Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks.

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege, the sad privilege, to meet with some of the inspiring students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.  As you know, they have been in Washington, D.C. speaking to students their own ages, in high school, and conveying their determination to Members of Congress.

It was interesting to hear how determined they are to make change and to understand that some of it will have to unfold.  But they want meaningful change.  We have all been moved by their heartbreaking eloquence.  They were insisting on action to prevent gun violence.

The American people overwhelming agree with them:  97 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun buys, including almost the same percentage among gun owners.  There’s a commonsense, bipartisan path forward.

Yesterday, we were encouraged by what President Trump had to say.  Our Members who attended the meeting, joined with [Congressman] Mike Thompson putting out a statement last night, that would be Mike Thompson of California, who is the chair of our [Gun Violence Prevention Task Force], joined by [Congresswoman] Elizabeth Esty of Connecticut, who had Newtown in her district, [Congresswoman] Stephanie Murphy, close to Pulse in the Orlando area, and of course [Congressman] Ted Deutch, most affected most recently.

And their report was that – what they heard the President say, and some of you watched it all, we heard the President agree that we should fix NICS and re-examine the Dickey amendment so that CDC [Centers for Disease Control] can research the public health crisis.  That actually is the bill of [Congresswoman] Stephanie Murphy.  Hopefully that will be incorporated in whatever we do to go forward.

The President agreed that we need to ban bump stocks.  He thinks he can do it by executive order.  I don’t think so.  I think it needs to be done legislatively.  But we agree that they should be banned.

[The President] embraced the idea of gun violence restraining orders, which empower law enforcement to intervene when someone is a threat to themselves or to others.  This, again, common sense.

The President stated unequivocally also that we should drop concealed carry reciprocity from the Fix NICS bill, and he made a commitment to take action on comprehensive background checks.

So once again the President has had a public meeting with Members of Congress, the three that I mentioned from the House directly affected by tragic events in their own districts or in their own areas.  And we hope that we can proceed in a bipartisan way to get the most effective package forward.

There are other issues like well, I won’t get into the other issues.  Just go on what we have the most agreement now.

But, unfortunately, in the Trump budget it proposed for NICS funding, his administration, they have done two things.  In previous actions, they have tried to take names off the NICS list, and in the budget, they reduce the funding for NICS.  But I think now with more awareness on the President’s part about what NICS is about, we’ll see better attention to that.

The other I was going to bring up was the assault weapon ban, which has overwhelming public support as well, not as high as the background checks, but overwhelming public support.  That might take longer.  We need to have the best package we can get done now that is good enough with comprehensive background checks and the other items that I mentioned.

This is a tipping point, a tipping point in our country.  And I am really very proud of the work that Mike Thompson has done as chairman of our Task Force.  He was with us 2 weeks ago at this venue.  Now, he announced yesterday but put out [today] that we had reached 200 bipartisan cosponsors for the Thompson-King [bill] – that would be [Congressman] Peter King of New York – a Republican – legislation to strengthen and improve the background system.

House Democrats also filed the discharge petition, perhaps you saw that of the Thompson-King background check bill, which has a high number of signatures, as well as the Background Check Completion Act, closing the loophole that allows someone like the Charleston shooter to purchase a gun even though the FBI had not completed his background check.

I spent time on this because there’s very specific legislation that would be very helpful to save lives.  And we have an opportunity, there’s public support for it.  The children are so eloquent, the young people are so eloquent about this.  And they asked the question, ‘Why can’t we do this?’

I know if the comprehensive bill came to the floor on background checks it would win.  So we’re just saying to the Speaker, ‘Give us a vote, just give us a vote.’

Again, all of this has bipartisan support and that is really important.

People ask me all the time, ‘What are the three most important issues facing the Congress?’  I always say the same thing: ‘Our children.  Our children.  Our children.’  Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, a clean, safe environment in which they can thrive and world peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.  Just all about the future.

