Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. Today marks nine months since the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. Nine long months the American people have been waiting for the Republican House to allow a vote to fix our broken immigration system. Yesterday, House Democrats took action to force a vote on this essential legislation, filing a #DemandAVote petition to bring a bipartisan immigration bill to the floor.
More than 150 members have already – this happened in the snow, in case you were here, it was quite exciting when we heard from people in the background who were affected by this – over 150 members have already signed the petition. We're doing everything in our power. People around the country are having bus tours, hunger strikes. They're visiting congressional offices. Everybody is doing what is in their power to make a difference. The outside mobilization is essential to our success, but we only have the inside maneuver of having a discharge petition.
People ask, well, what if you don't get 218? That's not the point. The point is to bring pressure. Give us a vote. There may not be a vote on this particular bill, but we want a vote. We want a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. Eleven hundred people a day are deported. Eleven million people are waiting to have their status adjusted. One person is standing in the way of that happening. One person. So we're saying to the Speaker: “Give us a vote. Let's move this along.”
I'm very pleased, because we have seen this as an economic issue, in addition to being about the revitalization of America by immigrants who come to our shores with their hope and determination. We have had the participation of the three B's.
The Bible: the religious community is unanimously united for passing comprehensive immigration reform, whether we are talking about conservative evangelicals, other evangelicals, every denomination of the Protestant faith, the Jewish community, our community in America representing South Asia and all the various religions represented there. And, of course, the National Catholic Conference of Bishops. From the standpoint of faith, every faith based organization supports this.
In terms of badges, the law enforcement leadership has come here and urged passage of comprehensive immigration reform.
The third B: business. Business knows that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. In my state of California, we have high tech, we have agriculture, we have tourism, to name three. But every state in the union has that, and every state that has that needs comprehensive immigration reform to have a workforce. And this, as I say, is an economic issue.
This week the CBO issued a report that said that this would be a $900 billion boost to the economy. H.R. 15, our bill, would reduce the deficit by almost $900 billion over the next two decades. This is the letter. I'm sure you have seen it. So from the standpoint of growth of our economy, from the standpoint of reducing the deficit, in terms of creating jobs, if there were no other reason to pass an immigration bill, there are economic reasons to do.
But there are so many others, and they relate to who we are as a people, a nation of immigrants. Our first people, with all respect to our Native American community, are special to us. But our growth has been from immigrants coming to our shores. And every one of them who comes hoping to make the future better for their families, every one of them who comes with hope, courage, determination, and optimism, makes America more American. Because that's who we are – this great optimistic nation. So I'm hoping. It's time for the Republicans to stop the obstruction, for this one man stands in the way of 11 million people.
I was so pleased when I saw the Taoiseach, the lunch honoring the Taoiseach, the Prime Minister of Ireland, with our President and with our Speaker. In his remarks he spoke out – spoke out strongly – for what comprehensive immigration reform would mean to the Irish in America as well as their families back home.
So it's just hard. There's practically no opposition in terms of the overwhelming support in the public. The only opposition seems to be among House Republicans. And I commend the Senate Republicans for being part of the leadership of the comprehensive immigration reform.
In addition to not allowing a vote on immigration reform, we still see the obstruction when it comes to issues that relate to raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits. What is this? So we are very pleased that the Senate will be moving forward and hope that once they have acted – sometimes in the House, when the Republican leadership doesn't think the Senate is going to act, they'll say: “We want to wait and see if the Senate will act.” And then they do, and then the goalposts are moved and another excuse comes up. But I hope that won't happen, because now it's turned into millions of people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, who are looking for work, and who need to stay in their homes, to help their families, to put food on the table. This is so obvious.
I am so proud of the President and his trip to Europe. He has spoken with such eloquence about our values, our role in the world. And of course I was thrilled to see him meeting Pope Francis. I guess, our time, that was maybe in the middle of the night, but it made it to the morning news, to see Pope Francis welcoming the President of the United States. That's always a thrill.
So with that, I would be pleased to take any questions you may have. No questions? No? All right.
Leader Pelosi. Yes, ma'am?
Q: Madam Leader, are you all urging Democrats to vote “no” on the SGR patch?
Leader Pelosi. No. I just went to the floor and decried it as a missed opportunity. What we should be doing on the SGR is having a permanent fix instead of a patch. We all complain when people say: “Oh, that's just a Band Aid, it really doesn't get to the bottom of the problem.” That's what this is: a patch, a Band Aid. The AMA is against it.
