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 are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. While it is snowing here, we have great sadness in my state of California, just an unprecedented number of people dead, in the high 50s, and many missing. It is just – we have had these fires again and again, but these seem to be particularly deadly. So our thoughts and prayers and resources need to be with California at this very sad time.
Much discussion about fires and causes and the rest, but right now, our thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered, lost their lives, lost their loved ones, lost their homes, impossible to be made whole. So, again, it is a very sad time for us in that regard.
On the other hand, here we are celebrating a great victory for the Democratic Party, but more importantly for the American people. Every place I go, people say – and not even go, just coming in and every means of communication: ‘Thank you for saving America.’
And I convey that gratitude to my colleagues, to the grassroots people who were so effective in getting out that vote, and particularly to our candidates. They had the courage to run, the stamina to win, and they are here now in what is one of the most transformative new Members – body of Members of Congress in our country’s history, the biggest victory for the Democrats since 1974 when the Watergate babies came in. I don’t know if this Congress will name itself, but we’re almost close to 60 new Democrats – 60 new Democrats – around 40 in the red-to-blue.
We’re just waiting for some final results from California, Georgia, Maine, Texas, those places where we have a – are still a question mark, even New York State. But we will win 40 – we will have won 40 seats. It may be a net of lower because of two seats that we do not win – they were our own seats, but we’ll see what the number is.
But I think I should have said from the start that winning 23 seats in a voter-suppressed, gerrymandered map was a wave, was a wave. I always knew we would win that, but now getting up to 40, that’s really a very big – almost a tsunami. I don’t know. We’ll see.
The thrill of it all is that half the new Members in our Democratic class are women. One on the Republican side. Happy for that one person, but sad to say just one. We are on track to, again – it is transformative. They will decide what their priority is. They have given us one already, and I’ll talk about that in a moment, but they will decide how they want to proceed, what they want to proceed with and the manner in which they do that.
They are entrepreneurial. They are enthusiastic. And they want to make progress for our country. And we want them to do so in the most open Congress.
The American people talked about A Better Deal, and then we talked about a For The People agenda. For The People: we will lower health care costs. We will grow their paychecks. And we will bring integrity to government.
And to that end, this group has decided, 100 candidates wrote and said they wanted H.R. 1 to be our priority and our agenda as we go forward. Fortunately, we are ready, under the leadership of [Congressman] John Sarbanes. He has been working with an array of co-chairs on his task force. We are ready with that legislation. And how lovely it will be so early in this Congress to pass H.R. 1, all that it does, including passing finally the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, largely what has been proposed by Congresswoman Terri Sewell of Alabama.
Again, we are going to be opening this Congress in a very, very open and transparent way to do what we said we were going to do. We are going to defend our protections for people with pre-existing conditions, lower drug costs, protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by taking them off the chopping block. And we will increase workers’ benefits – wages by building the infrastructure of America and all that that implies in the greenest possible way with the most worker training involved in it so that everyone participates in that success for our country.
We’ll clean up corruption, again as H.R. 1 will do, to make Washington work for the people, reduce the role of money in politics, and advance the election by strengthening, again, the Voting Rights Act.
Again, transparency, that openness, so essential to engaging the American people in what is happening here and how it affects them.
One of the reasons we were so successful in this past Congress on health care issues was because of the outside groups. Their mobilization made all the difference. Many of them participated in the campaign around one issue: health care, the Affordable Care Act, issues that relate to Medicare and Medicaid. And that was our successful issue.
But, again, openness, bipartisanship where we can. You have heard me say this over and over. Bipartisanship. We have a common, a responsibility to find our common ground where we can. Where we cannot, we must stand our ground, as Thomas Jefferson said, like a rock. But we must try. And I have urged the freshmen to reach across the aisle. We respect every Member here, and we respect the people who sent them here.
Then, again, all of us are committed to a better future for America’s working families. That is our common denominator in the Democratic Party. That’s what unifies us, and that’s what connects us to the aspirations of the American people.
While that’s happening, on the other side of Pennsylvania, the President continues to wage an all-out campaign to obstruct the Mueller investigation. Just this morning, the President once again took to Twitter to try to discredit the investigation, tweeting: ‘A total witch hunt like no other in American history.’
This is the President of the United States. President Trump installed Matthew Whitaker as Acting AG for one purpose: to end the investigation. There’s bipartisan consensus that this appointment violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, which trumps any statute that the Administration’s lawyers have cited.
