Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
|Speaker Pelosi. Good morning. It was a big crowd at the prayer breakfast this morning, and lots of friends to see, so my apologies for running later today.
We've had quite a week. Here we are now one month into our Majority. Our committees are appointed. They have re-organized and they're having hearings. To our For the People Agenda, we've started our hearings on lowering health care costs by reducing the cost of prescription drugs. That was one of our opening hearings yesterday. The Energy and Commerce Committee did, Appropriations, and Ed and Labor held hearings protecting the pre-existing condition benefit and reversing the GOP sabotage of the health care bill.
Part two of the For the People agenda – one was lower health care costs, the other was raising paychecks of America's workers and by building the infrastructure of America. And [today], the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held its first hearing on investing in roads, bridges, mass transit, ports, airports, schools, water systems and energy grids. The Mayor of Los Angeles participated, and others with experience in this.
Again, number three of the For the People Agenda was H.R. 1, cleaning up corruption and restoring integrity in government. Yesterday, the second hearing was held on H.R. 1, which will reduce the role of big, dark money so that the people's interest, not the special interest, will have a stronger voice.
In addition, we've had two hearings, really the first in eight years, on climate change, one in the Committee of Energy and Commerce, the first time they've had a hearing in eight years – Natural Resources as well – now that the Democrats are in the Majority. And I was pleased yesterday to appoint the Select Committee on Climate.
But before I go to that, I was very disappointed that in the State of the Union address, there was no mention on violence in our country caused by the proliferation of guns. And we have our H.R. 8, which we will be bringing to the Floor. We had our hearing this week on that legislation. It will be marked up, and it will be sent to the Floor, hopefully this month.
Yesterday, as I mentioned, I appointed the Select Committee on Climate. There's lots of excitement. I said the Select Committee will have a leading role in taking testimony, building current information on solutions to the climate crisis. But it would be a Congress-wide initiative.
As I mentioned, two of our committees have already – subcommittees have already had hearings, but we hope it will be – all of the committees of jurisdiction will be very involved in it. And that's the impression that I have. There's all kinds of ideas coming forward. We welcome all of them as they highlight the importance of this existential threat to the planet.
In our committee, the work will be to address, to find solutions. It's not a legislative committee. It will be – its recommendations, as other recommendations, will be referred to the committees of jurisdiction – legislative committees of jurisdiction.
But it's a public health issue: clean air, clean water for our children. It's a national security issue when it comes to preventing climate driven instability. It's an economic and jobs, jobs, jobs issue. Make good-paying jobs, making America – keeping America preeminent in green technologies in the world. And it is, in my view, a moral responsibility, if you believe as do I that this planet is God's creation, and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it.
Or if you don't share that religious view but you just understand that we have a generational moral responsibility to pass the planet on to the next generation in the best possible way, then it has that standing as well.
So it's health, security, jobs, jobs, jobs and, again, preserving God's creation.
It is – topic at hand, of course, the conference that is going on now to pass legislation that will, again, keep government open. I don't think that is a question. But anyway, to protect our borders as we protect our values.
I have confidence in the appropriators, not because I know what they're doing, but because I have confidence in the appropriations process, being an appropriator myself, knowing left to their own devices, as I've said over and over again, that the appropriators, in a bipartisan way, and a bicameral way, House and Senate, can come to a fair conclusion, which I would support.
I have asked the Administration to be as non-interventionist as I am on that. Just let them do their work. And hopefully that will – we will get some good news in a short period of time, and certainly in time for the deadline, February 15.
Speaker Pelosi. Any questions?
Okay. Who hasn't had a question lately?
Q: Two questions on trade, if I could one.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am.
Q: One, I was wondering if you support the bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act to reclaim some of the trade authority for Congress? And also, I was wondering if – what, if any, are the elements of the USMCA that are concerning to you?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, two questions.
One, first of all, I really haven't seen that legislation, but I do support reclaiming some of Congress's – it is Congress's prerogative. We have given some of that authority to the President, and there is legislation here that I am familiar with that would give him even more authority, and I don't support that.
The concerns that we have about, and hopefully they're resolvable, because I'm optimistic always with the – what are we calling it now, U.S., Mexico, Canada – I don't know if it has an acronym – formally known as NAFTA, but not NAFTA. The concerns center around workers' rights, center around the environment, center around prescription drug prices. Those are some of the subjects, but the overarching issue is enforcement. You can have the best language on any subject in a bill, but if you don't have the enforcement provisions very strongly spelled out, not as a sidebar, not as a side letter, but central to the treaty, then there's a problem.
So, I believe that the Trade Representative has been most accommodating and being available for Members. Hopefully he'll come to answer some questions soon. But we've had good rapport with Mr. Lighthizer. I believe that the committees of jurisdiction, that being the Ways and Means Committee, largely, will be having sessions with Members so that Members can see what is in the legislation, what we'd like to see in the legislation and how we can be supportive.
I have always thought that this was probably one of the easier trade agreements to come to agreement on, but, so far, we're not there yet.
Q: You mentioned your committees are getting to work. But the President says your committees are going ‘nuts,’ that it amounts to unlimited Presidential harassment. Is there any concern that you're in danger of appearing like you're overreaching?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just say that I’m going to make it a rule, you don't have to come if you don't want to, but I am not commenting on what the President has to say about our work.
