Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today.  Below is a transcript of the press conference.

Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks:

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning.  Good morning.  So much happening in the world.  Some of it so very, very sad.

The poor children in Manchester.  We have to keep praying, if they will allow us to pray for them.

So, yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed what we all knew, but they made clear that many Americans with preexisting conditions would face soaring costs and frightening limits on the care they need.  Some people with preexisting conditions, many of them, would no longer be able to afford coverage of any kind.

The CBO report also confirmed that gutting essential health benefits means many people would see huge cost increases for basic coverage, like maternity care, opioid addiction, other addictions and mental health treatment.

The CBO report also confirmed that, you know, with any injury or notice of an illness, many Americans will find they’ve been paying for health coverage that doesn’t cover much at all.

Trumpcare means higher costs, 23 million hardworking Americans losing coverage, key protections gutted, a crushing age tax, and stealing from Medicare.  I could go into detail about each and every one of these things, but maybe if you ask me, I will.

It’s a billionaire’s tax cut disguised as a healthcare bill, one of the largest transfers of wealth, once again, from working families to the rich and corporate America.  In that regard, Trumpcare has a great deal in common with the President’s budget: stealing from our investments in jobs for working families in the future to give tax breaks to millionaires.

The Trump budget is a stark showcase of the President’s broken promises.  The President said, ‘I’m going to be the greatest job producer that God ever created.’  Instead, the budget steals hundreds of billions of dollars from critical job‑creating investments in infrastructure, education, and clean energy.

Between the health care bill – the so‑called health care bill – and the budget, it is about 3.5 million jobs lost.

In terms of health, the President promised he would free the Earth from the misery of disease.  Instead, in addition to the devastation of Trumpcare and what that means, he wants to chop more than $7 billion from the [National Institutes of Health] budget, one‑fifth of its total budget.

Social Security and Medicare: the President promised he would not cut Medicare, Medicaior Social Security.  Instead, his budget slashes Social Security disability benefits, insurance benefits, steals another $610 billion from Medicaid on top of the $840 billion that’s already in Trumpcare.  So a combination of over $1.4 trillion in cuts in Medicaid and all that cut means to long‑term care for seniors, either at home or in long‑term healthcare centers.  It’s a middle‑class benefit, Medicaid, for long‑term healthcare.  Of course, what it means to children and others is devastating as well.

The President’s budget lays the groundwork for privatizing the [Department of] Veteran’s Affairs, inflicts particularly deep damage on rural communities and makes colleges more expensive for students across America.  So everybody gets hit in this budget, unless you happen to be very wealthy.

The President’s budget is shortsighted and a cruel plan that perfectly reflects the Republicans in Congress.  It’s perfect in that respect.  This is the same budget, the Ryan budget, the road to ruin that was advanced by Ryan, as Chair of the Budget Committee, and Price too.

The budget should be, as we say over and over, a statement of our values.  This is an immoral document.  It’s not a statement of anybody’s values.  It gives new meaning to the term ‘war on poverty.’

But not only that, it really goes after the middle class.  What did the middle class ever do to Donald Trump that he is taking it out on them in this budget?

So here we are.  We will continue to ensure that the American people know what the stakes are.  We had thought coming into this administration we’d be talking about jobs now.  Where’s the infrastructure bill for over 4 months later?

Jobs – we were hoping that we could be talking about, revising the Internal Revenue Code for fairness, simplification, lower the corporate rate, close special interest loopholes and the rest, have a middle class tax cut.  Where is their plan?

The plan that we’ve seen from the Republicans adds $5.5 trillion – trillion with a ‘TR’ – trillion to the deficit, $5.5 trillion.  That money over those years, as a 10‑year figure, would cover the shortfall in Social Security for 75 years.

So they want to talk about, ‘we’ve got to balance the budget; we have to go after entitlements.’  Well, let’s look at it.  We should subject every dollar we spend or every tax we collect to the harshest scrutiny.  Is it creating growth?  Is it creating good‑paying jobs in our country?  Is it reducing the deficit?

Instead, we just get trickle‑down everything, trickle‑down healthcare, trickle‑down tax policy and the rest to benefit those at the high end at the expense of the middle class.

Any questions?

* * *

Q:  The Republican candidate for the special election in Montana yesterday was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly body slamming a reporter.  Do you believe that he should stay in the race?  Obviously, the election is today –

Leader Pelosi.  You always want to talk politics.

