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. Good morning. Thank you for being early. Because of votes on the Floor, we try to stay on schedule.
It’s been an eventful week. We’ve seen the dynamism within the Democratic Party. We’ve seen more destruction from the policies of the GOP.
The CBO found, in large part because of the GOP tax scam for the rich, the debt – the national debt will almost equal the size of the economy by 2028. And what do the Republicans respond to it? Slashing Medicare and Medicaid. They’re after your Medicare and Medicaid.
An American icon, Harley-Davidson, announced that they will ship even more production and jobs overseas, which the GOP tax scam gives them a tax benefit for doing. We have begun to see more stories of how the GOP tax scam is even raising taxes on churches, synagogues, and other nonprofits.
Last week, soybean futures hit a 9‑year low – soybean futures hit a 9‑year low. Pork producers, corn growers and wheat growers are reeling, too. That’s so far this week.
Right now, Republicans on the Floor are trying to force the Justice Department and the FBI to violate our national security and their longstanding procedures and turn over highly sensitive and classified information from the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation – undermining our Justice System. Just when you think you’ve seen it all.
The GOP actions represent an assault on the rule of law. Republicans are seeking to undermine the ongoing investigation into an unprecedented foreign intervention in our elections to assist President Trump’s legal defense at the expense of our democracy.
Just think of it. They’re asking for documents of a highly sensitive classified nature to come from the Justice Department from an ongoing investigation.
Late yesterday, Leader [Chuck] Schumer, Ranking Member [Adam] Schiff, Senator [Mark] Warner and I wrote a letter to Director [Christopher] Wray and Deputy AG [Rod] Rosenstein to express our grave concerns about the Department of Justice and the FBI yielding to Republicans’ blatant, partisan and dangerous demands.
The Special Counsel investigation has already secured 5 guilty pleas and 20 indictments. Republicans must back off, and Mueller must be allowed to continue his investigation to follow the facts.
In the letter, we close by saying: ‘As the attacks on the special counsel intensify, it is imperative that you withstand pressure on DOJ and FBI to violate established procedures and norms. Your role in preserving the integrity of the special counsel’s investigation and, most importantly, the system of justice has become even more vital.’
And we go on to – and yesterday, Republican’s raw deal for the working man was accelerated by the actions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s radical Janus decision will have drastic, destructive and longstanding impacts on hard-working Americans, their health, their wages, their retirement, and workplace conditions.
Earlier today, I stood with House and Senate Democrats and labor leaders to unveil the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act that will protect America’s workers and their freedom to join a union.
Here’s the thing: this Court – and I said this over in the Senate side earlier this morning. The Supreme Court has now labeled themselves the Supreme Corp., short for ‘corporation.’ With this decision to weaken the hand of workers, on top of their decision of Citizens United, exacerbating the hand of corporations and special interest money in our political process, they have reduced the leverage of workers in our country, reduced their leverage for, again, collective bargaining, negotiating for benefits, like health care, et cetera, but also working conditions, like safety in the workplace.
The trade union movement has been largely responsible for the development of the middle class in our country. In fact, the middle class has a union label on it. The Supreme Court’s decision does violence to the First Amendment, does violence to stare decisis in terms of other decisions that have been made that they have now thrown out the door. It does violence to our democracy, and it does violence to the benefits and job security of millions of America’s working families. Even if you don’t belong to a union, your family has benefited, if you’re a worker out there because they have raised the standard.
So, here we are. We have a better – there’s a raw deal. We have A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future, and part of that is the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act, which we are introducing today in our House. It is [Congressman] Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania; he will be introducing it. Senator [Mazie] Hirono in the Senate.
I’ve also disagreed with Justice Kennedy’s interpretation of the Constitution. However, I respect his service. He’s a Californian. We are proud of him. And the stakes of the vacancy he leaves – he’s leaving just 19 weeks before the election, could not be higher. Make no mistake: Republicans now have the opportunity to erase a generation of progress for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, workers’ rights and health care.
As it happens, today marks the sixth year – six years since the Supreme Court upheld the ACA as the law of the land. With the chance to rewrite the Court, Republicans could even succeed in their vicious lawsuit to strike down lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Some of you were with us yesterday and heard from Americans with pre-existing conditions who could be condemned because of illnesses or injuries. They did nothing – they’d rather do without, right? 120, 130 – 125, 130 million Americans have pre-existing conditions. That is what is at stake. It started with the tax scam, which eliminated the individual mandate, which they’re using as their justification to eliminate the benefit of pre-existing conditions. This came from some of the states. The Trump Administration has said, not only would they not defend the law of the land, they support doing away with [protections for] pre-existing conditions.
So understand that all of these policy things that relate to the Court or legislation have an impact on your life, especially if you have a pre-existing condition in this court case.
America’s health care will never be safe in Republican control. And it’s not just about health care. It’s about the good health of America. So we have fights to make. Republicans attack people with – they’re attacking people with pre-existing conditions. They’re protecting the border by putting children in cages. Is this a statement of values of the greatest country that ever existed in the history of world? I don’t think so.
Any questions? Yes, sir.
