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, everyone. Let's see how much we can get done in 20 minutes. I'll try to be brief with my answers. I'll try.
So here we are. It's such a sad time for us in California with the wildfires. Mother Nature is really raging out there with the wildfires, the hurricanes and the rest. So much uncertainty in the lives of so many American people, and we want to make sure that we meet their needs. But it really is still raging in Northern California and Southern somewhat as well.
And here we are going home today, a day early, as if we have time to spare, when we have no jobs bill, no infrastructure bill, no commonsense action on gun violence prevention, no vote on a bipartisan DREAM Act, no CHIP reauthorization. Instead, Republicans, or the President, is sabotaging health care, and we have no action in the Congress.
As you know, there is the Ryan-McConnell tax cut framework. It's not tax reform. It's a tax framework. It raises taxes on the middle class, slashes taxes on the wealthiest one percent and explodes the deficit. Explodes the deficit.
And what's so sad, is because when I say no DREAM Act, I mean, excuse me, no S-CHIP, State Children's Health Insurance Program, no CHIP Act -- it's being held up because they're insisting that the Children's Health Insurance Program be paid for out of accounts that serve children, like inoculations and the rest, while they want to give tens of billions of dollars of tax cuts to the high-end, unpaid for.
And we'll be talking some more about their tax cuts for the wealthy later.
What time is it, 1 o'clock?
Leader Pelosi. 1:15 today. So hopefully you'll join us then. We'll go into more detail about the opportunity costs for the American people. It increases the deficit, tax cuts at the high-end, and has a terrible impact on the budget. More on that later.
Again, in terms of the DREAM Act, we are still optimistic that there are enough Republicans who care about the DREAMers to join in a bipartisan way to pass that legislation and to do so soon.
Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, how sad. This is a real challenge to the conscience of our nation. These are American people, American citizens, who fought and died in our wars, who are so much an important part of who we are as a nation and the President is dismissing them in such a way.
I wanted to address one issue that we've been working on with our Members, especially our committees of jurisdiction, and that is the issue of nuclear first use. I put this in the category of urgent. We take an oath to protect and defend, and the law under which the President of the United States has authority to exercise first use is one that is ancient. It's from 1946. It was in a different world and now I think it is necessary for us to address it.
There are all kinds of proposals out there, one saying – declaring – the United States of America will not engage in first use of a nuclear weapon. I like that one the best. Others which talk about if the President were to use nuclear power, it would be with the advice of some people in his Cabinet, who would they be? That's part of the discussion and so more to come on that. I believe that if we go forward with anything like that it has to be in a bipartisan way, because it's about all Presidents, no matter who he or she may be down the road.
That's, again, part of the -- it takes us to the Iran agreement, again, part of the ‘Stop the world, I want to get off’ agenda of the President: walk away from the Paris Agreement and not engage in diplomacy in terms of North Korea, walk away from the Iran agreement, which seriously endangers the world, but not only that, jeopardizes our credibility, our standing on how we deal with North Korea.
Yesterday, we had a very interesting session with our Members, with four Ambassadors, the Ambassador of the [E.U.], the Ambassador of the U.K., Ambassador of France, Ambassador of Germany. They presented to our Members and, bottom line, basically said, ‘If the U.S. walks away from this, we are not. We are there in this agreement with Iran, unless Iran violates the agreement.’ There is no evidence that they have.
At the same meeting we also heard from Secretary of State, former, John Kerry; former Secretary of Energy Moniz; former Secretary -- I say that because he was on the phone -- Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and former Deputy Under Secretary of State [Wendy Sherman], who was magnificent in terms of the negotiations and all the rest.
So in any case, they all spoke to the fact that this made the world safer, it was an agreement that Iran is not in violation of, that it has transparency and we would know and could tell if they were and it was even mentioned that former Prime Minister and former Defense Minister of Israel Ehud Barak said we should not walk away from this agreement.
Now, this is going to be – we don't know, because the Republicans have not shared any of the information with us, what form any legislation there would be, that they would send over to us. But there are several different options, and we'll see when the President makes his announcement and we'll see when the Republicans decide what to do about it. But even those who voted, who were opposed to it before, understand that walking away has serious consequences.
Anyway, here we are again: no jobs bill, no infrastructure, no gun violence prevention, no DREAM Act, no CHIP bill, no nothing and the Members are going home. The Speaker said this morning, he'll keep us in until Christmas to do his tax cuts for the rich.
Why don't we just stay in tomorrow and get moving on some of this so we can have a bipartisan discussion on how we can simplify, have real tax reform that creates good-paying jobs, reduces the deficit and grows our economy instead of making threats about the Christmas holiday?
Okay. So here we are. Any questions? Chad?
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Q: Madam Leader, good morning.
Leader Pelosi. Because you're so faithful.
