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.  Busy time.

Today, Democrats are taking bold action to break through the obstruction of the Republican Congress and get the American people a vote on overwhelmingly bipartisan priorities.

After the success of yesterday’s bipartisan vote in the Senate, we’re so proud of Senator [Ed] Markey, our former House Member who worked on these issues when he was in the House, that effort in the Senate to save the internet and restore net neutrality.

Democrats, led by Representative Mike Doyle, are filing a discharge petition to force a vote in the House as well.

I think Members are in for a real treat.  They’re going to hear overwhelmingly from their constituents in big numbers about the priority they place on a free, fair, and open internet.

Millions of Americans have weighed in.  The young people especially, who know how important net neutrality is to their job and to their future, will be able to see who stands with them and who does not.  That’s on net neutrality.  [Congressman] Mike Doyle has been our champion in the House.

Lastly, I was on a farm in Iowa to listen to the hard-working men and women to talk about their problems with the Farm Bill that’s on the floor now, as you know.  Farmers are struggling with plummeting prices, great economic uncertainty, and self-inflicted damage of the Trump Tariffs.  When I say self, self for our country.

But Republicans wrote a bill that abandons farming families.  It weakens the farmers’ safety net, it slashes hundreds of millions from rural development initiatives, cutting small businesses’ loan guarantees, and adding new layers of bureaucracy to high-speed broadband grants.

These grants to high-speed broadband are essential to economic development, rural development, and they’re putting obstacles in the way of that.

Eliminating funding for the On Farm Energy Initiative, neglecting the central role of the American farmer and America’s energy independence.

The GOP wants to cut $23 billion from child nutrition, veteran nutrition, the SNAP program, endangering a lifeline for hungry children, seniors, students; 1.5 million veterans are involved in the nutrition program.

Twenty-three thousand Active Duty families rely on food stamps.  Individuals with disabilities.

And even farmers themselves.  Farmers there [Iowa] say, it may sound strange to you, ‘We grow food.  We sell our produce.  But we do not make enough.  We are food insecure.’

SNAP returns money to farmers, to our economy, and to the Treasury, creating $1.79 – you know this figure, we’ve talked about it for years for every dollar in benefits, $1.79 for every dollar in benefit, and supporting more than 560,000 jobs across the country, benefiting 50,000 in agriculture.

Republicans should scrap this bill.  They should scrap this and come to the table.  We have done this before in a bipartisan way.  We can do that again.

In fact, when I was Speaker, we had bipartisanship even to override President Bush’s vetoes of the bill.  So we know we can come to the table to get the job done.

But this is ideological about, I don’t know, taking food out of the mouths of babies.  That, maybe, is a priority for them.

Again and again, we see Republicans trying to force a raw deal on working families to pay for handouts to the rich that are already wealthy.  Eighty-three percent of their tax bill went to the top 1 percent.

President Trump’s months – delayed speech on prescription drugs – remember the New Deal?  The Better Deal?  They have a Raw Deal.  We have A Better Deal:  Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future.  And part of that is not only to increase the paycheck, but to lower costs.  One place is to lower cost of prescription drugs.

As you know, during the campaign the President said things like, ‘When it comes time to negotiate the cost of drugs, we’re going to negotiate like crazy.’  Well, ‘like crazy’ must mean not at all, because that’s what he announced when he made his long delayed, much awaited announcement about negotiating for lower prices.

When it came time for him to negotiate, the President pulled his punch, and the stocks of Big Pharma companies – don’t take my word for it, look at the stock market after he made his statement: Pharma stocks soared, because they saw that he was not serious about holding down prescription drug prices.

Families and seniors are suffering from the raw deal that Republicans are forcing on them.  And in terms of prescription drugs, our Better Deal says that we’re going to have solutions, tough new enforcement of price gouging, allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate for drug prices, transparency in excessive drug price increases.  This is so important to the American people.

When we won in ’06, part of our ‘Six for ’06’ was to enable the [HHS] Secretary to negotiate for lower prices.  Five of the six became law, only one did not, because we couldn’t get 60 votes in the Senate enabling the Secretary to negotiate lower prices.

The President has talked about the power of the prescription drug lobby.  Oh, my gosh, he said so many things.  I won’t go into them now unless you ask.  And then again he just – either he wasn’t telling the truth then or didn’t know what the truth was.  But right now he’s reneged.

The relentless Republican assault on families’ health is a Raw Deal for the American people.  We’re fighting to expand the possibility and the reality, the promise of affordable, quality coverage for all, and that includes lower drug prices.

