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 afternoon everyone. As maybe some of you know, today House and Senate Democrats were joined by Vice President Biden on the steps of the Capitol. We came together to call the Republican Congress to stop putting their special interest agenda ahead of the action to protect the American people.
In July, Republicans closed down the Congress, left town for the summer without having enacted any meaningful funds for Zika, for opioids, for Flint, or without even allowing a vote on gun violence prevention. Now, we're back, and instead of addressing the threat to America's families, Republicans are squandering more time with dead end bills to benefit their Wall Street friends.
This morning, I mentioned that there were almost 17,000 Americans. Now, even since this morning, the number has risen. Almost 19,000 Americans, including 1,800 pregnant women, have been infected with Zika. The President submitted an urgent request for emergency funding in February. February. Yesterday, we were joined by public health experts, some of you were there – thank you, Chad – and advocates to discuss the serious consequences of Congress' inaction. You were there, too. I know. Thank you. More of you. So you'll get the first two questions. So that's it. 19,000. 1,800 pregnant women.
In terms of opioids, 78 Americans are dying of opioid overdoses every day. Republicans have refused to provide the funding American communities desperately need. We passed the bill. Everybody, with much fanfare, we gave our support, but they didn't give any money.
And Flint, what a sad thing, a challenge to our conscience as a country, thousands of lead-poisoned children in Flint are still waiting for help.
Gun violence, since the Republican Congress ran out of town in July, more than 2,000, some people say as many as 4,500 Americans have been killed by gun violence. They won't even allow a vote on the most comprehensive common sense gun violence legislation on expanding and strengthening background checks and on No Fly, No Buy.
Republicans have returned from the longest summer recess in modern era, only to continue to stand in the way of action. We must move quickly. Too late to move in a timely fashion, but now we must move quickly to provide the long overdue resources needed to fight Zika for the next full year, full year as part of a clean short term continuing resolution.
The American people deserve a Congress that will do its job and build a stronger America for everyone. That's the promise of the Democrats' New American Security Agenda, Secure our nation, Secure our Democracy, Secure our Future, and that future would be built on a budget that will move the economy forward by creating a secure financial future for all of America’s families that can buy homes, send children to college, and retire with dignity.
We cannot afford more of Republicans’ toxic special interest obstruction, and we're asking them to find the areas where we have common ground, and let's get a job done for the American people.
I have time for a few questions because we're busy on the Floor. Chad?
Q: Good afternoon. Thank you. Tomorrow, this bill about Saudi Arabia and terrorism is going to be on the Floor here. I know they are going to do it as a suspension here…
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: …passed by unanimous consent by the Senate, but there have been some reservations. The President has talked about vetoing it, issues of sovereignty. Do you have other reservations about this? And as somebody who used to be on the Intelligence Committee and dealt, you know, with a lot of these kinds of…
Leader Pelosi. All right. Well, this issue, and I am…
Q: But the concern about that…
Leader Pelosi. Well, there is some concern. I think the bill could be better. It could have a little more clarity in the language and…
Q: What would that clarity be?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the word "shall." You know, around here we spend a good deal of time fighting over the word "shall." From "should" to "shall" and "may" to "shall," and with "shall," a word fraught with meaning that we would like to see something happen there. But as the Senate passed it by unanimous consent, and just sent it over, once you have a receipt from the Senate, it's very hard to change the language.
The Administration is trying to get us to change the language and send it back to the Senate and the rest. It's a little late, but yes, the bill could be better and it could be, as there always is, a national security waiver for the President of the United States.
But having said that, the bill would pass in a suspension tomorrow. Yes, sir?
Q: Madam Leader, on the continuing resolution.
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: It's a little early, but it seems like we have seen this movie before…
Leader Pelosi. Yes, we have.
Q: … in which Democratic votes are needed to pass something, and oftentimes, that means that you are successful in keeping things you don't like…
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: …off of it. Are there some items you would like to be – you would like to have considered to be added, disaster aid for Louisiana, perhaps, money for Flint or fixing this obscure problem at the Ex‑Im Bank?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, I think you named three good additions. I hope they are not additions. I hope they are part of the body of the legislation. Certainly, the Flint – I mean, this challenges our conscience that a state decision to release water that would poison children, a decision, and for us not to have made the appropriate – not meeting that challenge appropriately. So Flint, Michigan; opioid funding, I don't know if that is going to be in the bill; certainly Zika, and Zika – by Zika, I mean for a year. I don't mean for three months, because we just can't go through this every few months. Zika should be emergency spending. It should not be offset, because it is an emergency.
