Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. Thank you for being early. We are adjusting to the schedule on the Floor where the last comments are being made before we go to vote. So thank you again for accommodating the Floor schedule.
Sadly, as you know, today marks the five year anniversary, five years since twenty beautiful children and their six extraordinary teachers were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Our hearts are shattered. Our resolve only grows stronger five years later.
In their name, in the name of the 90 Americans who lose their lives to gun violence every day and the 120,000 Americans who have been killed by guns since Newtown, we will never stop fighting for commonsense gun violence prevention.
As we saw with last week's concealed carry bill, House Republicans want to make this awful problem even worse. How could it be, when people were converging on Washington and really around the country, coming together to observe the five year anniversary, it was observed here by putting forth – with stiff competition, mind you – one of the worst gun bills that they could put forth.
We had for a couple hours on Saturday in church an interfaith service observing the five year anniversary and the stories of the families and collateral damage that happens not only in losing your loved one, but how sad it is for families across our country. They deserve better. We won't stop until we succeed. We're in it to win it. Everything that you can say, we are not going away until that job gets done.
And by the way, what we're talking about in the gun violence prevention legislation, which is bipartisan, the King-Thompson bill, is to expand the background checks to gun shows and internet sales. So most gun owners support that, but on the Floor of the House the wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party, of the gun industry, we can't even take a vote on it. Instead, we're voting on concealed carry.
Again, in other bad news for the American people this week, the House and Senate Republicans met in secret to come up with a final GOP tax scam. Republicans have two bills, one worse than the other, that both raise taxes on tens of millions of middle class families while they are dishonestly telling people it is a tax break for the middle class.
And instead of helping middle class Americans, they decided their top priority was to slash, imagine, slash taxes for the wealthy 1 percent even further. In fact, it's not even the 1 percent, it's the 0.3 percent, smaller.
By slashing the top tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 39.6 to 37 percent, Republicans appear to be handing an extra $150 to $200 billion tax cut to the top 0.3 percent of households in America.
What? It's daylight robbery. And with every iteration, the GOP tax scam becomes even more cowardly, outrageous, dishonest, brazen-theft from middle class families, giving money from them to the richest people in our country and to corporations. It's a monumental con job.
They're not getting away with it. As you see, the American people are paying attention. They know and they, by 2-to-1, are coming out against it. But nonetheless that doesn't stop the Republicans from doing what is in their DNA, tax cuts for the rich. That is their purpose.
When the Washington Post asked Edward Kleinbard, former chief of staff for the Joint Committee on Taxation, if the tax package in aggregate would mean middle income tax cuts, he said, ‘That's delusional or dishonest to say. It's factually untrue… The only group you can point to that wins year after year and wins in very large magnitude is the very highest incomes.’ In the highest income.
Mark Zandi, chief economist from Moody's Analytics, said yesterday – maybe some of you saw our hearing of the House Democrats. We have asked for hearing after hearing, getting none. The House Democrats had another hearing yesterday. Mark Zandi was there and he made these points.
The tax bill before us does not increase economic growth. It adds to the debt enormously, deepens wealth inequality in our country, and does not simplify the tax code. So what is the purpose?
Let us come together in a bipartisan way, as has been done before, to get the job done. This has trillions of dollars of impact on our economy, this bill, trillions of dollars of impact, done without a hearing, without hearing from the experts who can say what the ramifications are of what they are doing.
No, they just did it in the back room and probably with their lobbyist friends because that is where most of the information you get and what we get, is from lobbyists.
But as we saw in Alabama and we saw in Virginia before that, suburban Republicans are in trouble, very serious trouble. If Republicans think they have a problem now, wait until they raise taxes on millions of middle class families and hand a tax break to corporations to ship jobs overseas. It's really stunning what they are doing.
Instead of doing that, we should be working on a bill, our end of the year bill, to address a list of urgent, overdue and bipartisan – all the things we're talking about here are bipartisan priorities for the American people: Funding for the opioid epidemic. Increase funding for our veterans. CHIP program and community health centers. Passing the DREAM Act. Emergency disaster funding. Saving endangered pensions, very important in our country.
And instead what are we doing? They're just totally obsessed with what their DNA requires; tax cuts for the rich. That's what their unifying theme is. That's why the Republicans, unfortunately – that belief is now tied to some very destructive, deficit-increasing, job-killing, middle income-robbing pieces provisions in the tax bill.
One of the things that I wanted to bring up, too, because as we gather here right now is at the Federal Communications Commission, they are considering a resolution that will be very harmful to net neutrality. I have written a letter to the Chairman [Ajit Pai], concerned, because they, too, have resisted hearings in what they are doing.
