Transcript of Press Conference Following Vote on Omnibus Bill
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Members of the House Democratic Leadership held a press conference today, following the House vote on the Omnibus bill. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. Good morning. I know you’re out there. I see you.
Some of you, for the second time this morning – thank you for coming by. We’re very pleased to say that today, we delivered sweeping victories for hard-working American families. The Omnibus bill makes vital investments that will create jobs, strengthen our future and grow the paychecks of American people.
We have finally renewed the 9/11 Health and Compensation Bill.
That Compensation Bill – the Zadroga Act – that is such an accomplishment. My congratulations to our appropriators, especially our Ranking Member, Congresswoman Nita Lowey of New York, for whom 9/11 was a priority, as it is for all of us, but our New Yorkers especially focused on it. This is your day, Nita, because of the passage – because of your leadership, we passed the best possible – under the circumstances – Appropriations Bill. I think our success with our Members is that [with] the Republicans’ obsession with lifting the oil-export ban, they gave away the score. Democrats were able to strip scores and scores of poison pills, destructive poison pills, some of which they had to have, which they ended up with not having. Those would have – they are called poison pills because they have a toxic effect not only on the legislation, not only the number of votes they could get or not get, but because of what they do. They wanted to dismantle women’s health, to eliminate the clean power plan, to prevent vital oversight of Wall Street, to sabotage campaign finance reform, to devastate organized labor in our country.
Again, I had my own problem with the oil, but I decided I could not empower Big Oil to overcome the successes in this bill. The Wind and Solar Tax Credits we added to the Omnibus bill eliminate about ten times more carbon pollution than the export of crude oil will add.
Of course, the Omnibus was a compromise. But under Nita’s leadership, we came a long way. It’s a monumental improvement over the special-interest ridden Appropriation bills that House Republicans were offering this year. This is a big win for America’s working families. I’m very proud the big vote that we had from our Members, once they saw what was really, was actually in the bill. With that, I’m pleased to yield to our distinguished Whip, who played such a big role in that big vote, Mr. Hoyer.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much, Nita Lowey, our Ranking Member on Appropriations. As she mentioned, Congresswoman DeLauro, the leader on our side on the Labor-Health And Human Services Committee, this $2 billion additional for National Institutes of Health is remarkable. It’s almost miraculous the power to cure that they have, and we see opportunity that science presents to us. We have a responsibility to respond with the resources.
I wanted to acknowledge who was here with us, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who has been mentioned; our Member of the Leadership, Mr. Ben Ray Luján; Member of the Leadership, Steve Israel, also an Appropriator and on the Committee, fighting for the 9/11 Initiative to pass. It was unfortunate that we had to find the money to pay for it when they were giving away tax breaks to the tune of 700 – almost $700 billion unpaid for. But nonetheless, that’s another subject. Thank you, Steve. Member of Leadership, Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland, important part of a strong vote we had today; Joe Crowley, a fighter for 9/11, personal as well as officially important to him. And as has been mentioned on the 9/11, Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler have been relentless, along with Steve Israel, Joe Crowley and Nita Lowey and all the Members of the New York delegation, some of others who are on the Appropriations Committee. So, thank you for your leadership in that.
It was really a moral responsibility we had. And when we passed it the first time, it was in a very different climate – strong opposition from the Republicans and terrible rhetoric. They have come a long way. We’re glad of that. And we’re appreciative of the strong bipartisan support for it.
Now, the two other issues – and I will take questions, which my colleagues will be happy to answer. Some of you have asked earlier this morning and since the vote: what happened between yesterday and today? Well, there are three issues. Mr. Hoyer mentioned one of them, Puerto Rico. We were not satisfied with what was in the bill. We tried to work late into the night to get as much as we could. We’re very pleased the Speaker made a commitment and public statement that he will have a legislation completed by March 31, 2016, and also, what is new about it is that he has committed to having a hearing the first day back on this subject.
On the subject of Big Oil, which was mentioned, the – and let me join Mr. Hoyer in commending Nydia Velázquez, Pedro Pierluisi, José Serrano, Mr. Gutiérrez for their relentless leadership on this. I think Nydia Velázquez, probably every minute of every day, was on us to try to get something. I’m disappointed it’s not in the bill. We tried until the end. But we have the Speaker’s commitment, and we trust this will come to pass.
In terms of oil, one of the unfinished businesses of the bill is how we mitigate for the damage to domestic refineries. Mr. Clyburn said very clearly that we have no problem with refined oil leaving the country. It’s crude because it carries with it the refinery jobs that should be here in America. There was an attempt in the bill to mitigate for the damage with a Tax Credit for some refineries, which is helpful in some parts of the country but not in the middle Atlantic and in the northeast. And that’s some unfinished business that we have to do.
In terms of what I said about the renewables – offsetting by ten times the damage that lifting the ban on crude presented, we still have unfinished business there because the bill through a drafting error did not include fuel sales, geothermal and some other renewables that are part of the Tax Credit. And we have a commitment that that will happen – an early revenue bill after the first of the year. So, we’re pleased with that.
And then, research has been mentioned over and over, but one element of research that we were disappointed – we couldn’t get the ban lifted on research into gun violence. We will continue to work on that as well as other initiatives to reduce gun violence in our country. But this would have been a small provision with massive consequences. But we couldn’t get it – the NRA objected our lifting the ban on research into gun violence.
That again, there is some other unfinished business that we have to work in the future. But these changes, especially that we have a prospect of success from the Speaker on refineries, on the further renewables and on Puerto Rico, I think we’re in a good place to go forward – not satisfied, but ready to work in a bipartisan way. And we wanted this bill to be bipartisan, so we didn’t brag too much about what was in it too soon to lose the Republican votes.
But again, we feel very, very good about what it is. I’m sure your more difficult questions would be – my colleagues would be ready to answer.
Leader Pelosi. As we recognize [the First Responders and 9/11 recovery workers], and we depart for the holiday, it was – As our colleagues, Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney were speaking, I was recalling when we visited Ground Zero right after 9/11. There was no speaking down there. It was very – it was sacred ground because, not only were there the destruction of the buildings, but there was a search for remnants of life. And you had to be careful where you spoke, where you walked. But the people that we are talking about here were affected, were working to try to give some solace to the families, that there was some recognition that their loved ones were there and that their remains were found. And so when you see that at the time and then you think: how could we not be doing this?
So, for us today is very connected to the sacred ground of 9/11 and the promise that we make. As Jerry said, in the military we say, ‘On the battlefield, we leave no soldier behind. And when they come home, we leave no veteran behind.’ Well, we praise the First Responders and others, ironworkers and others at the time. But our words are hollow if we’re not going to meet those words with the commitment that the American people want us to keep.
So, as we go to the holiday, we thank all of our First Responders for keeping us safe, but also, our men and women in uniform who make us the home of the brave and the land of the free. And with that prayerful spirit because of 9/11, we leave here thanking God for the opportunity we have to make a difference in the lives of so many people. And I think you would be impressed by the depth of knowledge and the breadth of knowledge, the depth of commitment and dedication to a better future for our country.
Again, I salute Nita for her tremendous work and all the Members of the Appropriations Committee, and thank the Speaker for his cooperation as we went forward to make this a bipartisan bill. Thank you all very much. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.