Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. Here we are on National Women's Health Week, again, proclaiming the glories of the Affordable Care Act and what it means to women. I’ll talk about that in a moment. When it comes to addressing the urgent needs of the American people, our priority in Congress is clear: we must create jobs. Unfortunately, House Republicans seem to think that their main responsibility is to do nothing – oh, for those of you who were here yesterday, you know that I have lost my voice; that may be good news to some...
...but we will see how far we can go with this – is to do nothing.
Here we are, 134 days into the 113th Congress, without one vote on a jobs bill. Fifty-four days after the Senate passed its budget, we still haven't moved forward to the budget process with this do nothing agenda that does not reflect the priorities of the American people. It is an agenda that only the Republicans are interested in pursuing. So, you see a series of subterfuges, job evasions. Today's job evasion is that the Republicans have decided to vote on the Patient's Rights Repeal Act, their 37th attempt to repeal our country's landmark reform bill. That's 37 votes, 43 days, $52 million – $52.4 million – on an obvious evasion of our responsibility to work on the priorities of the American people.
Not only is this a clear waste of time, and of taxpayer dollars, it is a deliberate vote to eliminate the affordable, quality health care benefits millions of Americans are already enjoying. For those of you that with were us yesterday, you got the card with many of the provisions that are already in effect in the Affordable Care Act.
One hundred and five million Americans are already receiving free preventive services. More than 100 million Americans no longer face a lifetime limit on their health coverage. Seventeen million children with preexisting conditions are no longer denied coverage. Soon being a woman will not be considered a preexisting medical condition. As you see, these are already in effect – we have preventive services, coverage for young adults and children. As you know, many more provisions are there. Six point six million young adults up to the age of 26 have taken advantage of the law to obtain health insurance through their parents' insurance policies; 6.3 million seniors in the donut hole have saved $6.1 billion on the prescription drugs. The list goes on and on. Needless to say, we will be talking about this on the floor of the House.
Not only is this a vote that jeopardizes access to affordable quality healthcare, it is a vote that explodes the deficit.
I don't know if I have a copy of the letter. But yesterday, just yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office told Speaker Boehner that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit by $109 billion over the next 10 years – $109 billion.
Instead of evading job creation, House Republicans should spend every day working to strengthen the middle class. It is time for Republicans to live up to their call for regular order. They were there with the President, they said what they wanted was regular order. Music to our ears. For those of you who don't know what regular order is, and want to be reminded, it means we pass a bill from committee, you go to the floor, you pass it in the committee, on the floor in both Houses, and then you go to the conference table. In order to go to the conference, you have to have appointees. So we want to appoint conferees. Republicans have said 'no' to that.
You are getting lucky, I am losing my voice.
But this is really a, they used the excuse that the Senate had not passed a bill. Fifty-three days ago, the Senate passed a bill. So we are long overdue to go to the table. Why is that important? It is important because so much is at stake. We have 750,000 jobs that have been lost by sequestration. You know the ultimate list, 4 million “Meals on Wheels,” tens of thousands of children going off Head Start, now their parents cannot be earning while children are learning. The list goes on and on. Not to mention also what it does to the security of our country, which even Senator McCain has said is insane. So one way to get rid of the sequestration is to go to the table and to come to terms to reconcile differences, to have a budget that creates jobs, that reduces the deficit, does so in a balanced way and gets rid of sequestration. How can you call for regular order and not take yes for an answer? Must be held accountable.
Again, we want to create jobs and reduce the deficit. This agenda deserves a vote. What are they afraid of? Are they afraid of the transparency of a meeting, where in public view in front of the world, TV and media coverage, their priorities have to be subjected to the light of day? First, it is the priorities of the President, of the House, and Senate Democrats of job creation, deficit reduction, strengthening the middle class.
On another subject, as I stated earlier this week, in regard to the IRS, it is clear that the actions taken by some at the IRS must be condemned. Those who engaged in this behavior were wrong and they must be held accountable for their actions, regardless of political affiliation or bias. There is no place for this type of activity by the IRS or its employees. Secretary Lew has asked for and received the resignation of the Acting Commissioner. There will be bipartisan hearings on the subject in the Ways and Means Committee tomorrow, and I am hopeful that meaningful bipartisan oversight will be found among all the committees of jurisdiction with respect to these matters.
