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. For the past almost 2.5 hours, I’ve been up at the Rules Committee pleading with them to give us a vote on the DREAM Act on the CR that will come up today. It’s a matter of public record. I don’t know that we had too much success in that regard and, of course, we’ll be opposing the rule.
But it’s an interesting week as we prepare, hopefully, to go home soon, and I don’t know when that is. Just in terms of yesterday, Republicans took a victory lap because they successfully sold America’s children’s future by handing tax breaks to corporate America and the wealthiest.
It’s an amazing thing because they have been talking about it being a bill that is a tax cut for middle class families, when 83 percent of the benefits, 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent. That is an immorality.
86 million middle class families face a tax hike. Health care premiums spike. Thirteen million more Americans possibly uninsured, leading to a smaller pool, higher premiums.
They are saying that they have closed loopholes. These are some of their selling points, you probably know them now, that they close loopholes. This bill is a Loophole Lollapalooza.
First of all, they never closed what the President said they would, the carried interest loophole. And now they are introducing another bill to have some more, you know, thoroughbred horses, whatever loopholes they have. But this, they didn’t even carry it.
I don’t know, how could it be that the President was on the campaign trail saying he was going to close the carried interest loophole and the Congress said, ‘Not so fast, Mr. President.’ It’s there, as are a continuation of many other loopholes. So that’s a false argument.
They said that this is going to be simplicity. They were going to have, instead of seven brackets, they go down to four. Well, they’re at seven. So the simplicity isn’t there.
They said you could send it in on a postcard. Well, it would have to be a very large postcard because that, I don’t know why they think that’s a selling point, but it isn’t a fact.
And then they said it’s going to create jobs. Goldman Sachs and others, their friends at Goldman Sachs and others have said, we’ll have minimal growth.
The President said he was going to level the playing field with overseas nations, overseas companies. Well, actually, he ships jobs overseas by giving a break to corporations to ship jobs overseas. You know the particulars of the bill, that takes us deeply into debt, it does not produce growth, it is a not a simplification, it is not for the middle class.
So this is a welcome debate that we have. They said this is going to be a big campaign issue for them, we welcome that. We welcome that.
They are going to provoke teach-ins around the country of people saying, ‘This is about our future. This isn’t about Democrats, this isn’t about Republicans, it’s about America, it’s about our future.’
This is a moment where people have the resolve to say, ‘Don’t throw me a crumb and tell me that I’m benefiting when you’re robbing the future by increasing the debt, rewarding the rich as you ransack the middle class.’ So there we have that.
But in any event, this is an interesting year. It is only part of an interesting year. They are taking great credit for this accomplishment. Well, I call it a Pyrrhic victory because it’s a Frankenstein. Anybody who’s familiar with Frankenstein knows that it was a creation, a monster that was created. Do you know the ending of Mary Shelley’s story? The monster comes back to destroy. Okay. So how about this year?
The President promised he would fight for forgotten Americans. Instead the Republicans spent the entire year rigging the system even further for special interests and against hard-working people.
Republicans worked to dismantle the watchdogs on Wall Street and threw consumers back into forced arbitration agreements. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to undermine that, to undermine Dodd Frank. Initiatives that were established to prevent what happened in ’08 from ever happening again, they want to get rid of that.
Republicans will make it easier to pollute. They say they are getting rid of regulation. They are getting rid of protections. They make it easier to pollute the air our children breathe and the water our children drink.
They’ve dismantled net neutrality that protects consumers and entrepreneurs and gave ISPs the right to sell your most private and intimate information to anyone without your consent.
Republicans voted six times to attack women’s health and tried to tear away women’s access to affordable contraception. And trying to kick tens of millions of people off health insurance, destroy protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, and impose an age tax on people 50 to 64.
Now the President is under some other illusion that he has repealed the Affordable Care Act. He’s damaged it, but he hasn’t repealed it. I don’t know if he knows that.
But no infrastructure bill. Where is that famous infrastructure bill that was going to be first thing out of the gate? Not a single bill to create jobs and raise wages for hard-working Americans. Nothing that puts the middle class first.
