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. Thank you very much for being accommodating. At the time we were originally scheduled to meet this morning, we had a wonderful, joyous occasion on the floor of the House, which I'm sure you have all seen, with the return of our colleague, the Majority Whip, Steve Scalise.
What was so exciting for us, though, is he walked onto the floor, he walked onto the floor, with all the challenges that he has had. So thank God that our prayers are answered.
We thank Jennifer, Harrison, and Madison, his family, for the support they gave him, the Capitol Police, the physicians, his staff. So many people made his triumphant return possible today. I give credit to his Italian-American heritage making him so strong, but that's just a relationship that we have had over the years.
Okay. So earlier this week, Republicans withdrew the latest version of Trumpcare. Americans overwhelmingly made their voices heard. I'm so proud of the outside effort, people telling their stories. There were over 2,000, whether it was phone banks, town hall meetings, visits to Congressional offices, just so much activity on the part of people telling their stories and how Trumpcare would be harmful to [their] family’s health, and economic health as well.
Again, while we were happy on the day that the bill was pulled again, we must be ever vigilant. They're talking about doing it next year. It's like a zombie. It keeps rising up and we have to keep putting a stake in its heart.
But in any event, it's really important that we defeat it. And we have to be vigilant because the President is threatening to withhold vital payments which help to lower costs for most Americans, cutting the enrollment period in half and disrupting enrollment and slashing funding for HealthCare.gov advertising.
The idea is, when I say most Americans, I mean most Americans in the exchanges. It's important to have the outreach because the more people in the program, in the insurance plan, the lower the cost, the healthier the country and they're jeopardizing that. But we will try to make up with it in crowdsourcing and other messages to people to sign up.
[We’re] so happy it's pulled, ever vigilant, always prepared to protect our care. And I thank again all of the groups. The Little Lobbyists, the children who were here when the announcement was made. That was a happy coincidence. To all of the groups – whether it is patient groups or health care providers, religious groups, and the rest, who said, ‘No way.’
Again, because of what the President has been saying, over the coming days, families will suffer the consequences of Republicans' sabotage efforts, the insistence on wasting this month. We wasted a month on another bad Trumpcare effort instead of moving in a bipartisan way to stabilize the market and lower costs.
And we've called upon the Speaker [Paul Ryan] to let us join. The Senate is engaged in bipartisan conversation on this. Senator, Mr. Chairman, Lamar Alexander, and I guess they call them Vice Chairs on the Senate side, Vice Chair Patty Murray, are engaged in that negotiation. We think that the House should play a role in that too, and we've called upon the Speaker to do that.
Again, this is a very busy time – their tax bill, which we'll get to in a moment. But right now the urgent matter before us that we have to pass legislation on is the DREAM Act. In our meeting with the President, he made a commitment to support the DREAM Act. He had said in a previous meeting with us that he would sign the bill if it came to his desk.
It is overwhelmingly supported by the American people. The DREAMers, they make America dream again with their courage and their optimism of their families. And God bless their parents for providing our country with such a beautiful future.
So we're hoping that whatever else the Republicans in the Congress want to do, or the President, to move the bill along, that it will be very, very soon.
Again, we want to move forward to have an infrastructure bill. We have our agenda, A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, [Better Future]. Infrastructure is an important part of that, and I'll get to it. But first this Ryan-McConnell framework.
Whatever you do when you talk about this tax plan, don't call it reform, because it is not reform. It's just more of the same trickle-down economics that want hard-working middle class families to pay more. And we say, ‘Not One Penny’ more in deficit exploding tax breaks for the wealthiest in our country.
Some of you came yesterday or if you viewed our hearing that we had under the leadership of Richie Neal, our Ranking Member on Ways and Means, we had a beautiful panel to talk about what happens under [tax cuts] – it was a coincidence. This was planned a long time ago. And here it is the day that they release their tax plan so we could review it with some experts.
