Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Contact: Drew Hammill/Evangeline George, 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. Is it still morning? Good morning, everyone.
Q: In California.
Leader Pelosi. No, here too. Here too, Chad.
This is going to be fast because it's a really very busy time, plus we have a very terrible bill on the floor. So many times, it seems, we come into this room and acknowledge another tragedy. Today, I mentioned that Monday marks the three‑year anniversary of the heartbreaking shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That's about a thousand days, a little more than a thousand days. In that thousand days, there's been a little more than a thousand mass [shootings], more than a thousand mass shootings, almost one a day.
Sandy Hook and San Bernardino are bookends of a daily tragedy of gun violence that tears apart communities across the country. Gun violence has claimed over 90,000 American lives in the past 3 years.
We have a responsibility to address this. It's a public health issue. It is an epidemic. And we join the vigils that are happening – we had it yesterday here, but across the country to honor those who not only lost their lives at Sandy Hook, at Newtown, but across the country.
Yesterday, as you may have noticed, I offered a privileged resolution to bring forward Republican Congressman Peter King's bill to close the loophole that puts guns in the hands of people on the FBI terrorist watch list. Republicans blocked the resolution for the sixth time then, for the seventh time this morning, to keep the House from even debating the bill to end this shocking loophole. This morning, again, they blocked it for the seventh time.
Ninety percent of Democrats have already signed – have already signed our discharge petition to force a vote to protect the American people. We will continue to demand action. And it's about action – as we honor people, what the theme of the vigil is, ‘honor with action’: not just words, moments of silence, but honoring them with action.
We're coming up on the omnibus bill, as you know. And that's why this is going to be a shorter‑than‑usual meeting. We're calling on Republicans to lift the outrageous 19‑year ban on federal research on gun violence. We called for that yesterday. It is in the bill, the gun ban – or, excuse me, the ban on gun violence prevention research.
The American people want the facts. The American people and Members of Congress need the data. Too many times, the Republicans say we can't make a decision on this because we don't have the data. Well, let's get the data. Lift the ban.
Even the maker of the – I was on the Appropriations Committee at the time when Jay Dickey got this put into law in the Republican majority in Congress. And he now has stepped away from his own action.
So negotiations on the omnibus and the tax extenders continue. We, again, have a big focus, and we will continue to have a big focus, and we will always have a big focus on gun violence prevention, because I don't know how we can even face the public, this Congress, having moments of silence and no action.
So here we have these two bills before us, you know. The omnibus is a must‑pass bill. In order to keep government open, we must pass that bill. And I think we're working in a direction to get that done. I see that the Republican Leader has announced that we won't have a vote until Tuesday. I thought we were closer to a bill than that, but nonetheless.
The tax extender bill is the other part of it, and I don't see very much support on the Democratic side for the tax extender bill. It's a massive, permanent, real giveaway; an unpaid‑for tax extender package, which is really destructive of our future.
Evidently, the Republican deficit hawks are an endangered species now. We're adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit permanently, and have you heard any of the deficit hawks speaking out against this action? Maybe they should be on the endangered species list, I don't know.
But it undermines our ability to invest in our children. It eliminates the possibility of revenue reform that creates fairness and simplification in the tax code. And what we want to do is do just that: simplify, make fairer, lower the corporate rate, do what we need to do to create growth, to create good‑paying jobs here at home.
And this bill that they expect us to vote on includes hundreds of billions of dollars in permanent tax breaks for special interests and big corporations while neglecting hard-working families.
And some of it is about rewarding overseas activities. The Republicans continue to fight our efforts to ensure key refundable tax credits that are indexed for hardworking families, putting money in the pockets of the American people. I worked with President Bush on, really, landmark legislation in that regard. That was seven years ago. It's time for this to be indexed. Republicans say no. But they indexed – they passed all these tax breaks for their friends.
Congressman Ellison and Congressman Grijalva wrote in their letter on the extenders bill – these are the co‑Chairs of the Progressive Caucus – "While we agree on the importance of providing permanent expansions for the key refundable tax credits that benefit working families, we are concerned that the current agreement is weighed too heavily toward corporate America." Really, like 4 to 1 – 4 to 1.
The omnibus and tax extenders bill must be separated, and I assume that they will be. Because, as I say, there's one group of Members of Congress who will vote for the omnibus, depending on what it is – we'll see what comes back with the riders and the rest – without the riders and the rest – and the extender bill, which has very little support in our Caucus.
