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 is a transcript of the press conference:

Leader Pelosi.  Good morning.  Good morning.

The good news of this morning, of course, is the U.S.-China climate agreement, which we’re learning more about.  I have to commend the President for making it a priority to talk with China.  And the recognition by China that this needs to be addressed is very significant.  It’s saying – the argument that some have said, “it’s no use; we’re not doing anything unless the Chinese do something” – well, they are.

And it’s really quite remarkable.  When China and U.S. deliver on their carbon pollution reduction, other nations hopefully will make similar commitments.  They no longer have the excuse “China isn’t doing it,” and people here in the Congress no longer have the excuse “China isn’t doing it, so why should we?”  So I think it’s pretty exciting.  As some of you may recall who were here at the time, that was a very, very important issue for me.  I established the Select Committee on [Energy Independence and Global Warming] headed by Ed Markey, and so we’re very excited about this agreement.

Immigration:  On the subject of immigration, later today we’ll have a press conference with some Members who are urging the President to act, to use his executive authority to improve the situation.  We’ve had this conversation before, and I will again call to your attention our op-ed that we wrote that says the President not only has the legal authority to act, but all the precedence of presidents before, from Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon – you know who.  Most of them were before you were born, some of you, but Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Reagan, Reagan, on any number occasions, President George Herbert Walker Bush, President Clinton, President George W. Bush, all of them have taken executive action.

I refer to it again, “As Presidents Before Him, Obama Has Authority to Act.”  I join Luis Gutierrez and Zoe Lofgren on this.  We have over 100 signatures to a letter today that we sent out, calling upon Members to join them in urging the President to take that action.  So that will be exciting to see the timing of that and the scope of it.  We have no idea, but what we do know is that every modern present day President before President Obama has used that executive authority.

We’re excited about our new Members.  Last night we swore in the 100th member, woman member, 100th woman in this 113th Congress.  When we swear in the new Congress we’ll go over 300 in history, but 100 for this Congress, and that’s pretty remarkable.  Sixty-five of them on the Democratic side and some of them in the Senate, but 65 House Democratic women.

And with the decision we made from years ago to increase our numbers, there were 12 when I came to Congress; now we have 65.  That pace is not good enough.  But nonetheless, a source of pride.  The incoming class will be two-thirds women and minorities, four veterans.  We’re very proud of them.  You’ll be seeing more of them as they go through their orientation here.  But we’re very, very proud of what they’re doing.

So, again, I regret the loss of some of the Members.  We lost nine.  Nine of our Members will not be returning.  Three longstanding Members:  Tim Bishop, New York, one; Nick Rahall from West Virginia; and John Barrow from Georgia.  Very, very valued Members of the House of Representatives, independent representatives of their districts, and they did not get reelected.

And then six Members of the freshman class, two who had been here before now came back:  Carol Shea Porter and Dan Maffei, two excellent Members of Congress; two brand new Members in Illinois, Brad Schneider and – I call him – General Enyart; and then two down south in Florida, Joe Garcia and Pete Gallego in Texas; and the one more, actually, one more, it’s seven with Steven Horsford in Nevada.

So while some are calling it the big wave, in many respects, Democrats writ large were – but when you think of the waves that we have had in terms of the House, 54 lost in the in the first election after the election in 1994, 54 Democrats lost their seats.  We know our wave when we took the House and then a further wave when President Obama was elected and see then the wave that gave the majority to the Republicans.  So altogether about [thirteen] Members – 10 who lost their seats and three who did not seek reelection.

In California, we’ll probably pick up a seat.  We haven’t lost a House Democrat since 1994 in California.  This election year, well, they were targeting California.  I don’t know why, but they were targeting California.  We’ll either break even or gain a seat, and that’s why the number of people who we have lost are mitigated by the one in California that we’ve gained, Pete Aguilar.