Republican control of Washington has been an all-you-can-eat buffet for the privileged and powerful and special interests. It’s as if they know they’re going to lose the Congress. So they’re just taking all the furniture, all the paintings off the wall, everything they can get to give away to corporate America. It’s so obvious. It’s so obvious.
Now, after spending this entire year on giveaways for the special interests, Congress faces a huge list of urgent, overdue, and bipartisan priorities for the American people. And that takes us to what we’re dealing with today.
We have very serious concerns about the continuing resolution that is on the floor. We don’t have an agreement on an ongoing appropriations bill for next year because we do not have agreement on the caps. For those of you who follow appropriations process, we don’t have an agreement on the caps.
We had the budget agreement. It required parity. They call parity 54-37: 54 for defense, 37 for domestic, in terms of increases. We don’t call that parity, we call that disparity.
And one of the concerns that we have is the number between the domestic budget and the defense budget at $17 billion is important because it would address the opioid epidemic.
What is it, 63,000 Americans died in our country, people died in our country in 2016, which is the last year we had the number for. In 2016, 63,000 people died from opioid epidemic, lowering the life expectancy in our country. It has had such an impact.
And we’re saying to them, between 37 and 54, let’s make the commitment of money to the policy that the President is proud of on opioids. But with no funding you don’t have any effect.
CHIP and our Community Health Centers, they have it in a bill in a way that children are paying for their own health care. We don’t think that’s right, especially they gave a trillion and a half dollars to corporate America, unpaid for and permanently.
This is a 5 year bill for children which we agreed should be offset. We’re a pay-as-you-go party. But not to take it from children’s inoculations, lead poisoning initiatives and the rest in order to pay for that.
So we have been having bipartisan discussions on how to pay for CHIP, but they instead went their old way.
Emergency disaster funding, we have to do that right. Saving endangered pensions. Passing the DREAM Act.
So what we have said to them is, ‘Everything we are suggesting to you is bipartisan: opioids, veterans, NIH [National Institutes of Health] funding and the DREAM Act.’ But the Republicans decided that tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent were more important than addressing the crises in the lives of the American people.
The same short-term Republican CR that will be on the floor today will keep a shadow of uncertainty and fear over our DREAMers. I just spent almost 2.5 hours in the Rules Committee, again, as I mentioned at the beginning of my comments, pleading with them to do this justice. And they are talking about comprehensive immigration. That’s fine, we need to talk about comprehensive immigration reform.
But my colleague, Congresswoman [Michelle] Lujan Grisham, the Chair of the Hispanic Caucus, made an excellent point. She said, we’re talking about CHIP as a very discrete children’s health insurance program, and we all agree that we have to fund it and pass it. That doesn’t mean we have to wait until we do everything anybody wants to do on health care in order to do this. The same thing with the DREAMers. It’s a discrete emergency that we have now. Let’s deal with that in a discrete way, instead of saying, “Well, we have to wait until we have to do everything that we want to do on immigration.”
So we’ll see what happens today on the floor. Republicans come to us for votes, and we said we could have been in the discussion on what’s in this bill and what’s in this bill we have strong disagreements with.
Our Ranking Member on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee sent a letter yesterday to Members opposing the bill for how it treats veterans in the CR. Our Ranking Member on Energy, that’s Mr. Walz, Tim Walz, and our Ranking Member, Mr. [Frank] Pallone, on Energy and Commerce, is opposing the bill for how it deals with CHIP.
So substantively we have problems with this bill. We do see it as an opportunity for them to at least allow a vote at least allow a vote on DREAMers, which we think we would win. But hopefully we have made some progress in their thinking as to the urgency of it.
But they were not aware of the fact that every day over 100, maybe over 120 DREAMers lose their status, which means if they work, they can’t; if they’re in school, they can’t be; if they’re in the military it changes your legal status.
Well over 10,000 already have lost their status. And they’re saying, “Well, we can wait until March.” Well, we can’t. And as I said to them, that is an act of cruelty to say you can wait until March when people are losing their status every day.
