Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference Following the Trump Administration’s Decision on Iran Nuclear Agreement, Health Care Sabotage

Oct 13, 2017
Press Release

Contact: Ashley Etienne/Henry Connelly, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference today following President Trump’s decision on Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and his shameful decision to cut off the Cost-Sharing Reduction payments required under the Affordable Care Act, a spiteful decision that will cause health premiums to spike by at least 20 percent for hard-working Americans.  Below is a transcript of the press conference:

Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks

Leader Pelosi.  Good afternoon – I guess it’s good.  I don’t know – it’s an expression – a figure of speech.  Good afternoon.  Whether it’s good or not depends on how you view what the President just said.  I say the Iran Nuclear Agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed state.  President Trump’s refusal to recertify is a grave mistake that threatens America’s security and our credibility during a very critical time.  The President is ignoring the overwhelming consensus of nuclear scientists, national security experts, generals and his own cabinet including, reportedly, the Secretary of Defense [James Mattis] and the Secretary of State [Rex Tillerson]. 

The fact is – Iran remains in compliance with the nuclear agreement.  If they did not, we would not be supporting certification.  If Iran were not in compliance, our allies would walk away.  They are not.  Supporters of the agreement harbor no illusions about the Iranian regime – that is why the agreement is based on truth, not trust.  It set up the toughest detection inspection, and verification framework ever negotiated.  Threatening this agreement does not isolate Iran; it isolates America.

This week, Members met, our Members – House Democrats – met  with four European Ambassadors, signators to the agreement, who said, ‘If the U.S. backs out of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], we will not.’  Even former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that, ‘Abandoning the deal would be a mistake,’ he said, ‘Even if America decides to pull out of it, no one will join, not the Chinese, not the Russians, not even the Europeans.  It will serve the Iranians.’  

President Trump’s actions at this time are particularly dangerous and unhelpful as we try to prevent North Korea from obtaining full nuclear weapon capability.  At the time, when we did the agreement, 29 U.S. scientists called the JCPOA – said ‘it could serve as a guidepost for future nonproliferation agreements.’  It went on to say, ‘this is an innovative agreement with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated nonproliferation framework.’ 

Brent Scowcroft, advisor to Republican presidents, said, ‘There is no more credible expert on nuclear weapons than energy secretary Ernie Moniz who led the technical negotiating team.’

At the time of the agreement, I was very proud of our Members because they studied the agreement.  They sought validation from, as I said, generals, scientists, ambassadors, experts in national security – and got that validation that this is the way to go.  They sought verification every step of the way and they resisted an outside mobilization against the agreement and there was positive mobilization as well.

So information, validation, clarification, mobilizations – so much went into this decision.  I want to hold up this book because it is a treasure to me.  It is the Democratic Members Statements in Support of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, summer 2015, where they made their own studies, came to their own conclusions, put out their own statements and put in a book, signed it as a record of why we went down this path with knowledge and clarity and determination to honor our oath to protect and defend.

The President is being frivolous with this.  He has made some charges in his statement in which we agree – yes, the missile program is something we need to address and we have done that in sanctions.  We don’t like their support of some organizations that we view as terrorists in the Middle East – Hamas, Hezbollah, et cetera – we agree and we have sanctions to address that.  But to tattoo them to the Nuclear Agreement is just plain dangerous and wrong.

In addition to that, the President put forward some statements that are blatantly not true and I depend on all of you to do the fact-checking on some of the statements that he made.  One in particular was that the regime was ready to fall until we did this agreement.  What?  On the basis of what is he making that statement?  The regime in Iran was ready to fall – did you know that?  And then we came in and bolstered them.

The other he talks about, money that went to Iran – its Iran’s money.  He does not tell the American people – the money that went to Iran is Iran’s money that if they had challenged us in international court on it, we would have lost and it would have cost more.

So a little bit of – I don’t even call it knowledge – but a little bit of stuff is a dangerous thing when you are not giving the public the whole truth.  
If that weren’t enough today, last night, as you know, in the past 24 hours, the president is taking radical and reckless steps that imperil the security of our nation – we discussed that – and the health of the American people.  Make no mistake – last night, the President single-handedly decided to raise America’s health premiums for no reason other than spite and cruelty.

Cost-sharing reduction payments are essential to lowering health insurance costs.  I don’t know if the term is thanks to President Trump’s decision – but because of President Trump’s decision to cut them off, these cost-sharing payments premiums will soar, according to the nonpartisan CBO headed by a Republican appointee, appointed by the Republicans in Congress.  The CBO says that, ‘Premiums will soar.  Refusing to make these vital payments spikes America’s health premiums by 20 percent in 2018.’

Middle-income families will be hit the hardest – because of President Trump’s decision last night middle-income families will be hit the hardest.  Taxpayers will pay more.  Ending these payments will increase the deficit by nearly 200 million dollars over ten years.  What was he thinking? 