It is interesting to me because I think these actions highlight why we must overturn Citizens United. It has exacerbated the challenge that we have. It’s been out there, but Citizens United has made matters so much worse. As you know, it is a very thin line. Maybe we must pass a law that makes it much clearer that the so-called “social welfare” organizations must make their priority promoting “social welfare” rather than engaging in politics. Clearly, this has not been – I paint everybody with the same brush, right to left, so I think it all should go.
That is why I have issued my DARE, disclose, who are these people? They go to the 501(c)(4) because they don't have to have any disclosure. Their stakeholders, shareholders, their customers, their employees don't have to know where this money is going. Disclose, amend the Constitution, overturn Citizens United, reform the whole political system to reduce the role of money and empower people by empowering small donors and removing obstacles to everyone's voting. This is something that I think, because the IRS issue has called attention to it, must take advantage of. Disclose and amend would go a long way to making our democracy stronger, not having a government of the money, but a government of the many, as our founders intended.
With that, I would be pleased to take any questions.
Leader Pelosi. Were you here yesterday?
Q: I was not.
Leader Pelosi. Who was here yesterday?
Q: You want to invoke the Williams rule?
Leader Pelosi. I understand. We were having a very important message about women, and I wanted to reward those who came yesterday?
Q: Rosa DeLauro. She owned it yesterday.
Leader Pelosi. Wasn't she great?
Q: In light of everything that has happened with these three events that have been somewhat of a drag on the White House, do you feel this President still has the ability to push significant legislation through this Congress? And do you think that you could once again become Speaker because of the terrible pitfalls this IRS mess will have for your 2014 candidates?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the second question is almost irrelevant, with all due respect. It isn't about whether I become Speaker. It is about whether we have an election where people can weigh in and every vote is counted as cast and money does not determine the outcome. I do want the Democrats to win, yes. But let's put that aside for the moment.
This President is – they make so much of these issues because this President is such a great President. He is a visionary. You have heard me say this so many times. This is a great President. He's a visionary. He has a knowledge of our country, concerns of the American people that give him judgment as to what plan we should have to go forward to strengthen the middle class. And he has an eloquence to convey that message. They fear that. And so, any issue that comes up, they will try to exploit. And some of them are legitimate issues, but they should not dominate everything. And so, what I think is that they have used talking points on Benghazi, they will use the IRS, they will use the AP, they will use these as, again, subterfuges, evasions of what the American people want us to do here: they want us to create jobs.
Now, if you are a party in Congress and you have no intention of creating jobs, you want to change the subject. So, I think this is as much about enforcing their anti-government ideology creation of jobs, as well as undermining the President of the United States. People have spoken, the election took place. He won. You would think there would be some time frame where we could engage in job creation. But, as I say, so far not one job initiative. But, I think the President is strong. Because he is strong and because he is effective, they make him the object of their political action. We know how that works. But, I have great confidence in him.
So, getting something through this Congress, well, the last two years there was nothing that went through this Congress, and there was no AP, IRS, or any other issue or organization that we were dealing with. They just want to do nothing. And their timetable is “never.” It is “never and nothing works for you,” that is who they are.
One more, somebody who was here yesterday. Then we will open it up to the others. Is that it? No questions from those that were here yesterday? Okay.
Q: Thank you. Yesterday the President said, you know, that the acting IRS commissioner would be stepping down. His term was to end in June, so he didn't have much more time on his watch, though. Has the President, though, done enough? Was that a strong enough step? Because some people say, well, this guy was out the door already, no matter what.
Leader Pelosi. Well, he is there now. And it is about what happened. It is about what has happened.
I don't know why I am – am I missing something here? Has anybody mentioned that the director who left, and therefore now we have an acting director who was a Bush appointee, and that Miller is a career, he is a career appointee? So, these are not Obama appointees. But, it happened on their watch. And we think that it would be less than forthcoming to the Congress about what was going on and they knew about it. And so, no, you don't stay until the end of your term. I think the Secretary Lew made the right recommendation and the President took advantage of that. I think that was the right thing to do.
