Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Contact: Ashley Etienne/Henry Connelly, 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. Last time we met was before we broke for the August district work period.
We were all very enthusiastic – we, our Members, House Democrats – about our Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future, about how we would build infrastructure, create 10 million jobs, also have job training to create the tools for our workforce for the 21st century. And I am very proud of our Members for all of the events they had during the district work period to give a road test our Better Deal and getting the response to all that as it came back. And during that period of time, just in case your message isn't eclipsed enough, what did we have?
We had Charlottesville, we had North Korea, DACA and, of course, sadly, sadly, the hurricanes, now more than one. But on Harvey – my daughter lives in Houston, so she was giving me the reports on the hardships that she had seen. I was very proud of her. She has an arts school called Art Mix, and the first day they could go out, she called for help for art supplies for children in the shelters and they had 21 SUVs full of art supplies to go out.
In any event, they were okay, but trying to help other people. And that is what is so beautiful about Houston – people helping people, the sense of community.
And now we have Irma, unknown as to what all of the consequences will be, but sad about what's happening in Puerto Rico and well, all of the islands there, but from the standpoint of our Members, we hear directly from Nydia Velázquez about not being able to communicate with her family for a while.
Happily, by today she has been able to. The loss of power there for nearly a million people, and for a long period of time [in] the Virgin Islands. And our Members in Florida are connected very closely to their constituents. Now the Carolinas Members are coming forward as well.
So Members, while we are here, are still very much with our constituents in terms of those regions that are affected. Of course, we have the fires in California and the rest. That is all to say that when we decide how we are going to allocate resources as we go forward, we have to think in terms of mitigation and prevention. [If] we don’t want to call it climate change, but we can call it storms – earth, wind, and fire. How about that? Does that work for you? Earth, wind, and fire, how we mitigate against some things that have become predictable and more intense as we go forward.
North Korea. My concern about North Korea is mainly, and has been for years – I went to Pyongyang, North Korea, as you may know, one of the few Members of Congress who has been to North Korea. And when we were there, we were talking about many things, and POWs, MIAs, and all that, the starvation of their people, but also about their testing of missiles. At the time we were talking missiles. And they said, you know what, ‘we want to sell them.’ ‘You want to buy them? We will sell them to you.’
So this idea of North Korea as a proliferator is one that they talked about 15 years ago or more. And that's what I am concerned about. I think that what the President of North Korea is doing is about deterrence, but I think it's also – I think it's also about a road show. He can sell not only the technology, the scientific know how; he can send scientists, the missile and the delivery system. I don't think he would proliferate the nuclear aspects of it. That's a deterrent for him.
But all of the resources that are available to him are not indigenous. They came, some of them came from some other places. So this is a very dangerous situation in many ways, including that North Korea could be a proliferator.
Again, our hearts go out to the families of everyone affected by these storms. And as we are preparing to pass a bill for Harvey, as you know, we had a meeting at the White House yesterday. In preparation for the meeting we met with our Members, and decided that we were not going to be agreeable to an 18-month lifting of the debt ceiling.
It just destroys any negotiating leverage that we would have. We talked about it. We talked with our colleagues about it, some of the leadership colleagues about it. And then yesterday morning, the Republicans put out that they were going to insist on an 18-month, so we put out the 3-month proposal that we had.
It was a lively debate. I told my Caucus before we went, ‘this is what our proposal is.’ It was a lively debate. We had not intended to be talking about CR, but, of course, that came up, and frankly, strengthened our hand with 3 months because we made it clear we would not do any longer debt ceiling than we had with the Continuing Resolution. Is this more on the subject than you want to know? Stop me if it is – getting into the technicalities of CR and debt ceiling and the rest of that – I am an appropriator. That's the life I left, intelligence and appropriations, so you see that in my focus.
But as the conversation went forward, we are not going to take any more time, agree to any more time than what the CR is. If you have a 6-month CR, the Defense Department can't live with that. So the fact that they brought up the CR really strengthened our hand in the 3 months of lifting the debt ceiling.
The impression was given to us that – some of you know we voted to lift the debt ceiling many times, many of us, but we were kind of lectured on the importance of lifting the debt ceiling to the markets, and we know that. We know that. We have been lifting the debt ceiling. You know, Wall Street is Wall Street. Here, the currency of the realm is the vote. You have the votes, no discussion. If you don't have the votes, 3 months. That's how it went with that.
And we made it very clear in the course of the conversation that we would – that our priority was to pass the DREAM Act, that we wanted to do. Obviously, it has to be bipartisan. The President said he supports that. He would sign it. But we have to get it passed. And that's a high priority.
