Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

December 12, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning.  Good morning. 

So, here we are.  We just came off a brisk bit of fresh air with our Freshman Members on the steps of Capitol as they put forth H.R. 3, the Elijah [E.] Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, led by our Freshmen who joined the campaign. 

We talked about For The People, our For The People agenda, to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs.  That's exactly what we're doing right now on the Floor of the House, again led by our Freshmen in the debate. 

They participated fully in the work of their committees, the Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Frank Pallone; the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Richie Neal; and the Education and Labor Committee, chaired by Bobby Scott. 

We thank them, those Chairmen and Members of their committee, our Freshman class, for giving us this historic opportunity to lower the cost of drugs now, and in doing so, to use the benefits of that, the money saved, to expand and enhance Medicare in a larger way than it has ever done since its inception. 

And, that is to have hundreds of billions of dollars to provide benefits for hearing, for vision and for dental for our seniors, to again help poorer seniors meet their financial needs by lowering their out-of-pocket, to have funding in the billions of dollars to fight the opioid epidemic, millions of dollars to invest in our community health centers – all of it coming out of the profits that Pharma has been reaping all these years at the expense of America's families.  It's about addressing the health care, but also the financial health of America's families. 

People talk about having a seat at the table in Washington, D.C.  The most important table to us is America's kitchen table where families sit down, be a family, enjoy each other, but then sometimes have to address the financial challenges that they face.  One of the most important ones is the cost of prescription drugs. 

I've said to you before, I've seen grown men cry on the campaign trail because they cannot meet the prescription drug costs, whether they have a spouse who is ill, a child with a pre-existing condition, whatever it is.  This will make all the difference in the world.

And central it to is the power to negotiate.  You may recall in 2016 the – I think it was '16 – the President said, ‘When it comes to negotiation, I'm going negotiate like crazy.’ 

Well, I don't know what that term of art means, but, nonetheless, an imprimatur on negotiation, which is central to lowering the cost and to ensure that Americans are not paying, continue to pay four or five, six, ten times as much as people overseas do for the same medications, sometimes, as the President said, made in the same place.

So, this is a great day.  We feel very confident about the support we have seen across the country. 

I'm very pleased with the letter from AARP.  In closing, I – you should have it, online somewhere – but AARP urges us to vote to ‘rein in high drug prices, reduce seniors' out-of-pocket cost, and add essential coverage, including hearing, dental, and vision benefits to Medicare.  H.R. 3 will help more Americans afford their prescription drugs and get the care they need to stay healthy.’ 

That is on top of many other testimonials within the letter to it.  But they join many advocates, patient advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, business, labor, every aspect of our economy, knowing that it will take down the cost of prescription drugs by about a trillion dollars. 

More than half a trillion of that will be to the cost of the federal government, enabling us to make these increases in benefits, some of it, much of it to the private sector, both businesses and individuals. 

And all of the benefits of the reduction of cost, because of negotiation, will not only go to Medicare, but also to private insurance, people insured privately as well. 

So it's pretty exciting.  I think it's pretty exciting.

As you know, we had – some of you were here when we discussed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement.  We're moving forward with that.  The agreement was signed, as I'm sure you probably know again, the same day we made our announcement, in Mexico.  We're preparing the implementing legislation, which will be ready shortly for us to go forward. 

We're very excited about that for the protections that it gave for America's workers, for our environment, and what it did in terms of prescription drugs, eliminating a gift, again, to Big Pharma. 

It also met our standard across the threshold in a very important way to meet our standard for enforcement, which was one of the major problems of NAFTA. 

So I believe that it will be not only a good trade agreement, but a good template for future trade agreements, making it easier for negotiations as we go forward.  I'm very pleased with that.

Yesterday, we passed on the Floor something that has been a generation in the making, the farmworker legislation.  It really has a very sophisticated name.  It's called Farm Workforce Modernization Act, and it's for jobs and health care for farm workers.  And it was bipartisan, strongly bipartisan.  So, we look forward to sending it over to the Senate. 

