Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Contact: Ashley Etienne/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 Opening Remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
Today I'm up here wearing orange to observe that on January 21st, 2013, Hadiya Pendleton, a high school student from the South Side of Chicago, marched in President Obama's second inaugural parade. One week later, Hadiya was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago. Soon after, Hadiya's childhood friends commemorated her life by wearing orange. They chose the color because hunters wear orange in the woods to protect themselves from others. And so this day, which would have been her birthday, is the day that we wear orange.
Every day, more than 90 Americans are killed due to gun violence. That's why, again, so many of us are wearing orange to mark National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
I thought it would be important for us to come together today, because yesterday, President Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. It was a stunning abdication of American leadership. Walking away from the agreement is extremely dangerous.
When I was Speaker of the House, this was my flagship issue. We all wanted to pass health care, that's for sure, but specifically, the issues of climate and energy independence are a challenge to our generation in a very important way. I formed a special Select Committee on Climate and Energy, chaired by Ed Markey, a very distinguished leader, and the panel was bipartisan. Some believed in the climate change initiative; others did not. All of us heard the testimony about why this was important.
The generals came and they talked about it being a national security issue. And just even now, Secretary of Defense General Mattis told the Senate in written testimony in January that ‘climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.’ The climate crisis has triggered droughts, famines and other devastating environmental changes that have sparked political turmoil and a mass movement of refugees. That's my statement. Even Trump's team knows that climate change is a national security threat.
Again, we have the testimony of generals. This goes back to 2007, 10 years ago, we have known that.
It's an economic issue. Hundreds of businesses and executives support the accord, including energy companies, like ExxonMobil. Several members of Trump's business council, as you know, resigned yesterday in protest of his decision.
Trump says that he's putting America's jobs first, but the accord would have created an explosion of green energy jobs for the future. To keep America preeminent and number one for the jobs of the future, it was essential that the world move to a place that recognizes the danger of a climate crisis. It's a health issue. It's a national security issue. It's an economic security issue. It's a personal security issue. Families' health is affected by this.
This agreement creates safeguards that reduce the pollution that sickens and kills tens of thousands of people each year. That's why these countries are joining in. This is a matter of environmental justice, a big matter of environmental justice. Lower-income and minority families are disproportionately vulnerable to the ravages of the climate crisis. It's a civil rights issue, environmental justice is.
And we have a moral responsibility. In addition to our national security, our economy and the good health of our children, we have a moral responsibility. We must leave future generations with a healthy, sustainable planet. Faith leaders, starting with His Holiness Pope Francis, to the evangelical community, have urged us to be responsible stewards of the beauty of God's creation. They believe, as do I, that this planet is God's creation, and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it.
When we worked with the evangelical community to put forth put together our climate legislation 10 years ago, 9 years ago they had their literature, which said that we had a moral responsibility to be good stewards of God's creation. And in doing so, we must pay special attention to the needs of the poor. They saw it as an environmental justice issue as well, the evangelical community.
When the Pope went to the White House, he talked about the dangers of air pollution when he was here. And just last week, the Pope met with President Trump and gave him a copy of his encyclical, Laudato Si, which made the case for strong urgent action to halt the climate crisis. The Pope wrote, 'The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.'
The Bible tells us that to minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us, and that is just what we are doing by walking away from this accord.
The question I have for Donald Trump, as a mother and a grandmother of five and a grandmother of nine, how is he ever going to explain to his grandchildren what he did to the air they breathe, assuming they breathe air. And I have to assume that that is the case. We all do, right?
I was reminded of when we went to Selma for the 50th anniversary of the march, the Selma to Montgomery march. It was a very moving time when George Wallace's daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy, made remarks on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery. She talked about taking her son, Burns, to visit some of the sites of the civil rights movement. Burns stood still, she said, as the truth of his family's past washed over him. He turned to me, his mother said, and asked, ‘did Poppa do those things to other people?’ This is when she took him to where the hoses were and all of that. ‘Did Poppa do those things to other people?’ I realized, she said, ‘at that moment I was at a crossroad in my life and the life of my son.’ The mantle had passed, and it was up to me to do for Burns what my father never did for me. It was the first step in my journey of building a legacy of my own. I drew him close to me and said, 'Poppa never told me why he did those things, but I know he was wrong so maybe it will be up to me and to you to make these things right.'
