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House Democrats Announce Leadership for the 113th Congress

WASHINGTON – Following the House Democratic Caucus organizational meeting this morning, the newly elected Democratic Leadership for the 113th Congress – Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC), Caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley (NY) – were joined by the Ranking Member on the Budget Committee Chris Van Hollen at a press avail to highlight the unity of the Caucus. The new leaders also discussed the need to extend the middle class tax cuts and come to a bi-partisan compromise on the other aspects of the fiscal cliff. You can watch the video and read the transcript below:

Chairman Becerra: Well first welcome to everyone who is here. We have great news. We have just finished a wonderful, a spectacular Caucus meeting where we had an opportunity to elect the Democratic Leadership in the House for 113th Congress. And with the enthusiasm of our colleagues in the room, we moved forward with the nomination and selection of our Leader Nancy Pelosi, our Whip Steny Hoyer, our Democratic Leader Assistant Jim Clyburn, our new Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Joe Crowley from New York and our Ranking Member who returns to Budget, Chris Van Hollen. And as we say in Spanish, su servidor, your servant, Xavier Becerra Chairman of the Democratic Caucus for the 113th Congress.

It is clear that Democrats are ready to work. The enthusiasm we see from all of these returning members and especially, from these incoming, newly elected Democrats, is one where as the President would say, we are fired up and ready to go. We believe that we can get not only the business of the people done, in the coming Congress, but we believe that in this lame-duck session much can be accomplished. If we work for a fair and balanced plan we can get there.

Indeed, many of us Democrats believe our Republican colleagues in the House should put on the floor, the Senate passed bill that would protect all middle income taxpayers from any increase in their taxes. That passed in the Senate on a bi-partisan basis and it is sitting here in the House. We say let’s put it forward and let’s make sure that nothing is done to damage the economic recovery, especially for our middle class.

So we are ready to work. We have the enthusiasm of over 200 Democrats here in the House of Representatives. And it is with great pleasure that I know ask our leader, who was unanimously elected to serve as our Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Leader Pelosi: Thank you very much, Chairman Becerra, congratulations to you. I wish you much success and too, congratulations to Joe Crowley our new Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. It ‘s an honor to serve with Steny Hoyer, Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn and I’m so pleased that we’re also joined by the newly elected Ranking Member on the Budget Committee. The Budget Committee. That is the center of attention right now.

President Obama has said that he has pen in hand and he is prepared to sign the middle income tax cut. It has passed the Senate it has the support of the Democrats in the House and it is only held up by the Republicans in the House.

I think it’s really important for the American people to know, what that obstacle is. But let’s hope that that obstacle can be removed so that we can go forward with a big, bold and balanced agreement. To end this fiscal crisis, to stop the going any closer to the cliff. It can be done Democrats- we know that in order to reduce the deficit, the best thing we can do is create jobs. Create jobs and economic growth. In order to do that we know that we have to prioritize our investments and we have gone on record to make cuts of over one trillion dollars. But there has to more revenue in order for us to inspire confidence in the markets, to inspire confidence in consumers, to create jobs, to grow the economy.

So we hope that we can work in a bipartisan way with our colleagues. They keep saying where are the cuts? Over a trillion dollars we have agreed to. And more to be done when we go into a new Congress in terms of tax fairness and- reform as well as addressing some entitlement issues; to make them stronger. So we just think that because it must be done, let’s just sit down and get it done, it’s only a decision. Let’s pray that our Republican friends will join us in that decision.

Now it’s my privilege to once again, newly elected, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer to speak to all of you. Thank you.

Whip Hoyer: Thank you very much Madam Leader. I want to congratulate the Leader for her re-election. All my other colleagues with whom I’ve served, congratulate them. And congratulate Joe Crowley, for his election as Vice-Chair of our Democratic Caucus. He will be a very strong, able addition to the leadership of this House.

Some years ago, in September 2008 our country faced a fiscal crisis. The then Bush Administration asked the then leaders- Democratic leaders, to respond. And we did. And we stabilized the economy and started getting out of the deepest recession that we have seen.