So I know you probably wanted to talk some politics, so that’s that.  But, again, the service and the leadership of the Members that we’ve lost is – you can’t quantify it, but because of the quality of their service.  But nonetheless, we are ready to get going and we hope to honor the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by having a real voter engagement, using the inspiration of what people did so people had the right to vote.

People died, people risked their lives.  And now we’ll have the 50th anniversary.  We’ll have the 50th anniversary of John Lewis walking over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.  And all of that inspiration, education, helps us to give people a purpose, a reason to register, a reason to vote.  And I think you’re going to see a massive return to the field of politics – of elections when we have the next election.

And I’ll be very honest with you, I don’t care if they register Democratic or Republican, I just want them to engage and I want them to vote.  Because two thirds of our electorate did not vote in this election and that’s not a good model to the world.

So with that, I’d be pleased to take any questions you may have.

* * *

Q:  May I? 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes, sir.  You again.


Q:  On health care, Speaker Boehner made it clear last week they’re probably going to have multiple votes in the new Congress on health care.  You have the news here in the past few days about some of the comments made by  Mr. Gruber, which has sort of ignited that side, and they’re talking about possibly having hearings and calling him up to talk about what he meant and the architecture behind this.  Tell me: how does your side engage on this issue in a different way with them going back to this again, and what does that mean – does it give you more opportunity to defend it, or is this just, you feel like you’re fighting the same battle over and over again?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, you gave an interesting set of observations.  But one that you skipped is that Mr. Gruber’s comments were a year old, and he has backtracked from most of them.

Q:  But that still engaged them…

Leader Pelosi.  But nonetheless, you didn’t have it in the narrative, and that’s really important – that he is not even advocating the position that he was at some conference and said.  So I don’t know who he is.  He didn’t help write our bill.  With all  due respect to your question, you have a person who wasn’t writing our bill commenting on what was going on when we were writing the bill who has withdrawn some of the statements that he made.  So let’s put him aside.

But to your further question, which is more important, with or without him, the Republicans will try to undermine the Affordable Care Act.  And we recognize that.  But the fact is that it was projected that over 9.5 million people will have access to health care with this enrollment who didn’t have it before, who didn’t have it in the manner in which they have it now.  And that doesn’t count all those who are going on to the expansion of Medicaid.  So we are very, very proud of it.

So how does our side approach it?  With great pride.  With great pride – in the message to people who have that access to quality affordable healthcare, who have the liberty to keep the job they have or change jobs or become self-employed or start a business, that this is not going to be taken away from them; and if you are a woman, no longer being a woman would be a preexisting medical condition for your being discriminated against in getting insurance; and if you’re graduating from college, no longer will you be pulled off your parents’ plan.  If you have a preexisting medical condition, no longer will you be discriminated against or charged astronomical rates.

So the message is really what this legislation has meant in the lives of the American people.  Clearly there’s been a tremendous amount of misrepresentation about it that you saw in the campaign.  There was less use of it as a campaign issue, because the proof of the pudding is in the policies that people now have – the protections, the patient’s rights that are now there.  So we’ll just speak to it with pride and from a factual basis.

Yes, ma’am.

Q:  On the Keystone Pipeline, you have expressed a lot of skepticism in the past about this project and whether it will create jobs.  So I’m wondering what you think about Senate Democrats’ sudden decision to hold a vote on it.  And then on your own leadership: after Democrats lost seats last week in the election, I’m wondering if you gave any thought to stepping down as the Leader and what you thought about when you decided to stay on.

Leader Pelosi.  Okay, why don’t we start with the second question?  Because I’ve heard it from you all a number of times.  And what I said to the most recent person who asked, he said: “Well, you’ve lost now three times.  Why don’t you step aside?”  You’ve heard that question when we lost two times, and one time.  And I say: when was the day that any of you said to Mitch McConnell, when they lost the Senate three times in a row – lost making progress in taking back the Senate three times in a row – “Aren’t you getting a little old, Mitch?  Shouldn’t you step aside?”  Have you ever asked him that question?  Have any of you ever asked him that question?  So I don’t understand why that question should even come up.  I’m here as long as my Members want me to be here, as long as there’s a reason to be here.  I’m not here on a schedule, on anything except a mission to get a job done.  I’m so proud of the confidence my Members have placed in me.  My life and who I am is not dependent on being here.  So I have the liberty of, if you want me here, I’m happy to be here.  If you don’t, I’m proud of what we have done together.  But it just is interesting, as a woman, to see how many times that question is asked of a woman, and how many times that question is never asked of Mitch McConnell.

