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’s Opening Remarks
Leader Pelosi. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for accommodating the floor schedule by being here later in the day.
It’s so sad, and I’m sure you share the sympathy that we all have for the people of our great State of California and southern California.
Mudslides have taken the lives now of 17 people, killed in the mudslides, a compounded tragedy for some of the communities affected by the wildfires. And, of course, that erosion, et cetera, contributes to the mudslides. They are still searching hopefully to save more lives. Such a very sad thing. So sad.
This weekend we observe with great joy, pride and celebration Martin Luther King Day – weekend, really, for us, in some places it goes on and on.
Last year on Martin Luther King Day, we launched our initiative to protect the Affordable Care Act. It was the great outside mobilization that came together prepared to go forward to tell stories, to be present in town hall meetings, be present at Members’ offices, be present here in Washington, D.C. and successfully stave off their repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
They have done some damage, but it is a strong bill, and many people, millions of people, are still protected.
We built that on that weekend, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King when he said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.’ He said, ‘inhuman, because it often results in physical death.’ He was our inspiration. The cause was a great one. We prevailed.
This year on Martin Luther King Weekend we honor his commitment to equality. ‘Our struggle is for genuine equality, which means economic equality.’ He also said, ‘God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth while others live in abject deadening poverty.’
And so this weekend, inspired by Dr. King’s call for fairness, equal opportunity and equal access to equality, we honor him by holding teach-ins across the country, town hall teach-ins on the GOP tax scam. It is really important for the American people to continue to realize how damaging the GOP tax scam is to our economy and to opportunity for all Americans.
I am very proud of the work that has been done by the outside groups to spread the word, to tell the stories of how different parts of the bill affected their communities. This weekend we are going to have these teach-ins in a large number of Members’ districts. Some Members are coming together, some more Members will be involved than the number of events would indicate, but we are very proud of all the work that is being done.
It is really important for people to remember that 83 percent of the benefits of the tax bill go to the top 1 percent, that under the bill 86 million middle class American families will be paying higher taxes, that there is up to at least a $1.3 trillion tax break for corporations unpaid-for.
We are borrowing money from the future, from our children’s future, to give tax breaks to corporations now. I mean, really? And to the wealthiest 1 percent in our country. And some think that it adds up to $2 trillion if the Fed increases the interest rates – but nearly $2 trillion added to the deficit.
Eighty-three percent of the advantage to the top 1 percent; 86 million middle class families have their taxes increased. Nearly a trillion and a half dollar tax cut for corporate America – unpaid for and nearly $2 trillion added to the national debt.
And that is a staggering opportunity cost for what we could do with those resources. For example, to invest in infrastructure, to increase the solvency of Medicare and Medicaid, education, veterans, and families.
Today the Republican [Administration] announced Medicaid work requirements that are purpose-built – their purpose is to chip away at our nation’s promise of dignity and security for working families.
It’s really sad, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent. Now, let’s talk about working poor people. It’s really sad. The elderly, disabled, pregnant women, and children will all suffer from today’s draconian decree and that we will fight.
Instead of working in a bipartisan way to put the middle class first, Republicans pillaged the middle class, sold out our children’s future to big corporations and the richest. Republicans spent 2017 rigging the system even further against working people, and they are planning the same for 2018.
In addition to what they just did on a Medicaid work requirement, just think, they are afraid of their own shadow. They won’t even put it down on paper to have a budget. They announced over the weekend they probably won’t have a budget because they don’t want the American people to see the violence they have done to priorities that should be in the budget that meet the needs of the American people.
Democrats believe that America deserves better. We believe in A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future. Create jobs and raise incomes for American workers, that is for sure. Lower the cost of living for American workers. We can start by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and they have just nominated somebody to be head of HHS who is the master of increasing the cost of prescription drugs. And give every American the tools to succeed in the 21st century.
We believe it really is A Better Deal, that we should be working together in a bipartisan way to create growth that will reduce the deficit, generate good-paying jobs, and do so, again, in a bipartisan, transparent way instead of having trillions of dollars’ impact on our economy with this GOP tax scam bill that was done in the dark of night, and, again, in a way that is not transparent, bipartisan, or good for America’s working families.
With that, I’m pleased to take any questions you may have.
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Q: Leader Pelosi, with regard to DACA, the Republicans have put forth a deeply conservative bill that runs counter to pretty much every red line the Democrats have drawn.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Is there an opportunity to bridge this?
