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.  It’s an exciting week, and I’m not just talking about basketball.

Q:  You’re wearing your Capitals red.          

Leader Pelosi.  That’s right.  That’s what the people keep reminding me.

Isn’t that exciting?  Oh, that’s pretty exciting.  Some things are what you expect, and some other things are new and exciting.

Anyway, it’s been an exciting week, and on Tuesday, voters across the nation rejected the Republican majority in a very powerful way.  They sent them a message rejecting their relentless efforts to destroy health care and reward the special interests.

Thanks to the strength of the grassroots and our strategic investments, California in particular has advanced an extraordinary set of battle‑tested and diverse Democrats for the November ballot, but that has happened across the country.

Across America, we’re seeing strong performances from Democratic candidates with a clear vision.  They know their purpose and personal stories to tell.

It is clear that hard-working American families are rejecting the Republican raw deal, instead are choosing Democrats’ Better Deal, Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.

It’s interesting because our candidates out there are talking about their vision, their purpose, their knowledge, their plan to help take our country into the future, and they are connecting with the American people in terms of the concerns, the aspirations, as well as the apprehensions that people have.  So, it’s a pretty exciting time.

There’s no doubt that President Trump was effective in getting his message across, and he was appealing to people because he was breaking ground.  Break new ground.  Unfortunately, the President broke ground and he has left it broken.

He said that he was going to address the trade issue, especially the disparity in our trade deficit with China.  And what is he saying now?  That too many jobs are being lost in China.  We have to help them to the point – at the expense of our national security.  Rescuing ZTE, a known, clear cyber-security threat.

Meanwhile, the GOP, again, their tax bill makes it profitable for businesses to create jobs overseas.

But the China thing is remarkable.  How much did he talk about that on the campaign trail?  And now – then he goes on to say that too many jobs are being lost in China.

They tried to put forth a compromise proposal, and I think we have to watch it very carefully.

He broke ground in talking about building America’s infrastructure.  What did they do?  Come up with a puny plan, and now they’re saying, ‘maybe next year.’

They were going to lower prescription drug prices.  Remember when the President said, ‘We’re going to negotiate.  We’re going to enable the Secretary to negotiate.  We’re going to negotiate like crazy.’  And then he came up with his proposal.  Negotiate like crazy, as you’ve heard me say before, must mean not negotiate at all.

Don’t take my word for it: after the President pulled his punch on lowering prescription drug prices, that day, a couple weeks ago, just look at the stock market.  Pharmaceutical stocks went through the roof.  President pulled his punch again.

He said he was going to drain the swamp.  Instead, the President has become the swamp, and the GOP Congress refuses to take responsibility to hold his Administration accountable.

What is it?  There must be – how many – Pruitt has 15 himself – Pruitt himself has 15 Inspector General investigations going on him alone.  Six Cabinet officials have been under Inspector General investigation for waste, fraud and abuse.

Again, don’t take it from me.  Senator [Joni] Ernst said of Scott Pruitt:  ‘He’s about as swampy as you get here in Washington, D.C., and if the President wants to drain the swamp, he needs to take a look at his own Cabinet.’  That’s a Republican Senator saying that about the President.

The President was going to reduce the debt.  The Republicans were going to reduce the deficit and reduce the national debt.  Instead, they’ve exploded the debt by $2 trillion with their tax break for the wealthy and giving big tax breaks to corporate America.  With interest on that debt, over $2 trillion added to the national debt.

And what’s sad about that is the dark shadow it places over the budget, the future of our seniors and our families and our children.

And so what’s interesting about it is when the Social Security and Medicare Trustees made their report and they said that Medicare now becomes insolvent by 2026, that’s three years sooner than it would have been.  They specifically cited the tax bill as one of the reasons why.

So, again, their tax breaks, they’re hiring friends, 83 percent of the advantage of the bill going to the top 1 percent, almost a trillion and a half dollars plus interest given to corporate America.  And who pays the price?  America’s seniors.  Look at the Trustees’ report.

The list goes on.

So, in any case, here we go to the Floor of the House.  This week, we have a bill on the floor, the Energy and Water bill.  It slashes clean energy initiatives, attacks job‑creating investments and guts funding for nuclear nonproliferation priorities.

