Pelosi Remarks at Press Event Calling for Passage of H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much Vanessa for sharing your story with us, for the courage you have and the difference that you are making. I join you in saluting Congresswoman Velázquez. I am so glad to be here with her and our colleague who is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Task Force, Yvette Clarke, and Yvette Clarke is very important in all of this.
And the Chairman of whose Committee this will come out of Jerry Nadler. Our Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
I know that Carolyn Maloney is here. Carolyn Maloney.
And Mr. Espaillat just joined us. Congressman Espaillat who is a leader on all these issues and honored to be with you, Mr. Mayor.
But I know we are all happy to here with Vanessa and Perla and Steve and Hector, they are our VIPs of today, and the others who have joined us. Just to place us a little bit in history, I want to associate myself with the remarks of everyone who went before just to confirm that we are all on the same page with this. When the Mayor talked about our Italian American heritage – people make a fuss that I am the first woman Speaker but I am the first Italian-American Speaker and that means a lot.
When people came here and they were in these tenements, they were Irish, they were German, they were Italian, they were Jewish – the list goes on – they were Chinese and others that came after. When the Italians were here, they were called WOPs, and you know what that means? Without papers. And that’s all we are talking about right now. People without papers. You would hope that all of those who then got their papers would be there to help others get theirs.
Nydia Velázquez – let’s go back to a while back – when Nydia Velázquez was Chair of the Hispanic Caucus, the bill, the DREAM Act, was put forth by Lucille Roybal-Allard, which was indicated. Nydia was a force behind passing it in the House of Representatives. Just going Member to Member to Member. In fact, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus went Member to Member to Member, it wasn’t easy, this was a while ago. And she was successful and she has never given up on this.
And now expanded to the work that Yvette Clarke is doing on Temporary Protected Status. It’s ridiculous, people have been here a long time, contributed to the greatness of America. And then the DED – which is urgent – is just a matter of days.
So this is urgent. The Dream, and now Dream and Promise Act, is urgent for our country. You know all the provisions. I won’t go into because others have and will. The personal stories that you will hear – heard from Vanessa, will hear from Perla, and others today are the most eloquent reasons why we should pass this legislation.
But as Nydia said, these immigrants – when immigrants come here with their hopes and dreams and aspirations, and determination to make the future better for their country, that optimism, that courage, they’re American traits and all of these immigrants make America more American.
So to be here — Kevin, Kevin Jennings, thank you for your hospitality here at this Tenement Museum, I feel some vibes coming through the ground. All the hopes and dreams that existed in this building and then went on to help build America.
But don’t take our word for it. I’m just going to read to you in closing from Ronald Reagan, the President I quoted most Mr. Mayor.
Let me just say how honored I am to be here with Mayor de Blasio. He makes us all very, very honored across the country. Not just because he’s Italian American.
Housing, immigrants – you name the subject.
This is how Ronald Reagan, said, I’m not going to read the whole quote because it’s long –
Press Member. Down!
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you darling. Thank you for being here – it was okay with me, I don’t know.
Audience Member. Welcome to New York!
Speaker Pelosi. I refer Ronald Reagan’s last speech – ‘This is the last speech I will make as President of the United States,’ he said. I refer that to you. Go see it on the website because it’s a beautiful speech.
I’ll just say this much of it: ‘Thanks to each wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we’re a nation forever young, forever bursting with new energy and new ideas and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the new frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.’
So Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama – up until now, all of the modern presidents have understood what immigration means to America – the constant reinvigoration of our country.
Right now, we’re in a little bit of a difficult situation, but we shall overcome. We have many more witnesses to, people to bear witness, to the need for all of this. But, I will follow the Mayor’s lead and say a few words in Spanish – si se puede!
With that, I’m very pleased to yield the floor to the distinguished Chairman of the Judiciary Committee – a man who’s going to make it happen on his committee as we bring it to the Floor. A person committed to the constant reinvigoration of America by way of our immigration policy. Aren’t we proud of New Yorker, Mr. Chairman, Jerry Nadler?
Congresswoman Velázquez. I am going to open the floor to any questions you may have.
Q: What are the chances of getting this through the Senate and, presumably, it may be vetoed by the President – override or what are we thinking here?
