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. How convenient of the Court to make its announcement in time for our meeting here today.
Today, for the second time, the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act. We're so jubilant about this. It's a victory for common sense and all American families. It's past time the Republicans abandoned their assault on the newfound health security the Affordable Care Act is providing millions and millions of Americans across the country.
From the majority opinion, and I quote, "Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them," written by the Chief. The Court's decision ensures that all eligible Americans, regardless of their home states, have access to premium tax credits to afford lifesaving care. No preexisting conditions will prevent them from having care, and no lifetime limits, no annual limits, no longer being a woman, preexisting condition, all of this intact, once again, in this decision.
American workers and middle class families will continue to enjoy the benefits of quality accessible health care and dependable, affordable health coverage. It's so appropriate as we go into the week leading up to the Fourth of July that this decision, as well as this Affordable Care Act upholds the vows of our Founders for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A healthier life, the liberty to pursue your happiness without being job locked or policy locked because of a preexisting condition. You can change jobs. You can start a business. You can be self employed. You can reach your aspirations. It's a very exciting, all American decision today.
This week, as you know, we continued the debate on Fast Track. The House Democrats have been united in our concern on the impact on American workers and on their paychecks. The Senate's final passage of the trade promotion authority ends one phase, but it is not final. The fight will continue. This phase is over, but the fight is not. We will continue for America's families. We will be shining a bright light, clear focus on what is going on in the trade promotion, the TPP.
We hope that it will end up with legislation that many Members can support, but to ensure that that happens, we need transparency, we need congressional consultation. That was rejected in the TPA; that's why we opposed it. But the American people expect and deserve to see what is in that bill before their representatives vote for it.
So our negotiators have been equipped with carte blanche. They have no excuse. I trust their values. I hope that our trading partners will hear the concerns of many Members of Congress because a vote for TPA is not necessarily a vote for TPP. And vice versa, a vote against TPA is not necessarily a vote against the final package.
So, in any case, this has been a very invigorating time of mobilization. And we made a decision that while we could win the vote today to take down TAA, because it is woefully short of meeting the needs of our workers in terms of those who lose their jobs and are reduced in their financial stability because of trade and globalization, which goes beyond trade, the decision was made to say we have the votes, we can work from strength, we either defeat it or to not have AGOA, the African trade agreement, be a victim of those who wanted to pass TPA.
Once the President said he was just going to sign the one bill, that ended the debate really. But it hasn't ended the debate about how we see a better prospect for trade as we go forward. Everybody says: Well, this will be better than what we have now. As you well know as writers, "better" is a comparative word. Better than what? Bad? Better is less bad, but is it good? We want it to be good.
So, with that, I will move on to what is not happening here, and that is no Ex-Im Bank. This is last legislative day for us to have reauthorized the Ex-Im Bank, which is a job creator. It created or sustained 1.5 million private sector jobs since 2007 at no cost to the taxpayer and with great advantage to America's small businesses and large who want to engage in international commerce. It will expire on June 30. We had hoped that with all of the hijacking of bills that was going on with the shameful placing of the TAA on AGOA, that they could have at least put Ex-Im Bank on there, but they did not.
And now although all this talk has been about trade and all the jobs it's going to produce, we know one thing that will produce jobs, and that is a strong Highway and Transit Trust Fund bill. Highway and infrastructure, the deficits are clear, trillions of dollars, the Society of Engineers have told us in our country, civil engineers, have told us. Hopefully we can keep pushing for a strong highway bill.
The President's bill is an excellent one. It's a significant increase in our investment in our infrastructure. It is paid for, and I would hope that the Republicans would consider that. It has to be robust, and it has to be sustainable.
On the subject of budget, because that's what we are mostly dealing with once we get – with trade injected here and there, but as you know, it is appropriations season. And for one reason or another, the inferiority of the bills, Democrats have voted against; in a way to sustain the President's veto of these bills. In addition to the content of the bills, the fact that they are predicated on a sequestration figure, which totally undermines our ability to meet the needs of the American people, so you will see, time in and time again, the Democrats having a number of votes against the bills to sustain the President's veto. And we will continue to do so.
On the other side of the building, the Senate Democrats have said they're not allowing any of these bills to come to the floor. The end result, we hope, will be soon, and that will be for us to go to the table to negotiate a budget that helps protect the American people, invest in the future, creates jobs, reduces the deficit.