We are now confronted with another challenge. Chris Van Hollen will be speaking a little more broadly about that. The Democratic Caucus and the Democratic Leadership that was just elected is ready to cooperate with our Republican colleagues and work with the President of the United States to meet this challenge as well.

It is critical that we do so and I am convinced that we can do so in a bipartisan way. If we are committed to reasoning together, talking with one another, yes, compromising. Compromising is necessary in the democratic process, but if we come together we will meet this challenge and we will make this session of the Congress not a lame-duck Congress, but a flying duck Congress that gets to the levels that the American people expect; of cooperation and of success. If we do so, we can focus on creating the jobs and opportunities that our people need so they can make it in America.

I look forward not only with the Democratic Leaders, but with our Republican colleagues as well. To do what America wants us to do, get this country on a fiscally sustainable, credible path. So that we can grow economy, get jobs and preserve opportunity for all our people.

And now I’m pleased to yield to someone who has done that all of his life. Been re-elected unanimously as our Assistant Leader, who has been my friend for some fifty years and who will continue to be a strong voice not only on behalf middle class Americans, but as he said today in his acceptance speech, on behalf of all those, who strive for the opportunities America has promised them and reach the middle class and yes, the heights that their talents and their efforts will allow them to do so. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, our Assistant Leader.

Assistant Leader Clyburn: Thank you. Thank you very much Steny. Thank you for your friendship and thank you so much for your leadership. And I want to thank our leader, who I have been very, very privledged to serve with and who I have admired for many, many years for her tremendous leadership to this Caucus. I look forward to working with Chair Becerra and Vice Chair Crowley, I know, that working with our ranking member on Budget, we are going to get to where we need to be in this great country of ours.

I believe that all of us are well aware, that all of the issues we are discussing today, were fully vetted in this campaign- the national campaign we just had. And the American people acted, on that on November 6th. And what were the results? Our President was re-elected by more than three million popular votes.

Democrats, holding fast to our agenda, went before the American and the Democrats in the Congress, all four hundred and thirty five of the House of Representatives running again, two hundred and one Democrats were elected. However, we got somewhere between five hundred thousand and a million more votes than Republicans did. So, I believe that these issues have been acted on by American people in a way that indicates that they approve of what the President is doing and the proposals we have lead out.

As Steny said, I have always said, that if the distance between me and an opponent on any issue are five steps, I don’t mind taking three of them. And I would hope that our Republican colleagues will honor the work put forth by Senate Democrats with their budget, a plan over here that’s not been acted on.

As the Leader said, we have voted. Democrats have voted for over a trillion dollars in cuts. We’ve demonstrated our willingness to do what needs to be done and to compromise on these issues. I hope that we can get a like movement from the other side of the aisle.

And with that I’d like to introduce, as our Vice Chair, and present, an outstanding guy, who has no problems being seen when he walks into a room. Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Crowley.

Vice Chair Crowley: Thank you all and thank you, Jim, very much for that warm introduction. I want to thank - for a moment there, I was a boy from Woodside, Queens.

I want to tell you what an honor it is for me personally to serve in this Caucus and with this leadership, with Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, Xavier Becerra, as our Chair, and certainly with Chris Van Hollen, who’s done such an outstanding job on the Budget Committee. And to represent, in this leadership, our Caucus and their dreams, their goals, their aspirations, not for themselves, but for the American people. And their desire, as it is the American people’s desire, to get our country and keep our country moving in the right direction. To help this economy continue to grow and create jobs for Americans who desperately want them and need them. And to work hard. That’s what they sent us here to do. And that’s my intention to do as the Vice Chair of this Caucus, to work hard on behalf of this Caucus and the American people.

And with that, I give you the man with the know-all on the Budget issue, our great friend, Chris Van Hollen.

Ranking Member Van Hollen: Well let me start by joining our colleagues, Joe, and congratulating you on becoming the Vice Chairman of the Democratic Caucus. A great day, and we look forward to working with you. To Xavier Becerra, congratulations on being elected the Chairman. And it’s a great privilege to be here with Leader Pelosi and our other colleagues as we confront the major issues and challenges this country is facing today.

