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. Good morning.
What a sad a week for America with the passing of First Lady Barbara Bush. What a wonderful person she is in our lives – she has been to our country. She brought dignity, civility, and spirit, we all know that, to everything she did. She loved America. She loved her family. We will miss her. The Bush family is in our prayers.
Here in the Capitol we have gone – Wednesday came, and why would we be here on Thursday and Friday to do the people’s work? I guess the Republicans want to get out of town in tax week.
This year tax day fell on April 17, on Tuesday. Last year on tax day, Americans turned out across the country by the thousands to demand the President finally release his tax returns. And since then, of course, we have been fighting the tax scam that the Republicans have put forward.
Now Republicans are scrambling as their deficit-exploding tax scam collapses in the eyes of hard-working Americans. The $2 trillion-plus debt created by the GOP tax scam giveaways are now a threat to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security disability benefits.
As we saw, the tax scam adds, again, over $2 trillion to the deficit. While the Republicans say it will pay for itself, we know that it doesn’t.
Just ask Bruce Bartlett: anyone who says that these tax cuts pay for themselves, it is not true, it is nonsense, and it is BS. That is according to Bruce Bartlett who is a trickle-down, supply-side guy who worked with Jack Kemp on these issues.
But the Republicans are now saying, ‘Well, we do have this debt now, so we have to give $1.5 trillion to corporate America, we will take a trillion from Medicaid to pay for that, a half trillion from Medicare to pay for that. And to address the interest on the debt, we will take a couple hundred billion from food stamps, a couple hundred billion from education.’ The list goes on.
It’s really a scandal. It’s not a statement of our values as a budget should be.
And Republicans said, I will call your attention to this poster, Republicans have said that workers would benefit from the tax scam, but fewer than 45, as you can see, 45 of the S&P 500 companies have even given one-time bonuses to their workers. Stunning.
While the GOP gives tax breaks to Wall Street, big pharmaceutical companies and corporations shipping jobs overseas, Republicans have written a partisan farm bill that abandons America’s farmers and hungry families.
Our farmers and ranchers are facing plummeting prices and dangerous uncertainty from the Trump Administration’s tariffs. But the GOP farm bill does nothing for the soybean, corn, wheat, citrus and specialty crop growers who need real support.
Republicans are moving to kill good-paying rural jobs, weaken the farmer safety net and shift opportunities away from America’s small towns with cuts to critical rural development and energy initiatives. You should pay attention to this farm bill, it’s inexplicable. It’s hard to understand why they would do this.
Nutrition is a big part of the farm bill, as you probably know, and under the GOP SNAP cuts, seniors, children, individuals with disabilities, our veterans – large numbers of our veterans – and hungry families will lose the means to put food on the table.
With one provision alone, just one of the provisions alone, hundreds of thousands of school-aged children will be kicked off free and reduced school lunch and breakfast initiatives.
Every dollar, it is important to know this, years ago when we were putting together our first recovery package when we took the Congress back, economists from both sides of the aisle represented to us and agreed that for every dollar in SNAP money that is spent, $1.79 in economic activity returns to the economy. You spend a dollar, you get the value of $1.79.
SNAP already has work requirements. Democrats have long championed job training and real paths to good-paying jobs. That’s not the issue. What is the issue is the GOP plan will only create vast, untested, unworkable bureaucracies that will increase hunger and poverty across America.
It would be interesting if they wanted to know the evidence, the facts, the data, the ramifications of their actions, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
President Trump and the GOP are stacking the deck for the wealthy and well-connected against hard-working American families at every opportunity they get. From the tax scam, to the Trump Budget, to the GOP’s relentless efforts to gut consumer protections, embolden polluters, enable the recklessness of Wall Street; again and again Republicans are giving the American people a raw deal.
Democrats have A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future. Democrats will press for real action for America’s workers, farmers and seniors.
