Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
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, everyone. How are you? What a week. This week, Democrats in the House and in the Senate moved to hold votes to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. House Republicans voted for the seventh and eighth time to block a measure for this basic fairness for working Americans. And sadly, in the Senate, Republicans also blocked consideration.
In both of these cases, it is just a question of: give us a chance to bring it up. Seven, eight times, Republicans said: “No, you can’t bring it up.” And in the Senate yesterday, they also blocked consideration, with all but one Republican voting to block the discussion of raising the minimum wage.
This legislation is really important, not only giving a raise to individuals, but it would give a raise to 25 million hard working Americans. It would lift 4.5 million Americans out of poverty, put more money in the pocket of consumers, and generate $22 billion in new economic activity. It is money that would be spent immediately for necessities, injecting demand into the economy, creating jobs – $22 billion in new economic activity. And the Republicans have said: “No.”
Raising the minimum wage is essential to building an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy. No one who works full time – and making the minimum wage – should have to raise his or her family in poverty. This is exactly what the Republicans in Congress are choosing to continue. Hard working Americans deserve better.
And this, at the same time, as the Republicans in the House are refusing to bring up the extension of unemployment insurance. The unemployment insurance has passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate. As of today, more than 2.6 million Americans have been cut off the lifeline of emergency unemployment insurance. These Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, some of it through sequestration, some of it downturn in the economy and the rest. And actually, unemployment insurance is yet again another initiative that is a stimulus to the economy – spent immediately, injecting demand, increasing job growth. We would rather have initiatives for substantial, robust growth, but the Republicans have prevented that from happening as well. But this is a stimulus to the economy.
And, for some reason, even though it passed in a bipartisan way in the United States Senate, and even though as they demanded, they said: “We don’t want to do it unless you pay for it,” we have not paid for it by and large over time. It has not been paid for because it already had been paid into. But even paid for, they have now moved that goalpost and said that they don’t want to do it. But this really requires urgent action.
On Tuesday of next week, we will have yet again another hearing on the faces of this unemployment situation, which is devastating not only to those families, to their communities, but to our economy.
So at the same time as this, the Republicans are contending that they want to put forth a business proposal for tax credits. They put forth tax credits which skip the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit that helps families pay for college; Work Opportunity Tax Credit, encouraging hiring people with obstacles to employment. Just really, let’s put that – it is a $310 billion package; increases the deficit, increases the deficit while ignoring the tax credits that do benefit America’s working families. They have refused to allow the fully paid legislation to renew unemployment insurance, as I say, while they are doing this.
There is bipartisan consensus, though, across the country to extend emergency unemployment insurance. Still, the Republicans in the House refuse to act – refuse to act on minimum wage, refuse act on unemployment insurance, two immediate ways to inject demand and create jobs.
Today is the 1st of May. “Hurray, hurray, the 1st of May,” we used to say.
But right now, Americans across the country are using the time to rally in support of comprehensive immigration reform. Over the spring recess, we saw new voices from the Republican conference call for action for comprehensive immigration reform, including some statements from the Speaker himself.
Despite growing demand for action on a measure that would secure our borders, unite our families, protect our workers, create jobs, and reduce the deficit – reduce the deficit by almost $1 trillion – Republican leadership will not give the American people a vote.
All we want is a vote. Just give us a vote. Why can’t we have a vote on this? Eleven million people hoping to have legal status and a path to citizenship, as the Senate bill provides, passed in a bipartisan way in the Senate. Eleven million people – 1,100 of them subject to deportation every day. One person, the Speaker of the House, standing in the way of bringing forth comprehensive immigration reform.
So they refuse to act. It is time for them to snap out of it and work with Democrats towards comprehensive immigration reform, as was done in the Senate in a bipartisan way.
So because we have votes coming up, I confined myself to my notes so that I wouldn’t go longer. And I have more time for your questions.
Any questions? Yes, sir.
Q: Madam Leader Pelosi, you just mentioned immigration. What did you make of the Speaker’s sort of joking, “Oh, it’s so hard” remark about not moving forward with it?
Leader Pelosi. I didn’t think it was funny. You say joking?
Q: Well, he seemed to be somewhat mocking.
Leader Pelosi. Okay. I have always said I believe that the Speaker, in all sincerity, wants to pass a comprehensive immigration reform. We supported the principles that he put forth to his conference. I still believe that he wants to do that. When he put forth the principles, ran it up the flagpole, we saluted. His conference chopped down the flagpole. That took not a day. It just totally fizzled. And that tells you something.