As George Conway and former Solicitor General Neal Katyal wrote in The New York Times, ‘Mr. Whitaker’s installation makes a mockery of our Constitution and of our Founders’ vision.’ Bipartisan.
House Democrats demand, once again, that in our negotiations on the omnibus bill, that the GOP leadership include – join us in including the language that would say the special counsel – to protect any Special Counsel. The Special Counsel cannot be fired without cause. He or she would be granted a three-judge appeal panel if fired; could only be removed by a Senate-confirmed AG – replaced by a Senate-confirmed Attorney General or top Senate confirmed Justice Department official.
This is very important. Whitaker would not qualify because that such an appointment must be made by someone confirmed by the Congress, by the Senate. That’s a fact. But now it has to be reemphasized. And then, very importantly, the preservation of all the documentation so that the people can know the truth.
I don’t know if you saw an op-ed the other day by Senator –, former Leader Daschle and former Leader Frist, jointly, Democrat and Republican, saying that the Starr documents were released, the Starr report was released, big vote in the Congress to do so; so too should the Mueller documents be released.
Q: Madam Leader Pelosi?
Leader Pelosi. Yes?
Q: I wanted to ask you: You have plans to start a climate panel in the next Congress. There’s been some pushback from the chairman of the – where he is on that idea. Are you still going to go forward with that idea, and what do you think of their criticism that they should be left to do any climate legislation?
Leader Pelosi. As you may not recall, but I will remind, when I was Speaker of the House, the climate issue was my flagship issue with President Bush in the White House. By the time President Obama came, we all moved to health care, of course, but it was my flagship issue.
We established a special select committee, that you reference for now, headed by [Senator] Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who did a spectacular job of shining the spotlight on the crisis that our planet is facing and to do so in a way that had full documentation from the generals that this was a national security issue; from the health care providers that this was a public health issue, clean air, clean water; on our economy, that we must remain preeminent as number one in the world on green technologies; and, fourth, that it is a moral issue if you believe as to why this is God’s creation, and evangelicals certainly do, and that we must be good stewards, then we must act upon it. Even if you don’t share that religious belief, if you understand that we have a moral responsibility to the next generation to pass the planet on in a responsible way. But it is urgent. It was urgent when we established it in 2007. Even more urgent now.
It has always been a challenge with the standing committees, and we will have conversations about some of the objections they may have, but there’s tremendous interest on the outside for us to return to that place where the climate issue is preeminent. It would not – what we did then was, under President Bush, we passed the greatest – the biggest energy bill in the history of our country. The biggest energy bill in the history, the biggest energy bill in the history of our country like taking tens of millions of cars off the road. Much of the authority used by President Obama in this regard stemmed from that legislation. So it was very important. It was bipartisan. He wanted nuclear; I wanted renewables. We came to agreement.
Again, we have to sit down with our Ranking Members, but I do believe the array of ranking members has broadened since then because not only is it Energy and Commerce, for example, one particular that you probably referenced, but also Homeland Security because this has become such an issue hitting home by way of hurricanes, forest fires, so many different ways, so natural disasters affecting people so very directly in their lives. So, we do believe that it is about stewardship of our planet, and we have to find the best way to engage the public, to make the change that is necessary to put us on a different course of action and to live with the deniers in that regard.
Q: Madam Pelosi?
Leader Pelosi. No, I was pointing to this gentleman.
Q: Okay. Thank you. What are you telling freshmen Members from tough districts who said they wanted leadership change? What can you offer them to try and convince them to back you on the floor? And might you back primary challengers from safe districts that vote against you?
Leader Pelosi. I always have [supported incumbents]. I always have. I was largely responsible for most of the resources that went into those campaigns. That didn’t matter to me. I just said: Just win, baby.
Does anybody else have a question in this regard? Because I’m only going to answer it once. Just pop them out.
Q: So there are at least 17 Members who have signed a letter saying they will not support you on the Floor.
Leader Pelosi. Have you seen the letter?
Q: I have not seen the letter.
Leader Pelosi. You haven’t seen it. Okay. You haven’t seen it. Okay.
Q: There are more apparently who are willing to vote no. You have expressed total confidence in the votes –
Leader Pelosi. I have, and I do.
Q: How can you be so confident?
Leader Pelosi. Okay. Next question.
Q: Madam Leader, is there anyone else in your conference or in your Caucus capable of taking on the role of House Speaker?