I kept thinking of that yesterday when I was seeing President Trump make his statement. Almost every schoolchild in America knows more about the climate challenge than apparently the President of the United States. He lives in a fact-free zone. His speech was based on a White House counsel memo that was incorrect. It was false. He does not know anything about the agreement that he is walking away from.
He cited an Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study that the agreement would slow global warming by a ‘tiny, tiny amount,’ but MIT officials rejected that statement today, and they have said actually the reverse, that without the agreement, the acceleration of global warming would go forward. They said that Trump misunderstood – that's a generous word – their study.
So, I mean, I could just go through some of the things that he said yesterday and why they are wrong, but perhaps if you ask me I will tell you. But when you look at what he said in the statement, based on false and faulty representations by his own general counsel so let's give the President a break on that. His general counsel didn't know what he was talking about.
And then look at his budget and how he wants to ransack the EPA, clean air, clean water. When he said in the campaign, we're going to have clean air, clean water; ransack it. It's just a stunning thing. So it's about, again, our national security, our economic security, keep America number one, the good health of the American people, to prevent air pollution, clean air, clean water. It's about our moral responsibility to future generations, to hand over this planet in a responsible way. And we have the evidence and the testimony to support that.
Again, how do you explain this to your grandchildren, President Trump? All the money in the world cannot change the fact that walking away from this agreement is a disservice to your children, to your grandchildren, and to future generations of Americans.
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Q: Dozens of mayors are vowing to continue on with the commitment to the goals that were set forward here. How does that happen? I mean, how are these cities or states going to be able to do that?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say, as a proud Californian, I am very proud of Jerry Brown and the leadership he has provided in all of this. He and some other governors have joined in agreements I mean, understandings before. Some of them have said, right now, that they would continue with their efforts.
And many mayors as you know, there's been an explosion of activity within the climate alliance that's about mayors from cities, states, and the private sector encouraging these efforts to go forward. Because people know.
When we went to Greenland and went under the pole to see, what was happening then and there, the scientists then told us that any reports that they would make on the global warming statistics would almost be obsolete by the time it was peer-reviewed, because it was all moving so fast. That was 10 years ago, was 8, 9 years ago, and so the facts are so compelling. And the President, again, lives in a fact-free zone. In fact, he lives in a false zone of attitude.
And so these mayors, they see these mayors, these governors, these businesses, they see the importance of American leadership on these issues. And I commend the Mayor – Mayor Bloomberg has been on this subject for a long time, and under his leadership, many of the cities came together to share information and to make decisions, to make decisions that were in favor of the air our children breathe and the water they drink.
And really important about that, because right now we're waiting to see the President's infrastructure agenda. There's a green way to do that. We had the Blue Green Alliance, labor and the environmentalists coming together about how we grow our economy, how we build our infrastructure in a way that protects the environment, keeps us number one in green job creation. It affects our education system as well as we train people for all of this. To leapfrog over traditional obstacles they may have had, to be entrepreneurial and think in new ways.
So the cities see this. The mayors see this straight up, and they have been on the forefront for a long time. Some of the governors have. I am especially proud of my own Governor, Jerry Brown, on that score.
Q: May I just have one follow up to that? Are you confident many businesses have come out urging the President to stay in this deal. Do you believe that over time they will stay in those cities
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: If it costs more, if it's more –
Leader Pelosi. It's not a question of that. It's about doing better. It's about doing better. So it's not a question of ‘costs more,’ it's a question of how you allocate your resources. And, again, it keeps America on the forefront and number one.
Let's just put it this way: We are now among three nations in the world that do not support the Paris accord: Syria and the United States of America; Syria and the United States of America. The one other country, Nicaragua, didn't sign the Accord because it did not go far enough. It did not go far enough.
