WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries joined Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan, where he emphasized that House Democrats remain committed to protecting our economy from a devastating default and a job-killing recession.
BRENNAN: House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries joins us now from his district in Brooklyn. Good morning to you. Let’s get straight to it. Can you deliver a majority of Democrats?
JEFFRIES: Well, good morning, Margaret. I do look forward to the White House briefing that’s going to take place later on this afternoon with the House Democratic Caucus, we’ll be able to have a robust discussion. But let me say this, President Biden has delivered a result that avoids a catastrophic default, that prevents us from our economy crashing and stops the extreme MAGA Republicans from triggering a job-killing recession, which, as we’ve seen over the last week or two, increasingly seem to have been a position that they were taking for political reasons.
BRENNAN: Okay well, we’ll only avoid a default if you can get the votes to get it through. Speaker McCarthy predicted this morning he can get a majority of Republicans. He says some Democrats, he thinks, will vote for it. But he also quoted something he says you told him. Listen.
MCCARTHY [VIDEO]: I think there’s going to be a lot of Democrats who are going to vote for it too. Right now, the Democrats are very upset. The one thing Hakeem told me, there’s nothing in the bill for them. There’s not one thing in the bill for Democrats.
BRENNAN: Did you say that? And how do you convince Democrats?
JEFFRIES: I have no idea what he’s talking about, particularly because I have not been able to review the actual legislative text. All that we’ve reached is an agreement in principle that what I’ve consistently–
BRENNAN: Did you even talk to him?
JEFFRIES: Both privately– I talked to him yesterday afternoon. But I haven’t talked to him since that point in time. What I’ve consistently said, however, privately and publicly, was that the extreme MAGA Republican negotiating position and that the extreme bill that they passed on April 26 – the Default on America Act – contained nothing that was consistent with Democratic values or American values.And it was unreasonable to think that that negotiating position was going to be able to result in a resolution that would make sense for the American people, when he understood and everyone understood that a bipartisan resolution was the only way forward to avoid a catastrophic default.
BRENNAN: And that’s a bill that is going nowhere. In terms of the one that was, or is being written as we speak, the head of the Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, said on CNN this morning, you need to worry about the left flank of the party. She has 102 members in that Caucus. How many Democratic defections do you expect?
JEFFRIES: Well, I’ve had several conversations with Pramila Jayapal over the last several days and will continue to do so, and I expect that she’ll be part of the Caucus briefing that takes place later on today. Here’s what I can say, is that the agreement that was reached in principle by President Biden does several important things. In addition to avoiding a devastating default that would hurt everyday Americans, it protects Social Security, it protects Medicare, it protects Medicaid, it protects veterans, it protects the American people–
BRENNAN: She’s concerned about environmental–
JEFFRIES: And devastating spending cuts–
BRENNAN: Environmental policy changes and food stamps–
JEFFRIES: Hold on, I’ll get to that. It protects the American people from the types of devastating spending cuts that were proposed by Republicans in their Default on America Act. Those are incredibly significant steps forward. Now, in terms of the permitting issue, I haven’t had the opportunity, nor have any of us had the opportunity to review what the proposed language may ultimately be in terms of the permitting situation. In terms of SNAP, as I understand it – and again, we’ll have the opportunity to review that language in a few hours when it is released – but as I understand it, it will actually result in an expansion of eligibility for people like veterans and the homeless because of changes made to exemptions as a result of what will be in this agreement, in terms of the original 1996 law that was passed.
BRENNAN: According to the White House, it’s going to relax work requirements for veterans and homeless people, but it still pushes up the age to 54 from 49. Are you implying, do you mean to say here that the White House hasn’t kept you fully briefed on the details?
JEFFRIES: The White House has, of course, kept all of us fully briefed every step of the way. However, I do think that as the White House has indicated, this is only an agreement in principle. There will not be a final agreement until we all are able to review the actual legislative text.
BRENNAN: Okay. The White House is still calling this a budget deal and a separate debt limit increase. But McCarthy says it’s a 150 pages bill and not a clean debt ceiling increase. Is this one vote, one bill?
JEFFRIES: That remains to be seen. And ultimately, that’s a decision that House Republicans have as their prerogative to make. I do hope and expect to see a significant number of House Republicans voting for this agreement. It’s my understanding that they are committed to producing at least 150 votes, if not more. They were the ones who negotiated this agreement with the White House, and I expect that they will provide a significant number of votes to get it over the finish line.
BRENNAN: Okay, so 150 Republicans, you need something in the range of 70 Democrats. Do you think you have that?
JEFFRIES: Well, I do expect that there will be Democratic support once we have the ability to actually be fully briefed by the White House. But I’m not going to predict what those numbers may ultimately look like. We have to go through a process consistent with respecting every single member of the House of Representatives and their ability to fully understand the resolution that has been reached.
BRENNAN: Okay. Well, Jim Himes of Connecticut, not a progressive, said this morning, if this vote fails, I think we’re going to see the kind of market reaction that none of us want to see. Can you deliver a vote? Can you deliver someone like him? Can you deliver a vote that wins on the first try? He’s talking about a market crash.
JEFFRIES: Well, we have to, of course, avoid a market crash. We have to avoid tanking the economy. We have to avoid a default. The reason why we’re in this situation from the very beginning is that extreme MAGA Republicans made the determination that they were going to use the possibility of default to hold the economy and everyday Americans hostage—
JEFFRIES: Period, full stop—
BRENNAN: But that’s where we are right now. And that negotiation happened. You negotiated with them, so here we are.
JEFFRIES: And that’s why I’m thankful that President Biden has reached a resolution. And that’s also why I’m thankful that notwithstanding the fact that they were trying to jam ten-year spending caps down the throats of the American people, we were able to apparently match up a freeze in spending consistent with 2023 levels, 2023 levels, not the 2022 levels that they were trying to extract–
BRENNAN: There’s some disagreement–
JEFFRIES: And make sure that we avoided a catastrophic default.
BRENNAN: There’s some disagreement on those, but we don’t have the text, so we’ll just have to wait on that. But I want to ask about the backup plan. 213 Democrats voted for this discharge petition, this idea of being able to vote to lift the debt ceiling, even if Republicans if the Republican leaders, and do it, you’d need five Republicans. Can you do that? Can you guarantee people that we will not see a default?
BRENNAN: All right. Hakeem Jeffries. Glad to have you with us. Hopefully we see you here in person next time. Full interview can be watched here.