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.  Good morning, everyone.  All the excitement has begun.  This week, the battle of the budget.  The President put forth his fiscal year 2017 budget, which is a budget about innovation, job creation, growth in industries that keep America number one.  That innovation begins in the classroom.  His investments in education, early childhood education, Pell grants, lifetime learning, very much strengthening the opportunities for the middle class; which also has expanded the American Opportunity Tax Credit.  So paying for higher education and – empowers hardworking American families with issues that relate to child care, paid leave, and comprehensive immigration reform.  And we honor our commitment to seniors.

By contrast, Republicans are – well, we don’t know what they will come up with, but we know what they have put forth.  And recognizing that the budget is a statement of our values, what is important to us as a nation, it’s how we make our investments.  The Ryan Budget, that is one that I call ‘a road to ruin’, again undermines Social Security, voucherizes Medicare, block grant Medicaid, very harmful to seniors.  It’s also a budget that ransacks our innovation initiatives by undercutting our investments in education, infrastructure.  The list goes on.

Ours is a budget that is an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.  Theirs again, trickle-down.  Ours is middle class, theirs is trickle down.  And it is full of favors to the special interests.

So there we are with that.  Hopefully, they can get their act together to come up with some budget so we can go forward.  Hopefully, they will do as the Speaker, and I admire him for this, I guess it takes courage in there to honor the budget that we did at the end of September this year so that we can go forward in a bipartisan way to do our appropriations bills in a timely fashion.

Probably separate from that, we will need an emergency supplemental for Zika.  My read from the Speaker is that this will be bipartisan, hopefully noncontroversial, as we go forward to meet the President’s request for Zika, emergency Zika funding.  I would hope that in tandem with that, we would have an emergency supplemental for Flint, Michigan, to talk about meeting the needs of our children and families there with all the wraparound services that they need.

Yesterday, we had one of the most compelling hearings I have ever attended in my long service in Congress, to listen to the mayor, Mayor Weaver, the mayor of Flint, the experts scientifically, the head of the school system there and the rest, talk about the impact on children.  This could be a 10, 15, 20‑year impact.  It is going to cost a great deal of money in the schools.  So part of what we need is strong investments early on in Head Start to try to offset some of the damage that has been done by these children who were poisoned by a decision of the leadership in the State of Michigan.  Really, the breakdown in the compact that we have between the American people and the public policy that is supposed to affect them.

This infrastructure issue is, one of them said, the canary in the mine, because we have infrastructure problems around our country.  And because of the reluctance to make the adequate investments early on for infrastructure as it relates not just to bridges and highways and mass transit, all important, high‑speed rail, broadband and the rest, but in our water system, some of them are still made of wood and brick.  And some of them are made of metals that are corrosive and harmful to children and other living things.

So why should the children of Flint, Michigan, have to pay the price in their health, their present health and their possible future development because of public policy decisions that have not fully recognized the need for us to make the investments in infrastructure?

Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.  We have been talking about it a long time.  It never used to be a partisan issue.  We used to always be able to come to terms on it in a bipartisan way.  We have to go to a place like that.  That’s not a debate between a Democratic proposal that we want Republicans to support, it’s an all‑American proposal that has, for most of its life, had bipartisanship.

So it’s very sad, but we’re hoping that – we’re very proud of the leadership of our Michigan delegation.  Dan Kildee, who is from Flint, represents Flint, and has taken the lead on that, has given us great guidance.  And the hearing yesterday, people came up to me and said it was clearly one of the best hearings they ever went to in terms of recognizing the urgency, providing intellectual resources in terms of evaluating the problem, as well as offering solutions, and doing so in a way that just was about the kids and the families, and not in a way of assigning blame.

It challenges the conscience of our country, Flint.  Again, many times I have told you, I am in this because of being a mom.  And we try to do everything we can to do the best job for our kids.  But you can’t.  You can home school them if you choose, but you cannot ensure the quality of the air they breathe or the water they drink or the safety of food that becomes available to them unless you have a public role.  They call that big government, we call it American values.

So hopefully, the Flint emergency will be recognized in any supplemental that is put forward.  And, again, I want to salute Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the Budget Committee, for the work he is doing on the House Democratic budget.  Again, a budget entitled an Economy That Works For Everyone, Not Just the Privileged Few.  And that is exactly what it does.

Any questions?  Yes, ma’am.


Q:  The commander of the Marine Corps and chief of staff of the Army testified in the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that young women should be required to register for the draft.  Do you support requiring all young women to register for the draft?

Leader Pelosi.  I think it’s an issue we should discuss.  I think we should discuss it.  Every time you use the word “draft,” people get a misunderstanding of what you are talking about.  But I have supported women in every role in the military, including Commander in Chief.  But I think it’s an important issue for us to discuss.  The public opinion on it is really, I think, thirsty for more information as to what that would mean.  Yes, sir.

