 15 comes around. But we've tried to make our tax reform palatable. As far as I can see, we have left alone the charitable tax exemption. I tell you there are those who are very concerned that we leave little room for those who have that on the table, have everything on the table; that they would attack the charitable tax exemption and not go to some of the ones that the Progressive Caucus has focused on, because this nonprofit, this foundation, said they would be stopped in their tracks.

I had one foundation, one nonprofit talk to me today and say how challenging it is to get funding for the disadvantaged and programs that deal with intercity. So I want you to know that the Progressive Caucus recognizes the value of the charitable tax deduction, and you don't find that on our table.

I want to say something to Mr. Ellison. I wanted to mention, for a moment, Trayvon Martin.


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. He is certainly a lawyer who's practiced law, but I have met Mr. Ellison's wonderful family of youth and young people, a young man. That's what happens. People don't realize that we have families on both sides of the aisle. Good Republican friends who've been with our families. So whatever you see us saying here on the floor of the House, we are particularly sensitive and warm toward Members' families because we are, in essence, despite our policy debates, we are a family here.

So I simply wanted to indicate first to give good wishes to Congresswoman Corrine Brown, who is now with her constituents in a major protest in Florida on this sad and tragic incident. I wanted to say that we will gather on Tuesday to present an opportunity for the case to be heard on this issue and the Federal Government's responsibility or authority.

One of the things that in this budget we are very keenly sensitive to are the needs of the Department of Justice. Again, an optimistic budget, because the Department of Justice is the armor in many instances that will come in and help a community when they cannot get help locally.

Mr. Martin was killed on February 26. He was buried on March 1. Today is March 22. It was only when his parents came out or used their grief that they're still grieving to start asking why, law-abiding citizens who were waiting for the city attorney and waiting on the chief of police, waiting on the Governor of the State of Florida to say something. Nothing was said.

So, as the voices began to raise and the astonishment and outrage began to percolate, Mr. Ellison, it was not isolated to Florida or Sanford. If you listen to the various media outlets, parents, no matter what their background, were calling and asking, What about my child?

I think it is important that we show this young man. It could be any of our family members. Can we imagine our youngsters wearing the clothing of the day--hoodies, sneakers, jeans. Do I need to remind you that Mr. Trayvon Martin was simply getting some Skittles, on the phone with his girlfriend, walking back to where his father was and going to look at some games. In this instance, it was basketball.

I come from local government. You come from State government. We know about Neighborhood Watch. We champion Neighborhood Watch. We have this Community Night Out, Police Night Out, whatever it is, and all of us have gone to it. We tell neighbors to watch out for each other. It's important for it to be said this was not watching out for each other.

The basic 911 tape, if you frame it, the call came in, that's the right thing to do. The description I may not adhere to, some of the words in the description, but so be it, you described this individual as such. But it came back and asked the specific question, ``Are you following him?'' ``Yes.'' ``Do not do that.''

This youngster, football player, babysitter--likes to babysit, eating Skittles--a fun food to eat with a basketball game--was on the sidewalk. Not coming out of a window, not knocking on a door, not standing in front of a door, not on a lawn--walking on a sidewalk, which the Progressive Caucus has stood many times on that First Amendment right, we've stood many times. He was walking, and we are now in an abyss of darkness in terms of what next happened, but the description is, this young boy was shot point-blank in the chest.

We have to call upon the Federal resources. We've called for a Federal investigation. We've been joined by many colleagues. We have tapes of witnesses, meaning people inside their homes, saying they heard shouting and crying for help. We've heard people ask the question: Why didn't the neighborhood watcher stand down in the car? Move away? We've also heard the author of the ``stand your ground'' bill--which, by the way, is in 20 or so States--a Republican State representative, articulate in newspaper clips that it is not a pursue and attack. It is that you can stand your ground upon someone coming, but it is not a pursue and attack.

I just wanted to indicate that it is important for Members of Congress--and I believe there is a sense of outrage. We are not taking this to the level that does not respect the family that is mourning. We're not creating hysteria. We are only begging for the relief of others whose names have not come up. There are people calling in and telling us about cases from the west coast to the east coast, to the North and the South. So I wanted to indicate that we will be joining as Members of Congress in hearing the circumstances, as much as we can, on the theory of the Federal Government's responsibility or authority. I think that is the more appropriate approach to take.

