Speaker Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives

Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

February 13, 2020
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. 

This is a very special morning for us, because I may be called away moment – not momentarily, but in a few minutes, longer than just momentarily, to vote on the Floor of the House for the ratification – extending the date for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. 

It's a historic day.  It's a happy day.  I commend our Chairman, Jerry Nadler, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, for bringing the legislation to the Floor.  Jackie Speier, the author of the resolution, who has been a relentless champion for women's rights in the Congress and in the country.  Carolyn Maloney, who has, for a very long time, been advocating for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.  And, now, extending the date enables us to –  will enable us to do that. 

We're very proud of the State of Virginia, who just came through for women, for families.  And that, in the Chair, Congresswoman Wexton from Virginia is presiding.  She fought for the ERA in the Virginia Legislature.  Didn't happen until they got the Majority, and then – and she's here now, so – to preside over it.

It's pretty exciting.  It's pretty exciting when you think of what it means.  And I can't understand how people can vote against their own interest as a woman.  But their wives, their daughters, their sisters, their mothers are not equal?  They should be equal under the law, whether it relates to wage discrimination, whether it relates to sexual harassment, whether pregnancy discrimination. 

As a mother of five, and four of whom are daughters, I'm very excited about what this means for families and what it may mean for women to be better represented in all the seats of decision and power in our country. 

So, again, there is no reason for this.  Some people are putting forth excuses.  But, we expect to have a bipartisan vote in the Senate.  I hope we will have a bipartisan vote in the House, and hopefully it will be brought up in the Senate. 

So, again, as our theory has been, when women succeed, America succeeds.  That's what we believe, and that's what we're acting upon today. 

Again, this week was marked by the introduction of the President's budget.  You've heard me say again and again a budget should be a statement of our national values.  The federal budget should be a reflection of what is important to us as a nation. 

This budget is not without a – is without any commitment to values.  In fact, it is in complete reversal of the promises the President made in the campaign and a contradiction of what he said in the State of the Union Address. 

As you know, he talked about being there for Medicare and Social Security. 

Well, he cut Medicare by half a trillion dollars in his budget, cut tens of billions of dollars from disability benefits from Social Security. 

And the issue of Medicaid, cut $900 billion, almost a trillion dollars from Medicaid.  About 60 percent of long‑term health care is paid for by Medicaid.  This is a middle‑class benefit.  Yes, some Medicaid goes to the poor, poor children especially, but most, a majority of the funds, paying for long‑term care for America's seniors, and other comes from Medicaid, $900 billion, just to name something. 

It's an appalling budget.  At a time of – imagine – imagine, when the whole world is fighting the coronavirus, the President cuts out $1.2 billion from the Center for Disease Control, whose job it is to fight the coronavirus and others like it. 

And farmers.  The President talks about farmers.  Farmers have record numbers of bankruptcy now, and in the budget the President slashes the farmers’ safety net by $60 billion while stealing $200 billion from SNAP. 

SNAP is directly related to our farmers.  When I go into the Midwest, I meet farmers who tell me they are on food stamps because of their economic situation.  But Senator Dole and Senator McGovern established the SNAP program to help address food insecurity, but also to benefit farmers who provide that food. 

There are cuts to – we talk about rebuilding America, and the President, in his budget, cut 13 percent of the Department of Transportation, and also has massive cuts in the Army Corps of Engineers, which is very essential to infrastructure building. 

And then, for clean air and clean water, he cuts 25 percent from the EPA.  This budget is disgraceful in many ways – just as simply as the air our children breathe, the water they drink.  ‘Just slash it.  Not important to us.’

And all the while, reinforcing what he's going to do on taxes, to continue his tax scam, adding more money, more debt, more national debt for our children to pay so he can give tax cuts to the high end.  So we can say, ‘See?  See?  The market's up.’  Well, you slash taxes and do one thing and another.

Now, we want our economy to succeed, and we're happy when the indicators are positive.  But let's not build that on the backs of our children and their future.

Dozens of groups, from the AARP to Young Invincibles – I don't have a Z yet, but Y – have come out against the [budget]. 

And the AARP, representing 17 million seniors, wrote this:  ‘We are deeply concerned about the proposed funding reductions to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, nutrition assistance, caregiver support, housing assistance, and other assistance for older Americans.  AARP calls on Congress to protect these critical programs that millions of Americans rely on for their health and financial security.’

That's their statement. 

I'll add to that that many of these people are veterans.  Over a million veterans benefit from Medicaid and SNAP, the SNAP program.  Food insecurity, sadly, it is prevalent in our veterans community. 

