Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today

Dec 17, 2015
Press Release

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.  Good afternoon.  Since last we met here in this room, a great thing happened for the world and for the future.  The world came together in Paris for a historic agreement to confront the climate crisis. 

The success of the Paris climate summit is truly a monumental moment in the history of the world.  Nearly 200 countries participated.  Nearly 150 heads of state attended and participated personally there, adding to the seriousness of the discussion. 

I congratulate President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz for their great leadership – and others, and their negotiators, Brian Deese and others, in the negotiations.  They really were essential in securing a solid, bold, global commitment to act on climate. 

As you know, His Holiness spoke about this to the Congress when he was here.  Pope Francis wrote his encyclical, "Laudato Si," about protecting the environment.  I feel particularly close to that because "Laudato Si" – he is praising St. Francis, who was one of the earliest environmentalists, and he is our patron saint in the city of San Francisco. 

It just comes down to only the Republicans in the Congress of the United States continue to cling to their denial on the subject.  Before all of you were born, there was a play called "Stop the World – I Want to Get Off."  And I think that could be their slogan. 

As you know, today the House will vote on a permanent, unpaid‑for Republican tax extender bill that will give hundreds of billions of dollars to special interests at the expense of hard-working Americans.  My problem with most of it is that it is unpaid for. 

Many of the initiatives in the bill have Democratic origins – issues that relate to the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, American Opportunity Act for education.  179, an initiative to help small businesses, came from us.  The issue of R&D tax credit is something we have all worked on.  Coming from the Bay Area, of course, the R&D tax credits have been important to us, and we have always talked about modernizing them and making them permanent. 

But the issue of having all of that unpaid for, in my view, is unconscionable.  And I say that because we have a responsibility not just in terms of the provisions of a particular bill but how it affects our responsibilities to be architects of our children's futures.  The idea that this future is built on the quicksand of tax breaks, making the deficit even larger, in the out years, threatening the stability of Social Security, is just plain wrong. 

But it fits comfortably in a plan that they have had since President Bush became President – tax cuts for the wealthy; let it trickle down, if it will.  This now deepens the deficit.  At some point, they will have to borrow more from the Social Security Trust Fund, undermining that.  Certainly it is an obstacle to having comprehensive revenue reform, how we have tax reform to lower the corporate rate, to promote growth, and to keep America number one.  It also dampens the opportunities we have to invest in discretionary investments in our children's education and their future.

It's just plain wrong, and I intend to vote "no." 

I did speak on the floor at – but nobody said it better than the House Progressive Caucus.  Perhaps you read their letter, but in case you didn't, I will just read you this paragraph. 

"We are concerned that the current agreement is weighted too heavily toward corporate America, furthers the long‑term Republican goal of creating separate fiscal responsibility standards for tax cuts and investments, and will open the door to further attacks on discretionary investment and our social safety net programs." 

Now, what is really important here is – again, many of these initiatives are of our own invention, and some of them we want to be made permanent, but the unpaid for, it just is a Trojan Horse.  And they are using it to put stuff on there for benefits to corporations that shift jobs overseas.   

It's appalling, and I will not – it does not have fiscal soundness.  It does not have growth in the way that we need so that many more Americans can participate in the prosperity of our country.  And it does not have my support. 

As you know, we have the Omnibus tomorrow.  Hopefully, then we can go home.  But we shall see. 

Many of our Democrats still have some concerns about what is in the Omnibus and what isn't in the Omnibus, and particularly what isn't, and that is what we wanted of the opportunity for Puerto Rico to do restructuring, to declare bankruptcy. 

It doesn't cost the American people one single penny, not one thin dime.  What are some of the others?  Not one red cent?  Whatever it is, it doesn't cost us any of that.  But, instead, they resisted putting it in the bill. 

Now, I am encouraged that the Speaker has said that we will come together after the first of the year and by March 31, 2016, we will have resolved this issue.  And we certainly will look forward to working together to accomplish that.  He wants it to go through the regular order, through the committee.  I think we have done enough research; we know what the problem is.  There have been hearings, there have been meetings, all the rest.  We can just get moving on it, starting now. 

But, again, the fact that it is not in the bill – again, not costing anything – and the fact that it didn't go through committee.  I understand that concern the Speaker has, but there are other things in the bill that didn't go through committee either.   