I always think that whatever the President says about us, he's projecting his own unruliness. He's a projector, and that's what it's about.
I'm very proud of the work of our committees. Even the Republicans have complimented the committees on being wise in how they proceed in terms of subpoenas and the rest. We will not surrender our constitutional responsibility for oversight. That would make us delinquent in our duties.
So, I'm not going to respond to any characterization or mischaracterization of the President who – I am just not going there – but I do think if he's using the word "unruly," it's a projection of his own administration.
Q: How important do you think it is for the public to see the President's tax returns?
Speaker Pelosi. I think, overwhelmingly, the public wants to see the President's tax returns. And so, they want to know the truth. They want to know the facts. And he has nothing to hide.
I'll just tell you this and go on from there, because we have important work to do, and we have important judgments to make, and we need information to make those judgments.
So, I was walking through a kitchen, you know, that's how I usually go to events. I haven't been in a hotel lobby in I don't know how long because you go through the garage to the kitchen and this or that. So, it was a Martin Luther King Day in San Francisco, going through the kitchen to go to the event for the breakfast, and one of the waiters, one of the people working in the kitchen said to me, “I have to tell you this. I have to tell this: when the President says that the Mueller investigation is going on too long, you just say back to him, not as long as your tax audit, Mr. President.”
I thought those were words of wisdom.
Q: Madam Speaker, some have said that you haven't moved fast enough on the tax returns, trying to demand them. What do you say to those?
Speaker Pelosi. You have to be very, very careful if you go forward.
As I said, we are in our first month. The committees have been appointed. They have organized. They are prioritizing their work and, in terms of the tax issue, it's not a question of just sending a letter. You have to do it in very careful way. And the chairman of the committee will be doing that.
So, I know there's this impatience because people want to know, that answers the question, but we have to do it in a very careful way.
Q: With everything that's been going on with Virginia – the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Attorney General here – Virginia's a swing state, important politically. You won several states there in the House
Speaker Pelosi. Seats.
Q: With what's going on, does that filter down and damage the national Democratic brand in any way?
Speaker Pelosi. No. No, it does not. No. They will resolve their, Virginians, will resolve their issues that they have there. It's sad because they have some very talented leaders there, but they have to have the confidence of the electorate and they have to have the confidence of legislature that they have to work with.
But, I'll leave that up to them. I have enough to do here without getting involved in the affairs of Virginia.
Q: Madam Speaker, today, a number of Democrats unveiled their Green New Deal proposal.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. They will.
Q: It's quite wide ranging. They're talking about curbing air travel. They're talking about retrofitting every building in the country. What's your reaction to that? And can you talk about your own approach to climate legislation? And is it informed by the experience you had in 2009 and 2010 with the Clean Energy and Security Act?
Speaker Pelosi. I thank you for the question, because many of you don't know, but when I was Speaker, my flagship issue under President Bush was climate – addressing the climate crisis and increasing energy independence for our country.
Under President Bush, we, in a bipartisan way, we passed one of the biggest energy bills in the history of our country. It was like taking millions of cars off the road, raising the emission standards. And many good features in it, including a compromise between us. He wanted nuclear. I wanted renewables. We came to agreement and had a magnificent signing ceremony.
Many of the authorities that President Obama used as president to address the issues of pollution and climate were authorities that were in that legislation. So, I'm very, very proud of that.
So now, when we lost the majority, the Republicans dismantled all of the greening of the Capitol – some of the leadership symbols that we wanted to put out there, but also some of the policies that we had.
So, here we are again. I'm forming a select committee. It's a different world since then. Technology has advanced, so information is available and communicated more readily. We will have to be up to date in terms of hearing from our national security experts on the challenges to stability in the world that a climate crisis – and I can go into detail, if you want me to.
But, in addition to that, it's a jobs, jobs, jobs issue, as I said, making us preeminent in the world in terms of green technologies. And as we build the infrastructure, which is part of our For the People agenda, we want to do so in a green, informed way.
So, and it's a public health issue. It's clean air, clean water, a moral issue to leave the planet in better shape than we found it as we go forward.
Q: To follow up, is the Green New Deal proposal a useful basis –
Speaker Pelosi. Quite frankly, I haven't seen it. But I do know that it's enthusiastic. And we welcome all the enthusiasms that are out there.
The purpose, though, of the Select Committee and the tasking that I have given to the committees of jurisdiction – I didn't even have to task them, they had their own enthusiasms for it – was that we would have an evidence-based, well-defined approach to how we go forward to make a difference.
Because even then in, well, 2007, when we passed the first energy bill but then continuing that debate under President Obama, it was getting too late. And now we're well past that time. So, time is of the essence.
We welcome the enthusiasm that is there. The Green New Deal points out the fact that the public is much more aware of the challenge that we face, and that is a good thing, because the public sentiment will help us pass the most bold common denominator, the bold initiatives, with the interest in, again, saving the planet while we create jobs, protect the health of our children and pass the planet on in a very serious way.
I'm very excited about it all, and I welcome the Green New Deal and any other proposals that people have out there.
Thank you all very much. Thank you.