Politics

Transcript: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York that aired Sunday, May 22, 2022, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re joined now by New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. He’s the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and he is in San Diego, California this morning. Good morning to you. Congressman.

CONGRESSMAN HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to get to you on some of this poll data that you also heard here specifically young people, Hispanics and half of Black Americans say the president has been too slow to react. His ratings on effectiveness are low. Perceptions of competence are low. A majority of Democrats now say the economy is bad. How does your party hold on to the majority?

REP. JEFFRIES: I’m very confident that we will be able to hold on to the majority. President Biden has done a very good job under incredibly difficult circumstances. I understand that the electorate, of course, is going to be unsettled, experiencing COVID fatigue, inflationary pressures, high gas prices, a war in Ukraine, a radical, extreme Republican Party that doesn’t appear to believe in democracy any longer. And so this is a tough moment for our country but President Biden has been very decisive in his leadership, beginning with the American Rescue Plan. We rescued the economy, put shots in arms and money in pockets, Kids back in school, laid the foundation for a robust economic recovery that has led to more than 8 million good paying jobs being created and unemployment at 3.6%. That’s a tremendous start. Of course, there’s more that needs to be done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, and, you know, inflation, as you heard, is the chief concern, but specifically on looking like the president is reacting too slow and not taking action. Talk to me about a specific issue, police reform, for example. It’s been two years- it’ll be two years this weekend since the killing of George Floyd and the national protests that followed. The President has been looking at an executive order on police reform for months now, continues to say it’s coming. Does he need to act on something specific like that before November?

REP. JEFFRIES: It’s my hope and expectation that we will see some further decisive action from the administration. It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves in this position because Senator Tim Scott decided to walk away from negotiations that were bipartisan in nature. In terms of striking the right balance between–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Democrats walked away in the Senate on that one. But on the question of the President, is the urgency on police reform fading?

REP. JEFFRIES: I think the president has said it correctly, that we are going to lean into public safety, make sure we strengthen the relationship between the police and the community, that we confront the rise in gun violence, and that we also invest in young people, in violence interruption, and making sure that young people have access to extracurricular programming, summer enrichment programs, summer jobs, and the things that allow for them to live a productive life and not be put in the position where they are influenced by destructive behavior around them.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, for fellow Democrats who are up for election, this bit from our poll may stand out. More than a third of Democrats call their own party weak, and that is particularly acute among young people, 41%. That could hurt your turnout. How do you respond to that? Is that- is there time for change here in terms of congressional leadership?

REP. JEFFRIES: No, I think led by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer we’ve been acting decisively. Just this week we responded by passing legislation to address the price gouging that we believe, particularly as it relates to the oil and gas industry, is taking place and hurting the American consumer. We, of course, passed legislation to deal with the rise in domestic terrorism and white supremacy–

MARGARET BRENNAN: The President said that law wasn’t needed.

REP. JEFFRIES: Unfortunately, every single Republican with- except for about one or two, voted against this in the immediate aftermath of the tragic massacre in Buffalo. So, we are acting decisively. But I think we do have to crystallize the differences between what we’re about and what Republicans are all about. It’s clear that Washington Republicans want to raise taxes on everyday Americans, on police officers, on firefighters, on nurses, on factory workers, on grocery store clerks, and we are trying to provide them with relief. The Republicans, including your prior guest, actually want to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it in five years, forcing it to sunset. Those are serious differences between the two parties. And I think once the voters understand that dynamic, the choice will be as clear as a sunny day in San Diego.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you a bit about what’s happening in your home state of New York. We’ve talked on this program previously about the redistricting that has been happening around the country, New York, to Democrats advantage largely. But you’ve had this fight internally over the congressional map. Bottom line, did Democrats put their own communities at risk in your state by gerrymandering it to the degree they did?

REP. JEFFRIES: Well, the Court of Appeals was wrong in the decision that they made, both on the substance and in terms of turning over redistricting to an out-of-town unelected Special Master and a judicial overseer in Steuben County, who’s a Republican- leaning partisan–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –Democrats controlled your state legislature. This was the Democrat led process, even though I know you’re talking about the court right now..

REP. JEFFRIES: Right. Well, the process, unfortunately, was hijacked by the Court of Appeals. A bad process has now led to a bad result. You’re talking about five different congressional districts where the Black and Latino population was degraded. The only most significant Jewish district in the country has been detonated for no good reason.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think for a file- a case to file in court?

REP. JEFFRIES: I think that the lawyers are taking a close look at that. But here’s what’s most important, we’re going to remain united because we believe in a very simple vision for America. Work hard, play by the rules. You should be able to provide a comfortable living for yourself and for your family. Educate your children, purchase a home, and retire with grace and dignity.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you, Congressman. We’ll be right back.

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