So the American people deserve a Congress that puts their priorities first, not that one that stacks the deck against working families. We’ve always said we should be working together in a bipartisan way for a comprehensive approach to tax reform. This is not reform. This is tax cuts for the rich in an unfair way.
But we should work in a bipartisan way because tax reform is only effective if it has sustainability, and therefore it has to be bipartisan, which means you have to compromise.
We hope to do that in this year to make that case to the American people, because we believe that America deserves A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.
What’s interesting, you know, they talked about this bill – this is something that was just given to me. They talk about this bill where corporations are going to raise everybody’s salaries, wages because they have these breaks.
Over the past several weeks, in anticipation of this bill, major companies have announced an astonishing $83.7 billion in share buybacks, anticipating the passage of the bill eighty-three billion. That’s the reason that not so many executives have said the tax bill would lead to more jobs. Those jobs are overseas.
Then AT&T, did you see what they did? They made a big announcement that they were going to give a bonus to their workers. That’s kind of a pin a rose on this tax bill. That bonus was mandated by a union agreement with the Communications Workers of America as part of a raise in their recent in their last agreement. All of a sudden they are advertising it’s something they did because of the tax bill.
So most corporate executives have not gone on record to say, “I’m going to hire more people. I’m going to raise more wages.”
So when we say creating jobs and raising paychecks, increasing paychecks, that’s part of our Better Deal: lower the cost of living by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, cracking down on monopolies that raise costs for families and hurt competition, and give every American the tools we need for the 21st century jobs. Apprenticeships, lifetime learning, paid on the job training.
On that score, it’s interesting to note, I think, that they’ve now created a big budget deficit, a big increase in national debt. ‘So what are we going to do about it? We’re going after Medicare and Medicaid.’ And they’ve even said this week, raise the age on Social Security.
Well, that will be part of our fight in this year, to say, ‘You may be using that big debt as an excuse to do what you’ve always wanted to do. You’ve never believed in Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, and now you’re going to go after them.’
But that will be part of the fight we’ll have and part of our teach ins across the country about how harmful this bill is, how the need for change to it will be addressed, and how the consequences of it in terms of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other budget investments into the future will be affected. But that’s a debate that we welcome.
So it’s a busy time. We’ll see what happens the rest of the day. I don’t know how long we’ll be here. I wouldn’t make any plans the next couple of days. But who knows when they take their votes. They have the votes. And we’ll see what the Senate does with what they send over.
Q: On entitlement reform, do you think that it’s something that’s even possible in this Congress? And if so, what are some things that Democrats could get on board with?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the fact is that this is part of the starve-the-beast value system that the Republicans have. They do not believe in government, so any public role in the health and well-being of the American people is on their hit list.
And so when they go after entitlements, it’s not because it’s an increase in the deficit, because they clearly don’t care about increasing the deficit. They care when it’s going to help children: ‘Oh, we can’t do that because it’s going to increase the deficit.’ But where it’s giving tax breaks to corporations, it doesn’t matter anymore, it’s dynamic.
So that’s a completely separate subject as to how we sustain, as we did in the Affordable Care Act, we prolonged the life of the Medicare for over 10 years, maybe 13 years. Social Security is in reasonable shape until at least 2030-something, but nonetheless, we want that to be even longer. And these are issues that can be talked about separately.
But we will fight to defend them, because they are about the health and economic security of America’s working families. And we will not use Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security as an ATM machine for the Republicans to give tax breaks to their wealthy friends and corporate America.
Q: With all due respect, you could call Paul Ryan and you could keep the government open for 2 more weeks if you wanted to. Democrats could do that. And that would give Americans the peace of mind knowing that their government was going to stay open. Why not vote to keep the government open?
Leader Pelosi. Well, wait a minute. Wait a minute. News break: the Republicans control the Congress. They control the House. They control the Senate. And they have the signature in the White House. They have the votes to keep government open. They have the votes to keep government open. They don’t need us to keep government open. And we’ve never been about shutting government down.
