Pelosi Remarks at Leadership Press Conference on a Better Deal for Rx Drugs
|Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley and DPCC Co-Chairman David Cicilline for a press conference on a Better Deal for Rx Drugs. Below are the Leader’s remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Thank you very much Mr. Crowley, Mr. Chairman of our caucus, thank you for an informed Caucus this morning about issues coming up on the floor and before the public. I am pleased to join you here to talk about, again, a raw deal that the President is giving the American people and the Better Deal that we are proposing.
From day one in his campaign, President Trump boasted about his big pledge to take on Big Pharma which was getting away with murder. Here is what he said: ‘When it comes time to negotiate the cost of drugs, we are going to negotiate like crazy,’ Trump told the crowd in Exeter, New Hampshire in February 2016. ‘The drug companies probably have the second or third most powerful lobby in the country. They get the politicians and every single one of them is getting money from them,’ the President said. He says, ‘They are getting away with murder.’
After months of kicking the can down the road, the President pulled his punch. He delivered his speech and guess what? Negotiations were not on the table. ‘Pharma has a lot of lobbyists,’ he said, ‘and a lot of lobbyists with a lot of power and there is very little bidding on drugs. We are the largest buyer of drugs in the world and we do not bid properly.’ And I go back to that first sentence in Exeter, ‘When it comes time to negotiate the cost of drugs we are going to negotiate like crazy.’ Well, unless ‘like crazy’ means we are not going to negotiate at all, the President has reneged again on a promise. A promise of financial and health security to America’s families.
America’s families have serious kitchen table concerns about health costs, and the rising cost of health care is largely about the rising cost of prescription drugs. It is really sad. So, again the President’s proposal is a big broken promise to American families.
A broken promise to allow Medicare—this is what he promised, that the Secretary would be able to negotiate for lower prices for Medicare and save seniors billions. A broken promise to hold Big Pharma accountable for its price hikes and profiteering. A broken promise to fight for the millions of families struggling with high prescription drug costs. That is a raw deal for the American people, President Trump’s raw deal for the American people. Democrats have a Better Deal on prescription drug prices. Our bold ambitious plan is to lower soaring prescription drugs.
Our strong, detailed plan calls for real solutions, which Mr. Cicilline will bring to your attention, but it calls for tough new enforcement of price gouging, allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate drug prices and transparency on excessive drug price increases. The American people deserve a Better Deal. Democrats have it for them.
Now, the President’s broken promise on drug prices and not negotiating and that—don’t take my word for it. That day the stock market showed what the analysts said: that pharma has nothing to worry about. Stocks soared because the President pulled his punch. He made a fake promise. I do not know if he ever intended to keep it. But the American people—America’s working families—are paying the price.
Another broken promise if I may, Mr. Chairman, that I may want to allude to because it is current, is the issue about China. Some of the things that the President said about China are just remarkable. He said, ‘The single biggest weapon used against us in destroying our companies is the devaluation of currencies and the greatest ever in that is China. Very smart. They are like grand chess masters and we are like checker players—bad ones. Because this is an economic enemy.’ This is another in November 2016, ‘Because this is an economic enemy, because they have taken advantage of us like nobody in history,’ this is the sentence that is so stunning that he turned his back on, ‘They have—’ that is, China have. ‘It is greatest theft in the history of the world. The greatest threat in the history of the world what they have done to the United States, they have taken our jobs.’ And now what has he done? What has he done? The Chinese issued a list of concerns that they wanted him to address and right away he said he was going to relax the sanctions.
There is a company called ZTE. Those of us involved in intelligence are very familiar with the cybersecurity threat that they pose to the United States, on a bipartisan basis. Our colleagues have spoken up on both sides of the aisle about this over time.
But what they did was violate the sanctions with North Korea and Iran. The President said we must move in and correct this because too many people in China, too many jobs are being lost in China. Wait a minute, ‘the greatest theft in the history of the world,’ the Chinese ripping off our jobs. And now it is not just about jobs it is about national security and the President is saying now, ‘President Xi of China and I are working together to give massive Chinese companies a way to get back into business fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce department has been instructed to get the job done.’
Too many jobs in China lost? Our national security threatened? ZTE is a cybersecurity threat to the United States.
The President folded in a matter of seconds to the Chinese demand in order to proceed with any talks. So this is, a promise is made, a promise is not kept, a raw deal for the American people. The list goes on but right now, we are focusing on fake promise, a punch pulled, a gift to pharma that the President did on prescription drugs at the same time as we see this as a part of a pattern of saying one thing on the campaign—a central point of his campaign—and reneging on that.
