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. As you know, on Wednesday, my House Democratic colleagues extended the honor to me to continue to serve as House Democratic Leader, for which I am honored and delighted and humbled and grateful. Our caucus has been energized by Members who have stepped forward wanting to get to work, and I am pleased that our caucus is building consensus and creating new roles in leadership on committees and at the DCCC. That is why I am a little bit late, because we were finishing some of that. That interest in working and participating is music to my ears. There is hard work ahead, but with the strength, wisdom, and resourcefulness within our caucus, I know House Democrats will meet the challenges ahead.
That is why Democrats are eager to work with Republicans to pass a bold infrastructure bill to rebuild America and create good-paying jobs. However, Congressional Republicans are clearly more interested in dismantling Medicare than building job-creating infrastructure. With Chairman [Tom] Price headed to the HHS, Speaker Ryan moves closer to realizing his dream, and America's nightmare, of shattering the Medicare guarantee and protecting generations of American seniors. Democrats will fight them with all of our strength, just as we did in 2005 and 2006, when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security.
Now Republicans are even threatening to gut and privatize the VA, a deeply radical and destructive move that could hurt veterans across America. We have heard from the veterans. Paul Rieckhoff, [Founder and CEO] of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said, “The worst case scenario within the vets community is a total dismantling of everything they worked generations to create. There is a growing fear it is all going to get burned down.” Verna Jones, Executive Director of the American Legion, said, “Veterans deserve to go to the VA. We oppose privatization.”
Veterans Service Organizations have already communicated their eagerness to work with both sides of the aisle to prevent this disastrous privatization scheme.
We are, again, very pleased with the work that was done with the Cures Act that was replaced. We worked together, had a big, strong vote that made resources available for precision medicine, brain research, and, with great pride, Vice President Biden's Moonshot, Cancer Moonshot. Long overdue. $1 billion dollars in opioid treatment funds. We've been calling for that funding for a while. We've gotten bills, but we haven't gotten money. Improvements in mental health and substance use disorder services. We hope this Republican Congress will meet its responsibility to robustly fund these commitments in years ahead, because the way the bill is written, it is for this coming year with a commitment for what comes next, but we want that commitment to be a guarantee.
With that, I would be pleased to take any questions you have. Yes.
Q: Republicans are moving ahead with plans to repeal parts of Obamacare. They mentioned that they want to replace those through regular channels, which would likely require some Democratic support. Are Democrats ready at this point to work with Republicans on crafting what that replacement would look like?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I do think, if the Republicans have some suggestions, we would be open to having some conversations about how we can improve the Affordable Care Act. It is important to note, though, that you can't say, “I am going to have no preexisting condition discrimination or we are going to have no lifetime limits,” and the rest, but undermine the rest of the bill. So what is the – you know, what is their agenda? A mandate is a Republican idea.
We are always ready to listen, as I would have been if Democrats had been in power, to say, “what improvements can we make?” But we are not going to be party to the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act is not only important for the 20 million people who have affordable care now who didn't have it before, access to care; it is important for the over 125 million people who have preexisting medical conditions which had barred them from care and insurance. It is also important to anyone who has a lifetime limit. So, if you have a precondition, you fall into that category too. If a baby is born with a condition, lifetime limits on the care of that child would be a disaster. So, it is important to note that you can't keep the good things without keeping the big pool of people who contribute to it and make the whole country healthier. It is about the health of America as much as it is about the health care or the health insurance of America.
So, you know, again, we are always listening, but it is not to dismantle. If it is an existential threat to the access to care in our country, that would be a problem. If there are things we can do working together, of course.
Q: And would that mean working with them on something that doesn't look similar to what the Obamacare system is right now?
