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. Is this it for “Bring Your Son or Daughter to Work Day?”
Q: I brought my intern.
Leader Pelosi. Welcome.
Q: I don't have any children, but I often say I have 435.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, I thought yours were all Miami of Ohio, when you bring all of them in.
Welcome, dear. Thank you for being here.
Democrats led by – oh, one more. Hi. How are you? Welcome. Welcome. I didn't bring the chocolate candy. Come to my office.
Again, Democrats led by our Ranking Member on the House Budget Committee, Chris Van Hollen, have introduced a resolution calling upon Speaker Boehner to appoint conferees to reach a budget agreement. We want to resolve the sequester. This sequester is harmful to the education of our children; the nutrition of our seniors, four million Meals on Wheels cut out of it; workers' unemployment benefits are reduced and cut back; all Americans really in terms of travel for work, for family reasons, summer approaches for recreation, what it means to parks in that regard.
We can resolve this sequester issue. We can resolve the sequestration by going to the conference table. It is important for people to know what appointing conferees means. It means you go to the table to resolve your differences. You do so in a fair and open process, transparent, and in public view, covered and open to the press. It is the regular order.
The regular order is something that the Republicans have requested over and over again, except when it is time for the regular order, they walk away from it. Perhaps it is lack of confidence in the power of their ideas. Perhaps they can't take the scrutiny of the American people seeing the difference in our budget priorities, a budget much like what President Obama has put forth, and the Senate Democratic budget bill, which is about investing in jobs and reducing the deficit in a fiscally sound way, a very, very positive budget, which is a statement of our national values, which a budget is supposed to be.
What are the Republicans afraid of? Why don't they want to have this discussion in the open? Again, our Members are supporting Mr. Van Hollen's call for conferees, as you have seen Senator Reid do as well in his [chamber].
Instead of going to conference, we are wasting floor time. For two days we have been debating a bill that could be passed by unanimous consent. It came out of committee without even a vote, with unanimous support, the helium bill; wasted time on a health bill that was ill advised, and, in fact, they didn't even have the votes on their side, they had to pull it. That is our work product for this week.
Again, we want – this poor use of time is about obstruction, obstruction to legislation to create jobs, to deal with the budget, to end sequestration, and obstruction on gun safety. Last week Mike Thompson, the head of our Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention was here with me. Since then he and Peter King have sent a letter to Members asking them to be cosponsors on our bipartisan House bill, which mirrors the Toomey‑Manchin bill.
It is really important to know what it does. What it does is it requires enforceable, comprehensive background checks on gun sales at gun shows and on the internet. What it does not do is create a registry. In fact, the bill prohibits a federal gun registry. Prohibits it. So it is – and it is supported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a bipartisan majority in the Senate, and 90 percent of the American people.
Again, if you are against criminals and mentally ill people who are dangerous having guns, you should support the background checks legislation. There is no time to hold up, or hold back, on this. Again, we all say we are going to react and make changes following the gun violence that our country has seen recently – I don't want to go into it in front of the children – but we have to push forward to get the job done. We are not taking no for an answer on this subject.
This bill is – I commend the four cosponsors, the two in the Senate, Senators Manchin and Toomey, and in the House, Representatives King and Thompson, for threading the needle exactly just right for what gets the job done, which isn't excessive, which honors the Second Amendment, but protects the American people. And so we call upon our Speaker to give us a vote. Give us a vote on this legislation.
With that, I would be pleased to take any questions you may have.
Q: What roles have you played in the talks to possibly exempt Congress from the healthcare exchanges? Do you know anything about them? We know that Reid and Hoyer have been involved, but were you? And do you think that's a good idea?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think that what we – I support the Affordable Care Act. I think that what we – that the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan could be a plan under the exchanges, and Mr. Hoyer – I am in close contact with Mr. Hoyer as he is in any of those conversations.
