Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Contact: Ashley Etienne/Henry Connelly, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Speaker-designate Pelosi. Good morning. They called a vote just when we were supposed to meet here, so thank you for waiting.
So, yesterday we passed the Farm Bill with strong bipartisan support for the bill that really was brought together in the Senate in a bipartisan way. Unfortunately, the Republicans here almost lost the rule on the Farm Bill because some of the provisions they have had for feeding the American people, nutrition programs and the rest.
It took Democratic votes to help them pass the rule for the Farm Bill, and it is a bill that is much needed for our farmers and ranchers. It has a strong nutrition part to it, and it has, again, strong bipartisan support. I think there were only 47 votes against it in the House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, we are hearing now that the President may undermine the will of Congress by doing an executive order to take food out of the mouths of babies and families in our country, as well as undermining the forestry parts of the legislation. Again, we tried to make progress in a bipartisan way, and the President then will try to undermine that legislation.
On a separate note, we have had some success on our #MeToo legislation, and House and Senate have come together. We still have some things we want more for the House, which we may pass soon in the next Congress, but we have a great compromise. And I'm very proud of Jackie Speier and Bob Brady and Congressman Harper in a bipartisan way putting together that legislation.
Today, or was it – yesterday, in the Senate they passed a CRA, a Congressional Review Act, to reverse what the Internal Revenue Service had determined. They determined that if you have a – nonprofit organizations that are doing – engaged in political activity, you don't have to report the source of the money. This CRA passed the Senate that said reverse that decision. They said, ‘You do have to report the money.’ This is very, very important, because a lot of this is very dark, tax deductible, in some cases, money that the American people should know the source of it.
Again, we are engaged in year end [negotiations]. I don't know if it's even possible for us to have an omnibus bill. We have offered the President two options: one was the six bills as negotiated in a bipartisan way by the House Democrats and Republicans and, again, bicamerally agreed upon legislation and one continuing resolution, homeland security. I'm not sure – that was choice one to the President. The second choice was to have a continuing resolution that contained all seven bills until September 30. That may be the livelier prospect, in which case, all of the discussion of is this going to be in, is that going to be in, is this going to be in, no, because we won't have that omnibus bill.
It's really unfortunate that the President has decided that he would shut down government at a time when the markets are in a mood, where people are losing their jobs in some industries, the auto industry for one, where there's uncertainty as to – in terms of the financial security of America's working families, and a holiday season that the President would say he would shut down government. That's a drastic thing for him to do, especially as we leave the Congress for the holidays, because that means it would be shut down for a while.
He said, ‘I will tell you what, I'm proud to shut down the government. I will be the one to shut it down.’
He went on further to say, I will not be – ‘I'm not going to blame you for it.’ He's taking full responsibility for the Trump shutdown. Perhaps he doesn't understand people need their paychecks. Maybe that's not the life he leads. It is not enough to say, ‘We'll pay you in January when people have to make ends meet in December.’
Of course, if he went down that path, as soon as we took over the Congress we would pass legislation to open up government and send it to the Senate, and we think it would then go to his desk. But we don't want to have to go to that place.
It really would be – now, what is important is, as I said, they didn't even have the votes to pass the rule for the Farm Bill yesterday, a bill that was wildly possible – popular when it came up. It didn't have the votes to pass the rule without our help for the Farm Bill.
They do not have the votes to pass the President's proposal, $5 billion, whatever it is, for the wall. So, I don't know why – nothing is going to change in that regard. I don't know why we just don't proceed to keep government open so that people can be home for the holidays and enjoying all of that.
Anything else? Let's see. The Trump shutdown.
We're very excited about our For The People agenda, lowering health care costs, increasing paychecks by building infrastructure of America. And we think that can be a bipartisan initiative working with the President and, again, cleaning up government. We will have H.R. 1 as one of our earliest piece of legislation as we go forward.
Again, we're open to Congress. It's going to be a town hall meeting, an American town hall meeting with openness, with bipartisanship, and with proposals starting with that – those that are the most unifying and have the broadest support in the public. Any questions?
Q: Leader Pelosi, have you spoken to the President again since he called you on Tuesday afternoon? And would you describe any of this at this point as a negotiation, or are you sort of waiting to see if he's going to accept the offers that you and Leader Schumer gave him?
