Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today

Jun 11, 2015
Press Release

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.  Good morning. 

Getting ready for the game tonight? 

Q:  The Cedric Richmond show.

Leader Pelosi.  Oh, yeah.  It's going to be great.  I was also thinking of the Warriors and Cavaliers game.  We didn't do so well the other day.  We spent all of our energy pitching a no-hitter against the Mets. 

Today, the House will vote on the Republicans' Defense Appropriations Bill.  Recognizing that our first responsibility to the American people is to protect and defend them, House Democrats stand for a strong national defense.  That's why we support lifting the sequestration and fully funding the President's defense budget.  The Republican Defense Appropriations Bill is bad budgeting and harmful to military planning, perpetuating uncertainty and instability for the future.  As Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said, "The Republicans' approach is clearly a road to nowhere, managerially unsound," he said, "and unfairly dispiriting for our force." 

House Democrats’ sustaining of the President's veto, combined with Senate Democrats' refusal to allow the Republicans' unacceptable, destructive appropriations bill to come to the floor is the key to unlocking the sequester.  It is my hope that we can bring it as we go forward more quickly than just waiting until we get through all the appropriations bills, [and that] the Republicans will see that it's important to come to the table, for us to work together in a bipartisan way, in a fiscally responsible way, to have a budget that invests in our future. 

As you know, today we'll begin the process to take up bills related to trade.  Those votes will proceed in the context of really excellent and impassioned work of people on all sides of the debate.  Great work, of course, by the President and his team to translate our shared values into a trade agreement, great passion and intellect on the part of those who have raised questions about how to improve the trade agreement.  I commend our friends, the environmental groups, their work with the community, people of faith, on their efforts to improve TPA and then, therefore, TPP.  I'm pleased to have worked with Speaker Boehner to fix the pay-for in the TAA.  We still have one concern, which we have always had, which is that public employees are not included in the TAA. 

When we had the majority in 2009, the bill that passed had public employees.  In 2011, when there was a Republican Congress, they were taken out.  We would hope that we could include them in that, and that's one piece of unfinished business that we are still working on and still hopeful that we can make that change. 

And then we would proceed today, as we had discussed, to take up the AGOA bill, which is the preference bill, including the Africa trade, and that contains the fix to substitute another form of funding for the Medicare cut.  Then we'll take up the rule so that we can go to the floor tomorrow to discuss these two bills. 

Hopefully, in the meantime, we can get the public employees, the public agency workers once again back into the mix of those who get trade adjustment assistance if their jobs are lost, not only by trade, but by outsourcing.  Outsourcing.  And that's another – offshore jobs is another way that workers in our country are affected and therefore should have trade assistance. 

Any questions? 

Q:  Madam Leader. 

Leader Pelosi.  Oh, I'm not finished.  I want to say one more thing.  One more thing. 

I just want to make this point, because people have asked, do you cooperate with the Speaker, and we have.  And the offset, we had to work on it for a while to find one that was acceptable and that was not being used by somebody else for something else. 

But what I'm concerned about in all of this is that we watched as the Senate had the debate on Trade Promotion Authority – they had the ability to have amendments, discussion, debate.  Some objected.  Some accepted.  And then the bill came to the House where we had no opportunity, no opportunity to have any debate or make any amendments.  It was fast tracking the fast track.  And it gave new meaning to the term "lower house."  Why is it that they in the Senate could have amendments but we in the House could not bring forth initiatives?  Many of our Members had ideas that they thought would improve TPA, that they at least wanted aired, to have our trade partners understand some of the concerns and priorities that Members of Congress have. 

I think whatever view people have of TAA or TPA, the door is open for supporting a TPP if it meets some of the concerns that Members have, and we were deprived of that opportunity.  So I don't know how that formulation comes about where the Senate has the ability to amend and we don't. 

