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 Opening Remarks

Leader Pelosi.  Good afternoon, everyone.

The House is going to be going to session in the next few minutes, and so I’m going to have to head over to close on this monstrosity of a tax bill that gives 50 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent and 80 percent of the benefits to the top 2 percent at the expense of the middle class.

Last night, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously rejected the House Republican tax scam 26 to 0.

In a few minutes, House Republicans will have to decide whether they will chain themselves to this poisonous middle class tax hike that is dead on arrival in the Senate.

The American people are watching, and the American people will hold the Republicans accountable for their decisions, for this tax scam.

For days, Speaker [Paul] Ryan and Senator [Mitch] McConnell have told the American people that the Republicans were going to tax cut for everyone.

Oh, really?  Oh, really?  Tell that to the families with a family member with Alzheimer’s, or a family with a child with disabilities, or with expensive fertility treatments.  The list goes on and on.  Tell that to a family that is going to lose their medical deduction on their taxes.

We had a press conference in San Francisco last Friday in a firehouse talking about state and local taxes.  But one of our friends who was there spoke about the medical expense tax deduction that would be lost.  She’s in her eighties, her husband late eighties.  He has Alzheimer’s.  Their costs are enormous in terms of addressing her husband’s Alzheimer’s.  They only make ends meet because of this tax deduction.  And she said, ‘I can’t understand the cruelty behind this action.’  Cruel, it is.

So, again, tell that to students and graduates who can’t deduct student loans.  Interest on student loans, $2500.  Student loan deduction they are eliminating.  Why?  To give tax breaks to their rich friends.

Tell that to a teacher who buys supplies for a school and can’t deduct that.  Why?  It’s always about why.  So they can give tax breaks to their rich friends.

And tell that to the hard-working Americans being double taxed after the state and local tax deduction is dismantled.

The GOP tax scam is a perfect reflection of the priorities of the Republican Congress, racing to raise taxes on 36 million middle class families.  That is according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center.

And the bill is only growing more monstrous in the Senate.  The Republicans in the House are saying, ‘Well, I’m just voting for it.  I know it doesn’t have all good things, but it is just to move the process along, this will be corrected in the Senate.’

Oh, really?  Today now the Joint Committee on Taxation put forth this, just within the past 2 hours:  Senate tax bill cuts taxes of the wealthy and hikes taxes on families earning under $75,000.

The Senate is going to make this better?

With Republicans adding the destruction of the Affordable Care Act to their bill in the Senate, the fight to defeat the GOP tax scam is now a life or death struggle for millions of American families.  Republicans will raise taxes on tens of millions of middle class families, as I mentioned, explode the ranks of the uninsured by 13 million and spike premiums for Americans with preexisting conditions.

Thank you, Republicans in the Senate and now the House.

Republicans want you to believe that their trickle-down tax breaks for the rich will pay for themselves.  Never have.  They say they’re going to create jobs and pay for themselves.  Neither is true.  They never have.

As Bruce Bartlett, architect of Jack Kemp’s supply side economics, said:  In terms of tax breaks paying for themselves, ‘it’s not true, it’s nonsense, it’s BS.’  That’s what he said, and he said the whole word.

The people deserve better, a real bipartisan, permanent tax reform.  This isn’t tax reform.  It’s not even a tax cut.  It’s a tax scam.

Why don’t we go to the table, it has been done in the past, in a bipartisan way, sit down, listen to testimony as to what works and what doesn’t work and what really creates good paying jobs, by creating growth, and doing so reducing the deficit as we prepare our families for the 21st century jobs.

Democrats believe that the American people deserve better than the Republican tax scam; A Better Deal:  Better Jobs, Better Pay, A Better Future.  We are investing in creating good paying jobs and raising workers’ wages, lowering the cost of living for families, and giving Americans the tools to succeed for the 21st century.

Today, we revealed A Better Deal on pensions, bet some of you were there, protecting the promise of retirement security for workers who did everything right.  They worked their lifetime, they’ve paid into the pension, and now there’s a threat that those promises would be broken as to their receiving their pension.