If you want, I’ll tell you a story that I just told them up in the Rules Committee, because they were talking about working together and this or that. They said, ‘Well a long time ago the government shut down.’ It wasn’t that long ago, it was just a few years ago when they shut government down. And it was at a moment similar to this, except a few months earlier, leading into the end of the fiscal year in September.
It’s really important for you to know this. And perhaps some of you remember it or remember me talking about it before. We had come to an agreement, bipartisan, bicameral, and with the White House agreement, that we would have $1.058 billion top line for the budget and that the appropriators would write bills under that number.
We didn’t love the number to death, but it was a compromise, and that was how we proceeded, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
When we were about to allocate that instruction to the appropriators, Republicans in the House said, ‘Not so fast.’ They had already agreed to, but they rethought it and said, ‘Not so fast. We want 988. We’re not going one penny over 988, $988 billion.’
Their Chairman, Mr. [Hal] Rogers, distinguished Chairman, Republican Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said, ‘We cannot meet the needs of the American people at that number.’ Republican Chairman: ‘We cannot meet the needs of the America people at that number.’
Our Members were very unhappy because this was really a disservice to the debate we had before and meeting the needs of the American people, and they were criticizing it, they were never going to vote for it, and this and that. I said, ‘You know, criticize it all you want, but don’t say you’re not going to vote for it, because we’ll just have to see.’
So we come to the September 30th deadline, and they’re still insisting on 988. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, said, ‘Okay, if that’s what keeps government open, we’ll agree to 988.’ The Senate Democrats, 988. The Senate Republicans, 988. This is the House Republicans budget number, 988.
I called Mr. Boehner and I said, ‘We cannot shut government down. That’s wrong for the American people. As much as my Members despise what you are doing, I’ll give you 200 votes to keep government open.’ That’s how many Democrats we had. ‘I’ll give you 200 votes to keep, Democratic.’ And that took a lot of, shall we say, calming of the waters.
You know what he said? ‘I can’t bring up the bill.’
I said, ‘Wait a minute, everybody, the President, Senate, Democrats and Republicans, House Democrats now agreeing to the Republican House number, are giving you what you want.’
He said, ‘I can’t bring it up. I don’t have the votes.’
I said, ‘You don’t have 18 votes?’
‘Well, I can’t bring it up with 18 votes.’
So what was that about?
The only people who were not agreeing to the House Republican budget number were the House Republican Members. They shut down government. Seventeen days later, government reopened, and many of the people who voted to shut it down and keep it closed are in the leadership of this Congress now and in the White House, [Mick] Mulvaney being one at OMB.
So the responsibility on keeping government open is with the majority. And we have never advocated shutting government down. And they can, they the votes, they can keep government open.
If they want us to vote for some bills, we have to have some cooperation on what they are, and not bills that our Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member said is not right for veterans, or that our CHIP Chairman, the Children’s Health chairman said is not right for children. So that’s why.
And I did have a conversation with the Speaker this morning: ‘We write the bill. You don’t like it. But we want your vote.’
‘No, you have the votes. You have the majority. You have the issues. Give us Dreamers, you know, let’s talk about some of this language.’ But no.
Q: But do the Americans care about that at this point, whose fault it is, Republicans or Democrats?
Leader Pelosi. No, no, that’s not the point. They have the votes to do it.
So I don’t know what it is, that everybody is a devil’s advocate on why we’re – we are never – we’ve never been advocates for shutting government down. We’re not shutting government down. Hopefully, it’s not going to be shut down. And we’ll see what their vote is today.
Q: Today’s CR includes additional new funding for CHIP through March. Do you see that as an olive branch, as Democrats winning?
Leader Pelosi. No.
Q: And then as a Catholic Christian at this time of year, is it especially, is there special significance to you to defend the funding for CHIP?
Leader Pelosi. No. Here’s the thing about CHIP. The CHIP bill was one of the first bills, when we took the majority and had a President so that we could get a signature on CHIP, was one of the first bills we passed, House and Senate, when we took the majority. And so this has been a part of our value system, our children’s health.
