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. Good morning, everyone. What an eventful morning it has been, really one that marks a transformative moment for our country.
This morning, when the Republicans voted to advance the budget that they put forth, they drew a line in the sand between the middle class and working families and the very wealthy and corporate America in our country. It's really unfortunate, but it is at least an opportunity for the American people to understand more clearly what the debate is here in Washington, D.C.
On one side of that line in the sand, we have the Republicans in Congress who are in their DNA committed to a mission of giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country. In fact, the budget they put forth, in that budget, 80 percent of the tax cuts will go to the top 1 percent.
Sadly, it also is another way that it is an assault on the middle class is an assault on State and Local Tax [SALT] deductions. And I bring this up because it affects everyone. If you live in the District of Columbia, for example, and you own a home, you will be negatively impacted. The District of Columbia, 137,000, more than 137,000 people are and I bring this up because I assume you live here. Or if you live in Maryland, 1,354,000 people. Or if you live in Virginia, same thing, a million and a half people are affected.
In the District of Columbia, the average SALT deduction is $16,000. You will no longer have that deduction. If you live in Virginia, the average deduction is over $11,000. And if you live in Maryland, the average deduction is $12,000. So you will lose that deduction under this plan.
Not only that, it has been reported by the realtors that the value of your home would be – you would lose 10 percent of the value of your home. And you can thank the Republicans in Congress for that because, as they misrepresent what they are doing to the middle class, what they are doing is looting them, looting your homes. Just, it's just a rip off of the middle class. But you know why? Because there's so many people in the middle class, if you take some of their money and multiply it by a lot of people, you can give a big tax cut to the high end, increasing, exacerbating, the disparity in equity opportunity in our country, and not only that, at the same time, you're increasing the national debt.
And I say that this morning was transformative because the amount of money, the trillions of dollars that they increase the debt, is very hard to come back from. We, under President Obama, came back; under President Clinton, came back from the deficits that existed when he took office. His last budgets were either in balance or in surplus.
When President Bush left office, the deficit was at $1.4 trillion. So you're talking about an enormous amount of money, that the national debt had increased by an enormous amount. The debt was – $1.4 [trillion] in terms of the deficit, as opposed to the debt, which increased by trillions of dollars. So then we go to President Obama, who again reverses that. And now we come to President Trump.
So, again, here we are – the budget. As I said the other day – and you saw the pie chart – 80 percent of the advantage goes to the top 1 percent. Who pays? The middle class. The fact that they're saying there is a middle class tax cut is not true. It's wrong. And when they come forth with their tax bill, we will see it more clearly.
But what the Republicans did today was to give an open path to this assault – an assault. It's a rip off, a shakedown, a looting of the middle class. And that has a difference in our country.
Toynbee, Arnold Toynbee, wrote about histories of civilizations. You know that. And in one of his presentations, he talked about societies and governments that were there for creative with creative leadership, where people could thrive and succeed, versus exploitive, exploitive situations, where they were there for the rich and the powerful. That's not a good thing for a country. And that's the path that these Republicans are taking us down.
So, very calmly, we say to them: ‘We want to do tax reform. We want to do it in a way that is fair, that has fairness, that has simplification, that has growth that reduces the deficit, creates good paying jobs, and keeps America number one.’
Instead, we have a budget that they put forth that does not do that. But they misrepresent that it is good for the middle class, which it is not.
So, hopefully, when this tax bill comes up, the public will be aware of what to look for in it, know how they pay the price for this big transfer of wealth, where the wealth is sucked up from the middle class to high income, the 1 percent, as well as wealthy corporations in our country.
It's stunning. It's really startling. And so, you know, it's a con. It's a massive con. And we're going to make sure that, if they engage in this, the American people know how it affects them. This isn't about politics. This is about the American people and how policy here affects them.
Instead, let's go to the table to create growth, create good paying jobs, to reduce the deficit, to keep America number one, and to reduce taxes on the middle class. That's probably about all I'll have to say, unless you have some questions.
Our Californians, what they've done to California – I'm so proud of our Governor [Jerry Brown]. He wrote individually to each of the Members to say how bad this would be. And you know what? I love the fact that, in his letter, he said: ‘Not only do you take away the deduction from individual filers, but you keep it for corporations.’
In this bill, you're an individual filer, you have a home any of you have homes that you take a deduction, State and local taxes? You lose that. If you're a corporation, you keep it. Two sides. Whose side are they on?
