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

Good morning.  Here it is.  The GOP tax scam, briefly.  As you know, today, in the Senate, the Republicans are racing forward with a tax scam with catastrophic consequences for America’s working families.  The GOP tax scam raises taxes on 82 million middle class families – the SALT – eliminates the state and local tax deduction and blows a hole in the state and local budgets across America.

It will unravel the ACA, the sneaky ACA reform repeal – sneaky ACA repeal – 13 million more uninsured Americans – exploding the ranks of the uninsured.  And with all of that, increases the national debt by over $2 trillion, their 1.5 plus interest.

It’s almost criminal.  It’s a lethal attack on the middle class, on Americans’ jobs, good health, and education, on the children and seniors.  Republicans, they will force our children to pay this debt.  They are robbing from the future.

All of this is to hand staggering tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent and corporations shipping jobs overseas.  Sixty-two percent of the tax breaks in the Senate bill go to the top 1 percent.  That’s what they’re up to today.

After an entire year squandered on Republican special interest giveaways, Congress faces an urgent – a huge, urgent list of overdue priorities for the American people.  While the President tweets, ‘I don’t see a deal,’ Democrats are simply asking – it was so sad because all we wanted to do is give him some information so that he would have some judgment about what he was talking about.

Democrats are simply asking for action on a broad set of bipartisan priorities, things that we had already agreed to, but to make him understand how they fit into appropriations bills.

We want to keep government open.  That’s what we are about.  They have the votes, they have the Presidential signature to do whatever they want, but Democrats are committed to keeping government open.

To do so, we need to raise the caps.  We support additional resources for strong national defense.

It is really important to note that we need to increase the domestic budget if we’re going to be strong, because the domestic budget – the non-defense discretionary budget – just for those of you who write about appropriations – I’m an appropriator, so we go to that place – the non-defense discretionary domestic budget, a third of it is national security issues:  veterans, State Department, Homeland Security and the anti-terrorism efforts of the Justice Department.  A third of the budget is about our national security functions.

The rest of the budget is another measure of the strength of America, the health, the education, the well-being of the American people in our system.

So that’s all we wanted to say to him:  here are some of the things that you might have learned.  In those empty chairs, in the difference in the caps that we are discussing now, for those of you who are covering the cap situation, the difference would be money that we could pay to address the opioid epidemic.  We wanted to sit in that chair people affected by the opioid epidemic.

Veterans.  We need increased veterans spending, in addition to what is in the domestic side, increased veteran spending.  Veterans would be sitting in those chairs.

Children, CHIP and the community health centers, the funding that is needed there, all of this agreed to in a bipartisan way and for which we may in some cases have offsets so it’s not just an increase.

Emergency disaster funding for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands and wildfire-impacted communities like my own, those people would be sitting in those chairs.  Their message would come through if we were there.

And saving America’s endangered pensions across the country.  This is a crisis.  We wanted to talk to the President about that.  Again, bipartisan support.

And then, of course, passing the DREAM Act, which has bipartisan support in the Congress.

So we are advocating for priorities that have broad bipartisan support and which would pass on the floor with an up or down vote on any one of them.  We were going to talk to the President respectfully and, in doing so, make the case for why the caps have to have the parity that we have talked about, because our national security and the strength of our country measured in a number of different ways depends on it.

He didn’t want to even hear about it, because sometimes when you have knowledge you have to make a judgment.  How can your judgment be respected if you don’t even know what you’re talking about?

So in any case, we will continue to make our case.  Instead of pushing our nation into a needless crisis, Republicans should join us to meet the needs of the American people and keep government open.

We always want it to be working together, respecting the role the President plays in this, in our system of checks and balances.  Whether we disagree with him on an issue, we recognize we all have a role in the system of checks and balances.

This tax scam will so seriously – and we said to them, ‘Let’s go to the table, and let’s do this in a bipartisan way,’ which then would have sustainability, which would send a message that this is something the country is committed to – instead of this rip-off, this plundering, this pillaging of the middle class that the Republicans are doing.

Their trickle-down economics has always been in their DNA.  It has never created jobs, it has always increased the deficit, and it’s simply not true that it pays for itself.

So with that, I will take any questions you may have.  But this is a fight we will engage in.  They seem to think they have the votes today.  Perhaps they do and that it will go to conference and that’s really the fight in the House and the Senate on the bill.  I repeat, they’re saying this is a middle income tax cut. Eighty-two million middle class families will have an increase in their taxes.  It’s a stunning thing.

Yes, sir?

* * *

Q:  So it seems like with the blowup earlier in the week that the window is closing or is closed to get this big omnibus done by Christmas, but there are some other things you could do. 

First, can you characterize or give a flavor of how things are looking since the blowup in your conversations with Republicans?  Are you optimistic? 

And second, will you vote to keep the government open even if you do not have a DREAMers deal in hand by Christmas? 

Leader Pelosi.  The Republicans have the majority in the House and the Senate and the White House.  The responsibility to keep government open is theirs in the majority, and it’s up to them to keep government open.

I’m not saying what I’m going to vote on any bill until I see it because they keep changing.  I’ll just give you an example, on intelligence, everybody thought we were on a good path in Judiciary and in Intel on [FISA Section] 702, and then they dropped their poison pills in.  So when we see it we will see how we will vote.

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Have there been any conversations with the White House about spending outside of public view, outside of the meeting that took place earlier this week?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, the ongoing conversation on the Appropriations Committee — again, I come back to where I was forged here, on the Appropriations Committee — the Appropriations Committee has been in a bipartisan way moving forward – House, Senate, bicameral, bipartisan.  There was some involvement of the White House as we go down the path.  The question are the caps.  And until you have the caps you can’t really finish the bill.

