Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference with Congressman Doggett on H.R. 1, For The People Act
March 5, 2019
Austin – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congressman Lloyd Doggett and Texas advocates for a press conference on H.R. 1, the For The People Act: bold, transformative legislation to put the power back in the hands of the people and restore the people’s faith that government works for the public interest, not the special interests. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you all very much. Thank you Lloyd Doggett –
Thank you all. Thank you Lloyd Doggett for your kind words of introduction, for the invitation to be here today, for your extraordinary leadership in the Congress of the United States.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing Lloyd in action when he was in the State Senate, in the Supreme Court here and, now, up close and personal with him and Libby in Washington, D.C. as a true team. And, it’s great that Clara is here, his granddaughter. I remember when she was born. I thank you for the continued interest of your family in public service as well as Ella, whom I met last night.
It’s about the future. It’s all about the future.
Lloyd has been a champion on so many issues and I’ll mention them as we go along, but I thank you for sending him to the Congress of the United States. He is a champion for the people.
And, I’m honored to be here with Julieta [Garibay] and Mimi [Marziani] – weren’t they magnificent in their presentation?
Justin [Nelson], thank you for your words and for your courage to run in a situation that is – we cannot – there is one word that describes what Julieta was talking about, what Mimi was talking, what Lloyd is all about, and that is respect. Respect for every person. Respect for the Constitution of the United States.
In this campaign, we had an agenda For the People – lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increase paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way and one – H.R. 1, For the People. Those are all connected. The For the People [Act] is essential to the other two, so that the public has the confidence that we will be able to act without the influence of big, dark money and distortions in the elections caused by the voter suppression that is out there.
As Mr. Doggett, as Congressman Doggett, Mr. Chairman now of the [Health] Subcommittee in the Ways and Means Committee.
As said, there was lots of sacrifice that went into getting voting rights. And, as Justin said, it’s about a law that was passed by a Texas President – Lyndon Johnson.
And, part of H.R. 1, is to pass again – to lay the foundation to pass the Voting Rights Act, strengthened, after the actions of the Supreme Court which significantly weakened it. So, H.R. 1 is of itself important, but the foundation that it lays – the constitutional basis and hearings and the rest on how we go forward.
But, this is part of something that we have to address: the cynicism of the American people. Voter suppression on the part of Republicans is well known and well-documented in our country. And thank you for documenting it here. It must stop.
But, one of the big suppressors of the vote is dark special interest money suffocating the airwaves with a message that is not true, but turns people off because of the confusion it creates. And, that’s why H.R. 1 is important as well: to end voter suppression, to lay the foundation to pass H.R. 4 – which is the Voting Rights Act, the restoration of the Voting Rights [Advancement] Act – but also to empower small donors by matching grants and the rest along the way.
But I also, I asked them to bring me this: automatic voter registration; promotes online registration; same-day voter registration; re-affirms commitment to restoring Voting Rights Act; prohibits voter roll purges; clarifies to states that failure to vote is not grounds for removing registered voters from the rolls as was done in Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere; democracy restoration – restoring voting rights, as I mentioned, paper ballot. It goes on.
But, here’s the thing – this is within the context of the President having what I view as an unconstitutional declaration that – thank you Joaquin Castro of Texas, has put forward the legislation that overturns that.
Defying the Constitution – the President of the United States. We take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, which contains a separation of powers in there – checks and balances, co-equal branches of government. And the President is defying that and the Congress is saying no. And the Senate will say no, too.
We will fight him in Congress, in the courts and in the court of public opinion on that subject – that’s our oath of office.
But also, this Administration is trying to jeopardize who we are as a nation by making citizenship a question on the Census rolls. We cannot let that stand. So this is all part of a whole picture you see, of undermining the Constitution of the United States, which says every ten years there will be a Census of the people. It doesn’t say registered voters or anything like that. And Congress has a role in how that happens and we intend – we are asserting our role in that regard.
But, see all of this in the context. I say to them sometimes, ‘When you leave this Earth and go to heaven and meet our Founders, are you going to say to them “I did everything in my power to suppress the vote” because that is what you are doing. That is what you are doing.’ Affecting by the census what happens in redistricting and reapportionment through the country, but not only that – delivery of service.