Having said that, get to the Keystone – and I say that kind of thinking I have a mission for women on this score.  When we won the House, and that was largely an initiative that I started around 2000 to take us to a place where we would win the House, that was a big thing.  Everyone was kind of – Time Magazine, even though I was the first woman – isn’t that a curiosity that Republicans win, Boehner is on the front of Time Magazine; if Mitch McConnell wins, he’s on the front of Time magazine.  Is there a pattern here?

Now, as I said, who I am does not depend on any of that, with all due respect, to all of you.  But as a woman, like, is there a message here?  Is there something that we’re missing?

Okay, on the Keystone, here is the thing about this vote today that we’re going to take up.  I don’t know what the Senate is doing.  I read about what you say.  I just know what is happening here – and here, the Rules met yesterday to make an order of debate today and to vote tomorrow on a bill on the Keystone Pipeline.  What is important to know about that legislation is, if you were 100 percent for the Keystone Pipeline, you would have to have a problem with the legislation on the floor, because it exempts the TransCanada Pipeline Initiative from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

As you know, there was in Michigan in 2010, there was a leak, but they were compensated because they had paid into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.  There have been payments made into that, that compensated for that.  This says – even though these tar sands which are highly corrosive will be going through this pipeline, and you know that there are cases in Nebraska about this right now – should there be a leak, TransCanada will be exempted from paying into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund even though the tar sands component of what they’re admitting is highly corrosive.

So God willing there never would be a leak, but if there is, they are totally off the hook.  So independent of any discussion about the Keystone Pipeline and the jobs it creates and where the oil goes and the rest of that is the subject of the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which they’re exempted from in this bill.  And for that reason, I think you’ll see people who may be on both sides of the Keystone Pipeline bill, for the Keystone Pipeline, in and of itself, voting against it today.  But we’ll see.  I mean, it’s not today, tomorrow, but the debate on it.  And why would they do that?

Why do you think that they would exempt them?  It’s a highly controversial issue, which the President has said his standard for it will be the impact on the environment that they would – well, it’s – we understand.  We know who is.  And I guess the Koch brothers have said that, in a separate issue, but in relationship to the tax credits for the tax bill to come up, that they’re going to spend money against Republicans who support tax credits for wind and renewables.  So this is of a pattern.  It’s of a pattern.  But, again, I haven’t made a public statement about the pipeline, but I do make a public statement about this bill.  They should not be exempt from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

Yes, ma’am.

Q:  There’s some discussion among Republicans about trying to attach something that would preempt the President on immigration to a CR, an omnibus.  It’s going to have to come up before the middle of next month.  Do you expect that to happen?  Do you foresee a big fight?  And how do you try to make sure the government doesn’t shut down or address not having another shut down fight in January? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I don’t think the Republicans should do that.  I don’t think they should do that.  They’re saying to the President, don’t use your executive authority.  They already turned to us and said, don’t use your legislative authority.  That’s what Presidents do.  They have executive authority.  He has his authority to perhaps veto such a bill, but I don’t think we have to go to that place.  We have big problems.  We want to create jobs, good paying jobs for the American people.  We want to do what we do, whether it relates to energy in a way that grows our economy, keeps people in a healthy environment.

And why are we going down this path when Congress can prevent it all from happening by passing the Senate bill?  500 days since the Senate passed the immigration bill.  And a couple of years since the Speaker has been saying over and over again: We will pass an immigration bill in the House.  It may not be the Senate bill.  We may not even want to go to conference with the Senate bill.  But we will establish principles.  Remember that?  We saluted his principles when they went up the flag pole, his Members chopped down the flag pole.

