Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today. Below is a transcript of the press conference.
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, good morning. Busy time, busy time.
It’s been 7 weeks since the President’s inauguration. Since then, we still have not seen any jobs bill come forward from the President, no jobs proposal, no infrastructure plan, no movement on renegotiation of NAFTA.
What we have seen is the Republicans’ long-feared and job-killing health bill that means less coverage and more cost to the American people. Pay more for less. Pay more for less.
There are a few things you should know about this bill. The Republican bill is one of the largest transfers of wealth from working families to the richest people in our country. Robin Hood in reverse. The richest 400 families in America will get a $7 million tax break each year, to the tune of a $2.8 billion break every year. It is $600 billion moving from working class families to the richest families in our country. That means those people, plus others.
Seniors will see the lifetime of the Medicare Trust Fund shortened by 3 years. They take $150 billion out of the trust fund, shortening the trust fund by 3 years. We had lengthened it in the Affordable Care Act. But that’s in keeping with the Republicans’ line on Medicare, that it should wither on the vine. So they are shortening its solvency.
And that’s in keeping with also what they want to do in other legislation, the Ryan budget, to remove the guarantee for Medicare and have it just be a voucher and not a guarantee. Medicare by definition is a guarantee. So you are undermining that guarantee.
And millions would lose access to essential Medicaid coverage, not only critical for poor children in our country, but for Americans with disabilities, for seniors with long term care needs, and to fight against opioid and other addictions.
Women lose access to comprehensive health coverage when the Republicans defund Planned Parenthood, stealing even more women’s access to contraception and preventive care.
Young people, who are likely to face an interruption in coverage, will suffer what the young people call a millennial penalty, a Republican surcharge on enrolling after a break in coverage.
So if you are a senior, if you are a person with disabilities, anyone affected by the opioid epidemic, a poor child, a woman, or a young person, the list goes on and on, you are grossly affected by this legislation. That’s why groups that deal with diabetes, cancer, cystic fibrosis, HIV/AIDS, the list goes on and on, Easter Seals, are opposed to this legislation.
Republicans are racing this bill forward before the CBO can truly expose the consequences, the catastrophic consequences of their health bill, and this is in stark contrast to when we passed the bill. I see in the press people said, “Well, you’re criticizing them for what you” – no, that’s not true.
The facts are these. We had scores of hearings, open hearings, bipartisan hearings in the three committees of jurisdiction, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor; hours of public markup; dozen of Republican amendments accepted. We never had a markup or floor vote without a CBO score to show what was happening, what the impact of the bill would be.
Now, what’s interesting, because, as I said to some of you yesterday, Speaker Ryan, then as Ranking Member of the Committee on the Budget, signed a letter to [CBO Director] Doug Elmendorf, along with the other Committee’s Ranking Members of Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor, saying that we shouldn’t proceed until we had a CBO report, which we fully intended to wait for. We had already asked for it and had our markup scheduled well into the future of receiving that.
So in his letter the Speaker says – it references that the House Speaker, that would be me, has indicated the legislation would be marked up before the committees of jurisdiction and debated on the House floor beginning the beginning of August. This is a letter in June. We had already requested the CBO report.
But he says, before the House Democrats go forward, we want to know the consequences, including the number of people who would lose access to their current insurance, the number of jobs lost due to business taxes, the number of uninsured people who would obtain coverage, and the extent of the cannibalization of employer coverage due to Medicaid expansion.
And then it goes on and on. You have this letter, so you can read the rest of it. But the fact is he was asking for, appropriately, for things that we had asked for, too, from the CBO. And now, as Speaker of the House, he is saying, what do we need a CBO report for, we can just go mark it up.
And did I say when we did ours we had – our bill was out there about 30 days before we ever even voted on it. So this is something that they put out in the dark of night on Monday, go overnight.
They don’t want the American people to see the facts. They’re always afraid of the facts. It’s just a remarkable thing. They’re afraid of the facts of the President’s tax returns. And we will continue to ask for those tax returns because we want to know about the Russian connection.
What do the Russians have on Donald Trump politically, financially, and personally? What is that connection? What would the tax returns tell us about that? And we need a bipartisan, independent, nonpartisan outside investigation to get to the bottom of that.
On Monday, the President again put forth his executive order seeking to reinstate the Muslim ban and refugee ban. The Trump administration’s insidious, I call it, repackaging has done nothing to change the immoral, unconstitutional, and dangerous goals of the ban. This is the same ban, with the same purpose, driven by the same dangerous discrimination that weakens our ability to fight terror. The President’s conduct over the weekend emphasizes how little regard he has for reality, the contempt he has for evidence and facts.