And then we have concerns about oil and lifting the ban on crude oil being exported.  That was probably the biggest obstacle I have to overcome to support what is before us today and tomorrow. 

This exporting of oil is – the timing of it is so incredible, that right when the rest of the world is saying we are going to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, we are going to reduce emissions, we are taking an action that is going to increase emissions.  Certainly, what else is in the bill offsets some of the emissions that Big Oil is putting out there. 

And you know what it is.  I mean, the price of oil on the world market.  The Brent [crude] oil price is higher than the West Texas price here.  So they want to leave the – instead of selling the oil here and helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and have it refined in our refineries in here, with good‑paying jobs for American workers, they are taking the oil off to sea, and our jobs with it, leaving us the price tag of billions of dollars to pay to mitigate for the damage they have done to American refineries here, especially the small ones, the ones that meet the needs of independent companies. 

So that was my big torment.  Some of you that I ran into, I said, "I just don't know."  But the fact that the Republicans wanted Big Oil so desperately really argues for voting for the bill, because they were willing to concede so much.  This was their raison d'etre.  "We are here to export crude oil at the expense of American jobs, and so we're willing to give up so much." 

So we are pleased that the legislation is rid of its poison‑pill riders, that what is in the bill is positive in terms of – well, let's talk about what they didn't – it eliminated riders to dismantle women's health.  They tried to eliminate the clean power plant.  They tried to weaken Dodd‑Frank and our oversight of Wall Street.  They tried to sabotage campaign finance reform, and they failed on that, what they call, Colorado 2 resolution.  And they, of course, had to take out their provisions to destroy ACA.   

We blocked 10 riders in the bill that would have seriously hurt organized labor in our country.  Really stunning how they have targeted, whether it's women's health and Planned Parenthood, the environment, workers' rights to organize.  It's a plan. 

But I am pleased that at last we are renewing the 9/11 health and compensation bill.  I was proud to pass it when I was Speaker, over their objections, and now they have come around. 

But think of it:  They are giving over $600 billion in unpaid‑for tax cuts, many of them to corporate America, unpaid for, while we had to offset the cost of 9/11, of our first responders.  Really, emergency spending?  Wouldn't you think 9/11 was an emergency?  And we do not usually have to offset emergency spending. 

But I am so glad that that is in the bill.  And it is really an obligation we have to our first responders, and I hope that it brightens their holiday season. 

Any questions? 

Chad?  Where is Chad?  He is not here.  If he is not here – the Warriors won.


Q:  Leader Pelosi, if history is any indication – Boehner was only able to get 80 Republican votes for this type of legislation, Ryan obviously thinks he can get 100 and wants that.  But this largely falls on the backs of House Democrats – many who I’ve spoken to have real concern on this bill.  Are you confident that you can provide the votes necessary to get this over the finish line?

Leader Pelosi.  No.  We’re talking it through.  There was concern about how this all came together.  We never really met.  It was done at the staff level and thank God for our magnificent staff.  I’m particularly proud of Richard Meltzer of our staff who especially on this Omnibus side of it.  But no, I don’t.  Members are reviewing it.  There are people who have very serious concerns about what this does to working families in this country, what it does to our investments for the future.  And we are showing them in the bill the good work that was done in a bipartisan way, subcommittee by subcommittee.  And the fact that we had such a victory – actually a bipartisan victory on the budget bill enabled us to have tens of billions of dollars more in there for our investments. 

So, there’s many good things that appropriators negotiated in a bipartisan way that are in the bill.  People have concerns about the export – see, before the export of oil came along, we were on a path.  And that ingredient was very harmful.  I mean ingredient, that assault on the discussions was a real assault.  But on the other hand, it enabled us to get many more things.  Is it worth it?  And that’s what some Members who are particularly concerned about the climate issue and the environment and health issues that are related to air pollution are studying right now.  And we’ll be continuing those conversations this afternoon. 

I feel that what we did in the bill more than ten times offsets the damage that exporting crude oil does.  And again, there are some other issues that Members – I think when they see the bill they’ll have a better understanding, but they still may decide they don’t want to be a party to something that enables the export of oil or the tax breaks for corporate America that are unpaid for and permanent.  Again, we can debate each of them and their merits even to make them permanent, but unpaid for: unconscionable. 

