Pelosi Remarks at House Democratic Leadership Press Conference Ahead of Trump Shutdown
Contact: Ashley Etienne/Henry Connelly, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined House Democratic Leaders for a press conference to highlight House Democrats’ opposition to a Trump Shutdown. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks.
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for being here. I stand proudly with the leadership of the House of Representatives, leadership of a Caucus that voted overwhelmingly, with great unity to support our values in rejecting the ill-founded Republican CR [continuing resolution]. CRs are a way to debilitate government – you don’t quite shut it down, but you debilitate our country of the ability to act in full force as we go into the rest of the fiscal year.
So, on the subject of process, our Members knew that the right thing to do was to vote against the CR even though the Republicans were advertising it as this, that and the other thing. And what do they do in the CR? They hid around little children, they hid behind them and said, ‘Well, we’re going to put CHIP in there.’ Oh, really? CHIP has been a priority of the Democrats and, really, a bipartisan agenda all along. But what they didn’t do in there was accompany CHIP with a complete program which usually goes with it. Mr. [Donald] McEachin introduced legislation – Mr. McEachin of Virginia that put the complete program. 27 million Americans got their health care from community health centers – [Congressman] Clyburn has been our champion on that issue. They didn’t put that – they didn’t put Medicare extenders, they didn’t put primary care docs’ medical training – the list goes on and on. But they thought they would tantalize by saying it’s about children. We are about children and families, and what they did is not what they’ve done before.
In any event, by the virtue of process and what it means in debilitating government by having a fourth CR and by substance, I was very proud of Caucus which, in a great unified way said no. And I am so appreciative, not only me – the response that we are getting from all over the country is a very positive one that we stood our ground.
Now the subject of shutdown. The President said, ‘Our country needs a shutdown in September to fix the mess.’ This is the same President who said in April 2011, he said, ‘If there is a shutdown, I think it would be tremendously negative mark on the President of the United States. He’s the one who needs to get people together.’ He went on to say, in 2013, after the shutdown, ‘It always happens to be the top. The problem starts from the top and has to get solved from the top. The President is the leader and he’s got to get everyone in a room and he’s got to lead.’ The President of the United States saying that about other presidents, and now, failing to lead. ‘What our country needs is a good shutdown.’ As President, he said that. There is no such thing as a good shutdown; that is an oxymoron. Democrats have never been for it.
So, I just want to say, and close with this: when we had the shutdown in 2013, just imagine this – on October 1, a vote was taken. Two hundred and twenty-one Republicans, the Majority of the Congress, 221 Republicans voted yes to shut down government. On October 16, when the vote was taken to open government, 144 Republicans voted to keep government shut down.
Among those who voted to shut down government were Speaker Ryan – wasn’t Speaker then but was a leader in his Party. Speaker Ryan, McCarthy, Scalise, [McMorris] Rodgers and Mulvaney, of OMB fame now. And when it was time to open it up, Ryan, Scalise and Mulvaney all voted to keep government shut down.
We believe in governance, we believe in meeting the needs of the American people, Democrats are not about shutting down government. So don’t hand us that. In any event, I am hopeful that the overtures being made on the other side will lead to something very positive.
In the meantime, we had a very positive Caucus this morning where Members were following up on acting on our values and are willing to stay to get the job done. A champion in rallying those forces is the distinguished Minority Whip – for the moment – Steny Hoyer.
Leader Pelosi. On those issues of agreement, our colleague Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont led the letter to the President that he received either yesterday or, hopefully, saw this morning which spelled out what those priorities are in terms of opioids and addressing the needs of our veterans, National Institute of Health to promote the health of the American people, issues that relate to pensions that are endangered in our country, of course, issues that relate to natural disasters, as Mr. Hoyer mentioned, all of the country but especially in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands which were underfunded in the previous bill which came forward.
You know, in recent weeks, we’ve had the Thanksgiving break, we had a Christmas break and now Republicans want a Davos break. We come in for a week or two and then we’re out and why would that be? The Senate is in so why is the House out? So that the Republican leadership can go visit their top one percent friends in Davos and celebrate the passage of a very unfair tax bill which increases the deficit, that undermines our country by having 83 percent of the benefits go to the top one percent. These are all connected because the increase in the deficit and reduction of revenue from the high end have an impact in what we are able to afford when we go into budget discussions.
We know their Caucus wants to resist any increase in domestic spending and I want to make this point further: domestic spending includes Homeland Security, Veterans’ Affairs, anti-terrorism activities of the Department of Justice and the State Department. These are security functions, yet they are on the domestic side of the tally. So when they try to suppress that budget, they are suppressing not only security functions, but other measures of strength of our country.
I was so excited to hear Mr. [James] Clyburn talk about South Carolina because just last week I learned my brother, Tommy D'Alesandro’s grandson is going to Fort Jackson. He just enlisted, our family is so proud. One of my brothers, of my four brothers who served in the army, one of them started out there too.
