Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Contact: Drew Hammill/Caroline Behringer, 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, everyone. Yesterday, I was very proud the House Democrats gathered on the steps of the Capitol with 91 survivors and family members wearing orange, representing the 91 people every day are killed in our country by gun violence. That's not a statistic, it's an outrage. It's a total outrage. It's a challenge to the conscience of the nation, a call to this Congress to take action and to end the appalling inaction of gun violence and gun violence prevention.
On the steps we heard heartbreaking stories of gun violence, stories whose power is magnified by the recognition that they were just a small sample of the gun violence tragedies that take place every day.
We must do more. We must disarm hate. John Lewis' historic sit in last – 2 weeks ago has energized Americans tired of Congress' relentless obstruction.
Last Wednesday alone, on the one-week anniversary of the sit in and when we were out of session, a National Day of Action, over 40 major events across the country to call attention to gun violence prevention and the two bills that we want a vote on. The overwhelming majority of the American people support action; 90 percent, No Fly, No Buy; 85 percent to expand the background check legislation.
Yet, Republicans are still refusing to give us a vote on commonsense gun violence legislation. Instead, they are struggling with a bill that once again demonstrates that they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association. And even at that, it's unclear that the House Majority will even allow any bill to come to the Floor.
On issue after issue, from our appropriations bill to Zika, House Republicans have chosen to obstruct meaningful action and resources needed to save lives. For Zika, it is 4 months, over 4 months since President Obama made his emergency request of $1.9 billion, an investment that will save lives and save money.
To date, we have another challenge. The Opioid Conference Report includes many important authorizing provisions the Democrats and Republicans worked together to advance. But it does not include the funding to – that is essential to saving lives from opioids. When 78 Americans, 78 Americans die every day of opioid overdoses, we cannot shortchange the resources our communities need to make a difference in the fight against opioid addiction. What would be the point? Are they too busy giving tax cuts to their wealthy friends and special interests that they cannot invest the money that is necessary to make this opioid legislation work?
We will not stop fighting for America's families, from A to Z, and opioids, the prevention, treatment and recovery resources they need to overcome this epidemic.
Meanwhile, this morning, the House Republicans are boasting that 220 House Republicans came together to welcome their standard-bearer back to the Capitol. Republicans today made clear what we have been saying all along: there is not a dime's worth of difference between Donald Trump and the House Republican majority. Trump was simply exposing the radical bigotry and backwardness that we see from House Republicans every single day.
Somebody said, you know very well, again, just talked starting with guns as I started my comments, Trump and House Republicans are completely in line with the National Rifle Association. On climate change, Republicans are in denial. Climate change – Trump says climate change is a Chinese hoax and would withdraw – as President, he would withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
On immigration, Trump has called for building a wall. Steve King says – now imagine this – you know what Trump, that language he used – I don't even like to repeat about immigrants, but this is what Steve King said: “For every one who is a valedictorian, there are another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they have got calves the size of cantaloupes because they have been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” Sounds so much like Trump. His words are worse. But I don't want to repeat them.
On Muslims, you know what he has said about Muslims and Peter King, who is the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, he said, “We have unfortunately too many mosques in this country.” This is an – “This is an enemy living among us.”
LGBT rights, Trump joins House Republicans endorsing North Carolina's hateful bill. So, the list goes on and on. So when people have said, “Well, I'm not going to support the Convention because Trump is the nominee, but I'm going to support the House Republicans.” Please. Please. Actually, the House Republicans do Trump one better on some of the things that he does because he is a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ presidential candidate. They have power, and they have used it on the Floor of the House to exclude people of the Muslim faith from the United States; to support building walls; denying climate change; and don't even get me started on the woman's right to choose.
Now, what could they all be thinking? In any event, the sound you hear, or the silence you hear is the harmony coming out of the Republican caucus as they acknowledge their political and philosophical leader, Donald Trump.
Q: Madam Leader.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Madam Leader, this week the FBI Director, Mr. Comey, said regarding your party’s likely nominee Hillary Clinton, that she was extremely careless in the handling of very sensitive and highly classified information, that she used an unsecure personal server, and the FBI is saying there is possible hostile actor that could’ve gained access to her server.
As a former Member of the Intelligence Committee...
Leader Pelosi. I still am. Ex-officio.
Q: Current Member of the Intelligence Committee. My apologies. Are you comfortable with the actions of Secretary Clinton?
