Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference at Democratic Issues Conference
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to congratulate you, and Vice-Chair Katherine Clark for bringing us together in a very meaningful way. This is a series of workshops of us coming together and in some ways, even though it was originally scheduled in the beginning of the year, I think it has an added benefit, as we observe the 100 days. Because we can take great pride in what has happened in the last 100 [days], but also how we go forward. Listen to our Members.
Let’s just talk about who our Members are. I take such pride. You mentioned all of the Caucuses that are represented. And within each one of them are a large number of our freshmen who are here as well. And in this class, we have over 60 Members who are freshmen. Nothing compares to it but the Watergate class in 1974. Read about it in the history books. Some of you remember it from our youth, some from U.S. history.
And that class, it was transformative, it was large, it was historic. Not one of them had a gavel in the first year of that Congress, of those Watergate babies. In this class, 18 freshmen have gavels, are subcommittee chairs. 10 of them are women.
We have 7 women chairs of full committees, 39 women with gavels, chairs of subcommittees and maybe even more. And so it is pretty exciting.
This Caucus, which is 60 percent or more women, people of color, LGBTQ come together. I say to them, our diversity is our strength, our unity is our power. And that unity is how we’re building consensus around issues here.
One is, which the distinguished Chairman Jeffries – again thank you – talked about is our For The People agenda, which he helped form with David Cicilline and our distinguished Chair of the DCCC, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.
For The People Agenda: lower health care costs by lowering cost of prescription drugs and saving the pre-existing condition benefit, among others. Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure in America in a green way, and cleaner government.
That was our agenda and that’s what we’re putting forth. I want to focus so much on health care because that goes right to the kitchen table of financial security of America’s working families. It’s about their health, it’s also about their financial health.
We will be focusing on that. We all agree whatever our different approaches are, we all agree our goal is to have health care – affordable, accessible, ethical, quality health care for all Americans.
Let’s see how we get to that.
One way to get to that is to reduce the role of money in politics and H.R. 1 is that route. And I think if there’s any similar change from this 100 days that we are so proud of the passage, almost immediately, of H.R. 1 and continuing with that drumbeat across America. The people’s voices, the voices of the people are as important as any voice and we’ll reduce the role of big, dark, special interest money in politics.
The people’s interests, not the special interests, will be served. And that has an impact both on how people view what’s happening in Washington and on what the results are in Washington as well.
With that, I’m pleased to be here with the leadership of the House and House Democrats, and pleased to yield in this great state of Maryland, to Leader of the Congress – oh no! We’re in Virginia.
I should know because the President is talking about George Washington.
Oh my God.
If you have any questions about that, I’ll be pleased to answer them later.
But from the great state of Maryland, of the south Potomac, our distinguished Leader, Mr. Hoyer.
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Congressman Jeffries. Well, thank you.
We have a few moments for questions before we start the Issues Conference at 5. Any questions?
Q: I wanted to ask you about the kind of abrupt dismissal of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and whether or not Democrats will ask for her to testify before Congress on the border issues that you had been concerned about, but also the nature of her dismissal?
Congressman Jeffries. Well, I think that will be a decision that will be made collectively and of course, led by Chairman Bennie Thompson of the Homeland Security Committee and Chairman Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee.
The fact that the Administration has a difficult time retaining individuals or attracting qualified individuals is a problem for the Republic because it doesn’t seem as though it is a fully functional Executive branch. That has real implications for the American people.
Q: Two questions. Jumping off of that, DHS just released a statement 10 minutes ago saying that the acting Director of ICE has resigned. A lot of resignations, a lot of changes in DHS in the past couple days. Could I get a quote from you to respond to that? How concerned are you about these changes and detail on that?
Congressman Jeffries. I’m going to yield to the Speaker.
But the Administration obviously continues to be in meltdown mode.
Speaker Pelosi. I said two years ago – more than two years ago, when the Administration first came in, if you want to work in the Trump Administration, know your blood type because this is a very dangerous place to be. You’ll be thrown under the bus sooner or later.
It’s really sad because the Secretary of Homeland Security, I had an appointment to speak with her at what would be 4 o’clock in the east – 5 o’clock in the east and 2 o’clock in California on Monday and at 1 o’clock, she didn’t realize that she wasn’t going to be available for the call at 2 o’clock.