So, but, nonetheless, give me another chance; don’t be excited about it; it’s going to happen.  And then it didn’t.  So Congress could prevent the President from doing executive action by legislating on the subject at hand, passing this bipartisan Senate bill that passed over 500 days ago.

Yes, sir.

Q:  Thank you.  You mentioned the wind production tax credit, and that’s actually a great segue into my question about extenders.  We’ve heard a lot of different things about that.  Some House Republicans are voting for one year extension.  Obviously, there are Ways and Means Members who want some provisions to be permanently renewed, and there are a lot of Republicans who also want the wind PTC not to be renewed at all.  What you would you like to see happen to fund extenders? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, it is – thank you for your question – they’re having conversations now, House and Senate, on this.  The Senate has passed a bipartisan committee bill which is a good place, I think, to start and I think end, because of – there are certain equities to be balanced.  One is: we really do have to have revenue reform.  We have to reform the tax code.  But when you make so many things permanent in a bill like this, you diminish the leverage from one part of the bill to another, to – at the end of the day – increase revenue so that we can reduce the deficit.

And so I would hope that they would come out with something, House and Senate, that looks like the Senate bipartisan passed bill in committee.  And the problem I have with the permanent aspects of it is that it is an impediment to doing real reform, which we need to do, to simplify, to be able to close loopholes, to lower the corporate rate so that we can have a better tax system.

The problem with the one year is it’s retroactive.  It’s this year.  It will be one month.  By the time we passed it, there will be only one month to the bill.  So that doesn’t get you too much.  And if you’re thinking in terms of wind, solar or any transaction, you want more lead time than one month.  So the fact is that two years at the least, which gives us another 13 months, and then next year to be able to debate – hopefully, with full transparency – put everything on the table, be agnostic, what works, what doesn’t work; get it done so that we can lower the corporate rate, make permanent some of the issues that should be made permanent but do so in that more comprehensive frame than making some things permanent here that diminish your ability to do something much better in the tax bill.  But we’ll just see when they come forward with what they have.

Yes, ma’am.

Q:  There’s been some discussion that Obama delaying executive action on immigration really depressed turnout in the Democratic race.  I was wondering if you agree with that, and how do you plan to take on this issue in this session? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I don’t – right now we have to look to see what – different things happen in the election in different places, and Members are coming back and we’re getting their review.  Of course, I have an overview of it from here, but unless you’re on the ground, what happened in that specific district remains to be seen until we see a certain pattern.  So I don’t know; I can’t say that the President delaying the executive action depressed [turn out].

I do think that with two-thirds of the electorate not voting, it’s something other than the President’s actions, timetable on immigration.  And that’s what we have to find out.  That’s why we want to use and honor the Voting Rights Act by having that inspiration, that education to encourage people to vote.  And as I’ve said before: this is nonpartisan registration, education and the rest.  If they want to register a Republican, God bless them, but pay attention and make sure that the people you’re voting for know what is important to you.

And what is important to most people is their financial stability, and good paying jobs, affordability for education for their children, those kinds of issues, which, frankly, Republicans have avoided and I think an increased participation in the electorate would improve the climate for the working families in our country to have an economy that works for everyone.

So I think that one of the depressors, one of the big depressors of voting is big money in campaigns.  It just turns people so totally off.  All this money coming in saying – without any – where does this money come from?  And we’re coming in with misrepresentations, whether it’s about the Affordable Care Act, whether it’s about immigration, whatever it is issues that are important to people’s lives are being so mischaracterized; pox on both your houses, I’m not even going to vote.

I don’t know if you saw, they had a report on why people didn’t vote.  Something in the 60s said, “I didn’t have time.”  And then another chunk, “I was busy with work or school.”  And another time was something that related to time as well.  Well, all of that adds up to, “It wasn’t important enough for me.”