Any questions?  No?  Yes, ma’am.

* * *

Q:  Hi.  Leader Pelosi, thanks.  I just had a couple questions, if you don’t mind.

Leader Pelosi.  A couple?  That’s up to the group.  We have one each or what?

Q:  They’ll be quick.  Just one on the immigration talks over on the Republican side.  I was just wondering if they have reached out to you at all or if you have reached out to them or to the White House on, you know, the issue of the discharge petition.

Leader Pelosi.  When you say ‘them’ – I’m big in my office on pronouns – to whom?

Q:  I’m sorry.  To the Republican side that is working   

Leader Pelosi.  To the Republican leadership?

Q:  Yes, ma’am. 

Leader Pelosi.  Here’s what is happening now, something very beautiful.  The rank and file, and, really, even more established than that, Members in the House on the Democratic and Republican side have come together on a bipartisan bill that they have constructed, that they have gained support for, and that they have made now part of the discharge petition.

That’s where the negotiation is.  And the Republicans are negotiating with their own leadership on that.  You’ve seen some of the public statements of the Republicans.

See, what we’ve done in the past when we’ve had discharge petitions, my first task when I became Whip a long time ago was to work with Senator McCain on McCain-Feingold.  And it was a stalled discharge petition over here.  The Republicans were in the majority.

And I got close to enough signatures.  But before we got to the 218, the Speaker said, ‘Okay, I get it, I’ll decide, and I’ll bring up the bill,” which they did, and it passed.

That’s the same thing that happened with the Ex-Im Bank.  We came close with Republican signatures, and the Speaker brought up the bill.

We’re very close now.  The Speaker should take control, maintain control of the Floor by just bringing the bill up.  But that’s their own negotiation over there.  I’m not involved there.

Q:  Okay.  To be clear, you haven’t  

Leader Pelosi.  No.  The answer is no.

Q:  And, secondly, I was just wondering if you could comment on politics –

Leader Pelosi.  I do ask them regularly to give us a vote to protect our Dreamers, because they say they do care about them.

Q:  Some polling shows that there has been a narrowing of the generic ballot and that the Republicans are gaining traction in ways that we haven’t seen in a few months.  And I’m wondering if you can address that, why you think there has been this shift.

Leader Pelosi.  I don’t think there’s that much shift at all.  We’re very pleased about how things are going.  We’re doing it one district at a time.  And in most districts things are going very well for us.

You maybe were here then, I don’t know, but when the generics were bigger I said, ‘Generics don’t matter to me.  What matters to me is one district at a time.’

I wish the election were today.  I think we would win overwhelmingly today.  But it’s not today.  So we just take it one district at a time.

Pennsylvania, Tuesday was a great night for us.  We expect to pick up several seats there.  And most of them, women Members.  So we’re very excited about that.

But we’re on our path.  Our Chairman has managed all of the massive mobilization that is coming our way.  The unity of our messaging and the resources that we’re able to amass are record breaking.  So I feel very confident about it.

Yes, ma’am.

Q:  Madam Leader, what can the reason be for Democrats not to sign on to this discharge petition if 25 Republicans are willing to say, ‘We want to have these votes on immigration?’  Why not have your entire – urge all of your Members.   

Leader Pelosi.  I think we have 99 percent of our Members to be signing on.  And we’ll have conversations with the others about what the equities are.

I think there is some clarification that is needed about what actually is in the bill.  They’re saying it’s a wall.  It’s not a wall.

But that’s not the issue.  The issue is getting Republican signatures on the bill.

Yes, sir.

Q:  Leader Pelosi, I know it’s a couple months away, but I know we’re also in the thick of the start of appropriations season. 

How confident are you right now, given what the President said after the signing of the omni, that the Congress isn’t headed toward another shutdown come September?  Do you feel like the Approps process can actually work as it’s supposed to?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I have always, as an appropriator, part of my culture here, Appropriations and Intelligence, I have always said, left to their own devices, the appropriators can work in a bipartisan way to get the bills done.

It’s when the poison pills descend from on high from the leadership that the problem happens, and we will not be supporting their poison pills.  So, we will just see how that goes.

But I do have confidence in the work of the appropriators.

One of the concerns I do have, though, is how they allocate the resources committee to committee.  And I hope that we can be assured of what that is and not have it change in the course of the negotiations.  For example, they want to add more to Transportation, T-HUD, Transportation HUD, and where does that come from?  Does it comes from children’s health?  That’s really one of the main concerns that we have.

