Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. As you know, yesterday the nation observed a day of mourning as we said good bye to President George Herbert Walker Bush. We grieved the loss of a great statesman and leader. President Bush preached the values of duty, sacrifice, commitment, and patriotism, he said that in his speeches.
We took great pride at President George Herbert Walker Bush who served as a Member of the House, that was before I was here, but some of our colleagues that I serve with served with him, and always shared positive views of how he worked with them on the Ways and Means Committee, et cetera. I had the privilege of working with him as a new Member of Congress at the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake. He came to San Francisco with, again, all the compassion and openness to how we could go forward at a very, very sad time. So it’s, again, a privilege to work with him, he was a blessing to our country.
It’s very sad, this, right before we assumed the Majority in January of 2007, in that December preceding we lost President Gerald Ford. They were – they were two great Presidents of the United States, they shared one thing in common – many things – being President of the United States, but also, as I acknowledged in my remarks in that January 2007, President Gerald Ford received the Profile in Courage Award from the Kennedy Library, and so did President George Herbert Walker Bush. A reflection of the impact that they had on our country to act in a way that went beyond politics and was about our values.
It’s quite a week. It’s a sad week. We also observe the passing of our colleague in Arizona, we’ll have a service tomorrow, he died the past week, Ed Pastor. He was the first Latino Congressman elected from Arizona, a trailblazing leader. Our Members looked at him from all over the caucus, across the aisle and across the spectrum of diversity in our caucus. He was always there advocating for people of color, communities of color, and the immigrant community as well as a cardinal on the Appropriations Committee helping to promote our values in that way.
Again, yesterday, I had the green – yesterday, we had an observance of the 6 year anniversary of Newtown. That is this month, it wasn’t last night, but the observance here in D.C. was last night. So sad, so many people came who’ve had their own personal grief from individual losses in their family, one family just in a matter of weeks lost a family member, and also some representatives from the tragedy in Florida.
Patricia and Manny [Oliver] spoke, the father of Joaquin, it was very, very moving. Actually, I met Manny [Oliver], Manuel, in Florida recently, and when I went in to the press event, it was a roundtable discussion, but the press was present, he had orange hair. So, when we went in, after we went around and people spoke, he said, ‘I want to explain to you why I have orange hair, because I thought when I walked in you thought that that was strange.’ I said, ‘Me, I’m from San Francisco, I don’t think orange hair is strange’ – but it was orange for the color of gun violence prevention. Green is also one of the colors. But he was there last night with his hair dyed, back again, and I made a commitment that we will pass commonsense gun violence prevention legislation soon, and that it will be bipartisan. We’re very proud of that.
Again, as we lay President George Herbert Walker Bush to rest, one of my daughters lives in Houston, her family is there, they went – she and her friends went to see him late last night, and she reported back to me this morning that even at 1:30 in the morning when they were leaving, there were still thousands of people in line to see him. That’s to say, he was really a sweetheart, really a lovely man.
And one point that I want to make that I think wasn’t emphasized enough was his leadership on the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, that transformed our nation, is an example to the world, and making our workplaces, our transportation systems, and our voting booths, and other buildings accessible, while reducing discrimination against people with disabilities. It reaffirmed our fundamental truth that we respect people for what they can do and not judge them for what they cannot, and that applies across the board.
And, again, at the National Cathedral, it was beautiful, it was lovely, and bipartisan, and unifying for our country. So, as we are inspired, once again, by that, as we were by the passing of Senator McCain. We have some unfinished business this week that you may have some questions about. The farm bill, that looks good. As we were leaving the service yesterday, I was pleased to hear what Senator Roberts and Senator Stabenow have to say about that, but we’re hoping that that can be passed maybe next week, we’ll see.
The #MeToo legislation. Back in February, the House unanimously passed the #MeToo Congress bill. Discussions continue, I think we’re finding some common ground, and we would hope that this overdue legislation would be passed before the end of the Congress. We’re making some progress there.
VAWA, we’re in the middle of another short-term Violence Against Women Act, we should be passing a strong, long-term bill. We’d like to do it this Congress, and this – but if not, we’ll have to take it up at the beginning of next year, but we’d rather do it in the Congress in which it was debated and raised in the committee.
As you know, the appropriations bill is the door opener or door closer, or whatever, however – it’s dispositive of when we all go home, and that gives it not only a policy urgency, but a scheduling question. We are, you know, supposed to meet with the President this week, but with the death of our President, now President Bush, that meeting, we’ll meet with the President next week, as we go forward to negotiate that.
And then just one last thing, as you’ve seen in the press, the Senate was briefed on the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Khashoggi matters, we will have that briefing next week. Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the full Congress. Khashoggi, for a limited classified briefing as same as was done in the Senate.
So, here we are and we get ready – it’s pretty exciting to have won a minimum of 40 seats, and more to come maybe, one more to come maybe, and it is wonderful that we had the biggest midterm vote in the history of our country, and Democrats winning by more than 10 million votes. Quite remarkable.