So, when you hear Julieta talk about the fact that she is a victim of the actions taken by the Secretary of State and so many other people as well, well, that only shows, more importantly, the need for H.R. 1.
And I want to thank our friends in labor who are here, Indivisible, who are, so many people who helped us win this election. Not to get partisan in it, but to win the election to have leverage against these unconstitutional actions that are being taken by some in power in this state and certainly nationally, as well.
So, I thank all of you for your patriotism because this is, this is respect for our Constitution; respect for people who are here; and, respect for the fact that we are a nation that is so diverse and beautiful and not to fear that, but to embrace that. And that is, what I guess it must be – their fear – that is saying more than a commitment to what our Founding Fathers intended, but our Constitution requires, what the Voting Rights Act spelled out, what the American people expect and deserve.
You want us to be – hmm, handmaidens has different meanings now than it used to be –
Handmaidens to a special interest. So again, this is about instilling the confidence of the American people in the political process, in what happens in government, that it is the peoples’ interest that are being served, not dark special interests of that dark special interest money that is coming in.
So, it is pretty exciting. It is a moment. The actions taken here in Texas are crossing a threshold of saying ‘no’ – saying ‘no’ to what is happening here, but saying ‘yes’ to what the vision was of our Founders of a democracy.
So again, thank you for your patriotism.
Now, let me just talk about Lloyd for a second.
Congressman Doggett. Take your time.
Speaker Pelosi. Julieta, thank you for your courage because it takes courage to do what you are doing.
Next week – I talked about the three things: lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs – who is our champion in the Congress on that subject? Lloyd Doggett. Lloyd Doggett.
Requiring the President to reveal his taxes – not only him, but future candidates as well – Lloyd Doggett. Thank you Lloyd Doggett for that.
For these and so many other reasons, he is respected by our colleagues. His judgement is highly regarded and his leadership highly respected. I know you know that here. I just want you to know the esteem in which he is held in the Congress of the United States. Thank you for sending Lloyd Doggett to Congress.
I mention about good-paying jobs and the rest, but also what we said during the campaign is we are going to pass legislation to protect our Dreamers and including in that Temporary Protected Status for people who are here. We will be launching that next week.
We said in the campaign we are going to pass commonsense background check legislation, which will save – an initiative in gun safety that will save the most lives – and we did that in the House of Representatives as well.
We said we were going to pass the Equality Act to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community which is, again, part of respect for everyone in our country and we will be rolling that out.
And when we talk about bigger paychecks, we are going to have equal pay for equal work. We’ve already rolled it out. We will pass the bill in a few weeks’ time.
By the time we are there, 100 days, we will have had a record number of legislative accomplishments.
Now, to get it all into law requires us to make some of these issues too hot to handle in the public domain. So friends in labor, grassroots, Indivisible, all the groups had 10,000 events to protect the Affordable Care Act.
So, the grassroots knows its power, weighs in, shows up: press events, district office events, press conferences and the rest along the way to say, ‘We know what’s happening. We know what is in our interest. We want everyone in Congress to know that we see what the vote is.’
And, we expect H.R. 1 will pass in the Senate, we expect gun safety to pass in the Senate. The Equality Act protecting our Dreamers and the rest. Because the public – the public is there on these issues.
But, again, coming back to: our voice is our vote, our vote is our voice. Back and forth. This is – protecting the vote is fundamental to protecting our democracy.
So, all the good things that we want to happen, that there is public support for – the President – Mr. Doggett is tired of hearing me say this. Mr. Lincoln said it so well, ‘Public sentiment is everything, with it you can accomplish almost anything. Without it, almost nothing.’ But we want public sentiment to be heard at the ballot box and in terms of what is happening is in Congress. That is why we promise an open and transparent government.
Since we talked about immigration a bit, I just want to say this one more thing. In the campaign, the candidate that I – the President I quoted the most was Ronald Reagan. That surprises you maybe. But Ronald Reagan said this, ‘This is the last speech I will make as President of the United States and I have a message I want to communicate to the country I love.’ He went on to talk about the Statue of Liberty and what it means to the world, that beacon of hope, what it means to people who have come here and seen that statue welcoming them. He said, ‘our ancestors, our grandparents, our parents.’