And I also object to the fact – or just observe that in the customs bill, and it will be AGOA, that's today, the rule, that's today.  Tomorrow, the order as I understand it from the Speaker is TAA and then TPA, according to the rule, and then we'll do the customs bill.  But as you may have seen or you may have written, there are provisions in the customs bill that do amend the TPA should the customs bill become law – for example, that there can be no discussion addressing or recognizing climate change.  I mean, to me, how can you separate in this day and age climate and commerce?  Impossible.  Others that relate to visa.  Just different things to accommodate the concerns of some of their Members by amending that bill, and who knows where the bill is going, but nonetheless making it harder for a Democrat to support that bill. 

So I think the lesson learned here would be, in the future let's have parity in terms of the ability to debate an issue, have a fair discussion, vote it up or down, but raise questions that are important for the final bill, which would be the TPP when it comes out. 

Any questions? 

***

Q:  Madam Leader. 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, I recognized you already. 

Q:  Thank you.  If your concern about public sector employees is addressed, will you vote for the trade bill? 

Leader Pelosi.  For the trade bill?  Are you talking about TAA? 

Q:  Pardon me, for the fast track.  TPA. 

Leader Pelosi.  The public employees piece is a piece of the TAA. 

Q:  Yes, ma'am. 

Leader Pelosi.  We'll just see how that goes. 

Q:  I'm asking, if it's addressed, would you be willing then to vote? 

Leader Pelosi.  I will be making my statement in full probably on the floor of the House tomorrow. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Do you believe that the process that Boehner's proceeding with kind of addresses your concerns on the Medicare pay-for?  Because some of your Members, as you're probably well aware, do not believe that it addresses that. 

Leader Pelosi.  I do.  I think it does.  Our Members do not want any cuts in Medicare.  We have never supported cuts in there, contrary to misrepresentation on the part of the Republicans over and over again, “you cut money out of Medicare to pay for the Affordable Care Act.”  It was completely not true.  That money was spent – the savings were spent on making Medicare stronger and closing the doughnut hole, free annual checkups, those kinds of things.  So it was savings in some areas to support improvements in others.   

They, in turn, in their budget did take $800 billion out of the Medicare system to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country.  It's a stunning thing how all roads seem to lead to the wealthiest people in our country, we talk about that every week practically, when it comes to the Republicans.  So there was no way based upon substance that our Members would be supporting a cut in Medicare. 

The substitute that we have is a good one.  It's in the AGOA bill.  And the Medicare cuts are in the rule, and that's where their Members will have to vote for that in order to move the process forward, which is already preempted by the passage today of the AGOA bill. 

Q:  Madam Leader, the Republican leadership has given enormous power to the Democrats by saying that passage of Trade Promotion Authority is dependent on passage of Trade Adjustment Assistance before.  Will Democrats take advantage of that and bring down Trade Adjustment Assistance to bring down Trade Promotion Authority?   

Leader Pelosi.  I think that was an agreement in the Senate – [then] the bill came over to the House.  The House rules determine that if a bill comes over that way, that's how it has to leave.  The failure of one part of it, TPA, if that fails, there's no TAA, and TAA is a program that exists, not just, as I said, for this trade bill, but for other offshoring and all the rest of that.  So if either of them fails, then the other part of it failed, yeah.

Do we think that that has empowered [us]?  Well, it's empowered us to try to get a better TAA and get a better funding for it.  But I have tried to weigh the equities on both sides of this as we go forward.  I don't know that that would be the case.  You're right, it does empower in that regard.  I'd like to see the TPA rise or fall on its own, but, yes, that opportunity does exist. 

Q:  Madam Leader, on Iraq, what's your take on the President's plan to send more military advisers to the country, and how do you feel about the situation on the ground as a whole? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I think that the President has the authority to do what he has done.  I think the Iraqis have to fight their own fight.  And I think it all points out the need for us to do an AUMF, we have to do an authorization for use of military force.  We've talked about that before.  Almost a year ago we were asking, say, by July or August, we were asking the Speaker to have us bring up a bill.  In July, he said, no, wait until September.  September, he said not until January.  Then he said we have to wait to see what the President sends down.   