Q: Do you think – is that at all hypocritical that…
Leader Pelosi. I think that the – reading – and you have to read this very carefully – reading the legislation carefully as to what it calls for, and what an exchange is, and how the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan is a compatible plan under the exchange, we just have to look at all of that. But one thing is for sure: I don't know what the motivation was in writing that piece to treat Members of Congress and some employees differently; if you work for a committee or leadership, you are treated differently than if you work for a Member's office. I think that whatever the outcome is, people have to be treated the same.
Q: Leader Pelosi, this morning Chairman Goodlatte said that his panel is going to start moving immigration on a piecemeal approach. He also said that he personally opposes a pathway to citizenship. Would House Democrats support any immigration bill that does not include a pathway to citizenship?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you that overwhelmingly in our Caucus, the path to legalization and then ultimately citizenship is an important part of our principles: secure our borders; protect our workers; unite families, family unification; and a path to citizenship; as well as, again, the visas that – H‑1B visas, where they are the stakeholders between business and labor, farm workers and growers. Those stakeholders have worked out agreements that are part of the bill, and I think it is a very, very good bill.
And I don't think we want America to be a place where we have two kinds of people in our country. We always make comments of other countries that have workers come in and they are in a different category, no matter how long they have lived in the country, no matter how much they contribute to the economic success of that country, but I don't see House Democrats supporting a bill of that kind. But I am optimistic that the Senate passes – if and when the Senate passes their bill, that there is strong bipartisan support in the House for a path to legalization and hence citizenship.
Q: Leader Pelosi, in terms of this health care issue that has come up now, obviously 2010, the health care issue did a number on your party. Are you worried that the way Republicans are spinning this right now is that Democrats in Congress won't even subject their own employees to their health care law? Could that have ramifications in the 2014 election?
Leader Pelosi. That is not going to happen. That won't be happening. The bill has been written, it is a question of interpretation, and we want everybody to be treated the same.
I do not subscribe to the notion that we did not win the election because of the health care bill. If we did, for tens of millions of Americans to have health care was well worth any of our political careers, in my view.
Q: About the House intelligence briefing, did the suspect stop talking after being read his rights, and are you concerned that valuable intel might have been lost because of that?
Leader Pelosi. Well, as you probably are aware, I wouldn't be able to convey to you what happened in an intel briefing. And so I have confidence in our law enforcement and our intelligence leadership at work on this, and we have to fully investigate it, and we will find out at the end of the day who said what, when, whether it is in the investigation or before. But I would not be at liberty to tell you what happened in the room.
Q: Madam Leader, you spoke about the sequester again in here and your hope to replace this. One of the things we have been hearing a lot about the impact of the sequester are these flight delays, and I am told that one effort might be to try to lessen or diminish the impact of these in the FAA, something the Senate might try to do. I mean, what route do you see for this?
Leader Pelosi. Well, what are you suggesting that they are suggesting?
Q: Well, I have been told that they might try to do some amendments to either make the FAA handle the furloughs differently or potentially give them a little more flexibility, say, so we don't have these delays at the airports.
Leader Pelosi. But is it money coming out of the sequestration money, or are they going to another source?
Q: That's unclear.
Leader Pelosi. Well, it depends. How can I answer the question?
Q: But, I mean, how would you address it? This is…
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all, the answer to all of your questions, whatever they may be, is to go to the conference table.
I saw – somebody said, well, the sequestration is not hurting safety. Well, two things on that score. Yes, no, we are not going to harm safety, but it does have an impact on effectiveness and efficiency and moving the American people from one place to the next. So, if you are suggesting that there should be FAA money within FAA, within the sequester, then you may start affecting safety, because where is the money going to come from to cover the shortfall that the sequestration has caused in one part of it, the controllers, the towers and the rest of that?
The other suggestion is to take money from other accounts of the Transportation Department. I find that less onerous than within sequestration.
