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.   Leader Pelosi.  Good morning everyone.

Just in case some of you were not here yesterday when I was joined by our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer, our Ranking Members on the committees of jurisdiction, the Judiciary Committee, which wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking for the justification for not defending the law of the land in terms of pre-existing conditions.  The Chairmen of Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and the Workforce, the committees of jurisdiction.

The GOP attacking Americans with pre-existing conditions.  This is that day that they’re all full of joy, because that was the day they passed that bill which took away the guarantee of protections for pre-existing conditions.  I’ll come back to this in a moment.

But first, I just want to say it was a big day in the San Francisco Bay Area.  We elected a new mayor, our first African American woman to be mayor of San Francisco, London Breed.  She and Mark Leno, two great candidates.  We were in good shape either way.  Mayor-elect Breed has emerged.  We’re very proud of her.

And at the same time we had our parade to celebrate, again, the Golden State Warriors.  Sweep of four, four games, four wins, defeating a mighty champion, the Cleveland Cavaliers.  LeBron James, what an athlete, what a great person.

In any event, we are very proud of all the athleticism, sportsmanship, and community service that our athletes bring to us.  Three championships in four years.

Barbara Lee, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland, as you know, and I have extended a blanket invitation to the Golden State Warriors to visit the Capitol when they are in Washington, to bring your families any time.

Okay.  So here we are this week in the Capitol, the House is voting on a series of bills related to the opioid epidemic.  As you may recall, when we had a debate on the omnibus bill, it took five continuing resolutions for the Republicans to finally agree to our increase in investments in the domestic budget with a big chunk of that going to fighting the opioid epidemic.

However, although there’s some positive steps on the Floor that have come together in a bipartisan way, Republicans refuse to address the fundamental issue:  the need for long term funding solutions to turn the tide in an epidemic that is claiming the lives of 115 Americans every day.

Again, at the same time, their relentless war on affordable health care especially has cruel consequences for people struggling with the opioid epidemic, especially with their cuts proposed in Medicare.

Much of the damage the Republicans have inflicted on America’s health care flows from the GOP tax scam.  It’s important for you to know that the tax bill and this action are directly related.  The predicate for the case was the tax bill, what they did in the tax bill to remove the mandate, the individual mandate.

That was the basis for the Attorney General to take a case to court against the preexisting condition benefit.  The Justice Department, the Trump Justice Department, refuses to defend the law of the land.  Direct relationship.

The other direct relationship to that tax scam was that the President’s budget which followed.  It said it was going to take $1.4 trillion from Medicaid, a half a trillion dollars from Medicare, just to name a few of the cuts that have an impact on the health and well-being of the American people.

So, again, a budget, it should be a statement of our values.  What’s important to us as a nation should be how we allocate our resources.

This tax bill, this tax scam for the rich, for corporate America, taking us deeply into debt at the expense of working families and the good health now of the American people just compounded the bill.  Eliminate the mandate.  Millions of people not having the access they should.  The tax scam impacting the budget.  And now the tax scam being the basis for a court case against preexisting conditions that the administration refuses to defend.

So, again, it’s just the monstrosity of Trumpcare.  When they voted for that, they stole health coverage from tens of millions of Americans, causing soaring cost, imposed a cruel tax, age tax for those 50 to 64, dismantled protections for people with preexisting conditions, while handing billions of dollars of tax cuts to the wealthy.

What they’re doing continues to drive up premium costs with their senseless sabotage.  And don’t take that from me.  The latest report from the American Academy of Actuaries confirms that the GOP’s health care sabotage is responsible for driving up health insurance premiums across America.

What is it?  What do they have against the health and well-being of the American people that they would go down this path?

Last week Republicans renewed their efforts to destroy protections again for people with pre-existing conditions.  I keep saying it over and over.  But we will continue to list the stories of people across America.

When we fought their bill in the course of that year, their bill and its related sabotage efforts, the outside groups, patient groups, children, Little Lobbyists, all the rest, came forward in 10,000 events across the country, whether they were visiting district offices, visiting the Capitol, press conferences in their district, and here, townhall meetings, you name it, 10,000 events to tell their stories.  They will continue to tell their stories about removing the protection for pre-existing conditions and what it means in their lives.

So while the Republicans are giving the American people a raw deal on health care, Democrats are proposing A Better Deal.  We’re pressing for real action to lower health costs and protect quality healthcare.

As candidate Trump said, remember during the campaign when he said they were going to negotiate like crazy, the Secretary should be able to negotiate like crazy to lower prescription drug prices?  And then he had his press conference where he was going to make his big announcement about a month or so ago?

Apparently ‘negotiate like crazy’ means don’t negotiate at all.

The minute he made his statement that walked away from the commitment to negotiate to lower prices, the stock market spoke and pharmaceutical drugs went up.

So we are proposing more transparency and innovation while expanding access to these drugs and lowering the skyrocketing cost of drugs.  And ways to do that are enforcement on drug price gouging, allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate for lower prices.

