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’s Opening Remarks
Leader Pelosi. Is it still morning? No. Good afternoon. It's always important to place ourselves in time, and right now we are in a moment of truth, a moment of truth about how we go forward to meet the needs of the American people.
Today, the Republican majority is asking us to vote for the fourth continuing resolution. The deadline for the fiscal year was September 30. Since then, we've had three continuing resolutions, with the anticipation that we could work in a bipartisan, transparent way to come to a budget agreement and go forward with our meeting the needs of our military, meeting the needs of our domestic agenda. Instead, we're having another continuing resolution.
It's really almost like an amateur hour, in speaking about time, because this should have been done. We could have come to a place where we have come to a budget agreement, as well as protecting our DREAMers, which is part of the agreement as we go forward, but instead, Republicans are dilly dallying, taking their good old time. Maybe they just don't believe in governance.
The President said in May: ‘our country needs a good shutdown in September.’
The country needs a good shutdown, Mr. President? Perhaps you don't understand the consequences in the lives of individual families and our veterans, our seniors who depend on Social Security checks, our families to enjoy our national parks and the rest. Just so many things in between, our judicial system, meeting the needs of our veterans, et cetera. Our country does not need any shutdown, and there is no good shutdown.
And so we are hopeful that they can realize that the clock is ticking on our meeting the needs of the American people.
Today, they are putting on the floor a continuing resolution, which in itself is not the way to go, just to have another continuing resolution, and how many more are there to come. But the fact is, of its substance, it is wrong, having nothing to do with protecting our DREAMers or anything else.
We will be opposing this continuing resolution, because while they put the CHIP program in it, they do not put the accompanying provisions that make CHIP work.
And I just want to say that today we will be introducing a bill that Mr. [A. Donald] McEachin of Virginia will offer and take up on the Floor as our Previous Question, and that will have CHIP, and it will also have community health centers, Medicare extenders, home visiting care, Medicaid DSH, very important for hospitals, therapy services, special diabetes for Native Americans, teaching health centers where our doctors, primary care doctors can get experience in how to meet those needs. That legislation, as I say, is being introduced today with a broad number of sponsors from our Members.
This is what we should be doing today. And why not? Because these provisions require funding, and instead of funding these, the Republicans are giving another tax break in this bill of $ billion. Is this too complicated?
Okay. We were supposed to finish our omnibus bill by September 30. We did not. So now they ask for a continuing resolution for 3 months, and then one in December, another in December, now one in January.
And this continuing resolution, in addition to being a bad idea as a way of funding government, is wrong in terms of the way it abandons those initiatives like community health centers, which are essential to our meeting the health needs of the American people, especially our children. Where are they going to go? So for that reason, we'll be opposing it.
Today, also, House Democrats sent a letter to the President, and in the letter we talk to him about what this debate is about in terms of keeping government open, in terms of our budget agreement. We have two pieces of it: our military, which we firmly support, we support our military, men and women in uniform, but we also want to have our domestic agenda funded.
One third of our domestic agenda is security. It's Veterans Affairs, it's Homeland Security, it's Department of State, it's antiterrorism activities of the Department of Justice. That's 34 percent of the domestic budget.
So if we are about the strength of our country, it's certainly measured in our military might, but also in these other initiatives that are not included in the defense side of the ledger, and also in the health, the education, and the well-being of the American people, as a source of our strength as well.
And so what we're saying in the letter is, in addition to providing certainty to our military, we want to fight opioid addiction, we want to address crises facing our veterans in terms of housing and infrastructure, we want to help Americans' endangered pensions, we want to protect our DREAMers, we want to fund community health centers that provide the primary care for 27 million Americans, and we want to, at the same time, provide the disaster assistance so necessary for the areas affected by natural disasters, with an emphasis on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, which did not do so well in the version that we have seen so far.
So this is what it is. If we could just sit down and get this done, except there seems to be some resentment on the other side of the aisle to our having our domestic agenda funded. I don't know what's going on over there, but I do know that this continuing resolution is a very bad idea.
I would have hoped that if they thought there was a need for a continuing resolution, it would be predicated on having already reached an agreement on the budget and on the DREAMers.
Now, let me just be sure to say to you that even if not one DREAMer ever existed, we still have a problem on the budget side of this. Now, this isn't something that DREAMers are holding up. And in the CR, as I say, it's about what isn't in there to help meet the health needs of the American people.
So much else going on at the same time, but right now, the clock, we're back to time, it's about time, it's about time that we sat down in a bipartisan way to get this done. We're close. They just won't go in for the close.
It's about time that we do what the President said. He wants to help DACA, people with DACA. Okay, DACA. He said that, of course, yesterday when he was here. So let's just do it. What's the dilly dallying about? It's a waste of time. It's not responsible.
