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. Once again, I state: Show me your budget, show me your values. As a country, our national budget should be a reflection of what is important to us as a nation, what our values are, and how we intend to, in a responsible way, meet the needs of the American people.
I have right here the letter from the President. He sent it February 22nd to the Congress of the United States asking for emergency funding of $1.9 billion to respond to the Zika virus both domestically and internationally. It talks from the standpoint of facts and evidence and science, as what would be needed.
The President asked for this in an emergency status meeting. Just do it. Don't wait all year to find how we're going to pay for it, because it's going to cost us a lot more money if we do not address the President's request.
Here we are, from February to the middle of September, and we still have not allocated the resources because the Republicans are insisting that there be other cuts in the budget – from the NIH budget, the research budget, and the rest, Ebola budget – to pay for this, while every single day in Committee or on the Floor they are cooking up another tax break for their friends, unpaid for.
One of them that's coming up maybe this week or – I don't know, I guess we're out tomorrow, so maybe it will come today – is a tax break of around a billion dollars, which would go a long way in addressing this. That tax break is not paid for. The Zika must be paid for.
I'm in a real mood about this because every day there's more evidence as to why this becomes more and more urgent. This morning, I heard from some doctors who said that, in terms of Zika, the consequences for the children are not just only smaller heads and smaller brains, and that would be tragic enough, but that with maturation, as they get older, other things set in. It could be cerebral palsy. Some can't walk. They'll be blind. Some can't talk. Some will have no self-awareness. Imagine that for a child, no self-awareness. Imagine that for a family. And why? Because of this terrible Zika mosquito that is there.
But we could do something about it, in terms of vector control, in terms of vaccinations, research for a vaccine, so much we could do that is science based. But the Republicans have rejected them.
And even when we agreed to the bipartisan Republican plan in July, the Republicans rejected our overture because they said – well, they rejected it, but they said, “And, also, we want to make sure you know that we're not interested and we won't have anything to fund contraception.” Contraception on a sexually transmitted condition.
So this is a highly irresponsible Congress. This isn't about gridlock in Washington, D.C. It's about obstruction. It's about obstruction. It's about many months going by before a science-based letter from the President of the United States about a threat to the public health in our country is completely ignored and rejected by the Republicans.
This isn't worthy of the responsibility that we have, to ignore, to look the other way. Further evidence that the Republicans are indifferent – people's needs are indifferent to them and that they are – they're invisible to them, and they're indifferent to those needs. I've said it to you before. The people that we are fighting for here are invisible to the Republicans, and they are indifferent to their needs.
At the same time, in their rejection of science, fact, and evidence, yesterday, appallingly, their Select Committee to Attack Women's Health – as I refer to it – voted for criminal contempt for those who are engaged in lifesaving research. Could you explain this to me, why the Congress of the United States, who has a serious responsibility to provide for the well-being of the American people, is now holding people in contempt for doing lifesaving research that would address everything from A to Z, from Alzheimer's to Zika – holding researchers in contempt?
All of it comes back to their anti-choice, anti-contraception, anti-birth control, their total obsession with this subject that stretches from no funding for contraception. Do you think they don't use contraception in their families? No funding for contraception to no funding for biomedical research, for fetal tissue research. It's absolutely appalling.
Zika would be very well served by this research. They're saying, unless you can find the money out of some other good thing – lamb eat lamb – we can't do Zika. But we have plenty money for tax cuts because we're not paying for them. They're free to our friends. But Zika you have to pay for. It's really totally appalling.
We are saddened by the tragedies in Charlotte and in Oklahoma. Black lives do matter. Later today, our Congressional Black Caucus will be marching to the DOJ to call for greater accountability for law enforcement. I hope that the investigations by the DOJ will ensure that justice is served.
And I say that in the spirit of reconciliation. We have a great deal of respect for our men and women who protect us. We also have a great deal of respect for every life in our country. But we have to have that reconciliation include a sharing of respect between both of those parties. Very sad.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, sir. Why are you always first?
Q: Nobody else jumped in. I waited a half a beat.
Leader Pelosi. He waited a half a beat.
Q: I'll wait a little longer next time.
But, in any event, with this threatened veto by the President on the 9/11 lawsuit bill, do you feel that some Members of your Caucus are kind of put sideways because this is a very politically sensitive issue? They don't like voting against the President, obviously. It appears that there's a supermajority to do so.
And that said, the second part of that is, I mean, would you vote to override the President on this?
