Transcript of Pelosi Weekly 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. Thank you very much. Good morning. Sorry to be behind schedule. We have votes on the floor, so this isn’t going to last long.
Some of the subjects that I wanted to talk to you about – usually we have our weekly yesterday, but the vote on the R&D tax credit and some changes necessitated a change of this.
First, I want to talk about what happened on the floor today. Republicans brought forth a bill on the floor that takes us $156 billion in debt. It is under the guise of making permanent R&D tax credits. We have all been for making R&D tax credits permanent, modernizing them. That’s been part of our – Democrats’ – innovation agenda for a long time. I think every district in the country now has that entrepreneurial spirit of R&D, and it is no longer just Silicon Valley, Massachusetts and that. It’s the whole country.
So, yes, it’s very appealing, but it’s very wrong the way the Republicans brought it to the floor. And I’m so proud that the President has issued a recommendation of veto should the – a veto threat. And I know that we will be able to sustain the President’s veto should, in fact, this bill come back to the floor.
But the fact is that there is an opportunity – and the Senate is handling it so much better in terms of a two-year bill. Our budget – our Members have already voted on R&D tax credits, made permanent, offset by closing special interest loopholes in the law, not increasing the deficit, but including not only the R&D tax credits that we had this morning, but wind and solar for renewables, low income tax credit, Child Tax Credit – tax credits that inject demand into the economy, creating jobs. So in any event, again, a political move to bring that to the floor.
The hypocrisy of it all: to talk about deficit reduction, and to bring a bill to the floor that takes us $156 billion in debt, unpaid-for, while they say we have to pay for unemployment insurance benefits, extension of unemployment insurance. And, in fact, as many of you know, but none of you wrote about or printed, they threw us out of the room the other day. We had a room to listen to people who had been unemployed through no fault of their own and telling their stories about how this obstruction has hurt their families and their prospects. We had the room for Tuesday. We got here to do it, and they said: “You no longer have the room because we didn’t know the subject of your meeting. We don’t allow you to have a room to talk about the unemployed and the extension of the benefits.”
So we took to the steps of the Capitol. I thought that might invoke some interest, because I thought it was stunning – and can you just imagine if I had done that to them? Can you just imagine what they would be doing if we said: “You can’t have the room because we don’t like the subject matter that you are talking about, a matter that is before the Congress, that has passed the Senate?” But in any event, that’s what that is.
So obviously you are interested in the newly important committee that the Speaker, up until last Friday, was rejecting. And in his own words, saying that: “There are four committees that are investigating Benghazi, I see no reason to break up all of that work that has been done and take months and months and months to create some select committee.” Well, something happened in his Conference, and lo and behold, the rumor was starting to spread last Friday. We didn’t get any information about it until the rule was filed on Tuesday night. And now the question is: what are the terms under which Democrats could participate?
We have made it clear that our Caucus is clearly among those who say: “Don’t have having to do with it. It is a kangaroo court. It has been identified as such. Don’t dignify what they are doing;” others who say: “Just send one person so we can see what they are doing to the witnesses and have access to that testimony;” and the third option is: “Let’s see what they come back with in terms of the terms of engagement.”
What we’ve asked for is that there is as much bipartisanship as possible. They have rejected an evenly divided committee, as the Ethics Committee is. They have already rejected that. We would have liked to have had that. But we must have standards. A Democrat needs to concur in the issuance of subpoenas, decisions to depose witnesses, and the decision to interview witnesses, and with the decision to release any report, document, or information by the committee or by the staff of the committee.
These are places where, in the regular order of the standing committee – Government Reform, where we have been led so magnificently by Elijah Cummings – that these are places where we really did not get the proper respect of the minority. I am hoping that now – where we are on that is the Speaker called me the other day. He said: “I am very serious about this. I want this to be no circus,” all that, and he said: “So we should sit down and come to terms on that.” “Fine,” I said, “I can be there in a minute.” He said: “Why don’t we have staff go back and forth on this first, and then we will sit down?” So when we sit down, we will see what that is and then make a decision as to how we proceed with that.
