Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, joined by Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Richard Neal, held her weekly press conference today. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks
Leader Pelosi. Good afternoon, everyone.
We’re all awaiting the next version of how the Republicans in the House of Representatives will rip off the middle class in our country. In the meantime, it was curious to see President Trump in China.
Candidate Trump said that what’s happening in China trade was ‘the greatest theft in the history of the world.’ And yesterday, he said our trade deficit with China, which is huge, is not China’s fault. You can almost hear the leadership of the Chinese Government laughing from China to America. Maybe you can feel it coming through the ground, because if you dig a hole here you will reach China. But the reverberation is so appalling.
And as I said yesterday, was that yesterday? While the President is there with his entourage of CEOs cutting deals, the Republicans in Congress are here giving those same corporations, those same CEOs, CEO‑led companies a tax break to ship jobs overseas.
And that’s why it’s no wonder that Gary Cohn ‑‑ and I’ll read it ‑‑ Gary Cohn today, said, ‘the most excited group out there being big CEOs, about our tax plan.’ Gary Cohn: ‘The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.’
Representative Chris Collins this week said, ‘my donors are basically saying, get it done or don’t ever call me again.’ Senator Lindsey Graham said ‑‑ this is really – ‘the financial contributions will stop’ if the tax scam fails. He said the tax scam fails. The GOP tax scam isn’t written for the middle class; it’s written for the wealthy donors and corporations shipping jobs overseas.
And these three, one adviser to the President, one House Member, one Senate Member, spoke truth. The people happiest about this are the CEOs. But the other truth is 38 million households, middle class households are facing a Republican tax hike. Thirty‑eight million households. So while they say this is for the middle class, it is not.
And now we understand that the Senate version of the tax plan is reported to have eliminated ‑‑ in other words, they are keeping the full SALT [state and local tax] deduction elimination in the plan. So whatever the Republicans in the House thought they were throwing a few crumbs to some of their Members to get them to walk the plank, that is not what is in the Senate bill.
So it’s really a stunning thing. If they think that this is the bill that they must pass in order to stay in power, they have it all wrong. The public is hearing the truth. The public is paying attention. You saw what happened in Virginia. They should be worried, very, very worried. And now we’re very worried about what they might have in their alternative. We’re very proud of the leadership of our Ways and Means Dems, led by [Congressman] Richie Neal of Massachusetts. I’m pleased to yield to him.
Congressman Richard Neal. Thanks.
We’re going to be asked in that room in the next two hours to vote on a piece of legislation that we’ve never seen, and it’s called the manager’s amendment. What’s significant about that is that we were presented tentatively with a proposal last Thursday, or a summary. And then just as we left on Friday, we were presented what, at the time, was alleged to be the chairman’s mark. We came in on Monday night and began the walk‑through, and we were presented with a 35‑page amendment that changed the chairman’s mark.
Today, we’re being asked to vote on a manager’s amendment which will fundamentally alter many of the precepts and the arguments we’ve had during the last three days as they attempt to change it, and I’m guessing to make for greater harmonization with the Senate. Now, at the same time, nobody knows what’s in the bill. We certainly haven’t seen it; and the Members of the Republican side, they haven’t seen it. But we’re going to that legislation, where there will be a limited opportunity for us to even ask questions.
What you want to think of, I think, as you look at the proposal that they have; we’re being asked to repeal the estate tax so that we can pay for getting rid of the tax that the sickest in America, the deduction that the sickest people in America take advantage of to pay their healthcare bills.
Yesterday, one of them said, oh, so students can have $200 worth of interest deductions a year. There’s $1 trillion worth of student debt in America, $1 trillion worth of student debt. Today, this morning, hundreds of thousands of people have benefited for the historic tax credit, gone. We’re looking at new markets tax credits, gone. Shaving back municipal tax exemption, gone. And they’re arguing that this spurs economic development.
So as you have a chance to put the magnifying glass on what they’re about to do, which we’re all anxious to see, you can see how this was bad on policy and it was bad on process. And I think that the Members in there that are about to cast their vote on this, they have no idea what is in this legislation. And they have been reacting to press accounts, I think it’s a fair statement, every day. As the press has reported what I think is the liberties that they’ve taken with accuracy, they come back and they revise it.
And last night, we were told we were going to work until midnight. We left at 7 o’clock last night, so this piece of legislation could be redrafted and presented today. We have not even seen it yet. It’s not done.
Leader Pelosi. This new draft, whenever it comes, appears to be an act of desperation by them. They clearly didn’t have the votes for what they were proposing already. An act of desperation. But it’s also an act of misrepresentation to the American people. It’s a Friday afternoon special. Why don’t we do it where there’s the least opportunity for people to review it. Let’s do it very fast, very fast, speed of light in the dark of night and back rooms, without even their own Members. And what an insult to the intelligence of their own Members, what an insult to the intelligence of the American people, as they make an assault on the middle class.