We also saw the President this week demonstrate once again that he does have, has no respect for the rule of law.  His assault on the rule of law by engaging in political interference in the sentencing of his associate, Roger Stone, indicated obstruction of investigation into Trump‑Russia ties and witness tampering.  That's what Trump, that's what Stone was indicted for. 

This is an abuse of power that the President is, again, trying to manipulate federal law enforcement to serve his political interests. 

And the President is what he is.  He thinks he's above the law.  He has no respect for the rule, but where are the Republicans to speak out on this blatant violation of the rule of law?  AG Barr has deeply damaged the rule of law by withdrawing the DOJ's sentencing recommendation, and the act of interference and Trump's retribution against the lead attorney in the Stone case – imagine that four of the prosecutors separated themselves from the case when the President did that – just days after firing Lieutenant Colonel Vindman for speaking truth to power.  This all must be investigated. 

The American people must have confidence in our nation's system of impartial justice.  And with withdrawal of the four career prosecutors from the case – what an act of courage on their part.  It must be commended.  But the actions of the Justice Department – Justice Department has this, should have this aura of something so apolitical, so above the political fray, that people have confidence in the rule of law in our country. 

The Attorney General has stooped to such levels.  He's lied to Congress, for which he will be in contempt.  He has engaged in these activities.  What a sad disappointment to our country.  The American people deserve better. 

We are leaving now for a district work period.  We're listening to the concerns of our constituents.  With their help, we formulated our For The People agenda, what is important to them, their kitchen table concerns:

Lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

Retaining, protecting the pre-existing condition benefit – the President said he’s all for it, he’s a defender, and yet he’s in court to overturn it.

Building the infrastructure.

Building bigger paychecks – lower health care costs – bigger paychecks by building infrastructure of America.  Hopefully we can find common ground on both of those scores with the White House. 

Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.  I don't think we'll find too much common ground on that score. 

But, anyway, this is a day to celebrate, a day that the Equal Rights Amendment extension is passed on the Floor of the House.  And we're very eager to send it over to the Senate, where I understand it has bipartisan support.  Let's only hope that the Grim Reaper will allow a voice of American women and those who support American women to be heard on the Senate Floor. 

Questions? 

Q:  So you just said that the President abused his power again –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, I did. 

Q:  – by injecting himself into this process –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  – with Roger Stone. 

What recourse does Congress have?  Would you concede that the President is untouchable at this point and it's just up to the voters this fall, or is there something that Congress is going to do about it?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it should be investigated.  Their Leader in the Senate has called for an Inspector General look into this.  Our Committee, the Judiciary Committee, as you know, has invited, and he has accepted, the Attorney General to come before the Judiciary Committee, and that will be the end of March.  I wish it were sooner, but he did accept the invitation, so we don't have to go another step there. 

But this cannot – this is not what America is about.  It is so wrong.  And, again, I keep – public sentiment is making a judgment about this.  But I would hope that Republicans who respect the rule of law – and I assume most of them do, except for the aberration in the White House and his henchmen – that they would speak out on this, too, because it cannot stand. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  A couple days ago, you told me that Bloomberg's participation in the presidential race is positive. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  Now I'm going to ask you the follow up.  Why?  Can you expand on that?

Speaker Pelosi.  Because I think every candidate in the race has had a positive influence on the race.  They bring their ideas.  They bring their why – why they're running, what they know about as their – as their priority issues, their strategic thinking about how they want to accomplish those goals and give people confidence that they can in as much a bipartisan way as possible and how they connect with the American people, each of them in their own way. 

So I would – I could list you 25, but I won't, because the field has been winnowing, but every one of them who has put his or her name forward has been a positive force in the campaign. 

Q:  Do you think he has a good chance of beating the President?

Speaker Pelosi.  Hmm?

Q:  Do you think he has the best chance of beating the President? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm not talking politics here. 

Let me just say this.  Thank you for the opportunity.  I hear you all say, ‘Oh, we're all in a panic, the established Democrats.’  I'm like, is there some establishment that I don't know about around here?  Who are we talking about here?  Because we respect the process.  The people will winnow the field.  Members will make their endorsement as they see fit, on their own – in their own communications with their constituents and with the candidates as they choose. 

So, we're calm, cool and collected.  This is not – I mean, just because some people may be speaking out about not liking one candidate or another – that's the democratic way.  That's politics.  It's a messy business. 