Our message was For The People, lower health care costs by reducing the cost of prescription drugs, and as you know, pre-existing conditions, that benefit was an important part of that debate. Lower health care costs. Increase paychecks by building infrastructure of America, and in a green way. And third, to restore integrity in government, starting with the important H.R. 1. Some of you were here last week when John Sarbanes, with a number of the freshmen, presented that legislation.
Just to update you on that, we may be moving, separating the Voting Rights Act out of that so that we can move more quickly with H.R. 1, and the Voting Rights Act, we want to establish an ironclad constitutional record when we pass it, which will be soon, but not as soon as moving the Voting Right – the H.R. 1, with the other ways to reduce the role of money in government and increase the voices of the American people.
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Q: Two questions. There’s a report out there that you’re considering limiting the terms of Committee chairmen. Is that something that is actively being discussed?
Leader Pelosi. Well, that’s a matter before the Caucus. I’ve always been sympathetic to the concerns that have been expressed by our Members on that subject. Actually, I tried to do that when I became speaker in 2007, but the Caucus did not support that.
But, again, our chairman of the Rules Committee, Jim McGovern, whom you’ve heard from here, has received many – much interest in that. And what I’ve told some of the freshmen class, other Members have asked for that to be considered, so that’s a debate for the Caucus to have and we will have that. Whether that happens this year, you know, in the next couple weeks, because the freshmen aren’t here and we have to have that discussion with them here, so how do we do that, teleconference or what, or is that just something we take up next year but could apply soon; or they may reject it.
Q: I also wanted to ask, there’s a report that you’re going to be meeting Lighthizer about the NAFTA 2.0?
Leader Pelosi. [That’s a] different question.
Q: What’s your message going into that?
Leader Pelosi. As I said before here, Lighthizer has been very open to discussions on the – I said the name was gobbledygook, but the reporter said I said the bill was gobbledygook – and that’s when I said NAFTA: the bill formerly known as Prince. This bill – this bill does not have – it has good features to it, but they don’t matter at all if you don’t have enforcement. So, enforcement in terms of the labor provision, enforcement in terms of the environmental provision. I think he full well understands that, that’s our conversation.
Also central to going forward is that Mexico is supposed to pass a bill that would address the wages and working conditions of Mexican workers. We’re not there to exploit workers in Mexico or exploit workers in the United States or in Canada. So, again, that passage of the bill is fundamental to our going forward with that, and that hasn’t happened yet. But this is nothing new. I’ve said this again and again. I said it was a work in progress. I hope the answer is – I know it’s work, I hope it’s progress.
Q: You mentioned the meeting with the President again on appropriations and things.
Leader Pelosi. Uh huh.
Q: There seems to be a push again on the wall. I’ve heard from a lot of Republicans in the House that they might have trouble moving legislation on the wall. They had two bills that failed this year on the wall. Would you be willing to support some degree of wall funding if you got a permanent bona fide solution on DACA?
Leader Pelosi. No.
Q: Why not?
Leader Pelosi. Well, because they’re two different subjects. What we want in this negotiation, I think I can say and it wouldn’t be a surprise to anybody, we’d like to just go in, and say, it’s December, the time that we’ve lost now, another week, you know, for a legitimate purpose, but nonetheless, we’re getting closer to when this CR expires and hope to extend it for two weeks, and in that two weeks we have to – within that two weeks, I wouldn’t even say the out – the latest possible day, but within that two weeks we have before us all of the factors, all of the issues that we need to make a decision.
I think what we can do, that makes sense, is to pass six bills where the members of the Appropriations Committee have come to terms. You heard me say it over and over, left to their own devices, the appropriators can come to a good conclusion, and then have a CR only for Homeland Security as we go forward. And that’s pretty much what our position is now
Q: Madam Leader, you mentioned Jamal Khashoggi and the Yemen briefing next week. The Senate right now is working in a bipartisan way on a bill that would cut off U.S. assistance to Saudi and Yemen, would cut off offensive arms sales to Saudi and would sanction up to MBS. House Republicans are not going to move on that. Is that a bill you would want to –
Leader Pelosi. House Republicans are what?
Q: Are not going to move on that in the next month.
Leader Pelosi. No.
Q: But if the Senate moves forward on that and sends the signal, would you want to take up something similar next year?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we do have – they’ve had their briefing, we’ll have ours, and I can answer the question better. But we do have in our own, right now, in a bipartisan way, support for our bill on Yemen, Ro Khanna, and Ranking Member, soon to be Chairman Smith – Adam Smith – are supporting, and I support as well. Also, Jim McGovern, who I mentioned earlier has a bill cutting off arms sales to Saudi Arabia. So there are pieces of that that exist in different legislation, but see after the briefing where we go.
I’m not familiar with the consequence – I thought that they were just condemning the fact that Saudi Arabia and the royal family were involved in the death of Khashoggi.
Q: They’re still trying to figure it out.
Leader Pelosi. I don’t know if those – I don’t think anybody is trying to figure it out, I think we know. I mean, the question is whether we accept, but we’ll know more next week.
Q: Just briefly, who’s briefing next week?
Leader Pelosi. Excuse me.
Q: Do you know who from the Administration would be conducting briefing?
