Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference with House Democrats to Call for Strong National Security Funding, Protection of Troops’ Paychecks During #TrumpShutdown
Contact: Ashley Etienne/Henry Connelly, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined House Democrats for a press conference to call on Republicans to protect our troops’ paychecks during the Trump Shutdown, and to reiterate Democrats’ call for a budget with strong national security funding for the full fiscal year, instead of continuing the uncertainty and wastefulness of Republicans’ serial continuing resolutions. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Q: What do you guys think about the deal that is being talked about in the Senate, February 8 CR, and then move to an immigration bill over there? Especially considering Ryan has seemingly refused to give any guarantee that they would bring that bill or any other bill up over here.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you, I am going to bring it back to a subject that brings us here, as I answer your question. First of all, let me say that I am proud of all of our Members and others that have served in the military as well. We all take an oath to protect and defend. That first responsibility we have is to protect the American people.
I think everyone in the Congress has that as the highest priority. The fact though, is that we have this challenge on the budget that is holding up some of that money to protect and defend. We support the initiatives that the Republicans have put forth for increasing our defense spending. What is the mission? What are your needs? We want to be there. There isn’t question about that.
What we do know, and I have visited scores of installations and posts around the world and in our country over the years. Many times, when I go to the theater of war – the military will say to me, among the questions we receive – always one question is, ‘What is going to happen when I go home?’
As you know, the mantra of the military on the battlefield is, ‘We leave no soldier behind.’ When they come home, we leave no veteran behind. Part of the debate is that we support the defense investments – we also need to have the domestic investments, some of which happen the Captain – Colonel, oh my gosh, Colonel – Colonel Brown mentioned.
That is, veterans are in our domestic budget, in our domestic budget – we have what the Colonel mentioned. Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, anti-terrorism activities of the Justice Department – did I say the State Department already? – and Veterans’ affairs.
So, what we’re asking for is the parity that is required for under the budget agreement. For increase in defense and increase in domestic – recognizing that one third of the domestic budget is a security function.
In addition to that, there are other needs that our veterans need when they come home in terms of education, and the rest that we have promised that we see as important to the strength of our country.
Our military might, certainly a definition of our strength – the health, education and well-being of our country, essential to that strength. This is what it is about. Some governments – if you don't pass a budget, the government falls.
There's no reason why we could not have come together and said, ‘These are the pillars of discussion.’ Whether it’s parity, pay-fors, DREAMers, border. Of course that second part is very small compared to the big investments debate that we are having. If there had never been a DREAMer on the face of the earth we would still be having this debate over allocation of resources.
If you ask me, I will tell you why I think it’s a problem, but I will get back to your question.
I don’t see that there’s any reason – speaking personally and hearing from our Members, there's no reason to support what is put forth. We have a plan. Let's put on the table what it is that we need to address, not only put on the table but promise to put it on the Floor for a vote, and let's assign our Appropriators getting the bills written in the period of time.
That’s not what is in the Senate bill. I don’t know what will come of it, but when it comes over here, I know there will be a large number of Members that don’t support it.
And you know what, we’re so close to agreement, it’s almost as if they don’t want an agreement. Again, the irresponsibility of shutting down government, our distinguished colleague [Congressman Hakeem Jeffries], Member of the Messaging Committee [Democratic Policy and Communication Committee] with [Congresswoman] Cheri Bustos and [Congressman] David Cicilline mentioned how many times Republicans have shut the government down.
We believe in governance. We want to keep government open. We want to hold it accountable and have transparency in what we do. Bipartisanship in our solutions in bringing the country together. What I see on the Senate side, it does not look that way to me – it does not look that way to me.
Any other colleagues want to address that?
Q: I have a question about health care stakeholders – how hospitals and physicians’ groups responded? Do they care as strongly about immigration issues as you all do?
Leader Pelosi. Let me say something on that – I think it is important, and I wouldn't have gone down this path you have. It is important to note the following. On September 30, the CHIP program expired. Over 120 days ago, the CHIP initiative expired. During that time, Republicans put forward a bill that would pay for it by taking money from other children's initiatives: inoculations, lead poisoning. Why should the children be paying for the health insurance program? They wouldn't let corporations pay for anything when they have a trillion something in tax breaks.
All of a sudden, the Senate has decided CHIP – it expired 120 days ago, and you didn't do anything about it. You still aren't doing anything about it. If you do CHIP and you do the full package, which is primary doctor education to care for these children, community health centers that service 27 million Americans with their health care, including most of those CHIP kids. This thing that they put out there is that they're going to shut down government by not voting for CHIP. They shut down the government. They didn't even have 50 votes on their own side.
