Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Contact: Drew Hammill/Evangeline George, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today. Below is a transcript of the press conference.
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. You all stayed up late to watch the Golden State Warriors break all records?
Q: I was watching the Blues. I was watching hockey.
Leader Pelosi. Did you see Kobe? That was beautiful with Kobe scoring 60 points for his last game to bring the Lakers to victory. There are two things going on in Northern and Southern California. I am glad we got to 73 wins so we can just focus on the post season on Saturday. And that was very good news. So happy about that.
But even more importantly to the American people, the jobless claims numbers that were released today are the lowest since 1973, lowest since 1973. And that's pretty exciting. The difference, since President Obama took office and now in terms of so many of the metrics, whether it's – we have been through it, the deficit is 70 percent lower, the unemployment is half of what it was, the stock market is 10,000 points – more than 10,000 points ahead, the auto industry is thriving when it was on its heels at that time when he took office.
Twenty million people now have health insurance who didn't. And many who had health insurance have it in a better way, no pre-existing conditions, no lifetime limits, and the woman is no longer a pre‑existing medical condition. The list goes on and on. Over 70 straight months of job creation. And here we are in the Congress. Tomorrow, Republicans will miss the statutory deadline which they so revere to enact a budget. Missing the date is not as nearly as important as why they are missing it. The Republican Leadership, the Ryan budget that has been proposed, is the most devastating ‘Road to Ruin’ budget in history. And even that wasn't brutal enough for the radical forces that have taken control and dominate the House Republican Caucus. The bill abandons seniors by ending the Medicare guarantee. The Ryan budget equals ending the Medicare guarantee. His budget demands $6.5 trillion in cuts, the most extreme cuts ever proposed by the Republicans on the Budget Committee.
It is a cut and freeze, cut and freeze budget. And because of these cuts, it devastates good‑paying jobs, education, and the future of infrastructure in our country. The Ryan budget that severe, that destructive to working families, doesn't go far enough for the Republicans. That is why there is no budget for the deadline. Budgets, as we always say, our national budget should be a statement of our country's values. The President has put forth his budget. We will have ours, our statement of our national values. The Republican priorities are not about our values.
This just seems to be a Congress that just wants to say no: no to the budget, no to appropriate Zika funding, no to Puerto Rico, no to immigration, no to gun safety. Well, we know the votes are there for all of these initiatives.
This Zika situation is saying no to science. Today, America is facing a very serious public health emergency that threatens thousands of American families across our country. Before we left for the break, as you may recall, Democrats called for immediate action for a supplemental appropriations bill for emergencies like Zika, Flint, and opioids. Yesterday, Democrats offered an amendment – and the Republicans said no, of course. We have to go home for three weeks. Yesterday, Democrats offered an amendment in the Appropriations Committee to fully fund the President's emergency request for resources to protect America's mothers and children and our families from the Zika virus.
On the same day, the CDC, Center for Disease Control, confirmed that Zika causes irreversible microcephaly, Republicans blocked emergency funding to protect American communities. Republicans' appalling fecklessness in the face of a frightening public health emergency is beyond dangerous. It could have devastating consequences for thousands of America's children and families. It's about testing, it's about research for a vaccine, it's about learning more about how this disease is spread and stopping it.
Another challenge that we have now that I am hoping that we won't be saying no to is the issue of Puerto Rico. Today, our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are facing a fiscal and public debt crisis that weighs on the future of their economy and their community. Only Congress can help them get out of this difficult situation. And in good faith, we have been working in a bipartisan way, and the Obama Administration, by way of the White House and the Treasury Department, is working in a very receptive way to try to find common ground.
It is not going to cost the taxpayer, this bill, one dime, one thin dime. And it's about enabling them to meet their challenge. I think we have made some substantial progress from the Republicans' first draft of the Puerto Rican legislation, but we still have serious concerns. At the end of the day, any bill must have restructuring that works, an oversight board that is respectful of the people of Puerto Rico, and does not undermine the restructuring part of the bill, and does not contain extraneous provisions that harm working people. We are prepared, and I don't know if you have seen the statement of our ranking member, Mr. Grijalva, but very open to continuing working with his chairman, Chairman Bishop, and I with Speaker Ryan and the President, to arrive at a compromise that is workable and helps the people of Puerto Rico.