Q:  But what the White House wants is more defense spending.  Do you see a common ground for the caps that the White House is pushing for?

Leader Pelosi.  No.  What the White House wants to do is to disrupt the parity that is called for in terms of the budget agreement in the past and relate to sequestration.  They think parity is 54-37.  We’re saying that’s not even close.

Between 54 and 37 are opioids, more funding for veterans, issues that relate to pensions.  There are all kinds of things that are bipartisan.  We weren’t going in there with an agenda that we had to talk the President into the value of what it was, we were just saying this is what would be included in all of that.

So that’s really the thing.  We certainly want to have all the defense that we need to protect our country.  And as I say, one-third of our domestic discretionary budget is defense – national security, because it is the State Department, Homeland Security, anti-terrorism efforts of the Justice Department, and Veterans.

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Leader Pelosi, thanks.  A fourth woman has come out accusing Conyers –

Leader Pelosi.  I’ll come back to that, but I just want to stay on what we are fighting right now, because this is very serious, how we get revenue and how we invest it.  And that’s the nature of these questions about the bill, how it takes us deeply into debt, and then how we allocate the resources that remain after this rip-off.  Any other questions on this?

Yes, sir?

Q:  Well, this is national security related.  On FISA Section 702, any discussions with Republicans on this?  And, I mean, that expires at the end of the year. 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, that’s what I referenced just now.  On the 702, which is about the collection, we thought we were in a good place with the Judiciary.  There are two committees of jurisdiction, Judiciary and HPSCI, Intelligence Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  We thought we were in a good place.  The Republican side has put a poison pill.  Is that public domain, what they put in the bill?  Wyndee, is a poison pill in the public domain?

Staff.  The bill is in the public domain.

Leader Pelosi.  Yeah.  So they put in something that is just unacceptable to us and really our Ranking Member [Adam Schiff] had thought we were on a good path until they put something in at the end that related –

Q:  What is it?

Leader Pelosi.  It’s about unmasking.  It’s not anything that we can accept.  But somehow or other the Chairman decided at the end that he was going to put that in too.  I don’t know for what purpose.

Because this is a very big issue and a lot of equities to be weighed and balanced when you’re talking about surveillance.  And we, I think, came to a good place that respected privacy but enabled us to collect what we needed, to collect and then put the poison pill in.  So that’s where it is now.  Thank you for asking about that.

Any other on whatever, and then I’ll come to you.

Q:  Okay. 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am?

Q:  All right.  Thank you.  So a fourth woman has come out accusing Conyers and more in your Caucus are calling on Conyers to resign.  How come you haven’t called on him to resign? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, the allegations against Congressman Conyers, as we have learned more since Sunday, are serious, disappointing, and very credible.  It’s very sad.  The brave women who came forward are owed justice.

I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish them well.  However, Congressman Conyers should resign.

As Dean, Congressman Conyers has served our Congress for more than five decades and shaped some of the most consequential legislation of the last half century.  However, zero tolerance means consequences for everyone.  No matter how great the legacy, it is no license to harass or discriminate.  In fact, it makes it even more disappointing.

Yesterday the House took a first step, mandating sexual harassment and discrimination training.  That resolution on the floor, the next step, and it’s very important for us, Congress, to pass.  That’s a resolution in the House to mandate non-discrimination and non-sexual harassment training for the House.  The Senate had their own resolution, which they passed.

However, the next step is a bill that must pass the House and the Senate, and that’s the Me Too Congress Act to create greater transparency and accountability in the reporting, and settlement system.  That is being discussed now.  Maybe some additions will be made.

Again, we will all work together to lead the fight against sexual harassment and abuse, not only in Congress but in every workplace across the country, everywhere in our country.

As far as Capitol Hill is concerned, I’m going to be sure that everyone who works here who might be a victim of this, whether it’s staff to staff, Member to staff, Member to Member, understands it’s all over, there’s a new day.

And the courage of the women coming forward is something that is making a big difference, but also the attitude in the country, which I think some of it springs from the election of Donald Trump as President.  That’s all I’m going to say.

Q:  Just to clarify, you did just call for Conyers to resign?

Leader Pelosi.  I said he should resign.

Q:  Have you relayed that to him?

Leader Pelosi.  I’m saying it to you right now.

Any other questions?

Q:  To be clear, you mentioned the Me Too legislation that you are advocating for.  Do you support that retroactively, meaning settlements that have already been reached would be publicized?

Leader Pelosi.  What we’re doing now is we have met with the House Administration Committee, some of our Members who are Democrats there, some of the Members who have served on the Ethics Committee – which I have, for 7 years – and some of our Members who have introduced legislation, [Congresswoman] Eleanor Holmes Norton, [Congresswoman] Brenda Lawrence, certainly [Congresswoman] Jackie Speier, our champion on this subject.

Now we’ll now hear from some legal experts on the subject as to what we can do, and then we’ll broaden the universe of input that we have, and then we’ll see what the legislation looks like.  But we’re going to do as much as we possibly can for transparency, to your question, and also for how the victims are compensated?

Q:  Then you do support retroactivity?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we’ll see.  We’ll see what the law will allow.  And it may be that we have to add something to the bill to do that.  And there’s a whole question as to whether we can just say, ‘We free you of your, whatever, obligation that you have.’

As I have said, though, Congress can pass a law to give immunity to people if they feel that they can’t speak.  So, again, we want to un-constrain the victims from coming forth.

Thank you all very much.