Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
Are you ready for St. Patrick's Day weekend coming up? We will shortly be welcoming the President of the United States and the Taoiseach of Ireland, the Prime Minister, to the Capitol for a bipartisan, bicameral luncheon to honor St. Patrick and the beauty of immigration to our country, of people coming from Ireland.
I said to – I was going to say, at this toast to them – that my grandchildren, I don't have Irish grandparents, but I have Irish grandchildren: Liam, Sean, and Ryan. And they have this toast: ‘Dance as though no one is watching, love as though you've never loved before, sing as if no one can hear you, and live as though heaven is on Earth.’
So beautiful. I said, ‘Is that a tradition in your father's family?’ And they said, ‘No, it's a toast we saw in the Shannon airport on a poster.’
Speaker Pelosi. So much for that.
In any event, I tell you this, which I think is very funny, and I will tell them – see if you think it's funny: when they had the first dinner, Ronald Reagan, President Ronald Reagan, Speaker Tip O'Neill, coming together, putting differences aside on this Irish luncheon. The Taoiseach didn't come the first year. It was not until the next year the Taoiseach came. But the luncheon had the President, the Speaker, sixteen Members of Congress – twelve of them from Massachusetts.
Anyway, here we are. This is a very special day for us beyond the wonder of St. Patrick.
Today, on the Senate side, the Senate will hopefully vote for the Constitution of the United States – to uphold the oath of office that we all take by, again, voting to reject the President's unconstitutional measure that does violence on the Constitution. That's a good thing. We'll then send the bill to the President.
In the House, we voted to protect the truth for the American people. Overwhelmingly, I think over 400 votes – four voted present – everyone else voted for the Mueller resolution, which would ensure that the American people get the truth. We will send that bill over to the Senate.
As we leave for this district work period, Members are going home again to talk about what we promised For the People: lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way and cleaner government. And we are so proud to have passed H.R. 1 last Friday, to that end.
In regard to the other two categories, hearings and even some legislation has been marked up in terms of moving us closer to passing an infrastructure bill. We'll work – that’s something, in both of those areas, lowering prescription drugs prices and building infrastructure – two areas that the President has said he wants to work on together. So, we're moving in that direction in a bipartisan way.
At the same time, we are very dismayed by the President's budget. The budget is supposed to be a statement of our national values. What's important to us as a nation should be reflected in how we allocate our resources. I am fond of saying around here: show me your values, show me your budget.
The budget that the President put forth is appalling. It cuts $2 trillion out of Medicare and Medicaid. Well, the list goes on and on about the things that it does: It steals $2 trillion from Medicaid and Medicare, hurting farmers and hungry families by slashing $220 billion from the SNAP food assistance and cutting the Agriculture Department budget by almost 15 percent. It pushes affordable college further from reach by cutting $207 billion from student loan initiatives, and endangering life-saving medical research by cutting $5 billion dollars from the National Institutes of Health.
How could it be, if there is scientific opportunity? It's almost a biblical way, power to save lives, the power to cure. If we have scientific opportunity, I believe we have the moral responsibility to fund it. And that is bipartisan in the Congress – in the House and in the Senate. So, we will fight these cuts to the National Institutes of Health, including cuts at the National Cancer Institute.
And continue his demands for billions of wasteful dollars for his ineffective wall.
In addition to what I mentioned about For the People agenda, we were pleased this past week to have introduced H.R. 5 – Mr. Cicilline's bill for LGBTQ community to have full access – to be protected fully by the Civil Rights Act, and H.R. 6, the legislation to help our Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status folks and DED.
And also the, as I said, the gun legislation of the week before. So, when I talk to our outside friends, grassroots activists and the rest, they are very thrilled about H.R. 8 – the bill to end gun violence, to provide gun violence prevention, and also H.R. 1112, that closes the [Charleston] loophole.
So, with our original agenda, For the People, the additional, protecting the Dreamers, et cetera, protecting the LGBTQ, and also, again, ending gun violence in our country, we have quite remarkable legislative achievements as we go forward. By the time we will have been here 100 days, it’s shortly after we come back, we will have even more results in this regard.