But, again, it's a moment of definition. It's a moment of definition. And we will not allow them to misrepresent the facts on this tax bill to the American people.
Heartbreaking, because we could have come together to do something in a bipartisan way that would be sustainable. You can't do tax reform without bipartisanship and sustainability if you're going to give certainty to the business community so they can act upon and individuals so they can act upon their personal as well as professional and business decisions.
With that, I'm pleased to take any questions.
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Q: Thank you, Leader Pelosi. Given what you've said, what you've seen of the framework up to this point, if Republicans stay on the current track they're on with their tax overhaul, is your primary goal, the goal of your caucus, to see its failure at this point?
Leader Pelosi. Well, yes, because we're here for the American people. We don't want that impact to be on the American people.
And the problem with their tax bill is not just the harm it does directly in terms of, say, the State and Local Tax deduction being removed. That's just one example. But, also, because they take us so deeply into debt, the opportunity cost for our budget to invest in education, it will necessitate a trillion dollars being cut out of Medicaid. And that's part of their plan. A half a trillion dollars coming out of Medicare.
It will have a cost to education and the rest. And that's about the health and wellbeing of our families and the future of our country in terms of education being essential. Education, by the way, being any money spent on education – nothing brings more money to the Treasury than investing in education, early childhood, K-12, higher education, post-grad, lifetime learning. That's a fact. So, if they undermine that opportunity for investment, they're increasing the deficit, not saving any money.
So we would hope that – I think that a part of what these Members walked the plank for is something they're going to have to answer for back home. And, hopefully I think that the ability to have leverage would have been to defeat this and then go to their Speaker and say, ‘We want something different.’
In fact, they have enhanced – they've given leverage to the exploiters.
Anybody? Yes, sir.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Oh. Question on immigration and sort of your negotiating stance between now and December. The Speaker was out here a little while ago denying reports that he had told some of his colleagues that the spending bill will include some solution to DACA for certain but said, you know, conversations are continuing.
What is your updated sense of where that issue stands and what your potential leverage points are going into that bill?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I didn't realize the Speaker backed off that statement because people were taking some comfort in the fact that something would happen before the end of the year.
Let me just say about our DREAMers. They are really a blessing to our country. I have said to them the last two days, I've had six meetings relating to DREAMers, and I said to them: ‘Do me a favor. Thank your parents for bringing you here because you're such an inspiration to our country.’
They are so great. And the American people recognize that. Over 80 percent want them to stay. High numbers want them to stay on a path to citizenship.
I think President Trump is inclined to be supportive. He said he is. I take him at his word and that’s because the American people support the DREAMers – not because we were so persuasive, but because the American people support the DREAMers.
So I'm optimistic that we'll celebrate, hopefully Thanksgiving, but more likely Christmas, with a DREAM Act passed.
Q: Do you still see your Caucus holding together on that and potentially withholding support for a spending bill if, by then, there hasn't been some kind of a deal –
Leader Pelosi. I didn't say that. I just said we're going to pass it. I said we're going to pass a DREAM Act. Our Caucus overwhelmingly supports DREAMers. I believe if the Speaker brought a bill to the floor, it would pass overwhelmingly with Republican votes.
Many of our Republican colleagues support the DREAMers. As it is frequently around here, it is getting a vote. And so I would hope that the Speaker would give us a vote one way or another. But we're just working to get the votes, and we think we have them.
Q: Ms. Pelosi, can you comment on the President's decision to declare an emergency on the opioid crisis?
Leader Pelosi. What I would say to the President on that is: ‘show me the money.’ What is the point – we passed a bill about opioids and this or that. Instead, the President has sent a budget here that cuts the Medicaid, which is the major funder of how we address opioids. As the Governor of Ohio has pointed out so clearly, ‘thank God’ for Medicaid in terms of fighting the opioid epidemic.
And he has also, in this budget, cut the funding for SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health [Services Administration] that is there to address these needs.
Declaring an emergency means he can have access to some funds. But the funds in that account are like $57,000 or $58,000. So show me the money. Okay. We all agree. We passed the 21st Century Cures Act last year. We all agree that this is a place we have to go.
