NPR Interviews Hakeem Jeffries, House Minority Leader

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In an interview on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep spoke with new House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) about how he’s keeping the House Democratic Caucus together, how he plans to work with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and how Democrats hope to be able to raise the debt ceiling without major concessions.

Highlights are available below and can be cited with attribution to NPR. Listen to the interview HERE

On working with House Republicans:

“Speaker McCarthy and I have had some very positive, forward looking conversations about trying to figure out where we can find common ground. We know we are going to strongly disagree in certain areas. That means that we should lean in even harder to try to figure out where the areas of common ground might be in order to deliver.

SI: I want to clarify this. A year or two back, you said McCarthy is not a serious person because he had sold himself effectively to Donald Trump. But you’re saying you’re now in a room with him and having productive conversations.

HJ: Kevin McCarthy was elected as the speaker of the United States House of Representatives. I think he has the confidence of the overwhelming majority of his caucus, his conference, as evidenced by the fact that eventually he got there in terms of being the speaker.”

On the debt ceiling:

“We’ve incurred these bills. We need to pay them. In fact, in the 247-year history of the United States of America, with the debt that we have, 25% of it was incurred during the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency. And so, one, we’re not going to be lectured about fiscal responsibility. Two, we want to make clear to the American people that the debt ceiling discussion is all about paying bills that have already been incurred. And three, we are not going to negotiate with individuals who have a gun to the head of the American people, the economy, Social Security and Medicare, by threatening to default on our debt.”

On whether House Democrats will negotiate with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling:

“There is a difference between a compromise and a ransom note. And so let me be clear. We are not going to pay a ransom note to extremists in the other party. However, as President Biden has indicated, there’s a time and a place to have a discussion about future spending.”

On what leverage Democrats have to raise the debt ceiling without major concessions:

“We will be able to, at the end of the day, convince a handful of reasonable Republicans in the House to do what the business community throughout America have suggested needs to be done. What the U.S. Chamber of Commerce believes needs to be done. What Wall Street says needs to be done. Which is to make sure we pay America’s bills that have already been incurred.”