With that, I am pleased to yield with respect to Congressman Cicilline, one of the co-chairs of our [Policy and Communications] Committee for his words about the prescription drug Better Deal that the Democrats are proposing.
Rep Cicilline. Thank you Madam Leader, thank you Chairman Crowley it is an honor to be with both of you.
Leader Pelosi. I just wanted one more comment, because it is important to note that when the President made this promise about ‘negotiating like crazy,’ it was music to our ears because, for years, Democrats have been proposing that we must lower prescription drug prices by enabling the Secretary to negotiate for lower prices.
In fact, in 2006, the year we took back the Congress then, one of the principles in our ‘Six for ’06’ was enabling the Secretary to negotiate for lower drug prices. Of the ‘Six for ’06,’ five became law and one did not: enabling the Secretary to negotiate for lower prices. We could not get the 60 votes in the Senate on that, so I know full-well the power of the Pharma lobby.
The President spoke about that and folded to that the other day, but this has been a long-standing, predictable problem from the time that they did Medicare Part D. They gave a huge advantage to Big Pharma in that bill, that’s why we voted against it overwhelmingly.
We thought we could do much better and we are still paying the price and not only are we paying the price as a country because it has an impact on our budget, but more importantly, America’s working families are paying the price. Questions?
Q: On the Farm bill –
Leader Pelosi. Excuse me, I’ll be happy to answer questions on the Farm bill in just one second. On pharmaceuticals or inconsistencies or broken promises of President Trump? Nothing on pharmaceuticals? You have it all? You got it? And China? On the Farm bill, yes your question?
Q: On the Farm bill, the GOP had a press conference right before you. They were saying that Democrats are employing scare tactics and that they are not cutting off food assistance to people. What’s your response to that?
Leader Pelosi. If they think telling the truth is a scare tactic, then that’s their evaluation of it. What Democrats are doing is telling the truth about what they are doing on childhood nutrition, for nutrition for our veterans and the rest and they know it. And they are even asking questions, ‘How will this impact me in my state?’ Some of the Republicans. Because they know that this is damaging to our children, to our veterans, to those we want to have good nutrition programs for which has always been a part of the farm bill – a beautiful, historic collaboration between urban and rural.
I was in Iowa on a farm last week hearing about our concerns on the farm bill and they said to me, ‘There are many farmers on SNAP, on food stamps.’ So, again, this is not just about urban areas benefiting, but a collaboration. So what they are doing is really shameful. That is way almost every faith-based group and the rest are speaking out against it. Any other questions?
Chairman Crowley. Mike?
Q: On DACA, Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy went to the White House yesterday and met with President Trump and it sounds like they are trying to make a bipartisan deal, something that can pass both chambers and be signed by the President. With that in mind, have you been in any talks recently with the Speaker about what that look like.
Leader Pelosi. No. What we’ve said to them: bring up the bill, bring up all the bills, queen of the hill, if you have a suggestion, bring it up. Of course, we have a bipartisan bill. We want the Speaker to bring it to the Floor.
Short of that, we have a discharge petition. Not we. The Republicans and the Democrats, working together, in a bipartisan way, not a part of leadership but a part of their own initiative, recognizing that protecting the Dreamers is a value we all share in this country and we are just asking the Speaker to bring it up or, if not, honor the discharge petition.
There are so many signatures on the discharge petition. In the past, whether it was on – way back, I did one with Senator McCain as a part of my first responsibilities when I became Whip – on the McCain-Feingold to reduce the role of money in politics and when we got close to the number, the Speaker let us bring us the bill.
Same thing with Ex-Im Bank, when we got close to the number, the Speaker brought up the bill. They are close to the number. The prediction is that we will get the number. In order for the Speaker to save face, let him have the discretion to bring it up.
What ‘Queen of the Hill’ does – has four bills – one, the Goodlatte bill which is an act of cruelty, a legislative act of cruelty, the DREAM Act, any bill the Speaker would like to concoct and, fourth, would be the bipartisan bill I am talking about now that has the discharge petition. Under ‘Queen of the Hill’, the bill that has the most votes last prevails, goes to the Senate.
We believe this bipartisan bill, that the Members put together shares the value of protecting the Dreamers, is the bill that would win if they would just give us the vote, give us a chance.
Q: Quick follow up on that. Are you confident you could get 100 percent of Democrats? Mr. [Filemon] Vela has said he would not sign the petition because of concerns about wall construction.
Leader Pelosi. Well if we had 99 and 44 percent you would know that means. They used to say, [ivory soap] used to be 99 and 44 one hundredths percent pure. You remember?