Leader Pelosi. Certainly. This will be the last. One more.
Q: Would you accept Republican help to win the gavel, or will you –
Leader Pelosi. Oh, please, no, never, never, never.
Q: Will you commit to being Speaker through 2020?
Leader Pelosi. Go ahead.
Q: Bottom line, Madam Leader, if the election were held today on the House floor, do you have the votes to be elected Speaker?
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Now let me just get back to your question. Now that’s the array. You know, listen to what we have. We have a Farm Bill that we have to deal with. We have #MeToo legislation we would like to get passed here. We’re trying to pass an omnibus bill so that we don’t have any question about shutting down government. There are issues that relate to Veterans Affairs and lawsuits that are happening there. We have the Mueller language that we want. We are still ‑‑ I have a day job here that is different from just what’s happening on the political side. We’re just very excited about the size of our victory.
I would say to you I have always supported – it doesn’t matter to me whether they support me. What matters is that they support the Democratic agenda to make progress for America’s working families, and they all spoke out beautifully for the people, health care, health care, health care, like a jackhammer. That’s what’s important.
And then what was yours?
Q: I asked about the omnibus.
Leader Pelosi. We’ll come back to the Omnibus.
No, I intend to win the speakership with Democratic votes, if that was your question. That was your question. I have overwhelming support in my caucus to be Speaker of the House, and certainly we have many, many people in our caucus who could serve in this capacity. I happen to think that, at this point, I’m the best person for that. I have answered one, two, three, four, five, six questions.
Now you want to ask about the omnibus?
Q: Yes, please, thank you.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you.
Q: You mentioned language about Robert Mueller in the omnibus. You mentioned the California wildfires earlier. What are the other policy asks and redlines for you to go into this negotiation, particularly as it pertains to the border wall?
Leader Pelosi. You know, I’m an Appropriator. That’s one of the places I was forged – there and the Intelligence Committee. And left to their own devices – I have said this to you before – Democrats and Republicans can come to their own conclusion – to their agreements because they know what they’re doing. They understand the issues. It is just when some of these poison pills come from on high that the problem is created.
So, you’ve named two that we would like to see. We’re making good progress on the bills, on the individual bills. We would not like to see a continuing resolution. We would like to see the bills passed, have it done, move on to what’s new in the new Congress. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, our ranking member, soon to be the chair of the Appropriations Committee – Chairwoman Lowey is music to my ears – she and the Ranking Members and soon to be Chairs of the subcommittees on Appropriations have done remarkable jobs. They have beaten back over 150 poison pills this year alone and probably more to come that they have to – hopefully not, but we have to be prepared for that, so we don’t know what they will come up with, but so far, we’re on a good track.
Q: Is your ask that it fund the bills through the rest of the fiscal year until next September and not give you something in February?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, yes. No, no, we don’t want to do that. We want to just get it done. We can do it. It is possible to do it now. How the President weighs in and the rest we’ll see.
Q: What do you make of Marcia Fudge considering challenging you?
Leader Pelosi. I say it to everybody: Come on in; the water is warm.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the role of gender in the speakership race. Representative Ryan said yesterday that there are plenty of women who can replace you, and he named, among others, Marcia Fudge. Is he playing the gender card there?
Leader Pelosi. I haven’t engaged in that because I had 137,000 ads against me in the campaign. That puts some, shall we say, pressure on our candidates because I have never run for national office, so most people don’t even know who I am, an Italian American grandmother with lots of energy and a mother of five, grandmother of nine who is here to do what’s right for the future, not for my family; they’re fine. But I don’t want them living in a society where one in five children in America lives in poverty and goes to sleep hungry at night. That’s my why. That’s why I’m here.
So, to see the mischaracterizations or the characterization of San Francisco, San Francisco liberal, yes, proudly so. So, it makes it hard on the candidates, and here they are running for the first time, many of them, and they really need to focus on their why. And it is not about me. It is about them and their opponent, and obviously, those ads didn’t work.
We had the biggest victory since 1974. You have to ask those people what their motivation is. I think, of the 17, it is mostly like 14 men who are on that letter.
Q: Is that sexism at work?
Leader Pelosi. You know, I have never gone to that place. I enjoy a tremendous amount of support from the women in our caucus, from the new Members who are women in our caucus, and so I get the upside I think of being a woman. You would have to ask them. If, in fact, there is any misogyny involved in it, it is their problem, not mine. Thank you all. Thank you.