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. Below is a transcript of the press conference.
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
Today is the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The world remembers Chinese freedom fighters massacred while advocating for the rights, dignity, and respect that all people deserve. Such a very, very sad day. And through the miracle of communication, we were able to, sadly, see what was happening. We saw students and workers from all backgrounds who had marched on Tiananmen Square, and they still live on in our efforts to promote human rights and freedom throughout the world.
Here in Congress, we have the ongoing, continuing salvo of Trickle-Down economics versus middle class economics. Republicans continue to bring bad bills to the floor based on a bad budget – bills and a budget built on trickle-down for the special interests, paid-for by hollowing out the future of hard-working American families.
Commerce, Justice, [Science] bill that was finished yesterday - the Republican Commerce, Justice, and Science bill slashes state and local enforcement assistance by $325 million below the 2015 level – $325 million below the 2015 level – by eliminating funding for hiring programs for COPS, the Community Oriented Policing Services. This hiring program would have helped hire about 1,300 more new law enforcement professionals. It underfunds the Violence Against Women, the prevention and prosecution, by nearly $20 million beneath the President's request and slashes vital juvenile programs by almost 30 percent – 30 percent – below the 2015 level.
Again, Trickle-Down, tax cuts for the rich, and now how do we offset that? By making cuts in initiatives that help people. Today, we are continuing the consideration of THUD: Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development bill. For years, Democrats and Republicans have worked together to invest in safe, modern, job creating infrastructure. And that is what America needs to succeed in the 21st century; we know that. We have always worked together. It has not been partisan until recent years.
This week, however, Republicans are advancing this Transportation HUD bill, otherwise known as "THUD” – and that is really what it hits the floor with. Cuts funding for Amtrak by $250 million below fiscal year 2015 and $1.3 billion below the President's budget request, and slashes the TIGER grants, which funds highways, transit, passenger rail, and port investments, by 80 percent below the 2015 level. These are all investments in the infrastructure of America.
We call on our Republican colleagues, let us work together on a long term plan to avert the expiration of the Highway Trust Fund, a crisis that has now shifted into the middle of the summer construction season, endangering thousands of vital construction programs throughout the country, threatening nearly 700,000 good paying jobs, construction jobs.
And Republicans have – how long have we been talking about this highway bill? Since 2011, when the Republicans came into the majority, they have not held a single Ways and Means Committee hearing on financing a highway bill. And now we are weeks away – well, we have kicked the can down the road to July 31. And we still haven't had – and, with all the good intentions, and hopefully we can work together for a robust highway bill, but there has to be a funding mechanism, and the Republicans haven't held a single hearing in that regard.
Infrastructure: investing in the infrastructure in highway legislation is really important for commerce. It is important for safety. It is important for quality of life, getting people out of their cars by having mass transit but also having roads and bridges and highways that facilitate mobility. And it is about clean air. It is about competitiveness for our country. It has everything going in it. And it immediately creates jobs and continues to create jobs well into the future.
It is really unfortunate, but I am hopeful. I am hopeful that the Speaker and I can work together, recognizing the urgency is there, understanding the tradition of bipartisanship, indeed nonpartisanship, that has always existed in this. And this bipartisanship extends beyond Congress and throughout the country. Governors, mayors, county supervisors are all asking for us to get this done. And we can do it, and we have to do it soon.
Another deadline that is fast approaching is the Ex-Im Bank charter, which expires June 30, 12 legislative days from now. This Ex-Im Bank has sustained more than 160,000 export related American jobs last year. It created or sustained 1.5 million private sector jobs since 2007. And it does this at no cost to the taxpayer. This pays for itself, if not makes money.
So I hope that we can work in a bipartisan way again. I know that there are Members of the Republican Party who share our view, or we share theirs; we join together in that and the frustration of why can't we move this bill. So support for renewing it is bipartisan. We just want a vote. We hope that that will be soon.
These are two opportunities – highway, infrastructure, et cetera, and Ex-Im – that are job creating, where we can work together to create jobs and strengthen the economy. Working families are really tired of the endless manufactured crises that the Republicans come up with, threatening national security, weakening our economy, and costing our country jobs. It is long past time for Congress to act in a responsible way on these initiatives.
And, by the way, today, this afternoon, we will go to the White House, where the orange is significant because we have the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants being honored by the President of the United States there, if there are any sports fans here.
As soon as that ceremony is over, some will be boarding planes – not I, but some will be boarding planes – to go to see the Warriors compete for the O'Brien Trophy.
Q: Madam Leader, the House is approaching votes on trade. And, as you know, the President does not want changes to the Senate bill because it would require it to go back to the Senate. Can you support that TPA bill as it came over from the Senate?
A: Well, let's go back to your first point, the House is “fast approaching.” Do you know something I don't know? When is this going to happen? I suppose when they have the votes. And we will see when that is.
We have really had a very, I believe, internally respectful process going forward, where we have invited the Administration on a regular basis to address different categories in the bill and, in some cases, different countries in the [Trans-Pacific Partnership], the TPP.
There will be two votes, as you know – one eventually when the [TPP] bill is negotiated and people see what actually the final product is, and that is months away. But a vote that is closer in time, but I don't know how near, is the [TPA]. And we are in the process of finishing our drilling down on certain issues and countries to see how we can do better on the [TPA].
There are other issues, too: the TAA, the Trade Adjustment Act, that we need to pass in a better way than passed the Senate. They sent over two bills joined at the – would you say the hip or the shoulder or the – well, joined. And we are saying that we have many objections to the TPA, but the TAA bill is a nonstarter in terms of how it is paid for.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, sir. And then you.