And one of them was Bruce Bartlett. Bruce Bartlett was, as some of you may know, part of Jack Kemp's supply-side economic initiatives, and he was there to talk about, and really we were interested in his view, as to when you have a big tax bill that increases the deficit more than a trillion dollars. Is it true that that will be made up, and dynamic scoring, whatever Republicans want to call it, that the growth that will spring from it will pay for the trillion dollars? He said, ‘It's not true. It's nonsense.’ He even resorted to calling it ‘BS.’ I won't use the full term.
And here he was, a supply-side economic a la Jack Kemp, saying it just isn't true that you can make up, that the growth, potential growth, comes from cutting taxes for the rich. It comes from investing in the American people.
Nothing brings more money – I'm saying this now – to the Treasury than investing in the education of the American people, K through 12, early childhood education, higher education, lifetime learning for our workers.
But don't take it from me. Take it from Bruce Bartlett, a supply-sider way back in the day who is saying it just isn't so.
So when the Speaker and others say to you, ‘Oh, we care about the deficit, and even though it's going to be 1, 2, or 3 trillion dollars increase in the deficit, you'll see in the out years, it will make up for it,’ it never has, but they keep saying it.
I often wonder what happened to the deficit hawks in the Republican Party, because they seem to be an endangered species. They don't seem to care about the deficit anymore.
On the other hand, we on the Democratic side are pay-as-you-go. You want a tax cut, pay for it, you want to make an investment, pay for it, so that we're not increasing the deficit.
So this is not, again, a tax reform. It's a tax giveaway. Same old, same old.
So, again, we want to fight their rigging the system even further for the wealthy and well connected. And, again, it's hard-working middle income families that are the backbone of America, indeed the backbone of our democracy.
So that's why we're advocating A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future. Creating jobs, and raise incomes for American workers; lowering the cost the cost; whether it's prescription drugs or the cost of living for American families; and giving every American the tools they need to have a place in the 21st century.
Today, one of our DPCC – that's our Democratic Policy and Communications Committee – Co-Chairs Cheri Bustos will lead House and Senate Democrats in unveiling a new plank for A Better Deal: universal high speed internet. So important to rural America, rural America, every farm, school and neighborhood in America must have high speed broadband.
Democrats will continue to give Americans A Better Deal for everyone, every day, everywhere.
Sadly, we are confronting the situation in Puerto Rico and the [U.S.] Virgin Islands. We will continue to this is a challenge to our conscience. All of these hurricanes have had terrible consequences. This one seems to be almost Biblical in its proportions, and the challenge that it is to our conscience must be met.
So we're hoping that we will soon have a supplemental that continues to meet the needs of the people of Puerto Rico and the [U.S.] Virgin Islands and the other hurricane affected areas, that we will be able to get it as soon as possible. It's all about time, because time makes a difference. We'll be able to get medical personnel and supplies, water, food, technologies that relate to communication and transportation and energy and generators and the rest. We have to move as quickly as possible.
And, again, we can't make the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands whole right now, but we can give them great hope that we understand the challenge and we are here to meet it.
And I have some specifics on that if you want to ask some questions about that.
Any questions? Yes, Karen.
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Q: Yes. Madam Leader, I'd like to get your thoughts on some gun legislation that's sort of moving toward the floor. One critics say would deregulate silencers and another would undermine concealed carry laws in States like California.
Leader Pelosi. Well, in addition to that, it's the silencers, it's the conceal and carry, and it's also armor piercing bullets.
This is really very dangerous. There's so much going on right now, but I was very proud of our Democrats in [the Natural Resources] Committee as they fought this. And they put it forth again under a facade of it's for hunters. Hunters need armor piercing bullets? They need silencers? They need conceal and carry to hunt?
So, again, we all understand that the Second Amendment exists. We respect the right of people to have gun ownership. The fact, though, that they're making it more dangerous for our first responders to have to deal with armor piercing bullets, silencers, even in the case of Steve Scalise, if you can hear, you can run to where the tragedy is emanating from. It's horrible.
Again, they always name things and you can just turn it upside down. So we'll fight it, but they'll have the votes, and the President seems to be on that path.
