Feb 1, 2023
House GOP Leaders Stefanik and Scalise Hold Weekly News Briefing Transcript
House GOP Leaders Stefanik and Scalise Hold Weekly News Briefing. Read the transcript here.
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Elise Stefanik (00:00):
Good morning. This week house Republicans are voting on legislation to restore our constitutional rights and freedoms after two long years of Democrats Covid 19 power grab policies. The extended Covid lockdowns, like the ones we saw in my home state of New York, caused irreparable damage to our children’s development, financial strain on our small businesses, and unnecessary deaths among our most vulnerable seniors due to former disgrace, governor Andrew Cuomo’s deadly and fatal Nursing Home order. Under the guise of Covid 19, Democrats authoritarian policies weaponized the federal government, forced unconstitutional vaccine mandates, and cost hundreds of billions in waste and abuse of Americans hard-earned taxpayer dollars. This week, house Republicans will pass a bill that will force the federal government to acknowledge what the American people already know, the pandemic is over. In addition, the Freedom for Healthcare Workers Act will end the unconstitutional Covid 19 vaccine mandates that cost our healthcare workers, who bravely served on the front lines in the wake of the pandemic. It cost them their livelihoods and caused a crisis of staffing shortages nationwide.
House Republicans will also pass the Show Up Act. Americans across the country show up to work every day, there is no reason why federal employees should not be held to the same standard. House Republicans will deliver on our promises to hold Democrats accountable for their failed COVID 19 policies. And as the conference chair, every week we are highlighting one of our newly elected freshman members, and I’m honored to introduce our next speaker, Laurel Lee, newly elected from Florida’s 15th District. Laurel.
Laurel Lee (01:40):
Thank you, Chairman Stefanik. Good morning everyone. It is a pleasure to be here. I proudly represent Florida’s 15th Congressional District, and I am proud today to support measures to end the Public Health Emergency Order and Covid 19-era mandates, requiring federal employees to show back up to work. Throughout the pandemic, Florida said no to unnecessary regulations. We kept our citizens safe and our businesses open. In Florida, we safely and effectively kept our children in school, protected small businesses and protected families. We kept our state free. Emergency powers should be used only when necessary, only for as long as necessary, and in a manner that is consistent with the law. It is time for the rest of the country to join Florida and end unnecessary Covid-era regulations and restrictions and allow our businesses and our families to thrive. And with that, I will turn it over to Chairman Comer.
Chairman Comer (02:47):
Well, thank you and good morning. It’s great to be here today with Chairwoman Stefanik and members of our Republican leadership team in conference. This week, the Oversight Committee will kick off a very busy oversight agenda with our first hearing, investigating the massive waste of taxpayer dollars in pandemic spending. For the past two years, Democrats did not conduct a single hearing of oversight, of what may turn out to be the greatest theft of American taxpayer dollars in history. After rushing through inflation inducing government spending under the guise of pandemic relief, hundreds of billions of dollars have been stolen from American taxpayers, lining the pockets of criminals and foreign adversaries. But under Republican leadership, the Oversight Committee’s returning to its primary duty to root out waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in the federal government. We owe it to the American people to provide answers about how their money, whether spent under the Trump administration or Biden administration was squandered. And we must identify solutions to prevent it from happening again.
This week, we’re also sending a strong message to the Biden administration. It’s time to get back to work in person for the American people. Tomorrow the house will consider the Show Up Act, to make sure our government shows up for the American people we are here to serve. For years now, Americans have suffered because of the federal government’s detrimental pandemic-era telework policies. Recent reports show that two out of three workers still haven’t returned to their office full-time. President Biden’s unnecessary expansion of telework has crippled the ability of agencies to get their jobs done and created massive backlogs. Seniors have experienced delays with the Social Security Administration. American taxpayers have struggled to get help from the IRS during tax filing season, and veterans have been unable to access their records. The Show Up Act ensures our government shows up for the people we are here to serve because American workers across the country show up every day. Federal employees should follow their example. And with that, it’s my pleasure to turn it over to our Whip, Tom Emmer.