I am deeply concerned about their willingness, in fact almost bragging about separating parents from children, mothers from children at the border. I am going to go to the border again, revisit the border again over the weekend to see firsthand, because they said, “Oh, you can’t believe what you read in the paper. We know how to take care of kids. We can put them in foster homes.”
That’s the attitude of this administration, separating children from their parents. Something’s wrong with that. But protecting the American people, which is what we all take an oath to do, and what the President says is his reason for separating mothers and children, requires us to be strong and smart, not reckless, rash, and cruel.
So again, on three fronts, of course, the Affordable Care Act and all that it means to families is very important. The United Methodist Church, in their statement, said people will die because of efforts like this to roll back health care. AARP, the American Medical Association, the hospital association, nurses and physicians, patients, insurers, and consumer groups all oppose the GOP bill. The more we learn about the proposal, of course, the more we see it as a plan that will make Americans pay more for less.
Any questions? Yes, sir?
Q: Thank you. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said that for the agencies he oversaw, CIA, FBI, and NSA, to his knowledge there was no evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. Do you agree with Clapper?
Leader Pelosi. Well, it’s not – he is talking about to his knowledge. We haven’t had the investigation that we need to have. And that’s what we’re saying, is follow the facts, follow the facts.
So I also heard him say that he didn’t think that there was any reason to believe that the President, President Obama, was tapping Donald Trump. But what we’re saying is follow the facts.
We think there’s plenty of evidence that shows for sure that the Russians were disruptive of our election. Follow the facts to the personal, political, and financial connection to Russia.
Q: Thank you, Madam Leader.
So I know you’re a member of the Big Eight when it comes to intelligence matters here. Would you advocate, having seen some of this classified material on the Russian probe, if possible, the publication, the declassification of some of this material that has been put out to the Big Eight, which I guess is going down the pipe to some of the other, you know, the rest of the committees in the coming days here, if there is something where they can protect the sources and methods? Is that something that people should see to look at what’s out there?
Leader Pelosi. Well, what I’ve said is we have to have an investigation. I myself have always fought for more Members of Congress having access to more intelligence because Members of Congress have to make decisions. They have to take votes. They have to establish budgets as to what our needs are. And so they need intelligence, they need information.
So right now I think that many more Members of the Committee should be receiving that information. I don’t know that there is a plan to do so.
Q: So, to be clear, you’re not sure there is a plan to declassify some so the public…
Leader Pelosi. Well, it’s not a question of declassify. Even make it known to Members of the Intelligence Committee, much less to Members of Congress. They’re reluctant to make it known to Members of Congress, because that’s a large number, 535 people.
They certainly should be making it known to Members of the Intelligence Committee who have to make decisions as representatives of those other Members on the Intelligence Committee. But this is something I have been arguing for over 20 years in the Intelligence Committee, and the Intelligence Committee is reluctant to share as much information.
But I would say to the administration, you are the custodian of that intelligence, you are the custodian, but we are responsible for decisions. We should see that information as well.
Q: President Trump had some leaders from conservative groups down to the White House last night. And according to a number of media reports, he said something along the lines of, well, if this bill doesn’t work out, or if this bill fails, then we’ll just let ObamaCare fail and blame it on Democrats, such as yourself. Do you have a response to that?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know, it’s indicative of the fact that the President really doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he talks about the Affordable Care Act.
The goals of the Affordable Care Act were threefold: to reduce cost, to expand benefits, and to enlarge access to insurance and affordable care for all Americans. It was predicated on the idea that health care is a right for all, not just a privilege for the privileged few.
And so when he talks about that, he fails to understand that not only do 20,400,000 more people have access to health care, that the rate of uninsured has been drastically reduced, practically cut in half, but apart from that, the 155 million people who have access through the workplace, probably everybody here, have access through their workplace, have had expanded benefits – expanded benefits – whether it’s no discrimination on the basis of a preexisting condition, no lifetime limits, your child can be on your policy until 26 years old, no longer being a woman is a preexisting medical condition, all that.
Now, he says he wants to keep that, but you can’t keep that unless you have a big pool of insurers, because the costs will be astronomical. That’s why we didn’t have that before the Affordable Care Act. People would never be able to afford it. It would be prohibitive.
So the fact is, I know that the Republicans really don’t care that much about the 20 million people who have been added to the rolls, because you can see what they’re doing to Medicaid, that they want to completely undermine that. But they should care about the 155 million people who had health insurance for whom the rate of increase in costs was drastically reduced.
In the 50 years or more that they have been measuring the rate of increase in medical costs, it has been the slowest rate of increase – the slowest rate of increase – and the increases that are there are largely due to the cost of pharmaceutical drugs.
So when he says that, it is like, well, what are you talking about?
