Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

March 7, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone.  Good morning.

Thank you for accommodating our little bit of a later schedule this morning.

We’re very excited this week to be having H.R. 1 debated on the Floor.  Tomorrow it will pass and we’ll send it onto the Senate, with all of the mobilization the outside can provide for cleaner government.  This is H.R. 1, a priority for our Freshman Class.  They’ll be on the steps of the Capitol tomorrow to proclaim their support for it.

This is essential to our For The People agenda: lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing condition benefit – lower health care costs. Bigger paychecks by building infrastructure of America in a green, modern way for the 21st Century.

But, the public belief that we can do that depends on our passing legislation to amplify the voices of the American people and reduce the voice of dark, special interest money that has influenced decisions in Congress before.

It is also, H.R. 1, about ending voter suppression.  What are some people afraid of when people have a right to vote?  It contains John Lewis’s language – fighting voter suppression.  It also contains a path to H.R. 4, which is to restore the Voting Rights Act to its fullest efficacy, as it was pushed back by the Supreme Court.

And it also is a way to empower small donors over big donors, so that the public, again, knows that everyone’s voice is as important as anyone else’s voice.

Again, it was a confidence – it is about confidence.  It is about ending skepticism.

I said in Texas a couple days ago in such a town meeting, on the subject of H.R. 1 and how it related to voter suppression, that when we talk about voter suppression, we largely talk about reducing the hours that polling is available, the number of polling places, the number of days.  It is about time and location, et cetera, in certain areas where polling places are closed.

But, one of the big suppressors of the vote is the suffocation of the airways by big, dark money, misleading the public – not telling the truth about what is at stake in the election.  And, the public throws up their hands and then just decides not to vote.  So, this is about honoring our democracy.

We said we were going to do it as we have proceeded, building on what we talked about last week.  The committees continue to have – introduce bills, have hearings on bills to lower the cost of prescription drugs and protect the Affordable Care Act, continue to have hearings on how we proceed on infrastructure, and H.R. 1 will be on the Floor today.

We also said we were going to pass legislation to advance commonsense gun violence prevention, and we did last week with H.R. 8.  Next week, we’ll be launching our Equality Act to end discrimination for the LGBTQ community, and we will also be launching our initiative to protect the Dreamers and the Temporary Protected Status persons in our country.

One more bill before the end of the month will be – well, two more.  One will be equal pay for equal work, which comes back to our original lower – increase paycheck – lower health care costs and increased paychecks.  And we will be on a path to pass, once again, the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

So, we said these things during the campaign, and we are getting it done, and we are telling the public about the paths that we are on to get them turned into law to make a difference in the lives of the American people.

I was proud to send to the Senate and, therefore, to the President, the Land and Water Conservation bill, named for John Dingell, the other day.

So, while so much else is swirling around here in terms of investigations, the Mueller investigation, the fundamental responsibility of the Congress to have oversight over the executive branch and other items, we are doing our housekeeping as we keep proceeding with legislation for the good of the American people.

I was particularly happy this week that we were joined by four Senators who had been former Members of the House, Senator – Leader Chuck Schumer, Maria Cantwell, Ron Wyden and Ed Markey.  They joined us to launch our net neutrality legislation led by Mike Doyle, Chair of the Technology Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, along with other Members of the committee, including Chairman Pallone.  Anna Eshoo is the godmother of that legislation.  She, too, joined us.  So, we’re busy with our legislative work, despite what we might read in the press.

Any questions?

* * *

Q:  Madam Speaker, do you think that Ilhan Omar understands why her comments were problematic, and what happens if this happens again? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, first of all, thank you for the question.  I don’t think that the Congresswoman perhaps appreciates the full weight of how it was heard by other people, although I don’t believe it was intended in any anti-Semitic way, but the fact is, if that’s how it was interpreted, we have to remove all doubt, as we have done over and over again.  We are working now on a resolution that you’ll see when we bring it to the Floor that will, again, speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, anti-white supremacy and all the forms that it takes, that our country has no place for this.  But on anti-Semitism, we voted a resolution on that just recently.

When I was – a couple weeks – a week and a half ago or so at the Munich conference and then in Brussels for the NATO meetings, at every meeting, at every level, at the highest levels, our delegation impressed upon our European allies the importance of fighting anti-Semitism in our country.  This is well before the Ilhan [Omar] statement that emerged this weekend.

But when it did, it was important for me to speak to the Member first before we would proceed.  She was in Africa.  After I spoke to her, Members had different tacks they wanted to take, some their individual statements, some thinking we should have a resolution.  I thought the resolution should enlarge the issue to anti-Semitism, anti-Islamophobia, et cetera, anti-white supremacist, and that it should not mention her name.  And that’s what we’re working on, something that is one resolution, addressing these forms of hatred, not mentioning her name – because it is not about her; it is about these forms of hatred.

Q:  She hasn’t apologized.  Does she need to apologize? 

Speaker Pelosi.  She may need to explain that she did not – it is up to her to explain, but I do not believe that she understood the full weight of the words.  As I said, when you’re a Congressmember – when you’re an advocate out there, as I was, so I appreciate all the enthusiasm that comes into – I told you that before, that was me pushing a stroller and carrying those signs.

So, I understand how advocates come in with their enthusiasms, but when you cross that threshold into Congress, your words weigh much more than when you’re shouting it at somebody outside.  And I feel confident that her words were not based on any anti-Semitic attitude, but that she didn’t have a full appreciation of how they landed on other people where these words have a history and a cultural impact that might have been unknown to her.

