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. Good morning. Did you see the 49ers game?
Q: No, actually.
Leader Pelosi. Well, as we ended the meeting last week, we had a comment on the 49ers…
Q: The Bengals play the Niners this year.
Leader Pelosi. Hmm?
Q: The Bengals play the Niners this year. So later in the season, in November, we are going have to…
Leader Pelosi. It was quite a game. It was very fast too?
Q: Faster than the Presidential debate?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know. I was at the game. I didn't see the debate.
Good morning, everyone. Okay.
Tomorrow, as you know, is September 18. It marks the seventh anniversary of the evening where we had a meeting in the Speaker's office, in my office then, with Secretary of the Treasury Paulson, with the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, with the leadership of the House and Senate Democrats and Republicans.
At that meeting, the Secretary of the Treasury described to us a meltdown of our financial institutions of such a magnitude that when I asked the Chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, what he thought of what the Secretary said, he said, "If we don't act immediately, we won't have an economy by Monday."
This is an economy brought to us by Republican trickle‑down economics. Trickle‑Down Economics, tax breaks for the rich. If they result in trickle‑down and result in jobs, that would be good. If they don't, so be it. That is the free market. Those were the comments of our Republican colleagues. Resistance to any appropriate supervision or regulation, a trickle‑down attitude that took us to a near depression, the greatest recession that we have had.
That's the economy that President Obama inherited. In January, just a few months after the September 18 meeting, when the President took office, you know the figures. The unemployment rate was flirting with ten percent. It's now just over five percent. The deficit was $1.4 trillion. It's now under $500 billion, and we want it to go lower. The stock market has gone from just under 7,000 to just under 17,000 – a 10,000‑point change in the stock market.
The auto industry was on its heels, and with the policies of the Democratic Congress and the President of the United States and the enthusiasm and ingenuity of the private sector, our auto industry is now thriving.
More than 13 million new private sector jobs created in 66 months, largely because of our recovery package, which included tax incentives, as well as investments in education and in the future.
All of that is interesting and exciting, and every indicator is a positive one. But it isn't positive for the purchasing power of America's working families. And until we understand that the stagnation of wages for America's working families is holding up our economic recovery to the fullest extent, we won't make the progress we need to do for our economy. Middle class success is America's success for our economy.
That's why this debate in Congress, and as we make judgements about the future choices that the American people have to make, they have to compare trickle‑down economics to middle class economics. We are a consumer economy. Unless the consumer has confidence, we cannot grow to the extent that we need to.
And one of the reasons that consumers don't have confidence is because they were scarred in 2008. In some cases the loss of their homes or their homes going under water, loss of their jobs or stagnation of their wages, questions about their pensions. Some living off their savings. Questions about their ability to educate their children and grandchildren.
And so in order for us to unleash the purchasing power, the consumer confidence of America's middle class, we must end the stagnation in wages. We must have middle class economics.
So as we observe tomorrow the seventh anniversary of that bleak announcement by the Administration, we have to be careful that the public knows that these same policies that took us to this place then are the same policies the Republicans are advocating now.
And so, again, as we go forward into this debate about shutting down government, the whole economic debate, issues that help create jobs in our country, like reauthorizing the Ex‑Im Bank, lifting the debt ceiling, removing all doubt, that we know what the role of governance is and the impact that it has on the well‑being of the American people.
To shut down government is an enormous price for our country to pay. What was it, like, the economy lost $24 billion and 120,000 private sector jobs. Thousands of disabled veterans, disadvantaged children, small businesses, and working families paid the price for the Republican ideological games.
So in any event, with only six legislative days left before the start of a new fiscal year, it is important for us to sit down as, again, I've showed you the letter that I sent and the Leadership, [Mr.] Steny [Hoyer] and Mr. Clyburn and Mr. Becerra and Mr. Crowley and I sent to the Speaker in June. We keep reiterating that request. Let's sit down at the table to negotiate, recognizing that you are the majority, but also recognizing that the President has the signature and we stand ready to cooperate in a compromise as we go forward.
Today on the floor, instead of dealing with the economy of our country, Republicans are up to some more of their – I don't know how even to describe it – insults, lack of respect for women. Too many hard‑working families, again, are feeling pinched. Instead of joining Democrats at the table for a bipartisan budget, the Republicans are engaged in legislation on the floor that would, as I say, disrespect a woman's right to choose.
