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.
Good morning. Thank you for accommodating the House schedule. We had votes until now. It’s 11 o’clock on Thursday and we’re gone for the week. And when we come back next week, we’ll be doing the bidding of the Republican leadership’s Wall Street friends at the expense of the American taxpayer and consumer protections. This is March madness. It’s March madness. As I’ve said before, there’s a dark cloud hanging over the Capitol, and it’s called the GOP tax scam.
The GOP tax scam is adding over $2 trillion to the national debt. Eighty-three percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent. Eighty-six million middle class families will be paying more taxes under the provisions of this bill. A $1.5 trillion tax [rate] break for corporations and further benefits to them to create jobs overseas at the expense of creating jobs in the U.S. A Morgan Stanley analyst estimated that 43 percent of the corporate tax savings would go to buybacks and dividends and nearly 19 percent would help pay for mergers and acquisitions. Just 13 percent would go to bonuses and raises.
As USA Today’s editorial board said, this is a tiny portion of the windfall, and the fact that they gave out one time bonuses rather than permanent raises was telling. Even Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein called the bonuses symbolic and not a significant thing. Certainly, we love when people get a bonus and if they get a raise. But if it’s so small in comparison. If the choice was made for corporate America and the top 1 percent in our society at the expense of working families, something is wrong with this picture.
The GOP tax scam is padding the pockets of GOP donors, executives, and big corporations at the expense of everyone else. For example, for instance, an Axios analysis this week found that the health care companies would receive a windfall of tens of billions of dollars from the GOP tax scam. But most of the money is going to share buybacks, dividends, acquisitions and paying down debt, with just a sliver of one time employee bonuses, research and internal investments.
The tax scam will save health care companies billions, but not patients. And as the Trump budget shows, after adding $2 trillion to the debt, Republicans plan $2 trillion worth of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
Democrats will continue to expose the truth all over the country. We’re having tax scam, the Tax March folks have just been magnificent participants, just putting forth the facts. What does this mean to your state, in Arizona, in Texas, in Illinois, in Florida, in New York, in Massachusetts, in California? Did I say California more than once? It’s a big state. The list goes on and on.
We will speak out against the GOP’s tax scam, massive giveaways to corporations and the wealthy and the consequences for workers, seniors and families. The Democrats want real bipartisan reform. People say to me, ‘Well, if you win, what would you do?’ And we said, ‘What we would do is what we’ve said the Republicans should do.’
We would have bipartisan, open hearings on how we go forward. What’s the appropriate level of a corporate tax cut? How do we first and foremost empower financially the middle class and make that permanent, not treat them as second class people in our country? Because we said for corporations it’s a permanent tax cut, for people it’s not permanent. And, again, it would be unifying. Unifying. It would be, bipartisan, open, transparent, and unifying as we go forward to strengthen middle class tax cuts and to do so in a way that creates good paying jobs, promotes growth and reduces the deficit.
This is quite a week. There’s all kinds of things going on. As you know, Tuesday was the first day of the elections. It’s amazing. There had been early voting in Texas and some in Illinois, but Tuesday was a primary election in Texas. And I bring that up because we face one of the greatest threats to our electoral system ever, and that’s the Russian meddling in our elections. Yet the U.S. Government is totally unprepared for the attacks that we know are coming.
Last week, NSA Director Rogers testified that the Russian interference is likely to continue and that he has not ‘been granted any… additional authorities, capacities or capabilities’ by President Trump to respond to Russia’s attacks and prevent further foreign meddling. He said, ‘What we’ve done hasn’t been enough,’ NSA Director Rogers.
House Republicans continue to obstruct, cover up and interfere with investigations into the Trump-Russia scandal. Why does the GOP put the President ahead of our national security?
As you know, the Mueller investigation is its own investigation. What I’m talking about here is honoring our oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. Central to the Constitution is our democracy with the right to vote. And people should know that when they vote their vote will be counted as cast and that there shouldn’t be any Russian intervention.
It’s been 14 months. It was January 6 of last year that the intelligence community presented its report that the Russians had disrupted our elections. And 14 months later, you see what NSA Director Rogers has said about it.
I was very pleased that some of you were here when our Election Security Task Force released a blueprint to protect our democracy. House Democrats introduced H.R. 5011, the Election Security Act, to appropriate funds to secure our elections. I am very proud of the work of Bennie Thompson, Ranking Member Thompson and Ranking Member Brady of the House Administration Committee, Ranking Member Thompson of the Homeland Security Committee, for the work that was done and coming up with this.
House and Senate Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Ryan and Leader McConnell urging them to consider additional funding to protect our elections from Putin’s meddling, but they ignored it. Fourteen months later, House and Senate, no hearings, no anything.