And one more, and that's net neutrality that we talked about last week, which will come to the Floor shortly after our return.
So we have a full agenda, we are making progress, and that's what we said we would do – with transparency, with as much bipartisanship as possible, and in a unifying way for our country.
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Q: You said in your comments that were reported this week about impeaching the President just isn't worth it. But, if the Mueller report comes back and suggests criminal activity in the White House, could you change your mind?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it's a question of – when I say it isn't worth our time – 40 percent of the American people cannot withstand a $500 surprise expense, be it their water heater or their carburetor or whatever it happens to be. Our focus was on what we said we would do: health care, job creation, cleaner government, gun safety, issues like that, and it is not worth our time to take our attention from that.
And, if I am somebody in the public who is feeling that financial pain and I see us focusing on one thing and another, but not on my financial interest, that is not a source of hope for people.
If the Mueller report comes back with information, I don't think we should impeach a president for political reasons, and I don't think we should not impeach a president for political reasons. But you have to be ironclad in terms of your facts, and we will see where that takes us.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am?
Q: Madam Speaker, Beto O'Rourke –
Speaker Pelosi. Congratulations. That’s exciting.
Q: Thank you – Beto O'Rourke announced today that he's running for President. What in your view was Beto O'Rourke's signature accomplishment as a Member of the House?
Speaker Pelosi. Beto brought a great deal of vitality to Congress. One of the issues in his – I haven't been asked this question, but I just know of his record here – when he came, he came as a real champion for the environment. He got a great deal of support from the environmental community in his district. He won in a primary on that subject.
And also he was a Member of the Armed Services Committee, a strong Member of the Armed Services Committee, which is very important for his district.
So, in preserving our planet and protecting our people, there are at least two areas in addition to his vitality in so many other ways.
I think all of our candidates are great. I just say to all of them who ask, ‘Just be yourself. What you believe in, show them what's in your heart. You can talk about the facts and the figures and they expect you to know that. So, you’ll have to demonstrate your why: what is your purpose, why are you running, what do you know about the subjects that you know best, and can your judgment be trusted on that and other, and for other reasons? How do you expect to get something done? And that's all up here, show them what's in your heart. If you show them what you believe, even if they don't agree with you all the time, they will trust your authenticity.’ That's what I say to all of them.
And I think that Beto is a welcome addition to the field.
Q: And do you think that the experience he has here in the House is a strong enough foundation to jump to the Oval Office?
Speaker Pelosi. And you ask me that when we have a President of the United States who never – please. Yes. The answer is yes, yes.
Q: Madam Speaker, thank you. You talk about the –
Speaker Pelosi. Didn't you just have a question, or that was last week?
Q: Not today. That was last week. I had a couple last week, you might recall. Anyway, thank you.
We have the luncheon with the Taoiseach and the President today. I know when you had a good personal relationship with President George W. Bush and you used to use some of these social occasions to talk policy with him.
I know you are not in the same room with the President very often. Is there anything you would like to bring up with the President today since you will be in the same room at the luncheon today?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I don't think we use this luncheon as any policy discussion, other than what we say at the podium. That’s what it will be.
Q: So none of these disputes about the budget, none of these –
Speaker Pelosi. No. No, the President is a guest in our House and we will treat him as a guest in our House and are honored by his presence to welcome the Taoiseach. A Taoiseach who is LGBTQ; his father is an Indian – as we say, ‘Only in America.’
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am?
Q: How do you think the FAA handled the Ethiopian Air crash and questions about Boeing 737 Max and the timing of when they grounded the plane?
Speaker Pelosi. I do know that our Chairman of our Committee, Mr. DeFazio, and the Chair of the Subcommittee, Mr. Larsen of – Rick Larsen of Washington State – were right on it, and they were getting as much information as they could from the FAA on it, so that we would be making a judgment based on fact. The fact that so many countries had already made their decision.
Again, just because we would ask for it doesn't mean it would happen. So, I was pleased that the President made the decision that he made.
