Transcript of Pelosi, House Democratic Leadership Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic Leadership held a press conference following the House’s passage of a clean bill to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security. Below is a transcript of the Leader’s remarks followed by the question and answer session:
Leader Pelosi. Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for this time following the vote on Homeland Security. I’m here with the House Democratic Leadership to pay tribute to three of the leaders on this issue: Congressman Bennie Thompson, our Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee; Congresswoman Nita Lowey, our Ranking Member on Appropriations; Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who is our Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Subcommittee. They did great work explaining to our Members why it was very important for us members to stick together to give us the leverage to have the regular order yielded to us, the opportunity to have a vote today, which was a very, very strong message – that sent a message that sent a message to our enemies, to American people, and to the workers in Homeland Security that we are there to keep the American people safe; to remove all doubt about our commitment to the homeland security of the United States.
We’re very proud of the vote that happened today and in that spirit, I want to yield to our Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee, Mr. Bennie Thompson.
As I yield to Congresswoman Nita Lowey, again, our Ranking Member on Appropriations Committee – the full committee – I also want to say that on the way here, Mr. Hoyer and I received a call from the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson. He was grateful for what had happened today, of course, but we thanked him for staying strong and being clear about why it was important for us to have the full funding bill until the end of the fiscal year. And nobody knows more about the Appropriations Committee and the fiscal year than Nita Lowey.
Q: Madam Leader, Madam Leader. Do you feel that by providing…
Leader Pelosi. You all let Chad just get in there…
Q: I was pausing here.
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: With such an overwhelming vote by Democrats for this bill, do you feel, in some ways, that Democrats are holding all the cards or that you are, in fact, the de facto Speaker these days any more on these…
Leader Pelosi. Let me tell you something: if there’s ever an oxymoron, it’s “de facto Speaker”. You’re either Speaker or you’re not.
So let’s not go to that place. But I am proud of the Democrats, and let me tell you one other reason why. Because when the Republicans were putting out these bills to say: “We’re going to government open for three weeks,” this or that, it’s very hard for a Member to vote against a bill that will keep the Homeland Security part of government open unless you’re seeing a longer view, a more enlightened view of what can be better in a matter of days.
So the important thing for us was our Members had the courage to say: “I don’t want government to be shut down, but I’m not falling for this three-week plan which really cripples the ability to plan for Homeland Security, even if it would keep government open, in relation to Homeland Security, for three more days. So that’s where our strength sprang from was the unity of House Democrats. It’s also important to acknowledge the Senate. In a bipartisan way, they didn’t give cloture to the motion to go to conference, and they also defeated a motion to table, which enabled the bill to come back here, when we were in disagreement – House and Senate, – to enable us. Congresswoman Lowey and Congressman Simpson to call the bill forward. And that was what we were depending on.
So it wasn’t about anybody giving us anything, it was about the regular order prevailing in the House of Representatives. So this was bipartisan in many respects.
Q: Madam Leader, you were visibly agitated during the Prime Minister’s speech, and obviously afterwards you released a statement…
Leader Pelosi. If we could – I’m happy to answer – not happy – I’d be willing to answer any questions about the Prime Minister’s speech, but first can we deal with this, because this…
Q: Madam Leader, can you assure – we have some other big deadlines coming up, whether it’s the highway bill, doc fix, debt ceiling. Are you offering to the Speaker of the House right now Democratic votes to get those…
Leader Pelosi. Well, we can‘t offer anything until we see what the bill is. But I will say that highway, infrastructure, that’s never been partisan. We’ve always acted in a bipartisan way with infrastructure and the highway bill and all of those kind of issues. It was only recent when, in opposition to President Obama, Republicans did not support those initiatives. But hopefully we can come back to where we’ve always been – transportation and infrastructure has always been really a non-partisan committee.
Whip Hoyer. I just want to say that two-thirds of the Senate and now the overwhelming Members of the House decided that this was the commonsense, right thing to do. On all those other bills, if we can come to agreement that there’s a commonsense, right thing to do, I’m sure that Democrats and Republicans can vote together to do those kinds of things. That’s what we want to do. That’s what we came here to do.
Leader Pelosi. I think it might be easier because 167 Republicans voted to keep government shut down in terms of Homeland Security today. I think that’s probably the high number. I think on issues like transportation, there might be more cooperation.
Congresswoman Lowey. I was just going to mention something because it’s so current. Rosa DeLauro is the Ranking Member on the committee that funds the National Institutes of Health, and many of the very vital programs. We had an excellent hearing this morning, and several of us referenced the time when John Porter, the Republican Chair of the committee, worked with the Democrats and we doubled the funding for the National Institutes of Health, helping to cure diseases, creating jobs, good for the economy. So I hope today’s action and, frankly, our hearing this morning where there were many bipartisan, positive comments will lead to more cooperation, because that’s what we’re here for – rather than have all kinds of arguments about minutia. Let’s get onto the important jobs ahead: create jobs, strengthen the economy, get people well with these kinds of important investments.
Leader Pelosi. But if your question is: “Do we stand ready to cooperate?”, we most certainly do.
Q: Do you have a comment on Netanyahu’s speech and why you were…
Leader Pelosi. I put out a statement.
Q: Can you elaborate on why you were near tears?
Leader Pelosi. I was near tears because I was – now, I’m just speaking for myself here, and others may have a different view of the speech. I was near tears because I love Israel very much. I value the importance of the relationship between Israel and the United States. My granddaughter was Esther in the Purim ceremony on Sunday at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco. This is something that means a great deal to us not only as an issue, but as a value. And I thought that part of that was undermined by the tone of the Prime Minister’s speech. But why don’t you just read my statement.
Q: Do you regret going?
Leader Pelosi. No, I don’t regret going. No. If I regretted going I wouldn’t have gone – if you can follow that.
Q: You didn’t know what he was going to say.
Leader Pelosi. No, it didn’t matter. I went, I listened, I was disappointed. Many of us have worked part of our official lives to stop nuclear proliferation. It’s a core principle of our foreign policy and that’s whether Israel never existed. I happen to think the establishment of the state of Israel was the greatest political accomplishment of the 20th century – a terrible century. That was a bright star. But even if Israel never existed, the United States of America has as one of the pillars of its national security and its foreign policy to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. And that’s what we do, and that’s what the President is doing in the negotiations. And if the deal isn’t good enough, we won’t accept it. I don’t think we needed any lectures on that. But that’s just my take.
Q: Do you think he did irreparable harm to the relationship with the U.S.?
Leader Pelosi. I hope not.