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.   It’s morning.  I’m not saying good morning, because it’s not a good morning because of what is going on on the Floor of the House today.

But just before we get to that, I just wanted to remind you that this week the Republicans are observing the six months since they passed their odious tax bill, mortgaging the future of our children, seniors, working families to hand tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent in our country and to corporate America.

For six months we have watched the GOP tax bill scam for the rich enrich Republican donors, wealthy shareholders and Wall Street, reward big corporations shipping American jobs overseas, and driving up health care costs for hard-working Americans.

It is amazing to think that we go deeply into debt, over $2 trillion in debt, in order to give a tax break to corporations with a benefit to ship jobs overseas.

About 83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent in our population.  It’s so unfair.  It’s called a middle income tax cut and yet 86 million American families, middle class families, will pay more taxes under the life of this bill.

On top of all that, by repealing the individual mandate, the Republicans have taken the opportunity – I would say rationalization – to do away with the pre-existing condition benefit that is in the Affordable Care Act.  GOP attacking Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Here they are laughing it off at the White House six months and one day ago.  They’re laughing off the harm that they’re doing to children born with a physical disability, to families, over 125 million of them in America, which have a person with a pre-existing condition.

What will that do?  Increase cost, make acquiring insurance almost impossible, returning to a time when insurance companies can discriminate against people with asthma, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, mental health, or substance abuse issues, you name it.

A little child born with a birth defect or a heart challenge for a lifetime will have a pre-existing medical condition, and the Republicans think it’s funny that they are going to remove that benefit from the health care.

So they have taken the bill to court.  And now the Administration first said they won’t defend the law in court, the pre-existing condition is still part of the law of the land, they won’t defend the law.  And now they are saying, ‘We want the court to support the Republican plea to do away with the pre-existing condition.’

It’s a stunning thing.  It’s important for people to note what the horrible policy that they are putting forth means in their lives.  And this is about their health and their economic, financial security.

Again, make no mistake, they are trying to use the courts to do what the American people resoundingly oppose, and this government will not even protect the law of the land.

Meanwhile, the Republicans continue, the Republicans on the House Floor continue to be complicit in the President’s atrocities, the anti‑family bills.  Don’t take it from me.  The Conference of Catholic Bishops says that these bills ‘perpetuate child detention and undermine existing protections relating to such detention.’

The GOP should abandon these bills immediately and demand the President rescind his cruel policies at the border, policies he created and that he can fix, and not with that halfway measure yesterday.  Democrats will continue to protect Dreamers and will keep families together, respecting America’s heritage and our future.

So here it is.  It’s just a stunning thing.  I know that many of you may not be parents – maybe all of you are – but all of you are children, and you must remember the comfort of home, of having your parent be there for you.

I have five children and it took me years before I was not in the night running down the hall hearing a sound of somebody maybe needing attention in the middle of the night.

These children and the mom, the relationship between mom and child, the relationship of father and child, such a bonding thing that these kids, over 2,000 of them, are already scarred from this experience.

They were on a path, according to HHS, to have 30,000 such children by August.  While that may not still be the case in terms of the present conditions under which they are held, it certainly will be still the situation when he talks about zero tolerance, charging people applying for [asylum] and whether the children are incarcerated with their families or not.  They should not be incarcerated; they’re children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said that – they have warned that family detention poses serious dangers to children’s health and can result in lifelong consequences for educational achievement, economic productivity, health status, and longevity.

Simply, children do not belong in an immigration jail, that’s just the way it is – or in detention on military bases, is what they have in mind now.

So with that, we say that this is a raw deal for the American people.  In fact, today is our Tweet Day on pre-existing medical conditions, preserving them.  We have a tweet storm going on in that regard.

At the same time, this President is engaged in his tweets.  What’s he saying now?  Something so ridiculous.  He thinks that the way you protect the border is to put children in cages.

Any questions?

Yes, sir?

* * *

Q: Also just about fifteen minutes ago he name‑checked you in a tweet.  He said:  ‘Democrats want open Borders, where anyone can come into our Country and stay.  This is Nancy Pelosi’s dream.  It won’t happen!’ 

What’s your reaction to that? 