Q:  With the Republicans still trying to get their ducks in a row in terms of a budget resolution, if it comes down to having to do a deeming language to get to the appropriations bills this year, is that something that Democrats would be open to supporting simply to get to the agreed‑upon numbers in the BBA? 

Leader Pelosi.  Are you suggesting that the Republicans, who always said you have to have a budget, criticized us for not having a budget, are not going to have a budget?

Q:  I am not suggesting anything at this point, ma’am. 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, your suggestion is, an inference to be drawn would be that if we need deeming – let’s see what they can do.  Let’s see what they can do.  But we have come to agreement on what the 302(b) allocations are, what the allocations are for doing the appropriations process.  Let’s just – hopefully it can proceed and keep the commitment that they made and proceed with that.

When you ask about deeming, it would depend on what the bill was that it was in.  You know, if you are asking about a concept, well, if we have to proceed, we have to proceed.  But would we vote for it?  Well, what’s the bill?  What’s the bill that it’s in?  But let’s hope that they can come to terms with themselves on the budget.

Yes, ma’am.

Q:  How critical is the Congressional Black Caucus endorsement of Hillary Clinton?  Are they sounding the alarm after Senator Sanders’ huge victory in New Hampshire? 

Leader Pelosi.  Politics.  I thought it was going to be religion.  What’s going on here?  I think that it’s significant to have the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus.  But one of my colleagues, Mr. Ellison, has hastened to add it was not an endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus.  Individual members and the congressional – I don’t know if they called it ‘Black Caucus’ – political entity outside of Congress that made the endorsement.  But it is a large number.  I think 90 percent of the caucus probably supports – maybe more.  I just don’t know.  I know that Keith Ellison is a supporter of Bernie Sanders.

Yeah, I think it’s a very big deal.  Because in that group, there [are] many women.  And there are people who have standing on issues of concern to the American people.

Q:  Leader Pelosi, just to follow up on that question, because earlier you said you endorse women in all roles, including Commander in Chief.  Does that mean that you are now officially ready to endorse Hillary Clinton for president? 

Leader Pelosi.  No, I meant – well, I wasn’t endorsing Hillary Clinton in that statement.  I was saying a woman should be Commander in Chief.  Well, I thought that for a long time, before we even had this election.  When I am ready to announce politics on that subject, I will.

Q:  What do you make of the results in New Hampshire, Sanders’ sort of trouncing of Secretary Clinton across pretty much every demographic group, including women? 

Leader Pelosi.  I don’t know.  I mean, it’s a wonderful victory for Bernie Sanders.  And his message is an important one.  And I am particularly pleased that he is making a strong – and I think all the candidates did.  I know that Martin O’Malley did.  We hear Secretary Clinton is strong on this point as well, but that they all universally are taking on campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United.  Now I hear the Republicans are picking up on that.

But this issue of campaign finance reform is so powerful because in the public’s mind, and probably in some reality, you cannot separate the role of money from the priority of certain issues in this Republican Congress.  And that’s just the way it is.  It affects climate change, it affects issues that relate to the Affordable Care Act, it relates to our tax policy, it relates to how jobs are – giving corporations a boost to send jobs overseas.

Is that affected by the role of money in politics?  The public suspects that it is.  And that skepticism is unhealthy for our democracy.  So, for me it’s the first issue – it’s a defining issue.  How do we strengthen our democracy?

I told you before, our Founders sacrificed their lives, their liberty, their sacred honor for a democracy, a government of the many, not a government of the money.  This is vitally important.  That is one of the values of really something we all owe all of the candidates a deep debt of gratitude for putting this in the Presidential – I mean, we have been talking about it and talking about it and talking about it.  But obviously, you have to run for president to get the attention to the issue.  And I am glad that all three of them did.  And that has been part of the strength of Bernie’s campaign, because of the priority he puts on that – I mean, Senator Sanders’ campaign.

The election, right now in terms of presidential elections, if you want to talk politics, I don’t get that involved in the presidential.  I probably endorsed two people in my whole – Jerry Brown in 1976, and Dick Gephardt in 2004 or 2003, whenever he was still in the race.  I really don’t get into the intricacies.

But what I do know is that almost every new election, all of the assumptions are stale, and especially now with increase in communication and the rest.  So how important are New Hampshire and Iowa in the process?  Well, just look at the record.  You will see some stale subjects.  I saw commentators on TV saying this is really important for Donald Trump because every Republican President has been launched by his success in New Hampshire.  John McCain clobbered George Bush in New Hampshire in 2000, but yet the commentators were saying this is really important because – blah, blah, blah.