But, you know what? We are just fooling ourselves if we think that we are doing the American people any favor by not finding a real solution. A real solution is to go to the table and to have a reconciliation of the budget. Let the American people see and compare whose budget is one that they would identify as reflecting their values as job‑creating, deficit‑reducing, and something that takes us into the future.
That is what the Republicans fear. They fear the scrutiny on their budget. It's based on false numbers, we know that now. It's based on a premise that says if your deficit goes to an X percentage of the GDP, then you have to cut. Well, no, that is how we got to the high deficit in relationship to GDP. It is exactly turned upside down, and I think that the clear analysis of the premise on which they built this budget shows that if you want to reduce the deficit, cutting investments in education and public‑sector investments that create jobs, inject demand into the economy, again, creating jobs, more jobs, then that would be the path to growth.
And this is a debate that I think – I mean, that is why we come to conference. We have our differences of opinion. Usually we can reconcile them, but you have to be at the table to do that, unless you fear the public awareness of what you are proposing. And what is being proposed is something that is antigrowth, antigrowth, antigrowth with jobs, and that's the standard that I think the American people want any budget to meet, growth with jobs as we reduce the deficit.
Yes, another question?
Q: When you see Republicans stretch a helium bill that they could take under UC for two days, and you see them pull a bill like they did yesterday frantically, as somebody who has been in Boehner's position, what's your reaction? What are your thoughts about kind of that series of events?
Leader Pelosi. I am interested in what you think about it.
Q: My opinion is a lot less interesting than yours is.
Leader Pelosi. Don't you think it's ridiculous?
Well, the fact is that there is a use of the time of Congress, there's a use of opportunity to find a solution for the American people. The helium bill is a fine bill. It should never have been anything proposed earlier on to necessitate this bill. But the bill is there, it has overwhelming support. It could have passed by UC on the floor or put up on suspension. That they are dragging this out is a waste of the taxpayer dollar. It is a waste of the time on the floor of the House. It is an opportunity cost for bringing other legislation to the floor that will take us to make progress, to take us forward, and it is just to fill time so that they say, we had X number of days of legislation that Congress was in, but it's almost a frivolous use of the congressional schedule.
Q: Can I ask you about the health care law – bill, the health care bill that came up yesterday and didn't come up after all? The Club for Growth and Heritage Action made it a scored no vote.
Leader Pelosi. Uh‑huh.
Q: It seems like that's happened with several other priority bills for the leadership, and then they went away, or they failed, or they had to pass with Democratic support.
How important do you think these groups are in shaping what's happening on the floor?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all, let me say that this bill that you talk about that was on the floor yesterday that's taking money from the prevention fund and put it into the high‑risk pool, giving the illusion of doing something for people, false. Wrong. Not right. It is similar to its cousin that is coming down the road in a couple of weeks, which is the comp time bill, which is really an assault on working families while making it look like they have some say in whether they have comp time or overtime, and it's an assault on overtime.
So, again, it is their softer side, which is really a facade that isn't real. It doesn't help people, but they want to give the impression that they do while just putting it right in the category of all the things they do. [Republicans say] “we want tax cuts for the rich, but we don't want to raise the minimum wage. We want fiscal responsibility, and we probably should be cutting food stamps and all the rest of that, but don't dare let us raise the minimum wage, which would not – would eliminate the necessity of people having to put food on their table by having food stamps.”
So it's really – I wonder what working people ever did to the Republicans that they so have it out for them. No increase in minimum wage; almost insulting them for relying on any public support, which is necessitated by not having a livable wage in our country, and which they oppose.
So, this was something that was an illusion that even the Republicans saw through. It was a fake, as is this comp time bill a fake when it comes down the pike. But put it – judge it by the company it keeps. No increase in minimum wage, which the President is putting forth; and let's take care of the budget deficit, but not by everybody paying their fair share, but by mocking people who rely on assistance. So that's what I think of it, okay?
I will see those of you who are coming by for bringing their children to work day. Thank you.