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Q: Yes. So following up on the farm bill, I understand the Senate is working on a bipartisan measure whereas in the House version apparently there was no Democratic input. I am wondering if the cuts to SNAP and food stamps are a done deal or can you, can Democrats present amendments on the House floor when it comes to a vote?
And in a separate question, you know, Democrats presented the Queen of the Hill procedure yesterday –
Leader Pelosi. Okay. Is this separate? Let’s deal with farm and then we’ll go to DACA. Okay? I assume that was about DACA.
On the farm bill, we have very serious concerns about the nutrition sections of the farm bill, but that is not the only problem. As I say, they are undermining the safety net that is there for farmers, which is particularly difficult when we have low commodities prices and the President’s tariffs, which are harmful to farms.
So it’s not just about SNAP. The SNAP part of it is cruel, but fixing it is not the only problem in the farm bill. And the Republicans have just decided to go down this path. And I don’t think this bill is amendable. What they have to do is go to the table and start again.
I have such confidence and take my guidance on these matters from [Congressman] Collin Peterson, our Ranking Member on the committee. He cares about farmers, he lives among farmers and he sees this bill as something that we can’t support.
Q: So you are going to vote no on the House floor. But I am just wondering about the process, if there is anything you can do at this point to –
Leader Pelosi. We can go back to the drawing board, as they were. They thought that they were in a bipartisan conversation about putting together a bipartisan farm bill. And then the Republicans just turned on a dime and said, ‘Nevermind. These are the things we are going to do. That’s that.’
On DACA, what was the particular question?
Q: The question was that Democrats gathered some 240 signatures to force Speaker Ryan to at least allow a debate on the floor. Short of going to –
Leader Pelosi. And the question is
Q: The question is, Ryan immediately said, ‘No, our offer stands for Democrats to take it or leave it.’ What they offered is the same DACA offer that was on the table before.
Leader Pelosi. I didn’t know that. You are telling me something I don’t know.
Q: He said that yesterday.
Leader Pelosi. I don’t know what he’s referencing?
Q: So I’m wondering, what is your strategy at this point?
Leader Pelosi. I don’t know what his reference is, but I’m very pleased with the bipartisan nature of the Aguilar-Denham rule. This is about a rule of the House that has a large number, clearly indicating that if the Speaker would bring a bill to the Floor that it would pass and we could protect the DACAs.
The offer that we have said is put anything you want on the Floor, but put this on the floor, too, and have it be Queen of the Hill. And that’s, I think, a very impressive number.
Is it about 50 Republicans have signed on to it?
Forty-some, which is a large number and we are very pleased. It is a good piece of work which I am proud to support and I hope the Speaker will not ignore.
Q: But Ryan was addressing that –
Leader Pelosi. I’m saying that Congress will work its will. The Republican Members are speaking out to their Speaker. It’s no use us discussing what Mr. Ryan may do under whatever the circumstances.
But I appreciate your question. I support their effort. I am proud of it. I wish the Republicans would listen, because there are even more people who would vote for such a bill than have signed up on the letter.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on [Mike] Pompeo going to North Korea? And do you support him as the person to represent the U.S. in these talks with North Korea?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I am always in favor of, as I say, jaw, jaw, jaw rather than war, war, war. So if the President is going to meet with Kim Jong Un it is important to have preliminary meetings. I hope that Pompeo would not be confirmed as Secretary of State.
Q: So you don’t support –
Leader Pelosi. He has a different capacity now. But if you’re asking me should he then on Tuesday be confirmed as Secretary of State or Monday, I guess, is when the vote’s up, I don’t support that, no.
Q: Thanks, Madam Leader.
You have talked in the past on the issue of impeachment and where you think the House Democrats could go. Could you just explain a little bit about how Democrats are dealing with those in the party or in the base who are interested in this issue, especially some of the big donors, like Mr. [Tom] Steyer, who is putting a lot of money into these ads and promoting this issue. How do you balance that?