So that's why when we left the meeting, we said in the meeting, ‘the President and Congressional Leadership agreed to pass aid for Harvey, an extension of the debt limit, and a Continuing Resolution vote to December 15th.’ I think they may have changed it back now to the 8th. They asked us if that was okay.
Altogether, both sides have every intention of avoiding default in December, and look forward to working together on many issues before then. We have an omnibus bill, all the appropriations bills, we have SCHIP, State Children's Health Insurance Program, we have Community Health Centers, we have extenders for Medicare, FAA – we have many items on the agenda.
But for us, the Democratic leadership made it clear in the strongest possible way that we believe the DREAM Act must come to the floor and pass as soon as possible. And we will not rest until we get that done. So that is how that went. Any questions?
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Q: Did you get the impression during this discussion in the White House that the President seemed to be more inclined to negotiate with you and Leader Schumer than he did with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell?
Leader Pelosi. No. I think the President when we went into the meeting, there are two of us and five of them, the President, the Vice President, [Senate] Republican Leader [Mitch McConnell], the Speaker [Paul Ryan], the Majority Leader [Kevin McCarthy] and Secretary of the Treasury [Steve Mnuchin] participated in those conversations.
So, no, I think that they all came in, the Vice President said, ‘you know, you put out your number before we had this meeting.’ We put out our number after you put out your number, because they had put out the number earlier.
No, I think, frankly, as I said, and maybe I will make it clear, when it was clear that we couldn't go for a longer CR from their standpoint because the DOD needs the resources in a fuller way – a CR, they don't even like a CR, period. They would rather we just pass the bills right now. And hopefully, we will do it soon. But we have issues.
You know, we want parity. If you are going to lift caps on DOD, then you are going to lift caps on discretionary domestic investments as well. So it was kind of – it became persuasive when Mitch – the Majority Leader in the Senate [Mitch McConnell] said ‘I want to do – I am going to put the CR,’ and that's really what actually strengthened our hand for 3 months.
Q: Were you surprised the President came around so quickly?
Leader Pelosi. No, it wasn't quick. I think maybe that's one of the reasons I decided to share so much with you this morning, because I was reading on TV we went in there, we put it on the table, boom, out the door. No, it wasn't like that at all.
It was a very long, intense conversation. Now, I am an appropriator, so I had a little bit of an advantage, in my view – as I said to the President, left to our own devices, the appropriators, Democrats and Republicans, can work together to have a compromise on what we should do. It's when the poison pill comes from on high that there is a problem of legislating on an appropriations bill.
So we had those kind of, shall we say, clarifications as we went along. But it was a long meeting. And I was very proud of Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. He could speak New York to the President.
Q: Leader Pelosi, the President sided with you yesterday against his Republican colleagues. This morning you spoke on the phone. You asked him to tweet something. He did it. Are we seeing some kind of renaissance in your relationship, a new era of cooperation?
Leader Pelosi. Well, renaissance would indicate something went before and now it's a renaissance, reborn. Here's the thing. The President – I'm hoping and I'm praying, and I don't say that as a cliché, I am praying that the President really cares about the DREAMers, or knows that he should care about the DREAMers, and that we are going to pass this bill. And we want to do it as soon as possible, to strike while the iron is hot because public opinion is so much in favor. And the churches, the faith-based community, the business community; people who care about America are all weighing in on this.
But one of the – maybe not one, but some of the concerns that people have when it came out is – ‘you said 6 months,’ and these people are being fearful that ‘pack up because you are out of here in 6 months,’ not ‘we have 6 months and we are going to pass a bill, so take comfort.’
So that's what I said to him. He called this morning. I said thanks for calling, this is what we need. The people really need a reassurance from you, Mr. President, that the 6-month period is not a period of roundup, but it's just the DACA is frozen and that these people will not be vulnerable.
Q: Is that why he called or did he want to discuss other issues?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know, I am not famous for going into details of conversations with Presidents. We did talk about some other issues. But that was because he then put out this.
And I was reporting to my colleagues, I said, ‘this is what I asked [him] to do,’ and boom, boom, boom, the tweet appeared. But you know, again, this is when you are dealing on something that relates to immigration and the past experience, you have to build as much trust as possible because there is so much fear.
And we are hoping that they won't be rounding up people, that their only violation of the law in some people's view is status. And this wasn't even a violation of law that they did, because they came as children.
So it's about the children, it's about young people, and we have to pass a bill. And that might mean on whatever vehicle is leaving the station, or maybe we can just do the DREAM Act free and clear. We are collecting – what we are doing right now, we are asking others to do, is collecting co-sponsorships for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard's bill, the DREAM Act.