So this is about, certainly, supporting our Department of Defense. General Mattis told us he can’t take these CRs. It’s not a way to a run the military. It’s not a way to run a government. My colleague Mr. Ciccilline reminded me of Mr. Welsh’s letter – did you want to speak to that?
Congressman Cicilline. I just wanted to reinforce what Leader Pelosi said, that we have over 170 of our colleagues who have communicated to the White House the five priorities that we thought were important to be included in a continuing resolution.
This parity between defense and non-defense spending, responding to the opioid crisis in our country, make sure we fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, taking care of the DREAMers, and be sure to ensure that veterans have the resources that they need.
As the Leader said, these are not controversial issues. This was not a wish list of every Democratic wish, these are all bipartisan issues which enjoy bipartisan support and all we’ve asked the Republicans is to engage with us, so we can include these issues, and so far they’ve been unwilling to do that. There have been 170 of us who have joined in that communication.
Leader Pelosi. Having said that I think, we can come to agreement, as Mr. Hoyer said. I think agreement is in reach. They just have to come to a decision.
Questions? Yes, ma’am.
Q: Right now your colleague Chuck Schumer is over at the White House meeting one-on-one with President Trump –
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: Just those two in the room –
Leader Pelosi. That’s good.
Q: What do you think that this signals for the chance of President Trump making a deal.
Leader Pelosi. Well we’ll see when they come out of the room.
We have worked very closely, House and Senate Democrats, in trying to come together in a bipartisan way, what our priorities are in this debate. I’ve said before, even if there were no DREAMers on the face of the earth, we still have our issues about parity and pay fors, and we can just sit down and settle that.
I don’t know the extent of the conversation because it was an invitation of the President, but Mr. Schumer is well aware of the priorities that we share. I’m optimistic that that overture was made. Hopefully to be constructive.
Q: What’s the idea that they did pass the bill last night, Republicans’ CR with just enough votes on their side, no Democratic votes on the board until they hit 220. Two hundred and twenty yeas. Obviously, the bigger problem on this bill seems to been the Senate side. You said you expect Senator Schumer to represent one of your priorities. What does that mean? They have to figure out something from the Senate first, but then they have to enlist your side so there’s buy in over here because there’s certainly going to be a lot of Republicans who want to do a fix.
So, what will that potentially look like….
Leader Pelosi. That was quite a convoluted statement Chad. Honest to God.
You want to repeat the question? Just the last part of it.
I’m going to defer that one to Steny. It’s far too complicated for me.
Whip Hoyer. Chad, the reality is, the Republicans since 2011 have not had the votes in almost every matter of fiscal policy.
Leader Pelosi. Though they’ve had the majority!
Whip Hoyer. They’ve always needed Democrats. And I’ve told you on the first CR that was the 90-day CR – which was the period we should have reached agreement – 90 Republicans voted against that. So, when Mr. McCarthy says, ‘oh you’re letting down the military’ – the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Republican, Max Thornberry of Texas, voted against that CR.
Now, having said that, Senator Schumer and Leader Pelosi have been working for some time to get to an agreement. So Senator Schumer knows what our priorities are and I’m sure he’s going to discussing with Leader Pelosi on a very close basis as soon as he gets back.
Now having said that, I hope he reaches an agreement. I hope they reach an agreement on the things that I mentioned, on the things that we have an agreement! Including the caps, including DREAMers, including CHIP, including all the other things I mentioned.
So I’m hopeful that the President of the United States, as he did in September, we had a no drama action having to pass the CR. Why? Because every Democrat voted for it. So for the President he says well that makes sense, we have an agreement. Let’s move forward, so that’s what we did.
I hope that Senator Schumer and President, get to that point because I think we have a basis for agreement that could do as early as later on this afternoon.
Q: Did you see daylight in the meetings with [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen] Nielsen?
Whip Hoyer. Did I see daylight? Do you mean differences? Yes.
Q: How about getting something done?
Leader Pelosi. How many questions are you going to ask?
Whip Hoyer. Let me reiterate, 24 members of the Senate and House were in the White House sitting around the Cabinet table. The President of the United States said we need to protect the DREAMers. He actually used DACA. We need to protect DACA and we need to do that first. We agree.
Leader Pelosi. Let me just say, along that vein. If you would speak to the Speaker or Leader McConnell, they would say to you, or say to us, ‘we have to know what the President would sign.’
Is that not the ongoing course? ‘We have to know what the President will sign.’
Hopefully, Mr. Schumer will find out what the President will sign. Because I do believe, as Congresswoman Sanchez, the [Democratic Caucus] Vice Chair said, the votes are there in the House and Senate if they bring this up.
Q: Do you support the Graham-Durbin proposal even though it has a down payment on the border wall?
Leader Pelosi. Right now, our position is that we want the DREAM Act and we’re willing to – we know our responsibilities to secure our borders, north and south and that’s where our conversation is.
So, thank you all very much. To be continued. We may be seeing each other further today. And one thing I have to say is I’m so glad Chuck Schumer is the one who’s over there.
Thank you all very much.
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