Now, are there some places that we – as the House of Representatives – we had some ideas that we would have liked to have prevailed with dealing with the Senate on this bill. There are some things that we think we could do for the individual market and the rest. We’d like to work with him on that if he has the interest of the American people at heart. But he is talking politically there. And this isn’t about politics.
If there is anything that’s personal in public policy, it’s health care, and the American people know that. Their Members are hearing from them on this score. And what people are telling them is, “I wouldn’t be alive today without the Affordable Care Act.” They’re hearing that, “The Affordable Care Act saved my life,” people wearing buttons to that effect, many of them living in very red States and very red areas that voted for Donald Trump, of people who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act.
So ironically – I don’t know if “ironically” is even the word – sadly, the people who will lose care if the Republican plan were to prevail, which I doubt it will, are people who voted for Donald Trump, many of them. And you know where the benefits are going to go for all that $600 billion? Largely blue states. You know where some of the benefits will be lost? Largely in red areas.
It’s a very sad transfer of wealth. But it’s an ideological thing with the Republicans. And I don’t think the President really knows what he’s talking about.
Q: Going back to Chad’s question in regards to the Gang of Eight, as far as the information…
Leader Pelosi. What is the predicate of that question?
Q: Well, just the information that the Gang of Eight gets as far as intelligence.
Leader Pelosi. Has gotten.
Q: Has gotten in the past. Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes were concerned that they didn’t get the information on General Flynn up until perhaps last January or I think it was mid-January.
And that being said, are you concerned that the former President opened up – or rather changed an executive order that opened up information channels between the intelligence agencies so they could share the information amongst each other, which kind of let a lot of that intelligence information flow that could make leaks easier?
Leader Pelosi. No. No. I mean, I think that we all don’t want everybody in pipelines, so we are not having the benefit of information on intelligence to keep the American people safe. But I don’t think that has anything to do with leaks, no.
Q: Back to ObamaCare. We know you don’t like the replacement bill, the central elements of it, but you have said you’re open to fixing parts of ObamaCare that have been lagging…
Leader Pelosi. Well, as I say, I had some things I would have liked to prevail over the Senate in the bill.
Q: Are there any provisions in their replacement bill, any tiny sliver of language that you think is a legitimate fix to ObamaCare and might be…
Leader Pelosi. No.
Leader Pelosi. No. No, because it is not – its purpose is – let’s go back to our three goals. It doesn’t lower costs, it doesn’t improve benefits, and it doesn’t expand access. And that’s the purpose of the bill.
So if you want to say, if I am an executive at an insurance company and I get a bigger tax deduction for my bonus, that that’s a good thing, how could they even put such a thing in a bill? Doesn’t that tell you something about them, that they would have a bill that’s supposed to be expanding access.
The President – what did he say? What did he say? President Trump promised insurance for everybody. Now his OMB Director, maybe accidentally told the truth, I don’t know, that insurance is not really the end goal.
So what is their goal and why don’t we predicate it on the facts? I speak with the Speaker from time to time about how important it is to have evidence based decision-making here, and this is so contrary. They want a fact-devoid, free area in which to make decisions.
So, no, do you have any suggestion? I mean, maybe there is something in there that I missed. Was it about the tanning salons? Or what was that about, about putting a per capita standard on Medicaid and stopping the expansion of Medicaid?
Now they are talking about even making it worse, I don’t know if you have seen that this morning, worse than what’s in the bill.
So if you have something in particular that you think is a good idea, test me.
Q: Well, you said you don’t think it’s going to pass in any event. So then what happens next?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we will proceed.
See, what happened with the Affordable Care Act is so many people have taken advantage of it. But other people may have been deterred because of the negative misrepresentations that the Republicans put out about it. But whatever you think of that, it’s for certain that many more people would be insured if the States had expanded Medicaid, which was an important part of the Affordable Care Act. So a few million more people would have been covered in those States where they don’t have it.
And so these Governors – or not always Governors, because, for example, in Virginia the Governor was for the expansion of Medicaid, but not his Legislature. So when the Legislature or the Governor, whatever, has not agreed to expand Medicaid, they’re saying to the people in their States, “We don’t care whether you have health care, health insurance, or not.”
And by the way, this is very detrimental to employment and job opportunity, economic growth, because if you don’t have access to care, who’s going to go open a factory in your area? A lot of this is connected to quality of life.
So, again, if you know of something that is an improvement, if you want to mention it, I’d be happy to respond to it, but so far I haven’t seen anything. And what I heard this morning in the press – but as the administration says to me, the Trump Administration, “Don’t believe everything you see in the press.” I said, “I don’t, especially when it comes to me.”
But in any event, what they said about that, I said, “I don’t. I don’t. I’m just talking about the facts. And the facts are very damaging.” It’s really a cruel bill that the Republicans have put forth, and it will increase the number of uninsured in our country.