Yesterday’s executive order also – earlier in the day – seeks to raise premiums on Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.  Sorry, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, you better be very, very rich.  And it will push Americans to pay for some junk initiatives he is proposing with few protections and little coverage.  To add insult to injury – last week, last Friday, the contraceptive coverage rule reaches into the lives of hundreds of thousands of women, overruling their right to basic preventative care and forces them to pay a huge new cost, leaving it up to their employer to decide if they have access to contraception that they can afford.  Congress must act immediately clarifying the language to restore the vital cost-sharing reductions payments and reversing the chaos the President has tried to sow on Americans’ health.

This is a matter of life or death.  I asked them do this earlier in the year when the President first came in.  I said this is very simple language – one or two sentences – that will resolve this and it will serve your purpose when you come up with a health insurance bill.

Then in the spring omnibus we tried to get them to do it again.  Again, it is a matter of life or death.  The GOP will try to blame the Affordable Care Act but they have purposefully, brazenly, cruelly and spitefully acted to sabotage the law and the health care it provides.  It’s a matter of life and death.  

Any questions?

* * *

Q:  Leader Pelosi, what do you think of the Corker-Cotton proposed legislation that they’re talking about?

Leader Pelosi.  I haven’t the fainted idea what you’re talking about? What’s Corker-Cotton?

Q:  They’re proposing to amend the Iran Nuclear Review Act to, for example, instantly snap back sanctions if it’s determined that Iran is in one year developing a nuclear weapon, and send stricter restrictions.

Leader Pelosi.  I’m not familiar with that but the fact is they cannot amend the agreement.  An agreement is an agreement.  Not negotiated among ourselves; an agreement negotiated among nations.  The entire EU, at the center piece of it, the P5.  That is the members of the Security Council plus one – that is Germany, and then China and Russia that are members of the P5 – the EU and Iran.  That’s where the negotiation was, and they came out with the toughest agreement that was possible with that.  I don’t know what they’re doing but again if it’s a path to leaving – we’re saying, ‘If they’re not in compliance – we’re out – if they’re not in compliance.’  So I really would have to read what they have.

I’ll tell you this – you heard the President say in his comments, ‘Leaders in the Congress are working on language’ – we haven’t seen any of it.  We haven’t seen any of it on the Democratic side.  We haven’t seen any of it.  

Yes, sir.

Q:  I was wondering if you might be able to get Congress to act on CSR payments.  Mr. Schumer was discussing the year-end omnibus –

Leader Pelosi.  That’s one possibility.

Q:  Would that be the next opportunity?  What do you say to people that say that this could be playing with fire in terms of a government shutdown?

Leader Pelosi.  Well maybe we should stay on Iran and then come to that.  Does anybody else have a question on Iran? 

No questions on the Iran agreement?  I refer you to a statement put forth by our Ranking Member on the Intelligence Committee, [Congressman] Adam Schiff.  I think it spells out the sentiments of many in our Caucus very well and when we see what the President is referencing about leadership in the Congress coming up with something, I’ll be happy to comment on it.  

But we have very difficult, tough, stringent sanctions on Iran for their activities outside of the agreement – whether it’s ballistic missiles, bolstering the Syrian regime, or it’s support for groups we view as terrorist organizations in the region, the list goes on, and we’re there with very tough sanctions but when it comes to the Iran agreement, we’re very proud of the diplomatic triumph that it was.  The respect that it was given by nuclear physicists, Nobel Laureates and the rest, Republicans in addition to Democrats, for the knowledge that we brought to the table.  

Again, the President claimed they are not agreeing to the spirit of the agreement.  There is no spirit of the agreement.  The agreement is a very toughly debated, negotiated, verifiable agreement.  That’s what they have to honor.  So far his people that briefed me this morning, the people that called me from the Administration – a high-level State Department official – I said very clearly, ‘Are they in violation of the Agreement?’  ‘No.’  So what are we doing here?

So no other further comments?  Read Adam Schiff’s statements, it has great clarity and comes from a place of real, serious validation on the matter being the Ranking Member on the Committee [Intelligence] – Adam Schiff.  Thank you.

In terms of – you had a couple questions in there at once?  The cost-sharing reductions?
Q:  [How should] the Congress act on the CSR payments – whether it’s the omnibus at the end of the year that’s your best shot or you know if you mix that in with appropriations aren’t your risking a government shutdown?  

Leader Pelosi.  There’s no risk on our part of a government shutdown.  We don’t have the majority of the votes.  We have never, ever supported  a government shutdown.  That is the tactic of the Republicans because they don’t like government.  So a shutdown is a good day for them.  And that’s what they have given us in the past – the threat of it or a 17 day shutdown the last time they did it.

They have the votes – they have a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, they have the President’s signature.  They alone have the power to shut down government so, again, that’s not in our mix.   I would like to have the language that would set the record straight.  It’s very simple, it’s what we suggested in the last omnibus and I said to them, ‘This will serve you well, if you have good intentions about doing any bill’ but – ‘out of any funds in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, they are appropriated to the Secretary such sums as be necessary for payment under this section. Such sums as be necessary for payment under this section.’  That one sentence solves it.  