Q: Thank you. Well, not to the Giants, but okay. That's fine. If there is non-certification on the Iran deal and, obviously, it's up to the Republicans how they want to approach this, obviously, you support the Iran deal – what is the best option from your perspective to say, ‘Okay, there are some avenues, we can preserve some of this, or at least, you know, if they just get rid of the 90 day compliance,’ to what –
Leader Pelosi. None of the above.
Q: Okay. But if they put legislation out there, you know, and if you have a say, what would you say put in that new piece of legislation?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't think that our negotiation should be a renegotiation of the Iran agreement. I remind you, five, the five Permanent Members of the Security Council, plus one, Germany, plus all of the members of the EU, engaged in this negotiation with Iran.
So it's not up to the Congress of the United States to say, ‘Well, we're going to improve this or that.’ It is the package. They are not in violation of it. They have stopped going in the direction of producing a nuclear weapon and they can't do that for 10, 15, 20 years in different stages along the way.
Without the agreement, it would be that they were months away from developing a nuclear weapon. So we have to take "yes" for an answer. So it is not up to the Congress to have its own side negotiations on this.
What we do support and have supported are the sanctions on the ballistic missile activity on the part of the Iranians and the activities that they're engaged in that are supporting terrorists and the rest, and we join with our allies in being strong on those sanctions. But they are separate from nuclear activity.
So we just have to face the reality, again, be part of the world and the world is saying, if we want to stop proliferation, we have to honor that agreement, or else who would make an agreement with us? We walked away from Paris. We're walking away from Iran, maybe. Hopefully not.
But in addition to that, my concern, as I've said to you before, about proliferation is not about developing a nuclear weapon by any country, including, probably starting with North Korea. It is not just that they would have it, but that they could sell it and how long do you think it would take, if Iran had a nuclear weapon, for other countries in the region to decide that they had to have that too? And, by the way, there are places that would be willing to sell them, some of the technology, the scientific know-how, the launch capacity, to make the world a more dangerous place.
So we don't know. But there are several options that could come. The President could decertify. He could decertify and put the sanctions on. You know, we don't know what he's going to do.
Q: Well, that's why–
Leader Pelosi. We don't know what he's going to do, so we can't–
Q: But you said it's not up to the Congress. It is going to be up to the Congress in some form to put something in place, and that's where I'm driving at.
Leader Pelosi. We're not renegotiating the agreement. Congress isn't. You said what, if they change this or that. We're not renegotiating the agreement.
So we will see what the President says, and then we'll see what the Republicans, but they have been very close to the vest on it. I think they have some unease in their own caucus about people who may have opposed it before but understand the danger of walking away.
Q: Leader Pelosi, I know the White House hasn't put out all the details yet, but can you respond to what we know about the President's executive order on health care that they're putting out today and what your take is on him doing anything by executive order after essentially failing to get anything through Congress on health care?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't know what he's putting out today, but I do know it is a sabotage of the Affordable Care Act and, quite frankly, a real disservice to the American people, many of whom voted for him. We'll have more to say about it when we see actually what he's putting forth.
But we do know that there is bipartisan support, even some of their high-ranking Republicans in the Congress have said we should do the cost sharing funds that are there. We have to take matters into our own hands as to having to be navigators ourselves, to say to people, ‘This is the time to sign up.’ The bigger the pool, the healthier the pool, the lower the cost.
But the President, not having seen what he has to say but just judging from what he has said, knows very little about health care legislation.
Q: It is appropriate for him to be addressing this by executive order when Congress is still working so actively on this issue?
Leader Pelosi. Well, he – as one who has criticized the President for acting under executive order, it's pretty interesting to see that he would go down a path about which he knows little and to do so flying in the face of the Congress and saying all the while, ‘I have the votes for health care.’ Something is wrong with this picture. Yes, ma'am?
Q: The President's DACA demands, you've made clear they're a nonstarter for you, ‘trash’ is how you've described them.
Leader Pelosi. Trash.
Q: If there is no wiggle room here and a deal for DREAMers can't be reached by December, what next? Are you willing to withhold support from –
Leader Pelosi. Right now, we are starting with our Members. We respect our Members when they say, on both sides of the aisle – and our Republicans colleagues know because everybody else has signed up, all the Democrats have signed up in support of the DREAM Act – when our colleagues say that they want to protect the DREAMers. What the President did – I don't know if it's the President, but whoever in the White House did, was draw a line in the sand between DREAMers and an agenda that is so ridiculous. It shouldn't be called principles, because it's very unprincipled. So we're just getting the votes to take up a vote to pass a bill and that is where we are now.
Q: So despite the President's demands, you're confident that lawmakers here on the Hill can still make progress and reach a deal?
Leader Pelosi. Yes. Yes, ma'am?
Q: On the same topic, it seems like you had an understanding with the President over what to do about the DREAMers. So what do you think happened and what does it mean for your ability to negotiate with him in good faith going forward?
