Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on Omnibus Funding Bill

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference to discuss the omnibus funding package.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

Leader Pelosi.  Thank you very much Mr. Leader.  I have to say for one so new to the process of being at the table of the four principles you were there like a veteran, knew your subject matter, grounded in your values and strategic in your thinking and actions.  So, thank you for your words and I think we’re a good team as we went forward.

The distinguished leader has clearly put forth many of the priorities that we’re very proud of.  In a bill that’s one yard high, it’s one yard high.  About half of it is the bill, quarter of it are earmarks, another quarter are report language.

It’s interesting to see from the standpoint of regular order why the Republicans thought that would be a good idea.  Well, I thought they rushed through, posting it last night, taking it to rules, on the Floor today, not honoring the three-day rule.  They didn’t want their Republican colleagues to see just exactly what was in the bill.  Because this bill was a victory for investments in our future, supporting our middle class and doing so in a way that was producing good paying jobs.

The debate that we had on the Caps was a very successful one, where we said that an increase in defense had to be matched by an increase in domestic spending.  We support our men and women in uniform to have what they need to protect their country and protect themselves at the same time.  But in a domestic budget, one third of it is security, homeland security, Department of Defense, Veterans’ Affairs, anti-terrorism activities of the Justice Department.

So, it’s very important for us to get those increases because they were necessary priorities that could cannibalize other investments that are about the strength of our country in terms of the health, education and well-being of the American people.  So, it was all about supporting the middle class, job creation, good paying jobs, A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future.

As I said, the Leader very clearly presented many of our priorities.  I would just say in many cases, when you talk about the National Institutes of Health it’s about the biblical power to cure, whether it’s scientific opportunity to save lives or make people healthy, we have a moral responsibility to put our resources there.

But let’s also remember that all of the estimates for the National Institutes of Health is about scientists but it’s also about carpenters, plumbers, electricians and it’s jobs, jobs, jobs across the spectrum as we again invest in the good health of the American people.

And as you recall in the Caps debate, we had some priorities that were the basis of our asking for the increase in funding commensurate with our increase in defense funding.  And they were about our veterans, they were about opioids, they were about the National Institutes for Health, about affordable child care for hard working families.

But there were some things that we lifted up, and then our appropriators – and I’m an appropriator, forged in that culture, forged in intelligence and appropriations.  I know left to their own devises, Democrats and Republicans can work together on that Committee.

It’s the poison pills that rain from their leadership that we were very proud of our Members to fight off.  I join the Leader in commending Senator Leahy and the Ranking Members, as well as all the Members on the Appropriations Committee, and in the House, Congresswoman Nita Lowey from New York.  She took good care of New York.

Leader Schumer.  Yes, she did.

Leader Pelosi.  New York and our Ranking Members from across the country.  Throughout the heartland of our country, as well as the other Members.  They did their job and they staved off the poison pills and we had some other issues to deal with.

But I just want to focus on one thing because correctly so, the Leader mentioned what happened on border security.  First, they asked for $25 billion for the wall, and that came down to $1.6 billion as you described.  They asked for 12,000 new beds, that came down to no net gain in new beds.  They asked for hundreds more –

Leader Schumer.  1,800, yeah.

Leader Pelosi.  Of the deportation force.  There’s some debate as to what that number is but hundreds and hundreds more deportation officers, they got none.  They just got a 125 for legal and investigative – analysis support staff purposes.  Hundreds and hundreds down to 125.  And no defunding of sanctuary cities.  So from the standpoint of concern that we have about America and how we protect our borders, respect our values, this was really very important.

A disappointment we had, is we couldn’t get the Speaker, even though he promised on more than one occasion including the night of the debate on the Caps and at a press conference around that time, he said, this was last month, ‘in order to shift our focus on to the next big priority which is a DACA solution,’ he said this in February.  ‘We’ve got to get this Budget Resolution done.’  Which we did, the Caps.  ‘And now I’ll say it once again and I’ll say it again we’ll bring a DACA solution to the Floor.’  That’s what he said and on the Floor he said something similar and Members believed him and voted for the Caps bill with the promise that he was going to bring something to the Floor.

We just haven’t seen it.  But you’ll hear them say, ‘oh we offered this, we offered that.’  They did not.  They did not.

We were there to protect our DREAMers in a way that gave them protection.  They wanted us to protect them but not at the expense of, you know, have a little patch and a big hit on their families and all the rest by increasing interior enforcement.

So this is a disappointment.  We still call upon the Speaker: honor your own pledge, honor your own words, give us a chance to vote on the DREAM Act, or just bring a Queen of the Hill where we can have bipartisan legislation put forth.  The DREAM Act, it’s Hurd-Aguilar, it’s Ros-Lehtinen-Roybal-Allard, whatever else he wants to bring to the Floor, let’s get this done.  Let’s not talk about it.