Q: How many…
Leader Pelosi. Chad, and then we'll come back to you.
Q: So former General David Petraeus said last night that we are losing the war in Iraq. Talk about old issues; that has been going on forever. How do you see it?
Leader Pelosi. Well, General Petraeus had the responsibility to train the troops in Iraq. I remember going over there on any number of occasions and hearing from him that he had trained 175,000 Iraqi troops and personnel so that they can take over their own efforts. So I would ask him about that. I think that the number was far smaller than was represented to us.
Q: Madam Leader, how many votes have you told Speaker Boehner he is going to have to deliver from his side of the aisle to get TPA across the finish line?
Leader Pelosi. Two hundred.
Q: So 17 is – the 17 declared Democrats are the only ones that you think he…
Leader Pelosi. No. I don't know, but I think that 200 is what he should come up with. They have 246 or 245, whatever the number is. They have over 245 votes. I think they picked up another one the other day, or is that person sworn in yet?
Q: Not yet.
Leader Pelosi. But, in any event, they have 245 votes. They need 218. They probably have, as you say, a dozen and a half on the Democratic side so far. I don't know where everybody is. And 200. The Speaker should be able to deliver 200 votes. The awesome power of the Speaker. I know of what I speak.
But maybe there will be more Democrats. I don't know. I don't think that – I don't know why – they want this so much; they have the majority – why there is even any question that they can deliver their vote. But you will have to speak to him.
Two hundred, that would be a good round number, a little safe number, safety in numbers, in case somebody doesn't show up that day, you know. Okay?
Q: Madam Leader, you mentioned some issues with TAA and the pay-fors. For a dollar amount, that is a relatively small issue. Can you kind of go into detail about what your objections are to the pay-fors?
Leader Pelosi. The pay-for that the Senate had came out of Medicare, so I have an objection to that.
And you are right to point out that the money that is set aside for the Trade Adjustment Act to help those workers and those communities that have been hurt by trade, it is under a billion dollars. It is several hundred million dollars – a small price to pay. Really, we should be doing much more. But, nonetheless, it must be paid for, and we don't like where they have taken the pay-for.
But I am hopeful that, working together in a bipartisan way, that we can come up with a better pay-for so that we can have that bill pass so that we can move on to the taking up of the TPA. And I don't know where the votes are on that.
But put this in perspective. We are asking for a better pay-for so that the same communities that we are trying to help in terms of trade adjustment are not hurt by taking the money out of Medicare. We think that is really a bad choice.
At the same time, this Congress in recent time has – weeks ago, maybe a couple months – has passed legislation – you have heard me say this before; I think it bears repeating – over $260 billion in tax cuts. That is over a quarter of a trillion dollars in tax cuts for the 5,400 wealthiest families in America, unpaid for. The 5,400 wealthiest families get a tax cut of over a [quarter] trillion dollars, unpaid for.
Certainly, we can afford a few hundred million – not billion – hundred million dollars to help communities or workers who are affected by the trade adjustment. It has to be paid for. Let's find the pay-for. Let's not take it at a place that hurts the very people that we are trying to help.
I just have time for one more question because I think the Speaker will be here in a minute.
Q: Madam Leader, passing the President's trade bill, do you feel that you have responsibility for passing the President's trade bill…
Leader Pelosi. Absolutely.
Q: Or is it the Speaker's…
Leader Pelosi. Oh, it is absolutely the Speaker's responsibility. It is where the support exists in his Caucus. He has the majority. And it is his responsibility. And every time we had a bill that came to the floor when I was Speaker, he said it was a test of my leadership. It is a test of his.
I have confidence in him. I think he can deliver 200 of his Members. But it is not my responsibility.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: I just want to follow up on that just quickly. You know, 14 Senate Democrats supported this, and that is 32 percent of Senate Democrats.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Why can't 32 percent of House Democrats get behind something that the President wants so badly?
Leader Pelosi. I don't think we have time to go into all of that because the Speaker's coming here right now. But we do not set our agenda, [set] the Senate as a standard for where we are on a bill.
Members are taking this very, very seriously. We have many Members who are not supporting this, who have, over time, always supported trade initiatives, that just don't think that this reaches the standard that we need to go forward with 11 different kinds of countries.
But you would have to ask them individually, because these are individual votes. And I can't tell you why some are one place or some are another. But I can tell you that it is a very large number in our Caucus that is not supportive of it.
And, again, if we were to use the Senate standard, then we would hope that they would use our standard from time to time. But we are two separate bodies, and that is the beauty of it. And we respect those differences and respect each person's vote.
But you would have to go back to the origins of our country, when they decided that each state would have two votes in the Senate and that the House would be divided by population. And maybe you could compare those numbers to population rather than House to Senate, because it is just – it doesn't have any parity.
In any event, it is a lively debate. It is a refreshing debate. It is substantive. And it is an opportunity to do something great, in terms of our presence in the global economy. It doesn't meet the standard that we have all put forth, which is to increase the paycheck of American workers. And that means lifting the working conditions and wages of workers in other countries. Otherwise, we are driving down the paychecks of American workers.
But putting that aside and going back to what is on the floor now, which are these bills, which are cutting into initiatives that help America's working families, protect the American people, grow the economy, instead we are giving tax breaks at the high end and to special interests rather than addressing the needs of the people's interest, all of which will bring a return to the Treasury and to our economy.
Thank you all very much. Go, Giants.
Q: Panda is not on the team. He’s in Boston.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, he’s in Boston. We still have a team. We all go by the name on the front of the jersey: ‘Giants’.
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