It’s very sad. Chris Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods – two of their families have called us and said: “Please, don’t take us down this path again.” It’s really hard for them. It’s very sad. So that’s what that is.
Here we come upon Mother’s Day and our “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” agenda. Again, the same as on the Valentine’s Day. Remember when we were there, and we had the M&Ms that said: “What Women Want?” For Mother’s Day: equal pay for equal work, raising the minimum wage, paid sick leave, affordable quality child care, children learning, parents earning. And that’s what we want for moms. We certainly want flowers and roses and brunch or whatever, and Mom not having to do the dishes. But we also want to unleash the power of women – whether they want to be entrepreneurial and start their own business and create jobs, whether they want to have a job and be treated fairly, to be able to do so in a way that has the proper balance between family and work.
It’s hard to go into Mother’s Day without thinking about the little girls in Nigeria. Can you just imagine how it must be for those moms? How wonderful, if that’s the right word, it is that the whole world has taken up the cause of these little girls. Bring back our girls. And we will do something on the floor – in a bipartisan way, I’m pleased to say – today to take up the resolution passed in the Foreign Affairs Committee this morning, submitted by Frederica Wilson, that will come to the floor, a resolution about the little girls.
But what a horrible thing. It’s diabolical. And we all have to do whatever we can to make sure that those little girls are returned home. But the idea that these terrorists who go out there and say: “We’re going to sell them into marriage or into whatever else,” it is a stunning thing, outside the behavior – outside the circle of civilized human behavior, challenging the conscience of the world. Again, happening at Mother’s Day intensifies the concern and love for these girls that we all have.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. You have to know that I favor our regulars, the ones that are here all the time.
Q: Can you walk through in your mind this debate internally in the Caucus here, what it looks like? And in other words, if you have full participation, how do you expect the Members to comport themselves who were there? Or if you don’t participate, that means that they call Hillary Clinton, they call Susan Rice, and there are no Democrats there to ask questions, no Democrats to defend them in appropriate places. Can you walk through the machinations?
Leader Pelosi. I thought I just did. I thought I just did. I mean, the fact is that this is a stunt. This is a political stunt. And the fact that – I mean, Issa just is damaged goods. They had to move from him to another venue with another chairman. That is what this is. We have been there, done this over and over again.
And so the question is: is there at least a level of decency in terms of respect, even in the regular order of the standing committee, where the minority has a right to call witnesses? The majority says: “We don’t have to call your witness when we are having this discussion on this subject with our witnesses. We can call yours any time we want, if we ever do.”
They tried to use the climate and energy select committee, which is a completely different thing, a four year committee. It was only established so that we could get a couple of bills done: the energy bill, which we did and President Bush signed, and the climate bill, which we passed but the Senate did not. The record there is there was only one subpoena in four years issued, and it was unanimous. And it was unanimous. One subpoena.
So this is a completely different set up. I think the Chairman has already called it an investigation. I don’t think it was supposed to be an investigation – or a trial. I think he called it a trial. He called it a trial. Does that tell you everything you need to know?
What does he say here? That the objective chairman – the Speaker says: “I don’t want this to be a circus.” And I said: “I think your chairman is saying some things that are looking circus-like.” For example: “Well, I have evidence,” Mr. Trey Gowdy says, “I have evidence that not only are they hiding it, there is an intent to hide it. I can’t disclose that evidence yet, but I have evidence there was a systemic, intentional decision to withhold certain documents from the Congress.” Is that the statement of a fair trial by the Chairman of the Committee if he’s calling it a trial?
So we will just see. And, you know, I have great respect for the Speaker. To the extent that he is able, I think he will try to have – because, frankly, it serves them better than for them to let them be themselves. That’s why a lot of people say: “Just let them show who they are with all of this. Any of our witnesses can hold their own in that venue. They don’t need us there to protect them.” And then there is another school of thought that says: “We have seen how they operate. We think we should be there.”