Leader Pelosi. Absolutely. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to that bill. There are lots of things going on, this meeting here, this meeting there.
But I do think that what has happened this week that is – I don’t want to say different, yes, different – is we all along were going along with what the President said. He supports the DREAMers, DACA he calls it, that is okay, and wants to have some border security. We all know we have a responsibility to secure our border, so we could find our common ground there.
Then this week it emerged that he wanted to change immigration policy with addressing family unification initiatives, which they call by another name, which I won’t use, and ending the diversity visa. And that is why some of this week, people were finding out for the first time that there were communities that were affected by this very directly, and we have to address those concerns.
And I think that’s all possible. I think people of good will are coming together on both sides of the aisle and both houses of Congress to get the job done.
There is a bipartisan bill that was put forth by Mr. [Congressman Will] Hurd and Mr. [Congressman Pete] Aguilar, has bipartisan support, and many Republican supporters, too, and you should be looking at that, as well. But I think this is all doable, yeah.
And, again, as we discuss that, we are discussing the caps, the parity and pay fors, how we are paying for it, funding for opioid epidemic and for veterans. As you have heard me say before, CHIP, community health centers, et cetera, NIH funding, emergency disaster funding, saving endangered pensions, passing the DREAM Act.
All of these have bipartisan support. We think a solution is in sight.
Q: The House Speaker just said he really likes that bill and can see it getting the support of more than half of his conference. Can you see it becoming the vehicle for a compromise on DACA?
Leader Pelosi. Do you think it is a vehicle if he gets half of his caucus? Do you think Democrats are going to vote for that bill? That is completely out of the question.
You know what? This is, how do you call it, how do you refer to this? This is sort of like a little dance. ‘Okay, Mr. Chairman. Thanks for your bill. I really like it.’
It has no prospect for success. Zero.
Leader Pelosi. Well, half of the Republican caucus is not a majority of the House, and the Democrats simply won’t support that bill. I mean, it doesn’t share any of the values that we have been talking about all along, so it’s a non-starter. I wouldn’t waste my time on it.
Q: Madam Leader, thank you. Good afternoon.
So, that said, there is a lot of fractionalization in your Caucus about what should be done on DACA.
Leader Pelosi. I don’t think so at all. Name one thing.
Q: But when it comes to specifics of what people are willing to accept on DACA, what they’re willing to accept on border security.
Leader Pelosi. So what is the fractionalization?
Q: Well, the idea that if push comes to shove by next Friday and they need votes to help keep a government shutdown and these talks, as you say, are going so well between now and then, but the deal is just not in hand yet, that you have to give some of these folks
Leader Pelosi. Is your question what happens if we don’t have a deal next week? I don’t think it should be predicated. Our Caucus is very unified. It’s very unified. They have been totally committed to passing the DREAM Act, doing it last year, but now, okay, January.
We have tremendous unity in our Caucus and unity around our values that we want to see in the year end, which has now spilled over into this year. So what’s the question?
Q: So I guess if we don’t have a deal in hand that everyone in your Caucus
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think we’ll have a deal. No, no. No, no. Everybody –
Q: By next Friday?
Leader Pelosi. We have to have a deal in hand. We have to have a deal in hand. How much more information does anybody need? How much more reality do people have to face? You know, they are saying, ‘Oh, people are not losing any protections by not having a DACA bill passed.’
No, they are losing protections every day, over 100. Over 15,000 already have lost protections because of what the President did to lift the DACA executive order.
So we need to do it, and we need to do it now, and people are on a good course to get it done. And, you know, people say, ‘Oh, is there going to be another CR?’ Only, only if we would need it to do the implementation of it, you know, take it to the floor, this or that.
But there is no point in having another CR, unless we have an agreement on DACA and on funding. You know, we have disaster. There are a number of issues that have to be dealt with tout suite [right now]?
Q: Madam Leader, a number of companies are attributing the tax bill for being able to give higher wages to their employees, as well as being able to give a number of bonuses to their employees. How do you respond to that?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the number of bonuses that were given—well, one of the bonuses was already in a union contract, and then they added a little more money to that. That same firm just told their employees that they were going to be laying off 1,500 people and if they want to save those jobs they could all start working 32 hours in those communities.
So in terms of the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving to workers to kind of put the schmooze on is so pathetic, it’s so pathetic.
