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Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

January 31, 2019

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.  Wow, full house. Winning is good.  Good morning.

Q: Are you talking about the Warriors or politics?

Speaker Pelosi.  Anywhere.  It’s always preferable.  It’s all about the numbers: more points, more votes, more whatever.

So, here we are.  Thank God government is open again and now we can negotiate on what the best way is to have border security to enforce our Homeland Security goals.  This is so important, and I hope that any shutdown would be taken off the table as a reasonable approach to governance.

It had terrible impacts, as you know, in the lives of the families affected: by our federal employees who were not receiving their paychecks in a timely fashion; by their communities where, since the paychecks were not coming, the community suffered as well in its own individual economies; and impact on our national economy as well in terms of the GDP, harming GDP growth.  It’s harmful to our veterans, many of whom – a third of the federal employees, about 31 percent or a third of our federal employees are veterans.  And for veterans, many of them have their jobs because they have security clearance, and security clearance is affected by your credit rating, and your credit rating is affected by your ability to pay your bills on time.

So, it was such a negative impact.  And hopefully, we can do something to help our contractors, because they are not getting paid under the present formulation of things, and there’s some initiatives coming forward to help those, especially our low-paid contractors.

So, we know what the consequences of a shutdown are.  So, yesterday, we had two bills on the Floor, one of them to say that a shutdown is wrong.  And 163 Republicans voted no to a resolution that said shutdowns are wrong.  163 voted.  Only 21 voted yes on that.  And then there was a federal employee pay raise to make the federal pay consistent with federal pay for the military, and only 29 voted yes on that.  161 voted no.  163, shutdowns are wrong; 161, that federal employees should be paid in a fair way with their increase involved there.  So that was unfortunate.

So, what is fortunate is that we have a conference committee that is working in, I think, good spirit.  The opening statements yesterday, I think, were promising.  House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans.

Again, as an appropriator, I take pride in the ability of the Appropriations Members to reach consensus, left to their own devices without any other interference.  I look to them for guidance.  They know their brief.  They know the dollar amounts.  They know the impact of investments, and many of them have experience in all of this.

I was very proud of our conferees, including one relatively new member, Mr. Aguilar, because he’s the Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House, and he is, therefore, one of the fewer than five-term members.  So, we had every aspect of our Caucus represented there.

Border security, those members, our six conferees came forth in a public statement about border security, and they put forth what they saw as the best way, the most cost-effective way to have border security.  They talked about 1,000 new customs officers, new imaging technology, and critical repairs at the land ports of entry.  As you know, 90 percent of whatever comes into our country in the southern border comes through the ports of entry, whether it’s asylum seekers or whether it is our drugs and the rest of that.  So, having more funding to repair and expand the ports of entry is very important.  The technology that goes with it, non-intrusive scanning that cars and trucks and all can go right through without stopping and the rest with improved technology, very important.

And then new equipment at mail processing facilities to interdict Fentanyl and other opioids shipped through international mail.  That’s a big issue for us.  And cutting edge technology, not only at the ports of entry, but other places on the border.  And then expansion of Border Patrol of air and marine operations along the border and U.S. waters.

So these, that’s not the total package, but they are some of the major points of discussion, I would hope, as we go forward now.  But I was pleased with yesterday.  I thought everybody was of good intention, and that is the way the Appropriations Committee usually works.

As this all goes on, we have been, since the election, preparing our For the People agenda:  lowering health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and ensuring that pre-existing conditions benefits continue, lowering health care costs; increasing the paychecks by building infrastructure of America in a green way, from sea to shining sea; and H.R. 1, which is moving along, our integrity in government, to increase the voices of the American people and so that they know that the people’s agenda will happen and not the special interest agenda.

So that, Paycheck Fairness – [H.R. 1] had one of the hearings yesterday.  Yesterday, we also had a great ─ this week, we observed the tenth anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act.  It was one of the first bills we sent as a Democratic Congress to our newly inaugurated Democratic President of the United States.  And his first bill to sign was Lilly Ledbetter, which opened the door to more fairness in the workplace.  But it wasn’t paycheck fairness completely.

So yesterday, on that anniversary, once again, Rosa DeLauro, she’s been introducing it I think every Congress for as long as I can remember.  We did pass it a number of times when we had the Majority, but we couldn’t get the 60 votes in the Senate so it never was taken up there.  Now Patty Murray is the lead sponsor in the Senate on that.  And that is equal pay for equal work.

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary, as I’ve said now a hundred times.  April 2nd is Equal Pay Day.  That is the day at which women start to get paid for their work for the year as opposed to what men make for the year.  So, we hope that this bill could be signed into law by that day.  All a part of the For the People agenda, for bigger paychecks, lower health care costs, more integrity in government.