Congresswoman Velázquez. Nancy. Well, look, this is one way where we are going to continue. Public opinion is everything. So, what we need is what the polls are showing us that the American people believe that this is the right thing to do. So, today, what we are asking is for everyone to knock on doors, particularly, no one from New York – not any – every member from New York should be a cosponsor of this bill. Even in upstate New York, where farmers are turning laws that don’t allow them to find workers. Therefore, consumers will be paying more for their groceries. It is the right thing to do. For those who are going to face re-election in the Senate, they need to listen.
Q: Would the Speaker answer that as well?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I associate myself with the remarks of Congresswoman Velasquez or may I call her Madam Chair of the Small Business Committee, the first Latina ever to chair a Committee in the Congress of the United States!
Let me acknowledge Assemblywoman Jo Ann Simon who is here, thank you for being here.
The Congresswoman said it very clearly: public sentiment is everything. Abraham Lincoln. I’m quoting all these Republican presidents. Ronald Reagan. Abraham Lincoln.
‘Public sentiment is everything.’ He said, ‘With it, you accomplish almost anything. Without, it almost nothing.’ But the public sentiment is there. 89 percent of the public support the Dreamers and now the TPS and DED part of all of that. What we have to do is make sure the public knows what the choice is in the Congress as the Congresswoman said.
I am optimistic that the Senate – because the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform before in a bipartisan way a number of years ago. They have a better sensitivity to the diversity of their states than some of our colleauges on the Republican side have to diversity in their own districts. So, I am optimistic. We are not passing this as a message. We are passing this as a measure to make a difference in peoples’ lives. Again, inside maneuvering can only go so far, outside mobilization gives us hope – that’s the key – as the Congresswoman said.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, you were given this chance to perhaps negotiate on the DACA deal during the last CR fight. Why take it up now when the Senate is going to say this is DOA, basically.
Speaker Pelosi. No, that wasn’t – the DACA recipients did not want us endangering their parents and other immigrants in our country because of what Republicans may have put in such a bill. That was a decision that was made by all of us to go forward with what we had done. No, that wasn’t – that wasn’t even an option for us.
Q: Madam Speaker, since you talked about so many presidents, I wonder how you feel about Bill de Blasio running for president?
Speaker Pelosi. I always say when somebody is serious about running, I’ll be serious about commenting on it. And I think – whether the Mayor is serious about it, but when he makes his announcement that I’ll answer your question.
Mayor de Blasio. Well-handled.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, are there specific GOP Senators you’re planning on targeting to vote for this when it eventually goes to the Senate?
Speaker Pelosi. Not that I would be willing to divulge right now.
We work in a more bipartisan way, more than you would expect. Carolyn Maloney can tell you that. Madam Chair of the Joint Economic Committee in the Congress, another New York Chairperson. Elliot Engel, so many New Yorkers chairing meetings, but we work in a bipartisan way, more than you might expect. And we believe that was is put forth in this legislation is fair – as Jerry said. It’s rejecting cruelty, it’s about fairness.
So, we just think if they are aware of what’s in it and public is aware of what is in the bill that we will have success.
But I wouldn’t give you a list now.
Q: In the event that you get the votes in the Senate and Senator McConnell says, okay, I’ll bring it to the Floor, and it passes, and it gets to President Trump’s desk. He has said before he has great sympathy for the Dreamers, although he’s said different things about TPS people. What gives you confidence that he would be receptive to this bill?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say, the Administration over the past couple of years they have been in office have said different things.
Now, TPS they have said to me at one point, these people have been here a long time. So TPS from Central America, they’ve been here, raised families, have jobs, started a business, served in our military and the rest. We shouldn’t even go near that.
I had more of a fight with them on Haiti and then they put it off eighteen months. But that wasn’t good enough for us, but at least it wasn’t the next day in real time as they had anticipated.
But they understand that TPS is about just wrenching people from a life that they have established here.
The DED, Deferred Enforced Departures, that is like any minute now. That should really be something that is a no-brainer. Can I use that expression?
Mayor de Blasio. Yes, you can.
Speaker Pelosi. Si, se puede.
Mayor de Blasio. Si, se puede.
Speaker Pelosi. And of course, the Dreamers. The President has always spoken in a positive way about the Dreamers because they enjoy such a position in our country. The public supports what they are doing.
We all recognize that TPS is really unfair, and DED is urgent.
So, again, public opinion.
Q: Madam Speaker, the President’s budget contains not a dime to replace the Hudson River tunnels. Will you make that a democratic priority?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m sure our New York delegation have something about that.