I had the Speaker write me a letter that we would continue to have the funding in the appropriations bill. But the President's statement are words without the money. And so we'd like to see the money because the thing about the opioid epidemic is it's in every district in the country. It's not like you can say: ‘Well, it's people in a certain area where it is warmer or colder or whatever.’
It's all over the country. So, hopefully, the concerns of our colleagues will be manifested in the allocation of the resources because you have to have the resources.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: On the Kennedy documents, we're still awaiting the National Archives release of those. But yourself, as someone who read the Warren Commission years ago, did you have some nagging questions? And what do you think the significance of this release will be?
Leader Pelosi. I have no idea until we see what will be released. It was a sad, terrible tragedy in our country. Yes, I did read the Warren Commission because, obviously, as many people at that time, we were so stricken by the President's assassination. And that was a dispositive moment in our history. It made change because he was such an inspiration to so many of us.
But I really can't speak to something that I haven't seen. So I look forward to seeing the documents.
Q: Does anything still matter 50 years later? Will it put it to rest, or will it generate more?
Leader Pelosi. It depends on what it says. I've heard different accounts where people have said it's only going to contribute to conspiracy theories. I don't know. But, you know, after we see – when is it, today?
Q: We aren't sure. They haven't told us a hard schedule yet.
Leader Pelosi. I'm sure many people will be very interested to see. What a tragedy.
Q: Madam Leader, on the budget, what is the status of talks with Republicans and the White House on a deal to raise discretionary caps? And when will appropriators have real defense and nondefense discretionary levels in law for fiscal 2018?
Leader Pelosi. Hopefully soon. Hopefully soon. We have some discussions that are going on in the five – you know, the House and Senate, Democrats, Republicans, and the White House, as to what – when that will happen. It has to happen soon. We are insisting on parity. If they're going to lift the caps on the defense side, we have to lift the caps on the domestic discretionary side as well.
Q: And what does the White House say to that?
Leader Pelosi. Really, I'm not going to go into those conversations. But we're on a path, and I'm optimistic that it has to happen soon so that we can have it done by the end of the continuing resolution, which is, what, the first or second week in December. They changed the date. I don't know if it was the first or second week.
Q: Second week. Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yeah?
Q: Can I ask a western issue? In the wake of the wildfires in California, you know, Congress has been hung up for years on sort of a permanent wildfire funding fix, a lot of debate about, you know, what kind of forest policy is tied to that.
Are you seeing any outlines of an agreement that can maybe get a solution to providing permanent funding for the Forest Service on prevention programs, stepping those up?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I hope so. I certainly hope so because, for those of you not familiar with the issue, one of the problems is, is that the funds will be used, instead of having mitigation to begin with on how we can prevent a lot of this, some of the money is spent on putting out fires, which is what we have to do, but we'd rather not have them in the first place. So just to have an overall policy – and I think it would be bipartisan. I don't see that as a partisan issue at all because, well, you've seen the tragedy in our area. My colleague [Congressman] Mike Thompson, his district was like an inferno. And he has some ideas about this. My colleague [Congressman] Jim Costa, from the Fresno area, has been on this case for a long time. So I think we can come to a place that anticipates has more anticipation as well as resources to keep the American people safe.
Q: Well, there have been a couple of hang ups. One has been the debate sort of over what kind of forest policy things you attach to it. You know, sort of between, do you allow too much logging and overriding environmental rules for those? And, also, as I understand it, the Speaker has been resistant to allowing some of these large wildfire disasters to go into the FEMA emergency budget.
Leader Pelosi. Well, they should certainly go into the FEMA budget. I mean, they are a natural disaster, and there's absolutely no question that they should go into the FEMA budget. That will be likely. Did you say the Speaker was reluctant to do that?
Q: That's supposedly, yeah.
Leader Pelosi. No – well, we'll see but I will just say that this is deadly serious in terms of our country, the value we place on our natural resources, for sure, but, again, the impact it has on human life first and foremost. So I think that we should be able to come to some terms on that. I see that a little bit separate than money coming out of FEMA. That's a different fight. But on management of forest, et cetera, hopefully, we can find common ground.
Q: Madam Leader, just to get back to a previous topic you touched on, in terms of the discretionary cap negotiations and so on –
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: So is your hope or expectation is that by December 8th CR end, that there will be an omnibus able to be voted on? Or would you expect there to be some more time to work out either another CR to allow for an omnibus to be done or something –
Leader Pelosi. I don't see why we would have to have another CR because we know as soon as we get the caps, we know what the how the allocation will be on the Appropriations Committee. Hopefully, that would be made known to us. Sometimes they don't let us know. But, hopefully, that will be made known. You'll insist upon it. And then we'll go from there.