In terms of the defense budget, our Secretary of Defense has said this budget, the Republican budget, defense budget, is “a road to nowhere”. It's also an example of trickle-down versus middle class economics. We know we can find a balance in a fiscally responsible way to lift the sequester and invest in stronger defense, better infrastructure, bigger paychecks for American workers.
There are so many other things that are going on, but I just want to mention the Voting Rights Act. Since I began with the Supreme Court's decision, I'll end my opening remarks with another Supreme Court decision which happened when the Court stripped the Voting Rights Act of certain provisions that were essential to its success and to fairness. And yesterday some of our Members, Terri Sewell, Linda Sanchez, Judy Chu, and John Lewis joined Senator Leahy and others on the Senate side as the original cosponsors of a Voting Rights Act that really honors the right to vote that is the most fundamental right in our democracy. And so I commend them for that. Others of us are invited to join as cosponsors today. And I'm proud to do that. We must once and for all stop the horrible attempts to stand between citizens and the right to vote. How can anybody take pride in what they do if they're saying, "I am putting up obstacles to participation?” We want them removed, again, in the spirit of the Fourth of July, right, to vote, most precious. Be patriotic: vote. Be patriotic: remove obstacles to participation.
Any questions? No? Okay. Yes, sir.
Q: Just wondering, since the TPA has passed, you said you want to shine the light on the TPP…
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: …and the different policy provisions that are in there. What is that going to look like? How are you going to do that because I know you think the public sentiment is everything and you're going to bring up the Violence Against Women Act, but that took 18 months? So how are you going to do it on a more expedited basis so that you can block a TPP that you don't like?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we're already down that path. I think that what is encouraging to me is the massive mobilization among all aspects of our society, whether it's faith based groups, women's groups, environmentalists, certainly our friends in labor, and others who have spoken out against the TPA because it did not have transparency, and it does not involve consultation with Congress. But the building for that is in place as we go forward. And, again, a vote for one doesn't necessarily mean a vote for the other. Let's see what they have to offer.
But we think the more pressure we bring on them, that people know what's in the bill, it would be – we're ready. It's just a question of when we can see it, when the American people can see it. So I don't think they expect the American people to say: Oh, I'm for it. I don't know what's in it, but I'm for it.
And some of the things we want to see are, for example, a correction of what happened in NAFTA. I voted for NAFTA. I'm not proud of that vote because it did not live up to its promise. Not only that, it's 20 years since then, more, and we're still trying to correct what happened in NAFTA. And I can go into more detail, in terms of Mexico, if you want.
So we have some specific things that we want to see in the legislation, and they relate to fairness to American workers. You can't be fair to American workers if you're exploiting farm workers. This is about lifting workers throughout the world, ‘A’. ‘B’, you cannot separate climate from commerce, which we think, so far, it does, because they are very, very connected. They're very connected. It's not just an idea about what I would prefer. It is what is essential, if we're going to go to forward into the future to understand that connection. And so, you know, I think people feel very emboldened. As I said, we made a calculation yesterday. We have the votes. We can defeat this. Or just – since the President isn't going to hold up TPA without TAA, let us not stand in the way of AGOA. And as I've said before, I thought it was a cowardly act for them to put TAA on AGOA. If they were going to be – if they thought it was courageous, they should have put Ex-Im Bank on there.
Our folks are pretty energized, contrary to what you might read in The Hill, metropolitan journals, otherwise known in other ways. I think what plays in Washington is not necessarily what's happening in the country, and we're pretty excited about it. And we think, and we thank all the people who have made this fight for taking us to a place that says: Okay, show us the bill, show us what's in it.
It's not ready yet, in all fairness to the White House, and, you know, we share their values, and we just want to make sure that the other countries that are engaged in the debate understand the scrutiny with which this agreement will be held.
Q: Quick follow up on that. As the document is being finalized, the TPP, are you confident that the White House will be responsive to the concerns from your Caucus because many right now think they're being ignored?
