Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today

Apr 21, 2016
Press Release

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.  They just called a vote earlier than expected, so this is going to be pleasantly brief. 

And I'll start by saying – I hope for you; for me as – I hope that you all see the significance and take some delight in the announcement made by the Secretary of the Treasury yesterday about Harriet Tubman being represented on our currency. 

Growing up in Maryland, Harriet Tubman, the Tubmans in general and their contribution to American history and to ending slavery and the rest has been really something to be very proud of.  And it's pretty exciting that she's now going to be represented, as well as other suffragettes, including Sojourner Truth, and other significant events in the history of our country. 

Some of you were here yesterday when we had some of our Members talking about the fact that the Congress is not doing its job.  We've asked Congress to do its job; show us your budget.  A budget is statement of values.  Show us your values, show us your budget.  I think that's one of the main reasons we haven't seen that budget on the floor of the House, in addition to the fact that, as brutal as it is, it's not cruel enough for the Tea Party in the Congress. 

Again, Congress, do your job in terms of Zika.  Expectant moms, people around the country are at risk.  We want to diminish any fear factor in this by being solution‑oriented.  Let's have a supplemental to address the Zika crisis and, at the same time, meet the challenge to our conscience that Flint, Michigan is.  These children have suffered because of a decision made by the Michigan Governor to unleash that poisoned water into their city.  We must act. 

Mr. Kildee has a bill today asking federal government and state government to share equally in the cost associated with Flint.  And as you saw yesterday, the indictments came down and the attorney general said this is just the beginning, in terms of holding people accountable for what happened in Flint. 

So, again, we're doing not very much on the floor except grandstanding on the IRS while we're ignoring inversions of corporations taking jobs overseas to avoid taxes in the United States – again, a misuse of the taxpayers' time in terms of Congress of the United States. 

It's very interesting because it all comes back to the same decision:  Are we about trickle‑down economics, tax breaks for special interests and people at the high end that hopefully will trickle down, or is it growing from the middle class? 

I just left a press conference for raising the minimum wage.  We all agreed at that conference that raising the minimum wage is very important to individual families and the economic security of America's families and what it means to our children, but it is absolutely essential to increase the purchasing power of America's workers.  That's essential to turning our economy truly around. 

And while we have many metrics that show the success of President Obama's approach to all of this – whether it's unemployment cut in half; the deficit 70 percent lower; the stock market 12,000 points higher; over 70 consecutive months of job creation; auto industry on its heels, now thriving and leading in the world; 20 million people having affordable, quality health care who didn't have it before – still, the American people are feeling the pain because of stagnation of wages.  We must raise the minimum wage and lift up all wages in our country. 

This week, we will be observing Earth Day, and at the U.N., they will be signing the Paris climate accord.  That's pretty exciting, all of these countries coming together in agreement on an approach to stop global warming, preserving our planet for future generations. 

For us and our country, we're grateful to the President for his leadership and his diplomacy, engaging major players, major countries to be part of this solution. 

As you've heard me say many times, this is about the health of our children, the air they breathe.  It's about the eminence of the American economy to be number one in green technologies.  It's about our national security, because this climate crisis issue is a national security issue.  Just as ask the generals, and they will tell you. 

And it's a moral issue.  We've had the evangelicals at our table as we had this discussion, because they believe, as I do, that this is God's creation and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it.  But if you don't even share that religious or spiritual approach to it all, I think everyone agrees that we have a moral responsibility to pass on this planet to future generations in a very responsible way. 

While all of this is going on at the U.N. and throughout the world, in classrooms, kindergarten classrooms, throughout the country, children know better than some of the Republicans in Congress, who are still in a state of denial.  It's my understanding that 23 Senators are sending a letter to Secretary Kerry making sure we don't do anything to support the U.N. signing, the consequences of the U.N. signing.  How do you explain that to the children? 

In any event, any questions?  Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Leader, it appears pretty clear that the May 1 deadline for passing the Puerto Rico bill is not going to be met.  Do you have any concern that, with that missed deadline, any sense of urgency will dissipate here in the House, that it will wane for at least a few weeks, like things often do when these deadlines occur? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I appreciate your question.  We have been working in a very cooperative way to reach this solution.  It's a little slower now than we had hoped it would be, but hopefully by the time we meet next week again that we'll be closer to a solution. 