And I would hope that with their big advantage of bringing money home at a very low rate that they would invest in infrastructure and things, but our experience has been that they will do dividends, they will do stock buybacks, and things like that. I think it’s insignificant.
Q: One of your Democratic colleagues in the House has suggested the potential to have mock hearings, to bring in some women who have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct. It’s our understanding that you have asked for them to back off of that idea. Do you not think that these women deserve to have their voices heard up here on Capitol Hill?
Leader Pelosi. It’s not about that. Everything that I ask my Members to do falls into certain categories. If it is an economic issue or something, does it decrease the deficit, does it create jobs? Can we do so in a bipartisan and transparent way? That’s how we would start.
On these issues that relate to sexual harassment, we are going to have a bill that’s supposed to come up next week. They are just putting the finishes touches on it. Jackie Speier took the lead on that. But it’s bipartisan and will come up next week. That addresses what’s happening in Congress, and we could do that more quickly.
The next responsibility is – I call it the Rosie the Riveter – addressing the concerns of women in the workplace and how we work with the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and the private sector to have standards, measures of climate, training, and all the rest to improve the situation for America’s working women wherever they work. All of that can be done on a bipartisan basis.
I was trying to try to keep people in as much a bipartisan space as possible, especially on the issue of sexual harassment, which is bigger – is a big issue in our country. I think you know that.
Q: Are you in support of some of your Members bringing sexual harassment victims to –
Leader Pelosi. You didn’t hear me, I guess. Bipartisanship. Sexual harassment – it is a big, transformative time as we deal with that. So, how can we do this in a bipartisan way? I don’t think that’s bipartisan. It doesn’t meet the standard that I have established.
We have to honor our responsibilities first, and that’s what our standard is. Others have said, well, how about do this or that? But there is real desire and experience on the part of our Women’s Caucus to work in a bipartisan way with other women.
I don’t think that that would be helpful in terms of what we need to do for the American people. It’s not all about Donald Trump, everything isn’t, it’s about our responsibilities to America’s working women.
But thank you for asking.
Q: Madam Leader, Happy New Year.
Leader Pelosi. Happy New Year.
Q: A lot has happened since the last time we saw you in this forum. So I am wondering, do you think that Donald Trump is a very stable genius?
Leader Pelosi. What difference does it make what I think?
No. I mean, I’m not going to that place, you know. I’m just not going to answer your question about his— I take issue with a person presenting himself as a genius. Doesn’t that raise certain questions?
But I am not going to go to how he tweets. I’m just not going to that place. This morning, he put out two tweets that were so undermining of what we were trying to do on the floor in terms of FISA and the rest, we’re like, he doesn’t even know what the bills are about and he’s putting out tweets.
So I am more concerned about what his policies are and how they affect everyday Americans in their lives than his view of himself.
Staff. Last question.
Q: Madam Leader, you have had two big retirements in your home state, Republicans Issa and Royce.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah. So far.
Q: Do you know of any more, first of all? And then do you think we’re looking at a Democratic wave?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I do believe that, let me just say, getting back to the tax bill, because that’s really what our thrust is. The polling on the tax bill is – was it 55-33?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, 33 approve, 55 oppose. So I’m very proud of the messaging on that, that the public is listening in a discerning way to what is happening on that. And that makes a difference in their lives. And that’s what elections are about, they make a difference in people’s lives.
There is no question, and this is what I did before to win the Congress, that it was really important for us to have unity in our party, to make sure the public understood the issues and how they affected them in a discrete way. You can’t do every issue.
Then it was: the President wants to privatize Social Security. I don’t know if many of you were around then, but that was our fight. And when President Bush’s numbers came from 58 in January to 38 in September, then you see retirements, and you see we get the fresh recruits, they get the retirements.
So from the standpoint of where we are, to make an evaluation with the tax bill, there is an opportunity to show the difference between Democrats and Republicans. And there are other issues, as well, but this is a big one, and does include, again, affecting health care in our country. So that’s a big difference between us, as well.
So differentiate on the issues. Take down— their numbers are so low. What’s it today, 52-35? Is that Quinnipiac?
The first number I gave you was Gallup for the 55-33, in terms of 33 supporting his tax cut, 55 not – tax scam, it is not a cut, except for him and for very wealthy people and the public knows it. 33-55.