I mean, the “IRS” – those are three scary initials to most people, not because they think they have done anything wrong, but they’re just worried that they'll be treated fairly. These people were not treated fairly. That was wrong, somebody must be held accountable.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, sir. I hear voices. Yes, sir.
Q: What is your reaction to Secretary Sebelius asking the health insurance industry for funds to implement the healthcare law? And also, have you ever asked anyone to contribute to a 501(c)(4)?
Leader Pelosi. 501(c)(4). Well, is that what Secretary Sebelius is…
Q: No. I'm sorry. She is asking them to donate
Leader Pelosi. …they are two different things?
Leader Pelosi. Okay. Let me just say this. To review, when the Republicans passed the Medicare prescription drug bill in the beginning of President Bush's term, they spent a fortune of public dollars promoting it. Now, they criticize this administration for spending much less than that to promote it. It is not a question of promote “isn't this wonderful,” it is a question of, “you need to sign up for this.” You have a responsibility to do outreach. So, when they were doing it then, I thought they did it to excess. But, nonetheless, there was a responsibility to make sure people signed up. However ill, whatever I thought of that bill, which I thought was bad. But, nonetheless, they didn't. And that was their responsibility to get people to sign up. That is the responsibility now. So, I think that that initiative is one that they – who should they be to criticize something they did to the hilt?
Secondly, when we were passing the Affordable Care Act, there were hundreds of millions of dollars spent during the debate misrepresenting, mischaracterizing – I don't like to use this word – lying about what was in or not in the Affordable Care Act. It was going to be death panels, it was going to be abortion, it was going to be this, that, and the other thing – none of which was true. But, nonetheless, whether it was true or not, hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the private sector for this purpose. So, this is not an unusual thing that the private sector would weigh in. And it is people who want to have people sign up in furtherance of the purpose of the bill.
That was to defeat a bill. This isn't about that. That is over. This is the law of the land. And so, no, I don't have any problem with their doing that.
I think that 501(c)(4)s should be done away with. I have been talking about this for years and now it is really because of Citizens United that this is exploited. When I say "done away with," there are legitimate purposes for 501(c)(4)'s to promote, to promote “social wellbeing,” whatever the issue agenda is. But, the fine line that is drawn between your primary purpose being promoting social welfare and not politics, your primary purpose or your secondary purpose could be politics. And that is not what a 501(c)(4) should be about. So, from my standpoint, I think that they should not have any political purpose. And I would hope that we could change the law on that. Some of the advertising you see on TV is really not 501(c)(4), it is 527, that kind of thing. And people get it all mixed up. But, it’s all wrong. It’s all wrong. It has to go.
Leader Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: In 2010, your leadership ended in a wave of anti-government activism on the part of the Tea Party. And I wonder, if we are, with the IRS scandal and the drumbeat coming on some of these other issues, like Benghazi, do you think that we are on the cusp of another rise in anti-government fervor for a midterm election?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think that – bless their hearts – this is what the Republicans, not all of them, but a large number of Republicans in the House believe. And they act upon their beliefs. And it is reflected in a lack of job creation and any other public role, as you see in sequestration, cutting on medical research, those kinds of things. I don't think, I think no is the answer to the question. Because I think this: people now know that this is who these people are. And they have a legitimate point of view. The role of government has been a historic debate since the beginning of our country. I add, though, that President Washington cautioned about political parties that were at war with their own government. So, where we go on the spectrum of the role of government or should there be none, do nothing, never. And I think that that challenges our, shall we say, political astuteness to take that message to the people. But it is not stealth any more. It is not stealth any more. And these incidences, while I – I don't know, talking points on Benghazi, I think is really a disservice, a disservice to the issue of the protection of our diplomats, our intelligence community, our men and women in uniform who keep us safe. I think that on the talking points the President is right, that piece of it is a sideshow. It’s an evasion of what we really need to do. We need to pass a budget that fully protects, to the extent we can, there is no guarantee, our diplomats abroad.