And then, the President, let me just close with him because he is just such a fascinating person – what did he say?  I usually just say 45, but anyway, he’s saying, well let me just say his statement about the bill: ‘I got 1.6 to start a wall on the southern border, the rest will be forthcoming.’

Sign it, okay?  ‘More importantly, I got $700 billion to rebuild our military, 750 [billion dollars] next year, most ever.’  Okay.  Then he said, this is the eloquence of it all, let me share it with you.  ‘Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increases and new equipment.’

So, ‘waste money on Dem giveaways’?  Would he call funding our heroic veterans ‘Dem giveaways’?  Affordable childcare for hardworking middle-class families?  Life-saving medical research, which creates jobs?  The integrity of America’s elections?  Does he think fighting the opioids epidemic, which is alive and unfortunately unwell in every district in America – is that how the President would characterize that?

So, in any event, his partisanship has blinded him to the fact that we have come to bipartisan agreement on many of these issues and what also did he say?  ‘We [Democrats] don’t like DACA, we were just pretending.’  Well, we are not pretending and we are not going away.  We will get that done.

But, Members are not going to shut down government because the Speaker did not live up to his promise.  To lead is to take risks.  We want him to take a risk with his own Caucus.  Bring a bill to the Floor.  Respect the fact that your own Members on the Republican side want to do something about the DREAMers so I would say that I voted for the bill, almost with a little reluctance because of some of the promises made and promises un-kept.

But I think the advances it makes for the middle class, national security, the integrity of our elections, the health of our people, the job creation is so important.  And especially to take advantage of this opportunity, at a time when they passed a tax bill that is not about opportunity, it’s only about increasing the deficit, increasing the national debt at the expense of the future.  Thank you again, Mr. Leader.

Senator Schumer.  Thank you.  Ready for your questions.

* * *

Q:  Senator, how did you get Gateway through?  Is $540 million a firm guarantee?

Senator Schumer.  The 540 is firm.  There is other money that is discretionary, but the $540 million are in two pots: one Amtrak, 380 million extra dollars for Amtrak for capital improvements in the Northeast corridor.  Amtrak regards the number one capital improvement as the Gateway project.  We’ve worked with them closely all along on this.  Second, there is an additional about $125 million that the governors of New York and New Jersey can spend at their discretion.  I’ve talked to them.  They’re going to use it for Gateway.  So that money is there.

And then, they had dramatically cut all sorts of transportation programs, New Starts, very important for Gateway, obviously, we have to apply for things like that.  But I would bet that now the President sees that Gateway is happening, if the New York, New Jersey areas want to use some of those moneys for Gateway as well.

Leader Pelosi.  If I just may, as well, not about Gateway but about the other funding the Leader points to, New Starts and TIGER Grants and all that.  What we did in this bill flies in the face of the President’s budget, I’m not talking about Gateway now.  I’m talking about other infrastructure and transportation because his budget slashed it.

Senator Schumer.  Slashed.  Slashed infrastructure and we have it.  I’ve always thought that Gateway was one of the most important infrastructure projects for the country.  I didn’t want to get involved in any trading.  I want to give a lot of credit to the bipartisan leadership in the House and the Senate on the Appropriations Committees, as well as people like Congressman King and Congressman Frelinghuysen and Congresswoman Lowey who pushed very hard for this as well.

Leader Pelosi.  It was nice because so many New Yorkers were involved.

Q:  Mr. Leader and to you, Madam Leader, as well, there are thousands of high school students about to descend on Washington for this gun march.  There are some things in this omnibus that are related to guns.  Do these kids have any hope in this Congress to get more?

Senator Schumer.  Yes, let me just say this: America has changed.  Even in the reddest corners of America, people are for universal background checks and protection orders.  We are going to keep fighting.  This march, we think, will galvanize action in the House and Senate.  We will do everything we can.

We want to put more gun things – we asked, I asked for universal background checks to be a part of this bill.  The Republican leaders rejected it.  But we’re going to get it.  We’re going to get it.  America has changed on guns.  I’ve been doing this fight ever since I was the author of the Brady Law back in 1993 and you just see the sea-change in people’s attitudes.  Huge numbers of gun owners, gun owners, in a survey I saw today would vote against someone who would vote against universal background checks.  So, we’re going to get this.  And the kids are great.

Overall, I cut my teeth in the Vietnam War protests and a rag-tag group of students and assorted nobodies toppled the most important man in the world, Lyndon Johnson, because he was so out-of-sync with America on the war.