Again and again, the Republican Congress responds to desperate struggling families with indifference and disdain. That has been especially evident through the conduct of House Republicans to Americans in poverty. Later today, the House Steering and Policy Committee will hold a hearing on the state of poverty in America, and the particularly harmful impact the Republicans' trickle down economics has on families trying to escape poverty. I hope you can come. I have a very special guest from the San Francisco Bay Area. It's not a basketball player. It's someone named Maverick. When Maverick tells his story, you know, this young man is stronger than any of us here for what he has had to overcome in his life and how he did that. It is really worth your time, believe me.
We need to confront poverty in America with fresh eyes, new thinking, be entrepreneurial in how we go forward. Republicans are offering up some rhetoric on poverty. But the provisions of their Ryan budget speak more loudly and more clearly of their disdain for families in poverty. With that, I will be pleased to take any questions you may have. Yes, sir.
Q: Madam Leader, could you give us a little bit more detail on your concerns about how this Puerto Rico bill falls short, particularly as it relates to restructuring procedures?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let's just take it in four parts. Restructuring, the board. I would put those in the absolutely essential part of the bill. There are other pieces of it that really shouldn't be in the bill but that have to be addressed. And one of them, part of it are provisions that affect working families in terms of not raising the minimum wage for years. How could those terms be accommodated? And then on the transfer of property from the federal government to Vieques, and what is their absorptive capacity to manage that property in a way that is ecologically sound?
So the first two are the heart of the matter. And on the part – this may be more than anybody wants to know. But in the restructuring piece of it, there are a couple of – I think it is fixable, it is doable, we are getting closer. But some of the – I don't know if you want to call them challenges – but some of the bumps in the road, shall we say, have been when we think we are close, which is a restructuring for Puerto Rico, a stay of litigation that could be part of this so that gives them a chance to get on their feet without court cases being filed against them immediately. So what would be the length of a stay of litigation? In addition to that, there is a new wrinkle, relatively new wrinkle, which is that there are those who want the creditors to have a vote in how the restructuring decisions are made. And maybe there is a way to accommodate that. But that is a significant challenge. And then the second part of it is the board, because the board is related to restructuring, because no matter how good we think the restructuring – or acceptable, let's say acceptable, the restructuring proposal is, if the board is established with powers that could undermine what the legislation has called for, that could be problematic.
So, we are talking about the makeup and the scope of the board. I think we are getting closer on that. So those are the two that are essential to how we go forward. Then they have some provisions about the minimum wage and the rest which we have to debate. But the heart of the matter are the other two that I mentioned.
Q: Madam Leader, in the Senate race in Maryland, there has been some question about the use, and possibly improper use of the DISCLOSE Act, which I know we have talked about before, with relation to Congresswoman Edwards. Does that concern you? Do you think there is a way that that's being used?
Leader Pelosi. The question was about the DISCLOSE Act in the Maryland campaign. You know, I think we have two great candidates for Senate in Maryland, both of whom I have promoted into leadership positions in the House Democratic Caucus and in the Congress, both respected Members.
In my view, Citizens United was really a travesty of justice or injustice, one of the worst and most undemocratic, with a small D, decisions the court has ever made. It's something that we must overturn. It weighs so heavily on money influencing politics that it's scandalous. They wrote a very tight [decision]. The only opportunity they gave us for any change was to say that you, Congress, can do disclosure, you can require disclosure, so that we know who is putting up the money for some of these ads and the rest. That doesn't mean – we know the Koch brothers are putting up hundreds of millions of dollars, but we want to see it in proximity to the ad.
You know, we were saying it has to be in proximity to the ad so they know that this ad is coming from – probably misrepresentation of the fact – is coming, consider the source.