The bill has poison pills in it that allow deadly firearms to be carried on public lands, assaults the clean water of our children.  Clean water of our children.  What could be more fundamental than that?  As a mother of five, grandmother of nine, one of the reasons that I’m interested in public policy is for things I can’t do for my children.  I can’t ensure that the water they drink that comes out of that spigot is safe for them, that the air they breathe is clean air.  There are public health issues that are affected by this bill.

Republicans, they encourage pollution of our oceans and push our nation’s already endangered species toward extinction.

So this is a bad bill, and we are urging a ‘no’ vote on it.

But in any case, one of the other problems with it is it takes money away from our investments in health, education and good-paying jobs in America’s communities.

As you know, this morning, the Republicans are meeting on immigration.  Lord knows what will come out with that.  Hopefully, the Lord knows.  We’ve been praying very hard on it.

For too long, young Dreamers across the country have been stuck under a cloud of fear and uncertainty.  As you recall, in 2010, we had majority of the Congress, we passed the bill in the House, it got a majority of votes in the Senate, but not the 60 votes needed for passage.  All this time later, we are still trying to protect the Dreamers.  We thank them for the dignity in which they have advocated for their situation, and Congress must do something to address the concerns of these extraordinary patriotic young people.

Any questions?

* * *

Q:  If the Democrats win the majority in the House, would you favor advancing with legislation on a public option for health care or would you prefer the Medicare‑for‑all bill that’s been circulated and has the signatures of like 121 Democrats? 

Leader Pelosi.  You’re predicating your question on a Democratic victory in November?

Let me just say on that score, again, how pleased I am about what is happening in the primaries, to also point out the intensity factor that is out there where Democrats are maybe 15 points, something like 63 to 47 is it? – difference in intensity, as well as the 10‑point spread in the generic.

Now, I don’t even go by the generic.  I just take it one district at a time.

But I will say, as those who say:  Oh, the President’s into the 40s.  Really?  That’s not a good place for the President to be.  In fact, when we lost in ’94, President Clinton was at 46 percent in the polls, and that was enough.  That opened the door to [their] victory.

This President has been in the 30s and 40s for a long time, and it has opened the doors to many candidates walking through who know their purpose, know their vision for America, know their subject matter.  They have a plan to make the future better, and they connect very directly with the American people.  When they come to Congress, any of those subjects can be on the table.

We believe in the Affordable Care Act; that it has the structure to take us forward in many different ways.  It’s about expanding access, quality, affordable health care to many more Americans, over 20 million.

But it was also about improving the benefits and lowering the cost for 125 million families who already had access to health care.

So I’ve always been for a public option, so I’m always eager to talk about that.

And some of the other issues that have been proposed have to be evaluated in terms of the access that they give, the affordability of it and how we would pay for it.  But, again, it’s all on the table.

Q:  You talked about China a moment ago and ZTE.  One of the other concerns, and this might be wrapped into the people’s concerns about China generally, are these supposed sonic attacks on diplomats in China.  There’s been issues in Cuba as well.  What do you make of that? 

And when you talk about the Administration’s dealing with China on ZTE and the other issues, do you connect those issues that these are some of the broad array of problems we have with China:  sonic attacks, trade, ZTE? 

Leader Pelosi.  I think that there are a broad array of concerns that we have about China, as you probably know, for – well, at least since Tiananmen Square, but probably before, I’ve had concerns about China in three areas:  certainly, the disparity our trade deficit with China, which is enormous; the lack of market access to our products in China; the sale of missile technology to Pakistan and other places on the part of China, as well as their human rights violations.

At the time, we had a $5 billion trade deficit with China annually, $5 billion trade deficit.  I thought,  oh, my goodness.  We can really use our leverage to free the prisoners of Tiananmen Square, to gain market access and to stop the proliferation of missile technologies where they shouldn’t be going.

And I could win the votes on the Floor; I could never override a Presidential veto when we talk about China trade.

And people said:  You have it all wrong.  You just should let peaceful evolution take its – play it out, and things will work out.