The President sent down an AUMF for us to act upon.  You can change whatever you want in terms of scope, what is the authority that it gives the President, timeline – three years in the President's bill, geography – unlimited in the President's bill.  But those are three areas in terms of how force would be used there.

And then when the President did that, then nothing happened.  And so we still continue to say, as we go forward, that we need to have an authorization of the use of military force. 

My understanding is the Republicans don't think that this gives the President as much power, unlimited almost, that they would like to give the President.  And on the other side of the coin, we would like to have clarification in terms of scope and maybe geography.  When I say "we," I mean among us there are those that have different views – including Mr. McGovern, who wants us out.  He wants us out of Iraq.  So there's a range of views on the subject. 

But it's no use talking about day-to-day.  We have to talk about the authority.  You're asking about it, but we don't discuss it on the floor of the House.  We should. 

Q:  Madam Leader, just a quick change here to the drought over in California.  Now, we've been hearing from the Democrats this is a climate change issue and we should be focusing on that, as well as on water storage. 

However, Devin Nunes has already said that if you have one more drought year like the previous ones that even larger populated areas, like San Francisco, as well as Los Angeles, are not going to have any more water left to rely on like, say, over in the Colorado River, over in Owens, and so on and so forth.  People are watering their lawns at, like, midnight at this point because they're trying to use their 25 percent. 

Can you discuss this a bit? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I think there certainly is a relationship between climate and weather conditions, climate conditions in the world.  However, the reason we have a drought in California is because we don't have enough rainfall, and that's a cyclical phenomenon.  Our reservoirs, our best reservoirs, are snowpack.  So if we don't have snow in the winter, we don't have water for the rest of the year.  My husband told me it was raining in San Francisco when he left there yesterday.  It was the best news of all.  But you can only make up so much if you don't have your reservoir.

So we don't have a meeting of our California Democrats that we're not talking about all of these and how you conserve, the aquifers, what's the future of desalinization, is it expensive, does it use too much energy, all of that.  And every time we get close on that it rains and then people put it aside. 

But I think conservation, as the governor has called for, is really a very important tool for us to use.  Before he made his announcements, it was an underutilized resource. 

Q:  But what about the building of dams?  The other side says that dams hadn't been built in a number of years.

Leader Pelosi.  Yeah, well, every issue that you bring up has to be subjected to an environment – what does it really add and what does it subtract?  As I said, on desalinization, does it use more energy than it is worth to get the amount of water that would yield?  Let's task to get better technology to get the job done. 

So it's not a question of dams or not.  It's a question of we need more rain, we need more snow, we need to conserve more, and we have to subject every option of storage conservation, as I said, desalinization, and storage in many versions, storage, aquifers, all of that at our disposal. 

But it is drastic.  And I don't know if people are watering at night so nobody sees them watering or that they use less water or whatever it is.  I know some people are painting their lawns green. 

Q:  Well, apparently, Los Angeles and people out in southern California are able to keep their lawns green, while people out in more rural areas are having brown lawns.

Leader Pelosi.  And that is something that is being, shall we say, recognized in the press and raised as an issue.  So it's a big, fundamental, basic problem for us, water.  The story of the West; and wars over water is a story of the West.  And now, in terms of, you're talking about other areas that are affected, the fact that we don't have water.  The whole issue of how much water farmers use, how much does it take to grow to eat a hamburger or to eat a cup of almonds or to have alfalfa in your sandwich or rice on your plate, all these discussions, because many of the things that I just mentioned require a great deal of water. 

So we have some choices to make.  We should make them scientifically as to what really works and gets the job done. 

Q:  I wanted to ask you about the OPM hack.  The Administration has been reluctant to blame China publicly, but The New York Times writes this morning that in a classified setting they're telling Members of Congress that this is clearly China.  And I wanted to know, how do you think that the Administration should respond if a state actor is found responsible for it? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we will have a briefing on this, I think, the beginning of next week – it's next week, I believe it is the beginning of next week – from the Administration to see in a classified setting what is really there and what conforms to what we see in the press or not, but also to go beyond that. 