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Q: How do you feel that the DCCC should address candidates who aren’t willing to back the current leadership?
Leader Pelosi. Can we talk about the subject? I’ll get to politics, but we’re – they’re undermining the Constitution of the United States. They’re trying to get – undermine an investigation into undermining our elections. So much is going on here.
I’ll talk politics after, but this is about jobs. It’s about health care. It’s about Medicare. It’s about pre-existing conditions. It’s about a woman’s right to choose. So much is at stake that affects the American people.
Q: On that, you guys – Democrats, in general, are looking to the – many seats in the next election –
Leader Pelosi. Okay. I’m not going to politics –
Q: It’s about building a governing coalition. I’m wondering how you go about building a governing coalition with a party where you have a large number of people moving further to the left, and how do you go forward to do more than just oppose the President?
Leader Pelosi. Okay. I’m happy to answer that.
Does anybody have any question about the serious matters of the day? A Supreme Court decision that is – does violence to the First Amendment? A Supreme Court decision that undermines the rights of working people? A bill on the Floor that if the Democrats – well, we would never do it – that is about undermining our national security as well as our judicial system. Does anybody have a substantive question?
Q: If immigration counts, is there any path to a narrow bill on child separation – a narrow bipartisan bill?
Leader Pelosi. I would hope so. I would hope so. But as you see, the Republicans overwhelmingly support what the President is doing. They may say they don’t like children being separated. They don’t like the visual of children being separated. But even in the public, 52 percent of Republicans support the separating of children from their parents. But let’s hope that that could be a possibility.
You saw what they considered to be a compromise – it was a compromise among themselves – go down in flames yesterday. They had 121 of their own – they barely got a majority of their own people, and of course, we weren’t supporting it because it was a very, very bad bill and did, again, violence to our immigration system, which is sorely in need of comprehensive immigration reform.
I would hope – I would hope that we could find the path that you described. We’re always optimistic and always hopeful.
Q: On that question, what Republicans say you guys want is catch and release. You guys say they’re looking at indefinite detention. I mean, is there middle ground in between that? I mean, what is the policy that –
Leader Pelosi. One part of what you said is correct. They are for indefinite detention. Catch and release is one aspect of a – what we’re asking for, Chuck and I sent a letter to the President asking for, was a system that you united families immediately, stop the zero tolerance policy, which was separating families, and have a third – the third point is have a path where people who are trying to get asylum are treated with due process.
And let me just say this: This isn’t just about us. When we had our hearing on this, the American Association of Evangelicals said that the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program was ‘the crown jewel of American humanitarianism’ – ‘the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.’ That is what they’re seriously undermining.
So due process and some – depending on the situation of the person to make a judgment about what course of action comes next, but I don’t – I don’t – I don’t accept a characterization of catch and release versus indefinite detention. Indefinite detention of children, they want to overturn the Flores case by making it longer. That is not going in a positive direction.
But we can. You have heard me say, I said right here, President Reagan – President Reagan, his last speech to the Congress – I mean, not to the Congress, to the world, his last speech as President. Do you have it? I don’t know if we have it here. His last speech was to say – he said: I have one thought I want to leave to the country I love. The Statue of Liberty is, of course, our symbol to the world, but – but, he said, the force of – the life force that a generation of new Americans brings to our country will ensure that we will – that our greatness will be sustained from one generation to the next.
Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, George W. Bush, in addition to Bill Clinton – President Clinton and President Obama, all of them recognizing that we have to treat people with some level of dignity – except this President.
Yeah. Yes, Dan.
Q: Madam Leader, so, on the – since the bill that they had on the Floor yesterday apparently went down so badly –
Leader Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: There was a meeting at the White House between Republican appropriators and the President the other day. We keep hearing some rumblings that they might say, all right, maybe we can do this $5 billion to $6 billion for the wall, and there might be a side deal on DACA. Walk us through and –
Leader Pelosi. I had no idea. I would not be able to talk about what went on at the White House.
Q: But obviously – but the idea that there might be a deal to be had on DACA – because, obviously, he’s not going to get $25 billion for the wall. They’re not even going to provide him with that.
Would your side be willing to go along with a slight uptick in border security enhancement, however that’s termed, for the right type of DACA agreement?
Leader Pelosi. I’m going to leave time so I can answer their political questions, but let me take it to this place.
Democrats know full well what our responsibility is to protect our borders, to protect and defend the Constitution and the American people, and we honor that. We do not think that protecting our border means putting children in cages, which may be one of their options.
But let me give you a little history for a moment. After 9/11, a bipartisan commission was formed. It was bipartisan, and they came out with recommendations in the summer of 2004. We came right back after our convention and said: come – let’s all come back – we called the Republicans back. Of course, they didn’t come. They had the majority at the time. They didn’t come, but we said: Let’s pass these provisions immediately.
They never did it. They never took up the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission to protect our country’s homeland – the Homeland Security bill.
In 2007, January, H.R. 1, the first bill we introduced when we took the majority, was to enact the Homeland Security commission’s recommendation to protect the homeland. Of course, it involved many things, including our border.