Q: And if he wins, do you believe he should be allowed to be in the Conference with the Republicans? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, that’s up to the Republicans.  The people in Montana will make a determination as to who will represent them in Congress.  But I’m – you know, I viewed that as a mom and a grandmother.  You know, we try to have some level of dignity as to how we treat people and who we are, the behavior we expect from our own families.

And to see this person who wants to be the one Representative in the House of Representatives from Montana, sort of a wannabe Trump, you know, use language like that, treat people harshly like that ‑‑ that’s his model.  Donald Trump is his model.

And we’ve really got to say, ‘Come on, behave.  Behave.  That was outrageous.’

Who the Republicans seat in their caucus is really up to them.  But I hope it would be up to the people of Montana to demand a higher standard of behavior for the sake of our children.  How do you explain that to children?  You ask a question, I’m going to strangle you?  I mean, really.

Q:  Following up on that, do you see a change in culture when it comes to the way that the press is treated and accepted? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, you know, I’ve always said that, of all of the – in our beautiful Constitution and the First Amendment and all that it guarantees, freedom of the press is the guardian of the gate.  This is the place that all of you – even though I may not agree with what you write or that you don’t cover us.  That’s another story.  But the fact is that you are the champion of freedom all over the world, and we have to respect that.

And it’s a tactic.  It’s a tactic to attack the press.  And we really have to say:  This is about the Constitution of the United States, and behavior that creates alternative facts and fake news and all these other mischaracterizations do a disservice to our democracy.

And the fact is, okay, so you’re not happy about how the press may view what you are doing or that you are doing something ‑‑ they may think you shouldn’t cover something ‑‑ but you weigh the equities.  You weigh the equities.  And freedom of the press is essential, essential to the security of our democracy.

And by that, it is the insurer that our Constitution will be respected.  We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and all that that implies in terms of checks and balances, holding elected officials accountable, and the rest, including issues like freedom to assemble and freedom of speech and the rest.

So, if the press is discredited or silenced, that has a chilling effect on our country.  And I say that as one who has had my moments with the press myself.

Yes, sir.

Q:  Thank you.  A nonpolitical question then. 

Leader Pelosi.  Oh.  Basketball?  Twelve straight, yeah.  Twelve straight.  Twelve straight, okay.

Q:  Intelligence, with your background on the Intelligence Committee:  A FISA court this week rebuked the NSA for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans, domestic spying, essentially, here.  What do you make of that ‑‑ there has been criticism of FISA going too far and potential for abuses ‑‑ and what that might lead to as you go to try to renew the section 702?  Do you see problems with potentially renewing it? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, it’s a delicate balance that we have to have.  We have to protect and defend the American people.  Intelligence is an important way to do that.  Internally, we have instituted many safeguards that did not exist when this fight first erupted around the time of the start of the ‑‑ initiation of hostilities in Iraq and to ‑‑ following 9/11 and the excuse they used that Iraq was responsible.  So they went into Iraq.  Just a horrible time.  Bad decisions.

But, nonetheless, this expansive surveillance that many of us questioned and we passed a law under President Bush ‑‑ when President Bush was President, which he signed ‑‑ which curtailed or gave more discipline, accountability beyond one branch of government in those decisions and that accountability.

I’m not going to speak to this particular incident, but the fact is that we all ‑‑ you know, we have courts.  We have Congress.  And we have the Executive Branch.  And the checks and balances have to work in all of that.  But I don’t know what the particular ‑‑ I have not been briefed on the particular case that they are referencing.

Q:  But you hear these general criticisms of what’s there with FISA.  Regardless of this instance, there have been others over the years, potential abuse, and with that reauthorization coming down the pipeline –

Leader Pelosi.  Abuse by the NSA.

Q:  NSA and other –

Leader Pelosi.  Yeah.  Well, I’ve made the complaints myself.

Q:  Say again? 

Leader Pelosi.  I’ve registered some of those complaints myself.  We don’t have time to go into all of this, but there’s a real long history.  I mean, right from the start, we criticized – I criticized what the administration was doing when I was ranking member of the Intelligence Committee.  Under the rules though, as the Ranking Member, I couldn’t share any of that information with anyone else.

I wrote to the NSA, got back a very redacted letter that didn’t say so much.  But, nonetheless, we’ve been having this challenge all along.  And one of the things we put into legislation was the President’s commission to protect privacy and civil liberties.