Every day is a new day.  We will see what happens in the next states as we go forward.  There is no question that the momentum and the resources, both political, financial, and intellectual, that come with a victory are something that you can’t ignore.  But I don’t think that those two states are dispositive, as respectful as I am – you know, one time when I was chair of the Delegate Selection Compliance Commission a long time ago, I had to go to Iowa and New Hampshire to tell them that they had to stay within the window.  This is because they were jumping ahead.

Whatever the schedule was, they would jump ahead.  And of course – or else, they wouldn’t be seated at the convention.  Of course, the Presidential candidates determine who is going to be seated at the convention.  And the Presidential candidates were never going to say to Iowa and New Hampshire, “You have to obey the rules or else you won’t be seated at the convention.”  This is an old back-and-forth.  It serves a purpose, it’s good theater, it’s wonderful for the people of Iowa and New Hampshire.  It is not dispositive of the election.

Q:  What do you make of the electorate that Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, with all due respect, if I said to you a year ago that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were going to win New Hampshire, you probably would have had me committed. 

Leader Pelosi.  You wouldn’t have said it.  Let’s talk about you.  You wouldn’t have said it.

Q:  No, never.  Never.  Never in a million years.  But what do you make of that electorate?  What’s happening?  What’s going on?  What happened here that makes them this angry or willing to throw all preconceived notions out the window? 

Leader Pelosi.  Let me just say that I think we have gone beyond the percentage of the meeting that we can spend on politics.  We can have a political conversation off campus.  I think you know what is – and it’s about rejection of the status quo, which is run against Washington, always a winner, as well as personalities.  So we’ll see how that is sustained as we go forward.  I just am happy that people are voting.  I just am happy that we are expanding the electorate.  Any attraction to the political process I think is really important.  And hopefully, people will stay engaged and listen to the debate, and that whoever wins the election, the American people will win in the campaigns because their priorities will now become, hopefully, the priorities of whoever gets elected.

But when you see what’s happening, for example in Flint because of a lack of investment, reduce the deficit, we can’t invest in education, we can’t invest in infrastructure, we can’t invest in this or that, false economies that, in fact, increase the deficit, but worse than that, increase the deficit in opportunity for our children.

Yes, ma’am?

Q:  I want to ask about the budget.

Leader Pelosi.  Thank you.

Q:  It was Appropriations Committee Chairman Rogers who responded to the idea of deeming yesterday.  I wanted to ask if you think if Democrats were to be needed to get a deeming resolution passed, does that at all change the calculus for the way that you behave throughout the rest of the appropriations process?  The Democrats then push more for additional spending on like Labor H?  I know you felt like there were some problems there last year.  How does that change the political process? 

Leader Pelosi.  I thought we did very well with the omnibus bill at the end of the year in terms of Labor H.  We always want more because we are talking about the National Institutes of Health, we are talking about the CDC, Center for Disease Control, we are talking about issues that relate directly to the well‑being of the American people.  Education is in the Labor HHS.  And education – it’s the same.  It’s the same committee and the same budget.

It’s not a question of behavior.  We have the allocations.  Now, hopefully they will be allocated appropriately.  It’s one thing to have the top line; it’s a question of how they are allocated.  And we hope to have a smooth process.  That’s what we would anticipate.  That’s, of course, we thought our bipartisan agreement set us on.  And so I hope that – we’re not going to stand in the way of the progress of getting the job done for the American people.  It’s just curious to me that the Republicans would be suggesting deeming when they have criticized it over and over and over again.

We have one more here?

Q:  Sure.  You sounded optimistic or relatively confident that there would be a supplemental for Zika.  What do you base that on?  Have you or your office been told by the Speaker’s office to expect one?  And secondly, have you gotten any read from them about the potential for moneys to deal with the crisis in Flint? 

Leader Pelosi.  Perfect question for the Speaker – he will be here in just a short time.  Perfect timing.  But I feel confident that Zika – I haven’t seen anything that would indicate anything other than strong bipartisan support for how we go forward there.  And I don’t want to discuss conversations I had with the Speaker.  But you can ask him what he would say about that.

Q:  It sounds like you have had a conversation with the Speaker about it. 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, this is a possibility.  This is a possibility.  Anyway.  Well, I thank you all very much, and see you next time.

The Super Bowl was great.  I didn’t have a team.  I had – my grandchildren were for one team, half for the other, my kids the same way.  So any outcome was good – but interesting.  It’s fun to have it in San Francisco, heaven on Earth – the Bay area.  And the weather was beautiful.  The festivities, the Cyber NFL, NFL Experience, all different things attracted so many people.  It was pretty exciting.

I have to say that I went home for some of that right after being at the White House, where the President recognized the Golden State Warriors for being the champions last year, and the night after Steph [Curry] scored 51 points.  So again, sports, it’s what unifies in a community.  No matter what your disagreements are on any subject, you see communities come together behind their teams.  It’s a beautiful sight.  That’s what we have to do for Team USA.  Thank you all very much.