Leader Pelosi. I was hoping that we would have the Director of the CIA, as well as other leaders in the intelligence community.
Q: Madam Leader, can I ask – you mentioned the #MeToo bill. I’m wondering why has it taken so long if the House and Senate have passed separate bills to get to an agreement, and do you believe that whatever – of the options that are out there – they go far enough so that you guys are utilizing the moment and the political moment that is happening to get as far as you need to make sure Congress is acting appropriately.
Leader Pelosi. Well, if they do not, you know – it if comes to a place where we’re pretty far down to road, but not as far as we want to go, we can – that will be for the whole Congress. We can take other action that applies to the House.
Q: But are you – do you know what has taken so long, why has it been so difficult to reach an agreement that the House and Senate can pass?
Leader Pelosi. Well, those bills were quite different. They were quite different. But now there’s – they’re coming closer together. You know what the bills are. They’re quite different. Coming closer together. But the reason we’ll be willing to accept something less than we passed is that we then can pass bills ourselves that apply to the House, and I think that would put some pressure on the Senate to do the same.
Q: Madam Leader, can I ask you about what’s going on in North Carolina.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Are you – do you believe a new election should be called in the 9th District regarding what’s come out in that election? If there’s not a new election, do you think Mr. Harris should be seated as a House Member? I also want to ask you about the allegations – not allegations, but what Congressman-elect Spano in Florida, he has said that – he has admitted to taking illegal loans in his campaign. Do you believe that that should cast out on whether he should be seated as a new Member?
Leader Pelosi. Well, it’s interesting, in North Carolina the authorities – the authoritative body said that they would meet by December 21, it could be tomorrow, but by December 21, to make – to put forth their view of it. What are their options? They could certify the election. They could call for a new election, which would be of the same parties in the general election within 75 days. Or they could just throw the whole thing out and say ‘We’re starting from scratch.’ There are some of the options.
I don’t think the option of a recount is a likely one, as we thought it might have been earlier. But anyway, those are the three versions.
The House still retains the right to decide who is seated. That’s one of the powers of the House of Representatives that controls who can be seated in the Congress. So this – any Member-elect can object to the seating of the swearing-in of another Member-elect, and we’ll see how that goes. As you know, it’s not just the Democrats who have a problem with how it went in North Carolina, the Republicans have a problem, too, because it affected their primary election. The fraud that exists there.
So House Admin will have full – House Administration Committee will have full investigative authority to determine the winner of the election. And, again, only if it’s impossible to determine who the winner is would we take the extraordinary step of calling for a new election, but that governing body can do so. So we’re all in close touch on that, because this is bigger than that one seat.
This is about undermining the integrity of our elections. And what was done there is so remarkable and that that person – those entities got away with that, even to the detriment of the Republicans in the primary. The issue in Florida is one that we’re tracking as well. Then to add insult to injury about what the Republicans did in these races, they are now challenging the seating of our Member in Maine, saying that – questioning the process. But, you know, they have ranked voting, which has been voted on twice by the people of Maine as their method of having an election.
And now the Republicans are saying, well – there’s even a question as to constitutionality of ranked voting, in their view. But if they had won, of course, there would be no question about the constitutionality of it. So we’re operating on three fronts.
Q: Can I ask for a quick follow up?
Q: Madam Leader, I just want to ask about – you said you would accept the CR for DHS.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Are you looking for a CR into the early part of the year? Are you looking for a full year?
Leader Pelosi. Oh, a full year, a full year.
Q: So you don’t want to have this fight again in January is basically what you’re –
Leader Pelosi. No, no, a full year. There’s no point in doing that. But even if you have a CR for a full year, it doesn’t mean that at some point if you come to another conclusion you can pass a bill, but you have to – you can’t do this week – there’s too much uncertainty involved.
Q: May I follow up on this question?
Leader Pelosi. Sure.
Q: To follow up on his question very quickly. Some of your – some of the House Democrats are concerned about adding more money for this border fence, and if you guys do a CR, my understanding is that that would approve $1.3 million, at least, for the border fence?
Leader Pelosi. No, not necessarily
Q: Correct? That’s what it was last year. So if you extend that again, wouldn’t that cause a problem –
Leader Pelosi. No, no, it depends on how you spend the money. It’s border security. It’s about border security.
Q: But within that, there was money for the fence as well.
Leader Pelosi. Well, you’re talking about a fence, you’re not talking about a wall now.
Q: But you’re okay with that as long as –
Leader Pelosi. No. I’m okay with what our Chairwoman, Lucille Roybal-Allard, she is the person who has fought on these issues her entire stay in Congress, which has been for a couple of decades. We’re blessed that she’s in the position that she is in. She knows that. We, most of us, speaking for myself, consider the wall immoral, ineffective and expensive, and the President said – he promised – he also promised Mexico would pay for it. So even if they did, it’s immoral still, and then they’re not going to pay for it. So that isn’t how I would interpret a congressional – a continuing resolution.
We can move forward that – we have a responsibility, all of us, to secure our borders, north, south, and coming in by plane on our coasts, three coasts, north, south, and west, and that’s responsibility we honor, but we do so by honoring our values as well.