Speaker-designate Pelosi. No, and yes. No, I haven't spoken to him since he called the other day, which was a very amicable conversation – amiable, I guess you would say.
Q: Is it a negotiation or –
Speaker-designate Pelosi. And I talked to Chuck last night to say, you know, we haven't had an answer, what might the answer be? Some of what I'm hearing on the Hill is that we might be more likely to have a CR until – all seven bills until the end of September, but, again, that changes. It goes back and forth. So, right now, Chuck and I are not in a negotiation of – we're not going for $5 billion for the wall. We simply are not.
Q: Madam Leader, what about the idea here that you said you think if there was a shutdown, it would go for a while. You take the gavel on the 3rd of January here. Does having a shutdown and having to deal with that first thing in January, does that impede your agenda at all as trying to then reopen government and get something through the Senate if there is a lengthy shutdown over the holidays?
Speaker-designate Pelosi. No. It would mean we just have to do it. It's the imperative. It's what is at hand that we would have to do, but let's hope that we don't. Let's hope that there won't be a shutdown of government. That's a very bad thing to do. Maybe the President doesn't grasp that, but that is very harmful to our country at significant cost.
Another day, when we have more time, we'll go into when the Republicans shut it down before. For – on the 17th day they finally opened it. It cost us billions of dollars to our economy. And they still voted against opening up government. You know, we had a large number of Republicans voted against opening up the government.
Q: What makes you think he changes his calibration even if you are able to pass the bill under your watch on the 3rd of January? His position ostensibly wouldn't change. Why would he sign that bill to open government up in January?
Speaker-designate Pelosi. Does he want to have the government closed forever? I mean, what's this about? I know he doesn't believe in government. I know he doesn't know that much about what is at risk to shut it down. But I think that it would be – let's not talk about what might happen. Let's talk about what we can do right now to keep government open. There is strong bipartisan support to do that. The only obstacle is the President of the United States.
And by the way, the President said, ‘Mexico is going to pay for this.’ And we said, ‘Well, how are they going to pay for it?’ ‘Well, they are going to pay for it when we have a new trade agreement and that money.’ What money? What money? What money? That money will be used to pay for the wall. The money that businesses make? What money is he talking about that's going to go pay for the wall? It just isn't – it doesn't measure up.
Any other questions?
Q: Leader Pelosi, on Friday prosecutors in New York implicated the President's camp for essentially breaking two campaign finance laws, committing two crimes. Yesterday, the prosecutors also said that the parent company of The National Enquirer worked in concert with the Trump campaign to try to engage in this hush money scheme.
Speaker-designate Pelosi. And the question is?
Q: The question is, what should the repercussions be for the President, assuming these allegations are true?
Speaker-designate Pelosi. Well, let me just say that it's interesting that these allegations against the President are coming from his own Justice Department. This is not about Robert Mueller. This is about the Justice Department, so we'll see how they pursue it.
But from our standpoint, what we're interested in is meeting the needs of America's working families, to spend our time lowering health care costs by reducing the cost of prescription drug, increasing paychecks by building infrastructure for America. Both of those things are things that the President said he wanted to do during the campaign, so this is common ground and, again, reducing the role of big dark money in politics.
I wish – I wish that the press would spend a lot more time on what we need to do here to meet the needs of the American people instead of morning, noon, and night allegations against the President. The Justice Department, the Mueller investigation, they will work their will.
But there are other things that are going on that are newsworthy, and I think you had more viewers and readers that you would address the concerns that people have rather than just this ongoing, ongoing coverage of what's current with the President from one day to the next.
Q: So should the House committees not investigate this then?
Leader Pelosi. The committees will have to make a judgment at that time when they come in as to where we go. But, again, we haven't – and the committees of jurisdiction have important work to do. We want to pass our H.R. 1 to clean up government and Judiciary Committee pass a Voting Rights Act. That's very important to us.
That same committee is the committee of jurisdiction for commonsense gun violence prevention. That same committee is a committee for protecting our Dreamers, and the list goes on about the priorities that the committees have to establish.
Q: Madam Leader, that bill, H.R. 1, would compel presidential candidates to make their tax returns public. Do you think House investigators should seek to obtain the President's tax returns when you take power in January?