Many of you were here when we had the committees of jurisdiction leadership come in and say what they had asked their chairmen to do, but nothing has happened. Why? You have to ask yourself. Why would they not want to protect the integrity of our elections? That’s so fundamental. Everybody cares about that.
Well, in any case, on to – I’ve called on the Administration of both parties – oh, I wanted to just say another thing here that is happening this week.
This week we had the 6th, being the 14 months since and the first day of the new elections and why we should have election security. This week on March 5th marked the end of the timeframe that the President gave to produce a bill that protects Dreamers. That was September 5th he issued his rescission of the Obama DACA and other provisions.
At the time, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said that it was reprehensible. It’s still reprehensible. Six months later, we do not have a bill.
I’m calling on the Republicans in Congress to work in a bipartisan way. There is bipartisan support. The Hurd bill in the House, bipartisan and addresses the issue.
In the Senate, there was a bipartisan bill which I think would have gotten 60 votes had the Administration not interfered at the end. The President’s proposal didn’t even get 40 votes, much less 60, and the bipartisan Durbin-Graham bill got 54, came closer to the 60. So there’s that.
And then we have the gun issue. Next week, in less than a – well, in a week from now will be the walkout across the country demanding gun violence prevention initiatives. Kids, young people, will be here, back again in larger numbers on March 24th to show their support, advocacy, knowledge, eloquence, values about protecting people from gun violence.
So this March madness that we see here with ignoring all of this and putting bills on the floor that only give more opportunity for financial service institutions to take us right back to where we were in September of 2008.
So why are we going home at 11 o’clock on Thursday afternoon, not coming back until next Tuesday, when we have a deadline of the 23rd of March to pass the omnibus bill and to do so in a way that, again, can be unifying? Have a debate that is transparent, that has support that is bipartisan.
Well, we’ll see what the Speaker wants to do.
Q: Leader, on two points. You mentioned guns and immigration there. Can you give us a sense of what exactly you’re doing to potentially get something related to those issues in the omnibus? And then, based on your years of briefings through the intelligence community and as a member of the Big Four or Big Eight, are you seeing right now examples of Russian interference in the midterm elections?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I can’t speak to anything that I’ve seen as a member of the Gang of Four or Gang of Eight, as the briefing may be. But I do know that the intelligence community in the public domain put forth their assessment that the Russians did disrupt – attempt to disrupt our elections and that they would do it, as NSA Director Rogers said, planned to do it again.
That was like three questions.
Q: It was two. It was two.
Leader Pelosi. Okay. It’s up to you all. I mean, we can have a conversation here if you want, if it’s okay with you.
None of these bills have to be part of the omnibus. I mean, we could go to the floor and do a gun violence protection bill. There’s also, in terms of Dreamers, we have the Hurd bill. We could go to the floor and do the Hurd bill.
Or, as I suggested over and over again to the Speaker, bring anything to the floor you want. Bring Hurd, bring Goodlatte, bring any other bill you want, and let Queen of the Hill prevail. It doesn’t have to be on the omnibus bill.
But the omnibus bill has other problems in it. For example, even if the Dreamers never existed, in the Homeland Security piece of it, in that subcommittee, there is suggested language that we could never live with, could never live with, even if Dreamers never existed.
So the bill may have problems in other respects, whether it’s women’s right to choose, defunding Planned Parenthood. Maybe when we meet next week, some of these will have gone away. Let’s hope. But for the moment, we have a lot of work to do to iron these out.
As an appropriator – two cultures that I was forged in here, one, intelligence, one, appropriations – I know that the appropriators, left to their own devices, Democrats and Republicans working together, can come to resolution. It’s the poison pills that rain down from on high or up from on low, however you want to characterize that, that cause the problems. And that’s some of what we have to deal with.
However, on Homeland Security, it’s a debate about the funding for specific things. That’s not a poison pill, that’s a funding debate.
Q: Is it the beds?
Leader Pelosi. That’s part of it.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes?
Q: Thank you. Since you talked about the midterms, election security here, there’s a number of Democratic candidates kind of flooding the zone here. Certainly, that’s the story in California. The party is somewhat divided on who to support in Illinois in certain races. Do you see that, is that division going to backfire in some way on Democrats, because there are some who want to take the party further to the left, and that actually could backfire where maybe that helps Republicans sweep through in different districts because the Democrats are not completely unified?
Leader Pelosi. Welcome to the Democratic Party. It is the most exhilarating thrill to be a leader in a party that has that kind of diversity of opinion. Creative tension, Jerry Brown once called it. And it’s what we’re used to. It’s our strength. We’re not a rubber stamp. And that’s just the way that – we will never be a rubber stamp.