But, again, the appropriators know what their job is and that they can negotiate and get the job done.  It’s the leadership that usually makes the problem.

Q:  Are you confident that the leadership will forestall the shutdown in September? 

Leader Pelosi.  Are you confident in the White House?

[Laughter]

Next.  Yes.

Q:  Another politics question. 

I wanted to ask you about California’s primary, the jungle primary system.  Are you concerned that that potentially could lock Democrats out of some key House districts where there are big pickup opportunities for Democrats?  I’m thinking of California 48, 49. 

Leader Pelosi.  You guys want to talk politics.  What is this?  We’re under the dome.  We talk policy here.

[Laughter]

In terms of a civics lesson, not the politics so much, the California system, the jungle primary is something that is called a reform.  And I remember years ago Senator Moynihan had said, ‘If they call it a reform, it’s not.’

And this is not a reform.  It is terrible.  It prolongs the process.  It costs more money.  It shuts out smaller parties and the rest.  So, I don’t recommend this as a policy matter.

In terms of the politics, you know, there’s always a problem.  We have so much enthusiasm this year, so many candidates running all over the country, that in a jungle primary, if you have five Democrats and two Republicans, you can end up with a result that ends up with the concentration there.

But our chairman has worked very hard all over the country, in states all over the country, to make sure that we have emerging the best possible candidate.

And many of these candidates have self-recruited, and they know their purpose, they know their subject, they have a plan to attract support to their beliefs, and they are connecting to the American voter about their aspirations and apprehensions.  So that’s really what is important.

In the California situation, the Democrats, our congressional delegation may weigh in on some of the races to ensure that we have somebody in the top.  They may be subjected to criticism for that, but I’d rather be criticized for winning than criticized for losing.

Yes, ma’am.

Q:  What recourse do you have on the Farm Bill to get some of these nutrition programs funded, as you say? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I don’t know if they have the votes.  Let’s see if they even have the votes to pass the bill.  What I’m told is the only way they’ll get the votes is to make the bill worse.

But, again, it’s about public sentiment.  There’s no wonder that all of the religious, faith-based groups and all the people who care about people are concerned about what this bill does to children, veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, men and women in uniform and their families.

So we’ll just see what they come up with.  The Senate has said they want to do a bipartisan bill, and that’s really how you should be doing a Farm Bill.

Yes, sir.

Q:  I wanted to follow up on Kasie’s question as far as the discharge petition. 

You referenced when you were Whip that you didn’t really need to get to 218 as the signatures bill to put pressure on the leadership to    

Leader Pelosi.  We’re almost close.  But, yes, that’s the point.

Q:  Why not take your Caucus and encourage them to sign now?  Why haven’t you signed   

Leader Pelosi.  They’re signing.  They’ll be signing.

Q:  But you’ve only got two right now, Jared Polis and Diana DeGette, so   

Leader Pelosi.  And do you think that’s the sum total of what we’ll have?

Q:  No.  But, I mean, why not try to publicly build that pressure on the GOP leadership by having your entire Caucus, or the 99 percent of your Caucus, sign on now?

Leader Pelosi.  Perhaps I wasn’t clear.  This is an initiative of the Members, Mr. [Pete] Aguilar, Mr. [Will] Hurd, Mr. [Carlos] Curbelo, and others in our Caucus.  They will establish the timing as to when they want more Democrats to go on the bill.  But I have no fear that it will be.

But since you brought up the subject of immigration again, it reminds me that and as I was talking about the religious groups and how they’re concerned about feeding the hungry in the Gospel of Matthew and the rest, 41 million people in our country are food insecure.

We believe, some of us who are attracted to the political arena, to government and public service, that we’re all God’s children, there’s a spark of divinity in every person on Earth, and that we all have to recognize that as we respect the dignity and worth of every person and as we recognize our responsibilities with that spark of divinity within us.

And so, when the President of the United States says about undocumented immigrants, ‘These aren’t people, these are animals,’ you have to wonder does he not believe in the spark of divinity, the dignity and worth of every person?  These are not people.  These are animals.  The President of the United States.

Every day that you think you’ve seen it all, along comes another manifestation of why their policies are so inhumane and why we have to continue the debate, striving for bipartisanship, with openness about what is at stake and what the choices are, and to be unifying in every way possible.  Calling people animals is not a good thing.

Thank you.  Bye bye.

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