This has been something we have been chanting.  It was Six for ’06 when we won the House in ’06, the Congress.  One of our Six for ’06 was to enable the Secretary to negotiate for lower drug prices.  We passed it in the House.  We couldn’t get 60 votes in the Senate.  So here we are still fighting for that and, again, demanding full transparency on excessive drug increases.

We’ll never, ever stop fighting for increasing access, improving quality, and lowering cost to the American people when it comes to their health care.  And that is really part of our Better Deal:  Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future.  And part of that is to lower the cost that families have that affects their financial stability.

Any questions?

Yes, Nancy [Cordes].

* * *

Q:  Leader Pelosi, Speaker Ryan just said that he’s not comfortable with the separation of children and their parents at the border and he said that legislation is the best way to change that.  Do you agree with him, that legislation is the best approach?  And have you talked to him about that legislation and a possible timeline? 

Leader Pelosi.  No.  Let me say this.  First of all, this was an act of the Administration.  They have been planning this for a while.

As a mother of five children, grandmother of nine, I’m sure any parent here, mother or father, knows that this is barbaric.  This is not what America is.  But this is the policy of the Trump Administration.  And they put down this practice and they take it back.

And what they say to me is, ‘These mothers should never have taken their children across the desert, so they broke the law trying to get them into the U.S.  So they’re criminals.  We’re separating their children from their parents.’

Do they have any idea the impact on families, on children?  Well, maybe they do, maybe they don’t, maybe they don’t care.  But the fact is they should know, and they should lift this policy that they’ve put down.

They’ve been cooking it up for a while.  Never mind to them when we say these moms took these children, these parents took these children to escape possible death, rape, gang violence where they live, and they have no alternative but to try to seek asylum in the United States.

No, they know better.  They said these words.  We know better.  We know how to take care of children.  We’re taking them away from their parent.  We’ll put them in foster homes or someplace.

We had a mom summit here.  I don’t know if some – well, maybe you came, maybe you didn’t.  But maybe you saw a Mom’s Summit here right around Mother’s Day.  And we talked about health of children.  We talked about a number of subjects.

But on the health of children, Dr. Nadine Burke from the San Francisco Bay Area, an expert on all this, told us that when you add stress we weren’t talking about this subject.  We were talking about stress for children in general.  When you increase the stress on children the way so many subjects have, whether its hunger or homelessness and the rest, you are changing, you can have the impact of changing their DNA.

Think of the stress of these children.  They take a baby away from a nursing mother.  They tell someone we’re going to give a baby a shower, a bath, and they take the baby, put them in a car seat and drive them away.  This is not normal.  In fact, it’s barbaric.  It has to stop.

Now, what they are saying is, ‘Well, we’ll find a way not to separate them.’  One of their ways not to separate the children is not to let them even seek asylum, which is a right that people have in the world, to seek asylum.

That’s not a solution.  The solution is not to tear children from their parents.  Don’t stick peas up your nose.  Don’t stick a stick in your ear.  What is it that they don’t get about how stupid and wrong and immoral [this is]?

And the Catholic Conference of Bishops, in their statement they said:  ‘At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life.  The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concerns because it potentially strips asylum from many woman who lack adequate protection.’

They close by saying: ‘While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety.  Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.’

So the casual attitude that they’re having about, ‘oh, no, we don’t like that, the Administration,’ they can weigh in with the Administration and stop it on a dime and not wait for some concoction that really doesn’t address the immorality of our lack of asylum.

When we had a hearing on a subject related to this, asylum seekers, refugees, et cetera, the Association of Evangelicals, the evangelicals testified that refugees and asylum, they called it the crown jewel of America’s humanitarianism.  The ‘Crown jewel of American humanitarianism.’  And in order to do away with that crown jewel, they’re doing away with children being with their moms.

I just don’t even know why there aren’t uprisings all over the country, and maybe there will be, when people realize that this is a policy that they defend.  It’s a horrible thing and I don’t see any prospect for legislation here?

Q: Why not?  

Leader Pelosi. Why not?  Well, what do we do here?  We do nothing.  We do nothing.  This could have been something taken up under suspension in a minute if there was a real sincere effort.  You don’t even need to do it.  It’s executive action by the Attorney General.  It can be changed just like that.  Just like that.

Yes, ma’am?

Q: Today you outlined your plan to get A Better Deal for American workers.  Does permitting illegal aliens to enter the United States and work here suppress the wages of American workers? 

Leader Pelosi.  So what is your organization?

Q: CNS News.

Leader Pelosi.  What is it, darling?

Q: CNS News.

Leader Pelosi.  CNS News.  I’m not familiar with that.  But I welcome you, and I welcome your question.

That’s not the point.  Using terminology like ‘illegal aliens’ illegally entering the country is just not viewed as constructive.

The fact is that we must protect our borders.  That is our responsibility.  We also must protect our values.  That’s our responsibility as well.

And we do believe that there can be a bipartisan way for us to come together to honor the values of our country and recognize that newcomers to our country are frequently the constant reinvigoration of America.

Bringing their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations, their optimism, their courage, their determination to make the future better for their families are American traits.  And in doing so, these newcomers make America more American?

We must protect our borders, yes.  What we’re talking about here, though, are asylum seekers, and that has nothing to do with illegal entry into the country.