Leader Pelosi. Let's just be very hopeful. I think that the more public support we have for our position, the more leverage we will have. So we will be taking it to the public. The TPA sort of – people really don't know the difference between [the TPP and TPA] – many people don't. Very informed people don't know the difference between the two. They equate them, but the fact is now, is this going to be a trade agreement for the future that recognizes all the possibilities, or is this the same old same old debate, business as usual, trickle down trade that works for the top, the TPP, the t o p, then it should be good enough for others. No. We have to start with our workers.
And it is what brings many of us into the political arena, what brings us into public service, to make sure that we have fairness in our system and that we have an economy that works for everyone, and that we recognize, of course, that we're in a global economy, but that goes beyond trade. That's about offshoring and outsourcing and so many other things. And it's also about preserving our planet.
Q: Leader Pelosi, just I was wondering if I could get your thoughts on the issue of the monuments that some people are calling to be removed, whether it's people who have been associated with the Confederacy. And, also, as far as the Voting Rights Act is concerned, the voter ID, how can the Democrats counter the 70 percent, according to recent polls, still support voter ID?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the "voter ID" is a term that is very non menacing. It's very non-menacing. And so those who are using the term "voter ID," are using it to cover up something much more menacing, an ID that is almost impossible to get, an ID that is part of an initiative that has other restrictions, that restricts hours, days in advance that you can vote, the number of voting machines in a place. So, yeah, it's a non-menacing term, but it hides a great deal of barriers to participation.
And I think the more that the public knows about that, and that's really important. And as you all know, I have issued a dare in this regard because I think one of the biggest oppressors of the votes is big, unlimited, dark, unidentified money in the system. So disclose where that money is coming from, amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, reform the system, and we have the Sarbanes bill that just does that: to enhance the role of small donors, and empower. And when we empower, we have to remove those non-menacing sounding titles to things that are very detrimental to the right to vote, but the suffocation of the airwaves done by, again, unidentified dark money is one of the biggest deterrents and one of the biggest turnoffs to the public in voting.
So this is about a bigger approach to how do we instill confidence in the American worker that their voice is important, their vote is their voice, and their vote is as important as anyone else's vote in our country.
Q: What about the monuments that have been called for to be removed when they're…
Leader Pelosi. Well, I haven't seen that list or anything, but I was proud of what was happening in South Carolina in terms of the flag. We'll see how that turns out.
Q: A lot of news this week about divisions in the Republican Conference, Boehner feuding with House conservatives. Does that strengthen Democrats' hand going forward? Does Boehner seem to be in some respects more willing to talk to your folks than to some of his own Members?
Leader Pelosi. I don't – I can't really – you know, I've said over and over again, I'm the last person to ask about what goes on in the Republican Conference. I am very proud of the unity that we have in our conference. Whether we disagree on an issue or a piece of legislation, we are united, we are about one country: ‘E Pluribus Unum’. It's almost the Fourth of July. We talk about it a lot. And that unity is a source of strength and inspiration to each of us within our Caucus.
Q: But Democrats have been key in several votes…
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: …in helping them get over hurdles that one might think they could get their own numbers to vote for. I wonder, does that give Democrats some negotiating power in terms of…
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know, here it's a kaleidoscope. The design changes with different bills, and you don't know who's going to be on the – as I said to you before, this side of the room could be against something that this side of the room is for one day, and then the next day the front of the room is allied with each other vis a vis the back of the room. But we're all resources to each other one way or another, so we don't want to weaken anybody's role in how it makes progress for the American people.
So, again, I don't know whether – people in Washington like to write about divisions in the Caucus. In the country, people want results, and that's what we have to strive to do.
Q: Are you concerned that Republicans now that the Supreme Court decision has ruled in favor of the subsidies, that Republicans will try to use the reconciliation process to repeal?
Leader Pelosi. They may. And the President's not – no. I mean, they may, but it, you know – let me read what the Chief wrote, Chief Justice John Roberts. What did he write? I have to get back to that page. ‘Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.’ That's just one sentence. It's really quite a good decision in terms of how it speaks about the Affordable Care Act. So they'll keep trying and we'll keep fighting, but I couldn't be happier.
And some of you may recall, I said it was 6-3. In the first decision, I was absolutely certain about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. I knew it. I was there when it was written, as we wrote it together, and I was – I fell short with 5-4. I felt very confident coming into this, but we were prepared if the Court – I didn't see how it could happen, but you always have to be prepared, and we were. I spoke to my Caucus about it earlier this morning, and then the case came down the way it did. So, yeah, they may try this, that, or the other thing, but the more time goes by, the more people benefit from the Affordable Care Act, and the more ridiculous I think they look.