We're empowering the farm economy, investing in the workforce of the future, protecting the health and safety of workers and their families, predicated on an agreement between farmers and growers.  So it's about farmers and growers and a recognition of the importance of the farm economy to our country. 

That's another bill that we'll send over to the Senate, hopefully – another bipartisan bill. 

Over 275 bipartisan bills are sitting on the desk of the Grim Reaper while he says, ‘All you're doing is impeachment.’  No, it's not all we're doing.  We've sent you bills that have not only bipartisanship in the House, but also in the country. 

For example, the bipartisan background check bill supported by 90 percent of the American people; Paycheck Fairness; VAWA – Violence Against Women Act; Save the Internet Act; Equality Act, ending discrimination against LGBTQ community; Dream and Promise Act, keeping our promise to our Dreamers; SAFE Act to protect our federal elections – why would the Republicans not want to protect our federal elections?  To whose advantage is that blocking?  Raise the Wage Act, raising the minimum wage – over 30 million people will get a raise; twenty million, around 23 million of them are women.  So, it helps women again.  The Butch Lewis Act to protect our pensions.  And Climate Action Now. 

So we have many, many other pieces of legislation that are sitting there on his desk as he whines about us, what we're doing here, while he does nothing there. 

On Appropriations, that's the most important thing because that affects our schedules now, doesn't it?  Chairwoman Lowey and the Appropriations Committee have been working really tirelessly.  I don't think they ever sleep.  They're adhering to my motto, ‘Resting Is Rusting.’  You just have to keep on working all the time. 

Unfortunately, we have not a similar commitment on the other side, but we're hoping to do so.  We're hoping to reach a place this morning, in fact, to see just how close we are to passing a real bill instead of having a CR, but we are not going have a shutdown of government. 

We've got to be determined, though, to get it done, and there's nothing as dispositive of getting it done than the clock, because we have until the end of next week.  But in order to get there, we have to finish in the House in a timely fashion so the Senate has time to get its job done.

We are legislating.  As you know, we have been investigating.  And we are litigating.  We had two court cases in our favor yesterday and the day before on the use of funds, appropriated money for the wall, ruling in our favor. 

So with that, busy day.  We're going to pass this bill.  It's going to be just a triumph, so – I wish you could see the support for it across the country.  I think that it is going to be too hot to handle for the Republicans not to do it.

But we gave them their substitute today, which is a little – nice little bill.  It's incrementalism.  But, completely avoiding the heart of the matter, the power to negotiate for lower prices. 

***

Q: As you probably know, the President is calling this ‘impeachment lite’ because there are only two articles of impeachment.  He says there's no crimes in here. 

Speaker Pelosi.  The President is wrong.  You know, what can I say?  We have put forth our articles of impeachment.  I'm very proud of all the committees.  Six committees have been working on this for a very long time.  This is nothing swift about it.  But it is urgent, and so we will be bringing the articles. 

The [Judiciary] Committee will work on it today, as you know.  I don't know if it's this morning or this afternoon, that depends on the pace in the Committee.  And then next week we'll take up something. 

Q: But, Madam Speaker, you, yourself, accused him of bribery.  Why did you decide not to make bribery one of the articles of impeachment? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I, myself, am not a lawyer.  Sometimes, I act like one.  Not as often as I act as a doctor.  I practice medicine on the side without benefit of diploma, too.  This is a decision that was recommended by our working together with our Committee Chairs, our attorneys, and the rest. 

So the articles are what they are.  They're very powerful, they're very strong and they are a continuation of a pattern of misbehavior on the part of the President. 

People are realizing, when they see what that was, they think, the public thinks, that they should be determining who the President of the United States is, not some foreign power. 

They think that no one is above the law.  We think and say today that the President should be held accountable.  Abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, those – that is the form it will take. 

It's no use having a discussion here.  This is a discussion we will take to the Floor of the Senate. 

Q: Madam Speaker, what is your message to those moderate Democrats who are undecided and who are concerned that a vote for impeachment could backfire on them politically?