Leader Pelosi. Well, he has not told us that he will not support the DREAM Act. That was what our agreement was, that he would support the DREAM Act. At a previous meeting he had said, ‘If it comes to my desk, I will sign it.’ In the second meeting he said, ‘I support the DREAM Act.’
We also understood that there would have to be some security measures that he'd like to see with that, but it wasn't anything to change the nature of the DREAM Act, and the DREAM Act is what we are getting signatures – I mean sponsorships for, people to either sign the discharge or co-sponsor the legislation.
So you hear all kinds of things, but the fact is the DREAM Act is still the vehicle and we still are hopeful that we'll have it even before December. Yes, ma'am?
Q: Following up on that, there aren't many legislative days until the CR expires on December 8. Have negotiations begun yet on top-line spending levels or an omnibus, or when do you expect them to begin?
Leader Pelosi. Yes. Not completely, but yes, we're going down that path. We hope to be finished by December 8 or even sooner. This is the debate we've had and this is the debate we've always won. And hopefully it won't be that controversial, but we'll see.
Again, the last bill we did was in April. We had to get rid of 200 poison pills. If they try again to go after birth control, family planning, we will have that fight again, to defund Planned Parenthood, those kinds of fights. But hopefully the American people's interest in this and wish in this regard has been impressed upon them, just as the American people have their favorable attitude toward our DREAMers.
I just want to come back to them for a moment, because I think the reason the President supports the DREAM Act is because the American people do, not because [Senator] Chuck [Schumer] and I were such engaging dinner partners or Chuck's table manners or anything like that. It was about the DREAMers and the attitude of the American people.
Similarly, for issues like birth control that they – it's a funny thing. In Congress, for like 25 years, I kept trying to say to people, ‘They don't believe in family planning. They don't believe in contraception.’
People just wouldn't accept that, they couldn't find it to be true, until they came in with one of their budgets and said, ‘We're going to eliminate funding for family planning.’
So thank you for making my life a little bit easier. Unfortunately, if you succeed, you'll be making everyone's life harder and that's why we have to succeed.
Q: Do you expect to get parity between increases in defense—
Leader Pelosi. Absolutely. Absolutely. We expect to have parity if they lift the caps. Those are fundamentals, yes. We would have parity. If the caps are lifted, we would have parity, unless they want sequestration. I don't think anybody wants that. Yes, ma'am?
Q: You mentioned nuclear no first use. Is this out of concern that Trump is going to launch nuclear weapons and start World War III –
Leader Pelosi. It had nothing to do with him.
Q: – like Senator Corker suggested he might?
Leader Pelosi. Well, this doesn't really have to do with him. It has to do with the Presidency, any President who was there. And it is no first use.
Now, I remind you that if our country is attacked, the War Powers Act triggers for the Executive any and all powers. But there is interest in the U.S. establishing itself as no first use, no first nuclear use.
Q: Interest among Democrats or interest among –
Leader Pelosi. We'd have to have it be bipartisan, yeah, so inside and outside the Congress, yes and that's one. Another option would be to ensure that it just doesn't rest with one person.
As you know, the law that was passed in 1946 was in a different reality of our country's standing in the world and the rest. And now we're not in a bipolar situation, we're in a different situation, and we want to be clear as to what our intentions are and what they would be should we be attacked, yeah.
I think we have to go now. You have one more?
Leader Pelosi. Because we're getting into the Speaker's time.
Q: Thank you. Trump tweeting this morning that FEMA and DOD and the other emergency responders in Puerto Rico will not be there forever and some are interpreting that as a threat that he might pull it out early and this is just hours before you're going to pass this emergency supplemental.
How are you interpreting that message from the President, no mention of Harvey, no mention of Florida or Texas? Is this singling out Puerto Rico? And any concern that he does plan to bring these groups out early?
Leader Pelosi. The President's tweet this morning, if it's his most recent – I don't know what's happened since we've come in the room – is heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking and it lacks knowledge, knowledge about what the role is of FEMA and others in time of natural disaster, what our responsibility is as the Federal Government to the people of our country.
And I remind him that the people of Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are American citizens, fight in our wars, die for the safety, for our security and we're all Americans and we owe them what they need. It's not about a clock. It's about what they need and this is only part of it. Let me thank you for that question so I can emphasize: what we're talking about now is emergency relief. There is going to have to be relief right now. There is going to have to be recovery. And that's a whole other, shall we say, budget and that's when we work together to document need, mitigate for future damage.
For example, if it were an earthquake, as it was three years ago in California, which we've had in California, when we get funds for recovery it has to be with mitigation, that we're not throwing good money back to be damaged again without prevention.
So, again, this is more on the subject than you want to know. Unfortunately, when I came to Congress just a couple of years later we had an earthquake in California, so I became completely informed about how this all works. Hopefully, the President will as well.
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