Q: Can I ask you a follow up? You know, you said you were going in confident and you were expecting this to come out your way, but how would you have been prepared…
Leader Pelosi. Why should we talk about that?
Q: I think it…
Leader Pelosi. I'll save that for another day.
Q: All right.
Leader Pelosi. We had our agreement among us, but, you know, it's no use talking about something that's not going to happen. And, again, I've always been confident. And those of you who have followed this issue for a while know that I have said all along that we were writing a bill that would have to withstand judicial review. And we did, and it did. And I don't even think the Court should have heard this case because it had nothing to do with constitutionality; it had to do with something else, which you have to ask the four Justices or whoever decided that it could be heard, but in any event, as one who dedicated a good deal of enthusiasm, time and the rest to the Affordable Care Act, it's a very, very happy day. I'm very excited about it because two times now the Supreme Court of the United States has spoken and upheld the Affordable Care Act.
Now we're eager to wait for the decision on marriage equality. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Monday. So that will be transformational for our country, and I'm optimistic about that as well.
And on the subject of voting, we hope that the Court will uphold the – I think it's really important for us to move in a direction of commission redistricting rather than State legislatures. And I hope that they do, but whatever it is, we have to have the same system over places. So I'm for a national law that calls for commission redistricting. Any objective redistricting is something that's much more respected by the public than something they perceive as being political.
One more question. Yes. We have to go to the Floor.
Q: A lot of Members on the House and Senate, Democrats in the House and Senate, have said that the last two months have been too pitched a battle on trade, and they're looking forward to finally getting on to another issue.
Leader Pelosi. Name names. You said "a lot."
Q: Dick Durbin.
Leader Pelosi. "A lot," quantify that.
Q: Dick Durbin, Ron Wyden, Steve Israel, Peter Welch, Gregory Meeks. They've all told me that, that they…
Leader Pelosi. Five is a lot? No. One is one. Two is a couple. Three is a few. Five is a lot? Out of 535 people? You've heard from some.
Leader Pelosi. Okay. Of course, it is. And that's why there's some sense of relief for us that, okay, this fight – this one's ended, so that we can have – lower the heat of battle and have a real intellectual conversation about the impact of policy on people's lives, and that's always welcome. It's always welcome.
And, yeah, who would not want to have resolution, but I wish that we had that pitch a battle over a highway bill that would created good-paying jobs, that would improve the quality of life of the American people, promoted commerce to people to and from work and school, and all the rest in a way that, again, is making the air healthier rather than degrading it. That's where we should be having debate with all of this. But, nonetheless, there were those who wanted to put the TPA as the be all end all, and they didn't have the votes. There's nothing to speak of. Get the votes, get it over with, get it out of here, you know, but they didn't, and that's what took it to this place. A bill that was really their bill, they didn't have the votes for, and that prolonged all of this. If they had voted for it – but the Members know how unpopular it is in some of their districts, and so that prolonged it.
But, yes, let's assume it's a given for people to say: I'd rather have a discussion in the marketplace of ideas, an intellectual discussion about, not an ideological one, but what works for the American people. And we welcome that opportunity with lowered heat to go forward with it but with increased intensity and scrutiny and a bright light shining on, what is in this TPP anyway? Maybe it will turn out to be great, because that's – people that we're negotiating with see how – aware of what's going on in that bill.
With that, I wish you a very happy Fourth of July. I haven't seen as much enthusiasm for the Golden State Warriors coming out of this group. I guess when Chad's not here, it's just not a sports oriented situation. But I just almost don't have room in my office anymore for the San Francisco Giants World Series Champion memorabilia and now the Golden State Warriors. It's pretty exciting. And the wonderful thing about sports is it brings people together. There's a sense of community no matter what you think about this issue or that issue or whatever it is. It makes people proud of their community, their team. And they love to see teamwork, and that's what they want to see more from us here.
So happy Fourth of July. Hope you enjoy it. See you in a week and a half. And hopefully, by then, they'll come up with something for the Ex-Im Bank, which again, expires on June 30. Thank you all very much.
# # #