So our history on this is one that has been solid. Just because the President has said, ‘I’m going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it,’ people say, ‘Well, he promised he was going to build a wall.’ Well, he promised Mexico was going to pay for it. So that’s not our responsibility. We have to see what the bill is.
Right now, unless they would expand – in other words, we talked about Dreamers. That’s a bigger number than DACA. So we’d like to see what that – and that is what was in the Hurd‑Aguilar bill. We’d see something like that, which had border provisions in it; why couldn’t we do that?
It was developed by Members in order to protect the Dreamers, as well as to protect our country. They walked away from that to a bill that they got 121. I guess that must mean they had the Hastert Rule – Hastert, who’s in prison for things that I won’t even go into here, went to prison for those things. They’re living by his rules. So they got 121. But just because that was enough to bring it to the Floor didn’t mean it became the law of the land.
Yes, ma’am, and then I have to go to these questions because I promised I would.
Q: Thanks, Madam Leader. It may be a segue. You’re talking about issues that are important to many Americans. We see great interest on the campaign trail from all these folks running for office this year.
How does the Democratic leadership here in the House give voice to the energy and the enthusiasm that’s out there but also remain effective and keep a level of civility as we’ve seen in some of the tensions this week moving forward?
Leader Pelosi. I appreciate that question. You want to repeat your question because it was in the same line, I think.
Q: How should the DCCC back candidates who aren’t willing to support the leadership?
Leader Pelosi. We just want to win. That’s the simplest answer of all. When I’m not in the Capitol and I’m someplace else, I’m raising money to elect those very people. Everything is at stake in our country. People all see the urgency of it. They want to take responsibility for it. That gives us an opportunity to win. So I just say: Just win, baby.
So that has – that has nothing to do with any decisions made by the DCCC.
Q: My next question goes to Lisa’s –
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: That is what was I asking is, how do you go forward in terms of policy?
Leader Pelosi. Thank you. I appreciate that question, but we’re so immersed in the substance of why we’re here that it makes politics seem so small because this is not about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about the United States of America. The character of our country is at stake. The future of our children is at stake, and that takes us to the election.
And we feel very proud – when people said to me, after the march a year and a half ago, ‘How are we going to use all of that energy?’ I said, it’s not a question of how we will use it. It’s a question about how they will use us.
I’m a grassroots person. I was the chair of our party in California before I came to Congress, and that energy coming from the grassroots is what is going to win the election. It has to be fueled, though, by inspiration, and we think that our Better Deal, Better Jobs, Better Pay, Better Future has been a template for us to road test, to listen to Members, and our message is an economic message.
It’s about jobs. It will be – and our three leaders on the communication team are in the process of putting together our closing argument on this, but it’s about build, build, build. Build the infrastructure of America, across America. Build not only surface transportation and the rest, but build broadband, build water systems, build schools, and the rest, build, and do so in a way that is fiscally sound.
And the next thing is that we have to build the human infrastructure, invest in education and health care and research, to keep America – our apprenticeship programs and the rest – to keep our entrepreneurial spirit there to fuel these jobs for the 21st century and build our civility, build our democracy, reduce the role of money in politics, take us to a place where these voices have a stronger voice and remove some of the cynicism that is there, skepticism about whether their voice matters.
As you see – as you see in these races, they’re all close. A few hundred votes here or there in terms of Yvette Clarke’s race, in terms of Connor Lamb’s race. They were under 1,000 votes each. So everybody should know that their voice counts.
I had the privilege of speaking to a new Member – one of our newer Members of Congress who was certainly in that district to be elected. Alexandria, she was lovely, and we look forward to her invigoration of the Congress when she comes here.
But every district is its own entity. Every Member is an independent representative of his or her district. Joe Crowley’s district, now Alexandria’s district, and my district are very similar, but many of the districts across our country are focused in a different way, and we respect that.
So it’s a pretty exciting time. We see this as a plus. We see – Joe Crowley is a fabulous leader in the Congress – a fabulous leader in the Congress. His dignity in yielding to his successor was something that was beautiful to behold, and that is what the Democratic Party is about. We are a big tent. We respect the will of the voters. We recognize our differences across the country, and we know what brings us together are our values, and our values are about supporting America’s working families, about honoring the vows of our Founders, about honoring the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, honoring the aspirations of our children.
That is why we vote so much alike because we have shared values. And I’ll just close, as I always close, because it’s going to be Fourth of July, and I say this almost every time I come together with people, perhaps not you yet, but our Founders gave us their guidance, and it became our guidance: E pluribus unum; from many, one. They couldn’t possibly know how many we would be or how different we would be from each other, but they knew we had to be one, and we must be unifying in our – when we win, we must be bipartisan, we must be transparent and open and we must be unifying to honor that value.
How wise they were to know that if that was our driving force, we would always try to find our common ground, stand our ground when we couldn’t. They were great people to stand their ground, but I hope that you all have a happy Fourth of July and think in unifying ways.
Our country is a great country. It can withstand almost any assault, and I have optimism about the future and optimism about the big tent that the Democratic Party is and that it has room for many points of view, and that, on the spectrum of things, is always about America’s working families. Happy Fourth of July to all of you.