Leader Pelosi. This is a very sad situation. Just since you asked me about my view, I will say my view is from a long time ago. You may not have been here then, but I was the first one to initiate the 9/11 Commission. It passed in the Committee, in the Intelligence Committee, where I served. And when it went to the Floor, I was accused of being a traitor for bringing it up, as if I were questioning – I don't know what. But, in any event, it did not pass at that time.
We combined it, under the leadership of [former Congressman] Tim Roemer, who was a member of the Intelligence Committee, attaching it to something that was passed, but, most importantly, for the mobilization of the families. The families wanted that 9/11 Commission, and so we did pass it.
And, from the start, I've always wanted the full report to be released. That is to say, I've worked with these families for a very long time, and I think they should have their day in court.
Q: But does that put some Members of your Caucus in a tough spot, where they might feel – you know, they can make arguments to say, I would prefer to sustain the President's veto, but the politics of this are so sensitive because it is September, we're just past the anniversary of 9/11, and it makes that a tougher optic vote, to be perceived as voting against the families if you vote to sustain the President's veto.
Leader Pelosi. You'd have to ask them individually, but I think that Members think that the families should have their day in court. And I think the concerns that the President has expressed are very legitimate. The families think that they've addressed many of those concerns in the legislation.
This is difficult. You've described the difficulty. And many national security leaders have written about this, that, and the other thing, as to the reciprocity against us and other countries, but I think it's going to happen.
Q: Madam Leader, if I could just follow on that.
Leader Pelosi. Yes?
Q: Have you heard from the White House on what you plan to do on this potential veto override?
Leader Pelosi. The White House has not asked me to do anything on this. You know, that is to say, usually we'll decide the President will veto this or – but I believe that they understand that this is an issue that Members are going to be left to their own. Well, we always are. But, nonetheless, the White House has been very respectful of the concerns that Members have.
Q: Given that it looks like you have the support to override the veto, so, practically speaking, it's not going to do much at all, and the optics that Chad just mentioned might ding the Democrats just politically, do you think that Obama should just not veto it at all?
Leader Pelosi. Oh, you're saying that I would have the vote, huh? The families will have the vote.
I think that this – no, I believe people – many of us have been involved in this issue for a very long time. You may not know, but I, as top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee at the time, was one of the four Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee to investigate 9/11 and then also an advocate for an outside group, what became the 9/11 Commission, Governor Kean and Chairman Hamilton.
So we've been working together on this for a very long time. Members will make up their own minds about it. I don't think it has any political significance. I don't.
Q: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask about Wells Fargo. Would you agree with Elizabeth Warren's call for a criminal investigation, number one?
And, number two, some Members are talking about returning their political contributions from that company. Would you consider doing that?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know if I even have any. I don't know if I even have any.
But here's the thing. I think there's something bigger than that. I do think there are some criminal investigations in North Carolina, in New York, and in California, Los Angeles, already. And if wrongdoing is there, we should address it. I do think that accountability is important.
Wells Fargo is an important part of the history of our country. This board has to decide how Wells Fargo is viewed into the future, as well as into the history. And it's just appalling. What happened is just appalling. So I do think, if we have reason to think there was criminal activity, that that should happen, but it already is happening.
So we have to have accountability. Look, one of my members is Mr. Bill Pascrell of [New Jersey]. He wants a release of all of the FBI documents related to what happened in 2008.
We should have transparency; we should have accountability. Why do we not know more about what happened then? Why was there no criminal action taken, from the actions of some of the – not all, of course, but just some in the community? If you just talk to his office, he can tell you all about it. But I completely agree with him that we should see those files.
In terms of the – back to the Wells Fargo, some things that are interesting in the context of it – that it is in context of: We had a provision in Dodd-Frank to call back compensation given to people in a situation like this, but it won't be final until 2018. But Dodd-Frank did call for it. Of course, the business community was very negative about it, and that's why the regulation is taking a while to go into effect.
But there should be some provision for a claw back. Why should a person who oversaw the ripping off of thousands of employees – and those are the people who got fired. The low-level people are the ones who got fired, making the least off it. There has to be, of course, accountability for top level executives. There are the criminal investigations in New York, L.A., and North Carolina.
Yet, last weekend, while this was all coming out, the Republicans in the Financial Services Committee had a bill to completely overturn Dodd-Frank. Almost every day, every week, they have something to take down a provision of it. But this day, they had a bill to completely overturn Dodd-Frank.
