Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning.
With all the excitement that is going on around here and in the world, thank you for being here this morning. We talk about – while that's all going on, we're keeping the House running here.
I'm very proud of Joaquin Castro's legislation to overturn the President's ill?conceived idea about undermining the Constitution of the United States. I'm very proud of the work he did to have us be ready when the President made – took his action, so that the Congress, the House was ready to honor the institution which we serve. Article I of the Constitution, the legislative branch. We sent the legislation now over to the Senate.
Yesterday was a big day for us. For many of us who have worked for years on gun violence prevention, it was a big day when the Bipartisan Background Check Act of 2019 passed with such a strong vote on the Floor of the House.
The night before, many of us were at the – to observe the 25th anniversary of Brady Bill. That was historic when it happened and has saved many lives since. Millions of people have not been able to get – not millions of people – millions of times, people have not been able to get a gun who shouldn't have a gun. But now we had to expand it to include online sales and gun show sales as well, which happened yesterday.
Just anecdotally, I was especially happy because of all – Mike Thompson worked for such a long time, the Chair of our Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. It's a bipartisan bill with Congressman King of New York. To have Congresswoman McBath tell the story, her story of her son losing his life. It was policy and personal.
I just anecdotally tell the story of when we passed the bill before, the Brady Bill. I was a relatively new Member of Congress. Chuck Schumer, now the Leader in the Senate, was our champion. He led the way and he was fearless. But some of us had just the grassroots, the retail, Member?to?Member contacts. And the first time, we did not succeed to pass a rule.
So, some of us went over to see Mr. Brady, a person from your profession. Really such a talented man, who, as you know, was shot at the same time President Reagan sadly was. He and Sarah have been such an inspiration. She is a guardian angel of it all for so many years, even after his passing.
But anyway, that day we went over, some of us, and we were so in awe of Jim Brady. And so we went over, after we had lost the vote, and said, "We are here for two reasons: to whip the rule and to pay our respects to you." To which he said, without a second, said, "Well, at least you accomplished one of those things."
Anyway, they were relentless. They made a difference. The beat goes on as we continue.
At the same time, we're following through with what we promised in the campaign For the People. One, to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and to preserve the pre?existing condition benefit. The Energy and Commerce Committee has already had a hearing on the prescription drug costs. The Ways and Means will do so very shortly. They have also in the Committee had hearings on the Affordable Care Act and protecting the pre?existing condition.
Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green, modern way. And in that regard, one committee, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has had their hearings with governors and others, mayors, to build the record as we go forward for legislation.
Yesterday, in the Education and [Labor] Committee, they already marked up a bill for school construction, which would be part of the infrastructure legislation. Build infrastructure, bigger paychecks. Part of the bigger paychecks is the equal pay for equal work legislation which was marked up in committee yesterday, too.
So of the three things: lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, the third, H.R. 1, cleaner government. That bill is marked up. It will come to the Floor perhaps next week. We are very excited about it because it reduces the role of big, dark special interest money in politics, and it also strives to reduce the voter suppression that is so prevalent in our country.
We were pleased to establish, re-establish, the Elections Subcommittee in the House Administration Committee, headed by Marcia Fudge. She had the first hearing out of Washington, in Brownsville, Texas, a couple weeks ago – very well?attended, very important.
Part of H.R. 1, though, is also to re-assert and re-pass the H.R. 4, which is the Voting Rights Act headed by Terri Sewell of Alabama. We introduced it this week in preparation for the visit to Selma this weekend – the first weekend in March, as you know.
So those are the three.
In addition to that, we said we were going to pass gun violence prevention. We did yesterday in the House and now it goes on. We have another bill on the Floor today to expand on that, in terms of a timetable.
We said we were going to do the Equality Act, and we will be marking that up. We'll be announcing that in about ten days, two weeks, perhaps.
We're going do Dreamers and TPS in the same timeframe. And as I said, we will continue with the equal pay for equal work.
So, again, there are a lot of high-profile events going on around here, but our work to support the financial well?being of America's working families goes on.