Yes, ma’am?

Q: Madam Leader, the Speaker is talking about putting together a compromise proposal among Republicans on immigration and they’re potentially going to include a provision that would prevent family separation. 

Are there circumstances under which you or Members of your party would support such legislation if it included that provision?

Leader Pelosi.  So you’re saying that if they use it first of all, I don’t think – we haven’t seen anything of any of their bill.  Everything we’ve heard has been very negative.  I don’t even know if they have the votes to pass the bills on their side.

But they’re certainly not going to use mothers nursing their babies as a draw to something that, again, does not share our values.  And I think what they probably will do is say:  We’re not separating children from their parents, we’re just not letting anybody apply for asylum.  So we don’t even have to deal with the issue.  That’s what I suspect.  That’s what I suspect.

Q: The provision they’re talking about says that you wouldn’t be able to separate a child from both parents that the child would have to remain with one parent.

Leader Pelosi.  I’m sorry?

Q:  The provision that – the reporting that –  

Leader Pelosi.  We haven’t seen that.  I can’t comment on something that we haven’t seen and what it is a part of.  But what I do know is what they are doing and what they have justified in conversation with me about calling these parents.

In the world there’s a recognition that people can seek asylum, except apparently not in the United States.  So when we see something we can make a comment on it.  And when we see what it’s a part of, we’ll see what votes they have.

But I don’t believe – I think their answer is just to not allow anybody to seek asylum, and that’s how they’ll keep families together.  That’s not an answer.  That is an undermining of what the evangelicals call the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.

But, you know, they want us to be talking about immigration all the time.  The fact is, is what we want to talk about is A Better Deal for America: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future.  It’s about increasing paychecks and lowering cost.  It’s about growing our economy in a way that creates good paying jobs with strong paychecks as it reduces the deficit.  There’s nothing that we have seen from them that does any of that.

And, again, we want to see, we were going to work together on infrastructure, and now they’re saying maybe next year.  No, we need to see something now.

The President talked about a trillion dollar infrastructure bill.  We’d like to work together on that.  Then he changed it to $200 billion with the burden on localities.  Unacceptable.

The President talked about lowering prescription drug prices.  In fact, he gave a gift to the pharmaceutical industry.

The President talks – they’re talking about family values, and they’re separating children from their parents.

But, again, the issue here, no matter what you want to talk about, is what does it mean to America’s working families?

Any other questions?

Yes, ma’am?

Q: Mara Lee, International Trade Today. 

Would you like to see the conference committee on NDAA restore the export ban against ZTE?

Leader Pelosi.  Absolutely.  Thank you for your question of substance.

It is stunning to see that the Senate, which has strong support in the Foreign Relations Committee, unable to have it be in the bill that comes to the floor.  I don’t know what actions can succeed on the floor of the Senate.

But this is a company that has been a cyber-threat to the United States.  It’s a national security threat.  It’s a country that violated sanctions in terms of Iran, in terms of countries that we said we should honor sanctions.

They’re a cybersecurity threat to the U.S.  They violated sanctions.  And the President is saying we can’t act against them because we have to save jobs in China.  Really?  We have to save jobs in China?

So what’s the story here?  What’s this about?  That’s something that would be interesting to study.  I mean, people have their theories about commercial dealings and the rest on the part of the Trump family.

But let’s just stay focused on our national security.  I hope that we’ll have a lively debate.  We’ve already done our defense authorization bill.  So anything that we can do, it would have to be in conference, which is hard to do if it’s not on either side.

But ZTE should not be getting this gift.  And I can’t even understand how the Republicans are going along with that, because they have been so aware of the threat.  But we’ll continue to make the fight.

But very interesting.  The President said we can’t hurt them because they’ll lose – we have to protect jobs in China.  Really?

Yes, sir.

Staff.  Last question.

Q: Madam Leader, to kind of follow up on that.  The Senate’s not going to take a vote on another trade issue, which is the idea of giving Congress more authority over the 232 tariffs, the national security tariffs. 

Is that something you support, the idea that Congress would get a sign off before the President could implement any tariffs on those grounds?

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, I do.  I think it would change the leverage.  It probably just makes it clearer as to what the purpose would be for using national security.

The national security waiver is something that we respect when it’s about national security.  When it is an excuse, not a reason, I think it should have – Congress should have the ability, should have leverage in that discussion.

You can’t be frivolous about using the national security waiver.  And when it comes to trade, it’s important, because some are strategic commodities.

But to say you’re doing a trade agreement or not, or you’re instituting a tariff because of national security reasons, and at the same time you’re saying to ZTE, it’s okay if you’re a cyber-threat to the United States, it’s okay if you violated the sanctions, for some reason all is forgiven because we want to save jobs in China, is there a logic?  I mean, how can this make sense?  How can this make sense?

So it is an interesting time.  There’s plenty of time for anybody to bring a bill to the floor if they have a sincerity about it in terms of protecting children.  They can do it under suspension.  They can do it very quickly if they had the intention, unless they want to use it for a nefarious reason and if they want to do it in a way that not only harms parents and children but also violates our values as a country.

Thank you all very much.



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