The Ex‑Im Bank is constrained, as you know, by a limitation on what loans they can be involved in without a quorum, and so, we would like to address that. I just wish that the Senate would confirm another member to the Ex‑Im Bank, but in the absence of that.
The – I am going to meet with the Governor of Louisiana this afternoon and see what some of their needs are in relation to the Community Development Block Grants and the rest, so that we can come to their – meet their needs as soon as possible, and the timing of that, sad to say – sad that it happened, but convenient that it's happening right now that we – as we write a CR.
There are probably some other things, but my – we want no poison pills. We want a clean bill, and we want it to be something, as I said, that the authorization for Zika goes for a year, and I don't want to see any offsets for Zika. Now we will see how we come out of that, because it is a national emergency, and we should not have to take – cannibalize other accounts that are very important to the wellbeing of the American people.
Q: On the issue of extra funding, you said Zika should not be offset. I am wondering if you think there should be a parity in the treatment of Zika, and if there is any proposed supplemental funds for Louisiana in terms of disaster relief.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I would answer it this way: I think that we should, in a bipartisan way, come together and say, let us establish a FEMA‑like fund for disasters – emergencies that our people are subjected to like Zika where $1.9 billion is needed. This is an emergency. When we did the budget agreement last year, and when we did the appropriations, there was no discussion of almost $2 billion for Zika, almost $1 billion for opioids, no money for Flint, and yet, now the Republicans are saying, whatever we do to address those needs has to come in at last year's budget agreement.
Now, these are emergencies, unforeseen occurrences that endanger the health and wellbeing of the American people just the way a natural disaster does. So perhaps we can come together, take a little longer term to do, we're not going to do it in a CR, to put together a flow of funds from a dedicated account for endangerment of the public welfare similar to a natural disaster, but it might be a mosquito.
The – that is what I would do about that. Yes, ma'am?
Q: The presidential forum last night, there was a vet who asked Hillary Clinton a question that seems to be sort of nagging her a bit in terms of if a military member essentially committed these same acts that she did in regards to handling classified information, that they would be treated differently than a – than she was treated by the FBI. Even though she was exonerated completely by the FBI, it's still sort of nagging her right now as far as how military members are reacting to her. Do you really think that perhaps if an average citizen or a military member committed the same acts, that they would be treated via same or differently?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I did not see – because we had our own events going last night, but what I did see of the reporting of last night is that I thought she handled that question very well. What she did was not something that endangered our national security. It was – she said it was – she shouldn't have done it that way, it raises questions, that is unfortunate, but I think that as I have said, it's much ado about something, but too much ado about it, and I think that Hillary Clinton is in no way – I don't want to use the wrong word here. You probably expect me to use a word like "responsible."
I think that she – she has to move on from this. I have served on the Intelligence Committee since the early 1990s, longer than anybody here. I know of what I speak about classification and how careful we all are about not even acknowledging something that we may have learned in a classified setting, and I don't think that Hillary Clinton did that. One more question. Yes, ma'am?
Q: You had mentioned earlier that Republicans were looking at ways to punish Democrats over the House sit‑in, and I wonder if you had any other details in terms of what form that punishment is going to be?
Leader Pelosi. You are going to have to ask them, but it clearly is – it's supposed to happen next week. I thought it was going to happen tomorrow, but they pushed it to next week. I don't think they should do it at all, but if they do, we would welcome that. I've heard two things that they're going to do: something for now to punish, and then try to change the rules for the next Congress.
The only Congress that can change the rules for the next Congress is the next Congress, so I think they're just feeding the beast with that kind of conversation. But if they want to come in and say that we're going to punish you for having a demonstration for gun violence prevention led by an all‑American icon [Congressman] John Lewis, bring it on. I have to go. Thank you all.
Q: Madam Leader, can I follow up with your Louisiana governor meeting? One more question on that. Was that prompted by any special concerns about how the Feds have reacted to the disaster?
Leader Pelosi. No, no. I think he just is in Washington and wants to come by.
Q: Thank you.
Leader Pelosi. I look forward to seeing him. Thank you.
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