When kids come here, I say, you see all these monuments to our Founders and tributes to the past, and it’s important that we are grateful for that contribution and recognize it as our value system.  But part of that value system is that everything we do is about the future.

And so this issue, this gun safety issue, about the safety of our children, looms large, a clean, safe environment in which they can thrive.

Another issue that affects the children, of course, are our Dreamers.  Every day more Dreamers are losing their DACA protections.  More than 22,000.  When the White House or some others say, ‘Oh, there is no need to do anything’ – no, 22,000 [have lost], 120, say, a day lose their protections, that is just the protection to go to school, to drive, to work, etcetera.

The House Republicans still have not scheduled a vote to protect the Dreamers.  Again, just give us a vote.  Give us a vote.  We know it would pass in a bipartisan way.  And I thank our Republican Members who have been so courageous in coming forward.

When we protect the Dreamers, it’s a wonderful thing.  And they are so great and they inspire us so much.  But it’s not just about them, it’s about the highest ideals of America.  Their patriotism, their courage, their optimism are an inspiration that stirs the conscience of our entire Nation.  I am so proud of them and will continue to fight in a bipartisan way for action for these extraordinary people.

March 5 is the date the President, when he announced the rescission – when he announced that he was going to rescind President Obama’s executive orders on DACA and their families, the National Catholic Conference of Bishops called that decision reprehensible.  That’s pretty strong language for the Catholic bishops to use on a Republican President, but it was reprehensible.

So in any event, we continue to try to make the case, in case they don’t know what the protections are that are being lost, the fright that they are instilling in the hearts of so many people, and how emblematic this is for the whole issue of comprehensive immigration writ large.

And, of course, I’ll just close with talking about the GOP Tax Scam.  Every day that goes by we see more evidence that it is exactly that, a tax scam.  We continue to put out the truth on the tax scam’s massive giveaways to corporations and the wealthy and its consequences for workers, seniors and families.

You know 83 percent of the benefits goes to the top 1 percent.  Every day – a trillion and a half dollars in tax cuts, plus interest, taking us to over $2 trillion in debt, to give corporations a trillion, a nearly trillion and a half dollar tax [rate] cut.  Every day, we see more corporations announcing stock buybacks to enrich their executives and investors instead of increasing the wages on an ongoing basis of workers.

Morgan Stanley analysts estimated that 43 percent of corporate tax savings would go to buybacks and dividends and nearly 19 percent would help pay for mergers and acquisitions, taking us up to almost two thirds of the whole tax package.  Just 13 percent would go to bonuses and raises.

Today, The Wall Street Journal found that more than $200 billion in corporate buybacks were just announced in the past 3 months – over $200 billion in buybacks.  And once the tax scam is fully phased in, 86 million middle class will pay higher taxes while the wealthiest 1 percent, again, get 83 percent of the tax cut.

The tax scam will never pay for itself.  That’s really pathetic that they would even put that out there.  As the Trump budget shows, after adding $2 trillion to the debt Republicans are now saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, that can’t pay for itself.  We’ve got to pay for it someplace else.’

So let’s take $2 trillion out of Medicare [and Medicaid] – $500 billion out of Medicare, one and a half – excuse me, trillion, half a trillion dollars out of Medicare, a trillion and a half out of Medicaid.

And then, of course, the President’s budget also makes cuts in food stamps, education, HUD – Housing and Urban Development – other issues that support, help us meet the needs of the American people.

So when they represent that it’s going to pay for itself, as I have told you before, Bruce Bartlett among others have said, ‘It’s not true, it’s nonsense, it’s BS.’  That’s what he said, but he said the whole words.

People say to us, “What would you do?”  So we’d have bipartisanship, as we have always had on any long term tax revision.  Democrats want real bipartisan tax reform that puts the middle class first.  We have A Better Deal:  Better Jobs, Better Pay, A Better Future for the American people.

