Pelosi Remarks at Press Availability Following Meeting on Department of Labor Conflict of Interest Rule
Contact: Drew Hammill/Evangeline George, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks today at a press conference with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Committee on Financial Services Ranking Member Maxine Waters, Committee on Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott, Congressman Richard Neal and Congressman John Delaney following a meeting with Democratic Members to discuss the Department of Labor’s final conflict of interest rule – a vital measure to protect and strengthen the retirement security and confidence of millions of Americans. Below are the Leader’s remarks followed by the question and answer session:
“Good morning, everyone. And it is a good morning, indeed, because we have a cause to celebrate – not only because it is Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day – welcome, nice to see you – but because earlier this month, the Department of Labor unveiled a final rule that will protect and strengthen the retirement security and confidence of millions of Americans.
“The Conflict of Interest Retirement Investment Rule – also known as the Fiduciary Rule. Hard-working Americans should be able to trust their financial advisor to protect their retirement future. But that’s not always been the case. Conflicted advice – well, I won’t go into it, let’s just talk on the positive side as to where we are.
“Secretary Perez led an extensive, inclusive, and comprehensive public input process that created this greatly improved final rule: thousands of public comments, days of public hearings, hundreds of stakeholder meetings and more than 100 Congressional meetings with Secretary Perez and his team.
“I just said to our colleagues there, ‘Let him be a model to us in having the openness to listen to other ideas, to have the brilliance to recognize a good thing when you see it, and the humility to embrace a solution that you might not have ever thought of yourself’ – and listening to our colleagues, bringing in what the impact, what the ramification is of a particular rule on the private sector is very, very important for us to know. And so, the Secretary told us: he listened, he learned and came up with a better rule and a smarter rule. And that is cause for celebration.
“However, today, Republicans are voting on a special interest resolution to block the rule and upend our progress. Republicans are trying to protect – well, we will not go into them, let’s just stick with us.
“We’re very, very honored to have worked on many fronts with the Secretary of Labor. It is Take Your Son to Work Day for him – his son, Rafael, is with him, and I would have said those remarks, even if Rafael were not here, about his very distinguished father.
“So, I yield the podium to him with gratitude and admiration. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.”
Q: One question for Leader Pelosi and another question for Secretary Perez. Leader Pelosi, do you expect this will be a campaign issue? Are you urging your Members to make it one?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I certainly hope not. I hope that the Republicans will understand and see the light of day that this is an exercise in futility that they are taking up. There are people out there who are watching to see how Congress proceeds on this, but our intention was not – we wanted to win the issue, not to make it a political issue.
Q: And for Secretary Perez, it has been three weeks since the Fiduciary Rule has come out – there has not been a lawsuit. Do you think that if the case goes on, this lessons the chance that there will be a lawsuit against the rule?
Secretary Perez. Well, that’s going to be up to someone else. I hope when they review the rule, they will come to the conclusion that they ought to declare victory because the rule is more streamlined as a result of their input, the rule is better as a result of the input. I always enter this enterprise with a healthy dose of humility. And they made us smarter and they made the rule better. And I’ve talked to so many folks in the industry who have said, ‘Thank you for listening, and we can work with this.’
You know, there are a few folks – many of whom who came early on and said, ‘This is a solution in search of a problem,’ and that’s a ridiculous proposition, quite frankly. So, there may still be a few who want to persist, but I have a lot of optimism moving forward that we can continue to work, and we’ll work successfully. And if we get sued, we’ll be ready for it – because you know what? Not only is the final product a very good product, but the process leading to the product was an impeccable process and as a result, they don’t have a legal leg to stand on in a lawsuit.
So, I’d rather have them spend their time on compliance, rather than making it a full employment act for lawyers. But, if they want to do that, we’ll be ready.
Whip Hoyer. I want to follow up on that because you ask: is it an election issue? What is an election issue is: who is on their side? Who is on the people’s side? Who wants to help the people? This rule says, ‘We want to make sure that the people have an advocate that is acting in their best interest.’ Why would anybody be against that? [Congressman] Richard Neal pointed that out. We all have an agreement on that. Are the Republicans offering this because they don’t think we ought to be on their side? Because we don’t think the institution has ought to act in their best interest?
And the reason I wanted to follow up on this: this is not unique. We have a crisis dealing with Zika, and we’re going to walk away tomorrow without solving it. We have a crisis in Puerto Rico, and we’re going to walk away tomorrow without solving it. We have a crisis in Flint, Michigan, and we’re going to walk away tomorrow without addressing it. This rule is not addressing a real problem – the rule that is being offered to repeal it and reject the rule. To walk away from the American people – that, certainly, will be an election year issue.
Q: Secretary Perez, I couldn’t help but notice that this is a very good issue for a campaign, perhaps, for a Vice Presidential campaign. Do you have any interest in the job? Did you have those conversations in your time here on Capitol Hill?
Secretary Perez. This is a very good issue for the average American. And that’s what we do at the Department of Labor – the ‘department of opportunity’. We wake up every single day making sure that people have access to the pillars of the middle class, whether it’s a good job that pays a fair wage, safe working conditions, access to a healthy and fair retirement. And that’s what it’s all about and that’s my focus every single day and I got 268 days till the weekend. And I’m going to make sure I don’t simply count the days but we’re going to make every day count whether it’s this, whether it’s overtime, whether it’s the implementation of silica dust, all the things that are part of building an opportunity society and addressing the angst that people feel every single day.
Q: Ms. Pelosi, would he make a good Vice President?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let’s get through the primary first and we know that our next president, whoever she may be, will be thinking very thoughtfully about who the vice president will be. I always like to remind people that the rest of us are wondering what happens if this vice president has to take office – the person choosing is saying, ‘How can I live with this person while I am in office.’ So that’s a whole other dinner table discussion.
Right now, we’re focused on America’s working families. Again, I salute Secretary Perez, my colleagues, Richard Neal and Mr. Delaney, who – Mr. Delaney coming from the private sector, understanding how decisions are made, Mr. Neal, who has worked on these issues for a very long time in the Congress, coming at this discussion in a very informed way. We all learned from them, and we’re all very proud of the work of our caucus, and we salute the Secretary for that.
Q: Congressman Neal, you had sponsored a bill with [Congressman] Peter Roskam that would’ve gotten rid of this rule. What did the final product do to address your concerns?
Congressman Neal. Well, there was a series of things, and I think proprietary interest was addressed, also, the notion that you could sell your own products and the contract was going to be signed at the end of the process. That was a substantial part of what we were proposing, and the Secretary and the Labor Department responded to the request and that’s why a bit of surprise when you accomplish the goals you set out to – why we would be undertaking this proposal today is a bit of a surprise.
Q: Have the issues in your legislation been resolved?
Congressman Neal. One of the things – again, one of the things I used to like about signing up for Congress, reporters covered process, as well as the conflict. So, the process has been satisfied and the other, I think, key ingredient here that we want to pay some attention to today is that the response from the Labor Department was satisfactory, and yet, there is another key component here today and the Secretary acknowledged that earlier at the caucus: there is still time for questions to be asked of the Secretary, and they will offer clarification.
This is more than 1000 pages. There is a lot of substance in here, and I think as it rolls out, there will be a chance for people to continue to ask questions [and] in their end, find satisfaction or distress. But for the moment, I think that all the questions that we raised – 96 Democrats signed the letter, by-and-large – they have been satisfied.
Q: Would you still vote for that bill if Speaker Ryan brought it to the Floor?
Congressman Neal. No I won’t.
Q: You would not.
Whip Hoyer. Thank you.
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