At the same time, and this I saw in California as well, wildfires in California and across the West have burned hundreds of thousands of acres of forestry. This week in California two citizens died, four firefighters were hospitalized. Thirteen firefighters have died this year fighting fires in the West.
To fund firefighting we had to shift $700 million from wildfire prevention to wildfire suppression. We shouldn't have to do that. The prevention is essential. And we can stop robbing our prevention fund to fund suppression with a bipartisan fix. This is bipartisan. Congressmen Chairman Mike Simpson and Kurt Schrader, bipartisan bill, has 132 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of President Obama.
Last Congress, Scott Peters, Congressman Scott Peters, introduced a discharge petition to force this bill to the floor. It had 196 Democratic Members signed the discharge petition, but the Republicans still would not bring the bill to the floor.
Later today, on our previous question, Democrats call for a vote on the bipartisan Simpson‑Schrader wildfire bill, on the previous question. We shouldn't have to go to that place. It should be self‑evident that this bill makes sense. And it makes far more sense than any of the other initiatives that the Republicans have put forward.
With that, I would be pleased to take any questions you may have.
Q: Madam Leader, Republicans are now talking about dealing with the Planned Parenthood funding through a reconciliation process that would prevent Senate Democrats from filibustering it. Do you think you have the support with your colleagues to protect from a veto override if it does go to the President's desk?
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Are there any other questions from our regular folks here? Yes?
Q: I mean, to add on to Lauren's question, though, I mean, that seems to be more of a real way for Republicans to get at Planned Parenthood. I mean, you said you would have the votes to sustain this, the veto, if it came to that.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: But still, that takes it a little further, if they take it outside of the appropriations process. That seems like a bigger threat since there is a lot of this money in the entitlement area.
Leader Pelosi. Well, yes, we can sustain the veto. It actually would be interesting to see if they really go to reconciliation, because while they don't like Planned Parenthood – and I can attest personally to the fact that for decades that I have been here they've been out to get Planned Parenthood, because they don't believe in family planning, and that is clear in their votes. They don't believe in family planning. It's hard for people to understand that, but that's what we're dealing with here.
This isn't about terminating a pregnancy. Everybody grants everyone their position on that subject. But most people believe that family planning, most Catholics overwhelmingly believe that family planning is an appropriate practice.
So if they're going after Planned Parenthood in the interest of where they are comfortable to do it, because they don't believe in family planning, they're really achieving their other goal, which is to shut down government. So I'd be interested to see if they would take it to the reconciliation knowing that we can sustain the veto.
Because they really want to shut down government. And this is really shameful. The last time they did it for 17 days. I told you the loss to our economy was $25 billion, over 100,000 jobs. Thirty percent of the government jobs are held by veterans. By veterans.
And so shutting down government is the goal, defunding Planned Parenthood is the excuse, but it's a double purpose for them. So one way or another, under the appropriations process or the reconciliation process, they are going to have to face a Presidential veto, and we will sustain the veto.
Q: But don't you see the steps that Speaker Boehner's taking, talking about using reconciliation on Planned Parenthood, having these separate votes before he reveals a CR, I mean, don't you see those as steps that he's taking to avoid a shutdown over Planned Parenthood on a continuing resolution?
Leader Pelosi. Well, if you're saying that it's going to be in reconciliation or you say it's going to be in the regular bill, it's still going to be vetoed.
And, look, every kind of statement that is being made, the – where's the letter I have here? This is from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. I won't read the whole letter, but it says this legislation, the Franks Legislation that we reference, sponsored by Representative Franks, "This legislation represents gross interference in the practice of medicine, inserting a politician between a woman and her trusted doctor. The Franks Bill would only add unnecessary new requirements and Draconian criminal penalties to a law already on the books."
So while we're talking about process here, let's talk about substance here, about what they are doing here. Others have talked about this legislation in terms of the fact that there is no way that the – they've said, "Oh, well, we'll just have all of this being done, we'll close down Planned Parenthood, but we'll have the community health centers absorb it."
That's impossible. It's impossible. There are over 650 Planned Parenthood centers in our country. I don't have that particular letter, but it is a statement that was put forth that talked about – okay, here we go?
California, my experience. "For example, the Community Health Centers Association in California has stated that if Federal funding for Planned Parenthood is eliminated, we do not have the capacity" – this is good – "we do not have the capacity for such an increase in care and the proposal would negatively impact the health of our community."