Any questions?

Yes, sir.

* * *

Q:  Coming back from that meeting, a lot of Republicans said that they haven’t changed their minds on guns, the gun meeting yesterday at the White House you talked about. 

With that in mind, there’s a sense, and you saw that even among the Democrats at the meeting, that President Trump is going to have to be very hands on in putting a lot of pressure on the Republicans to do anything. 

How involved, in your estimation, is the White House at this point?  Have you had any talks with the President or other officials about how hands on they’re going to be?  Or is it your sense that they’ve punted it to Congress and they’ll see what happens over here? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, this is the back and forth we have seen before.  Of course, we saw this same meeting on Dreamers.  People came together and there was going to be bipartisanship and we’re going to get together, and then that faded.

I think this is different.  I think that while the Dreamers enjoy high, over 80 percent favorable ratings among the American people, the sense of urgency on the gun bill is one that either it’s yes or no.  I mean, the White House is saying on the Dreamers bill, ‘We can do it now, we can do it later.’  But with guns, you either do it or you don’t do it.

One of the interesting words that I heard coming out from I think Senator Toomey said he was breathless at some of what the President said.  I think ‘breathless’ is a good word to describe this whole thing.  Breathless when we hear the assault on our kids.  Breathless to see the characterization that the National Rifle Association places on all of this.  Breathless.  And we are breathless to hear that some of the Republicans are breathless about what the President had to say.

I always take people at their word.  I take people at their word.  In terms of DACA, I don’t like the timing, but I do believe the President wants to do the right thing there.  And I’m disappointed that some of his advisers are weighing in more heavily than they should.

But nonetheless, on this, it’s life and death right away, and we really need to get this done.  So I’m optimistic.  Our Members came back.  I read you some of the things.  They put out their own statements on the promising statements that the President made.

But I’ll tell you, these young people, with their knowledge, their savvy of social media, the articulate eloquence that they have put forth about what they saw and how they don’t want this to happen to anyone else, we’re really at a tipping point on this.

But America is at a tipping point on a number of things, whether it’s sexual harassment, whether it’s Dreamers, whether it’s this.  The public is paying attention.  And as you’ve heard me say before, Abraham Lincoln, public sentiment is everything.  With it you can accomplish almost everything; without it almost nothing.  And the public sentiment is here.  The President reads that very clearly.

Q:  But you said you are not having direct talks with the White House? 

Leader Pelosi.  Not yet.

Q:  You have not yet.

Leader Pelosi.  We just had the meeting yesterday.

Q:  Then how do you anticipate that this conversation will proceed?  Ryan is not going to bring anything to the floor. 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, the conversation he has to have is with his own party, because that’s where the majority is, the power to bring to the floor.

Now, we do have for background checks a discharge petition, and we hope that Republicans would join us in that.  We have 200.  We hope to have more names.  We have never had anything like 200 names on a gun safety bill.  This is remarkable.

So we, again, calmly, prayerfully, hopefully and respectfully hope that the President will make clear to the Republicans in Congress that we have to move forward.  And not just some little bill that said, “Well, we did that.”  No, it has to be substantial.  It might not be everything.  It might not be an assault weapon ban.  But practically anything short of that is what we would expect.

I’ll let you know what communication we have with them.

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Speaking of sexual harassment, do you support legislation that requires revealing the names of Members of Congress who have benefited in the past from taxpayer funds for sexual harassment settlements? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I do believe that there’s an equity that has to be weighed there: Do the victims want that to be known?

Yes, I think that the public should know if a Member of Congress has had public funds spent to resolve this.  But when you say that, then the victims say, ‘Well, I’m not necessarily in favor of my whole situation being made known.’

So that’s the calibration, I would say.  So if you do that without harming the victims, that’s something important to talk about.

But I do think that the idea as we go forward, people have to know that we don’t want to deter victims from coming forward because they don’t want to be in the public domain, so we have to take that into consideration.  But I think the public would like to know, and I respect that.

