Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on Trump FY2021 Budget
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference to discuss President Trump’s full Budget Request for fiscal year 2021. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Leader Schumer, for your leadership in fighting this budget.
The budget, our federal budget, should be a statement of our national values. What is important to us as a nation should be reflected in how we allocate our resources. The budget, in terms of our legislative work, is the heart of the matter. It is where it all begins. And this is a heartless budget. It's a heartless budget in some of the ways that the distinguished Leader spelled out, and I think it does bear repetition to say what he is doing.
Slashing a half a trillion dollars for Medicare, after he stood in front of the House and I said, ‘I am protecting Medicare and Social Security.’ A half a trillion dollars out of Medicare. And from Medicaid, $900 billion. So if you're sitting at home at your kitchen table and you're a senior or there is a senior in your family on Medicare, you're getting cut. And if there is long-term care in your family’s budget, you are getting cut.
Two-thirds of long-term care, two-thirds of long-term care is payed for by Medicaid. This is a middle class benefit. Those cuts endanger the health of seniors in long-term care needs for them and their families. And these Medicaid cuts also hurt rural hospitals, people seeking opioid addiction treatment, veterans and their families, more than one million veterans are on Medicaid; $900 billion cut from Medicaid. At the same time, the President is in court fighting to overturn the Affordable Care Act which has, as you mentioned, the pre-existing condition benefit; so important to all of those families.
But in this budget, what could possibly be his motivation to cut all that money from the CDC, that you mentioned, at the time of the Coronavirus and the threat that that is? Cutting members – money from CDC – the Centers for Disease Control, using the full title, the prevention element of the good health of the American people. What could possibly – what could he be thinking? Maybe I’m using that term loosely.
The President said he would fight for farmers. We all want to fight for farmers. But at a time when farmers are declaring bankruptcy at record rates, the President, in this budget, wants to slash the safety net by nearly $60 billion and ransack the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
His budget also takes food off the table of hungry families in both rural and urban communities by cutting more than $180 billion from the SNAP program. SNAP program – some farmers, when I visit farmers in the Midwest, they say we are farmers and we are on food stamps. It’s such a sad thing. Their economies depend – that’s why Senator Dole and Senator McGovern even began all of this, was to help people meet their food security but also to help farmers have their economic security as well.
Countless groups representing seniors, working families and more have denounced the budget. From the Alliance for Retired Americans to the Young Invincibles, the Young Invincibles – the Young Lobbyists; you have probably seen them. We’ve had 10,000 events to fight the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, at which the Young – they weren’t at all of them but they were significant at those meetings.
The Young – Little Lobbyists, some of them born with a pre-existing condition, many of them on Medicaid, they write, ‘We are disappointed, though sadly not surprised, that the President has once again broken his campaign promise. We absolutely reject this vision for our country and we call upon our legislators to reject this budget and the dangerous values it espouses. Our children's lives depend on it.’
And the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare writes, ‘This budget would leave seniors and other vulnerable seniors – citizens hungrier, sicker and poorer. It reveals the President’s cruel priorities heading into the 2020 elections.’
The Chairman mentioned earlier that there's benefits to the high end in our economic life in our country. The President in his, what he has been doing, what he talked about in the State of the Union and what this budget is about, increases the national debt, passes that expense onto our children, so that he can give tax cuts to the top one percent in our country. It's absolutely shameful. Again, if the budget is supposed to be a statement of our values, once again this President is demonstrating how little he values the good health, financial security and well-being of hard-working American families.
This budget is an insult to the hopes and dreams and aspirations of America's working families. It increases the national debt. It must be rejected.
And, by the way, it is in a complete abandonment of the budget agreement that we had with the domestic and defense priorities. Clearly, this Administration cannot be trusted.
I yield back.
Leader Schumer. We are ready for your questions – on this subject, first.
Q: What did you make of the President’s request for over $2 billion in wall construction funding?
Leader Schumer. Well look, we have fought him on the wall successfully in the budget, then he tries to go around and declare an emergency. Everyone knows that that is not what the emergency legislation was called for. We're going to fight every penny for wall construction. We don't want it taken away from military families.
What's interesting in this budget, all the military families and all the military support that they took out last year, they didn't try to backfill this year. We didn't let them in last year’s budget. So, who is this going to hurt, our nation's military, our nation’s military families, for a wall that is a vanity project that he said Mexico would pay for.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes –
Leader Schumer. Go ahead.