But the question is, how is it paid for? And the reason that we voted against the bill they had on the floor earlier this year on CHIP is because they paid for children’s health by having children pay for it, as I mentioned earlier. Whether it’s lead poisoning, whether it’s inoculations, they’re taking money out of the Prevention Fund to the extent that it would be harmful to children. And we said that’s just wrong.
So we’ve been engaged for the last couple of months, or several weeks at least, on a bipartisan conversation on how we can fund this in a better way. We had hoped that they would put something like that in this bill, but they reverted to their former bill, the rolled in bill, and that is not any olive branch at all. That’s saying to kids, once again, ‘You have to pay for yourself,’ and this is coming out of money that is necessary and needed for children’s health.
So that’s why Mr. Pallone, our Ranking Member, our distinguished Ranking Member on the Energy and Commerce Committee, is opposing that. And so, no, it’s not any olive branch.
And we’re so close, we’re so close to agreement, but they chose to go that other route. I don’t know why.
Q: Senate Democrats do have some leverage here to be able to force a consideration of DACA. Are you hopeful that they will withhold their support for cloture to try to force the issue in the Senate on DACA and some other priorities?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you have to understand, DACA is one point in this. Opioids. Veterans. NIH. We’re talking about bipartisan initiatives that have to be part of this parity that is part of the budget agreement. You know, they walk away from agreements, and you’re like, well, wait a minute, this is parity is part of the agreement.
Now, I also remind that in the domestic discretionary nondefense budget, Veterans, State Department, Homeland Security, anti-terrorism activities of the Justice Department. So there’s a big, strong national security piece that is in the domestic budget.
So we don’t want to be short changed for that, what contribution that is, and also other measures of our strength, including attacking the opioid epidemic that we need to do, putting more funds there for our veterans, that we need to do. So these are not even partisan issues.
Q: So your side has been insisting that the DACA issue be addressed this year, and this is the last week for this.
Leader Pelosi. Well, this is the last year they kick the can down for the omnibus into January. It’s this year extended. That’s what it is. It’s the process. We’ve never done that before, that I remember, and I’m an appropriator.
But nonetheless, we’re going to continue the conversation because, again, it is a discrete piece of the issue that we want to deal with in a larger way in terms of comprehensive immigration reform, which we must address. And in fact that the Senate passed in a bipartisan way, but Speaker Boehner refused to bring up on the floor, unfortunately, in the House.
Q: Madam Leader, you touched on this a little bit in your opening, on the past year and whatnot. How would you characterize your relationship with the President right now amid the ebbs and flows. I see you’ve negotiated various deals. But how would you characterize it after a year?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don’t think we’ve accomplished much together. I think we have a good rapport. I don’t think we’ve accomplished much together. We thought we had and I think we still do have an approach to – he likes to call it DACA. DACA, like that, with his hand, DACA, not Dreamers. I think we’ll find a path there.
I completely totally disagree with the tax bill, which I think does violence to the vision of our Founders. It does violence to the aspirations of our children in terms of robbing from their future and does violence to pillaging the middle class.
But let me say this of the President, because maybe he’s listening. Who conned whom? He told the American people that he was going to stop job being shipped overseas. That’s exactly what they do in this bill. He told people he was going to close the carried interest loophole. That’s exactly what they didn’t do in this bill. He told people that he’s going to have middle class tax cuts. That’s exactly what they didn’t do in this bill.
The list goes on of things that he said out there on the campaign trail. The Republicans said, “You know what’s interesting about that? Nothing. We’re just going right to doing what we would have done anyway. We’re glad to have a Republican President to sign it.”
So I think they’ve ignored some of the priorities that the President, I think, was sincere about when he made that, when he made his appeal to the American people.
So I just wonder how he – well, who knows what he’s, to use the word loosely, thinking about what he had to sign yesterday. But what he signed was a betrayal of his campaign promises on the campaign trail.
Q: Speaker Ryan says that he’s starting to feel a little wind coming towards the GOP in their face as far as 2018 goes. Are you feeling a breeze coming up behind you? And how strong is it at this point? You said in your opening remarks that you believe that the House Republicans are going to lose the House. How many seats are Democrats going to pick up?