Q:  So do you support the bill by Congressman DeSantis that actually asks for that?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I just said I would have to see what that means to the victims.  Yes, I think the elected officials, the Members of Congress, should be held accountable.  I don’t want to harm victims who may say, ‘I entered into a confidentiality agreement and it was in my interest to do so as well.’ You understand my point.

So I think there’s a way that we can write a bill.  I don’t know the particulars of his bill, except as you describe it, and I know about it.  But I do think there’s a bill that can be written that takes into consideration the rights, the privacy, the harm done to a victim if just we opened all of that up.

And maybe it can be, I don’t know.  If a Member is charged with something, how clear is the path back to the victim?  In some cases maybe very clear, in other cases, maybe not.

What do you think?

Q:  It’s not what I think.  I want to know. 

Leader Pelosi.  No, but I’m just saying that you have to take into consideration what it means to the victim.

You asked me about a specific bill.  I’m saying I think there’s possibly legislation that says that anybody who has done this or does it in the future, this will be made known to the public as long as the victim agrees to that?

Q:  And you would support that?

Leader Pelosi.  Yes.  For sure.

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  Leader Pelosi, earlier this week the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had his security clearance downgraded.  As you know, a top secret security clearance is important to serve in those high positions in the White House.  Today, there’s a report that his family’s companies obtained hundreds of millions of dollars of loans after he met with officials. 

Do you think the President’s son-in-law should still be serving in a senior position in the White House? 

Leader Pelosi.  No.  I don’t think he should have been there to begin with, especially with the portfolio that he had.

The President doesn’t place a high value on experience, knowledge and judgment.  I guess it’s people he knows and trusts and he places the value on that.  And that’s something to be considered for a President, of course.

What I’m worried about right now in the White House is the revolving door.  It’s spinning like a top.  I said last year at the Gridiron dinner, if you want to work in the Trump Administration, know your blood type, because you’ll be thrown under the bus.  I mean, we know, we could see that coming anyway.

But as people leave before that, before they get thrown under the bus or seeing it coming, or just wanting not to be there, their having served in that White House for one year is a giant enhancement as they go out to the private sector.

And so I think that it takes us to a place where we have to look at this revolving door issue, whether it’s Congress, but largely it’s the executive branch: ‘I’m going to go do my public service, and then I’m going to have more value in the private side.’

Now, of course, people go in and out of the public sector and that is a legitimate thing, but these ‘drop-bys and then get enhanced jobs elsewhere’, something is wrong with this picture.

What is the purpose of people coming into public service, what is their knowledge, what is their judgement, what is the vision that they have that makes them important to be appointed by the President of the United States, given security clearance, which is a very high level appointment, and use that position while they’re in the job to get another job, or to get investments into their family’s companies?

This is corrosion of integrity in government.  And I think that the Trump family has engaged in that in a way, well, from what the public domain says.  We’ll see what else there is.

Okay?  One more?

Q: Can I ask you about this on the omnibus, particularly the riders, there’s a lot of riders in there on policy issues like the environmental and such?  Where do those talks stand? 

Leader Pelosi.  Excuse me?  Where does it stand?

Oh, here is the thing, without going into too much detail.  We reached an agreement, as you know.  It was a triumph for us because we got what we wanted in terms of parity in increasing the domestic budget at the same rate as we increased the defense budget.

We all know, we take an oath to protect and defend our country, so the defense budget is very important, but one third of the domestic budget is security, Homeland Security, Department of State, antiterrorism activities of the Justice Department, Veterans Affairs.  These are security functions.  That’s 34 percent of the domestic budget.  And so getting that parity in the increase was a big victory.

I remind you that President Trump had over $50 billion cut from the domestic side in his proposal, and the Republicans took it to even, and we have gotten it to over $60 billion above.  So it’s over $100 billion from where the President came in.