If the President would read it, if he would gain knowledge about what he's talking about, he would understand that this is not an obstacle to us going forward. It is not a requirement except to strive. And if he doesn't even want to strive to keep the planet be responsible about the planet and its condition, then that's an indictment on him.
And by the way, what good news his announcement was to the Republicans in Congress. They have been standing in the way on every issue that relates to recognizing the climate issue in the world. They have prevented funds from being spent to even study the issue. They want to stay in a fact-free zone too.
And the Speaker's statement, what did he say? Oh, my God. Talk about the ‘Paris Agreement is simply a raw deal for America.’ Pathetic. Pathetic. The Speaker of the House, the President of the United States. So wrong, so uninformed, so irresponsible to future generations of Americans.
Q: To build on my colleague and your statement, you know, we've got the mayors and the governors who are planning to move ahead. What's it mean for U.S. leadership for all the other countries who signed onto this accord to go it without the U.S.?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the fact is, is that the other countries understand the importance of the Paris Accord. It was a compromise. Would it have been what I had written for an accord that I'd like everyone to sign? Stricter goals and requirements to stick with them? No, it was a compromise.
Again, I come back to Monday being President Kennedy's 100th birthday. I was at his inauguration when he said, what you all know, to the citizens of America, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ You remember that? You don't remember it, but you remember reading it in the history book. I remember it because I was there as a student. It's history to you; it's my youth.
But the next sentence – this is the point the very next sentence in the speech – the President said, ‘To the citizens of the world, ask not what America can do for you, but what we can do working together for the freedom of mankind.’ And that working together, that lack of condescension, that presence of respect, is sorely lacking in the statement that the President made yesterday.
And on this course, since there may be questions on other subjects now, I would just say this: when we had the vote on the Omnibus bill in December, I voted against it. You know why? Because it was pathetically meager in addressing the needs of coal miners in our country. Now, I'm not an advocate for coal, I think it degrades the environment, but I am an advocate for coal miners. This administration loves coal, but rejects the coal miners. If you go to my office right now, you'll see a statue of a coal miner there that my father gave me that was in his office when he served in Congress and has been in mine since I've been here. Finally in this last bill, we did something about coal miners' health care, but we still haven't honored our responsibilities to them for pensions.
When the President talks about coal, it's like what? What? If you really care about those workers, you would have insisted that the Congress meet the responsibility, the promise that has been made to them many years ago when President Truman was President.
So it's so inconsistent. It's really hard. On the one hand, on the very same day the President is saying, I'm doing this because I promised I would do it in my campaign, he's issuing a waiver on moving the capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which he said, in his campaign, that he would do on day one. Is he telling us that day one in his administration has not come yet?
So the inconsistencies are disconcerting, but I'll tell you this, what happened yesterday on the climate issue is an embarrassment to our country, and it should be an embarrassment to him personally for how he answers to his grandchildren.
Q: Yesterday, Representative Schiff said, regarding Devin Nunes and the subpoenas issued in the –
Leader Pelosi. Could you speak a little bit louder?
Q: Sure. Yesterday, Representative Schiff said, regarding Devin Nunes and the subpoenas being issued in the Russia probe, he said that you've spoken with Paul Ryan about this. Can you tell us about your discussions and your concerns about Devin Nunes's continued role in the probe?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I probably won't share the entire conversation conversations I've had with the Speaker on this subject. Let me just put it in this context: The Intelligence Committee is a small committee of the Congress. The Leader and the Speaker, the Speaker and the Leader appoint those members. They're not subject to any approval by the rest of the Caucus. It is our appointment. We deputize people to serve in the interest of our national security, and to do so with integrity, patriotism, and in the most apolitical way possible.
The behavior of Nunes, whatever we're calling him, chairman, recused, unrecused, I didn't mean recused when I said and gave you the impression recused, that loosey goosey is beneath the dignity of being a Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, which has special status. The Chairman and the Ranking Member, be they Democrats or Republicans, the Chairman and the Ranking Member have special status, special access.