That was almost 30 years ago.  Well, it will be 30 years next year, Tiananmen Square.  Trade deficit, $5 billion a year.  Do you know what it is now?  $5 billion a week or more.  An enormous trade deficit with China.

And China has just decided that they afforded the ability to have access to the China market.  They will – we have to ride the China tiger, and that is transferring our technology and the rest.

So we have an important relationship with China.  Our two countries are great countries in the world.  We have to communicate, we have to cooperate with each other on climate issues, for example, on issues to fight terrorism and the rest.  But the fact is, China is totally eating our lunch and this President is serving it up to them after saying in the campaign that he would not.

So whether it’s sonic attacks, it’s activities in the South China Sea or whether it is  – the list is a very long one, but the fact is, is we should use our leverage to improve our relationship with China in a way that respects American workers, American values and American security.

Q:  Last week, the President referred to you as an MS-13 lover. 

Leader Pelosi.  As a what?

Q:  As an MS-13 lover.

Leader Pelosi.  Oh gosh.

Q:  I wanted to get your response to that, and also what you make of him trying to paint you…

Leader Pelosi.  What I make of him?  What I make of him?

Let me just say this:  I’m not going into the President’s tweets or his character.  What I am concerned about are his policies and how they affect the American people, and what he is doing in terms of, again, being more concerned about jobs being lost in China than in the United States.  What he’s not doing in terms of putting forth a great infrastructure initiative from sea to shining sea.  What he’s doing to undermine public education in our country.  What he’s doing to increase financial uncertainty of America’s families.

People want to talk about, oh, wow, the economy’s doing this or that.  Oh, really?  The fact is that really you have to be very careful when you talk about the fact that more jobs are created when we talk about the fact that wages have stagnated.  And it is an important – fewer people have access to health care, wages are stagnating, the list goes on and on about what about what we are missing in this economy, and that’s why we think it’s a raw deal.

Gas prices are rising, wages are flat, the debt of – the burden of the debt is increasing.  They want Medicare to wither on the vine.  Wither on the vine.  If you’re a senior, and I am, you do not want Medicare to wither on the vine, but seniors know that that’s the Republican agenda here.

So my interest is not in his tweets or his personal behavior.  My interest is the impact of his policies on America’s working families.  And I just think that it’s very important for us to show the contrast between his raw deal and our better deal for the American people.

Q:  Do you expect Democrats to be united in opposing the minibus this week? 

Leader Pelosi.  I think we’ll have pretty good unity, yeah.  I never ever count on unanimity in our Caucus because it’s our Caucus, but I think we have a pretty good understanding of what is at stake.  First, in terms of the poison pills that are in the bill, but in addition to which the manner in which they allocated the resources at the expense of the health, education and well-being of our children.

Q:  The unemployment rate in May was 3.8 percent, the lowest it’s been in 18 years.  Is that good news? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, as I said, unemployment rate is one indication.  The fact is, and this has happened before, that people say, oh, my goodness.  People are saying the unemployment rate is down.  Why isn’t my purchasing power increasing?

So this isn’t just about the unemployment rate.  It’s about wages rising in our country so that consumer confidence is restored, because our economy will never fully reach its possibilities unless we increase the consumer confidence, and that can only be increased by Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future, and lowering costs to families, whether it’s prescription drugs, by really lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and that list goes on.

This is one unusual time, and I follow it closely, where the unemployment rate is down, but the dependence on subsidies, whether it’s food insecurity, housing subsidies and the rest, has not gone down because of the wage stagnation.

So in terms of the financial stability of America’s working families, unless we have an increase, a very significant increase in wages and bigger paychecks, we’re going to increase the frustration of America’s families because they’ll be saying:  Hip, hip, hooray.  Unemployment is down.  What does that mean to me and my life?  I need a bigger paycheck.  And that’s the apprehension that American families have had for a while and continue to have and that we must address.

So when we’re talking about this, it’s not to increase more jobs so that we can subsidize more low-paying jobs by public investment in housing support and food support, and the list goes on, but to have living wages for people.  Justice.  Economic justice.  Social justice.  Justice is a very important value that America has.

Thank you all very much.

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