But let’s just saying something about the President’s budget. It is – a budget should be a statement of our values, what’s important to us as a nation should be in – how we put into a budget.
Whether it’s infrastructure – and Jerry Nadler has been a champion on not only Judiciary, but also the Transportation Committee on that. And I’m going to yield to him on that.
But, the President’s budget is a budget predicated on a tax scam that gave 83 percent of the advantages to the top one percent, taking us with interest into two trillion dollars, added to our deficit for the children to foot the bill. And now their saying in his budget take two trillion dollars out of Medicare and Medicaid and a couple hundred billion dollars out of food stamps, tens of billions of dollars out of education, it’s a terrible budget.
On that specific item though I’m going to defer to the New Yorkers on the Transportation Committee.
Congressman Nadler. Well thank you, there are two questions I suppose. One is infrastructure generally, the President spoke on the campaign about infrastructure but he’s made no proposals whatsoever about how to finance infrastructure, it’s not in his budget.
I think there’s general agreement in the country that we need to repair our infrastructure and advance it if we’re going to have an economy in the next century we’ve got to do major infrastructure and the President has proposed nothing.
On the specific tunnel, the gateway project it is absolutely essential, not only to New York, but to New Jersey, to the entire northeast corridor, to areas that comprise 20 percent of the economy of the GDP of the United States.
The President’s attitude is basically head in the sand. I participated in a meeting with him a year ago, a little over a year ago with governors of the two states and Members of the delegations and Senators, and it was pointed out, and Secretary Chao acknowledged the state proposals are for a much smaller federal share and a much larger state share than most projects, and the President acknowledged that. I don’t know why he is opposing it at this point, he has not stated any reason. Hopefully that will change, because this is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
If one of those tunnels goes out – and they were both flooded by Hurricane Sandy. If one of those tunnels goes out they will knock out three quarters, three quarters, the cross river, train transportation will go down by 75 percent. That will be murderous to the economy to the Northeast of the United States and we’re just walking into that.
Hopefully, the President and the people around him will reconsider and understand that they don’t want to create that kind of catastrophe and have the arrow of history and the blame going straight at them.
Congresswoman Velázquez. Any other questions?
Q: Speaker Pelosi, there is a March 26th vote to override the President’s veto on his national emergency order, but it seems like there may not be enough votes to achieve that so why keep waiting until March 26th?
Speaker Pelosi. Because right now we’re in district work period. Right away, at the beginning of this week, we established March 26th. We were in pro-forma session. We established March 26th as the date we would vote to override the President’s veto.
Whether we can succeed with the number of votes is not the point. We are establishing the intent of Congress. The President has – we are Article I, the first branch of government – the Legislative Branch. The President has decided to be in defiance of the Constitution, to deface it with his actions.
Both Houses of Congress, in a bipartisan way, sent him a bill that said this is how we’ll address border security. He had to sign the bill to keep government open.
He defied the Constitution with his action. Congress has overridden that. He did veto it, but we’ll – establishing the intent of Congress will help us in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. Twelve Republican Senators said no to the President when he wanted to usurp the Constitution of the United States.
So, we didn’t have it this week because we’re in district work period this week. As soon as we go back on Tuesday, we will bring up that legislation.
Let me just say another thing, I do believe – in the campaign we had a For the People agenda: lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, building – lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way and cleaner government. And we passed H.R.1 to clean up government, to eliminate obstacles to participation, to advance the Voting Rights Act – some of which, much of which, comes through Jerry’s committee.
But all the building infrastructure, the President has said in every conversation I’ve had with him, as recently as St. Patrick’s Day or when we observed St. Patrick’s Day last Thursday that he wants to get that done. So, we have to take him at his word that he does want to get that done. And he also wants to lower the cost of prescription drugs, so those are two areas that are our priorities that he says he wants to do.
So, we shall see, but we want to try to find common ground. This is so important for security – safety. It’s important for quality of life. It’s important for broadband as well as surface transportation, water projects and the rest. It’s important to our country and I hope that the President will honor the commitment that he has made to do infrastructure legislation. We’ll see.
Congresswoman Velázquez. Well, thank you all for being here today. And to all of you, this is a call to action. We need to make phone calls, to tweet, to use social media and everything that we’ve got in order to get this done.
Thank you very much.