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There’s a ‘lack of will’ in Congress to extend unemployment benefits: Rep. Kildee

Rep. Dan Kildee, (D) Michigan & Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus joins the Yahoo Finance Live with the latest from D.C.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: For more, though, on where we go from here and the recovery efforts moving forward, I want to bring on Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee joining us right now. Of course, he's also the Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Caucus. And Representative Kildee, appreciate you taking the time to chat about this.

Obviously, as Jess was walking through there, disappointment on the jobs front. And President Biden did make the point of distinguishing what we've seen in terms of the stock market performing well versus the underlying economy and Americans who are still hurting as COVID really does surge here. So what was your reaction to the print we got and kind of where we're at in this recovery?

DAN KILDEE: Well, I think it does cause us to think hard about whether we're through this yet. I think we're not yet through it. The Delta variant is having an effect. There's no question about that. And I also think it does speak to some of the fundamental challenges that we face, that we would address with the infrastructure bill with the Build Back Better Act. So we're not through this yet. It is true that growth continues. We have averaged 750,000 jobs in the last several months. I think that's a positive step.

And it is important that we not give too much to a one-month jobs number. If we see the same thing next month, obviously, that's something to be a little bit more concerned with, if it's a trend. The upward adjustment in those numbers from previous months, for example, is a positive sign. But I think what this says is, this isn't over. We've got more work to do. And I join with the president in saying we ought to get about the business of doing that. Congress should act on the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better Act.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I want to get into that in a second. But also, you know, this slowdown here, at least in hiring, comes at an interesting time, specifically when we are seeing the roll-off of some of those benefits, including the $300 weekly benefits that were in place. That'll roll off this weekend. So I mean, when you look at that, I mean, I wonder the timing of it and kind of where Americans are at who were dependent on that and some of the other support. If that's not there anymore and you do see this worsen, I mean, what's kind of the need here to go back to maybe some of that support?

DAN KILDEE: Well, I think that's obviously something many of us would support, but it's going to be difficult. There's, I think, a lack of will in the House and Senate to move forward on extending unemployment benefits. Of course, many of my Republican colleagues believe that when those benefits expire, there would be a rush back to work. Look, I think we know most of the people who were not working were doing so because they were making decisions about how to take care of their families.

That's why the Build Back Better Act, not to be a broken record, why it's so important. I think what we see like in the restaurant sector, in the retail sector, one of the ways we can help people get back to work is guarantee that they have access to affordable child care. Many of the people staying out of work are staying out of work because they have to take care of their kids. So there are some fundamentals that go behind this. Obviously, this is a moment, a snapshot of the economy. But there are some fundamental challenges in our economy that we need to address if we ever expect to really have a full and complete recovery.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and I mean, just the numbers, too. And we saw that kind of in the report, the amount of Americans reporting that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business. The number grew 5.2 million in July to 5.6 in August. So I mean, that does kind of speak to what we're hearing. But when it comes to infrastructure, now let's get into the meat of this here because you've expressed your concerns at the inability to get bipartisan support around anything beyond what's defined now in the debate as conventional infrastructure like roads and bridges.

But it's not just all Republicans, too. I mean, we heard from Joe Manchin there in the Senate, moderate Democrats maybe also not on board. You obviously represent Flint in your district. I mean, talk to me about why it's so important to maybe go beyond just roads and bridges right now and why that's so hard.

DAN KILDEE: Well, I think because we do have fundamental challenges in our economy, that building roads and bridges will help, but won't completely solve a more robust effort to build up broadband, for example, more than what the bipartisan infrastructure deal would provide, the need to update water systems. And we want to replace every lead service line in America. The infrastructure bill doesn't do it. Our legislation would.

But then we need to go beyond that. I'm very much focused on the US reclaiming its position as the preeminent producer of the best vehicles and the most successful auto companies in the world. If we're going to do that, we need to invest in electrification, in electric vehicles.

The Build Back Better Act includes significant investment in consumer incentives so that as we transition to electrification, we will give consumers a chance to buy American-made vehicles by American workers. If we don't, there's a chance that we're going to consign ourselves to being a consumer economy and buy vehicles made elsewhere. That's the kind of investment you don't see in the infrastructure bill that would be in the Build Back Better Act that I think is part of both the short and long-term emphasis on a stable economy.

It's-- you know, it's good to see this upward wage pressure. We can continue that if we continue to both meet the consumer needs and the manufacturing needs in this country and do it here domestically.

ZACK GUZMAN: I suppose, you know, there is, again-- we've seen this back and forth, even among Democrats, in terms of moderates and progressives really trying to find that middle ground in terms of how hard you should push. The Joe Manchins of the world have been flexing the cost issues. But talk to me about maybe the cost of not making these investments right now.

DAN KILDEE: Well, I think that's really the issue. And I like and respect Senator Manchin. I disagree with him on this point. Because what we're doing is not only addressing infrastructure and other investments that have a return. Basically, it pays us back. But we're also doing it in a responsible way by making sure we're making the adjustments to pay for much of this, if not all of it, to actually offset the cost with revenue. If we do that, not only do we get the return, but we don't add significant additional debt, which I understand his concern about it.

We can't have it both ways. We can't decide we're not going to pay for things, but we still want them. And we need to do this. And so, I respectfully disagree with Senator Manchin conclusion, although I understand his reasoning.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and we've heard the president, too, earlier this morning, kind of talking about all those things that can be done to bring up the revenue here to pay for these things, including America's corporations, some of the largest paying zero dollars in federal income tax. They're changing that.

But you've also been pretty outspoken about the obligation for the country here in the wake of what we've seen play out in Afghanistan, the obligation for America to do more in helping refugees from that country. I mean, it's been kind of a hot button issue as of late, just kind of watching the drama unfolding there and how many people have been left behind. Talk to me about what you're pushing for, not only from the president's efforts here, but just kind of all around in getting the people that are still there out of Afghanistan.

DAN KILDEE: Well, we made a promise we have to keep. We told those individuals that if they stood with us, we'd care for them, and we have to keep that promise. So there's a moral dimension to it. But I also think our economic and global interests are served by us being a welcoming country. This is important. These are people who stood with us, many of them English speakers who would assimilate, I think, quite well into our society. So, you know, I come from a community that's lost population. We ought to do what we can to bring as many people as we can here.

ZACK GUZMAN: All right, well, appreciate you joining us here to discuss on Friday ahead of a long weekend. Congressman Dan Kildee from the great state of Michigan, appreciate you taking the time. Be well.