Assistant Leader Clyburn said that our job is to fulfill America’s promise. That’s the job of Democrats. That’s the job of Republicans. That should be the job of everybody in this Congress. And the President and those of us in the Democratic Caucus have made clear we have two really important priorities in getting there. One is to accelerate the economic recovery and help put more people back to work.

Now, we saw some promising numbers today. And the last thing we want to do is slide backwards. We’ve got to move forward. That’s why the President has put together a plan to accelerate economic growth, put more people back to work, invest in our country, and invest in our future. We also recognize that over the long term, we have to reduce our long term deficits. That’s also important to long term economic growth. And as we have said, we need to do that in a balanced way. We recognize we have to make some difficult cuts over that period of time, but we also know we need to have additional revenue.

As Leader Pelosi said when we passed the Budget Control Act, we agreed to a trillion dollars plus in cuts over the next ten years. That was 100 percent in cuts. Now were saying we want to take the same kind of balanced approach to cuts that every bipartisan group has recommended. A combination of cuts but also revenue by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more to reduce our deficit so that we don’t put the entire burden on seniors on Medicare, cutting our kids’ education, cutting investments in the future.

That’s exactly what the President has called for. That’s what we have called for. That’s why we’ve asked Speaker Boehner to move forward immediately with the middle class tax cut, because it’s important to make sure that middle income families go out here and keep buying goods and services to help the economy. And it’s really important that the economy not slide backward. But it’s also important that we make clear that we’re going to reduce our long term deficit and that does mean asking higher income earners simply to go back to the rates they were paying during the Clinton administration.

So we should take up that bill, Tom Coburn, part of the Republican Caucus, made that point—excuse me, Tom Cole, a very distinguished member of the Republican caucus made that point today. Let’s move forward where we agree and continue to work on these other issues in the days and weeks ahead.

So again, it’s great to be a part of this team on behalf of a great Democratic Caucus.

Chairman Becerra: This is the leadership team for the 113th Congress. And we want to make sure we do acknowledge a member of our leadership team of the 112th Congress who will be an outgoing member, the current Chairman of our Caucus, the gentleman from Connecticut, John Larson, who was not only rousingly acknowledged in our Caucus meeting, but who was acknowledged as having been someone who gave great service and provided great leadership to the Democrats in the 111th and 112th Congress. And so we wish to acknowledge our current Chairman, John Larson for all the work that he has done.

And with that, we'll now take some questions.

Q: Leader Pelosi, after talking to the President last night, meeting with Secretary Geithner this morning, Speaker Boehner just came out and told reporters no substantive progress had been made on the fiscal cliff talks, in his view because Democrats are not serious about spending cuts. You've been very optimistic but this seems like a major snag.

Leader Pelosi: Well, I think that we don't agree on a set of facts. We are telling you here that we are not only saying that we support spending cuts, we have voted for over $1 trillion—in fact, in this very Congress, close to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts. And so we're on the record as doing that. It simply is not a fact that we are not supporting the cuts.

The President has said pass the middle income tax cut. Never have we seen a situation that is so high profile, that people are so aware of because so much is at stake, of budget discussions here that practically mirror the budget discussions that people have around their kitchen table. This $2,000 that middle income-class families will receive for this budget cut, or continue to have, is something that makes a real difference to America's working families. And as the distinguished Ranking Member Mr. Van Hollen said, they can then go out and buy things. As Tom Cole said, let's give a Christmas present to the American people.

And all we're saying is we're willing to make the cuts, we want to cut back to the revenue rates under the Clinton era which were part of and enabled the private sector to have historic economic growth, creating over 20 million jobs. And we think jobs are central to our economic recovery. Not only do the alleviate the need for social services, they inject demand into the economy and create jobs. So it's about confidence for the consumer, it's about confidence for the markets. It's very, very important that we decide to take honor our responsibilities to the American people.

So the facts are different than as you presented. I didn't hear what he said, but if he said we have not been serious about cuts, we voted for them. We know they're necessary. We want the middle income tax cut to be passed. The President has pen in hand, the Senate has voted on it, Democrats in the House support it. It only remains for the Republicans in the House to move the bill. This is very similar to what happened with the payroll tax holiday, you recall. The President was calling for it, the Senate voted for it, House Democrats wanted it, Republicans isolated themselves and painted themselves really in the corner, and then they had to come around. I think they'll come around.