Now, for some it is a legitimate time concern.  They’re working two jobs, having to go from here to there, you can’t stand in line for long hours when people have deterred the vote for you in your community by reducing the hours, reducing the days, reducing the polling places, reducing the machines.

So there are a lot of things that contribute to that, but the overarching thing, I think, is that not enough people saw that it was really important to their wellbeing that they vote.  The Republicans called it as a base election.  They got out their base.  They impeached the President, sue the President, all that negative stuff.  And, again, that was a depressant.  The strangulation of the airways by big money is so undemocratic, and that’s why I fault the Supreme Court for the Citizens United decision.

So we’ll be talking some more.  This afternoon we’re going to come out here to talk a little bit about immigration.  I can’t stay the whole time then because I have a lot of work to do about who’s going to be the next chair of the DCCC – the people who want to come in to talk about those kind of subjects.  So I won’t be able to stay the whole time.

And who’s going to be the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and I’m very proud of Anna Eshoo.  I think, sometimes in the course of our legislative lives, a person comes along who’s a perfect fit to take us into the future.  I think that is who she is.  She has a tremendous amount of support.  And my calls to Members congratulating them on their election, hearing their views of the election, enlisting them in our voting rights, 50th anniversary initiatives, some of them, maybe fewer than 20 have asked me what I had thought of that or why have I not asked them about it and just because I haven’t.

But I have spoken to a few, because one of you had said to my staff before, I hear she’s asking people.  No, just those who ask me or those who are clearly not assigned to one person or another or spoken for one person or another.  I haven’t spoken to anybody who was for a very lovely man, Frank Pallone, who is terrific.  He’s terrific.  But, you know, we had the choice to make.  But anybody who is for him, I respect their decision, their friendship, their support of him.  So I haven’t had any conversations of that kind, only in conversations with the subject that’s come up.

So I’m trying to anticipate all of your scattered things that come to our office.  We have not even had the conversations with the candidates for DCCC.  And then I heard yesterday that I had made the choice and was about to announce it, somebody I hadn’t even spoken to that within 24 hours before I didn’t have the faintest idea was interested.  So if you want to know, call me.  Thank you, all.

Oh, how about the Giants?  Hey, all the taunting before, and now ‘10, ‘12, ‘14, every other year, world champion, San Francisco Giants.  Was that all your enthusiasm about the Giants and all the rest of them.  I should have brought down the rally rags, the pennant, the headlines, “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”

Q:  What does it say about the election years where you haven’t been…   

Leader Pelosi.  And that’s something.  But you know, the thing is: what I do think is that we might want to just fill in those blanks.  I don’t know.  But in any event, I’m really looking forward to my Kansas City BBQ.  Oh, my gosh.  Their ribs are so great.

Q:  What if they don’t sign Panda? 

Leader Pelosi.  That was the chant of the parade. “Sign Panda, Sign Panda.”

Q:  What if they don’t sign Panda? 

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we want to know what’s going to happen with my Bum.  That would be Madison Bumgarner.  Well, we’ll see.  I mean, Panda – how about that catch at the end on his back like that?  So anyway, we’re very proud of our Giants.  I said to the Commissioner at the game:  “Can you believe that we have two teams in a World Series that are wild cards?”  And I said: “That’s how I envisioned it.”

So there you are.  One way or another, go Giants.

But it’s interesting to me because all, you know, before it was nothing.  Perhaps I should have brought in the rally rag or the pennant.  When we had our first leadership meeting last week I had this headline, “Mad about the Bum.”  “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”  “Rain of Victory.”  Rain because it was raining the day of the parade, R-e-in, “Dynasty.”  You’re not getting enthusiastic.

Q:  We thought you were a fan, anyway. 

Leader Pelosi.  Aren’t the Nationals wonderful?  The coach got a good article the other day.  That was nice.  I wanted a red and orange – I mean an orange and black series with Baltimore.  We didn’t get that, but we did get the trophy.