We, in California, see people coming from a different direction, but the same welcome. You see them coming, many from the south – from the southern border, but it should be the same welcome.
He went on to say though, after talking about the Statue of Liberty, ‘The vital force of America’s preeminence in the world is every new generation of immigrants that come to our country and when America fails to recognize that as our vital force, America will fail to be preeminent in the world.’
So, when we talk about newcomers, we have to recognize the constant reinvigoration of America that they are, that we all have been, our families. Unless you are blessed to be Native American, which is a blessing in itself, which we respect. But that constant reinvigoration of hope, determination, optimism, courage to make the future better for the next generation – those are American traits – and these newcomers make America more American. And we want them, when they come here, to be fully part of our system and that means not suppressing the vote of our newcomers to America.
So, thank you Julieta, for your courage. Thank you, Mimi, for your strength in taking this to the courts and to the public on the subject.
I thank all of you for your interest in this. Again, whether it is protecting our newcomers, protecting the right to vote, fighting them on the Census, overturning the President’s undermining of the Constitution – this is all our patriotic duty. So, thank all of you for your patriotism and thank you, Lloyd Doggett, for putting this together.
Congressman Doggett. In a few minutes, the Speaker and I will be driving down to the airport and getting on that Southwest direct flight to Washington and tonight we will be voting on the Floor of the Congress. But, we do want to take some questions from the press and visit for a few minutes.
So many of you have made such a difference. I see Glen Maxey who for years has worked to overcome these obstacles here in Texas. Thank you, Glen.
And Bruce Elfant – no one has done more to get people registered in this county than Bruce.
He says – he says that this For the People Act will make his job, and that of similarly situated people across our 254 counties, so much more effective. And he also said recognizing him would get a free T-shirt to encourage that. So, Bruce, if you head up this way, we’re going start answering questions.
Q: Thank you for the presentation. Just two quick questions for the Speaker.
First is, you talked a lot about Texas, but looking out at the landscape of the country, I was wondering why you think this bill is important? Secondly, you talked about all of the legislative accomplishments coming out of the House, but you know they’re going through a buzzsaw in the Senate and the President. I was wondering if you could talk about you approach and your attitude about those sorts of things, about how you remain optimistic.
Speaker Pelosi. Let me be clear because I don’t think we should be deterred by what somebody might think will happen in the Senate. You never know.
People said when we passed Joaquin Castro’s resolution to overturn the President’s ill-founded, ill-advised, unconstitutional emergency declaration – that ‘Oh, it’s not going to pass the Senate’ – and it will.
And again public sentiment, I think, has weighed in there and public sentiment will weigh in in gun violence prevention. Up until now all we had – right Lloyd? All we had was a moment of silence, but no action. And here we are in a place with deeds, not words. The gospel of James: deeds, not words.
So, we are acting. This is the first time we’ve had action in a long time, and we believe that public sentiment will weigh in there.
So, in terms of our agenda, we believe it is a For The People agenda that has consensus in our country. And we are unifiers. We chose those issues – the President says yes, he wants to lower the cost of prescription drugs. The President says yes, he wants to protect the pre-existing condition. The President says yes, he wants to build the infrastructure of America. And we want to work in bipartisan way with him to do just that.
Where we may have our differences are on H.R. 1. I mean H.R. 1, and that is an important, again, commitment to the Constitution of the United States, to the respect for everyone in our country and that is a fight we will make, and continue to make until it is the law of the land.
And we believe that the public wants to see that confidence in government restored rather than cynicism of the voter suppression. John Lewis, as was mentioned by Lloyd Doggett, these voter suppression pieces in the bill, ending vote suppression, are part of John Lewis’s legislation. Terri Sewell, from Alabama, has the voting rights piece of it.
So, we will not be deterred by what predictions some may have. We will be encouraged by the will of the people.