Leader Pelosi.  If he only knew what my dream was, but he’d still be there.  So what the heck.

The Democrats have taken full responsibility for securing our borders.  We know that is a responsibility that we have.  But we don’t think that we have to put children in cages to do it.  There is a better way.  And the President is either not knowing, not caring, delusional, in denial, about his own policies being outside the circle of civilized human behavior.

I’m going to speak on the Floor in a couple minutes quoting Ronald Reagan on how great he was in recognizing the value of newcomers to America and how that made America great.

Every President in probably your lifetimes, Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, all of them were respectful of people, respectful of people, recognizing their dignity and worth.  This is the first President who has departed from that.

Come to the Floor and hear what I have to say about what Ronald Reagan had to say in his last speech as President of the United States.  I might have it here.  Wait a minute.  No, I don’t.  You’ll have to come to the floor.

It’s so silly.  It’s so silly.  This is a serious matter, to protect our border.  It is also a matter to protect our values.  What he’s doing with zero tolerance, and that applies to those seeking [asylum], so undermines who we are as a country.

Don’t take it from me.  The American Evangelical Association said, ‘The U.S. refugee resettlement program is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.’

Any more questions?

Yes, sir?

Q: If you could do it over again, would you have pushed a more comprehensive immigration plan during your four years as Speaker?

Leader Pelosi.  We passed the DREAM Act in the House, we passed the DREAM Act, yes, and we couldn’t get 60 votes in the Senate.  And it was hard, it was hard.  We got over 50, but we couldn’t get to 60.

Our champion in the Senate and really for the issue, Dick Durbin, led the way there.  He’s spent half of his career in public service working on the DREAM Act, among other issues that relate to the well‑being of the American people.  But we felt very proud of that and had hoped that we could.

I’ll tell you what happened, though.  When I became Speaker, one of the first meetings – since you asked – one of the first meetings that I had at the White House as Speaker with President Bush and Senator Reid, Majority Leader Reid, and Minority Leader McConnell then, and John – who was the [Leader]? – John Boehner was the role I have now.

So, Pelosi, Speaker – or, as President Bush used to call me, ‘Three,’ because he was one, Cheney was two, and I was three – and then Mr. Reid, Mr. McConnell, Mr. Boehner.

So, one of the first things the President said in the meeting – because George W. Bush was great on immigration.  You know, it was in his heart, it was in his head.  He respected people.  He’s from Texas, he understands.

So, he said, ‘Now we can pass an immigration bill.’

And Mitch McConnell said, ‘No, Mr. President, we don’t have the votes in the Senate.’

The President said, ‘Well, no, we have so many names, cosponsors of an immigration bill.’

And he said, ‘Well, just because they’re cosponsors doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for the bill.  We don’t have the votes.’

And he was visibly disappointed because this was a priority for all of us – well, not all of us – some of us at the table, but certainly in a bipartisan way.  And it certainly was a priority for President Bush, George W. Bush, as well as his father.

You understand, when I mention Ronald Reagan, when President Obama did DACA he protected a certain percentage of people, because Congress did not act.

When Ronald Reagan was President, Congress acted in 1986, before I was here, he acted in 1986.  And he said Congress did not go far enough.  So he instituted his Family Fairness Initiative.  And he and President George Herbert Walker Bush protected a higher percentage of people than President Obama did with DACA.  They just understood.

And the last speech that Ronald Reagan made as President beautifully talks about America as a land of opportunity, new Americans, and the contribution they make.  I’ll talk about that on the Floor.

So this President is a departure – okay, here is what it says.  Here is what Ronald Reagan is saying.

In the final days of his Presidency, President Ronald Reagan said:  ‘And since this is the last speech I will give as President, I think it’s fitting to leave one final thought, an observation about a country which I love.

‘Yes, the torch of Lady Liberty symbolizes our freedom and represents our heritage, the compact with our parents, our grandparents, and our ancestors.

‘It is that lady who gives us our great and special place in the world.  For it’s the great life force of each generation of new Americans that guarantees that America’s triumphs shall continue unsurpassed into the next century and beyond.’

President Ronald Reagan, last speech as President of the United States.