Chairman Crowley. I remember.
In any event we’ll have a strong Democratic – we’ll see when the time comes but I respect Mr. [Filemon] Vela’s concerns about the border for sure.
Q: On the same topic, the Speaker is actually trying to kill the discharge petition urging his Members not to sign it. But do you think that is the only path to getting a vote or are you open talking about a separate path with him and President? They obviously think the President would veto the Hurd-Aguilar Bill which is why they don’t that want that to go –
Leader Pelosi. No. They don’t know that the President will veto the Hurd-Aguilar Bill. I don’t know if the President knows if he will veto the Hurd-Aguilar Bill, but it answers the concerns that President had. So, you’re asking, are we receptive? We’ve been receptive for a very long time. We’ve been very receptive since the President did what I thought was an act of meanness to lift the protections of DACA last September.
But at the time, he said he wanted to get something done. I don’t know who cancels that out at the White House but what he said publicly was encouraging, gave us hope, and then somebody put the nix on it at the White House.
But we have an answer, there is a path, let’s get it done. And if not, then why not? Don’t then say, as they do, ‘oh, we want to protect the Dreamers.’ No, you don’t. We have a path. Get it done. The sooner the better.
Everyday instills more fear into families in our country, that’s unnecessary.
Chairman Crowley. I just want to say to that, I think it’s the lip service that we’ve had over the last year or so over the issue of the Dreamers. Primarily from the White House but also from the Republicans in the House and Senate that’s lead to this rank and file movement of the discharge petition and the Queen of the Hill, moving toward, the legislation that gets the most votes moves forward.
As the Leader said, the Goodlatte bill – I shouldn’t speak for every Member of the Democratic Caucus but certainly for myself, I’m sure I speak for the Leader and for Mr. [David] Cicilline – that’s a nonstarter for us. But put it out, see how many votes it gets. And certainly bring the Hurd-Aguilar Bill to the Floor. See how many votes that gets as well. We’ll deal with the issue of how many Democrats will vote for it when the bill is on the Floor.
Rep. Cicilline. Yeah I just want to add one thing quickly. The only place where the DREAM Act is controversial is in the Republican Caucus in the House. The rest of the country, overwhelmingly – Republicans, Democrats, Independents – understand the responsibility to pass the DREAM Act and take care of these young people.
To the Chairman’s point, this is something that has really broad support, it’s just a question of the vehicle to get the vote, to force the Speaker to give us an opportunity to actually amplify the voices of the American people on this issue and vote.
Q: Madam Leader, on May 5th you issued a statement about Congressman [Tony] Cárdenas, you said that the House Ethics Committee should promptly investigate that matter. I was looking into it a little bit, and my understanding is that the House Ethics Committee does not have the investigative jurisdiction to look into the matter because it precedes – it’s jurisdiction would be cut off January 2011, the previous three sessions of Congress and this current Congress.
Leader Pelosi. I appreciate your view. I don’t necessarily share it and there is some precedent for going back further.
Q: It says that there needs to be separate allegation that is directly related to the 2007 allegation. So any other new development of the Ethics Committee here in Congress would not be able to…
Leader Pelosi. Let’s see what the Ethics Committee has to say about it. I served longer than anybody – only subject in name – Intelligence [Committee], I served longer than anybody, Ethics [Committee], I served longer than anybody. It was only supposed to be six, but they asked me to stay longer to help rewrite the new rules to review conduct of behavior in the Congress.
I do believe there is discretion for them to do this, so let them decide and then we’ll go from there. They have that discretion to decide.
Let me get back to the Better Deal, because what we are focusing on with the Better Deal is not only A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Pay, Better Future. As Mr. [David] Cicilline and distinguished Chairman [Joe Crowley] this is about lowering costs for America’s working families, which is an essential part of the Better Deal. How we do so? Costs. And prescription drugs is a big part of their cost and we have said, we want to negotiate, we want to stop the price gouging and we want to have transparency. And transparency is something that is a democratic value.
In everything we want to do, we want to have as much bipartisanship as possible, transparency and openness as possible, and as unifying as possible. I think that there’s a place to go with this that meets the needs of the American people and is a better deal for them.
Again, it’s about jobs, it’s about lowering costs, it’s about a better future. Thank you.
Q: Is there any – one last thing on the Farm Bill – does the Democratic party have any position on sugar subsidies? There seems to be part of the negotiations on the Farm Bill. Whether to cut back on sugar subsidies for the moment?
Leader Pelosi. Well there are views in our Caucus on both sides of many of the issues within the Farm Bill, but we all agree that this bill is not a good path to go down for the American people.