Leader Pelosi. I think that's a Ways and Means Committee decision that they have to make. I think they see a path in that direction, but you would have to talk to them about that.
Q: You just said there was too much attention on the President –
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: – and all of this other stuff. Are you not concerned that the Ways and Means Committee trying to get the President's tax returns would create a distraction?
Leader Pelosi. I think it's a little more challenging than you might think. I think they'll take the first steps. But they also are going to try to make sure that the pre-existing condition benefit is solidified. They are going to be sure that some of the issues that are the work of the Ways and Means Committee are addressed. We'll have the trade issue that is there as well.
Yes, there is popular demand for the Congress to request the President's tax returns. They will have their path as we go forward. I'm sure the White House will resist. And so the question is, how do we go – where do we go from there?
But you know what, I was in – I went to this event the other night to honor Tom Lantos. It was a human rights event at the Willard Hotel. And Joe Biden was being honored, and I was introducing him. This is about human rights.
And when we were in the kitchen talking with the staff, you know, as you do, you go through the hotel, you see the staff and thank them, the service staff, the busboys. One of them said to me, ‘Here is some advice I'd give you: When they ask about the President's tax returns and he says – when they talk about the Mueller, when they talk about’ – and this is a newcomer to America in the back of the restaurant, of the hotel restaurant saying, ‘When the President says the Mueller investigation is going on too long, just tell him, not as long as your audit, Mr. President.’ Wisdom from the kitchen.
Q: Madam Leader, you have spoken in the past about not wanting to put an end date on your speakership so as not to make yourself a lame duck, and yet last night you struck a deal to be here for no more than a maximum of 4 more years.
Leader Pelosi. That's a long time. I was saying, one term is what I’m saying. They were saying 6 months to begin with. I feel very comfortable about what they are proposing, and I feel very responsible to do that, whether it passes or not. That's what I will say about that.
Q: Back on the border wall, the President had a tweet today where he said that the renegotiation for the trade deal was Mexico paying the $5 billion itself, that it pays for itself. Did he at all argue for that when you guys met in the Oval the other day?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, he did. He said that, but it doesn't make any sense. Does that sound familiar to you? It doesn't make any sense. That is basically what he's saying, any benefit our economy might have from a trade agreement, a revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada would be spent on the wall instead of growing our economy and increasing paychecks for our workers.
The American people are still paying the price. Mexico is not paying for this wall. But maybe he doesn't understand how a trade agreement works for him to say such a thing. But you asked the question about it, so you must have thought it had some merit.
Q: I just wanted to get your reaction.
Leader Pelosi. I mean, really? Really? First of all, he doesn't even have the trade agreement. Let's see the enforcement in the agreement for environment, for workers' rights, for some of the pharmaceutical issues and other health related provisions in the – let's see the enforcement there.
I'm open to a revised, as I said, trade agreement, formerly known as NAFTA, but it isn't – we are not there yet. And for the President to say Mexico's paying for this because if we revise NAFTA that money will be used to pay for the wall is an opportunity cost for our country and – if it were so, but it even is – it isn't even so.
So I think the Oval Office is an evidence free zone. You've got to have facts, data, evidence, truth, in order to make an agreement on how you go forward. And that's just another example of what we had as a problem wanting to discuss, in public, some of the representations that the President was making, which just simply weren't true, but out of respect for the office that he holds, not to keep saying that in front of the American people.
But in this case, I don't – maybe he could find somebody who would support that and say that's probably a good idea. I mean, not anybody with knowledge of trade agreements, but somebody who might agree with him on that.
But in any event, we have important work to do. We want to keep government open for what it means to America's working families, across the kitchen table, especially in a holiday time, so that they have cash to do their Christmas shopping. But in some cases, it's just a question of survival. So for the President to be cavalier about cash flow and paycheck to paycheck families is just something that we hope he – I pray that he will resist.
And I did tell the President that I prayed for him. He said, that's news. Go tell the press. So I am. Thank you all. Thank you.
Q: Are the Niners getting the first round pick?
Leader Pelosi. How about that game?
Q: The Niners, last place.
Leader Pelosi. Go Niners.
Q: The Niners are in last place. Are they going to get a first round pick?
Leader Pelosi. I certainly hope so.
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