As we head into Thanksgiving, as families come together in gratitude and prayerfulness, the Congress of the United States should not be pillaging the future for big corporations and the rich.

What’s interesting to me is that [National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said that those who are the most excited about the Republican tax bill are big corporate CEOs.  Lindsey Graham said financial contributions will end if they don’t pass this bill.  Chris Collins said donors say to him, ‘If you don’t pass this bill, don’t call us.’

What is this?  This is about their donors?  It’s not about the American people?  It’s not about our future?

It’s a terrible bill, and I’ll have more to say about it on the floor of the House, but I just wanted to share some thoughts with you on it.

Any questions?

Yes, sir.

* * *

Q:  On DACA, we have seen comments both from President Trump and Speaker Ryan that they don’t want to do it as part of a year-end spending bill, suggesting that they’d like to push it into next year.  You have said that that is kind of a nonstarter with the Democrats. 

How do you see this playing out?  What are there, 13 legislative days left?  You don’t really have time for a standalone bill.  So how does this work? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, that’s it.  We’re saying, ‘Show us the bill.’

We have been waiting.  We visited in October, early in October, with the Speaker about how we could work together on this.  And they were going to be coming back with what they wanted in terms of border security.  We’re still waiting for that.

But let me just say this.  One of the rumors – it’s not true, but it’s true that it’s a rumor that’s floating around here, that the President isn’t going to sign the bill.  That is just not true.  The President has never said that.  In fact, he said the contrary.  He said he would sign the bill.

So one of the things that the DREAMers and I have been meeting with them regularly, and two groups yesterday one of the things they’re saying to me is, when they’re talking to Republicans, they’re more courteous now.  Their staff is seeing them.  Sometimes they see a Member.  But they’re saying, ‘Well, this is a hard vote, and if the President vetoes the bill, then why should I go down that path?’

So that rumor is that the President is not going to sign.  I don’t believe that.  I think we get the votes – we have the votes.  We want a vote.  We want the Speaker to give us a vote on the floor so that the bill can proceed.

And I’m confident that there are many Republicans who would be supportive of the legislation on the floor, and we need to do that, and not spread rumors that it’s going to be vetoed so it’s no use your voting for it.

Yes, sir?

Q:  Leader, thank you.  The question, assuming this bill ends up passing today, what do Democrats plan on doing in the next week?  You guys are obviously out on recess next week.  What do you guys plan on doing to oppose, you know, as the Senate moves forward with its tax plan?  You know, are you talking, you know, rallies in cities, protests, that type of thing? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I’m very proud of what has happened leading up until now.  We had action weekend last week where scores of Members and candidates pointed out the bad vote that the Republicans would be making on this.  That was across the country.  They’ll see more of that.

But I have to say that whatever the enthusiasm was then, and it was great, on many of the subjects that are talked about here, the fact that the Senate is now putting in essentially a repeal of a large part of the Affordable Care Act has so energized the outside.  And, as you know, their mobilization was essential to our defeating their attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

So you will see, in fact well, I won’t go into our plans but you will see a great deal of activity springing from this vote.  Whether it goes up or down, it’s not the end of the day.  The Republicans are saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to be better in the Senate.’  Oh, really?

So the Senate has really electrified, energized the base even further than it was before when we were very proud of what happened last week and last weekend.  So there will be outside mobilization.

And any inside maneuvering that we do to keep our Caucus unified with the rest and make our statements here is very important.  But without outside mobilization President Lincoln:  Public sentiment is everything.

Q:  Do you have a timeline for bringing your pension plan to the floor?  And how are you going to get Republicans to support that bill? 

Leader Pelosi.  I think the Republicans, they have a tin ear in many respects, but I don’t think they would have a tin ear on this issue because so many people in their own districts will be suffering greatly.  And it’s not subjective.  It’s not a matter of opinion.  It’s an absolute fact, undeniable, and they’ll be hearing from their constituents on this.  Again, public sentiment.  But very direct and personal in those terms.

