Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning. This week the House Democrats are continuing to pass Senate Republican language. As I said in my Opening Day remarks, we want to accept good ideas wherever they come from, if they're a solution. And so, in that spirit, we accepted the Senate Republican language for bills that had passed the Senate 92 to 6. Strong bipartisan support. We're putting those on the floor each day.
Yesterday, we did the legislation to open up the Treasury Department, to make sure that people there are able to come to work and be paid as they meet the needs of the American people, including, but not confined to, getting their refunds, or getting a small business SBA loan, answering questions for taxpayers who are calling in – the full function of the Treasury Department. You can't say to the Treasury Department: ‘Come in. Do the job. You're not going to get paid.’ That's what the President is saying.
And today, we will have the agriculture bill, the bill that covers the Department of Agriculture, on the floor, so that we can address the farmers' safety net. They are expecting, and not receiving, what the President promised when he did his, shall we say, misinformed trade policies. They also have subsidies and other needs as they plan for the growing season. And food safety inspections, food stamps, all the rest, being held up by the President's petulance.
Again, today we'll do – this week we'll vote on Transportation and HUD to prevent families from being evicted from their homes. There's so much that HUD has to do with housing in our country that is forestalled by the President's obstinance. And then we will do Interior Department legislation on Friday.
Next week, we'll proceed with legislation that did not pass the full Senate yet, but very strongly came out of committee – in fact, with the vote in some cases, where he is on the committee, of Mitch McConnell.
So, we're just saying to them: Take ‘yes’ for an answer. This is what you have proposed. Why are you rejecting it at the expense of the health, safety and well-being of the American people? Did you take an oath to the Constitution or an oath to Donald Trump?
And these families, these families, many of them veterans, are not able to meet their mortgage payment, their rent payment, their car payment, harming their own credit ratings. You're no friend of veterans if you harm their credit rating, and that's exactly what the President is doing.
He's also harming the full faith and credit of the United States of America and our credit rating if he lets this go on with statements so irresponsible, saying: ‘I'll let this go on for months or years.’ Months or years, the President of the United States.
And so, he's endangering the safety of our food supply, the security of our airlines, vulnerable families, nutrition assistance, tax refunds and the paycheck of 800,000 innocent families. What did they do to deserve this?
Of course, the President doesn't believe in governance, so he doesn't care if governance doesn't take place. He doesn't appreciate the role of public policy in the lives of the American people. But, in addition to that, what he is proposing is not the best way for us to secure our borders.
And let me just make a clarity. Not only was the President un-presidential – surprise, surprise – yesterday in his behavior. I think the meeting was a set up so he could walk out, I'll say just that.
And as I said to him yesterday: ‘These people cannot go to their fathers to cover their payments, their costs.’ Can you? Can any of you, if this happened to you? If you can, good luck, that's wonderful for you. But that doesn't speak for most families in our country.
But the fact is, is that what the President is proposing is not the best way to protect our borders.
And I want to correct the record. He has not told the truth when he said he asked me if, in 30 days, I would support border security, and I said no. He knows, the people in the room know, that that was not what happened.
What he said: ‘In 30 days, will you support a wall?’ and I said, ‘No.’ He went out and said something completely different, because he knows we all support border security and that there's a better way to do it.
He talks about drugs coming into the country. Ninety percent of the drugs come in through the ports of entry. So, what we are proposing is to build the infrastructure of the ports of entry, strengthen that, the ports of entry. Spend the money, it's hundreds of millions of dollars, but accessible, to have the scanning technology, to scan cars coming through for drugs, contraband of any kind, weapons even. Repair the roads to facilitate immigration and trade in those regions. The positive, shall we say, almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing.
I don't even know if the President wants the wall. I think he just wants the debate on the wall, and he's having some difficulty with it. Because now – would you think a person who has confidence in the strength of his own arguments, with those he's debating with or with the American people – if you have confidence in your own position, why would you say: ‘I have to shut down government so that people will heed what I am saying’? It's a bad thing.
Yesterday, we also had legislation on the floor to stop the assault, the Republican assault on the Affordable Care Act. 192 Republicans voted to undermine the pre-existing condition benefit, to lifetime limits, the ban on lifetime limits. They voted to stop the expansion of Medicaid. They voted to impede health insurance affordability, tax credits, and of course the benefit of kids up to 26-years-old being on their family's policies, and other things.
Only three Republicans voted against that. And that was a vote for us to continue our legal arguments against the case that the Republicans have brought.
On the campaign trail, they said, ‘Oh, yeah, we're for the pre-existing condition’ – 192 of them voted against it yesterday.
So in any case, just to go recap in terms of the soap opera that the President's petulance and obstinance is creating. We all support border security. We take an oath to protect and defend the American people and to defend the Constitution as we do so. And that's what this debate is about.
There's a better way, a more effective way to protect, to secure our borders, and that is what the debate should be about. If you believe in your arguments and you're convinced that you're right and you think you can persuade others, you don't have to shut down government to strengthen your hand.