Any questions?

***

Q: Yes.  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am.  We got the blues on today.  I like it.

Q: We match. 

During the government shutdown, we heard from President Trump and his offering to provide three years of protection for DACA recipients.  I’m wondering if in these current negotiations if the fate of Dreamers is being discussed or, you know, are Dreamers getting lost in all of this? 

Speaker Pelosi.  First of all, let me clarify what the President did.  What he did – the Dreamers – DACA, because that’s a narrower universe.  The Dreamers are twice the number of the DACA recipients.  But in his comments, he said he wanted to protect the DACA.

What he did was he took away the protections DACA had, he took away the protection TPS had, Temporary Protected Status people in our country had, and took away an initiative of President Obama to facilitate [asylum] questions in the country of origin.  He took those away.

And then he said, ‘I’m going to give these back to you temporarily if you give me a wall.’  Well, he shouldn’t have taken them away in the first place.  These protections were there until you decided to take them away.  And so now you’re going to come back and say, ‘I’ll give them back to you for three years.’  That is not a protection.  Protection is something that has certainty to it.  So, it was really disappointing.

Having said that about what the President did, these are protections that exist, I’ll take them away, I’ll give them to you temporarily, you give me a wall permanently.  A non-starter.

And then in terms of this negotiation, it’s up to the conferees to negotiate, but the point is, what is the best way to protect our border?  And you’ve heard some of the ideas that are there, many of which the President talked about in that speech as well.  We recognize, as I said, 90 percent of what we’re concerned about, whether it’s drugs or whatever, come through the ports of entry.  Let’s make them stronger with roads to go with it so that we can facilitate commerce and tourism and immigration and, first and foremost, security.

Q: Madam Speaker, earlier, you said that the committee should be left to the consensus of its own devices. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q: Whatever the product is, are you committed to allowing a Floor vote?  Whatever conference agreement that they have, are you committed to bringing that to the floor for a vote?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, if they come up with a bipartisan consensus, of course.

Q: Even if it includes border wall money, though?

Speaker Pelosi.  We’re not having a negotiation over this right now.  They’re having a negotiation over in there.  There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation.

However, if they have some suggestions about certain localities where technology, some infrastructure, as I said, about the ports of entry, we might need more ports of entry, some roads, that’s part of the negotiation.  It is not a negotiation for the President to say — what did he say today? ‘It doesn’t matter what Congress does.’  I knew that he wanted it all to himself.  I mean, really, a President who wants to have Congress be completely irrelevant in how we meet the needs of the American people?  No, come on.

So, let them work their will.  I’m an appropriator.  See, that’s one of the places I was forged.  Intelligence.  Should we go with that subject on the President?  Intelligence and Appropriations.  And they know their brief.  They know their limitations, in terms of financial resources, and they have to choose the best way to use the money for the American people.  I have confidence in what they can do.

Q: Madam Speaker, Mitch McConnell indicated earlier this week he might be open to supporting legislation that would end government shutdowns in a permanent way.  Would you support legislation to effectively outlaw government shutdowns?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, yeah.  But there’s so many possibilities on the table that I don’t think that that should be part of this agreement, because there’s not a consensus as to what that would be.  If there is a consensus, maybe it could be.

But we only have, just so you know, in order to have a bill signed by the President by the three weeks, we have to have a signed conference report by next Friday.  So, we only have this week plus one day, with the State of the Union in between, to get this done in order for them to bring it to the Floor and have it on the President’s desk.

So, to the extent that we can keep it simple, what is this about?  This is about border security, Homeland Security, which is a bigger issue, and it’s about the six other bills that need to be passed in order to completely open up government, but which are not controversial.  And, again, I feel confident about the ability of Congress to do the right thing in that, respecting the differences of opinion might be there, but that’s what a negotiation is about.

So, could there be a consensus?  I know of at least three different versions of this story, and you have to have consensus.  Keep it simple.  If it’s something that can be injected there, yes.  But certainly, we should not have any more shutdowns.

Q: Madam Speaker, you often talk about the diversity of viewpoints in the Democratic Caucus, and there are pro-life Democrats in your group.  Considering the comments from Governor Northam yesterday, how does that make it harder for pro-life Democrats in the party?  Does that cause problems at all? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m sorry, I just don’t know what he said yesterday.  I just don’t know.

Yes.  Are you going to ask a new question or is it the same old, same old?

Q: Friday, after the Roger Stone arrest, you put out a statement saying:  ‘The President’s continued actions to undermine the Special Counsel investigation raise the questions:  What does Putin have on the President, politically, personally, or financially?’