And we want to fight very hard to avoid shutting down government. That's not something that we have ever advocated. And I hope that the President was maybe, just maybe his thinking had not evolved at that point when he said what this country needs is a good shutdown.
* * *
Q: When you hear Republicans say, well, it's going to be the Democrats' fault –
Leader Pelosi. Please.
Q: You know they say that, but how do you, when you have Democrats in competitive districts and they portray it that way, and you would have to explain, well, we voted against the CR and they didn't put DACA in, and you put all these layers into that explanation, do you think that resonates with the public, though, that that can be explained away and that the public gets that?
Leader Pelosi. I think that the public knows that the Congress of the United States has a Democratic – excuse me. Sorry. Wishful thinking.
I think the public knows that the Congress of the United States has a Republican majority in the Senate, in the House, and in the White House, a President to sign their legislation. I think this is, like, one of the only times ever, but certainly in a long time, that there's been a shutdown when one party has controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House.
Q: 2013. Now, to be fair, that was Ted Cruz.
Leader Pelosi. Now, wait a minute. Who was President of the United States then?
Q: Barack Obama.
Leader Pelosi. Yes. I said when there was one party, didn't I? I said this is the first time when one party has controlled the House, the Senate, and the White House. You're not catching on? We had a Democratic President and a Republican Congress.
Q: No. I understand, but –
Leader Pelosi. It isn't funny, but perhaps I'm not clear.
This is the first time in recent memory that any party has dominated by having the majority in the House, in the Senate, and the President in the White House where there has been a government shutdown.
So, look, in terms of all of this, just their CR is so ill-thought — well, I shouldn't use the word "thought" — ill-suggested that they may not even have 51 Republicans in the Senate voting for it. Check that out.
Q: Madam Leader, do you think that there is any chance at this point that these leadership talks can produce at least the outline of a DACA deal –
Leader Pelosi. Yes. Definitely.
Q: By tomorrow?
Leader Pelosi. Oh, in terms of DACA. I thought you were talking about the whole thing, because as I said, if no DACA had ever existed, we still have the money challenges in terms of how we allocate our resources and how they are paid for or not. But I think that, yes, I think that it could be done.
The thing is, the President and Senator McConnell has said this with more authority than I, in that they don't know what the President really wants, because what the bipartisan Republican and Democratic Senators brought over was a response to what the President said he wanted, and then he didn't.
In our House bill, the Hurd bill, which has 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans on it, it really contains in it what the Border Patrol has said are their needs right now. And I suggested, I mentioned that to the President yesterday, but I'm not sure he, you know, I'm not sure — I mean, he didn't have it in front of him, in all fairness to him. I'm hoping that now he has read that, because that's really what he had said that he wants.
The Hurd bill is a good bill. It doesn't go as far as I would like. It already protects DACA, not their parents, but nonetheless, it's a bipartisan bill that is a compromise that I can support. So the essence is there.
I have asked the Speaker, I said, bring something to the floor. You like Goodlatte? Bring it to the floor. We like Hurd. Bring it to the floor. They're two Republican bills. Bring them to the floor, take a vote, see what prevails, and send it over to the Senate, if we don't want to cut ourselves out of that negotiation.
Q: But my question was, if these leadership talks create even the outline of a deal
Leader Pelosi. What leadership talks are you talking about?
Q: I'm talking about Leader [Kevin] McCarthy and [Steny] Hoyer, those discussions.
Leader Pelosi. I don't know what they're doing. I don't know what they're doing. I hope that they could, but that should have been done 4 months ago. You don't start from scratch the week of the shutdown.
Q: So you don't think that's going anywhere?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't know. I haven't seen any evidence of anything.
I would have preferred, as I said to the Speaker, bring the two bills to the floor, as we did with VAWA. You remember with VAWA, they had their bill that said we are against violence against women unless the woman happens to be LGBT or Native American or an immigrant. What? And then we had the bipartisan bill that came out of the Senate, put them both on the floor, let them vote their hearts out, and then we prevailed with the one bill that went to the President that had already passed the Senate.
So I'm saying to them, let people vote their wishes, let Congress work its will, but let's not just keep having a kaleidoscope of configuring people. In September, the Speaker told us he was going to have a task force to do the border stuff in September. It's 4 months later, so last week they formed a new group, and the clock is ticking.
So, I hope so. I'm always optimistic. I would hope that they would take these bills, the three of them, the Senate bill, the House bill, the Hurd bill, Goodlatte, whoever else they have, and say, what can we make of this? But I don't know what's going on in here, and we haven't had any reports.