As you know, we passed it in the Democratic House in 2010. It couldn't get 60 votes in the Senate. But it did get a majority of votes in the Senate. So a majority of people in Congress at that time voted for it. We think we have a stronger hand now.
Q: I know we have a lot on the September docket here that we are talking about, but another issue that's been kind of in the weeds and we haven't talked about much lately is an AUMF [Authorized Use of Military Force]. And lay out to the average person why this is such a nettlesome issue when you have both Democratic and Republican support, this is not a partisan issue, and why this is so challenging?
Leader Pelosi. The authorization of the use of military force, as we call the AUMF, is something that Barbara Lee, our Congresswoman on the Appropriations Committee won, actually, in committee.
It disappeared in the Rules Committee. I've seen a lot around here, but I've never seen anything disappear. I've seen people remove it or vote it down, but disappear is new. It is thought that the authorization for the use of force that was passed at the time of our initiation of hostilities into Afghanistan was such that it's time for something new.
The impression I have from the Administration is they think that what they're doing now is covered by the AUMF of 2002, 2001 – right, 2001, in the fall.
As you know, the aspects of an AUMF are about timing. How long does it last? Geography. What does this cover? Scope. What does it allow you to do? Boots on the ground, whatever. So in terms of reviewing those aspects of for how long and for how wide an area and what the scope of the military involvement would be, it's always – I think it would be really important for us to revisit.
Now, it was all predicated on Al Qaeda, and then it was justified in terms of ISIS being a continuation of Al Qaeda. And now geographically, it's in East Africa, you know, it's a broader area than what the original bill was about. So I would hope that we always would revisit something that is what, now 16 years old, and in a whole different world. But they're saying that they have it.
Now, when President Obama was President and we wanted to have one, Speaker Boehner at the time said we want to see an AUMF proposal from the White House. The White House made – that isn't really necessary.
The AUMF is about our role in the use of force. But nonetheless, the President sent over his proposal. I think that they probably would want to give and then we never acted upon it. But I think that they would probably give President Trump even more authority than was in the original. So I am not – I think we should revisit it. But I don't see that happening?
Q: How is this exacerbated now concerning the President's August message about recommitting to Afghanistan?
Leader Pelosi. Doing what?
Q: He said – you know – there was a question about what he was doing about Afghanistan. He recommitted, said we are going to put in more troops, he wasn't going to draw back, and the fact that changes the equation here a little bit and the concern of some with an AUMF.
Leader Pelosi. I think it begs the question that we should revisit the AUMF.
Q: Leader Pelosi – just a quick change of subjects here. You called for the idea of the Confederate statues in the Capitol, at least for the States that deal with these statues, to perhaps have them removed. This whole debate, I mean your father dedicated the Confederate statues over in Baltimore, I think, in 1948 Stonewall Jackson, Lee. These statues were vandalized. I think it was the Columbus statue over in Baltimore.
Leader Pelosi. What is the question?
Q: I am just wondering, is there any concern that now this has been expanded to perhaps maybe rewrite history a bit, maybe a revisionist history?
Leader Pelosi. What is the question? Okay?
Q: Do you have concerns that there has been –
Leader Pelosi. There is concern; you have seen Congresswoman Lee, I think, is introducing a measure today. Senator [Cory] Booker said he is going to be introducing legislation. All I was suggesting was when I was Speaker – what I did was, I tried to, shall we say, mix it up in the Capitol. We put Sojourner Truth, we put Rosa Parks, more women, more minorities, and in significant places. My suggestion was just to the Speaker to review that. I don't know what will happen with any legislation.
Q: Madam Leader –
Leader Pelosi. You have had your hand up for a while.
Q: I tried. Are you simply optimistic that President Trump would sign the DREAM Act, or have you been given a direct indication from him that he would do that?
Leader Pelosi. The latter.
Q: Do you want to say it more proactively?
Leader Pelosi. I thought I spoke about that a lot. The President, both yesterday in the meeting and today, made it very clear he wants Congress to act to get this done.
Now, just kind of in the back and forth of all of this, what was interesting to me is that the President well, the Attorney General's statement was something that was the equivalent of the worst statue you could ever think of. It was about white people in America. And it was a terrible, terrible statement. It was consistent with what the Bannon folks talk about when they want the purification of America.