We wanted to put it in, we hope to put it in.  There are other vehicles, a standalone vehicle, a vehicle that’s attached to a supplemental or down the road in the omnibus but that’s pretty far down the road. Hopefully we could resolve it sooner.  There are a number of Republican members who now understand what this means to their constituents who might be receptive to this.  That’s it.  So no, we’re not about shutting down government.  Yes, ma’am.

Q: When you say on the supplemental, you do mean more disaster funding?

Leader Pelosi.  Yeah

Q: Have you talked to anyone about that?

Leader Pelosi.  No I’m just saying these are the vehicles leaving the station.  I was only describing those as vehicles leaving the station.

Q: And that’s something Democrats want?

Leader Pelosi: We just want to get this language.  We’d like it to be in a freestanding bill next Tuesday.  That’s what we would like.  We’d like to get it done sooner.  But again, we have to see if the Republicans are of good faith on this.  Again, the American people will be the ones who weigh in.  They are the ones who will save the day, save the country from the horror of Trumpcare once, twice and another time.  So again, we expect that as people see what this means in their lives, their costs, their economic and health security, that their stories will once again save the day.

Now I was not suggesting any one of them, I’m just saying these are the vehicles that are leaving the station.  There may be others, we will see.  But we’re hardly even in.  Here we are, a day that counts among the days we’re supposed to be in and we’re not because the Speaker wants to keep us in until Christmas so that we get our work done.  Any other questions? Yes, sir.

Q: It seems like President Trump used the CSR issue as a bargaining chip and Director Mulvaney, if you read the interview, basically said so.  Do you think it is something they can use in negotiations for a wall or some other agenda?

Leader Pelosi. You’re saying the President wants to negotiate the good health of the American people to get a wall between the U.S. and Mexico?  No that won’t work.  He should do the right thing.  And the right thing is to respect what we’re trying to do to bring healthcare to all Americans as well as those with pre-existing medical conditions.  I don’t know what he wants.  Do you know what he wants?  Do you know what the President wants? Do you have any idea from his vision, his presentation what he might want?  A wall?  An ineffective, immoral, expensive wall?

Q: I know what I read in Politico, an interview with Director Mulvaney.

Leader Pelosi. Let’s all remain calm.  Let’s take a deep breath.  Let’s curb all of our enthusiasms, let’s do what is right for the American people, and let’s do so in a way that is based on facts, evidence, data, truth.  Not spite, cruelty, and a wall when it comes to the health and wellbeing of the American people.  Any other questions? Yes, sir.

Q: When you take a look at this week in totality between the President laying out his demands on immigration, the Iran Deal today, the steps he took on the Affordable Care Act, are we seeing some of the limits of what Democrats can do to stop his agenda?  On the flip side, the power the President has if you can’t get a bill through?

Leader Pelosi. I’m not even sure what he did yesterday was legal and there will be others who question that in the courts.  But in the meantime, we have a way to remedy.  I use that word specifically.  To remedy what is needed for the good health of the American people.  It’s about the American people.  That is the court of public opinion is the wisest court that there is.  I respect the President, he is the President of the United States.  I respect the position he holds.  I respect the people that voted for him.  I’m glad they voted.  I’m just when happy people vote. 

But I do want them to know what it means in their lives when he goes off on a spiteful, cruel toot diminish their access to affordable care.  And this isn’t about just people of lower income, but they do suffer.  It’s about the middle class being the hardest hit in all of this.  And the taxpayer having to pay the price. 

So if it comes to how we meet the needs of the American people, how it impacts their economic wellbeing, and how it impacts the national debt, either the President is being ill-advised, or somebody there doesn’t know how to do the math.  But this is a bad idea for everyone in our country, including the national budget and the debt.  So, in any event, again I think we have to calmly approach this because we have to do this sanely. 

I’ll just go back to one thing because I use the word spite.  Spite became very clear to all of us when the President announced that he was going to overturn the Affordable Care Act; and not in a complementary way – I call it that in a complementary way but I call it the Affordable Care Act – when he said he was going to do it on the day it became law.  You don’t bring anything to the Floor in spite of somebody else, something that happened seven years before.  You bring it to the Floor when you have the votes.  And that was the beginning of the end of any legislative overturning of the Affordable Care Act. 

So now let’s act in a respectful way to each other, recognizing the President has the signature, the Republicans have the majority and the American people have the voice.  We’re here for their good health.  Any other questions?  No?  Yes, sir.

Q: Is Senator Murray keeping you informed on her work with Senator Alexander on health care and do you have any idea how much progress they’ve made?

Leader Pelosi.  Senator Murray knows that we support her judgement, her values and they are shared by House and Senate Democrats.  So I have confidence in her as she proceeds.

Q: Are they close to anything do you know?

Leader Pelosi.  That would be up to them to divulge to you.  But I think it will be as close as the Republican majority enables it to be.  Thank you all very much.

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