And so elections, that campaign is about people putting forth who they are, what their purpose is in running for office, what they know about that subject and so that their judgment is respected. How they think in a strategic way to have success in moving forward on those issues and how they connect with the American people.
It isn’t about some of the things that you talked about interparty. It’s a dynamic, but it certainly can work to our advantage. So I don’t see it as an obstacle, no.
Q: Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. Yes?
Q: Representative Ruben Kihuen has signaled that he is interested in revisiting his decision not to run again, and he has a week to make a decision to file. And I just wanted to get your reaction to that.
Leader Pelosi. Well, when he makes a decision, I’ll give you a reaction to it.
Q: I need to ask you about something that’s been increasingly in the headlines this week. The legal arrangement between the President’s personal lawyer and an adult film star that the President, evidently, had a relationship with has raised all kinds of questions in the last few days about what the President’s involvement in it, what he knows about this legal wrangling back and forth. Is there a role for Congress to get involved in this matter?
Leader Pelosi. Let me just say that I’m more concerned about the President’s policies, which undermine the financial security of America’s working families. For example, his budget, cutting Medicare, cutting Medicaid, cutting Social Security disability benefits, cutting Housing and Urban Development, cutting food stamps, cutting education.
That’s what Congress should get involved with, is to say, ‘You’re the President of the United States. You put forth a budget that is not a statement of our national values, about what is important to us as a nation.’
So I don’t know that we necessarily have to get involved in any of that. You can be sure if any of that were happening with the Democrats, the Republicans would be very involved in it.
But our time should be spent making the future better for the American people and creating good paying jobs, reducing costs, whether it’s prescription drug costs or any other costs that they have that we can impact so that they have more confidence, consumer confidence, that they can make – more than make ends meet.
We should be talking about a budget and the rest that is about, not survival or success, but transformation, that many more people see their place in the future with an economy that works for everyone and not worried about whatever category you want to place the rumors about the President’s personal life.
Yes, sir? Then I’ll come back to you.
Q: Madam Leader, do you see any significant differences between the banking reform bill the Senate’s considering and the Dodd-Frank rewrite passed by the House last year?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say this. And I’m going to spend some time on this, maybe even a magic minute, I don’t know. But it shouldn’t take that long.
What the Republicans are doing to Dodd-Frank should be a cause for alarm for everyone across our country, because it effects people directly in terms of being a consumer and being a taxpayer and having protections in those categories.
What I will tell my colleagues on the floor is how we got here, where we were in 2008 in the first place, how Dodd-Frank was a remedy to that, a compromise, an open hearing, was a remedy to that, and now how the Republicans want to take us right back to where we were in 2008.
So, I think that what the good intentions of one bill or another, a narrow correction, which I may or may not agree with, but nonetheless narrow that want to be exploded by the big banks is so wrong. But the more the public knows about it, the better.
And by the way, [this is] very consistent with this whole idea of we’re here for the 1 percent of corporate America, for Wall Street, we’re not here for the American people, the consumer, the middle class. And this is an important debate for us to have.
Again, some of these bills have everything, what we do is open to suggestion. Do you have a way to make this better, to address some of the concerns that have been expressed? We’re always open to that.
But to do so in a way that completely unravels Dodd-Frank is completely wrong, and using the excuse that they’re a custody bank. You know more about this subject. I don’t want to go into it in detail.
Q: What do you think about the change in the asset threshold from $50 million to –
Leader Pelosi. I think it’s dangerously high. I think it’s dangerously high. I think it can be increased, but I think it’s dangerously high. Let’s have that discussion.
That’s only one part of it. There are other pieces of it that are about redlining, again, the advantage of the banks at the disadvantage of people who want to own homes and have mortgages, the issues that relate to what is a custody bank. Again, we can have that discussion, but it would take a long time. We’ll see. We’ll see what they pass.
But the public has to know, because, again, they’re taking us right back. The brazenness of it is – you have to give them credit for being brazen. And we’ll just see how it goes.
Because, again, there are some features that you might say, how do we help community banks, how do we help raise that number? I think that number could be raised. I think it goes pretty high in that bill.
But that isn’t its only problem with me. You know, maybe that we could have a discussion of. Some of the other things are real deal breakers.
Staff. Last question.
Q: Leader Pelosi, you immediately called on Congressman Kihuen to resign when the first allegations came out against him. Do you still think he should resign?
Leader Pelosi. Let’s see what he decides to do, okay? I didn’t mean to be rude in my response, but I don’t want to speculate on something that may or may not happen.
Okay? Thank you all very much.