Tom Emmer (04:52):
Thank you, Jamie. Last week, House Republicans passed the Strategic Production Response Act to counteract Joe Biden’s reckless abuse of our strategic petroleum reserve. In the first open rule, held on the house floor since 2015, House Republicans came together. We stood united against Democrat poisoned pill amendments, and we won over and over and over again. This was a critical moment to deliver on a key tenant of our platform, American Energy Security. And this week, we’re going to continue winning. We’re going to continue winning for the American people who elected this Republican House Majority. We are denouncing socialism in all its forms, and we are moving the federal government away from its perpetual Covid state, giving healthcare workers more freedom and forcing career bureaucrats to start showing up for work again.
By the way, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but the White House is now responding directly to the House Republicans. They responded yesterday saying they’re going to end their Covid pandemic declaration in May. That’s too late, by the way. They’re taking notice. Everybody else should too. House Republicans are going to keep winning, and we’re just getting started. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to our Leader, Steve Scalise.
Steve Scalise (06:19):
Well, thank you Whip Emmer. Good morning, good to be with you. This week we have a busy schedule on the house floor focusing on getting America back on track. And I think if you look around the country and our great new member, Laurel Lee talked about this. There are many states that have already said, “We’re dealing with Covid, but we’ve got to move forward. We’ve got to open things back up again. We’ve got to get kids back in school again learning,” because we know the data’s very clear, they weren’t learning when schools were shut down. We saw so many problems by all of the shutdowns, and yet here in Washington, President Biden has still been operating under both the National Public Health Emergency and the Covid Emergency. And a long time ago, they should have ended. And as Republicans, when we ran, we said we would end these emergency declarations to open the country back up again.
And so last week when we announced that we would bring these two pieces of legislation to both end the National Emergency as well as the Covid Emergency, a lot of Democrats started scrambling, because they know that in their states these are causing major problems. And in fact, it also triggers… these emergencies triggers, billions of dollars a month in Washington spending that has nothing to do with Covid, but it’s hiding behind the guise of Covid, and there are some that still want to spend those billions of dollars wastefully, instead of saving those and giving that back to the American people. And so as we put it out there, clearly it’s caused some dilemmas amongst Democrats who were putting pressure on the White House. And finally, because as the Whip pointed out, we announced this last week, the White House yesterday finally said they will end these Public Health emergencies. The problem is, the President said he’s going to wait until May. Well, Mr. President, if you know it’s the right thing to do, don’t wait until May.
Let’s open our country back up again, get our economy back up again. Let these families get their lives moving forward. And so we’re going to continue to move this legislation. Hopefully we see an overwhelming bipartisan vote for them both because they would take effect immediately. And so we’re bringing those forward. We’re also bringing forward the Freedom for Healthcare Workers Act. At the beginning of Covid, all of us rightfully were applauding our frontline heroes. We were applauding all those healthcare workers who were showing up, treating Covid patients. And then you saw this administration while they started applauding them, ultimately, they said that they would have to be fired if they didn’t get the Covid vaccine. And thousands of healthcare workers were forced to lose their jobs over that vaccine mandate, that wasn’t even a law. It was a ruling that came out of CMS. And so what we are bringing forward is legislation to end that. Let’s get those healthcare workers back to work. Let’s continue to applaud them as the heroes that they are, not try to shame them or terminate their careers because they didn’t get vaccinated from Covid.
Obviously, with the other pieces of legislation to end the Declaration of the Pandemic, we are also bringing up the Show Up Act. Millions of Americans have already gone back to work. Americans show up every day to work. Washington shouldn’t be the last place to get back to work, it should have been the first, but yet as we see today, at many agencies, more than half of their federal workers are not showing up to work, and it’s hurting families back home across America. I know calls a lot of us get from constituents that are complaining about this every day, tell us that this process is broken. I get calls from veterans still who can’t get their proper Veterans Affairs benefits. These are people who served our country, risked their lives for our freedoms, and they can’t even get their paperwork processed because they might need records, and somebody at home is not able to get the access to those records because they’re not showing up for work. Our veterans showed up for work. Those employees at the federal level need to show up for work to help give them their benefits.
There’s still millions of taxpayers across the country in 2023 who still haven’t gotten their IRS return from 2021, because IRS agents aren’t showing up to work. This needs to end. People that are waiting on passports for more than six months at a time, because you can’t process a passport remotely from home. You need to show up at work. Families expect the federal government to do their jobs and work for them. They’re surely collecting their paychecks. It’s long past time that they show up for work as well. So we’re bringing all of these bills as well as a bill to denounce the horrors of socialism. Maria Elvira Salazar, who’s the author of the bill, has seen it herself. You talk about atrocities, we’ve seen from totality and dictatorships. Over a hundred million people worldwide have lost their lives to the horrors of socialism, and it’s about time Congress stands up and denounces it. I encourage all of my Democrat colleagues to join us in voting for that piece of legislation as well. So with that, we’ll be happy to take any questions. Chad.