I want to thank the gentleman for letting me articulate, I think, just the sheer horror of having our kids leave our home--for innocence--and not come back. As a mother, I believe that, and as one who sees this, I believe we owe that family a response.


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. You're speaking as a parent, and I think everyone can appreciate that. You really highlighted it. In this instance, of course, we have to look and see whether there was a hate crime or if his civil rights were violated.

But you're absolutely right. We had nothing to go on. We had a person walking. We have the police, themselves, and so many of us have worked to ensure that the guns on these streets don't go after our law enforcement officers because, obviously, there are many who believe the more guns the better off we are--guns, guns, guns. This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. It's just guns, guns, guns. So he has a concealed weapon. I'm not here to cast any aspersions, but as the reports are coming out, he has some challenges--meaning Mr. Zimmerman--to his record. He has some challenges.

With that in and of itself, the officer should have brought him in, but there is no evidence of that. Maybe they did, but there is no evidence of that, and they should have done, as you indicated, the normal police work. He has a defense, so be it--that of a concealed weapon permit and ``stand your ground.'' But you have a dead person, and you have no witnesses, at least not that the police have offered to say Mrs. Jones, Mr. Smith, Mrs. Gonzalez said that they were in a knockdown, drag-out. There is not any glimmer of information that has come out. The young man happened to be a person of color. We have placed to a bipartisan vote both hate crimes laws, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and other bills that have been voted on in a bipartisan manner simply because we don't want America to violate those very precious rights.

I want to just share with you, because, as I said to you, I've got a neighborhood watch, The Washington Post says, Experts say neighborhood watches shouldn't be police.


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. That is correct.

What I don't understand, and what we will be, if you will, perusing is, where did this case go wrong and the fact that the Federal Government has to come in when things go wrong.

Someone said to me in my office that this case has riveted like Emmett Till's case riveted.


Ms. JACKSON LEE of Texas. And you're right. There are cases across America. Members have raised cases in conversations that we've had, and we need to have all of that in an inventory so we can, out of this tragedy, say to those parents: Trayvon counts. We care. Young people count. Children count. Your community counts and our communities count.

I wanted to share that. I'm not going to let this go. As for the Judiciary Committee; the Congressional Black Caucus; the Tri-Caucus, which involves the Asian Caucus and the Hispanic Caucus; letters that have been written by a number of Members of Congress; the work of Congresswoman Brown--and the Progressive Caucus, I know, is a willing partner when it comes to issues of justice--we are not going to let this rest without finding some relief and rest for this family.

And I thank the chairman for his personal story. I met the young man, and we've all traveled together, our family, at the Dem caucus events where families come together.

I will just conclude by simply holding up, again, this picture. And for those who don't know the terminology, let me just show. He is in football attire here; and we don't know what college he would have gone to or what football team, if that had been his choice, that he would have played on.

Let me just put this up. If you can see it, this is an innocent face. But he is wearing a hoody. And if anyone needs to know, I have a hoody. It's my local college's paraphernalia that you buy, and you wear it to the game, and it has a hoody. And it's something that I think everybody has seen in this country. I see nothing on here that says: Bad guy. Criminal. Shoot me. That's not what we do in America. I want to thank the gentleman for allowing me to share and to say that we will find some resolution to this.

I will simply conclude by saying that I do believe in an optimistic America. Revealing my pain about this young man is pain for all those whose names we have not called. But in believing in an optimistic America, I want to be a problem solver. I want to solve this problem or answer this problem with respect to Trayvon Martin.

I want to say that as I perceive this product that has been produced, this Budget for All, I am so grateful that over 90-plus members of the Progressive Caucus saw that the right route to take was the optimistic upturn, positive, open opportunity budget to give to all of America. That's what we should be supporting, not the downturn, the ``no way out,'' but really that there is a new day for America.

I yield back to the gentleman and thank him for his courtesy.


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