Speaker Pelosi.  I have no message to them.  We are not whipping this legislation nor do we ever whip something like this. 

People have to come to their own conclusions.  They've seen the facts as presented in the Intelligence Committee.  They've seen the Constitution.  They know it.  They take an oath to protect and defend it.  But they see the constitutional experts speak about it.  They'll make their own decisions.  I don't say anything to them.

Chad?

Q: Thank you.  Good morning.  So, I notice in the meeting the appropriators have this in the Christmas time rush with appropriations. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q: What is different this time or what's the particular challenge with appropriations?  Because I know there was a meeting with the CHC yesterday.  They all talked to me about detention and migrant treatment and the border wall.  It seems like some of these issues are basically the same as what we were dealing with last year and that nothing has changed in that in a year's time.

Speaker Pelosi.  No, you're talking about two things in the bill.  The bill is a product of a caps agreement that I made with the Administration that lifted our opportunity both to make sure we were adequately defended in our country, and we passed that bill yesterday in the authorization.  Very proud of the work of Adam Smith, our Chair of the Armed Services Committee. 

And on the domestic side – domestic side has our veterans.  It has our State Department.  It has many other aspects of the security of our country, including measuring the health, the strength of our country and the health and well-being of the American people. 

So, there's a great deal in the bill for people on both sides of the aisle to take home for the education of their children, the safety of their areas and the rest. 

It will come down to what – there are many, shall we say – I'm an appropriator, so forgive me for the ‘ash and trash,’ we call it, all kinds of different things there that we have to get rid of.  And then we will come down to what are the final points and we'll have a negotiation. 

We're not going to have a shutdown of government.  But as I mentioned, it would be useful if we can determine that now so that as we go forward the Senate will be able to take it up right away at the beginning of next – middle of next week. 

Q: Chairwoman Lowey indicated that she didn't think that they were getting answers back and forth –

Speaker Pelosi.  But as I – that was courtesy, when I was speaking courteously, that our people have been working around the clock.  I didn't say the other side was. 

So, we're concerned about the tempo if we're going to stay on schedule, as I say, the imperative of the clock and the calendar. 

So, we'll see.  You have to be optimistic.  And I have always said as an appropriator, left to their own devices, the appropriators can handle just about all of it.  What they can't will rise, come over to the leadership. 

Yes, sir? 

Q: When the impeachment vote hits the Floor next week, are you expecting, are you prepared for potentially more Democratic ‘no’ votes, more Democratic defections?

Speaker Pelosi.  I'd rather not ask anybody what their vote is, as I mentioned to Nancy.  This is a vote that people will have to come to their own conclusion on.  And the facts are clear, irrefutable, in fact, and we've given the President every opportunity to demonstrate any exculpatory information he may have. 

But the fact is that we take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  We want to defend that Constitution, which has a Republic in it, as Benjamin Franklin said, ‘A Republic, if you can keep it.’  We see that as our responsibility, to keep the Republic, instead of an attitude of ‘Article II says can I do whatever I want.’ 

That's not what our Founders had in mind.  That's a president-king.  That's not what we're about here. 

So, I'm not, I'm not – this has nothing to do with my concern about votes.  People will vote the way they vote. 

Yes, sir?  One last.

Q:  The House role does not end with the vote next week.  You have to appoint impeachment managers to go to the Senate trial.

Speaker Pelosi.  True.

Q:  And tell us who they will be.

[Laughter]

Speaker Pelosi.  Right now?  Okay.  If you promise not to tell anybody. 

[Laughter]

Q: We'll turn the cameras off. 

What kind of role would you like them to have?  What kind of trial and prosecution should they be able to make over in the Senate? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, when we proceeded with our going to the next step, we put forth our resolution that described how the process would be conducted.  We would hope to get some signal from the Senate on that.  We may or may not. 

But, we are prepared for whatever eventualities are there and when the time is right you'll know who the people are. 

But, if you want to know what our approach is – Article I and Article II, right?  No one is above the law.  The President will be held accountable for his abuse of power and for his obstruction of Congress. 

Thank you all very much.