The CFPB, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is a victory for consumers. They imposed the largest fine ever and called for restitution to the customers who were defrauded. And, at the same time, these same people are calling for dismantling the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
So your question points to a challenge that our country has. I respect the free market; we do not respect the exploitation of our consumers and our taxpayers. And there has to be accountability for that.
Q: Could you update us on the CR?
Leader Pelosi. Okay.
Q: I'm particularly interested in WRDA and Flint funding, where that might be right now?
Leader Pelosi. Okay. Right now, the Senate has received a counterproposal from the Republicans, which, in my view, is not even worthy of a counter. It falls very short.
First of all, as I said, our House Democrats don't think there should be offset for Zika. But if there's going to be some, it has to be a modest amount and taken from appropriate places. Okay. So one problem is the amount of the offset and where it comes from.
The second problem is the riders. They have a tin ear. The President has said "no riders." They have a tin ear. They want to have their ICANN, and they have postponed the ICANN decision, which is like saying, "Take me back to my stone tablet. I just don't understand the telephone, much less the technology beyond that."
SEC, of course, they're all about protecting big money donors. And we think that – you know, the list goes on, but we think that Flint should be included in here.
And, by the way, our proposal for Flint is paid for – is paid for. So it removes their objection about that. We agree that we should have money for Louisiana. It's not paid for. So how do you say that Flint should be paid for – and, by the way, we don't want it in the bill anyway – but Louisiana should not be paid for? We agree with that. We completely concur with that, because this is an emergency.
So where we are is, so far, I haven't seen anything that our Democrats in the House would vote for. We have some Members who are saying they're not voting for anything that doesn't have Flint in it.
We are looking at what possibilities are with WRDA. And you know what they did with WRDA; they made matters worse. We had kind of come to a place where we would support WRDA, even though it didn't have Flint in it, because the Senate bill had Flint in it. And then they took out the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and so now we're not going to be voting for that bill.
They're not taking it up under suspension; they're taking it up under a rule. So they may get the votes to go to conference if they have all the Republicans, but it's uncertain as to whether Flint would survive that process, if the Harbor Trust Fund isn't surviving the WRDA.
So that's where we are. So, hopefully, we'll hear some – now, you know, they just announced we don't have votes tomorrow, so that means – what does it mean? It means we're doing nothing again, which is probably a good thing compared to the bad things they do when we're here.
But to put off even for a day – the idea that we're not funding the Zika virus, it's stunning. Think of – in the testimony we had in the spring – now, this has been going on for a while – we were told it could cost, like, $10 million a child, in the life expectancy of the child, for all of the needs the child would have. Two hundred children, that's $2 billion. The President's asking $1.9 billion.
We don't want one child to have Zika, but if they do, it's still a cost. So, even if they have no compassion, really can kick the can down the road endlessly while they give tax breaks to their wealthy friends, they're going to lose money by not doing this because of the cost that will be there to care for these children.
And these children are precious, precious children. Imagine in your family if you had a child, because of the indifference of some, would not be able to see, walk, talk, and even have self-awareness. It's a tragedy. It's a crime. It's a crime.
And, at the same time, the science that could find a cure is being held in contempt in the Congress of the United States. Biomedical research is being held in contempt in the Congress of the United States. When I talk to some of the scientists and say, "You have to be active on this and lobby for this, this, and this," they'll say, you know, "We want to be in the lab. We're not politicians. We want to be in the lab. You all have to do that."
But I think the American voter should take a really strong – if there were reason to vote for Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly, in addition to her magnificent credentials and great President she will be – and, incidentally, that she happens to be a woman – but if there were one reason to vote on an issue outside of personality, it would be the issue of the Supreme Court, of course, because the Supreme Court is every issue. It's choice, it's immigration, it's guns, it's women's right to choose. The list goes on and on.
But, of those issues, women have to know, families have to know that the vengeance that the Republicans have on a woman's right to choose, to respect women to determine the size and timing of their families, is so rampant here, A, and B, it goes to the point of saying no embryonic stem cell research, no fetal tissue research. It's really something tragic. And I say that as a devout Catholic mother of five, grandmother of nine. I just – facts have died here.
This Committee – I don't know why you all aren't writing about it. It is the most – with stiff competition, mind you – one of the most appalling stunts that they have pulled of late, to hold in contempt scientists who are doing fetal tissue research, as Jan Schakowsky, our excellent Ranking Member on the Committee, has said, fetal tissue research to find cures from A to Z, Alzheimer's to Zika.
Thank you very much. Bye bye.
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