Leader Pelosi. Did I say that they were going to lose? I didn’t think I talked politics here, did I?
Q: I have it at 11:05, you said they are going to lose Congress, and you started talking about everything that they’re taking down.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I said that they’re acting as if they’re losing Congress because they’re taking all the – they’re stealing the silver. They’re taking all the valuables out of the House right away.
You’ll see more of it, ‘We got to get this done,’ because they have, shall we say, a donor-based value system. Their donors demanded this bill, and they got the bill for the donors. We’ll see what else the donors you know, they’re wholly owned subsidiaries of the National Rifle Association, of the gun lobby. They’re a wholly owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry.
So what else will they be parceling out to them as they – yes, you’re right, in that context, I said they’re acting like people who know that their power is short-lived.
It’s interesting, I don’t place a whole lot of confidence in all of these double digit polls. The most recent was what, 16, yesterday, was at 16 or 18 points? 18 points Democrat over Republican. I’ll take half of that, nine, that’s enough to win the Congress.
But most of them are, I think every poll now is double digit that people would vote for a Democrat over a Republican.
But this isn’t about politics. We don’t come here to do politics, we come here to make things better for the American people. And this tax bill really in some ways is an opportunity to show.
How many times have you heard people, ‘I don’t know the difference between Democrats and Republicans?’ Okay, here it is. Trickle-down economics. Tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporations. Increasing the deficit at the expense of the middle class. You have that.
And then you have our ‘Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future.’ Better Future for rural America, Better Future for women, and the rest.
So this is fairly a big opening. The door is open. The President’s numbers are in the 30s. I think probably his numbers and the support for the tax bill are probably similar. And some of his folks are probably giving him the benefit of the doubt, but most people know that they’re not getting any tax break in this bill.
So it’ll be an interesting year, because it’s not about issues, it’s about values, and what is the value of our country when we’re saying, ‘This is who we are as a Nation, a land of opportunity, where fairness is a value,’ and they don’t see it in what they’re doing.
And it’s a challenge to us to not only criticize what they have done, but to connect with our message. We know how to do that. We did it in ’05 and ’06. That was the last time Congressional Democrats had the megaphone.
And we said we’re going to set out to win the Congress. President Bush was at, bless his heart, he was at 58 in January, 38 in September, approximately where President Trump is now.
That opens the door for great candidates to come forward. We get the recruits, fresh recruits, they get the retirements. The public is, shall we say, inclined to support Democrats, recent elections have demonstrated that, because they are in places where elections were taking place. They weren’t elections where the President has chosen the districts. They’re elections that were taking place.
So in any case, it’s an opportunity. I know it’s going to go very fast, only 11 months, 11 months from now. But just think back to the last election, 13 months ago, time goes by.
And while we don’t want to underutilize, we’re not going to underuse any resource, that means any opportunity to make our case, to differentiate, differentiate, and to mobilize. And we have a great Chairman to do that, [Congressman] Ben Ray Lujan. I’m very proud of him.
Our numbers are unified and our message is ‘A Better Deal.’ But the stronger message that we are conveying is a message of unity, and unity is the most eloquent statement because it says shared values. That’s what unifies us, not anything else, but shared values.
And that value is the health, education and well-being of our children and the security of working families in our country. That’s why we’re here.
So we look forward to seeing how things go. As I say to the Members, one good day at a time, one good week at a time, one good month at a time. The time, for sure, will go by.
Thank you all very much. I don’t know if we’ll see you again. If not, please enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Kwanza. Whatever it is you’re celebrating, just enjoy your friends.
Oh, one of my colleagues came out just now as a humanist, so I don’t know what I say to him.
But enjoy your family and friends. Rest up.
This is the advice I give my colleagues: recreation and re-creation. Recreate, re-create, they’re the same word. You have to go home and recreate so that you’re renewed in your spirit, because next year is going very demanding, and you need all of the renewed spirit.
That’s what I tell my colleagues. Don’t feel guilty about recreation. It’s part of your re-creation to fight the fight for the American people.
Happy holidays to all. Thank you.