Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered the following remarks today at a ‘Witness Wednesday’ press conference, led by Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) and hosted by Ways and Means Committee Democrats and the Center for Effective Government, to share personal stories of the long-term unemployed and to discuss the need for Congress to immediately extend emergency unemployment insurance. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
“I am pleased to be here. I’m a Baptist, and from time to time, the preacher will say, ‘I want a witness!’ And what the preacher means is he wants someone to get up and say ‘amen, what you say is what we need to be saying.’
“We had a press conference on the front of the Capitol setting forth an agenda. The issue for the American people is: are the people in this House on their side or do the people in this House say to them, ‘you’re on your own.’ That’s the issue. Unfortunately, the [Republican] leadership in this House has told people who, though no fault of their own, have lost their jobs and can’t find another one – ‘you’re on your own. You’re worried about it because we’re not worried about it. We don’t have time to deal with it because we’re doing tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America. You’re on your own.’
“Katherine [McFate, President and CEO of the Center for Effective Government], thank you very much for your leadership on this issue. And [Rep.] Dan Kildee – what a hero he is, being on the side of those who need an advocate. I want to thank him, and I want to thank the Center for Effective Government for organizing these ‘Witness Wednesdays.’ What a wonderful alliterative, but meaningful and important, effort to draw attention to the hardships experienced by those who have lost their emergency unemployment insurance – again, through no fault of their own.
“Republican obstruction in the House has led to over 3 million Americans being cut off from this assistance while they continue to look for work. Now, why do I say Republican obstruction? Ladies and gentleman, in that House there are a Majority of the Members who would vote to pass an extension of emergency unemployment insurance. Obstructionism is that [Republican leaders] will not bring it to the Floor because their concept is: ‘you’re on your own.’ This is simply reprehensible. These are responsible Americans who are trying to find work and are facing the toughest job market we’ve faced in decades.
“The American people need a Congress on their side, which is what Democrats are fighting for – not the Republican Congress we have today, which simply says to all the American people, ‘you’re on your own.’
“In my district, I’ve heard from a number of Marylanders who are facing very difficult challenges trying to make ends meet. One of them is Kevin Wingo of Bowie, Maryland, just down the road here a few miles. He’s a twenty-year veteran of the Air Force who served on Air Force One. After his retirement, he worked for ten years in the private sector and was laid off in 2011. He then had a one-year contract that wasn’t renewed last August. Last August, almost eleven and a half months ago, laid off and looking for work, worked all his life, and can’t find a job. He also has a daughter who will be going to college soon and worries that his employment situation might affect her bright future and their future.
“He wrote, and I quote, ‘I have given a majority of my life to this country, and all I ask is that they show me the same respect and help a Veteran who is at the end of his rope.’ Too many Americans believe they’re at the end of the rope and they’re alone, that they’re on their own. ‘Witness Wednesday’ is to say to all of them and to say to the leadership of that House: that’s not what America is.
“In America, we’re in this together. We’re there to reach out, to lift up, to help and make a difference. We need to be witnesses this Wednesday and every day. Thank you very much.”