Mr. Scalise, good morning, thank you. Do you anticipate an objection of your side of the aisle when the slate of members for the committee, including the Sworn Affairs Committee comes to the floor, if Congresswoman Omar, which I’ve seen the list, it just hasn’t gone to the floor, if there will be an objection? And if there is not an objection, would you then try to remove her from the committee? And do you think that there are the votes on the floor to remove her from the committee, if Mr. Steube and others are concerned?
Steve Scalise (11:45):
Well, first of all, the fact that the Democrats still haven’t submitted that list, it’s out there, the media has seen it.
I thought the hold up was on your side though. That you guys were waiting to get your list.
Steve Scalise (11:54):
No. We’ve named our members of committees. The Steering Committee has done its work. We’re waiting on the Democrats to submit their list because we want the committees to get up and running. There are only a few committees that the lists have come out from both sides, primarily A committees, the Rules Committee. But at the end of the day, speaker McCarthy has made it very clear in a whole conference, has been very vocal about the concerns to national security, both the Intelligence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee. Obviously you heard with Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, that they would not be allowed to serve on the Intelligence Committees again because of the access to classified sensitive information. That would be a very major concern. And by that same regard, the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ilhan Omar, we’ve all seen the quotes and things that she said over and over and over again as a member of Congress, that would create major problems if she were on the Foreign Affairs Committee. So if they brought that forward, which they haven’t yet, but if they did, then we would move to remove her as well.
What if there’s a two-step process? Would you object to that on the floor, which doesn’t usually happen, and if that doesn’t happen, would you then [inaudible 00:13:00]-
Steve Scalise (13:01):
Likely not object, but then go-
So, she would [inaudible 00:13:04]-
Steve Scalise (13:04):
… separately to remove her, as well as I pointed out, Swalwell and Schiff, from the Intelligence Committees.
And would you have the votes to remove her from Committee if a resolution came up? And [inaudible 00:13:13].
Steve Scalise (13:13):
Yeah. Obviously, we’ve been talking to our members and pointing out a lot of issues, because if you look at what we were very concerned about last Congress with Democrats removing Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from all of their committees. This is not the same in a number of regards. Number one, they went after Marjorie Taylor Greene for things that she had said before she was a member of Congress, that she denounced before she was a member of Congress. It was very personal, and they removed her from every committee. Even if Omar were to be removed from the Foreign Affairs Committee, she’d still be allowed to serve on other committees. So a lot of big differences. And if Omar is concerned about being removed, probably be good if you would ask her why she voted to remove Marjorie Taylor Greene and Gosar from their committees, because she did vote to do that. Yeah.
Speaker 7 (14:04):
Question on the debt ceiling. The President has said, he just announced, he’s going to release his budget March 9th, and he said, “When are the Republican’s going to release their budget?” What can you tell us about the House Republican budget? When’s it coming, what’s it going to look like? And what’s your message heading into this meeting with the Biden on Wednesday?
Steve Scalise (14:20):
Obviously, there’s timetables for releasing the budgets. The President’s budget is due, I believe, prior to that date. Ours is due in April. So I hope the President meets his deadline just like we’re going to work to meet our deadline. At the same time, what you see coming up with the debt ceiling, the debt ceiling is a symbol of Washington spending problem because the debt ceiling is literally the nation’s credit card. It’s got a maximum. And if you hit that maximum, and look, families have these conversations all the time, if they’re spending more money than they’re taking in, meaning you maxed out your credit card, President Biden said, “Just give me more money.” He just wants to spend more money. Said he wouldn’t even have a conversation with Speaker McCarthy. That’s an untenable position. It’s a recklessly irresponsible position for President Biden to take, to say, just give him more money so he can keep spending money that we don’t have.
We have got to get control over spending in Washington. And what Speaker McCarthy said is, we need to sit down, have a responsible adult conversation like families do. Because if a family maxes out the credit card, they’re not just going to go get another credit card or ask the bank to raise the limit, you obviously pay your minimum payment. You’re going to pay your debts, but you’re also going to have to have a responsible conversation about how we stop this from happening again. Is there no waste in the federal government that President Biden can agree to identify, to save taxpayer money?