Q: Madam Leader, Republicans are getting set to argue, if there is a shutdown, that Democrats did this over what they would call illegal immigration. How do you argue against that?
Leader Pelosi. You know, it's interesting to me that the press spends so much time on what the Republicans say, when they have the majority in the House and the Senate and the White House and that they have a President whose views on the subject keep changing.
I'm optimistic about the President keeping his word that he supports DACA and we go to that place. But the term ‘illegal immigration’ is the red meat Republican issue. I don't care if you're talking about Russia, I don't care if you're talking about a woman's right to choose, I don't care what subject you're talking about, they will say, ‘illegal immigration.’ It's the red meat. It's like what unifies their base, some of their base on it.
So I'm not – we're here to do a constructive thing, to get the job done for the American people, and not be scared. They use their fear tactic, as fear mongers as they are, to characterize something like that.
The President told us yesterday right here when he was here for Senator [Bob] Dole, as recently as yesterday, I don't know if he had a tweet during the night, but he yesterday told us he wants to get DACA done. So we want to do what the President wants to do: We want to get DACA done.
Q: Speaker Ryan was at the podium about an hour ago, and he ticked off a number of States that are running really low on CHIP funding. So he said that the House was still going to be plowing ahead with its plans on this continuing resolution.
I'm just wondering, what's your message for these families that are in these States that are running low on CHIP funding? What's your message to these families that are depending on this money?
Leader Pelosi. As I said to you, this is like giving you a bowl of doggie doo, put a cherry on top and call it a chocolate sundae. This is nothing. You know, this CHIP should have been done in September, first of all. Second of all, we wanted 10 years, we wanted permanent CHIP, which, by the way, saves $6 billion.
The Republicans rejected that. Even just on the terms of CHIP, they rejected the 10 year saving $6 billion. Doing it for 6 years saves $1 billion. That's good. Doing it 10 years saving $6 billion is better; in fact, it's best.
So, in addition for the CHIP program to be effective, you have to have community health centers, but they're running out of money too. And in order for us to meet the needs, health needs of many in our community, we have to have the extenders, the health extenders.
It's always been a package. It's always been a package. So when we talk about community health centers, we talk about the Medicare extenders, home visiting care, Medicaid DSH, very big.
I don't know how you get out into the hinterlands, but if you do, people will talk to you about the DSH funding. Therapy services, diabetes for Native Americans, the teaching health centers, this is for our primary care docs, who are largely the ones who take care of the children.
They could have easily put all of this in this bill. They could have easily put all of this in this bill. Why didn't they? Because they want to spend their money on tax cuts instead of investments in the health and well being of our children and their families.
Q: Thank you, Madam Leader. You talk about how you're in the minority in the House, you're in the minority in the Senate.
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: Obviously, these are points of leverage when it comes to something like a DACA resolution. Is it fair to say that if there is no DACA resolution, Democrats aren't going to agree to anything on caps or something else?
Leader Pelosi. Let me say, you said that we said being in the minority was a point of leverage?
Q: No. It's been a discussion in the Senate and the House that there's only so many times when you're in the minority in both chambers that you can push for something that's a priority.
Leader Pelosi. You have more leverage when you're in the majority than you have in the minority.
Q: That's true.
Leader Pelosi. And the fact is, they have so much leverage, and that's what our impatience is. You have the leverage. Get this done. Use your leverage to get this done, and not to just dilly dally and blame it on somebody else because you can't make a decision.
So, again, I don't think they even have the 51 votes in the Senate for this deal. You'll check on that and see. It might even be worse than that.
Q: My colleagues might hate me for this, but I have a question about something totally different. I have a question about Hong Kong.
Leader Pelosi. Your colleagues may hate you. Okay. Because we're not going to have too much –
Q: If they vote me down, I'll shut up, but I have a question about the situation in Hong Kong, which I know you follow quite closely.
The pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong is back in jail for his actions in the 2014 Occupy movement. Obama's administration, along with you, you have paid close attention to the deteriorating state of democracy in Hong Kong for some time, but it's sort of been brushed under the rug. What needs to be done on our end, meaning in Washington, regarding Beijing's increasing crackdown on human rights, not only in Hong Kong, but also in the western end of the country where Muslims are being persecuted?
Leader Pelosi. Well, in Tibet as well.
Q: Tibet as well.
Leader Pelosi. – where Buddhists are being persecuted.
The deterioration of human rights in China is a significant challenge. It manifests itself very strongly in Hong Kong where there is a diminution of democracy. Instead of moving toward more democratic government, they're suppressing that initiative, which was part of the joint agreement when the transition took place.
In terms of Tibet, which I have visited, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Beijing within the last couple of years, in Tibet, it's a very sad situation, because it's not only depriving people of their human rights, it's their culture, it's their language, it's their religion, it's who they are as a people. It's a culture that they like to brag about when you're in Beijing, but they suppress in Tibet.