But we all know that we want to measure – we have to keep our country strong. Part of that is our military might and what we do in the defense side of it, and the other part of it is the health, education, and wellbeing of the American people, what we do on the discretionary side of it. So I don't know, by dragging it out at the end, how much what we're going to know that we don't already know now. So let's just get on with it and remove all doubt.
If it requires if we reach agreement, and sometimes there's another week tacked on just to do the legislation, that's a different story, but not to just drag out the conversation, because the debate is a clear one. Everybody knows what it is right now.
Q: But if you're going to have an omnibus by December 8th, and then don't you have to have those caps agreed to and locked in a little bit earlier than that?
Leader Pelosi. Pretty soon. Pretty soon. Yeah. And, hopefully, we will. Hopefully, we will.
Q: On JFK, on JFK –
Leader Pelosi. Why don't we do somebody else, and then we can come back, and then that's it.
Q: Thank you. On opioids, you said, ‘Show me the money,’ when it came to the President's decision to declare a national health emergency. But administration officials said this morning that they were talking to Congress about allocating more money by the end of the year for that. So where would you stand on that? Where would the Caucus be on that?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't know what they mean by talking to Congress. I don't know who did they say who they were talking to?
Leader Pelosi. We are, our appropriators and our authorizers, in a really bipartisan way – I don't see this as a partisan issue. The opioid epidemic is in every district, as I said. And we came together on the Cures Act with a big piece of opioid authorization but still not so much money to deal with it.
So I don't – I can't speak to what the conversations are. Let me just say: I'd be the last person to be able to tell you what the White House conversations are with – assuming it's the Republicans in Congress on this.
But, again, if we have the caps lifted, there's more opportunity for the National Institutes of Health, for SAMHSA, for opioids. These are some of the things that could benefit from that. But I have no idea what they're talking about. I don't know if they do.
Q: Would the Caucus support the notion of them coming to Congress to ask for more money for this?
Leader Pelosi. Would the Congress support them asking for more?
Q: Would the caucus?
Leader Pelosi. Sure. Of course. But they haven't. I didn't see that in the announcement. I didn't see that in the announcement. You may have had a follow-up question with them, but I didn't see that in the announcement.
But, again, it has to be additional. You can't say we're going to take as they're trying to do on SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program]. They are saying, ‘well, we're going to have’ – SCHIP is the State Children's Health Insurance Program – ‘we want to pass CHIP. We're going to authorize CHIP, but we're going to pay for it by taking the money out of the prevention fund,’ which is children's health, children's inoculation, children's tests for lead.
Things that benefit children's health, they want to take the money from that to pay for SCHIP while they're giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country un-offset. So tax cuts for the rich don't have to be offset; they can increase the deficit. Children's health, which has its own benefit to our economy, has to be paid for by other children's health and, not only that, by undermining Medicare and the health of America's families.
So where would this money come from? That's really the point. Are we talking additionality? Are we talking cannibalizing other aspects of healthcare in our country?
Q: Just real quick on JFK. I'm curious, in all your years on the Intelligence Committee or in the briefings you get nowadays, have you ever had a CIA Director or FBI Director come to you and say they were concerned about what may be released?
Leader Pelosi. No. We never talked about it.
Q: They never brought it up?
Leader Pelosi. We were talking about in the beginning, we were talking about force protection, using intelligence for force protection, addressing overarching issues like money laundering related to drug trade, issues like that that have an impact on supporting some certain groups and the rest. We were concerned about fighting terrorism. We're about the here and now and into the future. I've never heard anybody come in and say we just never talked about it. So we shall see.
In any event, stay tuned on this because this is a moment of truth for America. We're either going down a path that says, ‘the only thing that's going to come your way is what might trickle down from tax breaks for the wealthy. You are going to fund those, and not only that, we are going to borrow from the future, our children's future in my case, children and grandchildren's future in order to go deeply into debt to fund more tax breaks at the high end.’
It's really a tragedy, actually. But it is a differentiation, and so let's hope that the American people can weigh in with the Republicans to pull them back to a position of fairness, simplification, growth, creation of good paying jobs, reduction of the deficit.
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