Leader Pelosi. If I may on that subject, I said on the floor of the House that one of the reasons Republican leadership was rushing this bill in, practically sight unseen, was that they wanted to get out of town before the March for Our Lives came to town.  These young people are so formidable, they instill fear in the Republican leadership in the Congress of the United Sates because they know a tipping point has been reached.  I think that young people benefit though from what happened last year and the first march and then the next march, and the fact that #MeToo and #Enough with the guns and the rest.  There is a different opportunity for change, as the Leader mentioned about another era where I was pushing strollers, he was probably in school, but I was pushing strollers in those anti-Vietnam marches.  Anyways…

Leader Schumer.  I didn’t push any strollers in said marches.

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, sometimes it was a little rough I have to say.  But in any event, this is different, and it is just a matter of time, but it will happen and the public is there. Congress is not, but I think it will be and we have two-hundred co-sponsors for our background check bill.  Mike Thompson, Peter King, now bipartisan.  Two-hundred.  Nobody has ever had two-hundred co-sponsors on a gun violence prevention bill ever.  This is quite remarkable and some people will end up voting for it as they did in the 90’s with all of the whipping that was going on, and I thank you [Leader Schumer] for your leadership then and now.  But to have them out front on it is very big.

Leader Schumer.  If the Leaders would just have the courage to put a universal background check bill on the floor it will pass.

Leader Pelosi.  Give us a vote on background checks, give us a vote on guns, more broadly, give us a vote on Dreamers, the outcome is what the outcome is.  I think they are afraid of the outcome.

Q:  The sexual harassment legislation, given that it does have a bipartisan agreement, from your vantage point in the negotiations, who was opposed to it, why, and going forward what is the track record you are looking for?

Leader Schumer.  We are going to get something done and it is a very important issue and we are going to get something done in the next little while.  With everything else going on in the bill, everyone agreed, disagreements on some specific provisions, but we have all agreed we are going to see this move very soon in the Senate.

Q: On the wildfire funding shields, this has been bipartisan for five years, it has been trying to come through it has never worked due to different politicizations, why now?

Leader Schumer. There is a change going on here.  You know, it is a funny thing.  In a certain sense we are able to accomplish more in the minority than we were when we had the presidency or even the majority and I think what is happening here is that the American people really want action, more than they have ever wanted before.  And on the wildfires we had great bipartisan support.  On our side people like Senators Wyden and Merkley, Cantwell, Tester, Udall, Heinrich, so many.  Bennett pushed hard, but they were joined by Republican colleges like Senator Risch and Crapo, the Senators from Wyoming.  That was the metaphor for the whole bill, lots of things that couldn’t get done in the past got done now because people were coming together.  And when you come together, and you meet in the middle, the middle class is going to gain.

Leader Pelosi.  Let me just say there is really something that has been unspoken here.  We just took the vote in the House, I left before the end, so I could be on time here, but scores of Republicans voted against this bill.  Scores.  And that gives us leverage. That gives us leverage.  It could give us leverage not to have the bill pass but we chose not to do that, we chose to use our leverage to have the bill passed.  This fire issue of course is very important to us in California, and for years we have been talking about, why are we using our prevention money to put out fires instead of preventing them, and that is just an abbreviation of it.  But all of the western states had a big interest in this.  But just as you write your stories and the rest, much of our leverage has sprung from the fact Republicans, and I cannot speak for the Senate, but in the House, the Republicans were not voting for this bill. They were not voting for this bill. That gave us leverage in all of the negotiations, that gave the middle class a victory.

Q: Is the Senate going to vote today and do you expect any kind of amendment vote on the CSR?

Leader Schumer. As for if the Senate is going to vote today, I think the hope of Leader McConnell and myself is that we can vote today.  As you know any one Senator can hold the bill up, can hold us up, for thirty hours.  We will see if it get unanimous consent. I think on our side we will, we will see on the Republican side.

Q: Any amendment vote on CSR?

Leader Schumer. You would have to ask Leader McConnell. He has the right to do that but I do not know if he will.  One other thing, we asked, Leader Pelosi and I asked, Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell to put into the bill protections if Robert Muller were fired.  They wished not to.  We proposed an alternative that would prevent him from being fired or gave us a recourse if he was.  We gave them either choice, they refused to do that but we told them how important this was.  Certainly we expect, if god forbid, if Mueller were fired, Rosenstein fired, any of the key people in this investigation pardoned, they would step up to the plate and join us.  That has much less to do with Republican and Democrat and far more to do with the constitution and America.

Leader Pelosi.  As soon as they turned us down, which they did over and over again, on Mueller, we have a discharge petition for such legislation in the House that had over 100 co-sponsors and I think that our Republican colleagues are going to have to answer for not supporting common sense.  For any President or special counsel of this kind, this is about protecting our Constitution of the United States.  We take an oath to do that and we are not going to let anything stand in its way.

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