However, weighing the equities involved here and the hard-headedness of the Republicans to bring a true permanent fix for SGR to the floor, and one that is paid for by OCO. That's something we'd still like to see, and we'll still continue to fight for that. This is the wrong way to go. However, you know as I that if this does not pass and “docs” do not get the SGR, that seniors may be turned away from their Medicare physicians. And you know what the Republicans will say. They'll say: “This is all because of the Affordable Care Act.” They won't even say it that way, but that's their point. And I just don't want to give them another.
The bill in itself – I don't like it, but it serves a purpose. But the problem with it is, is it takes the opportunity cost to do what is really right. And if you are interested in reducing the deficit, the longer the fix, the less the cost. All these short term patches turn out to be the most expensive way to go. It's funny, because we said we have a way to pay for it – OCO. That's what Leader Reid is trying to do in the Senate. But they say OCO is a gimmick. They voted for it in the Ryan budget. It wasn't a gimmick then, but it seems to be a gimmick now.
Q: Madam Leader, we are also hearing that Republican leaders have decided to pull the bill because there weren't enough votes.
Leader Pelosi. I didn't completely finish answering your question. So I'll take this opportunity.
So I went to the floor and pointed out all the deficiencies, the missed opportunities. But I said that I, myself, would be voting for it. Since we only saw this thing last night or this morning, I don't know where Members will be on it. Some strong Members – Mr. Levin, Mr. Waxman and others – have said that they would be voting against it. But I don't know what will actually happen after we hear the debate and the rest. I have no idea where most of our Members are on it, because, again, it's a recent development. We have basically been kept in the dark about it. But weighing the equities, I think it's really important that seniors not be turned away.
But it's really a bad choice. It's really an irresponsible, bad choice. But it's the only choice that we have. So I said that I would be supporting it. But, no, we are not whipping the bill. We are just saying to people to make your own judgment. If they see AMA is against the bill, some others are supporting it. So they'll just have to make their own judgment on it.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the National Labor Relations Board decision yesterday with Northwestern University, paving the way for college athletes to unionize. Do you think that that’s – I know that you’re a sports fan of some California teams – do you think that players at Stanford and UCLA should be paid for what they’re doing?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know, this is obviously so new. I only read about it in the paper this morning. And I guess it’s a regional NLRB board that made – is it a decision or a recommendation? I just have to see. I do think that the players should be respected and not exploited. And whatever uses there are of the celebrity of a successful player, or the work that they have to put in to be so good, should be respected. But I wouldn’t even think of making any – I was surprised to see what they did. And I look forward to learning more about it.
Q: Just bottom line: do you think that they should be paid?
Leader Pelosi. They’re amateur athletes. I don’t know how that figures into it. But I’m really not, shall we say, conversant enough as to the particulars. All I saw was a headline. I was trying to figure out what was in the SGR bill, and I did see the headline. So, as a sports fan, I’m curious to learn more about it. But again, I would hope that the NCAA and the athletes and everybody else treat each other with a level respect for what each of them brings to the table.
I saw on TV last night, on Colbert I think it was, that they had signed up a two-year-old in Europe because he had good foot coordination for soccer, and it was a big contract. He’s two, so when would he start playing? And I thought: this is really – what’s it, the NFL is looking to draft an eighth grader or something? Are you familiar with that one? Anyway.
Q: Ma'am, on the SGR, just following up from before, you explained – even though you oppose the one year fix in principle – why you are going to vote for this one? But does your vote in favor of the patch, if it does stay on the floor today, indicate that – you know, Chairman Wyden over on the other side has said: “Everybody hold on. I got this. I can do this before Monday.” But you seem to be sort of – is this a message that you don't think his efforts are worthwhile right now?
Leader Pelosi. First of all, I don't know what the outcome of the bill will be. I just don't know what the outcome of the bill will be, what the votes will be. I don't know what the Republicans have for votes on this. I just don't know. I don't know why they just didn't bring it up under a rule, have the discussion, take a vote. But to bring it up under suspension where you need 290 votes or the equivalent of two-thirds of those present voting is a mystery to me, unless they thought they couldn't get 218 on their side.
Q: Do you think Wyden can get a deal on a 10 year?