Leader Pelosi. I think that we have been very clear. It is important for us to win this election so that we can meet the needs of the American people.
Whether or not the President should be impeached is a matter that is being dealt with in the Justice Department. I don’t know that they are talking about impeachment, but whether they have the facts and the law to make a determination of how they go forward.
We don’t have that information. We don’t sit around thinking about how we deal with our donors. We have our position and our responsibility here. We respect other people’s expressions of their concern.
And many of my Members, I have 65 of them, that’s not a third of our Caucus, but it’s a large number, have supported Mr. [Al] Green’s amendment when it came to the floor.
But really what we’re talking about is how we strengthen the financial stability of America’s working families. How we have a Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Future, Better Wages. Lower costs to families, and that is what we are focusing on. And that’s where we have our unity in the party. But this is not a divisive issue in our Caucus.
Q: Madam Leader, thank you.
I want to ask a follow up on the North Korea talks. Obviously, those are moving a little closer with the revelation of Pompeo going over there.
What’s your confidence level or skepticism level of those talks right now? And what are realistic expectations about a month to a month and a half out from a possible meeting? What are realistic expectations?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say that I am one of the few Members of Congress who has been to Pyongyang. I did a number of years ago as a member of the Intelligence Committee. It’s a frightening place.
I’ve seen poverty throughout America – I mean throughout the world. As an appropriator and having visited the world to see our initiatives and how helpful they might be in the alleviation of poverty, the eradication of disease. When I went to North Korea I saw a poverty of spirit that just was mind boggling in many respects. And it’s a difficult place.
Our purpose then was to say, ‘We want to talk about MIAs and POWs. We want you to stop proliferating, selling your missile technology.’ Issues like that. Checking in on the hunger situation, because their people were starving. Even though their motto was ‘self-reliance,’ they couldn’t feed their own people.
So what they told us then, and what’s relevant to us now, is they said, ‘Hey, we just sell these missiles, this technology, for money. You want to buy them? We’ll sell them to you.’
And so my guidance from there to the current situation is the capability of the North Koreans to create either the technology for a weapon, the miniaturization of it, the capacity to launch it, and the intention to do so is something that we need to know as much about as possible.
But in addition to that, they are proliferators, and this is what I keep saying to the administration: they are proliferators. So the danger is not just what they might do. The danger is who they might sell one element of that to, which might be enough to endanger the world even further.
So hopeful, a hopeful conversation? Maybe Kim Jong Un is ready to change. I wouldn’t be too trustworthy of it, but certainly open to it.
And what would be success? If at least the communication were increased, there could be some way to stop what could follow if, left undeterred, North Korea were to continue what it’s doing, which is perhaps other countries having access to the technology, the scientific know-how, the launch capacity, and, dangerously, the intention.
So on the subject of foreign policy – I’ll come back to you – I just went to talk about Syria for a moment.
This week we got, well, the 15th it was sent within 48 hours, the War Powers notification from the President. And we spent a good deal of time in our Caucus yesterday discussing this.
The President said in this notification, which is in the public domain, he said, ‘I acted pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive and in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States to promote the stability of the region, to deter the use and proliferation of chemical weapons, and to avert a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe. The United States…’ – this is fraught with meaning – ‘The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests.’
This is what the President said. No reference to coming to Congress. He’s using Article II as his basis.
So yesterday, at length, we had a meeting in our Caucus about the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, an AUMF, how do we come to agreement in the Congress to do that, A. And B, just to reference what President Trump said about President Obama vis a vis Syria.
So he said at the time when we bombed Syria last year, when there was a bombing last year, in our exchange of ideas with the administration, they were critical of President Obama for not taking the action that they took.
But when he was not President, President Trump said, ‘What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.’
He also said, ‘The President’– that would be Obama – ‘must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria. Big mistake if he does not.’
Could have been talking about himself.