So it was something that had overwhelming support. This was a big thing for us because it made all the difference in the world. The Chamber of Commerce was even rumored to say if we don't have DISCLOSE, then our people will give. If the DISCLOSE Act passes, they are not going to be giving. And that really – so it was the turning point. It was more of a turning point even than the Supreme Court decision. And so that would be around June of 2010. And that is the day that we lost the election, because that was the day that we knew endless big money would be flowing into these campaigns at a late date, unidentified, dark, secret money from God knows where.
So this was an important piece of legislation, which had support in the House and the Senate. Overwhelmingly over 200 and what, Democrats supported it. It passed. And overwhelming support of each of our House Democratic Caucuses, the CBC, our whole caucus. It was the purview of the House Administration Committee. And they took great pride in this with cooperation of the Obama Administration. The only reason we didn't prevail was in the Senate, it didn't get 60 votes. But that would have made a big difference.
So to see it used in the way that it is, is really quite disappointing, because the fact is, again, it was – following the Supreme Court decision, the DISCLOSE Act was the only opportunity the Supreme Court gave us to undermine the disastrous impact of the Citizens United ruling. Its defeat in the Senate was a defeat for our democracy. Even though we had a majority there, we didn't have the 60. So it is with regret that I have to denounce the PAC that put out this ad and said I think it should be pulled from the airwaves – truth in advertising would demand. I mean that's what we were trying do with DISCLOSE, have truth in advertising. And it is just a total misrepresentation of what – who was supporting that and where that came from.
And I think it's important to know that both of our very excellent candidates for Senate in Maryland have an F rating from the NRA. So for this PAC to imply that the NRA, this is an NRA‑friendly bill. This is about DISCLOSE. Everything would be different in our politics today if that DISCLOSE bill had passed the Senate. It was excellent legislation. And I feel that it was a real disservice to everything we did and what we believe in for that outside PAC to characterize it that way. So that's what I think about that.
Q: Madam Leader, to follow up, the super PAC did the ad, but Congresswoman Edwards' campaign hasn't backed away from that message. In fact, they have doubled down on the message. Do you call on her, Congresswoman Edwards' campaign to stop making this point that Chris Van Hollen weakened this bill for NRA?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the PAC is something we don't know – because the DISCLOSE Act didn't pass, we don't know who is that PAC? That's really the whole point of this. Some unknown funders of a PAC out there, to cloud the issue of what the difference is between our two parties on gun safety, is really a disservice to the gun safety issue. And so that's why I am speaking to the PAC. To tell you the honest truth, I have been engaged in sports since last night. We have got Puerto Rico, we have got Zika, we have got budget, we have got everything, and the moment I had to breathe, I watched basketball. So I don't see much TV because you don't see these ads on ESPN. So I don't know, I don't know, I am not totally familiar with what the Congresswoman has said about this or not.
Q: You would encourage her not to use this attack against Chris Van Hollen?
Leader Pelosi. Candidates will do what candidates will do. I am addressing the PAC, and the PAC is part of what we were fighting in the DISCLOSE, because that's where the big money was going. So this is all of a piece. This is about undisclosed money going into a PAC, making representations, which seriously undermines the distinction that we have. We have the votes on the floor to pass background check legislation. We were not able to get a vote. That's because of the NRA. They had been our opponent all along in this. The provisions that were in the DISCLOSE Act applied to AARP, applied to Sierra Club, any broad‑based organization like that.
So to characterize it this way, as I say, both Members have an F rating on – I think it's F‑minus even. I don't know how far down it goes. I don't have it here. But have an F, shall we say, from the NRA.
And this issue is really, as you know, a deadly serious one for all of us. And there is a reason we haven't passed gun safety, the background check legislation. And the difference between Democrats and Republicans on it is clear, even though we do have a bipartisan bill, [the] King‑Thompson bill which we hope we could have a chance to vote on. So you are getting into territory that is a very high priority for all of us. And to have any blurring of the distinction between Democrats and Republicans on this issue I think is a disservice to the safety we are trying to promote. And to try to characterize the DISCLOSE Act, which was our only window of opportunity.