Q:  So as a member of the Gang, you haven't been briefed on this yet?

Leader Pelosi.  Not yet.  Well, we're going to be briefed next week. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Leader, back on trade, you talked about it being a passionate discussion.

Leader Pelosi.  And intellectual.  Both. 

Q:  I would venture to say, though, it was much more passionate probably among your Democratic Caucus.  What have you heard in some of the meetings that shows that passion, reveals that passion? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we don't discuss what goes on in our meetings.  Come on.  You're probably getting tweets about them as we are speaking in the meeting, so is there something you want to confirm or do you want me to deny? 

No.  I am so proud of the House Democratic Caucus.  Just watch the debate on the floor on any given day, on any given subject, and you will see intellect, knowledge, wisdom, judgment.  You will see just an absolute demonstration of why people support their vision and they know what they're talking about. 

Same thing in the Caucus.  When people stand up it's about what they know, how strategic they're thinking about it, and how they can persuade each other to share their view. 

Q:  Madam Leader, quickly, this upcoming health care case in the Supreme Court, I was just curious if you wanted to prognosticate for us.  But also, there seems to be these words of a super secret GOP plan that would come forward to perhaps put back those subsidies.  Presumably, I think they'd need your help for 218 on something like that.  Have you heard anything like that from them? 

Leader Pelosi.  Would I be aware of a super-secret Republican plan?  No, I'd be the last person. 

Q:  Have there been any overtures so far about what would occur?

Leader Pelosi.  I believe that, again, the Court will rule in favor of the Affordable Care Act.  The whole predicate of the Affordable Care Act was that it would cost X amount of dollars.  Everything we do has to be scored by CBO.  The CBO score was a score for state exchanges and the federal exchange for those people in states who didn't have exchanges. 

So the whole fundamental basis of the bill was state exchanges and federal exchanges.  It would only take a bill that added two words or subtracted four words to change all that.  I don't think the Court should have even taken this up.  So I feel pretty confident, as I was before, as you might recall, that the Court would rule in favor of the Affordable Care Act. 

Q:  Democrats have voted in the past for this sequestration extension on Medicare in some budget deal votes.  Could you talk about why this particular vote would be so troublesome for Democrats on the Medicare pay for and why you needed to cross your t's and dot your i's on the procedure? 

Leader Pelosi.  For many reasons.  For many reasons.  And it hasn't been – on a number of occasions, it was in the context of a budget agreement to go forward.  But generally speaking I don't think that Members think that Medicare funds should be used to underwrite trade.

You had a question, right? 

Q:  I wanted to ask, you mentioned the issue of the public sector employees union.  

Leader Pelosi.  Not union.  Public employees. 

Q:  Has Speaker Boehner indicated that he will address that?  And is that necessary in order for TAA and TPA to pass? 

Leader Pelosi.  I have brought this issue up with the Speaker on a number of occasions, a number of times even within the same occasion.  I was not given any reason to be hopeful that he would initiate anything.  So we were trying to go to where some of the problem might be in the Senate to try to convince some of the people who put this in who left this out in the first place. 

So we're working it, in other words.  We're working it.  But we'll see what happens probably later in the day.  We have to vote on it tomorrow, if they go forward with the rule.

Staff.  Thank you all. 

Leader Pelosi.  When he says "thank you," he's my boss, I have to go. 

Q:  Do you see a match with these guys? 

Leader Pelosi.  Oh, summer is here. 

Q:  It's a seersucker day. 

Leader Pelosi.  Are you going to the ballgame tonight? 

Q:  I am. 

Leader Pelosi.  I don't know what happens at 9 o'clock.  At 9 o'clock it's going to be Warriors and Cavaliers.  That would be two games at once.  Are you ready for that? 

Q:  We'll get you in the suite. 

Q:  What's wrong with Steph Curry's shooting? 

Leader Pelosi.  Getting better.  He's returning.  He's returning.  I was there Sunday in Oakland.  Very exciting.  Two good teams.  Two great teams. 

Bye bye.

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