So if he recused himself on subjects on Russia, then he shouldn't be having access to documents relating to subject Russia, and he shouldn't be issuing separate subpoenas, attaching them to bipartisan subpoenas that were issued this week.
So my dismay, my objection has been conveyed to the Speaker on more than one occasion.
Q: To follow up on that, I mean, does he seem concerned as well or is he fine with this?
Leader Pelosi. You'll have to ask him. But it all comes back to him, because this is his appointment and his appointment acting in a way that was weird. It was irresponsible, but it was weird when he did what he did, going to, ubering to the White House, this, that and the other thing. And then for him to give did you think he had recused himself? The press had some attitude that he had separated himself from the Russian investigation, but he hasn't.
And then really, in all fairness to Mr. Conaway, who now has that responsibility, he should be the one who has that access and that regard as the top Republican, really, a very important position in terms of the intelligence gathering for our country.
So no. I have conveyed that. You'll have to ask him. But really it all comes back to the Speaker. It's his appointment.
Q: On another subject, Hillary Clinton said today that she thinks it's possible Democrats could retake the House in 2018, and said she was helping in that effort.
Is she a good messenger for the Democratic party in 2018?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know what, there are going to be all kinds of messengers in this. And as with our great and diverse state, some people will be more helpful some places than others.
But I didn't hear that. You're telling me now that she said she's going to be helpful, and that would be great. She is highly respected in our country. And it's going to take everything to defeat the Republicans, because they will have animus, special interest, secret, dark money flowing like black substance into the campaign, suffocating the airways with their misrepresentations. So it will take everything.
But we're very proud of our [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] Chairman, Ben Ray Lujan, and the job he's doing to mobilize at the grassroots level to recruit candidates. And there's something happening in our country beyond politics. It's about the spontaneity and the organic nature of people coming forth and seeing how public policy affects their lives.
They march, whether it was to protect our care, whether it was about our juvenile justice system, whether it was about saving the planet, whether it was about college tuition, whatever, the immigration, whatever the subject. They saw that their presence and their voices were heard and seen and that elections have ramifications.
So we're very proud of, again, the spontaneity and the responsibility. People saw the urgency. They see the urgency. They want to take responsibility. That gives us opportunity, and we are proud to enlist all of our leaders in that effort.
Q: What's your assessment right now of your chances of taking back the House?
Leader Pelosi. So you want to talk politics?
Leader Pelosi. Well, right now, I mean, just comparing it to 2005 and 2006, when we did take back the House, in 2005, when we began our effort to win the House for the Democrats, Harry Reid and I, we were new leaders and this was our new chance. President Bush had just newly been elected, and he was at 58 percent in the polls in January, February, when we started this. You know where President Trump is in the polls now, in a much different place.
By the time we got full swing into our campaign, people told us don't even bother with that, because there's going to be a permanent Republican majority. If President Bush could win with the Iraq War, there's going to be a permanent Republican majority. We didn't accept that and we went forward.
So we have our discipline, our strategy, our unity and our harmony, and wonderful candidates are stepping forward. So you can have money, the message, the mobilization, that's all required, but you have to have the candidates.
Q: Madam Leader, it now looks like Congress may have to vote on the debt limit before August. Do you still support a clean increase in the debt limit or might you try to get something in exchange? Will you support a clean increase even if you're getting railroaded on other issues? I mean, can you talk a little bit about –
Leader Pelosi. Well, how do you it's not clean if we're getting railroaded, you know.
Let me just respond this way: Lifting the debt ceiling is something that Congress does. We don't have to. The Congress says that the full faith and credit of the United States of America is not in question, but we will be taking this vote.
I don't have any intention of supporting lifting the debt ceiling to enable the Republicans to give another tax break to the wealthy in our country, to further exacerbate the challenge that is created when they have their trickle down economics. Tax breaks to the wealthy increase the deficit, and now we have to lower the deficit, so we're going to stop investing in education and research, cut $7 billion from National Institutes of Health.
So when we say a clean debt limit, we mean not one that enables the Republicans to have a giant tax cut for the rich, and that's not why we're lifting the debt limit. Lifting the debt limit is about obligations already incurred.