So I think that the votes would be there for the legislation.  We will have to find the legislative path.

Q:  I know one of the themes today at your unveiling was no cuts.

Leader Pelosi.  No cuts.

Q:  But would you be willing to agree to some sort of haircut to the pension funds in exchange for some Republican support? 

Leader Pelosi.  I’m not going to be negotiating that right here.  My direction, suggestion, to our Ranking Members was no cuts.

Q:  Leader Pelosi, following up on Mike’s question earlier, Speaker Ryan has said he doesn’t want to couple DACA with the year-end spending bill.  You have said Democrats are not going to leave here without a DACA deal in December.  Who do you think will win and how does this end up playing out?  Who has the leverage here? 

Leader Pelosi.  Again, it’s not a negotiation right here in this room.  But we have made our statements on the subject.  Kicking the can to next year is just to say, ‘We’re not doing this.’  That’s how we see that.  And we believe I completely believe that we have the votes within our Caucus for sure.

It would be an big vote for the DREAMers if he would only give us a vote.  So if he wants to take it up as a freestanding, or whatever vehicle is leaving the station, we’ll make some judgments as we go along.

Okay.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Can you give us an update on efforts to reach a new fiscal 2018 spending level?  I’ve heard from some Republican appropriators that there will not be dollar for dollar parity between increases in defense and nondefense discretionary spending.  Is that what’s going on in negotiations? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we have said we want parity.  And conversations have been proceeding.  We thought we were going to have a meeting today of the principals, but I don’t think the Republicans are ready for that meeting, so it was cancelled.

But the staff has been working very hard to make sure everybody understands everybody and the subject.  We want parity.  We’re not talking about a particular number.  But whatever it is, it will be parity.  That’s where we are.

Yes, sir?

Q:  Madam Leader, a number of Democrats presented the articles for impeachment yesterday.  Can you comment on that? 

Leader Pelosi.  On their presenting the articles of impeachment?  Yeah.

Well, I’m not one to curb anybody’s enthusiasm for what they believe in, but right now our focus is in defeating this tax bill which is a disaster for the country, and if we don’t defeat it, that the Republicans know it’s a lose-lose situation for them.  They’ll be selling the middle class down the river, plundering their savings, looting their financial stability.  And that’s where our fight is.

If people want to go do some other things, that’s up to them, but that’s not what our focus is.  Our focus is on that.

The public has questions about the fitness of this President to be President, and that’s a legitimate discussion.  But our focus, our energy, our purpose is to get A Better Deal for America’s working families.

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  One more question on the tax bill.  If the Senate ends up removing the state and local tax deduction completely, what will that mean in terms of the bill’s success in the House? 

Leader Pelosi.  You mean if they restore it to the full

Q:  Yes.  Yes.  Thank you. 

Leader Pelosi.  The original?  It would be deadly.  It would be deadly.  Because what the House did as a compromise has little impact in California, New York, New Jersey.  And that’s why you see some New York and New Jersey Republican Members speaking out against the bill.

I don’t know what it takes to penetrate the brain of the California Republicans that they don’t understand that tens, if not a couple hundred thousand of their –  over 100,000 of their constituents will be directly impacted with their taxes raised, in some cases over $10,000.  We’ll be sure that their constituents know that between now and when the Senate does what it does.

But the Senate bill is deadly.  As I say, it gives a tax hike to the middle class under $75,000 and a tax break to the wealthy while it guts the Affordable Care Act.  Thirteen million people then would lose their coverage, would lose their coverage.

And, again, if they return to the state and local [tax deductions], I think that a bill that would have that returning to the House would not succeed, because right now the Republicans are hiding behind the little modification that was made and that it was all going to get better in the Senate.

So this is a defining moment for our country.  Who are we here to represent?  How do we see our country going into the future?  This is about America’s working families, which are the backbone of our democracy.  The middle class is the backbone of our democracy.