Leader Pelosi. It is very hard. You know, it is very hard to come up with a system. If we were starting from scratch, say there was no healthcare system in our country or we were just forming a new country, you would probably have single payer, and it certainly would have a public option. I still think that that would be a good place to go, public option, but that is not what it is. You have a – it is important to note this: 75 percent of people in our country have their health care through their employer. Of the remaining 25 percent, 20 million of them are in the Affordable Care Act. Other people are on Medicare, Medicaid, and the rest. But since there is an expansion of Medicaid, not everyone eligible for Medicaid within the Affordable Care Act has access that they should have. So, anyway, let's take it this way: 75 percent are under employer-based care – insurance. Of those people, they all benefit from no preexisting conditions – no lifetime limits. Your child can stay on the policy until their 26 years old; no longer being a woman is a preexisting medical condition.
So understand that this is not just about the 20 million. It is about the vast majority of our country benefiting from that. And so, whatever it is we do impacts all of those people in addition to the 20 million. So if they are going to come forward with something that says we are turning away these 20 million, I think that is going to be a big fight in our country. Many more people are benefiting from it than who might say they support it right now, but when you ask them, “do you want it to be repealed?” It is like 20 percent, 20 percent.
Q: Leader Pelosi.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: I have a question about Republicans – there's chatter that Republicans are going to try to end the congressional calendar and recess early to avoid some regulations from going into effect. I am wondering if the Democrats have a strategy to stay longer?
Leader Pelosi. Well, they keep the calendar, but I don't know if the work will be finished. I just had a brief conversation with the Speaker, but not dispositive of the issue in terms of the win, but how things were going, and we have to do this Continuing Resolution. And when is that going to be ready? Supposedly by Monday.
Then it takes a few days to get on the calendar and goes to the Senate, and are they in agreement as to what that – how that will work? And so that, I think, is more dispositive of when we leave than the issue that you bring up, and it could be – we could end the end of next week, but I think we are on alert that it could go another week.
Q: Leader Pelosi.
Leader Pelosi. You had a question yesterday, so I am trying to get to people who haven't. Yes?
Q: I would like to ask you for an update on WRDA, the Water Research Development Act.
Leader Pelosi. Yes?
Q: Do you expect that to move next week? There was some talk of a Buy American provision.
Leader Pelosi. That is right. That was the other thing. The WRDA bill – again, I had this conversation with the Speaker just an hour or two ago. The WRDA bill, we are almost all in agreement. Our disagreement is that they want to – the Republicans want to drop the Buy American provision from the WRDA bill. That would be problematic for us. Of course, they have the votes, so they could go forward if they wish, but we have a very big concern about that, and that is holding up – we were supposed to have it resolved probably by about now, and I don't know if that has happened since I have come in the room, but that is still a problem now.
What I am interested in the WRDA bill – of course the whole bill, because it is about jobs – is about Flint. And Flint will be up as an authorization in the WRDA bill, but we have to see what the language is in the CR, because it is one thing to have an authorization; it is another thing to have the money. And that is where we are interested in the juxtaposition between the WRDA bill and the Continuing Resolution. But I am very hopeful that we can have a WRDA bill, because it would be very important for our country.
One way or another, we are going to get the Flint money, and I feel confident that the Speaker will keep his promise to us in that regard. Now it is a debate between the House and the Senate about how things are paid for and the rest.
Q: Leader Pelosi.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Let me ask you, you guys are heading into the next Congress with the same top three leaders who are likely to be reelected.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: So I know that you have added some lower level leadership positions, but what, if anything, has changed fundamentally in the caucus, and what do you take away from the last 3 weeks?
Leader Pelosi. Well, thank you for your question. We just had a very, very positive meeting with our caucus. We had a rapprochement, a wonderful coming to terms between Ben Ray Luján and Sean Patrick Maloney. The two of them are really open to each other's ideas. They created how we can work together in a stronger way. And it was a lovely sight. In fact, they wanted to just move for the election right now, and I said, “no.” We said Monday, so we will wait until Monday.
These are not lower level positions. When everybody is in that room, they are an equal voice. I am very excited about the fact that we will elect the three Members of the Policy Committee.
Somebody said we are doing what Chuck did. No. Chuck did what we did last time. Last time, we created the Steve Israel position. Now we are expanding it to three. There are more Members who will be elected: a freshman – to the leadership – and a person with fewer than five terms. I mean, these are substantial places. It took me 15 years probably to get to the leadership table while these people will get there freshman year or a couple of terms.