And this is, it's a situation that is – let me just read it to you in the interest of time. I say in there: I am disappointed that your office has ignored my invitation, but many other invitations for hearings to voice concerns about identity theft and the fake comments, fake comments in the agency's record regarding net neutrality. Further, your office has consistently downplayed the New York Attorney General's investigation into this matter and ignored the alarming prospect that your agency's review, your agency's process may be fraudulent.
Hundreds of people are gathered now at the FCC to register their complaint. You ask any Member, their offices are being bombarded.
Young people know what this means. This is about democracy on the Internet. This is about good jobs for the future. And this should not be done.
Even the technology officer, one of the people that the Senate has appointed, has said there might be some flaws in how they are going forward.
So let us hope that well, I don't know if you remember, but when this happened before, when we were trying to interpret the law in a way that was favorable to democracy on the Internet, the response from young people positively supporting that was overwhelming.
But as you know, supporting something is one wonderful thing. When you try to take it away, it is an explosion of such magnitude. Well, the FCC will see that.
But this is very important to our economy if we want to have good-paying jobs for the 21st century. I don't know what they're thinking.
The only people advantaged of this are the platforms, the top communications companies. All of the entrepreneurial new companies coming up, all the young people who communicate and try to build relationships that will produce jobs on the internet are at a disadvantage. Pay attention to this, okay?
Now, we have this CRomnibus that they're talking about. Some people are calling it the ‘punt’-ibus, just punt this down the road. I call it the ‘none’-tibus because it's not going anywhere. They're saying that they're going to put together a full-year appropriation for the Pentagon and the rest of the continuing resolution would just be the domestic budget as we go forward.
Don't they know that that – I mean, [Leader] Chuck Schumer and 44 Democrats sent a letter to them this week saying that is not going to fly in the Senate. That is why I say it is the ‘none’-tibus. It's not going to fly. We can't support that.
As I said to you last week, a third of the domestic budget which will suffer from such a proposal is the State Department, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, anti-terrorism initiatives from the Justice Department. So a third of the budget is the national security function, even though it isn't strictly defined as defense. So they're weakening our protections of the American people by going forward in this way.
And, of course, we measure the strength of our country in other ways, as well: the education of our people, the health and well-being of the American people. Even the nutrition of the American people is important to a good workforce. Some of you have heard the veterans in the last couple of days talking about how they would be harmed in the tax bill. Well, they're harmed in this bill, as well.
So they control, the House, the Senate, and the Administration. They need a serious plan for year-end. And we look forward to working with them in a bipartisan way. But what they are doing right now won't fly.
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Q: Good morning. How are you?
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, Chad.
Q: Good morning. So on this funding bill, obviously they would like to do this on their own and try to jam it to the Senate. But is there any reason, and I know sometimes you and the Speaker and other people talk around here, you know, and there are back channel talks, is there any reason for us to think where he says, ‘I have to do this for my side, and then we are going to come to your side, and what do you need? Do you need California wildfires? Do you absolutely need DACA?’
Have those conversations, back channel conversations taken when they're running out of racetrack here to finish this bill and fund the government next Friday?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the four offices, House, Senate – McConnell, Schumer, Ryan, and Pelosi – are taking place with the White House all the time to try to find common ground. In the meeting we had with the President last week we made it really clear what we brought to the table because parity is the issue. You know, they are saying 54 and 37 are the same number. No, 54 and 54 are the same number.
We are not opposed to the Pentagon getting what it needs to keep us strong, but, again, we measure, as I mentioned, there are many national security functions within the domestic side, plus the domestic agenda.
So those conversations took place, the five of us, the President and four of us were there in that conversation. That wasn't necessarily a back channel. But we made it clear what we were bringing to the table was bipartisan. We didn't come up with some things that were on the wish list; we came up with a wish list that is bipartisan.
Opioid funding – the President has a proposal on opioids – if it's not funded, it doesn't exist – opioid funding. Additional funding for our veterans, which is absolutely essential now. The issue that relates to the emergency situation we are with pensions in our country. Certainly the DREAM Act.
There are things that we have bipartisan support for. If they were on the floor of the House, they would pass.
In addition to that is SCHIP [State Children's Health Insurance Program] – but they put on this, I don't know what you want to call it, ‘punt’-ibus – ‘none’-tibus – ‘crum’-tibus – whatever they are calling it, this thing that is going nowhere, it's a terrible version of SCHIP. It makes children pay for their own health insurance. ‘You want to have health insurance, Children's Health Insurance Program, let's take it out of children's inoculations, let's take it out of prevention programs for children's health.’
Wait a minute – didn't we just give corporate America up to $1.5 trillion in tax breaks permanently and unpaid for, and now the children have to pay for it, and it is five years, and they have to pay for it. It is not permanent. It has to be paid for.