Q: Madam Leader, it looks like the terrorists in San Bernardino have been planning this for a number of years. What does that say about the U.S. ability to interdict and intercept people with bad intents like this?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we had a briefing yesterday, and we had some more questions about that. I don’t think we’ve heard the whole story yet. Our responsibility is to protect the American people any way that we can. We also have to protect our civil liberties in our country, and we have to keep that balance.
But according to what we heard, it would have been very hard to – we’ll see. We have to learn more, but from what we heard yesterday – was that yesterday when we had the briefing? Time has gone by. It would’ve been very hard to detect.
Q: Still – do you feel let down?
Leader Pelosi. Well, this is an unfolding case and revelation. We’ll see what else is there.
Q: Madam Leader, have Republicans responded to your call to get rid of the Dickey Amendment in the omnibus? And if that is not removed from the omnibus, will Democrats be able to reach a deal?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think of it more as an incentive for Democrats to vote for the bill. This is, after all, a compromise. And we know we have a responsibility to keep government open, and that’s what we’re striving to do, in spite of some of the bad riders that are still in the bill from days gone by that have, shall we say, ossified within the process. But I think it’s a gift to them to say, ‘You want our votes? Here is a way to get them.’ I think of it more in the positive.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, Chad. Are you going to ask about the Warriors?
Q: Actually, I wasn’t. I thought you were going to ask me – you know, the Bengals and the Niners play in a couple weeks.
Leader Pelosi. You know, the Warriors.
Q: You know which team is the much better, right?
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, yeah. See? When the Warriors are winning all of these games straight, he doesn’t want to talk about it.
Q: We don’t have a basketball team in Cincinnati. So…
Leader Pelosi. But we have one – the Golden State Warriors. And we’re very proud of Stephen Curry.
Q: But they play in Oakland.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, but that’s the San Francisco Bay area. And they’re coming…
Q: So, back to my question, the Speaker has said that they are considering – they are working on the tax extenders bill and the omnibus side by side. Is there a possibility, if you get trade-offs – if they do in fact cleave these bills apart and they’re separate pieces – if you get something in tax extenders, in Child Credit [Tax] or you get guns here – that that’s considered this macro sense because…
Leader Pelosi. What’s the question?
Q: That if the negotiation is being worked out that way – that you’re looking at these two pieces of legislation side by side and it’s not horse-trading on just one bill, horse-trading on the other because then they – because they want to get as many Republicans as possible…
Leader Pelosi. So, the question is?
Q: The question is – is that how the negotiations are working? That if you get something in tax extenders, they get something in the omnibus, and vice versa?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we’ll see how it goes. I thought you were going to say if they joined them together – so let me anticipate that.
I wouldn’t vote for it. I wouldn’t recommend that anybody else vote for it. So that’s not a way to keep government open, unless they have all of the Republican votes to do it.
Q: But they obviously want to get as many Republicans as they can for the omnibus. You guys have said consistently that it looks like they’re going to be…
Leader Pelosi. Ok, but you’ve already had your question. Next?
Q: Ms. Pelosi, I’m wondering if it’s starting to look unlikely that you can get a big deal on extenders and perhaps you’ll end up with just a two-year extension?
Leader Pelosi. No, they could have a Republican extender bill. I’m only speaking for the House Democrats. And when they say, ‘Oh, I’m holding up the extender bill,’ I’ve never been for it, I wasn’t for it before it had Big Oil in it. I think it’s far too expensive. I think the extender bill that is out there – as I said – is destructive of our future. It’s the wrong way to go, to have hundreds of billions of dollars, maybe 700 or more hundred billions of dollars in permanent tax extenders. There’s no reason we have to go down that path.
And yes, there are a couple good things in there about Child Tax Credit and the rest. I negotiated those – as I said before – with President Bush. It was historic – the levels to which we took that. But, it is time to have indexation for that. They don’t want to hear about that.
So, from my stand point – and some of my Members even think, with extenders – indexation in it, they wouldn’t be for the bill because it’s too big. It undermines our ability to get something done for the future.
So, as I said to Senator Hatch – you’re either saying, ‘I’m holding it up or I’m not in the loop. I can’t be both, but, I don’t even want to be in the loop on that bill.’ And then, to add the ban – lifting the ban on the oil and all the money that means for the oil industry – while they can’t index for children – it’s just too big, it’s unfair, and it does not have support of House Democrats. But, it could have the support of others. I’m not speaking for anyone except House Democrats.