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Q: Leader Pelosi, at the press conference Speaker Ryan said that he would not support including a DACA fix in the spending bill, and that you guys have until March to deal with it. So, knowing his view on that, would you support a spending bill in December that doesn’t include a DACA fix?
Leader Pelosi. I have to see what the spending bill is. But I fully intend that we will not leave here without the Dream Act passing, with a DACA fix, and I’ve made that very clear. I don’t even want to go into the mistake that the President made. What a disservice, a slap in the face to the DREAMers that the President gave.
But I think the President does respect ‑‑ I think President Trump does respect the fact that the DREAMers have the support of over 80 percent of the American people, and that’s why he would be interested in getting something done. We’re not kicking the can down to March.
Q: A number of your colleagues in the House and Senate are proposing bills relating to sexual harassment [inaudible]. Does that change mean that there’s perhaps a large number of women coming to Capitol Hill in the way that we’ve seen in Hollywood. And how prevalent do you think sexual harassment [inaudible] –
Leader Pelosi. Well, you guys have many questions. Let me just answer one, because I want to get back to the subject at hand. The sexual harassment issue is zero tolerance for sexual harassment here.
We can, in each of our Houses, pass legislation to call for training, sexual harassment training, and we intend to do that. In order to change the rules of the Congress, it requires a rule. We have to pass the House and Senate with the same bill. We intend to do that. Our Members are working very hard in that regard, and I believe that that will happen very soon. This is a tipping point for our society, and including in the Congress of the United States.
Q: Madam Leader and Mr. Neal, you are very concerned, obviously, as to what’s going to happen in the next couple of hours. You haven’t seen the tax bill, you say. But does this surprise you?
I mean, this seems to be ‑‑ you saw what happened in the health care, where they rewrapped that piece of legislation multiple times, you know, on a dime, and then it took a couple of months until they hauled it back.
Congressman Richard Neal. There’s a huge difference. Hearings, amendments, opportunities for the minority party to participate as they did across Congress. This is being done. The major argument here is you are taking the financial architecture of the country, and you’re altering it without one single hearing. There’s been no examination of anything here. These are complicated issues that some members spend a career just trying to master one part of the discipline. And all of a sudden, this vast bill is put before us without an opportunity to even talk about it.
You could take a look, for example, at the estate tax. You could do two weeks of hearings in here on that and hear from everybody. Not a chance. We’re just going to do it. You could talk about alternative minimum tax. You could spend two weeks talking about how we got there, how we would fix it. That’s not what’s happening. This is simply an opportunity here for one side, without one hearing, without one witness, and now without even their own side getting a chance to see the final proposal, and we’re going to act on it?
Leader Pelosi. And on top of it all, they say, ‘Oh, this is just like we did in 1986.’ No, it isn’t at all. So don’t, as they say, take the American people for fools. This isn’t what happened. There are 400 witnesses who testified at 30 hearings, months of deliberation on the legislation in a bipartisan way.
So I said to Senator [Bill] Bradley and to Leader [Dick] Gephardt, they’ve taken your names in vain, but we won’t let that stand.
Let me just say this as we go into Veterans Day weekend. What’s really appalling about their budget, which has set the stage for this atrocity of a tax bill to emerge is that in their budget, they call for cutting $1.5 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid. Do they not know, or do they not care that over 1 million veterans are on Medicaid? Do they not know that this has a direct impact on the lives of America’s veterans? Do they not know? Have a hearing, find out. But the veterans have come forward and they’re telling their story about how this budget that predicates this tax bill and will necessitate those cuts is unfair.
But what’s interesting about it is $1.5 trillion in tax breaks, a rate of $1.5 trillion in tax breaks for corporate America; $1.5 trillion for Medicare and Medicaid. What a terrible statement, and what a lack of values for the American people and for our veterans.
Congressman Richard Neal. One other question, and I think it’s entirely reasonable, that we’ve never had a chance to talk about. You need money to do tax reform, and now there’s a chance to find out where it’s going to come from.
Leader Pelosi. So I thank once again our distinguished ranking member on the Ways and Means Committee. We look forward to his take on what they put forward, but, again, an act of desperation. And who knows if this is the last one. What a shame that they’re putting their Members to this, more of a shame that they’re putting the middle class to this, while at the same time, misrepresenting that they’re giving them something when they’re taking ‑‑ I was thinking. I have grandchildren, and I thought, gee, I said to my grandchild, ‘I’m going to give you an allowance. Oh, that’s great. But you’re going to have to help pay for the mortgage on the house, plus interest. It’s like, what?’
So, really, we want the American people to know. Clearly, they do not want the American people to know. That’s why so much secrecy, such a short fuse, because time is their enemy.
Thank you all very much.