So we feel very responsible to make this fight.  And, again, I’ll have more to say about it on the floor of the House.  What I think I’m going to say, I’ll just tell you this, because I think have they called us back in on it?

Staff.  Not yet.

Leader Pelosi.  Not yet.  They were supposed to call us in at 12:10, and then I would speak around now.  But since I have a few minutes, I’ll tell you this.

It always fascinated me.  I did a lot of reading of Pope Benedict.  He was a wonderful writer, an intellectual.  And in his first encyclical, ‘God is Love,’ he quotes Saint Augustine, who 17 centuries ago said, ‘Any government that does not exist to promote justice is just a bunch of thieves.’

He went on to say he, Benedict, that sometimes it’s hard to define justice.  As you make those decisions, he cautioned against the dazzling blindness of money and power.

And so when I hear [National Economic Council Advisor] Gary [Cohn] saying, Who cares about this?’  or, ‘The big CEOs, they’re really excited,’ or, ‘Don’t call me if you don’t pass this bill, say our donors,’ or, ‘The financial contributions will dry up if we don’t pass this bill,’ sounds very much like what was being cautioned against in that encyclical.  It’s a stunning thing.

And we don’t want to be fear mongers.  And that’s part of our problem.  People say, ‘You haven’t delivered it strong enough.’  We don’t want to be fear mongers.  We just want to be problem solvers and get the job done for the American people.

But it’s really important for our Republican colleagues to know that the voters understand what the decision is, and that what they are doing is adding trillions to the deficit, hemorrhaging debt in the second 10 years, hemorrhaging debt, adding trillions to the deficit, giving big tax breaks to corporate America equivalent to the tax cuts they’re demanding on Medicare and Medicaid, about a $1.5 trillion tax rate advantage to corporations, $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, half a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare.

So it’s equivalent, giving a tax break there.  At the same time, in addition, giving tax breaks to corporations to send jobs overseas.  At the same time, saying to individuals, ‘Well, you can’t have your State and local tax deduction.  Corporations can.’

So they’re saying to an individual, ‘If you change jobs, your moving expenses are not deductible.  But corporations who might change a location, theirs are.’

So it’s a stunning manifesto for the wealthiest people in our country and corporate America.

Should we sit down and talk about what is the appropriate tax rate that works for our economy and, in fact, might be an incentive for some corporations to pay their fair share?  That still remains to be seen.  But it is what we should be doing in a bipartisan way, so whatever the solution is, that it is sustainable into the future.

Any time we’ve had these discussions on budget, when I send people into the room, I say, ‘Be agnostic, be humble, listen to every suggestion.’  If something is on the table that creates growth, that generates good paying jobs, that reduces the debt, that’s something we have to consider, wherever the idea comes from.

So I have to go to the floor now.  But thank you all for being here.

Q:  Quick question.  The Chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Representative [Joe] Crowley, said Republicans in the House Ways and Means rejected Democrat amendments during the markup for the tax bill.  Do you know what these changes were? 

Leader Pelosi.  Oh, you’re talking about Crowley?

Q:  Yes.

Leader Pelosi.  That they – I’m sorry – that they rejected?

Q:  Republicans in the House Ways and Means Committee rejected Democratic amendments during the tax bill markup.  Do you know what changes were suggested?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I saw – yeah, I know what some of them were, that they related to some of what I talked about here.

But one that had a long debate was the tax cut for wind and solar, you know, for renewable energy tax credits.  And a lot of the Republicans said, ‘I’m all for that, I’m all for that, but not right here.’  You know, but not right here.  Issues that relate to teachers and their deductions?

But it’s a matter of public record.  It was a long trip across the country to watch that.  And it would take me 5 hours to tell you all the things that they rejected.  But it is a matter of public record.  And it was a public debate that I saw on TV.

But it was any good idea that was there for America’s working families, any good idea that would reduce the impact on our deficit, on job creation, and the consideration of A Better Deal.

Thank you all very much.