So on the policy there is clarity, and we need to continue that because they’ll spend millions of dollars. Their billionaire friends will spend millions of dollars to misrepresent what the tax bill is about. They’ll start saying things like, ‘Oh, they’re giving the money away, you know, in bonuses, right, a thousand dollars, and now I’m getting a billion dollars.’
So the President’s numbers: under 50, oh, my gosh, under 40. History on our side. When President Clinton’s numbers went down, they won. When President Bush’s numbers – we took his numbers down on the Social Security issue, we won. When President Obama’s numbers went down, they won.
Now, it’s not dispositive of the issue. It takes a unified, strategic, focused campaign to make sure that the public is aware of the differentiation in terms of the issues and the opportunity that is there.
This is a year like none other. Last year and this we’ve seen overwhelming enthusiasm. People following the election in 2016 saw the urgency, want to take responsibility, and that gives us opportunity.
And so now you see some retirements, as we saw in ’05 and ’06, because the President’s numbers went down and because their prospects for success were lower and the prospects that even if they won there was really a good chance they’d be serving in the minority.
So, again, the election is not today, but it is 10 months away. I mean, I believe that we’re well over halfway from the last election already. And the caliber of candidates coming forward is just spectacular. We are very proud.
And elections are about two things: who wins, who takes the seat. But it’s also about how candidates of either party, any party, are held accountable to the public on issues of concerns to them.
So we find it a very exciting opportunity. And we’ll put one good day in front of another, one good week in front of another, one good month in front of another, and pretty soon…
Yes, sir? One last from my friend here.
Q: So you were giving an upbeat assessment on these immigration negotiations.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: But it’s not entirely clear to us who’s doing the negotiating. I mean, there’s this group with Kevin McCarthy that Dick Durbin seems to be reluctantly participating in. He has his own group. There’s the big four leaders.
So who is going to cut this deal? And then when will we know that you have one? Because you can’t even agree on who’s talking.
Leader Pelosi. Just stay tuned. Stay tuned.
I would say of that McCarthy, the four – ‘the five white guys,’ I call them, you know. I said, are you going to open a hamburger stand next or what?
That could have been done four months ago. The very idea that this week they are saying, ‘Oh, why don’t we get four white guys and General Kelly to come and do this?’
You have to understand in our Caucus we are blessed with great diversity. The understanding of the issues, the ability to translate policy into the lives of people, the sensitivity even on the wording is really important for people who have been engaged in these issues to be there at the table. And they have been working on it in a bipartisan way for a long time.
To ignore all of that and say, ‘Well, four of us are going to go in a room with General Kelly and we’re going to come up with something.’ Well, they could have done that 4 months ago. Why now, except, perhaps, to delay? I don’t know.
But there is plenty of other bipartisan activity going on that gives me hope that we’re pretty close. But as I said to you, this week went from DACA/border to DACA/immigration policy. And I would have wished that we could have saved some of those conversations for another day because we do have to address comprehensive immigration reform. The DREAM Act is not a substitute for comprehensive immigration reform, it is a first step.
But it allows me to close, as we go into Martin Luther King day, to say that immigration has been the constant reinvigoration of America. It is so exciting to see the optimism, the hope, the courage that newcomers bring to our country. Optimism and hope and courage are traits of America. And so with their determination, they make America more American, and it is pretty exciting.
So we want to make sure that we address the broader issue of comprehensive immigration reform in, again, a bipartisan, transparent way and to get a vote. I mean, the Senate did pass in a bipartisan way a few years ago, but the House wouldn’t give the bill a vote.
But now the President has said we’re going into some immigration – rather than have the fight of – I’ve asked many times, let’s just keep it on the border and DACA, and then the trust and confidence we have in doing this in a bipartisan, open way we can go to the next step of all the other issues that may be of concern to all of us and some specific ones that the President brought up. They didn’t want to do that.
So a little injection of more, shall we say, consensus building and educating. Some Members are very familiar with some aspects of the law and not of others, and some are more – just it’s regional, it’s ethnic, it’s we all learn from each other.
And this weekend we’re going to have a teach-in where we’re going to learn from the American people how this GOP tax scam is viewed by them, and we can participate in the teach-in with what we can do about it.
So, again, although some of us have seen each other since the New Year, I wish all of you a Happy New Year. I’ll probably be wishing you a Happy New Year all year.
Thank you all.