The President is returning from Vietnam, from his meeting with Kim Jong?un. I guess it took two meetings for him to realize that Kim Jong?un is not on the level. He was a big winner – he, Kim Jong?un – in getting to sit face?to?face with the most powerful person in the world, the President of the United States.
And, really, it's good that the President did not give him anything for the little that he was proposing. As you probably know, he said he would shut down one of his, just one of his, well, he said he was going to – the Yongbyon. Yongbyon has been a subject for a long time. He would shut that down.
But what we want is denuclearization. They didn't agree to it in the first meeting. They didn't agree to it in the second meeting. And as you know, they wanted lifting sanctions without the denuclearization. I'm glad that the President walked away from that.
Diplomacy is important, we always support it, but the prospect for success seemed dim in light of the insincerity of Kim Jong?un.
I've been, as many of you know, to North Korea, to Pyongyang, beyond the DMZ, and it’s very serious, concerns about North Korea. Always hopeful that diplomacy can take us to a place; ever suspicious of the motivations of a person like Kim Jong?un. So, I am glad that that didn't work.
Earlier, last weekend, I was pleased to lead a delegation to the Munich Security Conference and then on to Brussels for NATO meetings. I'm proud to say that our delegation was part of other delegations that went.
Over 50 Members of Congress were there – House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans – reasserting our commitment to the transatlantic relationship between the U.S. and Europe, as well as our commitment to NATO – to strengthen it. People seemed very happy to see such bipartisanship, House and Senate, with a very positive message of the importance of that region to us.
So, those are some of the things that have been going on here. And right now we're debating the second bill, H.R. 1112, for gun violence prevention. So if I run out the door, it's because I have to go make a vote.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am?
Q: Madam Speaker, the President of the United States seems to side with Kim Jong?un on the question of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after being in North Korean custody. What's your reaction?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with what the President has said about that.
Q: He was asked about it, and he seemed to say that Kim Jong?un denied a role in this and that he believed Kim Jong?un.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, see, as I said, I don't think Kim Jong?un is on the level. And the President has believed Putin as opposed to believing his own intelligence leadership on subjects.
So, again, I didn't know the President had said that, but it's strange. And I don't know, there's something wrong with Putin, Kim Jong?un – in my view, thugs – that the President chooses to believe.
Q: Madam Speaker, what should the consequence be if the President did violate campaign finance laws while in office?
Speaker Pelosi. You know, I haven't – let me just say, I've read you what we're doing here. We're constantly busy. And so, I didn't sit down and watch the proceedings yesterday.
But, I do know what I saw your – in the reporting of many of you, is that Chairman Cummings was just a magnificent maestro. And, each and every one of our Members did a very good job in trying to elicit the truth, to try to get to the facts.
Some of it was confirmation, as Gerry Connolly said. Some of it confirmed things that we’d – that they had heard otherwise. And some of it, as you heard, was possibly new. Some of the high-profile statements seemed new. This, again, I'm not in any position to verify what he said, but that would be – Mr. Cummings had, I trust his judgment, and he had some questions about suspicions that that might be true.
Q: Would that be an impeachable offense?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I'm not going into that. I'm not going into that.
We have two investigations: the Mueller report that we're all anxiously awaiting and, as was indicated, the one thing I did see widely reported was that the witness said that other issues that he was aware of were under consideration by the Southern District of New York. So let's see what that is.
But, again, impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the President.
I've said to some of you running up and down the hall – right now what I'm concerned about is the President's undermining of the Constitution of the United States with his, again, ill?advised declaration. I think he is totally wrong.
I was at the border this past weekend. What he is proposing is going on there is mythology, it is not reality. I wish you could all go to Laredo for the week of the birthday of George Washington, and honoring George Washington, Martha Washington, so patriotic, such pride and heritage, such patriotism about America.
So that concerns me more than what may or may not be said now. When the facts are known, then we'll make a judgment then.
I'm also concerned about what the President is doing, in denial of what is happening in terms of climate change and, in our public policy arena, that he is still in denial.
I'm concerned about his heaping praise on a tax bill that gives 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent and ignores the needs of people as we write budgets.