Now, we're willing to find offsets, but not from children's health, children's health paying for children's health. And it's overdue and it should have been done a while back. We are working to find a better way on SCHIP. We're making some progress, but they've ignored that and just put in the same old, same old.
Q: But that White House meeting was a week ago today. I mean, nothing was advanced in these conversations since then?
Leader Pelosi. Well, again, the staffs are meeting and what you learn when – what is progress? Progress is you find areas of agreement. You also learn what you can't agree on, and that is what it is.
Q: I wanted to ask you about Congressman [Ruben] Kihuen. There is a new round of allegations against him, sexual misconduct. After the first allegations I know you called for his resignation, but he has so far been defiant, says he is staying. I wanted to ask you what the next move for you will be. Will you move to strip him of committee work?
Leader Pelosi. I have spoken on the subject. I think he should resign. He wants to go through the ethics process. That's his right to do.
Q: Will you strip him of his committee work?
Leader Pelosi. I have spoken on this subject. He is not a Ranking Member or something like that.
Q: Congressman Blake Farenthold has announced he is not running for reelection in the wake of allegations like this. There was a second person who came out and said that Congressman [Ruben] Kihuen repeatedly harassed her over a period of time while she was a lobbyist in Reno. Does that change your perspective at all on what Congressman Kihuen should do?
Leader Pelosi. [Ruben] Kihuen or [Blake] Farenthold?
Q: Congressman [Ruben] Kihuen –
Leader Pelosi. I don't think it has anything to do with it. Each case is each case.
Q: But there is a second accuser against [Ruben] Kihuen –
Leader Pelosi. In terms of [Blake] Farenthold, we are talking about news reports that indicate an environment rife with abuse and harassment in his office. These accounts from former staffers. They are shocking, unacceptable, and must be respected. Congressman [Blake] Farenthold should resign. That's what I'll say on that.
Q: Democrats stayed just as united on taxes as they did on health care, and yet the tax bill looks likely to go through. What was different this time around? Why do you think the party failed to bring down this GOP tax bill the way it succeeded on health care?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we stayed united and we still continue that fight. I think this is a Pyrrhic victory if, in fact, it does happen. We don't have the votes to take it down unless some of the Republicans see the light.
And people are speaking out, especially since they added the repeal of the mandate, the Affordable Care Act individual mandate. That has energized the base further.
But this is who they are, this is what they came here to do: Tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the middle class, at the expense of the health and well-being of the American people, robbing from the future by increasing the debt, ransacking the finances of middle class people by increasing their taxes and rewarding corporate America and the wealthy.
So I think they're in a lose-lose situation. If they don't pass the bill, they lose because you know what they have said about their donors are not going to answer their calls anymore if they don't pass the bill, so they lose in that regard. If they do pass the bill, they will lose in the court of public opinion and we have to hold them accountable.
I, myself, would like us to defeat the bill rather than have the political advantage it gives us because this is very harmful to the American people and we have to stop it and we haven't given up the fight yet.
So I am very proud of our Democratic unity. It is our strongest message. It energizes the base, and the base energizes us. And the groups that are out there have been spectacular in pointing out what this means.
And to remind, this tax bill triggers cuts in Medicare and Medicaid that the Republicans are already bragging about that they are going to do.
Q: Just to pick up on Kasie [Hunt]'s question, does Mr. [Ruben] Kihuen remaining in Congress hurt your message, the Democratic message on sexual assault?
Leader Pelosi. I have asked for him to resign.
Q: Does it hurt it?
Leader Pelosi. No, it doesn't at all. I have asked for him to resign right the start. No. But they haven't asked anybody to resign on the other side.
Q: On the CR, if Leader McConnell strips out the defense bill, would Democrats oppose the continuing resolution in its current form as introduced in the House?
Leader Pelosi. It's not what's not – it's what's not in it, what's not in it. So let's see what they send over. Maybe they will add some things to it.
Q: So you wouldn't support it in its current form if the defense appropriations bill was stripped out?
Leader Pelosi. No – no.
Q: Thank you.
Leader Pelosi. No – let me be really clear, no. Thank you all very much.
Q: Do the San Francisco Giants want Billy Hamilton from the Reds?
Leader Pelosi. How about that?
Q: They're talking about this trade. Do you want Billy Hamilton to play center field for the Giants? It's a big center field in your park out there.
Leader Pelosi. As I say to the coach there, I won't tell him how to manage the field, and he won't tell me how to legislate.
Q: But you're a fan. The fans weigh in on this.
Leader Pelosi. Sadly, we lost one of our biggest fans this week, Mayor Lee. It's really heartbreaking for us. I'm honored to participate in his services this weekend. But he was a Giants fan, a Warriors fan – he continued to be a Niners fan – but mostly he was a fan of working families in our city, and he will be sorely missed.
It's heartbreaking. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.
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