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.
We have a new President. We wish him well. We live in interesting times and we have some concerns. After naming a white nationalist, Steve Bannon, as his chief strategist, the President-elect has continued to make deeply troubling choices for senior positions in the administration.
Days after picking Bannon, the President-elect chose an Attorney General with a long record of racist statements, discriminatory goals, and contempt for voting rights. As Attorney General, Jeff Sessions would have dangerous new authority to attack civil rights, LGBT rights, the rights of immigrants and people of color.
Senator Sessions' record of racist comments and action was considered disqualifying as a district judge by the standards of 1986. Thirty years later, President-elect Trump wants to make him the chief law enforcement [officer] in America. In fact, in recent years, Senator Sessions' conduct toward Latino and immigrant families has only grown more disturbing.
So that's it. We appoint somebody who is anti-civil rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, et cetera, LGBT rights, as the Attorney General.
Now we go to EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. Oklahoma's Attorney General Scott Pruitt brazenly used his office as a vehicle for an agenda of big polluters and climate deniers in the courts. The control of EPA could do immense damage to the air our children breathe and the water they drink.
By the way, what Pruitt stands for is exactly the same thing, the same agenda that the Republicans in the House of Representatives espouse almost every day that we are here. So this isn't different from the Republicans in Congress.
Democrats will continue to fight for clean air and clean water and the clean energy investments that protect God's creation and good-paying jobs.
Now we go to Social Security and Medicare. Naming Budget Chairman Tom Price to [be the] head of HHS is a clear signal that Republicans will try to end Medicare and force seniors to pay more. Speaker Ryan and the House GOP, as we have discussed before, has always had a dream of ending the Medicare guarantee, and that is a nightmare. His dream is a nightmare for the American people.
Medicare and guarantee, they are synonymous. Take away the guarantee, you destroy Medicare. Democrats will fight Republicans' efforts to destroy Medicare just as we did in 2005 when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security.
Destroying Medicare and making seniors pay more is not what the American people voted for in November. Democrats in Congress and millions of Americans across the country are going to make it very, very clear: Hands off Medicare.
ACA. After years of the GOP's fevered fact free crusade against the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans' repeal plan will have cold, hard consequences for the American people, millions of American people. Working families will bear the brunt of Republicans' blind contempt for the Affordable Care Act.
Under the ACA – just think of this, did you know this? Under the ACA complementary initiative, 95 percent of America's children are covered. In addition to the 20 million people who were previously uninsured with the new found security, health security. The ACA protects over 123 million Americans with preexisting conditions. And ending the discrimination against their even getting coverage also removes a limit on your coverage, lifetime limits on your coverage.
And on a state-by-state basis, we will have strong advocacy for what this means in the lives of the American people. It has made a tremendous difference. It's about cost, the cost of growing at the slowest rate ever since the costs have been measured. It's about quality, the quality of health care that people have, and their stories are the best testimonies to that. And quantity, the number of people covered. The bigger the pool, the lower the cost, the better the care, the healthier the country.
So this, we will see a state-by-state basis, doctors, hospitals, patients, advocates, they are our strongest voices, and faith groups, for stepping forward to express the consequences of the Republican repeal of ACA.
Now for what's happening today. This morning we had a lovely signing ceremony for the CURES Act. We are all very proud to participate in that and to stick with it to the end.
There were some things right at the end were dropped from the CURES Act that we were hoping would be in it, and one of them relates to Families First. We thought, therefore, that it would be in the CR, but it is not. We have come to the final business of the 114th Congress disappointed that we are not voting on a more robust CR that meets the needs of the American people.
In all of these negotiations on these end of session investments, whether it's an omnibus or a continuing resolution as it is this year, we have always had a four post negotiation, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans. This year, the Republicans decided it would just be Senate Republicans and House Democrats. Senate Republicans and House Republicans. It's a $1.7 trillion budget bill, spending bill, and they decided that they would establish what the priorities were.
We never treated them that way. But we don't agonize, just to state a fact, that this is a bill that is a missed opportunity in so many ways. We didn't get our Families First. They played a number on Flint. It should be clearly in that bill that it is spelled out in a way that Flint would receive the money. Instead, they used it as a trick for the WRDA bill.
So for these and other reasons, that missed opportunity, leaving the coal miners abandoned. When we tried to get initiatives for renewables, they said, "We're fossil fuel guys." So we said, "Okay, well, let's honor the work of the miners and their families." Suppose you worked for a company as these miners have done, that went bankrupt or insolvent, and then they said to you, "You no longer have your pension or your health benefits." Picture that in your own life. Well, that's what happened to them.
And so the request was for like a five-year pension and healthcare benefit initiative, or maybe into perpetuity. There's a Republican bill from Congressman McKinley that helps these families so much, a lot of them widows, and the Republicans have rejected that. So instead of five years, it's going to be four months, four months, from now to April. It's really appalling.