But if you do care about gun safety, and what we've talked about is a compromise where we have bipartisan, we have the bill. Mike Thompson of California and Peter King [of New York] are the co-authors. Mike is the chair of our Gun Safety Task Force. He's a hunter. He's a decorated war hero. So he knows about guns in terms of recreation and what you really do need for that.
And it's only, what we're saying is we want to be able to make sure that there are background checks on people having who want to own guns. Very simple. And it's overwhelmingly supported by the American people. Instead, the Republicans are going in a different direction.
Q: I wanted to ask your response, there's a growing scrutiny on President Trump's Cabinet members, many of whom taking private charter jets, specifically [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tom Price. I know this is something he's been critical of you for in the past. Do you think that this is an appropriate use of government and taxpayers' money?
Leader Pelosi. No, no, I don't. No, I don't. But I'm not familiar with all the details of it, but from what you all are presenting and what the President has said, this is just not right. Just not right.
Q: Do you think it's grounds for removal?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't think he should be in there in the first place, because what does the President do? The President appointed somebody to Health and Human Services who doesn't believe in health care for all Americans. He appointed somebody at EPA who doesn't believe in clean air and clean water. He appointed somebody at the Department of Education who doesn't believe in public education, to Labor who doesn't believe in workers' rights.
So I don't think he should be there in the first place, and it is unfortunate that he is. For these and other reasons, I would rather somebody else be there, but who could it be? It would probably be somebody who agrees with the President on these scores.
So, again, in terms of all of these things, it's about the rules, it's about the law, it's about the facts. I think they have to examine that and see where he comes down in that regard.
Q: Madam Leader, the Children's Health Insurance Program and the health care extenders, are House Democrats insisting that CHIP and the extenders be packaged together?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know, they have. Five years ago, Speaker [John] Boehner and I put together the SGR [Sustainable Growth Rate] package that had this extension in there for child health, the SCHIP, State Children's Health Insurance Program, and the community health centers.
The Senate has a good bill, Hatch-Wyden that is a 5 year extension of CHIP. I wish we could take that up. They've been packaged together. It's not about an insistence. What I'm concerned about is that the Republican leadership is saying, ‘Oh, they have money until later this year, we don't have to do it.’
Well, why don't we do it? Why don't we inject some certainty into it? Nine million children benefit from SCHIP, and it would be nice for them to have the certainty that this has passed. Why would you say, ‘Well, we can wait?’
I get your point. We're not going to be able to do it by September 30, which is this weekend, but why aren't we doing it immediately when we come back? What is the question? Why would we hold it up? It is just procrastination.
Q: And do Democrats already have a package of offsets together to pay for it?
Leader Pelosi. We're always prepared. Yeah. We're always prepared.
Another piece of this relates to Puerto Rico. In the spring, when we did the appropriations bill, we had in it some money for Puerto Rico, but the thought was that when we did SCHIP and community health centers, that there would be another – we have what is called the Medicaid cliff in Puerto Rico – that we would address that then. And now we're saying, ‘Oh, what's your hurry?’
Well, all the more urgency because of what's happening in Puerto Rico. But maybe we can just put it in this appropriations bill, the supplemental that the Speaker mentioned we would do in October as soon as we can. That would be very promising.
But you just can't let everything just drag on when it's only a decision. There's nothing new that's going to enter the discussion. It's just a decision. And it's been bipartisan, as I say, Hatch-Wyden. It's been bipartisan, Boehner-Pelosi, we put that package together before.
Q: Madam Leader.
Leader Pelosi. Yes, Chad [Pergram].
Q: Going back to Carolyn's question here about the firearms legislation next week and you alluded to Congressman [Steve] Scalise returning today. What about the juxtaposition of having him return today and that legislation, which you spoke so forcibly against a moment ago, what about that?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know. I like to think that it's just a coincidence. But you have a more conspiratorial mind than I do, Chad.
Q: I'm not suggesting that. Only about the San Francisco Giants, because I know that they're in last place.