Do you really believe that the Kremlin has something compromising on this President? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I think it’s a question.  But, by the way, I’ve been asking that question for two years, almost as long as you’ve asked me, is there any money for the wall in the bill?  No, I’ve always said that.  What is this?  What is this?  Something is wrong with this picture.  Yeah.

Nancy.

Q: You talked about intelligence, and obviously your counterpart in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, sent a letter to DNI yesterday. 

Speaker Pelosi.  I just learned that, yes.

Q: Are you planning to take any further action, given the discrepancies between the President and his intelligence advisers when it comes to global hot spots? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I think what the public saw this week was the fact that the President has not paid attention to the intelligence that has been given to him on many of these subjects.

I thought it was courageous that the different heads of different aspects of our intelligence community spoke truth to the country and to power.  Their opening statements are usually vetted by the White House.  So, they made their statements and also they answered the questions.

I’ll see what our Intelligence; I’m very proud of Adam Schiff and the members of the Intelligence Committee – as to when they will have that particular presentation made to the House Intelligence Committee in open forum.  There may be some closed activity with the Appropriations Committee.  I’m not sure about that.

But, it was stunning.  And as I say, as one who started in the early nineties as an Appropriator and one who served as Ranking Member, the job that Adam Schiff had until he now became Chairman, and then ex officio for all the years I’ve been Leader or Speaker of the House, I track this very closely.

And one dismaying factor of it all is that the President just doesn’t seem to have the attention span or the desire to hear what the intelligence community has been telling him.  So, for him to make the statement that he did yesterday, that’s cause for concern.

Q: And what is the practical implication of that when it comes to keeping our country safe?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I think that it’s important for the Republicans in Congress to recognize that they have to weigh in with the President to say, ‘You can’t act without knowledge.’

The intelligence community is there to be a protection for the American people.  When I started all those years ago, it was about force protection.  I’ve shared this with some of you.  It was about force protection.  It was about other overarching issues, money laundering and those kinds of things and how they affected our security.  But then, of course, the anti-terrorism initiatives in the nineties emerged, and you know much of what has happened since then.

But, it is a real protection for us to keep us from having to initiate hostilities, or if we do, to make sure that we have the intelligence to protect our men and women in uniform, and also to fight terrorism in its many forms.

So, for the President to say almost, again, we don’t need Congress and I know more about what’s happening in our threats in the world, worldwide threats, than the intelligence community even though I haven’t paid attention when people have described it to me, that’s a cause for concern.  And I would hope that the Republicans in the Congress would either have an intervention with the President about that or recognize the problem that it faces to our country and take some Congressional action.

This is the last one.  Yes, ma’am.

Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker.  Do you agree with Democratic Caucus Chair Jeffries when he says enhanced fencing should be on the table in these negotiations?

Speaker Pelosi.  I don’t know that.  I did not hear his comments, but did you see the presentation yesterday of Henry Cuellar of Texas?  He was the only border person, actually, although all of our Californians are a border state.  But in Texas, he’s border.  He represents Laredo and surrounding areas there.

And he showed the border.  Many places on the border there are cliffs, there’s a river, and there’s 600 miles of something.  300 of them are Normandy fences.  They go like this.  Do you know what a Normandy fence is?  300 miles of this, so that cars cannot go by.  If the President wants to call that a wall, he can call it a wall.  He’s referencing it of we already have almost 700 miles of wall.

So, again, is there a place for enhanced fencing, Normandy fencing would work?  Let them have that discussion, because it’s all about two things:  cost-benefit analysis, what’s the best way and what do you get for your dollar in order to protect the border?  And it’s also about, and this will be coming up if he takes some extraordinary action, the opportunity cost of the money.

If the money can be used better for technology, then let’s see what’s the best.  And by the way, when some of these fences were built, the technology was not what it is today.  So, you have to look at technology in a new form, just as we say that should we all just get landlines in our home or should we have smartphones?  Well, what should we be doing on the border that like a landline versus the technology that our personnel on the border should have.

So, what they’re talking about is more personnel, enhancements of the ports of entry, which require construction.  We already had that in the bill we passed last week.  It went under the Department of Treasury appropriations bill, because it’s GSA and all that stuff, more on the subject than you may want to know.

So, let the negotiators see if there’s something that could – there are only about 30 miles left, if you saw Mr. Cuellar’s presentation, of the 700 that have not been – and a lot of it is let the cars go by.  Some of it is about levies and the rest of that.  So, what do they have to say for that last 30 miles?

Thank you all very much.