Washington, D.C. — House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) on Wednesday called for an end to the dysfunction under House Republican leadership and pledged to defend his values against extremism by the majority.
His remarks to an audience at the Center for American Progress IDEAS Conference came just before the House elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as House speaker, more than three chaotic weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted from the post.
“It is time to end the chaos, end the dysfunction, end the extremism that we’ve really seen from the beginning of this Congress all the way through to this moment,” Jeffries told MSNBC’s Ari Melber in a live interview.
Jeffries said his party would try to find common ground with the House majority “whenever and wherever possible, while at the same time making clear that we’re going to defend our values, we’re going to defend democracy, and we’re going to push back against their extremism whenever necessary.” That includes fighting for things that matter, such as lower costs, better-paying jobs, safer communities, and building an economy that grows the middle class.
Jeffries said Johnson has a pleasant demeanor, “but his voting record is as extreme as the most extreme members of their conference with very few exceptions.”
He noted that Johnson voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election, has a track record of trying to undermine social security and Medicare, and wants to impose a nationwide abortion ban.
Jeffries pledged to “continue to forcefully push back against that extremism and lay out what the stakes are for the American people” in terms of finding bipartisan common ground. That includes avoiding government shutdowns, providing aid to Ukraine and Israel, and getting humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
He said that Johnson and Democrats have agreed on some issues in the past, such as the U.S.-Mexico trade agreement and bipartisan legislation for criminal justice reform. But he noted that Johnson recently voted against funding for Ukraine.
He expects the Senate to act in a bipartisan way on President Joe Biden’s $105 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and border security, and he urged the House not to try to separate aid to Ukraine.
“We don’t believe that the pro-Putin caucus, which exists in the House Republican caucus right now, should dictate foreign policy,” he said. “You can either stand on the side of the free world or bend the knee to Vladimir Putin.”
The CAP IDEAS Conference brings together elected officials and other leaders from around the country to discuss urgent policy challenges and the big ideas fueling the progressive movement. This year, the event celebrates CAP’s 20th anniversary as a leading think tank that helps generate and implement progressive policies.
Video of the discussions is available online at “2023 CAP IDEAS Conference.”
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at firstname.lastname@example.org.