They sort of want to export – they want to deport the 11 million people in the country. So in that, shall we say, concern that we have, when the President said 6 months and Congress should act, and if they don't I will revisit it, well, if you are saying that the action that President Obama took was not legal, how are you going to revisit it? It is going to be legal for you but it wasn't legal for President Obama, and that's why you have to overturn it now?
So I think we all came to a good place. Congress should act. We should remove all doubt. There should be statutory protection for the DREAMers. And quite the fact is that we need comprehensive immigration reform. And that would cover a lot more than just the DREAMers.
But for right now, we have to strike while the iron is hot, the iron being what President Lincoln talked about that I quote all the time, public sentiment is everything. And public sentiment is with the DREAMers.
Q: A clarification on that? So is this free and independent of any consideration of border enforcement? He said he would sign a standalone bill?
Leader Pelosi. I think he probably wants some border enforcement. And we have a responsibility to secure our borders. I have talked to him about, we specifically talked about drugs coming into the country, and the biggest protector of that for us, that has been the Coast Guard. They have been the biggest interdictor of drugs coming into our country. But it does not include a wall, no.
Q: Leader Pelosi?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, ma'am.
Q: Following up on Nancy's question, more broadly than DREAMers, is this a new day of cooperation you think you have with the President? This morning he tweeted that he is looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans. Do you think that you are entering a new era of bipartisanship?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know that. What I do know is that the world we live in is a giant kaleidoscope. One day certain factors are in the design. Say this side of the room is opposed to what is happening on this side of the room. The next day it could be the front of the room versus the back of the room. You never know. So everybody you work with is a resource to you, or can be.
So you want to have your debate and your engagement in a way that always recognizes that this person can be a resource in the next debate. A great woman who served here, Lindy Boggs, she would say to me sometimes when I would get, shall we say, exuberant on the floor, ‘darling, darling’ she always said darling; she was from Louisiana ‘Hale [Boggs],’ who was the Whip, ‘Hale used to always say, “don't fight every fight as if it's your last fight.”’
So let's hope that this is a sign of something to come. But you never know where your shared interests might be. The one thing that's for sure, we will not in terms of what they're proposing on the tax cuts is severely detrimental to everything that we would care about in a budget in a bipartisan way. So we have some clear lines and others where we want to work together on reforming the tax code, simplifying it, make it more fair, making it more – supplying what we need to meet the needs of the American people.
So we have some things that we know are bigger problems than others, but are always hopeful that we can find common ground, which we have a responsibility to do. If we can't find it, we stand our ground. So, hopefully, always.
Yes, sir. I have got to go. I have got a day job, you know?
Q: Democrats frequently warn of the dangers of uncertainty in the economy, uncertainty if Congress doesn't act upon the government and there is a threat of a shutdown or doesn't raise the debt ceiling; there is a threat of a government default. Yesterday, here the Republicans are offering an 18-month debt limit extension, which would have offered certainty for 18 months. Democrats step in and say, no, let's do it for 3 months. And just this morning you said you did it solely for the purpose of political leverage in December.
Leader Pelosi. No, no, I did not say that. I did not say that. I said they said that about us. They said ‘you are just doing this for political leverage.’ I am saying we need leverage to do what we need to do. But I don't – if your question is ‘why don't we just – why don't we just do away with it?’ Now that's something we can talk about. Why don't we just do away with Congress voting to lift the debt ceiling?
The Constitution says that the full faith and credit of the United States of America shall not be questioned, is not in doubt. The Gephardt rule that we lived under for a long time, named for a former Leader Gephardt, was that it was contained in the budget bill, and when the budget passed, the debt ceiling was lifted. The President even suggested, has anybody ever thought about eliminating this vote? And we said we will take it back to our caucus. We will take it back to our caucus. So I don't see that at all. No.
Q: I thought you said earlier that you had met with the caucus before going to the White House, and that the consensus was that you can't do anything longer term than the CR because then you lose leverage. And that was the argument that you took to the White House.
Leader Pelosi. No, all I said to them is this is what we are going to present. This is what we are going to present.
Q: But does a short term debt limit increase not increase the uncertainty in the economy? Now you have to vote on it twice in 3 months versus twice in 18 months.
Leader Pelosi. No. In fact, what creates uncertainty is what the Republicans did a few summers ago, where they said they were not going to lift the debt ceiling, and that that took our credit rating from AAA to AA, just the suggestion. We said to them, most of our Members have signed a letter to lift the debt ceiling, and we will revisit that when we finish with the appropriations bills and the rest of it.
So we haven't, we have said we're not going to let the government default. We are not going to let the government default. They haven't said that. They don't have the votes. That's why 3 months. You see?
He said that was the last question. Thank you all very much.
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