Q:  But just to clarify: I mean your whip counting operation is unparalleled here. You never lose.  Are you whipping this? 

Leader Pelosi.  It’s up to them to have the votes.  They have the majority.  They have the majority.  They have the legislation.  We have some serious objections which we have made well known all along.  So, we’ll see.  We’ll see.  I can’t really say right now because our Members are studying the issue.  And I said from the start, as I said on all the things: review it and then tell me what you think. 

Q:  Leader Pelosi, what needs to happen?  You say you’re in talks right now.  Do you have a counter proposal?  What needs to happen for you to…

Leader Pelosi.  There’s no counter proposal.  The counter proposal is a CR. 

Q:  What needs to happen to give you confidence that there will be enough Dems…

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I don’t know.  What do we need?  How many do they have?  This is deadly serious.  This is deadly serious.  And they knew full well when they injected oil into the debate that this was a disruptor of a serious magnitude.  But it wouldn’t have cost them a penny for them to do Puerto Rico.  So that – you’re saying those two issues.  No.  That aggravates all of the other concerns that they have of things that are not in the bill.  But it’s a compromise.  And I say: vote for what’s in it rather than what you didn’t get into it but also recognize what we kept out of it.

So again, I have told them how I came down on this because I was really – you know, the first stage was anger, oil.  Now we go to: what are the next stages of all of this?  Now let’s get more information and we’ll see. 

And I respect the thoughtfulness with which Members are bringing to the process.  I share their values.  I know what their concerns are but I do want them to know the good work that our appropriators under the leadership of Nita Lowey did on this and appreciate that and we’ll see where they come down.  But you’re asking me how many will they have, will we have enough?  What do they have?  What do they have – they who go the big bonanza of increasing emissions, sending jobs overseas and getting more profits for Big Oil at the expense of American workers and costing the taxpayer probably eight billion dollars to mitigate for the damage they’ve done to the local refineries. 

Yes, sir?

Q:  Madam Leader, you cited both the R&D tax credit and the small businesses accelerated depreciation as ideas that your party come up with. 

Leader Pelosi.  No, that we’ve shared in a bipartisan way.  179, yes.  R&D has been bipartisan.

Q:  Would you make them permanent and how would you pay for it?  Those are the two biggest expenses.

Leader Pelosi.  Right.  And well, the fact is: is that the other objection here is what you need to do is to have comprehensive revenue reform, tax reform so that you can see.  All along when we were doing the budget with Speaker Boehner he said: before I can give you a top line on what the budget is I want to see what the outlays are – the offsets are. 

So with this, you have a comprehensive tax reform, you see what revenue you need.  You lower the corporate rate.  You, perhaps, repatriate but with some commitment in job creation.  And you try to increase your opportunities in terms of investments.  But you don’t say: we all agree in modernizing and making R&D permanent; therefore, we’re going to spend $100 billion to enable businesses to send jobs overseas in the same package.  No, that’s why I call it a Trojan Horse.  But that’s something you sit down and you discuss them:  what is the duration and what is the nature of it?  What is the modernization of it?  So that it truly is creating growth which brings more revenue into the Treasury.  And nothing brings more money into the Treasury than education of the American people: early childhood, K through 12, higher ed, post-grad, lifetime learning for our workers. 

So, let’s put these things together.  And when we did our Innovation Agenda, starting almost 10 years ago – modernizing and making R&D permanent – it was one of our key elements.  Also, heavily investing in K through 12 was of the same value there.  So let’s have a weighing of equites.  But, not one instead of the other.  And I heard one of my colleagues say: “Well, in our area, we have more R&D.”  No.  In our area is where most of it started, so we know R&D.  And that’s why I support modernizing and making it permanent – but not at the expense, not in the way that they’re doing it, and not using it as a hook to drag out all the kinds of dogs and cats that they want to bring out that will not necessarily be stimulative to the economy, but just for the benefit of the special interests.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Madam Leader, are you definitely going to vote for the Omnibus?

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, I am.

Q:  You are?

Leader Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  I just wanted to be clear about that.