Q: Madam Speaker, on H.R. 1, there has been some criticism from the ACLU about it in regards to the freedom of speech issue. And as far as sixteen year-olds voting, where do you see that going into the future?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I disagree with the ACLU on this. In terms of legislation, we couldn't be prouder than H.R. 1.
This is about reducing the role of big dark special interest money in politics and empowering small donors. It is about ending voter suppression. It is about making redistricting fair. It's really a source of joy and hope to so many people in the country.
I myself, personally, I am not speaking for my Caucus, I myself have always been for lowering the voting age to sixteen. I think it's really important to capture kids when they're in high school, when they're interested in all of this – when they're learning about government, to be able to vote.
That is not – in other words, some of the priorities in this bill are about transparency and openness and accessibility and the rest. That's a subject of debate. But, my view is that I would welcome that. But I have been in that position for a long time.
Q: Madam Speaker, on the Green New Deal –
Speaker Pelosi. I'll come back to you.
Q: When you made the comment about impeachment to my colleague, Joe Heim, were you getting worried that some of the Members of your own Caucus and some of the Presidential candidates were getting farther ahead of where –
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: – really most of you were?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I didn't. I made the comment that I made because I make it every week. I've made it July, August, September, October. I've made it all through the campaign. I made it in our transition. And I've made it every week. It didn't seem to catch on until I had a gimmick: ‘He's not worth it.’ Boom, it explodes.
So, so many of you have said to me: ‘Why are you saying this now?’ Because I have said it almost every day. But if I frame it that way, it gets more attention. So, I wasn't getting worried about anything.
As I said, I am a longtime Member of the Ethics Committee, and, there, we just followed the facts, the Rules of the House and the law. No hearsay, no public, no subjective attitudes. All objective. The Rules of the House, the law of the land, the facts of the case. And the facts of case will argue – will present a different challenge when we see what that is.
Yes, ma'am? One last question.
Q: So Republican leaders were here an hour ago talking about the Green New Deal. They say it's going to raise – it’s going to get rid of jobs; it's going to raise the price of healthcare – all kinds of things. What's your response to that?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm really impressed, they care about health care? They who took away the individual mandate? They who scores of time wanted to eliminate the Affordable Care Act? I've never even known that they had the interest, except maybe to take $2 trillion out of Medicare and Medicaid.
As with all of the initiatives that you're hearing about, they will go to committee. That has different committees because it has different pieces to it.
But, I am more excited about our Select Committee on Climate, chaired by Kathy Castor of Florida, which will be having its hearings, evidence based recommendations, some of which will be consistent with some of what's in the Green Deal – [Green New] Deal, is that what it’s called – and some of it might be even beyond that.
But, I am not standing by any characterization that the Republicans have of anything. Unfamiliar as they may be with sending items to committee, because that's not what they ever did, this is what we will be doing, is sending it to committee.
I do want to salute the Green Deal in this respect – not the particulars, because we have to take it one at a time – but in the respect of again raising the profile of an issue, which is a challenge generationally: to preserve this planet.
It's a health issue, a public health issue in terms of clean air, clean water.
It's a jobs issue in terms of the United States being preeminent in green technologies throughout the world.
It's a national security issue. Just read what our national security experts have to say – generals, admirals, again, national security experts – have to say about the challenge to global security that the climate crisis is presenting.
And it is a moral issue. We all have a responsibility to pass this planet on to future generations in a responsible way.
I myself, as a Catholic, believe, as do many of our evangelical friends and the rest who share our belief, that this is God's creation and that we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it.
So, this is a very high priority. As you may not know, it was my flagship issue when I was Speaker the first time. So, I welcome any enthusiasms in that regard. But as we legislate, we will go through committee to see what the best possible approach is.
I wish you all a very happy St. Patrick's Day.
We will have a good deal of activity in the districts, in terms of mobilization at the grassroots level, around the For the People agenda: lowered health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government, safety with our gun safety bill, and the list goes on.
Thank you all very much.