And again, that’s what Speaker McCarthy laid out, and hopefully they’ll be able to start having that conversation. But I think when every family looks at their own budget, they look at the federal government and they see waste, billions, tens of billions, hundreds of billions of dollars in identified waste. We’ve identified hundreds of billions of dollars of payments, Covid related items that are going to people that don’t even have social security numbers, that don’t even live in America. Prisoners in prison getting checks from taxpayers. And President Biden said he doesn’t want to cut any waste? That’s irresponsible. It’s untenable. It’s about time we confront this problem.
Speaker 8 (16:18):
Mr. Scalise, as a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, you sponsored legislation mandating baseball style arbitration in blackouts, between broadcasters and MVPDs. Do you believe that DirecTV and Newsmax should pursue arbitration to eliminate the possibility of political bias in the decision to drop Newsmax?
Steve Scalise (16:40):
Well, I’m very concerned about political bias in all media. We’ve seen it with social media. We’re seeing it with some of the traditional media, whether it’s over the top, whether it’s broadcast. The idea that you would have some people pressuring, whether it’s AT&T or any other company, to stop carrying a news source because they don’t agree with the message, they don’t agree with a fair set of content, is concerning. We should be all promoting free speech. You’ve seen this of course with social media. Elon Musk, I think, has exposed a lot of what’s going on behind the scenes. In fact, the most alarming part is that there were federal agencies involved before Elon Musk purchased Twitter, in trying to get Twitter to take certain things down that went against their pro Biden narrative. Jamie Comer’s exposed a lot of this already, and his committee’s going to still be finding more of it regarding the Hunter Biden laptop, which really shows things that Joe Biden himself was doing. And yet the social media working with the Justice Department was shutting that down. Shutting down accounts, shutting down the New York Post account. That’s very alarming.
Speaker 8 (17:50):
Steve Scalise (17:52):
Well, what my arbitration legislation dealt with was more how the fee structures work, especially as it relates to blackouts. And as you pointed out, what I want is a more free market in video regulation and content, because the problem you have there right now is the rules are very different for over the top, whether you get cable, a lot of cable monopolies at the local level are negotiated differently than satellite, or than fiber, or than internet provided services. And so you have different federal rules for all the different forms of content. And a person at home doesn’t really care if they get TV on their phone or at their smart TV at home. They don’t really care what those rules are and the rules should be the same. And so we’re trying to get those rules making some more sense.
Speaker 9 (18:39):
Steve Scalise (18:39):
Speaker 10 (18:40):
Given what we know now about George Santos fabricating major portions of his life, I’m wondering, Congresswoman Stefanik, you supported him during his campaign. Do you regret supporting him? Do you regret introducing him to donors and fundraising for him now that he’s admitted to many of these lies?
Elise Stefanik (18:56):
Sure. Like all of my colleagues, particularly in New York State, I supported George Santos as the nominee and the people of his district voted to elect him. Now, we just got out of conference and George has voluntarily removed himself from committees as he goes through this process. But ultimately, voters decide. And I’m very proud that in New York State, we flipped five districts to help deliver us the majority. And ultimately, voters make this decision about who they elect to Congress.
Speaker 10 (19:24):
Did he resign? Do you think he should resign?
Elise Stefanik (19:26):
Again, this process is going to play itself out. I’ve already commented on this numerous times, and again, it’s going to play itself out. But ultimately, voters are going to make that decision. Whether it’s in the primary election or in the general election. Thank you.
Speaker 11 (19:39):
One more on policy Mr. Scalise. One more on policy.
Speaker 8 (19:40):
Speaker 11 (19:42):
On Police Reporting Act-
Steve Scalise (20:00):
Can you come walk?
Speaker 11 (20:00):
Chairman Comer (20:00):
I can be the door man. Okay. No, no, no. We need to do that.
Speaker 12 (20:05):
Ladies and gentlemen, we’re about to begin. Please silence your phones. Thank you.
Speaker 13 (20:38):
Good afternoon. So we’ve had a busy few days at a pivotal time for the region. The United States is determined to work with our partners to foster a more stable, secure, and prosperous Middle East. The horrific terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, the escalation of violence in the West Bank, have underscored the significant challenges to security and stability that the region faces and that we face.
We began this trip in Cairo where I met with President Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry-