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 afternoon, everyone.
How sad we are today, heartbroken, over what's happening in Mexico City, a tragic loss of life and destruction again. And of course we pray for them and continue to pray for Americans on Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands, Florida, everyone who has been battered by Harvey in Texas, in Florida, by Irma, and now Hurricane Maria.
So we have some challenges where the American people expect the federal government to meet their needs, and we're working very hard to make that connection. But we're praying, and so proud of all of them for how they've come together as communities.
So here we are. The reason I wanted to see all of you today, I came back because they've now pulled their latest and worst version – with stiff competition, mind you – of how to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Again, higher cost, less coverage, key protections gutted, crushing age tax, steal from Medicaid, all kinds of things that are not in it, like the funding for opioids, issues that relate to pre-existing conditions, that protection gone. It's really a terrible bill, poorly written.
As you probably are aware, Leader Chuck Schumer and I wrote to the CBO, along with [Senator] Bernie Sanders and [Congressman] John Yarmuth, our Ranking Members of our Budget Committees in the Senate and in the House, to ask them to give us a CBO score, a report on the totality of the bill. Republicans just want to know how much money is cut. Well, you can cut a lot of money if you're not taking care of people's health. So we want to know the totality of it all, and we continue to ask for that.
The reason the Republicans are rushing it through is because their reconciliation expires September 30, and that's when it ends for them to do 51 votes. If they're so committed to all of this, they can just pass another budget reconciliation package and go forward, but probably that would be hard for them to do.
But this hurts seniors, women, working families, people with pre-existing conditions. Rural communities are hurt very hard. It's not just about health care in those communities, which would be reason enough to object, but it's about jobs and the economy of those regions as well.
And all of this again just to make sure they have enough money at the end of the day to give tax cuts to the rich. They're trying to rush a vote with this scant budget analysis. And on Monday, as I said, we wrote that letter. This Saturday, we'll have a Day of Action to amplify the voices of families who will be hurt by Graham-Cassidy.
Again and again, the American people have rejected the immense cost and cruelty of Trumpcare. This is the most recent version. Some people think it could cost over 30 million people being pushed off of health care.
We haven't seen those figures from the CBO, but whatever it is, it's going to be terrible.
Instead of trying to destroy health care, Congress should be spending money on real bipartisanship to create jobs, to address DACA, pass the DREAM Act, to have real bipartisanship, to stabilize the marketplaces in the Affordable Care Act.
I hope that we will be – I know we'll be continuing in a bipartisan way, hopefully sooner rather than later, with Senator [Lamar] Alexander and Senator [Patty] Murray's good work to go forward. We'll see how that proceeds.
But in the meantime, we've got to be creating jobs. With all the things that are happening, all the more reason for us to have A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future, creating jobs and raising incomes and lowering cost to families and giving every American the tools they need to succeed as we go forward.
We'll be advancing A Better Deal all across the country. Part of it is to make sure that people have access to quality affordable health care. We want that to move in a direction that is ever-expanding, not shrinking, as the Republicans are doing in that bill.
This is really an emergency. It's all hands on deck, red alert, all hands on deck. Everybody is onboard to make this fight. We've got to stop this bill in the Senate, and, if not, in the House.
Any questions? Yes, Chad?
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Q: Leader, good afternoon.
So when they moved the health care bill in the House back in May, Republicans from your home state voted for this. Obviously, this changes the calculus a lot. How would this affect California and how – I know you can't speak, obviously, for those Republicans from your state, but how this bill is so fundamentally different and how it affects a big state like California, when they would be obviously depending on those 14 Republicans from your state to vote yes?
Leader Pelosi. It would be hard to understand how any Republicans from New York, from California, from New Jersey, from a large number of states would be able to vote for this. I think they won by one vote last time, one or two votes, two votes.
Q: Two would have been a tie.
Leader Pelosi. Two would have been a tie, okay. So that means fail.
So I think we have a really good chance to stop it in the House, because it does such serious violence to the health care of people in California, New York and other places.
And it's really a poorly written bill, so it's hard to see if even people will get health care, because it's predicated on states taking actions to implement health care bills in their states, which we don't even know they could do in two years.
Q: Thank you, Leader Pelosi.
I was wondering if you had any response to the report in POLITICO this morning that [Department of Health and Human Services] Secretary Tom Price flew private for several trips last week for work on a private jet. I'm just wondering, you know, this comes on the heels of the headlines about [Department of Treasury] Secretary [Steve] Mnuchin.
Leader Pelosi. Very honestly, we've been working on the health care bill, on DACA, to help the Congressional Black Caucus. I just came from a meeting on HBCUs earlier with the Urban League, talking about jobs and health care and making the future better.
So I did not see that report, but, as you know, we have a rule in the House that you cannot travel on private. It's just not right. It's just not right. But I haven't seen that particular report.
But we have that rule for a reason. There was a time when you would walk out of here and the Republicans would have private jets all lined up and that's how they would travel for the weekend, and lobbyists would be on there, and it was what? So when we took the majority we said, none of that anymore, and some people didn't like that. But now we see the executive branch doing that. They shouldn't be doing that.
Q: Yes. Speaking of your meeting with HBCU people earlier this morning.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Does the Democratic leadership support Congresswoman Adams' H.R. 1123 infrastructure bill?
Leader Pelosi. Infrastructure, capital improvement bill. Yes, of course.
For those of you, one of the most exciting things that we did, one, we passed the Affordable Care Act. At the same time we passed the higher education bill, and we drastically increased the funding for Minority Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges, Hispanic Serving Institutions, institutions that served our Native American population, drastically increased it.
But in order for all of these institutions to succeed, it's important for them to have infrastructure. So not only do we support Congresswoman Alma Adams for her great leadership on this, for her capital improvement bill, but we think that any infrastructure bill that we have writ large should have a focus on how we build infrastructure for our schools.
Particularly on the HBCUs, one of my favorite subjects, is that when the federal government, whether it's the Department of Defense, whether it's the National Institutes of Health, whether it's the National Science Foundation, when they give grants, well, one of the competitions for it is what facilities do you have to implement the grant? And we're saying, we can't compete with Ivy League and the rest if they're getting all this private money, because they're getting all this federal money. They're getting federal grants, because they have private philanthropy funding their labs and this or that.
So we want to have more money invested there so our kids have the best opportunity in all of these Minority Serving Institutions, HBCUs, being in the lead on it. So, yes, we support her bill, but also any infrastructure legislation writ large will have this element to it.
Q: Thank you, ma'am.
Some immigration activists are pushing back on Democrats, saying that the DREAM Act doesn't protect their families, and they're asking for a seat at the table in the negotiations that you're having with the Administration.
And related question: In those negotiations, when you were last Wednesday with the President, can you clarify in what manner General [John] Kelly allegedly related the situation on the ground in Mexico to the need for border security?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't know what you know about that conversation, but I'm not one to relay conversations except it might be what I say or what I said. I'm not going to go to that place. I did not agree with it, let me just say that.
But, to your first point, yes, we have been having meetings constantly with the leadership of the groups that represent the DREAMers and other immigrant groups as well, more than once a day on the phone or in person, House and Senate, at home and here in Washington.
So we are in constant touch with them, as are our Tri-Caucus, our Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, because all those groups are affected. And more. The Irish. The Polish. There are many other groups that are affected too. So broader immigration groups as well as our Caucus and the other groups.
So the agreement that we all came to is that the bill would be [Congresswoman] Lucille Roybal-Allard's bill. The thrust would be that we would be supporting that legislation. That was generally agreed, and that is what it is.
There are some who showed up in San Francisco who said all or none, we're not going to do the DREAMers unless we do comprehensive immigration reform. Well, we don't have that opportunity now. We're the only ones who passed DREAM Act, we did in the House. It couldn't go to the Senate because it didn't have 60 votes. When we had the majority, I'm not talking about now.
So the DREAM Act has been a priority. We think it is a good first step. It is a priority. Some people are saying, ‘well, if you pass that then what about other undocumented [people]?’ Well, comprehensive immigration reform is our goal. We think this is a good first step. And we do want to protect the families.
But you give me an opportunity to say what I did say on Friday. No, it was Monday, Monday at our meeting. We are in Sacramento on Monday afternoon. I had a great event with a few hundred people there at Sac State with Congresswoman Doris Matsui. But in San Francisco, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressman Jared Huffman were there with me, two champions fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.
And one of the purposes of the meeting – in fact, some of the people who were protesting had been part of the planning meeting for this meeting was to say to – DREAMers: Sign up. You have until October 5 to sign up.
Sign up even sooner than that. If you need legal assistance, there are organizations that will help you with legal assistance for it. We'll try to help find financial resources for the $495. Some people can afford some of it, not all of it, some none of it, but we don't want that to be an obstacle to their signing up. Inform us of anything, of irregularities, inappropriate actions taken by ICE in your areas contrary to what the President said, that they would not be harmed.
The list goes on and on about how we want to advance and protect the DREAMers until we can pass the bill, and that protecting their families is of course the logical next step. Their families did a great thing for our country, bringing these kids here, who are working, who are in the military, who are in school, who are a brilliant part of our future.
So I disagreed with it. While I respect the concerns of the people who came to our meeting, we are not in a situation where we can say all or none. We have to save the DREAMers now. The constituency is there for our country. Its success will lead to other success.
And, again, with all the respect and concern that I have for other undocumented [people] who were, again, at that meeting saying all or none, I can't go down that path, no. But we do want to continue down the path of comprehensive immigration reform. That's absolutely essential to our country.
Q: Congress depends on a lot on precedents and customs in the way it operates. And I'm curious as to, with Republicans forgoing hearings over on the Senate side and dismissing the need for a complete CBO score possibly by the time it's voted on, whether there's any appetite within your Caucus that should the shoe ever be on the other foot again and Democrats have control of Congress, that you will not feel the need to wait for things like CBO or to have hearings on major pieces of legislation.
Leader Pelosi. No. Well, thank you for that question. I'll just remind you that when we did the Affordable Care Act we had, like, four months in advance we asked the CBO for a score. It didn't mean that the bill was frozen at that point, but it meant the general parameters were there. And four months later, we got some of it and then more, you know, with legislation as it is amended.
You have to have the facts. You can't say to the American people, this is what we want to do and we don't know how much it's going to cost and we don't know how many people it's going to serve. You really do need the objective – and we don't want anything other than an objective – report on the numbers.
And in this case, Republicans are saying, just tell us how much money is cut. And we're saying, no, we want to know how many people are cut and what happens to their coverage and what happens to the pre-existing medical conditions and happens to all of the essential benefits in the package. This is really a stinkaroo, this bill.
And so, to your question, no, we are committed to respecting the Congressional Budget Office.
Q: A question on the health care bill. Were Democrats this week, were they caught off guard at all, do you think, by the suddenness of this? Senator Schumer spoke about this a little bit the other day.
And also, on the National Day of Action you have planned for Saturday, do you have anything else planned next week as far as protests or rallies, anything of that sort?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we are working, as we have done all along, with our Little Lobbyists, the children who are affected by this, with outside groups that deal with different illnesses, any illness you can name. That society does not support this bill. We're working with groups that are concerned about quality, affordable health care. And yesterday, they had a rally here. I was on the plane so I wasn't here, but they had a rally outside the Capitol.
People will be [here] of their own [will], because this is really organic. It's more than us. It's about people calling their Members of Congress to say, ‘This is what this means to me,’ whether it's pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits, access for students until 26 years old. The list goes on. And the uncertainty of it is something that people can't have in their lives, especially if you have a pre-existing condition, which over 100 million families in America do have.
So, yeah, there will be inside/outside mobilization to defeat the bill, because nothing we can say to the Republicans, they are who they are, in terms of this bill. They don't believe in a public role. They certainly don't believe in the federal government having a role.
So nothing is more eloquent to them than the voices of their own constituents, and that's who they'll be hearing from, Republicans in their districts as well as Democrats.
Q: If I can follow up, on the suddenness of this. Were you guys taken, you know –
Leader Pelosi. Oh, yeah. No, we've never [believed Republicans when] they have said to the American people it's dead, it's over, we've done it.
But when the – more on the subject [than] many people want to know – when the Parliamentarian of the Senate determined that their ability to do a bill with 51 votes would end on September 30 is when they knew that they had to act again and soon, try again and soon.
If they thought they had forever, they could just say not forever, but for the rest of the year, so they could do their timing differently, I think. Instead, I think they like the fact that people are paying attention to hurricanes and earthquakes and DACA and this and that, and that they might be able to sneak this by. But it's so terrible, and people are understanding what it means in their lives. So I feel optimistic [about] that – but surprised? Never surprised around here.
Yes, ma'am, one last question.
Q: So just a week ago, we were talking about your dinner with President Trump and bipartisanship, and President Trump tweeted today his support for the Graham-Cassidy bill. So I wonder, in that context, what is your message to the President?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we don't talk about bipartisanship across the board. We talked about it in those instances, in the fact that they agreed with us that we would only do the lifting the debt ceiling for three months.
The President agreed with us. On DACA, DREAM Act, we talked about the DREAM Act being the essence of it. But it's one subject at a time. So this is not any then he goes on to say he supports this bill.
I don't think most Republicans have the faintest idea what's in that bill. And if they do, how could they possibly do that to the people of their states? And that's why you're seeing a number of the governors coming out against it, Republican Governors.
Q: I guess what I'm wondering is, how does Graham-Cassidy affect your kind of budding relationship with the President?
Leader Pelosi. It's a different issue. We disagree with him on a lot of things. So it's not a question of our saying, well, we agree on DACA and we agree on lifting the debt ceiling for three months, therefore, we must agree on something else.
We have a conversation going, and it will be legislation by legislation, issue by issue, and that's the way it is with all of us, with our colleagues in the Congress and with each other. It's always a discussion.
But this bill, they've really outdone themselves. They've really outdone themselves, because it almost says, ‘We don't care what's in the bill, we just want to have a bill.’ Because if they cared, they couldn't possibly be for this bill. If they cared about what it meant to the American people, they couldn't possibly be for this bill.
But it's philosophical. It's philosophical. It's anti-government, and that's where they find their common ground. Hopefully, it won't go anyplace in the Senate, but we'll have an all-out mobilization in the House.
And as Chad mentioned earlier, there are many people in states that are terribly, Republicans in states that are terribly affected by this that I don't see how I don't even see how they could vote for it. But, you know, that Republican thing about we have to have a deal, we want to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Let's just say this in a more optimistic way. I hope that when this is defeated, and, hopefully, that will be soon, that the President will agree to be going forward in a bipartisan way. [Senator] Lamar Alexander and [Senator] Patty Murray were on a track to do that. Hopefully, that will continue once they see that Cassidy-Graham – [or] Graham-Cassidy, whoever goes first in that – doesn't work.
Q: May I follow up, Madam Leader? Do you have any regrets about striking the debt deal?
Leader Pelosi. No.
Q: That it might have opened up room on the Senate floor to do the health care bill now next week?
Leader Pelosi. No, it didn't do that. Why do you say that?
Q: Because a month ago the conventional wisdom, that we would be fighting about a CR and a debt limit all month –
Leader Pelosi. No.
Q: – and that this would come down to a deadline, it was cleared out in the first week, and now they have 2 weeks to talk about repealing Obamacare.
Leader Pelosi. They're not even related, no. In fact, it gives us the opening. That's why they were opposed to it. That's why they were so long-faced coming out of the meeting. No, it isn't that at all.
Three months coincides with the three months for the CR. The end of the month for the CR would have been September 30. Now it's as soon as we can get it done. Maybe it's October, maybe it's November, but certainly beginning toward the middle of December.
No, no, not at all. Not at all.
Q: Do you think that Senator [Bernie] Sanders made a mistake by doing the Medicare for All, kind of moving beyond this, because a lot of Republicans are pointing to that as motivation for them to do their own bill?
Leader Pelosi. No. I think that everything has to be on the table if you're talking about expanding access to quality affordable health care, and that's what the goal is of the affordable health care, is to grow the number of people who are covered.
And that's something that Senator [Bernie] Sanders is putting on the table. That's subjected to scrutiny, in terms of how do you get there from here, how much does it cost, and who pays for it. The same thing with the public option, which we did have in the House bill, which I think is something that we should try to strive to get to.
But none of it works if you don't have the Affordable Care Act. And when people talk about this, that, and you say, yes, the path is the Affordable Care Act. And that's why we would like those who are striving for some other broader visions and saying to the American people, we have to have single payer, well, how do you get there? How do you get there? How much does it cost and what does it mean in people's lives?
Everything is on the table. Let's look at them all with great respect. But not the Graham-Cassidy bill, because that goes in the opposite direction, maybe 30 million people cast off of care.
Thank you all very much.
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