Q:  Madam Speaker, thank you, and to that end –    

Speaker Pelosi.  Did I call on him?  Did you hear me call on him?

Q:  You sure looked at me.  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  Does that count?  Okay.  Go ahead.

Q:  But thank you.  There was concern about Motions to Recommit that your side has had, and I know how important H.R. 1 is to your side, and that if you didn’t address this right away, that that could be the Motion to Recommit and try to undercut what happened with the firearms bill last week and so on and so forth.  So, was that part of the decision to go ahead at this point –

Speaker Pelosi.  No.

Q:  And get this done?  Explain why.

Speaker Pelosi.  No, no.  The Republicans will never fail to have their xenophobic Motions to Recommit as they did last week.  That doesn’t matter whether we have a resolution or not.  So, this is nothing to do with that.

This has to do with every – I see everything as an opportunity.  This is an opportunity, once again, to declare the strongest possible opposition to anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim statements, anti-white supremacist attitudes.  The President may think there are good people on both sides.  We don’t share that view.  So, it has nothing to do with that.

However, I do grant you that the Republicans will try to put these kinds of statements in their Motions to Recommit, but that’s housekeeping.  That’s not policy.

Q:  Madam Speaker –     

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir.

Q:  Obviously, Leader McConnell is very opposed to H.R. 1.  Yesterday, he said:  ‘I believe we can actually win elections against people who vote for this.’  Do you think H.R. 1 puts any pressure on some of your Members in purple districts?

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  No.  In fact, many Members in the purple districts are the ones who are the strongest proponents for H.R. 1, so I appreciate your question.

H.R. 1 – who is – what the Senator is saying – and with all due respect in the world for his leadership role, he has also said the problem is not that there’s too much money in politics, Mitch McConnell said, it is that there’s not enough money in politics – where we vehemently, completely, thoroughly disagree.

But it is about money in politics and how that destroys the confidence people have in the political process, but also it is about voter suppression.  And so, whatever they say, what they are voting when they say they’re against H.R. 1, they are against removing obstacles of participation to voting in our country.

How do you explain that to our Founders?  ‘I did everything in my power, Founders, to make sure that people did not have access to the polling place, those who are eligible to vote and to be sure that they could vote and that their vote would be counted as cast.’

I don’t know if you were here when I announced my Too Hot to Handle Club.  I think it was last week.  You just have to make some of these issues too hot to handle in the public.  The shutdown of government was too hot to handle.  When we, when we passed the Violence Against Women Act, which is coming up again, we made it too hot to handle because the Republicans would not bring it up in the House.

So, along the way, the public weighing in on this, overwhelmingly the public supports removing voter suppression, lowering the role of big, dark, special interest money in politics, and again respecting the rights of those who are eligible to vote and have it be counted as cast.

Q:  Madam Speaker, the House launched investigations on Trump.  What kind of evidence does the House right now have on Trump to launch all these investigations on him?  And couldn’t this possibly be an overreach –     

Speaker Pelosi.  No.

Q:  And essentially –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, this is our constitutional responsibility, to have oversight over the Executive branch, and the evidence that they will have is what they will gather doing the oversight, bringing truth to the American people.  I salute the Committee for the action that they have taken.  If we were not to exercise oversight over the Executive branch, we would be delinquent in our duties.

 Q:  Madam Speaker, we are currently operating under extraordinary measures because we reached the deadline for the debt limit.  What’s the current plan to either raise or extend the debt limit?  And are those conversations –     

Speaker Pelosi.  I think we have a few more days for that, don’t we?

 Q:  We are working under extraordinary measures right now.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, according to the Secretary of the Treasury, those extraordinary measures will go until September or October.  Let us hope that, long before that, we will have lifted the debt limit.

 Q:  Does that mean it is not an urgent problem? 

Speaker Pelosi.  It doesn’t mean it isn’t urgent; it just means that we have to address it.  Everything is urgent here, right?  Everything is urgent, but everything is also an opportunity, an opportunity to have a giant civics lesson for America as to what the role is of government, of each of the branches of government, and the extraordinary nature of the President usurping the constitutional powers of the Legislative branch, Article I, immediately following the Preamble.

And, that’s why we were so pleased that we were able to succeed in passing that legislation – oh, did I mention that – under the leadership of Joaquin Castro, and now it is in the Senate where the Senators are asking the President to withdraw extraordinary usurpation of the Constitution of the United States.  Thank you.

 Q:  Madam Speaker, can you address the dangers of policing speech?  You have spoken about this previously this year when one of your Members used an expletive to describe the President.

 Speaker Pelosi.  I’m sorry.  I don’t understand your question.

 Q:  Earlier this year, when one of your Members used an expletive to describe the President, you said you weren’t going to be policing speech.

 Speaker Pelosi.  That’s right. I stick with that – yeah.

 Q:  I was wondered if you could talk about the wisdom, or the dangers, of being – of policing the speech of your Members.

 Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we’re not policing the speech of our Members.  We are condemning anti-Semitism, [Islamophobia], and we are condemning white supremacy.  So that is what we are doing.  Anybody who engages in that kind of speech, we will condemn.

People using expletives – the President uses expletives.  Do we want to police his language?

I’m more concerned about what he does to hurt children at the border, to degrade the air that our children breathe and the rest.  I’m more concerned about his policies than his personality or his language, but nonetheless, if we are cleaning up everybody’s language, we can start in the White House.

Thank you.