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SCHULTZ: Joining me now is Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California.
Great to have you with us, Congresswoman.
I know you have personally worked hard on this and been an advocate
for those who have been less fortunate in our economy.
Are Republicans, do you think, are they going to hold unemployment
hostage in these negotiations?
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Let me tell you, Ed. I`m so glad
you`re focusing on this because, of course, we have now, as you said
earlier, so many people who will lose their unemployment benefits on
December 29th. We have 2.1 million people who could lose these benefits.
And I have to tell you, I hope that the Republicans understand that
many of these individuals are their constituents.
Unfortunately, during the last negotiations, unemployment benefits
were reduced from 99 weeks to about 73, 74 weeks. I could not support
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I hope this time around that those who are unemployed are not put on
the chopping block in terms of their benefits being cut. We have now, Ed,
nearly 50 million people living in poverty, 16 million of whom are
children. And we need to help people until we turn this economy around.
This is a safety net. It`s a bridge over troubled waters.
SCHULTZ: It`s not a bargaining chip? Because, you know, in the last
lame duck session of the Congress, the Republicans were willing to extend
these benefits for one year to get two years of an extension to the Bush
tax cuts. Is that off the table?
LEE: Well, I`ll tell you one thing, let`s hope that`s not on the
table. I don`t want to see people -- the most vulnerable, low income
individuals, the working poor, and many of these people who are in the
ranks of the poor are the working poor. We don`t want to see people who
have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, the long-term unemployed, they
do not need to be part of the game that`s being played to get to some kind
of an agreement.
We need to make sure that they are not a pawn in this and we do not
balance the budget or, you know, move forward on this cliff. I call it a
human cliff -- with them being at risk.
LEE: So we have to make sure that the millionaires and billionaires
pay their fair share and make sure the most vulnerable are protected.
That`s the unemployed.
SCHULTZ: Well, let me play devil`s advocate here for a moment, kind
of plays in to the last block we just did.
A lot of things are ending up off the table here. The Democrats want
to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. You don`t want to hit Social
Security, Medicare or Medicaid. And now, of course, you want to protect
the unemployment benefits.
Where are you willing to give up? I mean, if unemployment benefits,
if the weeks aren`t going to be reduced or the payments aren`t going to be
reduced, where would you suggest going?
LEE: Well, I have to tell you first of all, we can`t go into cutting
those who have already paid a big price for the last deal. We need to look
at defense, Ed. When you look at where we can actually cut, you know,
there`s billions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon.
When you look at the huge tax cuts of millionaires and billionaires,
we need to make sure we do not extend those tax cuts. When you look at the
oil subsidies that oil companies received -- I mean, there are many ways to
move forward and stop this human cliff from occurring.
But we do not need to go with seniors, we do not need to do this on
the backs of seniors, low-income individuals, the unemployed and the poor.
It just doesn`t make any sense. Ed, it`s not fair and it`s morally wrong.
SCHULTZ: I think it is morally wrong and it`s not fair. And I think
there is a moral obligation to help the poor and those trying to recycle
back into the economy.
But do you feel confident that the Democrats will hold the line for
the less fortunate?
LEE: I feel very confident that the Democrats will hold the line for
the least fortunate.
LEE: When you look at what`s happening in all of our districts,
Republican and Democratic district, we have people who are unemployed. We
have the long-term unemployed. And we have people who want to work.
We need to create jobs and invest or resources in workforce training
and job creation. That`s who you we turn the economy around and reduce the
SCHULTZ: All right. California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, thanks for
joining us on THE ED SHOW tonight.
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