So I am, frankly, liberated by it, because more people want to take responsibility, and in no way would they consider this lower level, especially from their perspective in the Congress. It is a big honor. Their invigoration is important to it all.
And as we go forward, as we did in 2005 and 2006, we are working very closely together as the opposition, which is a different role than we have had in the last few years. Our unity is very important. So we will be strategic. We will be unified. And we will be unwavering in our support for America's working families. That is what joins us together. Everything else is part of who we are, but what unifies us are our values, and those values are about America's working families.
Q: Leader Pelosi, seven Senate Democrats on the Intelligence Committee wrote to the White House to declassify additional information that they believe shows Russian interference in the elections. You are in a lot of briefings.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: What additional information exists that shows Russia was involved in the elections?
Leader Pelosi. But wait a minute. You say that seven Senators are asking for the declassification of it, and you want me to tell you what is that information.
Q: Well, what…
Leader Pelosi. And you want me to go to jail.
Q: Well, how can you – without revealing the classified information, can you characterize in any way this information?
Leader Pelosi. No. Let me say, I appreciate your question. I wanted to because I know they had – I want to talk about this in this way: Our new Co-Chair of the Steering and Policy Committee, Eric Swalwell, a new Member of Congress, the head of the Future Forum, traveled the country listening to people, millennials, is also a Member of the Intelligence Committee, and he is working with Elijah Cummings, our champion in finding out the truth of what is going on in some of this. They are talking about calling for – I will let them make their own announcement – but to take us to a place where we find out, did a foreign government – and I know that they did – what is the role of a foreign government in undermining our election? That would have been a necessary investigation even if Hillary Clinton had won. It isn't about who wins or not; it is about what the interference is.
I have said this to you before. We witnessed it. I knew. I said, at the convention in July, I know that it is the Russians. I know because I paid for the investigation of our own hacking. I know it is the Russians. I don't know that from any classified information. I know it from our own investigation. A couple, two, three months later, the highest level of confidence from our intelligence community said the Russians hacked our committees. Every day emails came out from the Democratic side. I, frankly, think there could have been more aggressive coverage of the fact that a foreign government was hacking our committees, but it just was like something that was going on and – but the fact is something awful was going on.
What was interesting to me is that the Director of the FBI did not – he did not want to sign that consensus report, because it was too close to the election and he didn't want to affect the election, but he had no trepidation or hesitation or qualm about putting forth a letter that said might be – may be insignificant 12 days before the election, which others revealed was coming a couple days before.
So that is why our distinguished champion Ranking Member, Elijah Cummings, has been in the lead asking for an inspector general report about that particular letter and the leaking of it in advance and how Elijah Cummings and Eric Swalwell are going to be working for some call for us to investigate or whatever – I will let them make their own announcement because they are shaping it and I wouldn't even be able to tell you what it is because they are doing it – to uncover what is happening.
It is about our democracy. Part of the Russian agenda is to undermine democracy, not just in our country, but in other countries as well, to hack, to alter, and to disclose, and it is just not right. And I think that it is shameful that this was able to go on, so evidently a foreign government undermining our democracy, without more being said about it at the time. So that will happen.
Q: Do you want the White House to declassify further information?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the declassification is really up to the President. And probably – I mean, and just so you know this, the President can declassify something by just saying it. All of the power in the world. It is a very mighty power, actually. Whatever – if the President said something that was highly classified information, say, by mistake or something, he would not be vulnerable because his very saying it declassifies it.
So I haven't seen the letter. I think there should be more information known to the American people, whether that is by declassification, whatever. Maybe that is the investigation that Mr. Swalwell and Mr. Cummings are going to have.
Thank you all very much.
Q: A question about Obamacare. Could you talk about Obamacare for a moment here?
Leader Pelosi. But I have to go.
Q: One second, one second. What if I asked you about the Niners?
Leader Pelosi. How about the double overtime? Oh, my God, Ohio State and Michigan. Wow.
Q: Well, we are glad Ohio State won that one.
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