Leader Pelosi. You'll have to talk to the Senate about that. I have spoken any number of times, including as recently as this morning, to Senator Reid about it, and we are hoping that they can do that. And the objection is, for some, OCO, because the Speaker is against using OCO. I think Senator Hatch may be, too. Again, I don't want go onto the Senate turf because I'm not hearing it firsthand. But I wish Senator Wyden well. Of course, because he is on the right course – doing the right thing. And it makes all the sense in the world. It's the right way to go. Costs less, does more, ends the discussion.
And so it's hard to understand why the Republicans will insist that this is our only option. Isn't it something, that every time something like this happens they bring it on the floor the very last day before the clock shuts down? March 31st is the end for this, and we don't come back until next Tuesday, April 1st.
So it would have been more useful to even have a measure. But all I can conclude is that they don't have 218 for what they want to do, and therefore they were hoping that whatever they have, plus whatever we put on the clock, on the tally, will get them to two thirds. I just don't know that because I haven't asked one Member, “yes” or “no,” where they are on it. Because again, it's all pretty new.
Now, there will be some who will vote for it because they just see the mischief that the Republicans will be up to if it fails. Doctor turns away a patient because they are not getting the SGR fix, and what will the Republicans say? “It's all because of the Affordable Care Act.” If the Affordable Care Act never existed we would still be having to fix the SGR. They have nothing to do with each other in terms of this, therefore because of it.
So as I said, this is something that Harry Reid was part of the discussion. I support his efforts in that regard. But he and I and all of us wish Senator Wyden, newly Mr. Chairman of the Finance Committee, all the success that he can get. So the “docs” think that if this breaks down that that strengthens the hand of getting the longer term fix. I don't know. I don't know.
Q: Right. But you're going forward, so that's why it's a little confusing as to which way you really want this to go.
Leader Pelosi. I'm just thinking about people. I'm thinking about our seniors. I just don't want them to have to be at the mercy of the Republican shenanigans here in terms of whether they can see their Medicare doctor, that “docs” will see them because they are being compensated and they're not losing compensation. Sometimes the more patients you see, there is no volume advantage. The more you see, the more you lose. So we have to be fair about it.
But, again, out of respect for Senator Reid and his desire to have Chairman Wyden succeed, I am supporting the bill. Mr. Hoyer spoke out very strongly against it, Mr. Levin did. Many of the leadership on these issues in the House are against it.
Let me say, it is not something that I'm voting for because I think it's the worst bill I ever had to vote for. I'm unhappy with it because of the missed opportunity that is there. And if we were serious legislators, we would want to solve the problem for the American people instead of continuing to kick the can down the road. And so, again, I don't want the seniors to have to pay that price. But others will make another evaluation. They likely may say: “I think a better tactic would have been to just defeat this thing and see what the Republicans do.” Maybe they are more hopeful than I am about how much Republicans care about this and how they would exploit a defeat.
I don't think they have the votes. I think that's why they went to the two-thirds. And so if they don't have the votes and they want to blame it on us that this doesn't pass, you see the circle. Yes, sir?
Q: Drilling down on this just a little bit more, in your conversations with Senator Wyden, did he ever suggest to you that House Democrats should vote against this, to derail it and give him a chance to work on a longer-term deal?
Leader Pelosi. I have not had any conversations with Senator Wyden on this, but I'm in constant touch with Senator Reid, and Senator Reid wants us to pass this.
Q: Ma'am, on the Affordable Care Act, some of your Democratic colleagues in the Senate are renewing a push to make some changes, including introducing a copper plan which would kind of reinstate those barebones plans that were scrapped away. Are those some changes that you would…
Leader Pelosi. …I'm not familiar with what they're doing, but I am very proud of the Affordable Care Act. And the numbers are growing. What are the numbers for today? They are quite remarkable. Let me get it for you, because I'm sure you'll be very interested. The deadline is still March 31st. If you're in line when the polls close, you can still sign up. That is, if you initiated your interest in signing up.
Where are those numbers? I must have left them upstairs. But there are hundreds of thousands who have logged in and phoned in. Over a million have logged in and over 300,000 have phoned in – 1.2 million. It's going to be pretty exciting. And when you think that overwhelmingly – 75 percent or more in some states – of these people had no insurance before. Same thing with the Medicaid – had no insurance before – and for many of the remaining 25 percent, this is much better than what they had before.
So are we proud that millions of people are now going to have access to quality, affordable health care? Yes. Are we disappointed in how the rollout took place? Disappointed is such a minor word for what my reaction is to that. But the fact is: it's working now, and it's working from a policy standpoint, which is a more important thing for the American people. So we are very proud of that.
Thank you all very much.
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