In terms of why we’re doing this, well again, this is for the whole country. Texas points out how vitally important this is and is the evidence of the need for this legislation. Just the very actions of Secretary of State point out the brazenness of what some will do to suppress the vote, and the actions of others here.
But we are shining a bright light all over the country, whether it was deterring the voting rights of Native Americans in North Dakota, whether it was suppression of the vote in Georgia, was what they did in Kansas to say you have to drive miles and miles to vote and to register to vote. How could that possibly be ok? But, it seemed ok to them because they were trying to impact the results of the election.
And we’re saying, don’t be afraid of the people. Make your case to the people.
Congressman Doggett. Phil Prazan from KXAN.
Q: Thanks for your time Madam Speaker. Can you talk a little bit about why the independent commissions for redistricting? Is it just a trust issue, you don’t trust the states to do it?
Speaker Pelosi. No it’s not about trust. It’s about the American people saying we want the people to choose our politicians. We don’t want our politicians to choose the people that will vote for them.
No one should be afraid of an objective redistricting. Let the chips fall where they may, so that the public’s confidence is in the results of that redistricting.
I think the Republicans were surprised in California when they supported a Commission that turned out to be so in favor of the Democrats because it was an objective redistricting.
But, whatever it is, we’re saying, ‘We’ll take our chances on it. Whatever it is, whether it favors Democrats or Republicans. Whatever it is, if it’s objective, then that’s how we should go forward.’
Congressman Doggett. Judy Maggio from KLRU
Q: Speaker Pelosi, I’m wondering if there is a possibility that you would break up H.R. 1 into smaller bills that might have better chance of passage once they hit the Senate –
Speaker Pelosi. No, we’re going to pass this bill this week in the Congress of the United States intact.
How the Senate acts upon it, we’ll see. You know, they may decide we’re going to do this, this, and this – and not certain parts of it – and then we would go to conference and have that debate in the public view.
Are they concerned about empowering small donors? Are they concerned about making, about having a period of time for early voting guaranteed in the practice of elections? Are they afraid of paper ballots, which are the proof of how an election turns out?
What are they afraid of? Here’s the list of things: Are they afraid of restoring the Voting Rights Act? Are they afraid of prohibiting voter roll purges? Are they afraid of same day registration? What are they afraid of? Well, we’ll see. But we’re not afraid of the voices of the people and, again, let the chips fall where they may. Give the people the vote, which is their voice.
So, the Senate will either ignore it or take up pieces of it, but we are not breaking it up because these things all have integrity.
Having fifteen days – you know what they are doing around the country? They are suppressing the amount of days for early voting. They are suppressing the number of polling places where people can go. They are suppressing the hours and the rest. And do you know where they are doing it? The minority districts and the rest. So, you have to give them credit. They are brazen and they are clear. And we will address that as we go forward.
And, again, the public wants an honest count. We want the people to know when their vote is counted that they have – if they are eligible to vote, they are able to register and that they are registered to vote without obstacles at the polling place and that their vote will be counted as cast. As cast.
Congressman Doggett. In this struggle to preserve to our democracy, again and again, we have seen the value of a free press and how important that is in exposing the injustices. And, on this issue about the purge of the rolls, the person who had the first story out there was Alexa from the Texas Tribune. I know you have a question, but we salute you for doing that.
Q: Madam Speaker, you talked about the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in Texas that had a large impact when you lost pre-clearance. In light of this voter rolls debacle, do you think states like Texas should be placed under federal oversight?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, as you may know – and thank you for your putting forth that story – we had our first meeting of the, we re-instituted the [Elections] Subcommittee of House Administration, which oversees this in the Congress of the United States.
And Marcia Fudge of Ohio is the Chair of that. The first meeting that was held a few weeks ago of that subcommittee was in Brownsville, Texas.
Our distinguished Whip, Mr. Clyburn was there. Many Members of Congress participated, certainly from Texas and from that area, as well as down in the border area. And this was important that this be the first outside-of-Washington, D.C.-hearing to lay the foundation for H.R. 1 and why it is needed. But also, to lay the constitutional foundation for the Voting Rights Act.
So, let’s see what the evidence is. One of the reasons that H.R. 4 has split off from H.R. 1, even though it’s part of it, is that we have to lay the constitutional basis. So that when they try to take us to court, again, it is iron clad.