And that's why, again, I think somebody said they said we did it so we could get the Blue Dogs to vote for the bill. Blue Dogs didn't vote for the bill. Twenty‑some Blue Dogs voted against the bill. They didn't vote for the bill. And overwhelmingly, our caucus did, including overwhelmingly, [the] Congressional Black Caucus. Any other subject? I think I said what I am going to say on this subject?
Q: Can I ask a follow‑up on the Puerto Rico bill?
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: More broadly speaking, it was put on hold, it seems, in the committee yesterday. Could that be seen as a sign of progress or a sign of a setback from where you stand?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I would like to have had a bill voted out yesterday. So from the standpoint of timing, hopefully it's not being – they didn't adjourn. They ‘adjourned’ was the technical term. I hope they don't adjourn for too long. But if the time gives us a chance to make a better bill, then I would call that a plus.
Q: What does that timeline look like?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we were hoping for May 1st. It was going to be March 31st, and then it was extended a month. We are hoping for May 1st. I don't know if that's still possible. But I think we have to target it to that time. And again, I think everybody is operating on good will. I think the Speaker wants to have a bill that – Chairman Bishop does, too. And I try to separate what is essential to Puerto Rico getting on its own feet and some of the other issues in there that are harmful to growing the economy of Puerto Rico. And so it has to be seen in that light.
Let me just say, that when we are talking about a timeframe, it's really important to note, I think, we were on a path – this isn't like Zika, some mosquitoes appeared – we were on a path for this to be done last year, and then the hedge funds weighed in, and now you see their ads on TV. And that is really what was the setback. And so that's what makes time important, because we are really, essentially, behind schedule. This should have been done by the end of last year. The Speaker said give me until the end of March. Okay. Now May, but hopefully not too much longer. But I think everybody is operating in good faith on it now, except those people taking out the ads. They aren't even factual. That is really what gets me about these ads, they are not even factual.
Q: Are you concerned about the increasing attacks between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders camps, and at all worried about whether or not supporters of whoever loses might not show up in November?
Leader Pelosi. I would hope that we could minimize any of the rhetoric that goes back and forth in campaigns. But usually, that happens amongst supporters. They all get a little more enthusiastic, don't curb their enthusiasm in some of their statements. But I do believe that both Secretary Clinton supporters and Senator Sanders’ supporters understand very clearly that the differences between our two Presidential candidates is small compared to the vast chasm that exists between the Democrats and the Republicans. And I hope that as soon as we have a nominee, and I hope that will be soon, and they do, too, that we can have a clear debate on priorities in our country: What is your vision? What do you know about it? What is your plan to take us in the future? How do you think strategically about taking us into a better future? And how do you communicate that with the public? And if we have that debate in our country, I think we will have a wholesome effect on how we legislate and how we make choices for the good of the American people.
But I think the difference between the conversation on the Democratic side and conversation on the Republican side is so vast in terms of typical campaign back and forth versus the personal attacks that are being made on the Republican side. I said this yesterday after our caucus meeting – perhaps you missed it – what's interesting to me about how the Republicans are conducting themselves, the incredible statements, even when there was a fuller debate among the Republicans, what they talked about was really repulsive. And then the so‑called Republican establishment disassociated – you heard me yesterday – dissociated themselves from it. Oh, so shocked to hear this kind of – this is not the Republican Party.
Well, it's the Republican Party in Congress. You know, you have the tapes, you have access to them, we can show you everything that Donald Trump ever said about Muslims was said worse by the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Peter King. Worse. He said worse things. People came out of those hearings in tears for the disrespect that was expressed there. And that's a committee chairman who has the power of legislation. That's not some here today, gone tomorrow Presidential campaign.
Secondly, talk about immigrants and Mexicans? Look at what [Congressman] Steve King of Iowa – no relation to Peter – what he had to say about Mexicans coming into America. Just go look. You would think I was exaggerating if I told you what they said. They say about women and the rest. The list goes on and on. It's exactly what we hear here. Nobody on the Republican establishment said it's really shocking to hear people talk that way. We can't have them be the manifestation of the Republican Party, as they said about Donald Trump. But Donald Trump, I think the reason the Republicans are angry with him is because he outed them. He pulled back the curtain as to what they say. He had a comfort level with it, because that's how they talk around here.