But I do think, as I have suggested to him – they only had 28 votes to lift the debt ceiling. One hundred and ninety-nine Republicans voted to default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America. One hundred and ninety-nine. Let’s have that vote – if you can bring a bill to the floor where 199 of your Members are voting in opposition to your own vote as Speaker, you can bring an immigration bill to the floor.
So whatever the machinations, whatever the mockery, whatever it happens to be, I just hope that something stable prevails, some stability prevails, and we get a chance to have a bill. Again bipartisan – passed the Senate in a bipartisan way almost a year ago, June of last year.
Q: Madam Leader, you said that it is the seventh and eighth time that Republicans have denied an opportunity to bring up the minimum wage bill. I am wondering, are those sorts of procedural moves on your part having the desired effect? And what is the desired effect there, if it is not actually succeeding and implementing policy?
Leader Pelosi. The point is that we believe that the voices of the American people should be heard. Seventy to 75 percent of the American people believe that we should have an increase in the minimum wage. In statehouses and in city halls across the country, the minimum wage is being increased. And we don’t have many legislative options. One of them is, to the Previous Question, which says: “Stop. Give us a chance to vote on this before we can vote on the substance of the bill.” That gives us an opportunity to continue the debate. We don’t have many options.
Q: Madam Leader, in 2010, we saw the Republicans use this tactic a lot, and they’ll do this to some degree this year, where they made you the focus. And they associated different Members from marginal districts which are held by Democrats, and said: “Well, you know, Ron Barber is going to vote with Nancy Pelosi.”
Do you see that phenomenon any different this time around, than 2010? And how do those Democrats in those swing districts defend against that tactic this year?
Leader Pelosi. Ron Barber wasn’t running in 2010. Just for the record. Ron Barber wasn’t running in 2010.
Q: Pick your person, Ike Skelton or whomever.
Leader Pelosi. Everything that you see here, whether it is this tax package, whether it is the contempt that will be on the floor next week, whether it is the method that you just described, it is all subterfuge. The American people want to know who is going to create jobs, who is going to create growth in our country. And everything is a diversion. Everything is a diversion. I think there is plenty of evidence that says that most people want to know what the candidate means to them, not what somebody else means to them, but what the candidate means to them. And that is why Ron Barber, when he did run, was victorious. But that wasn’t until later when there was a vacancy there.
I think that, again, the Democrats are going forth with our agenda, “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds,” the title of our initiative for our economic agenda for women and working families. But it is not just a title, it is a statement of fact. So we believe that the American people will make a judgment about what positive initiatives you can put forward.
We want to, again, raise the minimum wage, have child care – affordable, quality child care – early childhood education, issues that improve the lives in the American people. And we want to package a budget that is about growth. And I think if there is anything that the election will be about, it will be a comparison of the priorities in the Democratic budget versus the Republican budget – the Republican budget, which undermines rural America, which undermines education. Let’s have a discussion about that in just a moment.
The difference between what the President and the congressional Democrats are putting forth, it is about investments in the future, about growth, about job creation, about investments in research and science, and again, fairness. And then you have a Republican budget that gives a tax break to people making over $1 million a year. They get over a $200,000 tax break, while the middle class pays for it. So that is what they want to change the subject from. They always do their ad hominem because they really can’t prevail on the issues.
But we are going to keep the focus where it belongs: what is the difference between what we propose and what they propose? And I think as you see a couple of months go by, as people start paying attention to what the difference is between the priorities of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, people will know why we are so proud to be Democrats. Because we are here for an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy; for a budget that strengthens the middle class, not makes it pay for tax breaks for the wealthy. And that is what we are excited about, because that is why we are here.
You had a follow up on the minimum wage?
Q: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask about the new emails about Benghazi that have come out, and that have said that the White House essentially prepped Susan Rice to go talk about that the video essentially caused the attack on the embassy. Do you have brief thoughts on that?
Leader Pelosi. I haven’t seen that. But what I will say is, again: diversion; subterfuge. Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. Why aren’t we talking about something else? Whatever was in that, what I know of, what I’ve read in the press about – those emails were very consistent with what was put out there before. I don’t think there’s anything new there.