But that said, some people thought there might be more of a conversation after [Congresswoman] Gabby Giffords, after Scalise on firearms, and here we are, and then you cite this piece of legislation on the floor next week?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I didn't know it was scheduled for next week until Carolyn mentioned it.
Q: It's not currently on the schedule, but we've been hearing
Leader Pelosi. I didn't know that. I do know that it was taken up in Committee, and I was very proud of the common sense that our Members injected into that discussion, especially when they're calling it something for hunters and sportsmen.
Please, hunters and sportsmen don't need what that bill puts forth, unless they're not a very good hunter or sportsman. But I don't think they're advocating that. I don't think they're advocating that at all, hunters and sportsmen.
But it is – I just, I don't – I never even thought of that.
Q: Madam Leader, the President seems to have started a culture war against a lot of Black athletes who are protesting police brutality and racial injustice in the country. I was wondering if you had a position on what the President's comments have been since last Friday and that he has continued every single day, and if that is straying away from the legislative agenda?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, it definitely is. The President is the Deflector-in-Chief. Any time he's going to lose a health care bill, an election in Alabama, whatever it is, he's got something else he's going to try to divert attention to. And he succeeds with it because everybody is paying attention to that, right?
Now, the fact is that our Constitution guarantees people the right to express themselves freely. This President has a different view, I guess, of what we salute when we salute the flag, that we salute that freedom. And the kinds of comments that he has made are beneath the dignity of his office, of our flag and of our Constitution.
Q: Do you think that it's odd that the President is co-opting this language and changing it to unity instead of what the original message was and has been for months?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, I do. I think it's unfortunate. As the President of the United States, this is a unifying opportunity for him. I just can't answer for what's in his soul or in his heart about these things. But I do know what he says is not unifying for our country.
Alright. Yes, sir.
Q: The Speaker said that the tax framework would go into Committee. Are you confident that when in Committee, they will reach across the aisle and get some of those Democratic ideas and bring it into the tax discussion?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I hope so, because there are certain things again, we want growth. We want good-paying jobs. We want to reduce the deficit. Okay? So if that's what we have common ground on, what is in furtherance of reaching those goals?
Certainly, they must know that plowing a big hole and, again, increasing the deficit so dramatically – not the deficit, the national debt so dramatically, and what that means on interest on the debt, debt service, and the opportunity cost that is instead of having those resources to invest in education and research and development and other initiatives that keep America number one, you have to they say, ‘Oh, this is going to create growth and it's going to pay for the deficit.’ It doesn't.
As I said, Bartlett even notes, that's a person who was a supply-side economist with Jack Kemp, said it's not true, it's nonsense, it's BS, he said.
But we said, ‘If you want to do dynamic scoring like that, why don't you say every dollar we spend on education brings more money back to the Treasury, every dollar we spend, and go through those investments?’ They don't. They don't. There's just any excuse will do to give tax cuts to their rich friends.
Now, we're agnostic. We go in, okay, what do you have to offer? Let's see what we can find common ground on? What we do say is that it must be revenue neutral. We're not there to be accomplices to increasing the deficit with a bill that does not create jobs, good paying jobs and growth in our country.
Thank you all.
Q: Why do the Giants, why do they have the worst record in baseball?
Leader Pelosi. Strange year. Building year.
Q: That's like one of the names of one of those bills, it’s a Building Year.
Leader Pelosi. I went to the opening game of the 49ers. They did okay.
Q: They ain't too hot this year either.
Leader Pelosi. Hmm?
Q: They haven't been too hot lately either.
Leader Pelosi. Well, they haven't won, but they've played okay.
Q: For the past 3 or 4 years they've been pretty bad.
You have the Warriors, though.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you for reminding us all of the Golden State Warriors. Barbara Lee and I have invited them to the Capitol. We did when they won the championship. Now that the [inaudible] the President at the White House, we renew our invitation to them to come, when they want, with their families. But they're always welcome.
Q: Thank you.
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