Q: Well, I mean, I don't exactly understand how that would manifest itself if they're going ahead with a budget that calls for tax reform, but it's unclear who the tax cuts are going to go to.
Leader Pelosi. Well, it isn't unclear. I mean – well, you're right. Let's say there are two things here: One, is the President keeps saying the tax bill is moving through Congress. It doesn't exist. It doesn't exist. So you understand the frustration. It doesn't exist. There is no tax bill moving through Congress.
The tax bill the Republicans proposed before the election would add 5.5 trillion, with a “TR”, trillion dollars to the deficit, enough money to solve all of the shortfalls – any funds needed to keep Social Security solvent for 75 years, but they want to use it as a tax cut for the rich.
So if they come in and say, we're giving a big tax cut to the rich, we're throwing a few crumbs to the middle class, and we're calling that a tax cut, well, that's not what we're lifting the debt ceiling to do. So it completely – you know, it should be a different subject. We should be working together in a positive way to put together tax reform for simplification, for fairness, lower the corporate rate, close special interest tax loopholes and the rest, and do so in a way that creates growth.
And I say to my Members, when they go into the meeting, be agnostic. Wherever the good ideas come from, we embrace them, if they grow the economy in a way that increases the paychecks of America's workers and reduce the deficit. What they're proposing is not going to reduce the deficit; it's only going to give tax breaks to the rich and increase the deficit, and that's not any reason to lift the debt ceiling.
And the last question. Yes, sir.
Q: Related to Andrew's question, outside experts like the Bipartisan Policy Center say that there's actually enough room to run still under the debt ceiling until October/November, but OMB Director Mulvaney has said that they want you guys to do it by August.
A) do you believe that it has to be done by August; and B) will the Democrats help raise the debt ceiling before you're given a concrete drop dead date?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't know who you're using as a reference for October on that.
Q: Bipartisan Policy Center.
Leader Pelosi. Okay. Well, everything we're hearing is that it should probably be done before we leave the end of July so that it could be ready for September, because it could happen in August.
One of the reasons, my understanding, again, is that we need to do it sooner is because many people are thinking, many entities in our country are thinking they're going to get a big tax break from Trump, President Trump, for next year, the Republicans in Congress. And so the revenues are not coming in as fast this year as they should.
In other words, part of when this happens is how fast the revenues come in, how much the revenues come in. And so people are making decisions about their balance sheet relating to something they think is going to happen, relating to rates, et cetera, for next year.
Q: The Treasury has a history of crying wolf on this, though.
Leader Pelosi. Yes, but we might as well do it in a way that be in front of it instead of behind it. But, as I say, we're not there and I think the Senate Leader has spoken to this point very clearly. We're not there to lift the debt ceiling to enable the Republicans to throw a few crumbs to the middle class while it gives a big tax break to the high end. The accelerated timetable on it, I believe, is because the revenue has not come in as anticipated, so it may have to be sooner than was projected. But we shall see. And, again, we'll have that debate.
And speaking of taxes, I think that the decision the President made on the Paris accord, I think that the budget that he has put forth, again, really speaks further to the fact that he should show us his tax returns. It's very important that we see his tax returns. It relates to Russia. What do the Russians have on Donald Trump, politically, personally, and financially? And he won't show us his tax returns, to give us some maybe that would clear up the issue or maybe it will be a path to some other questions. So show us your tax returns.
We talk about lifting the debt ceiling. We talk about tax returns. We do know that what he proposed, what he was talking about before would have given him a tax break of $30 million on the year that he has revealed his tax return. A tax break of $30 million. Show us your tax returns.
Anyway, we come back to the fact that something very different happened yesterday. I've been telling my Members, this is really about policy. It's not about personality. It's not about tweets. It's not about how much sleep somebody gets at night and how balanced they are – it's not about any of that. It's about difference in policy. And that manifestation comes in the form of a budget, and it comes in the form of decisions like the Paris accord.
And this is something that is about the children. It's about the children and the responsibility we have to them. I think that the President was irresponsible to the children.
Thank you all.
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