Leader Pelosi. Let me just say this about Director Comey, first. This is a great man. We are very privileged in our country to have him be the Director of the FBI. I say that as first, getting to know him when he was part of the Bush Administration. And so, he comes from the Bush Administration to the position that he now holds. Even Chairman Chafettz said on him: “Because we do believe in James Comey, I do think that in all of the government, he is a man of integrity and honesty. His finger is on the pulse of this. Nothing happens without him, and I think he’s going to be the definitive person to make the determination or the recommendation.” “Because I do believe in James Comey, I do think that in all of government, he is a man of honesty.” And now, they’re talking about doing an investigation.
So, let’s get this straight. This is going to be an investigation of the decision that is an investigation of the emails that was part of the investigation of Benghazi. So we have an investigation of the investigation of the investigation. How long can this go on? How long can the Republicans ignore the work that we have been sent here to do? [Which] is to make progress in the lives of the American people.
Where are job bills? Where are initiatives to grow our economy? And keep our people safe? It’s just a stunning thing. The total neglect, that the public doesn’t seem to be aware of but nonetheless, is there. So, I just think that as one who has served on the Intelligence Committee longer than anyone in the Congress, both officially and ex-officio – as a Member, as the top Democrat, an ex-officio – I think that Director Comey was very clear: “My conclusion was and remains: No reasonable prosecutor would bring this case in 100 years.” And then, I refer you back to Mr. Chaffetz’s characterization of Comey.
30,000 emails, 130 of them in question. It would be better if they weren’t. The Secretary has said she made a mistake, she wouldn’t do it that way again. Am I comfortable with it? Secretary Clinton – she’s going to be the President of the United States. I’m excited about it not because she’s a woman – that’s exciting – but because she’s the really best. I associate myself with the remarks of the President when he said she’s one of the best in history and I can only speak from recent history of the presidents that I could make a judgment on, but it’s going to be very exciting and I’m comfortable…
Q: Mr. Comey said she was extremely careless. That doesn’t [concern] you?
Leader Pelosi. Well, in other words, 30,000 – so, 130. That’s too many. There should not even be one. And as far as anybody, any bad actors picking up anything: do any of you think any circumstance under which all communications are intact and safe? I don’t.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, can I just follow up with a security clearance issue there?
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Because when Comey said where Clinton and her colleagues, quote, "were extremely careless in her handling of very sensitive highly classified information." So do you believe people who are, quote, "extremely careless in handling highly classified information," should have security clearances?
Leader Pelosi. I think that both of the candidates for President of the United States should have access to the [intelligence]. That is appropriate, it is necessary, and I have no problem with Hillary Clinton, and those she relies on having that information. Yes, Chad.
Q: Madam Leader, there has been a lot of talk about what recourse Republicans might take after the sit in last week, possible discipline, or changes, or things like that. Number one, do you think that there should be any discipline? And if so, formal, I mean formal discipline, they say we are going to sanction this Member.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: And if so, I mean, what would – how would the Democrats respond to that? I know, you know, your topic is gun…
Leader Pelosi. Make my day. Make my day. The fact is, what are they saying, use of technology on the floor? Members' use technology on the floor all the time. You may have noted that we no longer have pages on the floor of the House, because Members get their messages on their phones. And they communicate on their phones. So it's no need for someone to say, “You have a message, a phone call in booth 12 Madam Representative,” or Mr. Congressman. We don't do that because everybody is equipped with their own technology on the Floor of the House.
What I think is shameful is the fact that we have had all of these shootings in our country and the best the Republicans can come up with is a moment of silence. And we all want to be respectful and prayerful, but silence cannot be the order of the day. If you don't follow with action, the silence is insincere. And that is what I think is shameful on the floor of the House.
So again, I'm very proud of our Members. The world has responded positively to it. Finally, they know who is holding it up. And what – this is a party of subterfuge. “We have no ideas,” the Republicans admit, “to do meaningful change for the American people, make progress to the American people. So we will investigate Hillary Clinton.”
“We are never going to protect American people because we are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association, so let's tell John Lewis that he is performing a political stunt.”
John Lewis said, “That's what they said when we crossed the bridge in Selma 51 years ago, over 50 years ago.” So the – any excuse will do not to act upon the needs of the American people. So you know, if they want to start – what are they going to do, investigate John Lewis for sitting on the floor of the House, going to investigate somebody for using a cell phone on the floor of the House? I don't think so. But it would be interesting to see. If that happens, I have some more thoughts to share with you. But not right now. Yes.
Q: Why not? We're here.