For these and other reasons, I will be opposing the CR. Members will do what they do. But the fact is, is that it's such a missed opportunity, and it's really kind of sad because there's so many things that we could do to meet the needs of the American people working together in a bipartisan way. We did that with making many concessions on the Cures bill, and I'm really disappointed that they have gone down this path now.
So I will be opposing it. Some of our Members will vote for it, some against. I don't know, I haven't whipped it or anything, I'm just telling. In fact, you are probably the first to know, officially, that I will be opposing it. But I'll be sure and go speak on the floor on it. It's so sad. It's really so sad. So many provisions, more than I'll go into here.
Any questions? Yes?
Q: What would you say to Donald Trump on his proposals to keep jobs and companies in the U.S. and to do so he's going to have a 35 percent tariff if they go overseas? Will you talk a little bit about the consequences of that?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I know the Speaker has told you tax reform or something was the answer to this.
Look, we live in a global economy. Any initiatives that we take in terms of trade have a consequence for us. I do not support TPP. I did not support TPP. And except for 28 Democrats in the House, we overwhelmingly opposed it. The Republicans overwhelmingly supported it. And that's how we got to 218, 190 Republicans and 28 Democrats.
We live in a global economy. To address our trade relationship is very important, starting with the worker, starting with the worker. But the idea that we were going to go down that path, it doesn't seem well thought out. It doesn't look like a formula for success. And it certainly will invite reciprocity. And what we want to do is to promote our exports, not to have them tariffed highly in other countries.
So I think this is more of a PR thing because it doesn't really sound like a serious proposal in terms of trade. But it gets him applause. It brings people to their feet, but not to their senses, and that's where we have to go on these things.
Q: Since 2011, the Republicans have arguably weaponized the debt ceiling by using it as a way to try and force concessions by the White House. Now that the shoe will be on the other foot next year, you guys have said that's something that shouldn't be messed with, generally speaking. I'm wondering if you're rethinking that stance now.
Leader Pelosi. No. No, I mean, the point is, is that we have supported or opposed lifting the debt ceiling, but never letting it go down. No, those people have made their point. But what the Republicans did was to put in doubt as to whether the debt ceiling would be lifted. Even just discussion of it, even the discussion of it lowered our rating, lowered our rating. And so you can't mess with it in that regard.
Can you use it as a discussion? Can you use it as leverage? But you can never use it to say, if you don't do this, we're going to take it down. And that's the difference between a discussion and a negotiation than an absolute declaration that you are going to not lift the debt ceiling.
Q: So it sounds like you're saying you're not planning on using it the way they used it.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't think anybody should use it the way they use it, to lower the credit rating of the good faith and credit of the United States of America. I don't even think we should have to take the vote. The Constitution calls for that to never be in doubt. And they placed it in doubt and that had a bad consequence for us.
But we are not placing in doubt whether it will be lifted, but we have reserved the right to negotiate, and maybe we will, maybe we won't. It just depends on what the circumstances are at the time.
But it will be interesting to see what the President of the United States will be saying at the time.
Q: Madam Leader, what is your position on the rider that Dianne Feinstein and Kevin McCarthy wrote into the water bill? It caused a rare rift between California's two Senators. Do you have a position on it?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, I do, in terms of how it was done. Again, nobody wants to hear about process, but it is policy in some respects. This was something that we had been negotiating the WRDA bill for a while and, like, 2 hours before it was supposed to be posted, they came up with this thick bill saying this is now going to be in it. We didn't even see the bill until hours later.
So from that standpoint, it was suspicious. It isn't a water bill, it is a natural resources bill. It pertains to water, but it should be a natural resources, so it doesn't belong there.
So with all of the importance of it, to have it just be something that's parachuted in with tons of pages and very little time before it is now included, and it's something that we have been talking about for weeks and really trying to come to terms. We have concerns about not having Buy America in WRDA. We have concerns about why are they putting a piece of Flint in WRDA? We have concerns that they have taken the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, which has billions of dollars that could be used for dredging, and the understanding that that was going to be the addressed in the bill.
They took all of the stuff out that we anticipated might be coming and then put this bill in, knowing that it was controversial and required much more attention.
I have concerns that it undermines the Endangered Species Act. I have enormous respect for Senator Feinstein and the time that she has put in on all of this. I do respect the fact that this is Senator Boxer's committee. It's her bill, it's her position, it's her leaving of Congress, and that they would do that.
For substantive reasons I oppose it, I oppose that provision. But also, it's just another indication of an arrogance – not speaking of Senator Feinstein now, but of the Republicans – of an arrogance of take it or leave it.