I will remind you of how it was when the Republicans had their primary in the last election four years ago, how messy that was.  But this is – we're calm, we're cool, we're collected.  We have faith in the American people and will be guided by their judgment as we go forward.  But maybe it sells papers or gets viewers, but it isn't the fact.

Q:  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes? 

Q:  You said that the Attorney General lied to Congress. 

Speaker Pelosi.  He did.  Yes, he did. 

Q:  Then why should the House not move forward on impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General?

Speaker Pelosi.  We – our priority was to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  The President gave us no choice in his actions in violating the separation of power that is contained in the Constitution.  And that is our goal. 

So, again, there is so much malfeasance on the part of the people in the Executive branch right now.  But the fact is our responsibility is to honor our oath of office to protect and defend.  But we can point out the disrespect that the Attorney General has for the rule of law, for lying to Congress, and that was really very bad.  It was – it's not a good thing.  I mean it's lying to the American people.  It is lying to the American people under oath. 

But our priorities are to do our job for the American people.  To lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs.  We passed that bill.  We hope that we can work with the Administration to put it together.  We hope they don't abandon it as they seem to have, I guess at the behest of Pharma. 

We've worked – we said that we wanted to build the infrastructure of America and increase paychecks.  The President said throughout the campaign that he was going to build ‘infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.’  It came to prescription drugs, he was going to negotiate ‘like crazy, like crazy, like crazy,’ and it appears that ‘like crazy’ might mean not at all. 

And, again, cleaner government, which we want to do with lowering the impact of big, dark money in politics, ending – under John Lewis' bill, which is part of H.R. 1 – to end the voter suppression, and, again, pass the Voting Rights [Advancement] Act, which is part of that, that we've taken out of that.  

So, that's what we're doing, and our responsibility is protect and defend.  That's what we did. 

And I'm very proud of our Managers.  They presented the facts.  I'm proud of the courage of our Members.  They reviewed the facts.  They studied the Constitution.  They made their own decision. 

And I'm proud of the Senate [Democrats], that they had a unanimous vote in favor of the truth, and just so respectful of the decision that Senator Romney made. 

But that doesn't mean that we're going to spend all of our time going after every lie that the Administration henchmen make to the Congress of the United States. 

Yes, Chad?

Q:  Madam Speaker, good morning.  

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning. 

Q:  So the Senate today is going to vote on this Iran –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q: – war powers measure. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  There was a measure that was a little different there in the House –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  – about a month ago, though.  From your perspective, when it comes to war powers, why does this not hem the President in?  You know, that's the argument that some make, say that he needs to have that agility.  There are questions about these old AUMFs, but those who are opposed to what's going on in the Senate today say that this, you know, undercuts what we're trying to do in the Middle East, it undercuts what we're trying to do in Iraq and ties his hands. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the power to declare war is, in the Constitution, a power of the Congress of the United States.  The President has considerable power as well.  The War Powers Act addresses a calibration of the balance between the two.

And this is a very long discussion.  It's something I've been involved in for the last almost 20 years, first as Ranking on Intelligence, and now in my position here. 

So, I think that they're going to have a bipartisan vote in the Senate.  I know that.  I think that the legislation is good.  It's a little different from ours, but we will take it up when we return in the next work period.

Q:  Well, but, fundamentally, this is a shoving match between the Congress and the Administration with war powers, it's as old as the Republic.  Why does this not tie the President's hands if –

Speaker Pelosi.  There are plenty of waivers for the President in terms of our national security.  And the – I mean, I've got to go to the Floor, because we have the ERA.  But, we can have a full discussion on this. 

The War Powers Act is something that we respect, and we would hope that the President of the United States would respect it, too. 

In times of our attack, any and all powers are vested in the President of the United States, if you read the War Powers Act.  It triggers – I don't like that word – any and all powers on the part of the Commander in Chief. 

What we're saying is, in terms of other decisions that the President makes, that Congress has a role to play in that according to the Constitution of the United States. 

So, I'm glad that we'll have bipartisan support for recognizing Congress's role in all of this.  And, again, our first responsibility is to protect and defend, and we're going to do that, but we want to do it in a way that does not eliminate the power of declaring war from the Congress of the United States. 

I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to go to the Floor. 

I don't always vote.  Rarely do I vote unless to break a tie.  We haven't had any.  But, nonetheless, that would be what I would do.  But today, for my children, my daughters, my granddaughters – actually, for my son and my grandsons – for women across America, I welcome the opportunity to cast a vote that will end discrimination on the basis of sex in our Constitution. 

Thank you.