Any of our regulars?
Q: If Republicans don’t bend, so if they stick with what the resolution was that was passed in the House yesterday, would Democrats not participate in the committee?
Leader Pelosi. Well, when I speak with the Speaker, I’ll give you an answer as to what that will be. Because those rules…
Q: You know, if the guidelines don’t change, if they stick to what they are right now, would Democrats not participate?
Leader Pelosi. When I spoke to the Speaker, they already had those rules out there. So the inference to be drawn from our conversation is that we would go to a different place with more clarity about what the rights might be with more specificity.
But we’ll see. Because our Members are on a spectrum of: don’t go in there; send one person; go if they respect our rights; it doesn’t matter what they do, just go in the room. So there is a full range. And when we see what they have to say – and as I said to everyone: this is all interesting. We have our history. We understand what we are dealing with, but we really don’t know yet what the Speaker is going to say. So let’s find that out.
Q: Madam Leader, you talked about the spectrum in your Caucus. You are somebody who has rather good judgment politically and otherwise. What do you think should be done?
Leader Pelosi. It depends on what the Speaker tells us back. I have confidence that we have extraordinary talent to go into the room to get the job done. I worry that this – let me read you another quote from Buck McKeon: “I think I have pretty well been satisfied that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened, and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn’t have done more than we did. We have been working on this for a long time. We have issued a preliminary report. At some point when we run out of people to talk to, or we run out of people to talk to two or three times, at some point we think we will all have as much of the story as we are going to get and move on.”
So there’s that. What is the purpose of this? What is the manner in which they will proceed? How is that manifested in respecting the rights of the minority? And then we’ll make a decision about where we should go. I – again, this is brand new, this is one week old. You would think we had been talking about this for a very long time.
Q: Do you think this is all about Hillary Clinton?
Leader Pelosi. No, I don’t think so. If they cared about the presidential, they would be passing the immigration bill. It’s all about them. I think it’s pretty clear. Their focus on the Affordable Care Act has run its course. It’s run its course. Now they have to find something else to talk about that isn’t about how we create jobs, how we build the infrastructure of America.
It’s simple as ABC. Let’s create jobs. American made. Stop having tax cuts that send – tax breaks that send jobs overseas instead and instead to invest in America. B, build the infrastructure of America. C, sense of community of how we educate our children, protect our neighborhoods, secure our nation – all of that. It’s all part of how we honor our responsibilities to the American people. And they don’t want to talk about that, because they don’t believe in governance, they don’t believe in science, and they want to stop Barack Obama at every step.
So I don’t think this is about Hillary Clinton at all. I think is this is about the Republicans, November 2014. If they cared about presidential, we would have long ago passed an immigration bill just as the Senate did. We have the votes to pass the immigration bill. We have the votes to pass ENDA, which passed the Senate as well. We have the votes to pass gun safety, the Brady background check legislation. We have the votes to pass – we have bipartisan votes for the Voting Rights Act.
What are we doing instead? Spending a week getting attention on this subject, which, by the way, the American people care about jobs. They care about their families, and the education of their children, and the health of their families. And as somebody said to me yesterday: “Either people have gotten tired of Benghazi, or they never knew about it in the first place.”
So let’s not be accomplices to this diversionary tactic. It’s all subterfuge because they don’t want to talk about what our responsibilities are here. And we have to make a judgment as to how dangerous we think they can be with their misrepresentation of the facts in the committee. The Speaker says he doesn’t want it to go that place. I hope that that’s how it will go, and when I speak with him, we’ll see.
But again, we’ve been there, done that. Why are we doing this again? Why are we doing this again?
I have to go to the floor and vote because of the time.
Q: Are you speaking to President Obama about this?
Leader Pelosi. No. I have had no conversations with the President about this. None.