So I'm more concerned about his policy than his personality. However, when the facts are known, then we can make a judgment.
Q: Madam Speaker, on the gun votes, you're a good vote counter. What do you think the chances are that either of these can get 60 votes in the Senate? And, if they cannot advance in the Senate, what would you say they have achieved, if anything?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, these bills are bipartisan. Especially the one yesterday, which was the heart of the – you know, the one that we have worked so hard on for such a long time. Today is an important continuation of that.
You've heard me say it over and over, public sentiment is everything. 90 percent of the American people – 90 percent of the American people – support background checks, even members of the National Rifle Association. Most of them who are gun owners, have had their background checks, and they have no – they personally don't avoid that. So, 90 percent.
Some of the figures are stunning, though. Do you know that – is it 43 children or teenagers die from gun violence in our country a day? In a day?
So, I think public sentiment is going to play. I quote him all the time, Abraham Lincoln: public sentiment is everything, with it you can accomplish almost anything, without it, practically nothing.
Public sentiment is there. I think the public is tired of moments of silence at time of mass murders and high-profile tragedies. But, these tragedies happen in the lives of American people every single day of the week.
So, I’m, I don’t – I count the votes in the House, not in the Senate, as you know. But, I do think that when the opportunity is there for a bipartisan bill, which is very discrete and focused, and is the bill that will save the most lives, that, hopefully, we can get a positive vote from the Senate.
Staff. Last question.
Q: Madam Speaker, yesterday the House Republicans passed another Motion to Recommit with the ICE amendment on that gun vote and there's some reports out there that Democratic Leaders and yourself are considering changing the House rules to perhaps give more notice and have Members more time to read these Motions to Recommit. How seriously are you considering these changes?
And then, also, the Minority Leader's office is threatening that this would ground all legislation to a halt if you do take these steps.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know that he has the authority to do that. The power of the Speaker is awesome.
They should remember that.
However, I'm a big believer in respecting the whole House and the rights of the Minority to have their say.
I do, put me in a different category. I think you should just vote against all Motions to Recommit. It's a procedural vote. It's a gotcha on the part of the opposition. Let's make life easy, just vote against them.
Should there be some review of everything that we do? We have now a modernization, a Select Committee on Modernization from our side, chaired – well, chaired, from our side, chaired, yes, chaired by Derek Kilmer of Washington State. And they are going to be having open hearings on issues of concern – well, let me make their announcement about their agenda. But, I think that's an appropriate place for some of that discussion to take place. In the meantime, vote no.
Q: Madam Speaker, to that end, on that question about the –
Speaker Pelosi. I thought it was the last question. Is Chad special, does Chad have special? –
Q: No, no, the power of the pad is awesome.
Speaker Pelosi. [To the reporters present] Do you agree or is that a one?man show?
Q: If you'll indulge me, just to follow?up on John's question here.
Speaker Pelosi. Maybe so, maybe not, let's see.
Q: The idea, though, that some of these roll call votes on MTRs are good votes for your Members – to show voting against leadership, if they're from swing districts, if they're freshmen. That was certainly the case in 2007. Is that not a good vote for some of them to take?
Speaker Pelosi. No. Vote no.
Q: How so?
Speaker Pelosi. Vote no, just vote no, because, the fact is, a vote yes is to give leverage to the other side, to surrender the leverage on the Floor of the House.
So again, we have – our Members are so fabulous and they're so great. Weren't they wonderful in the hearing yesterday, and now they're behind closed doors in Intelligence? If it weren't for you, as ex?officio, I would love to just be in that room and hear what's going on, but, unfortunately, I don't have time for that.
No, my view is that they should vote no on it. There are plenty of other times when they can vote no – express their, shall we say, opposition to the leadership on the form of a bill, you know, vote against a bill. But in terms of the order of the House, it's a procedural vote. I suggest a no vote.
Should there be some discussion of any of what we do here, we now have established a modernization – a Select Committee on Modernization of Congress. And, happily, the Minority Leader has appointed people to it. We're still waiting for his appointments to the climate – the Select Committee on Climate.
Okay. Thank you all very much.