So the recognition has been there.  We had a President who was fully committed, President Bush.  We did not have Republicans in the Senate willing to go down that path.  The best we could do, what we did in the House with the prospect that we could get 60 votes at least for Dreamers, was to pass the DREAM Act.

Q: Madam Leader?

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am?

Q: Would Democrats support a bill to permanently stop the separation of families since the Executive Order the Administration says is temporary.  And have you talked to the Speaker’s Office about anything like that? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we do have a bill.  We will have it as part of our debate today.  [Congressman] Jerry Nadler has introduced the bill.  And we gathered on the steps of the Capitol, half of our Caucus was there, as well as other interested leaders in terms of helping babies not be separated from their parents.

So we do have that bill that guarantees that that will not happen.  Yeah, Democrats do support that.

Q: Have you talked to the Speaker, though, about this issue, about doing some kind of bipartisan effort? 

Leader Pelosi.  They have not ever been interested.  They talk, and sometimes you all repeat it, that it is a compromise.  It is not a compromise.  It may be a compromise with the Devil, but it’s not a compromise with the Democrats in term of what they have in their bill.

And their bills are anti‑family, perpetuate child detention, undermine existing protections, cut off many people who have been waiting lawfully to enter the country.

Yes, ma’am?

Q: Would it be better to build a wall at the border and stop people from illegally crossing it than have to arrest them when they do? 

Leader Pelosi.  I’m sorry, what was that?

Q: Would it be better to build a wall at the border –

Leader Pelosi.  No, it would not be better to build a wall.  A wall is ineffective, expensive, immoral.  And where there might be some places where it’s useful from a security and a mutually agreed upon protection for each side to have some structure, let’s see what that is.  But it’s not better to build a wall.  What’s better to do is to build a bridge.

We were there on Monday.  Once again, I have been to the border many, many, many times, but most recently on Monday.  And what is happening there is that you have a community with a border going through it.  Children go to school on either side of border, families buy groceries, families share experiences, communities exist.

We were in the Tijuana‑San Diego area.  If you go to El Paso you see the same thing, if you go to Laredo, if you go to McAllen, Brownsville.  I have been to all of those places.

So, there is a way.  There is a way.  It has to be principled, effective.  And by the way, technology can help us do that as well.

Yes, ma’am?

Q: If the Senate were to be able to pass a narrow bill that was bipartisan to address the family separation issue, would you urge Democrats to support it? 

Leader Pelosi.  I can’t urge anybody to support anything that I haven’t seen.  And let me remind you that when the bills came up in February there were two bipartisan bills in the Senate.  They both got over 50 percent.

The President talks about this bill in the Senate.  His bill in the Senate that day got, what, 39 votes.  So when he says, as he did I think in another tweet today, didn’t he say something about the filibuster or something?  He said he can’t get the eight – whatever number of Democratic votes that he needs.

Well, he couldn’t even get the Republicans to vote for his bill in February.  I think it was 38 or 39, 39 votes to 60 noes.  They did reach 60 noes on his bill.  The two other bills got over 50, the bipartisan bills.

When you are doing something it is important to work together.  Are we willing to work together to find a bipartisan bill?  For sure.  But don’t call something a compromise that is a compromise among people who are too scared, too afraid to stick to their discharge petition pledge and now are folding with this fake bill.

With that, did I read you the most recent letter from the – I did read you part of it.  This is the most recent letter, June 20, from the National Catholic Conference of Bishops.  It goes on and on and on against these bills, urging a no vote and describing how wrong they are.

So, yeah.  No, we’re always – we have a responsibility to find common ground, to find bipartisan – but we haven’t seen it yet.  And what we have seen is, again, outside the circle of civilized human behavior.

Listen to Ronald Reagan.  Republicans like to quote him.  They don’t like to follow him.  Thank you all very much.

Don’t forget today’s our tweet storm to protect the pre-existing condition benefit that the Republicans have instituted an assault on.

The President likes talking about immigration.  We are not talking about immigration here, we are talking about children, children who are Dreamers, children who are in cages, children who are separated from their parents.  This is about children, this is about the sanctity of families.

We want to make sure everyone still pays attention to how their economic and health security are being affected by the policies of the Trump administration.

Thank you all very much.

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