This is going to be the last question.
Q: Madam Leader, some of the budget-watch groups have said that if this extender package goes through, this Republican-controlled Congress will add about a trillion dollars to the debt. Are Republicans being dishonest? And to that matter, the White House as well? How much deficit control has been going on these last few years?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I’m not saying anyone’s being dishonest. I’m just saying they have a different view of what adds to the deficit. What I do know is a stimulus to the economy is to invest in Child Tax Credit, earned income tax credit because people spend that money immediately. It injects money into the economy.
But then, if you review the list of some of the things that they have – and some of them are not – I mean, 179, small businesses – we created that. But you shouldn’t be having it permanent and unpaid for. That is the issue. It’s not the issue of – now, some of them are terrible, and they’re permanent and unpaid for. So, they have no justification. Others of them – okay, if we’re going to have to.
We have to pay for 9/11. What’s that? About nine billion dollars. We have to find the money to pay for 9/11, for the health and the compensation of people who – in an emergency, so that should make it not have to be paid for – in an emergency, risked their lives, have consequences, health and otherwise – that we owe them this compensation. We have to find the money to pay for that, but hundreds of millions of dollars permanent, unpaid-for tax breaks – I mean, I’m glad to hear you say that there are some people who are concerned about the budget because I haven’t heard many of them speak up.
But, this is not the right way to go. But, they have the majority, and this is their vehicle. And so, there are some negotiation going on with them on it, and I’m not part of that because I don’t believe in it. I think it’s the wrong way to go. My Members share that view.
By the way, my Members are the most vocal on this because I listen to what they have to say. I notify them of what I hear. I don’t tell them what we’re going to do. I hear what they say back, and they don’t even want us negotiating on it for anything because they think it’s the wrong place to go. And I think if the American people understood that all this talk about the budget and the rest – and this is a President who deserves so much praise. When he took office, the deficit was 70 percent higher than it is now. It has come down 70 percent – what was it? 1.2 – it’s like 500 – 1.2 trillion, 500. So, he’s worked very hard to take down the deficit.
Now, the Republicans come in with this and say, ‘We have the majority. If you want some of these extensions to happen, you have to go big.’ And big means unpaid for, permanent – take it off the table. So, the baseline is different for how we want to invest in the future.
Take it off the table, so that these are all taken care of in any discussion we have about simplification or fairness in the tax code that really creates growth, creates more good paying jobs in our country and has many more people participating in the prosperity of our country.’ It’s about trickle down, trickle down, trickle down. And this is their current manifestation of trickle down, but they have the majority, and so they need to be negotiated with, of course. And the president has his signature, so that gives him leverage in that discussion, but I made it clear – don’t count on our votes for that.
Q: Madam Leader, could you verify if the Child Tax Credit is added to this bill that you say is too big and destructive, could you still support it?
Leader Pelosi. It’s in there, it’s in there. The Child Tax Credit is in there.
Q: But indexing it.
Leader Pelosi. They’re not going to index it. Instead, they put ‘Big Oil’ in there. So in others, when you see the bill and you say, ‘Well, how can we give better balance to this bill by indexation?’ They come in and say, ‘No, not indexation – let’s go on the other side and do big oil.’ There’s not even an attempt.
But you know what, if they have the votes, this is what they want to do, we do not want to give our imprimatur to it. We will not be accomplices.
Q: Does the White House agree with you guys?
Leader Pelosi. You’ll have to talk to them. In other words, we have shared values on this and at some place, this bill will be improved by the negotiation that the White House will have because they want to sign something. We don’t need to be for it. They’ll have enough Republican votes supporting their special interest friends to pass this thing in a second. And that’s why I don’t want it joined to the omnibus bill – because they don’t want to support the omnibus bill, I don’t know what happens to the whole package because of that.
I think we’re on a path – our responsibility is to keep government open for the American people. They have frivolously indicated that they’d be willing to shut it down, so we have to work hard with the new Speaker, extending the hand of friendship – any suggestions or opportunities we may have to work together – we have that responsibility to find our common ground and that is what we are doing. Somebody had this idea about this big other package. They could not have been thinking of the House Democrats as supporters of that when they came up with that. Thank you.
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