What we all should be doing is working together to say: What can we do to improve, for example, the individual market? What can we do in the high risk corridors, which were a part of the bill, but the Republicans would not allow us to implement? They stood in the way of the implementation. That should not have happened. But it did, and now we make the fight.
But we have to preserve what we have, be open to suggestions. We’re a humble lot. We’re open to suggestions. If somebody has a better idea on how to save more money, give better benefits, or increase the access, let’s share that.
Yes, ma’am? This is the last one.
Q: Madam Leader, to drill down on Mulvaney’s point, he said insurance isn’t really the goal, that it’s more an issue of lowering costs, and that while there may be more people on ACA, the costs are greater for them, making health care inaccessible. Can you speak to that argument?
Leader Pelosi. What does he mean that costs are greater for them? Now that they have insurance?
Q: What he says is while there may be more people insured, the people who are insured under ACA have such high deductibles, for example, that they can’t access care.
Leader Pelosi. But did they have insurance before?
Q: Well, no, but his point is that…
Leader Pelosi. But if you didn’t have it before, you’re going to have to pay for what you’re going to get. And in many cases they have a subsidy, and we’d like to increase the subsidy. If he’d like to join us in increasing the subsidies, we’d be happy to do that.
But the fact is, is that if there were no reason to do the Affordable Care Act, if there were no reason, if everyone, as you may suggest, that he may suggest – he who was for shutting down government and voted against opening up government, he who thinks that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid should all be subjected to reduction, that’s who you’re talking about – but let’s just get back to the Affordable Care Act.
If there were no other reason to do the Affordable Care Act, if everyone loved his or her provider or his or her insurer, the one compelling reason that demanded that it happen was cost. The costs were unsustainable and they were increasing. They were increasing to an individual, to families, to small businesses, to corporate America, which was footing a large part of the bill, because many people get their coverage through their employer. And it was certainly unsustainable to local, State, and the Federal Government’s budget.
So the costs were going like that, astronomically, and you weren’t getting – if you had had preexisting conditions, bye, bye, baby. And that would be about 123 million people in our country.
And so if some of the costs are going up, but you are now protected from discrimination in terms of a preexisting condition, if you are no longer subjected to lifetime caps, then while you may be investing more, your downside, your exposure is greatly reduced.
So you can’t just compare what’s happening now to – any increases that may be happening now because of one thing or another. What you have to compare it to is: Where would we be without the Affordable Care Act? We would be in a world where the costs would be through the roof, that there would be no even dream of having a preexisting condition discrimination removed. There would be lifetime caps. And again, unsustainable to our Federal budget, corporate, small business, individual, families across the board.
So this was transformative. The only thing is, is we were so busy fighting the fight that they got out there and misrepresented what this was all about because they don’t believe in government. They don’t believe in Medicare. It should wither on the vine. They want to block grant Medicaid, put it in a box, tie it in a ribbon, throw it out the window.
So if you don’t believe in that responsibility to the American people, then you can understand the course that they are on.
So this is an important fight for us to have. It gives us an opportunity to sing the praises of the Affordable Care Act. But better than that, to hear the stories of the American people. The stories are so compelling. They are more eloquent than any policy statement anybody can make.
And that is what the Republicans do not want to hear – the truth, the facts. That’s why they don’t want to have town meetings. That’s why they don’t want to hear what the CBO score will tell them in terms of how many people will lose coverage. And that’s really what this is about, not just health care, but the good health of the American people.
An initiative about prevention. They want to cut the Prevention Fund. Prevention is one of the best investments we can make. It keeps people healthier, keeps costs down, because people are healthier.
So this is really not a discussion of what kind of bill do you want. This is a question of, is there a public role, a public responsibility in terms of public private initiatives?
What we put forth is a market-economy solution, buy it in the public market – excuse me, in the private market. It’s a free market solution. RomneyCare in Massachusetts, Heritage Foundation with the individual mandate and the rest of that.
So this is something that they should support, except they don’t support a public role. And that’s really unfortunate, because we have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people in the most cost-effective way that gives them the most advantage to reach their aspirations.
And by the way, save money in the meantime, and honor the vision of our Founders – life, a healthier life, liberty, the freedom to pursue their happiness, not job locked because of an insurance policy, not job locked because they can’t pursue another line of work because they have to hold down a different job rather than pursuing their own aspiration.
So it’s about entrepreneurship, it’s about individual aspirations, it’s about creativity, it’s about prevention, it’s about wellness, it’s about many things.
And like any bill that has ever passed the Congress, it’s not perfect. We can find many ways, working together, to improve it. And we always learn more in implementation on what those improvements can be.
Thank you all very much.
Q: How are the Giants going to do this year?
Leader Pelosi. The Giants, we’re getting ready, we’re are getting ready. We’re watching the Warriors now.