Q: Do you agree with the characterization that there's been little substantial progress in talks, however? And the point they would make on the spending cuts is that, you know, it's a $16 trillion deficit, so while some cuts may have already been agreed to, there need to be more.

Leader Pelosi: No, no, no. $1.5 trillion in cuts is a lot of money. I know we're in Washington, D.C. and we get used to big numbers. But $1.5 trillion in cuts, you go beyond that, you're talking about hurting the growth of our infrastructure, the education of our people, the very pillars, the very pillars of our economic strength, not to mention the economic and health security of our seniors and the American people and their families.

I'm going to yield to my colleagues on this, but I don't think we should be dismissing $1.5 trillion. And all we're asking the Republicans to do is to let this high-income tax cuts expire. That's $800 billion. So if you think $1.5 trillion isn't much, you must think $800 billion—you have to see it in that perspective. But I'm going to yield to Steny on this—

Whip Hoyer: Well, I think the fact of the matter is—the Leader's said, each one of us have said—we're prepared to move forward to meet this problem and this challenge. And we're going to do it successfully. But the fact of the matter is every group that has met—every group—that has met on this in a bipartisan basis has said it needs to be a balanced program. It needs to be revenue and it needs to be restraints in spending or cuts. The Leader has pointed out that we've already voted for substantial cuts.

We are now asking and urging and agreeing with Tom Cole. We have agreement. The American public are hungry for seeing their Representatives agree. We do agree. Everybody, as I understand it, in the Congress, almost—95, 98, 99, maybe 100 percent—agree to the fact that middle class in American should not receive a tax increase. The Senate has passed in a bipartisan fashion a bill which will preclude all of those middle class, working Americans from getting any tax increase on January 1. The first thing we ought to do is pass that bill, because we all agree on that. There's not disagreement. The second thing we ought to do is work, and we're meeting with Secretary Geithner and Mr. Nabors today, the Republican leadership has met as well—we ought to agree to move forward in a balanced way. And we're prepared to do that. Balance is the key.

Chairman Becerra: I apologize; one more question.

Q: This language, though, from the Speaker, and I know you all weren't there. [Inaudible] You come with a degree of optimism here, does it concern you he's saying that after he walks out of a meeting with Treasury Secretary?

Leader Pelosi: It's a tactic. It's a tactic. But the facts are these: the American people expect and deserve us to honor our responsibility for them to manage this issue in a way that does not harm our economic growth, that does create jobs, that is big, bold and balanced in reducing the deficit. We an do that. In fact, you've heard them say that the President walked away from such an agreement last summer. Well, the fact is the President didn't walk away from it. They walked away from it. But let's go back to that place. If they think the President walked away, well, let's meet them at that place again. That's a good place to start. $4 trillion in deficit reduction. President said yes, the Republicans took a hike. They can hike on back. But the fact is we are not serving the public will to issue any ultimatum, put any conditions and the rest unless they are in furtherance of job creation, deficit reduction and fairness for the American people.

I just want to say, associating myself with the remarks made by our new Chairman Becerra about retiring Chairman John Larson. One of the things that I have said, quoting Walter Reuther, "The bread box and the ballot box cannot be separated." We're talking now about how we fight about the battle of the budget, how we have that debate, how we try to find common ground. That's really important. But the politics of that debate are affected by the politics of elections. And we must have electoral reform. And that's why I've issued the D.A.R.E.—disclose, amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, reform, have campaign finance reform, and enforce the law, let's have voting, a national law that says people have to be able to vote in one hour. I have asked John Larson to chair a leadership task force to put together a legislative agenda that we can introduce in the first days of the new Congress. So I salute him for his service, look forward to continuing to work with him. Something very important, very essential to strengthening our democracy, where we have a government of the many, not the government of the money.

Thank you all very much. We look forward to seeing you. Well, I'll see you tomorrow, but, along the way. Thank you.

House Democrats

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