We thought that the Voting Rights Act was iron clad when we passed it in 2006, it became law in 2007. When we passed it, it was bipartisan. There were 300 votes in the House – almost 400 votes in the House, unanimous in the Senate. We walked down the steps of the Capitol, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, together.
Just a few years later, the courts said, ‘Your criteria is obsolete.’ It was only a few years later that this court decision came down. And, ‘You don’t have a strong constitutional foundation for Title 4 of the Bill.’ It’s just Title 4 of the Bill. This may be more than you want to know on the subject, but Title 4.
So, this time we’re having those hearings in those places where we think that the case and the constitutional case needs to be made. That’s why we started in Texas. So, yes. But we’ll see though. Again, it’s not my saying it should be certified in that regard.
Let me see – I don’t have it right here, but the –
Congressman Doggett. As you find it, why don’t I recognize one last question from NPR?
Speaker Pelosi. Voting Rights Act.
Congressman Doggett. Katie –
Q: It seems like going into 2020, replacing aging voting machines, in places like Texas, is going to be an issue regardless of whether this passes. In Travis County, we’re actually funding it ourselves. Would you urge states and local governments to do that on their own regardless, ahead of 2020, considering election security –
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. I’ll get back to you. I just wanted to read the purpose of section, the summary: The Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act by developing a process to determine which states and localities with a recent history of voting rights violations over the last 25 years must preclear elections changes with the Department of Justice.
And the order – not make a determination without gaining the evidence, these hearings are taking place. So, I just wanted to say it’s not for me to say, it’s for the evidence to indicate.
In terms of what you talked about, the voting rights machines and all the rest of that, that is a subject of concern around the country because many of the – some of the people have these voting machines believe that the information gathered by voting is proprietary with them and they can’t share it with us. Can you believe that?
And a high percentage – you know this better than all of us – a high percentage of that is owned by just a couple, two or three, firms. What this bill does, H.R. 1, also says that – it authors: ‘the Election Assistance Commission requires states work with the Election Assistance Commission to determine whether current voting systems will meet the demands of the 2020 elections and requires the Election Assistance Commission to carry out an assessment of security and effectiveness of the IT systems.’
It also – what we tried to do in this last election was to allocate resources to protect the integrity of the voting systems in the states. And not to sound partisan, but in the House and in the Senate the Republicans rejected the appropriation to give money to the states to protect the systems. You wonder why. You see this – they don’t want to protect the system.
We had evidence by our intelligence community of disruption of our elections by the Russians. So, you would think they would welcome resources to protect our system. Why not? You see what they are doing with the Census. You see what the President is doing – overreaching in terms of the Constitution of the United States. And you see what he’s saying about the press? Enemy of the people. The press. That’s a First Amendment right in the Constitution of the Bill of Rights. Freedom of Press, speech, assembly.
So, understand that they’re afraid of something. They are afraid of an honest vote. They are afraid of a full vote. They are afraid of the press. They are afraid of a count in our country. They are afraid of co-equal branches of government. This is a moment.
As Elijah Cummings – and wasn’t that committee great last week? Elijah Cummings said, ‘This is our destiny. We have to protect our democracy.’ And we will, again, whether it’s aging machines or machines owned by people who think the voting information is not ours but is theirs. No. That’s just not right.
So, we have important work to do, but we’re trying to do it in a very unifying way. A unifying way that right-thinking people, Republicans and Democrats in our country care about our Constitution, care about our country. And, we want to enlist them in upholding our oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Whether it’s with voting machines, whether it’s freedom of the press – the full array of issues that we talked about here this morning.
Congressman Doggett. Thank you very much. I can almost hear that Southwest agent saying, ‘get in line.’
The Speaker will have to leave pretty quickly. I will just say, as she’s referred to these specifics. Keep in mind that this is a 600 page bill. And I believe that, under her leadership, this week it will be approved to enhance our democracy and strengthen the opportunity for more people to hold power and hold elected officials accountable.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Thank you, Julieta. Thank you, Mimi and I thank all of you.