Q:  Madam Leader, there’s a story out now that has been going on since February.  We’ve had these IT staffers that had primarily worked for the Democrats, and they’re under investigation by the Capitol Hill Police.  They’ve been banned from the network for ‑‑ rather under suspicion for breaching security, stealing equipment. 

And one of the names is Imran Awan, and he’s still an adviser, apparently, on Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ staff. 

Leader Pelosi.  I’m really not familiar with what you’re talking about.

Q:  What’s your response to Debbie Wasserman Schultz keeping this individual who is under investigation, and do you think that he should have this role when, right now, he’s under investigation by the Capitol Hill Police? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, there are people who are under investigation with the Attorney General of the United States.  So, I mean, what are we talking about here?

Q:  Should Awan still be here? 

Leader Pelosi.  I’m not familiar – you have a very specific charge there.  I haven’t followed that so closely.  We’ve been busy with a lot of other things.

Q:  It is a matter of national security, though, because they’re talking about email information ‑‑

Leader Pelosi.  No.  I’m not going ‑‑ I’m not sufficiently understanding the situation to make any concern about it.  But there are plenty of people who are under investigation who still have their jobs.

Yes, ma’am.

Q:  Madame Leader, Lisa from PBS NewsHour.  On healthcare, the Department of Health and Human Services came out with a report this week saying they believe premiums have doubled in the last four years.  What’s your response to that?  And is there a point where –

Leader Pelosi.  I’m sorry, who came out and said that?

Q:  Health and Human Services, the agency. 

Leader Pelosi.  The Trump administration.

Q:  That’s right.  Is there a point where Democrats propose their own bill or series of potential repairs to ObamaCare separate from the Republican process? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, first of all, if you look at the calculation that they made, it’s a very bizarre calculation.  It isn’t fact.

And as I’ve said to the Republicans and to the President over and over, if we’re going to find solutions and get results, we have to stipulate to facts, not to interpretations or calculations designed to misrepresent the facts, which I think that does.

In terms of ‑‑ we’ve said all along:  We have asked over and over again for us to have the opportunity for the Secretary to negotiate drug prices, which is the leading cause for any ‑‑ although we’ve slowed the increase of cost of medical care in our country, the factor that keeps going up is the cost of prescription drugs.

Part of the problem with what we have now is the Republicans are engaged in a self‑fulfilling prophecy.  They’ve said the Affordable Care Act doesn’t work, but they have not been willing to extend what is in the bill, which is reinsurance; they have not been willing to fund the navigators for the outreach, because you have to have a bigger, larger pool; they have not been willing to do the cost sharing.

It is still the law of the land.  Hello?  You have not passed a bill to repeal it yet, and even if you can, your proposal that you’re going to do has not passed.  So it’s not ‑‑ it’s still the law of the land, and they’re still undermining the cost sharing, which has the biggest impact on behavior and decisions of insurance companies, because it’s about stability and certainty, as much certainty as possible in the marketplace.

So if we could just come to agreement that, if the Affordable Care Act is to be judged, it should be enforced.

Having said that and to your further point, yes, we ‑‑ I know the bill very well.  I know some things that I would like to have had in the bill to begin with that I think would be good to do.

And I thought that’s what we were going to do with the President, but he was determined to have this repeal and replace with a bill that is, again, a tax bill disguised as a healthcare bill.  But we’re always ready.  As I said to you earlier, infrastructure, tax policy, you name it, family leave, healthcare, we’re always ready to have a conversation.  And any bill that you pass can always be subjected to scrutiny to see what can be done better once you see the implementation.

But part of what is happening now is a result of what the Republicans have not allowed to happen in the Affordable Care Act.  And don’t ask me.  You can ask the providers.  You can ask the insurance companies and the rest.  The uncertainty that they’re injecting into it is part of the reason there’s some challenges.

But I do not ‑‑ and I hope you do not ‑‑ accept kind of a bogus report from the Trump Health and Human Services Department.

Yes, sir.

Q:  Thank you, Leader Pelosi.   I’m just wondering for your impressions of President Trump’s trip so far, his first foreign trip.  And do you think it has been a successful trip and some of the –

Leader Pelosi.  Do I think it’s a successful trip?  Here’s the thing.  I was in like four countries, five countries, whatever, during the break.  And during that time, if anybody said anything to me ‑‑ not the heads of state, because they understand; they’re respectful of our head of state, and so we don’t engage in any conversations of that kind with them ‑‑ but any members of civil society or any people that we had met with outside of the officials of those countries, and they would bring up President Trump and their criticism.