I don't think we can drag this out until July 1, although that is a significant deadline as far as Puerto Rico is concerned.  But every day is a significant deadline for the people of Puerto Rico.  So some of the concerns we have put forth are directly related to what the impact is on people.  But, for example, if attention isn't paid to ensure that pensions are not negatively affected, that not only hurts the individual, it hurts the economy of Puerto Rico and impedes the recovery that this bill is designed to help. 

I remind you, it's not a bailout.  It's a bill to restructure their debt, allowing Puerto Rico to restructure their debt so that they can work their way out of it. 

So, obviously, every minute, every day, where are we, what can we do to lessen the differences that we have?  But I don't think they're dragging it out.  I think this is a legitimate process on the part of the Republicans. 

Q:  Thank you. 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes? 

Q:  Madam Leader, looking at the legislative traffic right now and you look at the issues like Puerto Rico and you look at Zika and you look at Flint, it's obvious we're going to probably get a CR and omnibus later this year, but, to your point that you want some of those items there, that that might actually work out better, because, as you know, you can often put those items in a big bill like that and those would be key negotiation points, I would anticipate, come fall for your side. 

Don't you think that you actually would wind up getting many of the things you want because of the way the appropriations process and the budget process is set up this year? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we have an expression in appropriations:  It's not the price; it's the money.  Where is the money coming from? 

So if you put all this on the CR – well, Zika should be an emergency supplemental.  Flint should be an emergency.  When we had our budget agreement and came to terms about our caps, there's always a recognition, "And if there's an emergency, it would be outside of the caps." 

So if they're talking about putting this under the caps, then that's a lamb‑eat‑lamb situation.  There are so many good things that we can agree to in a bipartisan way in the committee, certainly Labor‑HHS, which is the committee of jurisdiction for most of this, Labor‑HHS and Education Subcommittee, and what does that do to the rest of the budget there. 

And then it's about time.  Everything is about time.  It's the time that we're losing in the fight against Zika.  It's the time that more people can be exposed unless we engage in the prevention at the CDC, research at the NIH, and the testing that we need to do to truly attack the Zika challenge effectively. 

And so to say let's wait six months and isn't that going to be easier for us, no, the challenge will just get greater with Zika.  The children of Flint shouldn't have to wait any – two years since they've really known about the poisoning of the water there.  We really need to act. 

And it's about time that is significant in not making the problem worse.  But it's about time that the Congress did something instead of being a ‘Do‑Nothing’ Congress when it comes to show us your budget, do something about Zika, do something about Flint, do something about many of the other issues we've talked about here. 

Yes, sir? 

Q:  Will you support the Cornyn‑Schumer legislation that's in the Senate now that allows American victims of 9/11 to sue Saudi Arabia?  I know the administration doesn't support it. 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I haven't really, quite frankly, read it.  I read some of the report of it in yesterday's local metropolitan journal, but I have not read the bill. 

I have been a strong supporter of releasing the Intelligence report on – the report of the 9/11 Commission as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned. 

I think when you look at legislation like that, you have to weigh the equities as to what is the exposure it gives to us if other countries should decide this and also what – I mean, I don't know what the purpose of it is and what the collateral damage of it could be. 

But I look forward to reading it. 

Yes, sir? 

Q:  Madam Leader, there seems to be some momentum building now towards the supplemental that you mentioned.  Would you support…

Leader Pelosi.  Do you think?  I'm happy to hear that. 

Q:  Well, Republicans have at least said they're open to it.  Would you…

Leader Pelosi.  Have they said that? 

Q:  Would you support Democrats adding the Flint funding to the supplemental?  Do you expect that, if there is a supplemental for Zika, Democrats would try to amend it to include Flint as well? 

Leader Pelosi.  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, I think that the vehicle for Flint is a supplemental.  And, again, the urgency of Zika is sinking in, finally, to some on the Republican side in a position to make a difference on the subject. 

So if there were a supplemental, I would imagine – I mean, I would imagine – we would fight to have Zika, Flint, and also the opioids, because we are making good progress on an authorization bill on opioids, and the Senate has passed one.  But there isn't one penny in any of that legislation, so that would require some outside‑the‑cap funding as well. 

But it's news to me, and I'm glad to hear it, that you think that the Republicans are open to a supplemental.  I had not heard that. 

I think you said that was the last question? 

We have votes.  I'm sorry.  Thank you.

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