Speaker Pelosi. And just further to that point, the distinguished Leader has been very clear but this is about child care centers at military bases – facilities for the quality of life, for the families and for the security of our country. As he said, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it.’ No.
But in addition to the harm that he's doing to military families, just getting back to Medicaid, almost $1 trillion in cuts in Medicaid. Over one million veterans are on Medicaid. Hundreds of [thousands] of veterans are on food stamps. So this really shows his cavalier attitude to the needs of America's servicemen and women and their families, when they are in the military and when they retire.
Q: On the issue of Medicare, both of you have been around a long time and you voted for cuts to Medicare in the past –
Leader Schumer. No.
Speaker Pelosi. We’ve never done that.
Leader Schumer. We opposed whatever it was, the gang of six.
Q: You used Medicare, for instance, to help pay for the Affordable Care Act.
Speaker Pelosi. Let me correct you right there, because you should not go any further down that path, in friendship. The fact is, in the Affordable Care Act, we got rid of some waste and abuse in Medicare and used that money to prolong the life of Medicare. Medicare was not how we funded the Affordable Care Act. Medicare was how – the Affordable Care Act was how we strengthened Medicare, so don't buy into that false premise –
Leader Schumer. There was no net reduction.
Speaker Pelosi. In Medicare – in fact, we increased the longevity of it. And that has been one of the things, they say, ‘oh you used Medicare to’ – we did not. We did not.
Q: Well, Trump is making the same arguments about his approach to cutting Medicare as well, but that money goes –
Leader Schumer. No. He didn't put – wait, wait, wait – he didn’t put a nickel of that back into health care. Not a nickel.
Speaker Pelosi. Or Medicare.
Leader Schumer. That's the difference. Or into Medicare. He may use that argument, but he will use it falsely.
Speaker Pelosi. This is very important that we have clarity on this subject, because we’re talking about America's working families. We’re talking about Medicare, which is essential to not only the health, but the financial security. We are also talking about Medicaid, which is a middle-income benefit, although people think of it being for poor people, poor children, yes – but as I mentioned, about two thirds of it being of long-term care being covered by Medicaid, which is now being cut by almost a trillion – well, $900 billion.
But, also to put this in a perspective about what that means to America’s working families, why are they doing this? They’re doing this so that they can give advantages to the high-end. We want to see balance in all of this. We want to see where we can find savings. Let's subject everything we spend to harsh scrutiny, so that the results for the American people are the best that they can be.
But don't get in front of an audience and say I'm here to protect Medicare, Social Security – and people, we say Medicaid too – and then put a budget like this forward, and then try to say we did something on the health care bill, which we did not.
Leader Schumer. Go ahead, Chad. This subject.
Q: Chairman Yarmuth says he doesn’t intend to move a budget resolution or a two-year budget on a –
Speaker Pelosi. Two year budget.
Q: Senator Enzi said he’s not going to have a hearing on this. That said, my understanding –
Leader Schumer. I don't blame him.
Speaker Pelosi. Would you want that subjected to exposure?
Q: But that said, since you know, I talked with senior appropriators on both sides and they said they don't intend to come off of the agreement here. So, obviously none of this we are discussing is going to become law.
Leader Schumer. Speaker Pelosi says it well. You want to know the values of a President? Don't listen, and with this President in particular, to the State of the Union address – look at his budget and it shows his values are so off base. Left to his own devices, he would do this. We stop him. We fight him, but make no mistake about it, this is just what he wants to do and the American people should know about it loud and clear.
Speaker Pelosi. We have a saying in the House: show me your budget, show me your values. That's where it is, and this is really a statement so undermining of the values of what America is as a community. What we are about, respecting what the needs are of America's working families. This is really important because it is also part of the anti-governance attitude of the Republicans. See, if they can diminish Medicaid, diminish Social Security, take away the disability benefits, reduce the disability benefits and Social Security, what is the advantage of that?
And I might add – because the distinguished Leader talked about education – there's nothing that brings more money to the Treasury than investment in education; early childhood, K-12, higher education, post-grad and lifetime learning for our workers. So when they say they're making a cut in education, they’re increasing the national debt and undermining the aspirations of the American people and the competitiveness of our country.
Leader Schumer. This subject. Are you two this subject?
Leader Schumer. Nope. We’re on this subject first. I know your act. Come on.
Q: Speaker, you said that the funding levels for the defense and non-defense side of the budget, violate the framework of the budget agreement –
Speaker Pelosi. The non-defense side. Not the defense side.