I said, ‘You know what?  That’s not why we’re here.’  We don’t criticize our President when we go abroad.  We may have our disagreements, which we fully air in our own country, but we don’t go overseas and criticize our President.  So, if that’s what you came to this meeting to do, that’s not what we are here to do.

Same thing, while he’s there, we’ll have some things to say about his visit.  I have said I thought it was unusual for the President of the United States to go to Saudi Arabia first.  Saudi Arabia?  It wasn’t even alphabetical.  I mean, Saudi Arabia.

Now, notice the previous five Presidents – President Reagan, President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Clinton, President George W. Bush, and President Obama – four of them went to Canada first, and one of them went to Mexico.  George W. Bush went to Mexico first, in our hemisphere.  It didn’t have to be in our hemisphere, but our friends and neighbors.

What was the decision-making process to go to Saudi Arabia first?  That’s a question that I have.  And what policy flows from that?  There are further questions I’ll have when the President returns.

Yes, sir.  Last question.

Q: You mentioned the cost‑sharing reductions.  I wanted to ask you, of course, you had initially asked as part of the omnibus for specific language to be in there ensuring that those payments would continue.  You settled for Trump’s word that he would continue to make the payments.  But since then, he’s done a series of interviews where he said:  I might stop making those payments next month. 

Does that threat kind of undermine the trust between Democrats on Capitol Hill and the President, and how might that affect negotiations moving forward, particularly on the budget? 

Leader Pelosi.  When I spoke to the administration – that would be the President’s Chief of Staff [Reince Priebus] and, of course, [OMB Director] Mr. [Mick] Mulvaney – about this subject, I told them that this language that we would put in the bill would serve their purpose as well.

So assume for a moment that you pass a healthcare bill.  You would need this language.  So this is in your interest as well as ours, but more importantly, it’s in the interest of the American people and their good health and whatever certainty, increased certainty that that would bring to the private sector in this.

It wasn’t a question of settling for.  They just wouldn’t put the language in.  But they did call and say, ‘The President is going to do this,’ and then called again, ‘The President is going to do that.’  I don’t know what the President is going to do.  Now there’s a 90‑day.  Since then, the court has intervened, and they have the 90‑day.

I wish the court had just decided that we could proceed with the cost sharing, because 90 days is 90 days, but it’s not certainty.  Maybe the President thinks he’ll pass a bill into law by then.  If he did, he would probably have been happy to have this language there.

If he were to put it in his own bill, it would be sort of a cynical play to say we know what was needed but we decided not to do it.  Even in the transition time, that would’ve been helpful to the American people.

So here we are.  And what’s interesting about the budget is it’s just the face of the Republican Party in Congress.  It is so devastating to average, everyday working people.  It is so advantageous to the wealthy and to corporate America, both in terms of the healthcare bill and the budget.  $1.4 trillion cut from Medicaid.  Medicaid treats poor children – there are many of them – but that’s a small part of the budget.  Over 50 percent, maybe 60 percent of long‑term healthcare, which is a middle class benefit, is paid for by Medicaid.  This is going to have an impact on America’s families.  The list goes on and on.  Taking money from poor neighborhoods in terms of title I, the disadvantaged areas, and spending in other places.  It’s really stunning.

And part of the Federal Government – the part of the education budget in our country that is Federal is small, but it’s directed to people with disabilities, all of that in question and reduced.

Think of local school districts and maybe your children – my granddaughter is in public school.  And they already had a meeting at their school about, what are they going to do if the Federal Government stops whatever it’s doing in terms of IDEA, children with disabilities?  Even though it’s not enough, it will even be less.

So this is about what it means to you and your community and your neighborhood and your household.  It’s not about policy.  It’s very personal.  And I hope that people would pay attention to it.

It’s just so much there that we have to carefully select what are the priority items to talk about, because this is why we come here.  This is the budget.  This is the blueprint for who we tax and how we spend it, who benefits.

Q:  But it’s also about trust between Congress and the White House.  So the next time he calls and says, ‘I will continue the payments,’ are you going to think twice about it based on his threats to stop the payments? 

Leader Pelosi.  You’re placing a very high value on how much I trusted the first statement.

Thank you.

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