And then in Beijing, of course, the suppression of legal representation in China, but manifested in Beijing.
So I do believe, as I have said before, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights any place, because we ignore that opportunity because of commerce. So there is a constituency that is bipartisan in the Congress on both sides of the capitol to shed a spotlight on what's happening in China.
Q: Madam Leader, can we have the first year report card for President Trump from you? It could be a grade, it could be pass fail, and how come?
Leader Pelosi. Why don't we save that till we see if we can keep government open, and that might impact the grade.
Q: Past shutdowns have ended when one side was getting routed in public opinion. The CBS poll out this morning shows overwhelming support for DACA, but then on the question of whether or not it's worth risking shutting down the government, it was very evenly split.
What happens if there's a shutdown and there's no real one side wins?
Leader Pelosi. But it's not a shutdown over DACA. How many more times do I have to say, we have issues in terms of the funding. As I said, if there never had been one DACA, one DREAMer — thank God that there are, God bless them and their parents for bringing them here. But if there had never been one DREAMer, we still have issues, as I spelled out, in this CR. It's a fake. They're trying to disguise it as a CHIP bill, when what it does is undermine the systems that support CHIP. And that's always been bipartisan.
You know, all the things we're talking about are not partisan. We've worked together on CHIP, we've worked together on community health centers in a bipartisan way. So nothing we're asking for is partisan.
And what we have to do what we believe, and what we believe is that we have a responsibility to the American people. And when you have priorities, they have to be funded. And so when we go to the table and we talk about the military priority, that's important to our country, but it also is important that we can address the opioid epidemic in our country.
This isn't only about this isn't about DREAMers. If they, as I said, never existed — nobody wants a shutdown. I don't want a shutdown. I want the DREAMers protected, but I don't want any shutdown.
But these namby pamby CRs that they put forth that give tax breaks where they want to give tax breaks but won't invest in community health centers, no, that's not going to happen, because where do these children go to get their health care, these CHIP? They go to community health centers.
So let's simplify this. We have a path which is, I think, doable, as Nancy asked, about getting something done on the budget and hopefully with the DREAMers in the shortest period of time.
When are they going to learn? Perhaps they'll learn that young people are losing their protections every day, 120 or so each day. Maybe that will dawn on them. Ten thousand, over 15,000 already, being like 20,000 if this waits until March, which it can't. So maybe that will sink in on them and that will motivate them. But apart from that, we have the facts, the figures about the budget.
What do we spend, how do we pay for it, how do we recognize the need for us to invest in our domestic budget? And as much as we support our military, you can't just say we're doing that and we're not doing the domestic agenda.
Again, the domestic agenda includes Veterans’ Affairs, Homeland Security, other issues that relate to our security function.
So, I think that, you know, let's be calm, take a breath, think in a bipartisan way. If they had the votes for the budget, they wouldn't even be talking to us, understand that. If their leverage or threats, as you have suggested here, that's not appropriate to the responsibilities that we have.
So I do believe that Congress can work its will in a way that is expeditious, that gets the job done. It would be helpful if we had a little more clarity from the President, because he encourages, and then in some cases, has a mixed message as to what he would sign.
The Republicans here are saying, we are not going to pass anything that he won't sign. And what he says is, send it to me.
Let me just end with this, because this is a very encouraging quote from the President. I have to find it. You've heard it before. Here we go. He said, ‘Send it to me, I'll sign it.’
Here it is. When he was at the televised meeting, the bipartisan meeting, you all saw it, right, the televised bipartisan meeting last week, he said, ‘When this group comes back, hopefully with an agreement, this group and others from the Senate and the House comes back with an agreement, I'm signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I'm not going to say, 'Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.' I'll be signing it.’
Pretty decisive, no? Yes. So that's what we hope that he will honor. Like he told Chuck and me at our first meeting, he wants to do DACA, he wants to do it now, he wants some security, we agree, and that all can be done very quickly. The Senate bill is, I think, a good bill. It protects many more people. But if he's saying he's not going to sign it, as he is saying now, then what will he sign?
The smorgasbord of possibilities are on the table. We just have to put some on the plate and get it done so we can send it back to him. But it's really important, and I hope that you would be part of pointing out that this isn't about DREAMers. We've had this fight all the time, right? We've been here for those of you who have been here – for omnibus bills know that they've always been a negotiation, which means it takes some time to get done, but we know what the factors are now.
I think, if I had to say what the main holdup in all of this, is the lack of willingness on the part of Republicans in Congress to support a domestic agenda increase as they support a military increase.
Thank you all very much.
# # #