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Q: Madam Leader, is there any world in which you would support, a world in which Democrats would support a broader deal in the context of re-opening government? Would you support DACA as part of this re-opening, for example?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we haven't had that discussion. What we're talking about now is just the President's insistence on a wall.
We need to have comprehensive immigration reform. Democrats and Republicans know that. And that is about Dreamers and their families and the rest.
We have said that we're going to protect the Dreamers. That is very popular in the country. We can do that very quickly. It has Republican support in the Congress and certainly in the country.
But comprehensive immigration reform is what this debate should be about. And, quite frankly, when the President talks about this being a national security issue, no, it really isn't. It's about a policy that is discriminatory as to where people are coming into this country.
So, yeah: no. Absolutely we stand – always have stood ready to discuss comprehensive immigration reform and, of course, the Dreamers.
Q: Are you willing to have those conversations before the government is re-opened? Are you willing to have those conversations now?
Speaker Pelosi. We have been having conversations. We don't want to be a backdrop for the President to stomp the table and get up and walk out. I think he thought we were going to stay there when he left. He got up, we got up.
So, we've been having these conversations. Our staff, all weekend, Saturday, Sunday, have been engaged in these conversations. The President just keeps upping the ante. In fact, I said to him, ‘You're moving the goalposts so many times, they're out of the stadium.’
Q: Have you offered several billion dollars for other border security measures if you're not willing to do a wall? And what has the White House reaction been to that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, don't think of this as normal, don't think of this as normal, because as I say, the goalpost keeps getting moved. But, what we did give the President, the White House, is exactly what the Homeland Security Department asked for in the budget. But they have moved the goalpost.
Q: Democrats are calling this a manufactured crisis as far as the border is concerned.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Now, would you essentially say the same thing to, say, Corporal Ronil Singh's family or to those families who have lost –
Speaker Pelosi. I'm sorry, what are you saying?
Q: Would you say that this is a manufactured crisis –
Speaker Pelosi. But what's the next part?
Q: to Corporal Ronil Singh's family, who has ended up losing him to an illegal immigrant who ended up shooting him over in your state? Would you say this to families who have lost relatives to heroin overdoses, because, obviously, the drug, 90 percent of the time, came from Mexico? What would you say to families like that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, what I would say to families like that is what I say to the President regularly: These are tragic situations. There's a tragic situation at the border. Two little children died in the custody of the Border Patrol.
But the plural of anecdote is not data. And as painful and horrible one death is, more than we should be able to bear, whether it's the corporal or whether it's the children.
But the fact is, we have to have public policy that secures our border, and what the President is proposing will not eliminate those possibilities.
Q: The President this morning suggested that he may declare a national emergency.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah, yeah.
Q: To you, is this a possible way out of this standoff with the President? And how would the House react? How would you react if he were to go this route?
Speaker Pelosi. If and when the President does that, you'll find out how we will react, but I'm not going to that place now. But I think the President will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power. But not to go there. Let's see what he does.
Right now, there is a path: Open up government. Let's have this discussion on where we can agree on the best ways to protect our borders, to secure our borders, to do so in a way that honors our values. And the President's going to the border. Now he's saying maybe the trip isn't necessary. He goes and comes.
But let me just close by saying this. Clearly, there's a disparity of shared values here in terms of respecting the dignity and worth of everyone, being concerned about every death that happens, because we live in an imperfect world, and that's very sad.
But it is not a justification for having more children die in custody or be separated from their families. We aren't even going into that discussion, taking babies out of the arms of their parents. As the mother of five and grandmother of nine, I find that appalling; they find it normal.
We talk about what he might do tomorrow – or is it today? – maybe does this at the border. I think he's going to have to answer to his own party on usurping that much power.
But, again, I'm not going down a path until we see what it is he's willing to do. But it's unfortunate, because there's an opportunity cost here of this money. He keeps increasing the amount of money, increasing the amount of beds, increasing the obstacles to finding a solution, because I don't think he really wants a solution. I think he loves the distraction that this is from his other problems, and that's most unfortunate.
It's a luxury our country can't afford under any circumstance. It's certainly a luxury we can't afford when he has shut down government, takes pride it in, and says: ‘Months or years.’ That's not the action of a responsible President of the United States. So, let's see what he decides to do and when he does it.
And let me just close as a Californian by saying how shocking it is that this President would say he's going to withhold funding to meet the need, the disaster assistance, the disaster needs of people in California.
Ironically, most of those fires, except for maybe part of what happened earlier in Santa Rosa, most of those fires took place in rural California. The votes he did get in California were in rural California.
So, we're saying to him, ‘If you think you're punishing our State, you're punishing your own voters. And besides which, unless you have a different definition of what a disaster is and the needs for assistance, you have no right to withhold those funds.’
And I look to my Republican colleagues from California to stop looking the other way on the President's irresponsible behavior nationally. But they know people died, communities were wiped out, and they're just cavalier about it because of the President of the United States.