And then he said, a week later, ‘The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb red line statement. Do NOT attack Syria’ – not is in caps – ‘Do NOT attack Syria, fix USA.’
So here he is telling us he’s not coming to Congress. And what is the security risk to the United States? Let’s have that discussion.
So, again, there has to be a mission, there has to be a purpose as far as those discussions with North Korea are concerned. Let’s wish them well, but also let’s make sure they have a purpose and a mission, which is the security of the United States of America and not – what did he say? To save face.
Q: On the generic ballot we’ve seen the gap between Democrats and Republicans narrow significantly since December, January. Are you worried about this? And do you think Democrats aren’t doing enough to get their message out there?
Leader Pelosi. No, I’m not concerned at all. We’re very positive about it.
And I never believe a 10, 13 point generic. That’s just not possible. But we’re very pleased with the average of the generics.
But, you know, elections are elections, every day counts. There are only 27 Tuesdays left until the election. Did you know that? My grassroots folks remind me of it when we’re on the phones at night, 27 Tuesdays.
I’ve never seen mobilization the way we’re seeing it today. Thank you. Donald Trump turns out to be one of the best organizers in the country, motivating other people to turn out to support a system of checks and balances, which the election will be about. No, we feel very good about it.
It’s, again, every day. We put one good day, one good week, one good month in front of another. We’re proud of our candidates. They know their purpose and they know their connections to their own constituents. It’s about that. And not only do we have the number of candidates, the quantity, we have the quality of candidates.
So thank you for your question.
You had a question? No? He took your question.
Okay, yes, sir. One more.
Q: Back to Syria on the AUMF. Speaker Ryan said that there is no need for Congressional approval, that Trump has the authority, which is a little bit different than what Speaker Boehner had said a few years ago. He said that we should do a new AUMF, he just disagreed with Obama about the details of what it should include.
Do you see that shift, GOP leaders now saying that there is no need for a new resolution, what do you attribute that to?
Leader Pelosi. Well, because they have a Republican President.
Q: Oh, new President, or is it a shift in the Republican Party or public sentiment or something deeper than that?
Leader Pelosi. No, I think it’s when they have a Republican President they don’t think they should constrain him in any way. I think that’s what it is. But you’d have to ask them.
Here’s the thing. When President Obama was President, he asked for an AUMF, he sent over that request. And the AUMF, in order to achieve one, you have to define the timetable, how long does it last, the geography of it, what is the extent of it and the scope, what’s it about. Is it about boots on the ground or what?
And so it’s hard, because you want to be able to weigh in on it without giving too much latitude, but it’s a debate.
And one thing that we agree on in our Caucus, though, is that we should repeal the previous AUMF that is as old as 2001. It’s really not an AUMF that you can use. Whatever it may have been before, tied to al-Qaeda or whatever, it’s not justified in what happened in Syria the other day.
And so a targeted strike like this, we think he should have come to Congress. But he didn’t. But if it’s a pattern of strikes, the President should come to Congress. It’s his best protection, as a matter of fact.
And as he said, Obama needs Congressional approval. That’s August 29, 2013, when all this was going on. August 30, the next day he said, the President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria. And then he goes on to say: We shouldn’t attack Syria, fix the USA. Quite a reversal of what he’s talking about now.
But the AUMF, hopefully, would be a bipartisan constraint that Congress would place on our use of force. It’s not a restraint on the President, it’s about Article I, the Congress, Article I, the power to declare war.
Article II, the President can engage in wars, engage in a military activity, but if it is going to be a war, they have to come to Congress. What defines what that war is? An AUMF could give that definition.
But to your question, I think the only reason they changed is that they have a Republican President and they don’t put any constraints on him.
But as I said to the President last year when they had this bombing, at the time in 2013 there was no appetite in Congress, no appetite among the American people, and no appetite among our allies to go into Syria.
So when he was criticizing him and saying he needed congressional approval, you should ask him why he had a change of mind about it.
Thank you all very much.