So make no mistake, and again, I don't paint all Republicans in our country with the brush of the Republicans in this Congress, but this is a very different breed of cat. And nothing that you have heard at that Presidential debate, except for some personal stuff, nothing you have heard about their attitudes towards people is different from what we hear here, and is an indication of why we don't have better policy coming out of the House majority.
I think I have to give up the room now. Did you have something else?
Q: Yeah. You are a super delegate.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: I think you probably got asked this in 2008, probably. Being a super delegate, and knowing at least how you think and how a lot of them think, what do you think is the likelihood of Senator Sanders' claim that in the end, he will be able to turn significant numbers of super delegates like you to his cause?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say, I was a super delegate in 2008, but I also chaired the convention as Speaker, and I didn't take a position in the race. I have, for 30 years, been against super delegates. I just don't think that that's the way you are supposed to choose.
Q: And yet, it's the system.
Leader Pelosi. And it's the system. In respect for the rules that are there, I recognize that they play a role, and the rules are what the rules are. And each person who is a super delegate makes a decision to support a candidate. Whether that person uses his or her influence to have that candidate carry his or her district is one thing. If they don't, then they have their own challenges there. So it is an individual decision. That is why they are super, they have an individual decision to make to support somebody, to support somebody who doesn't carry their district, and the rest. But the numbers – so I just, I just think if people – the argument is, well, Members of Congress and the DNC members don't want to have to run against people in their district, their grassroots people, to be a delegate.
Well, give them a floor pass and a box seat or something. But it doesn't mean they get to vote unless they run for delegate. I mean, I have been on this for a long time. It wasn't a winning argument when I wanted to be chair of the DNC when I said I don't think any of you should be super delegates. But I do really believe it. And I do think that however our system ends up, the person who wins in the public arena will be our nominee, regardless of the super delegates.
Q: You mean in terms of – in the public arena, you mean in terms of the popular votes?
Leader Pelosi. Going to the polls. Whatever it is, whether it is a – the whole thing about the caucuses, but caucuses and – in the political system, in the campaign system. As the public knows, I show up this day, I cast my vote, I go to this caucus, I cast my vote, and I decide who will be President of the United States. It is not, shall we say, a recommendation to people in Washington, D.C. It is the democratic process. And so I do believe that the person who wins in the public arena will be the – when I say public arena, in the campaigns will be the person who will be our nominee. On the Republican side, where they really don't have so much by way of super delegates – I don't know if they have any – but on the Republican side, if they reject the public will, they will really hand us a bigger victory than I am even anticipating now. Because that will be an implosion of the Republican Party. If you want to talk politics, we can go down to the DCCC and go over the races and the rest of that.
For here, what matters is that we have a healthy, wholesome debate, respectful of the concerns of the American people so they see a clear difference between parties without the politics of personal destruction, but rather, what the policies of a particular candidate or party is advocating to help your family, what this means to you. And to take Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s guidance that the ballot, the ballot, the ballot, legislation, legislation, legislation, your life, your life, your life. People have to see what all of this means to them.
So hopefully, once we get through the primaries, we will be able to clear the air, take a deep breath, and have the American people see the sharp contrast or where we have common ground – God willing, we can find common ground. Thank you all very much. Go Warriors. We have it Saturday now?
Q: If you want to talk sports shouldn't we go down to the Nats Park or the Verizon Center? You said if we were going to talk politics we have to go to the DCCC.
Leader Pelosi. Well, under the dome, we can only go so far talking politics. We have a large percentage of policy in the discussion. Sports you can talk any place. And it's the most – I just had the Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco in, bipartisan group, and they were commenting on how unifying sports are. You get in that arena, nobody cares who is a Democrat who is a Republican in the audience as fans and the ownership of the team. All we want do is just win, baby. Thank you all.
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