Q: How would you address that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we’re going to write our bills according to the agreement that we have with the Administration and, as we did this year. We were able to avoid a shutdown, even though the President was threatening one, because we honored the budget agreement in a bipartisan way, House and Senate. And that's what we will do again.
Leader Schumer. One more on this subject and then we will stray a bit. Yes?
Q: Are you actually saying that Medicare benefits are cut? Because the Administration says these are cost control items. Are you really arguing that Medicare –
Leader Schumer. We’ll get you the details. There are cuts in programs that benefit Medicare, that go to Medicare. Absolutely. Yes?
Q: Both of you have said that campaign finance is a priority of yours. What do you make of the fact that Michael Bloomberg is spending $1 billion or more, could up end the Democratic primary system. Is that good and okay for –
Leader Schumer. Look. Both of us stand strongly, and our whole caucuses do from one end to the other, that we want to do everything we can to get rid of Citizens United. That we want to go back to the days of real campaign-finance reform and we stand for that, plain and simple. And we will – if we get the Majority, if God-willing the Speaker keeps the Majority, I think both have a good chance of happening. That’s going to be a top priority.
Speaker Pelosi. It is a top a priority for us now. We passed H.R. 1. In H.R. 1, we did three things and we ran in 2018 – For The People, we said we were going to lower the cost of health care or America's families by lowering the cost of prescription drugs as we protected the pre-existing condition benefits.
Lower health care, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure in America in a green way, a resilient way, for the future. We thought in those two areas, we could find some common ground with the Administration because the President said he was, ‘Going to negotiate like crazy,’ on the cost of prescription drugs – I guess ‘like crazy,’ means not at all – and hopefully we can still find a path on both of those: lowering the cost of prescription drugs and building infrastructure.
And, three: cleaner government. I don't know that we have much hope with him in that regard, however, it was about lowering the influence of dark, special interest money in elections, as well as giving opportunity for small donors to weigh in – that everybody thought his or her voice counted as much as anyone else’s. It was John Lewis's provisions in there, to end voter suppression and the rest of that.
We have three bills – you have three bills on the Floor right now, in terms of election security, and that is: the SHIELD Act, the SAFE Act, elements of H.R. 1.
Why are the Republicans so afraid of stopping foreign interference in our elections? Why are the Republicans so afraid of protecting the integrity of our elections and protecting the – we did get money: over $400 million in the – it's not an omnibus, the minibus or whatever, that we passed at the end of this year.
Leader Schumer. Over McConnell’s strenuous objections.
Speaker Pelosi. Over his objection, because he is standing in the way of the election integrity that we need. As far as Michael Bloomberg is concerned, I think that his involvement in this campaign will be a positive one.
Leader Schumer. And by the way, just one other point on that. H.R. 1 – we have asked countless times for McConnell to let us bring it to the Floor, to bring it to the Floor. He won't do it. He's against any campaign finance reform. He's for all this dark money flowing in, dark. Yes?
Speaker Pelosi. And if I just may, on that score, we also took out of H.R. 1, one important element which was the Voting Rights [Advancement] Act and we’ve sent it over separately. The Voting Rights [Advancement] Act to correct, to answer what the challenge that the Supreme Court gave when it undermined, seriously in my view, the Voting Rights Act, but said Congress can correct this, and we did. And he won’t bring that up, too. And across the country, those who are interested in the Voting Rights Act are paying keen attention to the fact that he will not even bring up the Voting Rights [Advancement] Act, which we passed.
When we passed it originally in ‘06, ‘07 – it was ’06, but effective ‘07, President Bush signed it. It was overwhelming, I think unanimous in the Senate, and in the House, 400 votes or something like that; and now we can't even get it brought up on the Senate Floor.
Leader Schumer. Both bills are part of McConnell’s legislative graveyard.
Q: Bernie Sanders is at the top of the field right now. Would both of you be comfortable with a so-called ‘Democratic Socialist’, as he calls himself at the top of your ticket ?
Leader Schumer. Primaries are primaries and there is always lots of sturm und drang. You will see in a few months, Democrats will be strongly united together. And we will be focused like a laser on beating Donald Trump. The enthusiasm that you last saw in 2008 to elect Barack Obama, you will see among Democrats this summer and fall to get Donald Trump out of office .
Speaker Pelosi. We set a model for how to win elections by winning in the most gerrymandered, voter suppressed political arena you could ever put together – net gain of 40 seats, so we think we are an engine that can help us win that election, whoever our nominee is.
Leader Schumer. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you.