In my view, they have hijacked it, hijacked the good intentions of everyone in terms of the children of Flint, and put something on there that people don't want to support, but then have to make a choice between the children. And the children could have been addressed in the CR completely.
Now, there's authorization in the CR – there's appropriation in the CR, but they said, "Oh, the authorization has to be in WRDA. We have to have an authorization." Well, the $1.7 trillion bill probably has a quarter of a trillion dollars' worth of unauthorized language. But they are holding the WRDA, the children of Flint, to a different standard and that's really unfortunate. And then to combine it with what some of us consider a poison pill is a problem.
So it was, in my view, not worthy of the subject, and this is a serious subject, the water issue in California. How they did it is unworthy of the seriousness of the subject that needs to be addressed and just gives the next administration an opportunity to make matters worse as they build on what would be in this bill, should it pass, which I think it will.
Q: The Republicans say that they want Democrats to work with them on a replacement for ObamaCare. Assuming that they go ahead with the path that they appear to be on, which is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or the major part of it, through reconciliation early in the new year, is it thinkable that Democrats would work with them on a replacement at that point?
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, well, we're fighting the repeal right now, we're fighting the repeal. But we had this question last week. If people have good ideas, I certainly have some things I would like to do, you know. We are a bicameral legislature, but there's some things that the Senate wanted that I didn't, and we can have a discussion about how we can make some improvements in that regard.
So we never, we never pass any bill of any consequence that you don't say in its implementation, how could we do better, from what we have learned from its implementation, how can we address some of those concerns? Or even we knew they wouldn't like it, parts of it, like the Cadillac tax or something like that. Yeah, I would like to get rid of that.
But the fact is that right now it's really important for the Republicans in Congress to know the harm that they will do to people throughout our country. Fault us for not messaging clearly enough as the bill was being passed, and they were allowed to misrepresent – I don't want to say the fact – misrepresent an illusion that they wanted the public to have about this legislation.
But the fact is that some of the people who opposed it then are some of our strongest supporters now. So we are going to fight this out because this is a pillar of health and economic security for America's working families.
And just to recap, since maybe you weren't here last week, but I said this, 75 percent of the American people receive their health insurance on the job. Of the remaining 25 percent, a large chunk of those are those who now have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Some people are left out. They haven't stepped up or they can't afford. Whatever it is, we still have to address that. But that's a small percentage. So we're saying 75 percent are covered, 20 million more, 95 percent of America's children are covered now – are covered now. And that's a beautiful thing.
Again, 123 million people with preexisting medical conditions don't have to worry about being discriminated against for health insurance. You have no lifetime limits. These were all levers that the insurance industry used against the policyholders. Now they have joined together with us to make access more widely available, so it's about quantity. The quality of health care has improved. The more people you have in the pool, the healthier the country.
The most privileged person in America, health care and health outlooks are better. But the poorest person in America has access now because we learn from the epidemiology of disease.
So quantity, quality, cost. If there are no other reasons, there are no other reasons to do the Affordable Care Act than cost, it would have been essential. The rising costs of health care were unsustainable to businesses, big and small, families, individuals, the Federal Government, and any other government entity because the costs were going up like this. It was unaffordable.
And so now we have the cost rising at the lowest rate ever since all of this was measured. And are there some places where we should iron out some accommodations in one State or another? Yes, let's do that. But you don't say to 20 million, "Forget about it," the 123 million.
That's why the disease groups are so much with us. The difference it has made in their lives to have no preexisting condition as a barrier to access and no lifetime limits is remarkable.
So we are very proud of it and we are going to put together these organizations in as many States as possible with all of the stakeholders in it.
And again, if anybody has any positive suggestions about how we can work together to go forward, we never would say no to that, but we are not talking about a replacement. Because what they are saying is, "Oh, we're going to keep no preexisting conditions, we're going to keep lifetime limits." You can't do it unless you have your big pool. So that's what they will find out.
But what they'll also find out is there are more stories that support the Affordable Care Act as they may have wanted to listen to, but they will be hearing from them on that.
And, again, when you look at the Affordable Care Act, what it did for Medicare, just think of this. For Medicare, the Affordable Care Act took savings, extended the life of Medicare, closed the donut hole, and provided free checkup, early free checking, and that's very important to have early intervention.
In the Ryan budget they take the same savings that we recognized that were there and give a tax break to the richest people in the country. So we're talking about a value system here. And that's a lot of the debate and maybe it's a discussion that we should have had earlier. But as the President said, we are all busy, but not too busy to give people confidence that we're there to not only protect them, and this is not just about health care in America, but the good health of America.
I'm going to have to go because I have to speak on the floor, but I thank you all very much. I wish you a happy holiday season. Maybe I'll see you next week. I don't know. I think we will get out pretty soon, you know. We'll see. But thank you all very much. Happy holidays.
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