So, when we talk about this, it is as if they decided that we know how we are going to shut down government. We are going to make them look like they are going against children, and at the same time they have on their split screen: this number of people, of kids on CHIP and this number of kids on DACA, and the Democrats have chosen a lower number.
This is not a Sophie's Choice. We are not a Sophie's Choice nation. We want to [keep] kids healthy and safe and we don't have to choose among them, and that is what they did in a very disingenuous way on that CHIP bill. Many groups and organizations that you mentioned have been those who have joined with us in fighting their attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I think they have a very good idea as to who has their back on all of this.
Q: Have they reached out to you though?
Leader Pelosi. Happened over the weekend, so we'll see what will happen today.
Congresswoman McCollum. We come from a state, Minnesota, that is feeling the impact of both the delay of the proper and timely authorization of CHIP, as well as funding for community health centers, rural health care and our teaching hospitals. I heard directly from our community health services – we are hearing from parents on CHIP – it is great to have insurance, wonderful to have insurance, but what do you do with that insurance card? Need a clinic to go to.
[Congressman] Tim [Walz] represents a rural part of Minnesota, I represent the urban core and suburban areas, I have to tell you, I have made it clear, and we have as Democrats, all of us in the House – we get it. Just having an insurance card, which should have been issued over 100 days ago, does that family no good for a mother to be able to access a clinic when she is expecting. It is morally wrong to go up and say we have taken care of the problem of CHIP in the United States for our children when there are pink slips and clinic hours being cut and clinics being closed.
Congressman Walz. I would say in your question, my clinics and providers – they reject that false choice. They have the ability to multi-task problem-solving and multi-task empathy. And as the Leader said, this Sophie's Choice argument is simply not the case at all. They realize that. They are fighting over a ridiculous continuing resolution, and then trying to place blame somewhere else: on our DREAMers. They will find out that is not where the American public is at either.
Leader Pelosi. When you ask – I thought you were asking about government shutdown now in the broader sense. In terms of CHIP we have been hearing for months – the necessity of doing this. In Virginia, they have some drastic needs right now. By February, it is over. We have to pass it – we have been able to do this in a bipartisan way, but the way they split this off in a manner they did to go after DREAMers is really immoral.
Q: Leader Pelosi, you said you were so close to a deal. Understanding right now the focus is on the Senate because they have the bill coming to the Floor, are there any talks happening behind the scenes between you and [Speaker] Ryan and their White House counterparts for that matter to get the longer-term fix you are looking for to meet the demands you are looking for?
Leader Pelosi. I was hoping to focus on defense but, the defense funding is a very important part of this. For a long time, we have had meetings of staff and we have been making progress to getting something done. What I think the main obstacle, if I may, is this: there is a dark cloud hanging over the Capital. That dark cloud is the Trump tax scam. It took $2 trillion and added it to the deficit. When you add in the interest of the debt, $2 trillion.
Therefore, the impact on the Members of the Republican side voting for domestic investments is diminished. If you look what is said in the public domain, that we are going to subscribe to the full amount in the defense authorization bill. If we were to honor the budget agreement, this could be a $300 billion addition to the deficit. Some of our Republican colleagues in the House don't like domestic spending anyway.
The fact that it would increase the deficit over and above – they gave their all to the tax bill. They gave that their all, and now, even though the deficit is that $2 trillion, they will be asked to vote for more domestic spending. The Republicans on the House side – I don't see this much in the Senate, but Republicans in the House should know that they are being asked to, in addition to the increase in deficit from the tax bill, increase the deficit enormously now.
They should recognize the investments we are asking for are completely bipartisan: opioids, veterans, and when they come home, NIH, pensions and those things, infrastructure. Nothing brings more to the treasury than the education of the American people. Nothing, infrastructure, research and development, education, it brings money to Treasury to reduce the deficit. If we're going to invest the defense and domestic, let's invest in a way that creates jobs, good-paying jobs, A Better Deal, better paying jobs, and a better future. And there is a way to do this: to have an omnibus bill that promotes growth, good-paying jobs, bigger paychecks, and provides a national security, which is our first responsibility.
Q: You are telling us. Have you taken the opportunity to deliver that message to [Speaker] Paul Ryan?
Leader Pelosi. Publicly and privately. Not since the shutdown. I haven’t seen any of those people around since the shutdown. In any event, a shutdown is very serious. The President said a good shutdown: oxymoron. On the first anniversary of his inauguration, he got what he wanted: a Trump Shutdown. It is harder to deal with because the Trump GOP tax scam.
Thank you very much. Let me thank the Members who have served in the military. It is such a joy and honor to be with them. We take such pride in [Command Sergeant Major Tim Walz]. He is our leader of the Veterans Affairs Committee and a leader in the discussion with the veteran service organizations, and they take pride in him, the [highest ranking] enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress of the United States. We are very proud of him and all of them.
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