So this is about, again, the security functions that I mentioned.  It’s about opioids.  It’s about more money for our veterans, for program and infrastructure.  It’s about Natural Institutes of Health with the Biblical power to cure.  The list goes on about the priorities that we designated.

And then there was a larger amount of money for the committees to negotiate.  Usually in that negotiation the poison pills come at the end.  I hope that that will be how it goes now and that we don’t see any reneging on the agreement that we made.  In addition to which, reneging on what that means for next year, because next year is 6 months from now, September 30.  Well, 7 months is the new fiscal year.

I was an appropriator, that is one place I was forged, Intelligence the other place, here in the Congress.  I know, left to their own devices, the appropriators can work it out.  It’s what comes from on high in terms of these poison pills that are problematic.  And I think that, well, we’ll see just what the poison pills are as we go forward.  But that’s what it is.

Q:  Madam Leader, can I follow up on that?  Given the conversations over the last few days on guns, is the Dickey amendment, in particular, given that it’s germane to appropriations, is that going to be a top Democratic priority going into the omnibus talks?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I met with the Secretary of HHS, I guess it was a few days.  I have completely lost track of time in terms of all that is going on here, the beautiful Billy Graham lying in honor in the Capitol and the rest.  So beautiful.

Earlier in the week, I met with the Secretary, and he told me that he did not see the Dickey amendment as preventing research.  And in fact it really doesn’t, but it does.  I mean, it chills.  But you can engage in research without overturning the Dickey amendment.  The Dickey amendment, it’s something about studying the impacts.  Well, some people might call that research, others not.

But I think Mr. [Congressman Tom] Cole has said something to the effect that it won’t be coming up.  But I think the American people know that it’s – and the President seemed receptive to it in the conversations of yesterday, that the Dickey amendment should be, for whatever it does, should be repealed.

And you know who agrees, bless his heart?  Congressman Dickey.  He is no longer with us, but when he was, he wrote a letter saying this is not his intention?

Q:  But are Democrats pushing to eliminate that in the omnibus?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we are hoping to have it in a comprehensive gun violence prevention package.

This is probably the easiest thing that they can do.  It always fascinated me as a Member of the Appropriations Committee in the ’90s and the rest when we would try to have a measure of head injuries for children.  You know, was it tricycle accidents, is it domestic violence, what is that?

And what I found out was the reason we couldn’t move forward is because of the NRA, because they did not want to have any measure of head injuries from guns.

So they’ve really penetrated the system in establishing obstacles to evidence based decision-making about what is the challenge we face, how do we reach solutions?

So I think this issue will be resolved, hopefully as part of the gun issue.  I think that, again, public sentiment would be there to say, why would we obstruct data, evidence, truth, facts about gun violence from being part of our decision-making?  That’s a question we’ve all had for a long time.

I think, again, we’re at a tipping point where the American people are well aware of the dangers to their own children, to our society.

And we see a path that is, again, bipartisan, respectful of the Second Amendment, acknowledging everyone’s right to defend themselves, but to do so in a way that anybody who wants a gun should have a background check and nobody who shouldn’t have a gun shouldn’t have it.  They just shouldn’t have it.

Thank you.

Q:  Madam Leader, are saying the CDC is saying that the Dickey amendment is not keeping them from doing gun violence research?

Leader Pelosi.  They are, but it’s more chilling than actually the words, if you read the words.  Yeah.  So that’s what they say, well, it doesn’t – the Secretary said to me, that’s not what the Dickey amendment does and we certainly intend to research.  That was the impression.

I didn’t see his presentation before the Energy and Commerce Committee, but the representation that he made to me was that’s how he represented it at the Energy and Commerce Committee.  You might want to see his words there.

Q:  Madam Leader, Dan Lipinski, do you support his reelection? 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, I do.

Q:  You do?

Leader Pelosi.  I do.

Q:  Thank you.


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