Q: Madam Leader, in your home State of California, the Senate is moving on a bill that would cut the state’s taxes on companies with lower ratios between their chief executive’s pay and the pay of their median workers and raise taxes on companies that have a high pay gap between the CEO and the worker.
Do you envision that something that could be part of the Democratic platform moving forward at the federal level?
Leader Pelosi. No. But I do think that the point is being made – I don’t know what the prospects are for that legislation.
Q: It was voted out of committee and it has a decent chance in the Senate. Just seems interesting.
Leader Pelosi. I don’t know. I don’t know that. Who knows what will happen when you take up the bill. But here is the thing: on the issue of the disparity in income between CEOs and employees – say 40 years ago, 45 years ago – the disparity was about 40 to 1, CEO to employee. With the rise in productivity, the CEO pay appropriately rose, as well as workers. And so the angle went like this – productivity, CEO pay, worker pay went like that.
The disparity stayed about the same, about 40 to 1, which enabled workers’ pay to be increased. And now it is probably 350 or 400 to one, the disparity. Productivity increases, but the CEO pay goes up, but the workers’ pay does not. So you have 350 to 400 to one disparity. That is just not right.
Again, you want to reward success, entrepreneurship, risk taking. Nobody resents the CEO pay, unless it is at the exploitation of the worker to an extent where the disparity is a right angle going in the wrong direction. So that is a reflection of the concern that people have about that.
What we would rather see is: raise the minimum wage, reward work, have equal pay for equal work for women in the workplace, raise the minimum wage. Approximately two thirds of the people making minimum wage are women. The average age is 35 – not teenager, but older. So let’s lift up the worker. There may be some – I don’t know of any initiatives at the federal level to that effect. I just don’t know of any.
Q: On the Benghazi emails, some of the House leadership are saying that they think it may have been criminal. That the White House…
Leader Pelosi. Well you know what? Excuse me, I’m going to tell you something.
Q: It’s on the question of…
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: …Releasing these emails under subpoena versus the White House released them under FOIA.
Leader Pelosi. I understand.
Q: Do you have a problem with the White House decision to release them under a FOIA request…
Leader Pelosi. No, no. It didn’t have any additional information. But I want to tell you something.
Q: But that’s ok to not submit an email to a congressional subpoena?
Leader Pelosi. It wasn’t in the scope of the subpoena that – whatever his name is – Issa was putting forth, did not include that email. A FOIA is a different story. So you can’t say: “What you put out under a FOIA you should have done under a subpoena.” Well that’s not what a subpoena encompassed. And it isn’t that different from what else was out there. Okay?
All right. Now, so, again, you will be hearing more from us on our “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.” We are very excited about that. Across the country, we will be having – we will continue to have – had over 60 meetings to that effect. We will be having more. The excitement for us is when people really do pay attention to what happens here in terms of policy and how it affects them.
And I said to my Caucus this morning, what the Republicans have become are radicals. “Radix,” from the Latin, “from the roots.” Pull up any sense of fairness, any sense of the safety net. But it’s not just a safety net – the unemployment insurance – it is not a safety net for those families only. It is a safety net for our economy, for our risk taking, for our entrepreneurial spirit, that as the cycles come and unemployment goes up or down or the rest, that families are not left by the wayside until they can find employment again.
2.6 million people are without unemployment insurance, and they have the nerve to put forth a budget that gives a $200,000 tax cut to people making over $1 million a year. They have a package of tax credits that is not paid for while they demand that the unemployment insurance be paid for again and again. And we have accepted that. And then they walk away from it.
So there is so much that isn’t happening here. We haven’t passed immigration reform, we haven’t – you see all the things that are left out of their package that would help families. You see issues that have been non-partisan in the past, whether it was infrastructure of our country – we are going to run out of the trust fund pretty soon. And usually that would be coming together in a bipartisan way, but it remains to be seen. That is a big job creator, as we build the infrastructure of America, including broadband and infrastructure of the future, as well as water, bridges, high speed rail and the rest.
So it is going to be a very interesting debate about the priorities. And as our Chairman, Mr. Israel, would say, whose side are you on? We don’t want to have it be that everybody is on the same side of the American people. And that is why many of us do what we do to engage in the political process, because of the policy that makes a difference to the American people.
It is going to be an exciting debate. And If you all want to sit around and talk about Benghazi, you can sit around and talk about Benghazi. But the fact is that’s subterfuge and they don’t want to talk about jobs, growth, immigration reform, voting rights, you name it.
Thank you all very much.