Leader Pelosi.  In other words – I think I told you once, the Dalai Lama, when I was criticizing China for its human rights violations in China and Tibet, he said: “We’ve got to rid you of your negative attitude.”  And I’m like: “Wait a minute, I thought I was speaking for you.”  So I’ve tried to rid myself of my negative attitude on the Big Oil so that it did not prevent me from recognizing what else is in the bill.

Q:  But just to follow up, it doesn’t sound like you are going to – I’m not sure you’re pushing your Members very hard to vote for it.

Leader Pelosi.  Well you don’t know that, do you now?


Q:  Well, are you?

Leader Pelosi.  I want to tell you something, because perhaps you don’t know this about our Members: we build consensus.  It’s not about pushing.  You know, sometimes you say: “Oh, are you going to let them vote their conscience?”  They always vote their conscience.  We just want to make sure they have all the information that they need to make the judgment that is consistent with their view of the Constitution, their representation of their constituents and their conscience.  We call it the “Three C’s.”  The Caucus – the fourth – is the least; it isn’t even a factor.  But we do want to build, again, another “C,” consensus here, and that’s what we do.  And that’s how we stay unified.  We don’t stay unified because we herd them.  We stay unified because we have shared values, and how they see those values in this, weighing the equity.

As I say, I have my own problem with it, because of what I knew – the exportation of oil.  The other thing about oil that I want to tell you, just for this moment: the reason it is also harmful is the difference between the Brent Oil Price and the West Texas Oil Price – you know, the price of oil in the U.S. and the price of oil in the world market – was always kind of the same, until fracking.  And then there’s a disparity now.  It’s about three dollars a barrel, but it was 20 at one point.  So this encourages them to do more fracking and all of that in order to get more oil to ship overseas.  And this is why we have serious numbers as to how it would add to emissions.  So it has almost nothing going for it, except it’s what the Republicans want.  And I want to show my colleagues what they were willing to yield, and then we’ll see where they come down.  But you don’t understand our Caucus if you don’t know that it’s about our shared values, and a respectful debate, and then we see where we come.  Okay, well, what are we going to do here?  I have time for, like, one question.

Q:  Well, the White House, as you know, also supports this package – maybe grudgingly.  But it’s not just Republicans.  So wouldn’t you be opening a rift or doing a disservice to the President if you can’t get this over the finish line tomorrow?

Leader Pelosi.  I don’t know – who opens the rift?  Our Members are going to do what our Members are going to do.  And I’m respectful of other people’s views, of course.  But this – they’re separate votes; Members see them as: “We vote for the Omnibus, we’re enabling them to do the other side of it.”  You know they’re going to do that anyway.  Because, tax breaks for special interests?  “Make my day,” say the Republican.  They’ll vote for those in droves, regardless of what it does to the deficit.  Where did all the deficit hawks go?  Probably part of the endangered species.  I don’t know.

But in any case, we’re going to do what we do.  You know, everybody does what they do.  We have a very different caucus.  Our Caucus is magnificently diverse – over 50 percent of it is women, minorities and LGBT-community people.  We’re very close to our constituents, and we represent them.  Our job title and our responsibilities are the same: representative.  So they have a little bit of a different perspective than maybe those in the Senate.  Although we’ve worked very closely with them and are respectful of our colleagues in the Senate and the White House, we may have a different view on this.

Q:  Are you holding out for some…

Leader Pelosi.  We’re not holding out.  We have serious unease in our Caucus.  I don’t think the Speaker’s going to reopen the bill.  He’s made that pretty clear.  But I think that it’s really important that the commitment on Puerto Rico be very, very – well, be followed up with right away.  But again that’s where it is.  And there’s no shortcut here.  People have to go through it all, and we’ll see where they come down, and we’ll see what the Republicans come up with.  In the meantime, we’ll be talking about Big Oil versus what we did for renewables, which is quite remarkable in the package.  We’ll be viewing what the investments were that the appropriators were able to do in a bipartisan way.  And I feel sorry for the appropriators, because they did such good work, on top of the work that was done on the budget before, to bring us to a place where we had gotten rid of sequestration for this two year period, and had more opportunity for investments in our future.  So that was good.  And then, again, along came Big Oil.  So, thank you all very much.

  # # #