Leader Pelosi. I would really like us to get to what we are not doing. We are not passing a meaningful gun safety legislation. We are not meeting the request the President has made, professional judgment of the scientists of what we need for Zika. We are having words but not resources to fight the opioids epidemic. We are totally ignoring Flint. Flint challenges the conscience of America, how our children were given poison water as a decision of the Governor and the state, but we are not coming through on that. Instead, we are one thing and another about Hillary Clinton's emails. One thing and another about whether you should sit in a chair on the floor of the House. Yes, sir.
Q: But the broader question, how is the sit in not setting a dangerous precedent that would encourage other people who feel just as morally justified and politically justified as the Democrats were two weeks ago…
Leader Pelosi. Let me emphasize the word "dangerous."
Q: …From doing this again?
Leader Pelosi. Dangerous? Dangerous? You think it was dangerous that John Lewis was leading a sit in on the floor of the House?
Q: There are people arguing that. How is it not?
Leader Pelosi. Do you think that's dangerous? Do you think that's dangerous?
Q: It's putting means against – ahead of the ends. If everybody decided they want to…
Leader Pelosi. You used the word "dangerous."
Q: What if everybody decided they wanted to take over the House floor?
Leader Pelosi. You used the word "dangerous," and now you must be mouthing something they are saying, because that was not dangerous. One, John Lewis is a part of Martin Luther King, which is the nonviolence – maybe you know that when Martin Luther King went to India to talk about nonviolence, to learn from Mahatma Gandhi, the words that describes that "Satyagraha," that word in Sanskrit means two things: it means nonviolence, and it means insistence on the truth; insistence on the truth, and in a nonviolent way.
I object to your word "dangerous.” In a nonviolent way, John Lewis and the Members were insisting on the truth, and the truth is that people should not just have a moment of silence to memorialize their death. There should be action taken to protect the American people. It's bipartisan. It's nationally high in the polls of Democrats, Republicans, gun owners, even NRA members support the two bills we are asking for.
So no, I don't think it's dangerous. They don't mind bringing up when they took over the floor and dance and sang and all the rest for weeks on ends, but you know what they did after they took the majority, they prevented anything like that from happening again.
Now we have – the room is needed by the Speaker now, so I'm going to just take one more question.
Q: Senator Democratic Leader Reid said yesterday you would accept $1.1 billion in anti-Zika funding if the House stripped it of some controversial measures. Will you provide Democratic support for $1.1 billion?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know – I didn't hear what he said. But what I would say, what I thought he said is that one thing that the Republicans in the House could do right away is to send – pass and send back and send back the bill that the Senate has passed overwhelmingly in the Senate on Zika, which is $1.1 billion, not paid for – you know un-offset. And that's what he said. We'll just see what they have to say because over 4 months, no action. We need the $1.9 billion. We had a briefing yesterday. The professional judgment of the scientists is we need the $1.9 billion. But one thing they could do like that, and because time is going away, is that we could just send back the $1.1 billion, just the way the Senate sent it to us, bipartisan, un-offset, and then do more.
Q: Would you accept that?
Leader Pelosi. Let's see what they are doing. We have to do opioids. We have to do Zika. You know, the two right now. We have to do the FAA bill. We have a lot to do between now and next week. And they packaged a lot of…
Q: Can you comment on what is happening on the floor right now? Democrats are…
Leader Pelosi. On the floor of the House right now, the Democrats are talking about the need for passing bipartisan commonsense gun safety bills. No Fly, No Buy, expand – they want to talk about expanding the background check bill to include gun shows and purchases on the Internet. I'm so proud of them. They are so committed. Up until midnight last night, actually, Mike Thompson was talking about this subject and then we are starting the first thing this morning.
The most eloquent part of it all are the stories, and that was what was so dramatic yesterday on the steps of the Capitol. I said to the crowd and to the Members, “We are not the talkers here, we're the listeners.” And we are listening to the stories which were so moving. And Members are repeating some of those stories on the Floor. We urge everyone with a story to send the story. You can do it to #DisarmHate. You can send it to Speaker Ryan and ask him for a bill. You can send it to your Member of Congress and ask him or her for a bill.
But the stories, the stories are so compelling and the fact that 91 people a day are killed by gun violence in our country, and we still are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association. So sad. But even some of their Members support those two bills. So I'm very proud of our Members and stay tuned.
Let me just say this one thing to you. Don't tell anybody I told you this: we're not going away. We will persist until we get bills passed to protect the American people. You want a moment of silence; we pray with you. But we also pray that you act upon that moment and the action that has to take the form of passing these two pieces of legislation.
Q: Will you do another sit-in over that?
Leader Pelosi. I will do what my Members want to do.
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