The best way to respect a woman's decision making on the size and timing of her family is to respect her access to family planning. You know, as a mom and a grandmother and all the rest, I respect people's views on the subject, but I cannot understand why if you abhor and you view abortion negatively, as we all do, that you don't understand the value of family planning. And that's all I'm going to say on the subject.
Q: On the CR, can I ask a question on the CR?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, ma'am?
Q: As you're heading to the White House later today, Democrats stand to have a lot of leverage both on the CR and on spending going forward. I wonder how you expect to move forward with this and what you hope to address with the White House, with President Obama, and with Leader Reid.
Leader Pelosi. Well, Leader Reid and I may be talking to the press after the meeting. I'm not sure. We'll see what we decide later.
But all I would say is that the subjects that I anticipate will be on the table are how we keep government open, how we do so in a way that meets the needs of the American people, how we do so in a timely fashion so we're not up against the wall on Christmas Eve and Hanukkah or whatever, Kwanzaa, whatever we are celebrating, observing. And that means we have to act sooner so we can remove all doubt that government will be open, the needs of the American people will be met.
And so it's about what's in an omnibus, what's in a budget, an appropriations bill. It's about revenue, it's about investments, it's about any policy they may want to inject in terms of riders.
And so that's really something that we have to discuss at the table with the Republicans to see where we can find common ground, again, recognizing they're in the majority, recognizing that the President has the signature, and recognizing we all have a responsibility to the American people to get the job done.
So I don't know if we'll take up the subject of the transportation bill, but I certainly hope so, because this is one of the biggest job – the transportation infrastructure bill would be one of the biggest job, an immediate job generator, that we could produce.
But from what I see so far in the reports I have from my ranking Member is we could end up with a bill coming to us that, if it's a 6‑year bill, that at the end of 6 years our infrastructure is in worse shape than it is now because of the small-ball approach that we take to it.
We can leverage the funding to do great things for our transportation and infrastructure so that the budget CR, one step, probably omnibus, the other step, the transportation bill, and some associated matters are probably what we'll take up. But you knew that. You would know that.
On this subject? Any other subject?
Q: Along those lines, you talked a little bit about the possibility that you will have leverage in the CR fight, that the process would play out, Boehner would be forced to bring a clean CR to the floor, and then you would have some say in helping pass that.
I'm wondering if you can drill down a little bit more into what ‑‑ you have said that you wanted to see a topline number. You mentioned that wanted to see a topline number even before the CR vote. I think we're running out of time for that to happen.
Leader Pelosi. Well, we have time.
Q: What assurances would you want that the omnibus would not include sequestration cuts and those things that you're not going to support? What does that look like? What does the CR debate have to look like so that you have that assurance?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me say the leverage we have springs from the Presidential veto, and the President's veto is sustained by the unity of the House Democratic Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus. So that's where the leverage springs from. You would hope it would spring from just having a balanced approach to choices that we have to make. But nonetheless, wherever the leverage comes from, we will accept it.
I have said that in the interest of getting the job done in a timely fashion, I don't know why we have to do things consecutively, that we're going to have a CR and then we're going to have a number. Why aren't we simultaneously trying to arrive at some number that we can from day one?
The purpose of a CR is to enable us to finish our work. The purpose of a CR is not to have us begin our work the day the CR begins. And so my purpose in saying I'd like to see if we could reach a number is one that, even though we are not in session for one reason or another, beautiful holy days, visit of the Pope, all of that, that we can still be working and communicating with each other about a ballpark figure as to what we will be operating under as we go forward.
The sequestration really is something that has to go. Even George [Jeb] Bush said that last night in the debate, the few minutes of the debate that I saw, or maybe it was highlighted on the news. But sequestration, it stands in the way of our strong national defense. It stands in the way of our investments in the strength of our people, which is part of our national security.
So sequestration is something that we have to strive very mightily to rid the process of. Let's find a decent number, let's live within that, and let's not put any poison-pill riders on it that have no place legislating on an appropriations bill.
Q: And a quick follow‑up. Have you spoken with Speaker Boehner on the CR topic this week?
Leader Pelosi. I have spoken to the Speaker this week about when we would speak about it.
Q: And what is that?
Leader Pelosi. We are making progress.
Q: After the White House meeting?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know. Probably not before.
Thank you all very much.
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