So, getting back to the main point of your question, what happened in 2010 was in around June, around now, a few more weeks, the Senate defeated the DISCLOSE Act, defeated the DISCLOSE Act. We had passed it in the House. DISCLOSE Act was the most central determination for the special interests as to whether they would contribute to these 501(c)(4)'s. And when the Senate failed, 59 votes, not one Republican voted, even though some have espoused this in their own state, all of a sudden they were against it here. So, when the Senate passed that, or didn't pass that, it was the signal: the floodgates opened and endless undisclosed special interest money came pouring out the doors. And that was something that had an impact on the elections because it was, first of all, we were opposed to it to begin with, but they weren't. And they had endless, an endless, endless, never ending spigot of money, misrepresenting the facts. So, that had an impact on the election, too. And the Republicans I think hijacked, which were some legitimate concerns that people had about the role of government, is what they believed. And now they are here.
But, when you come here, when you come here, we are the legislative branch – the first article of the Constitution, the legislative branch. And you should come here to legislate, to have your point of view heard, to influence your decisions, but to have a decision. And the decision can't be to do nothing. So what they are here to do is to undermine the legislative branch. And I think that it behooves us to make that distinction clear to the public.
And I don't think that talking points on Benghazi or the IRS or the AP – because we don't like what happened either. It is not as if we're, I think what the Administration did on the talking points is, what they did on Benghazi, I support them on that. But AP and IRS, we have serious questions about that. Not like we are all siding against the Administration.
I'll talk about AP if you want.
So, no, I think we are in good shape. I think we are strong, attracting great candidates. We have outdone everything – any “m” you can – out maneuvered, out messaged, out raised money, out mobilized, and out recruited candidates for the next election. I can't tell you today that I think we will win. I think I can tell you we can win; I can't tell you that we will win. But I will probably know in October or November, once we see the candidates on both sides.
On AP, let me just say because I am going to have somebody else coming in the room in a couple minutes, and I want to make this point. I think the AP issue is an interesting one. I want to remind you, because I don't know if any of you were around at the time, but in 2000, there was a bill, the intelligence bill passed the Congress. It went to conference, and it was a bill that was going to be sent to the President. I said to the President, President Clinton, I was now becoming senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said to President Clinton, “Do not sign the intelligence bill.” And he very astutely, as he has always said, "Did you sign the conference report?" And I said, "No, I did not sign the conference report." He said "Okay." And I told him what was in there. And in there was a provision that said that the burden of proof as to whether a journalist's activity threatens national security, the burden of proof was on him or her to disprove that what he did or she did not endanger our national security. That is a tremendous burden of proof. A burden of proof should be the opposite. The burden of proof is on the government to say that you did, and here is how we can prove it. The burden of proof should not be on the journalist to dispel that. And we had – he vetoed it. We took it out of the bill, and then we passed a bill without it.
In 2009, we had another bill, a Shield Act bill, to try to give more protections to journalists. We passed it in the House, the gentleman from Virginia, Rick Boucher, was the author of it. And it passed the House. It was a strong bill. We don't have time to go into all the protections, perhaps next week we can, that were in the bill for journalists. It didn't pass in the Senate. So, now with all of this coming, I think it's really important for us to go back to that place where there are protections for journalists. Of course, we have national security concerns. But it is all about a balance. It is all about being fair. And we were recommending an independent judge to make those decisions not to be paid by one party or the other administration.
So, that is fine. At the time, in 2000, we had the support of editorial boards throughout the country. A community, media community mobilized with us to – they had their own point of view on the subject. But, we all benefited from the fact that they weighed in and they came out of the bill and we were able to pass the bill.
The Speaker is coming.
Q: Do you agree with him that agency officials should go to the jail?
Leader Pelosi. I am not one who is judge, jury, sentencer, and the rest.
I think the Administration, the committees are looking into it. The President has asked for and received the resignation of the top person there. I think we are on a good track. We have to learn more about everything. But, I don't agree that any one of us should declare who should go to jail. Oh, my goodness, what a day that would be around here.
Thank you all very much. Thank you for restoring my voice.