It came as a surprise to her that she was leaving that office.
Now, let me just say, I have no – I’m no fan of the policies she implemented. What you see happening there is that the succession is the Deputy will become the Secretary and so they have to replace everyone so that the President can get his new team in there.
What is happening on our border is something that is so contrary to the values of our country. So, undermining of our commitment to family values and this Administration is just in a downward spiral of indecency.
Now, the President is saying he is the decider on how that goes. Well, we’ve all known that. This is his agenda, we have to have comprehensive immigration reform and that is one of the answers that we’re capable of it, in a bipartisan way.
The Senate did it a few years ago, the House wouldn’t bring it up.
The President put forth his criteria. He had the Senate Republicans and Democrats came together, proposed something to him and then he walked away from it.
So, we just have to just restore order. Order on the border. Order in the White House so that we can address who we are as a nation.
Ronald Reagan, ‘If you close the door to newcomers, you undermine who we are and our preeminence in the world.’
I can get my phone and read you the whole statement if you wish.
But it is – let me just back up on this in terms of the bigger picture of why we’re here.
I sat down because I am so inspired by our leaders. To listen to the depth of their values, the extent of their knowledge, the strategic nature of their thinking. It always inspires me to listen to them and to listen to our colleagues as well.
On a political note, I want to thank our distinguished Mr. Ben Ray Lujan, our former Chair because when we won that election – actually, we could have won it with women alone. We needed 23 seats and we got more than that. 23 that we had in the districts were that we had won by women. 35, but 23 in the districts that mattered.
And now, Cheri Bustos will increase – enable our tribe to increase as we go forward.
But, it was a very important statement because it was for the people.
So, again, who is there? It all comes from the White House. It’s all about the President, but we deserve better than that. Both in the – I’m going to add to the distinguished Chairmen, Mr. Nadler and Mr. Bennie Thompson, also our Appropriator, Lucille Roybal-Allard, who’s been very active on the issue as well.
And while we’re on the subject of the Judiciary Committee, let me just say how very, very dismaying and disappointing that the chief law enforcement office of our country is going off the rails yesterday and today. He is the Attorney General of the United States of America, not the Attorney General of Donald Trump.
So, again, as was said by our other colleagues in terms of – Mr. Jeffries, our Mr. Chairman said earlier, the way people are leaving and the rest, it’s very dismaying. They are leaving in disgrace or with dismay, but it is all damaging to our country.
Congressman Jeffries. I’m going to yield to Steny but go ahead.
Q: In terms of just what we’re looking at over the next couple of days, I noticed you didn’t mention having any specific breakouts or any sort of sessions related to the ongoing investigations into the Trump Administration. Why is that? You guys said you plan to focus on issues that are most important to every day Americans. Do you feel that is not as important to most Americans? Is there a reason we’re not seeing that on the schedule?
Congressman Jeffries. Well, we’re a separate and co-equal branch of government. We have oversight responsibility to serve as a check-and-balance on an out-of-control Executive branch and we take that constitutional responsibility seriously.
But we didn’t run on impeachment, we didn’t run on obstruction of justice, we didn’t run on scandal or the chaos, crisis and confusion that comes out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue every day.
We ran on health care. We ran on infrastructure. We ran on bringing our democracy to life. Those are the promises we made to the American people. Those are the promises we’re executing on.
Leader Hoyer. No, I’m fine.
Q: The Majority Leader in the Senate this week said that he had started discussions with the Speaker about spending levels? How confident are you that you will be able to avoid a government shut down and what is the tenor of the talks so far?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, from the standpoint of the Congress of the United States, we will be able to avoid a shutdown. I think the President, once or twice burned – might be once learned that he probably doesn’t want to go to that place again.
But Mr. Hoyer, Mr. Clyburn, Ms. Bustos, Ms. Katherine Clark. We’re all Appropriators. I’ve said it over and over again. Left to their own devices the Appropriators can come to their conclusion without poison pills that have nothing to do with the appropriation of funds. They know the numbers, as Mr. Hoyer said, they know the numbers, they know that competition for funds and they have respect for each other as they go forward.
That’s what they were able to do to send a bill to the President to open up government.
It was very clear about order on the border. We gave him some resources and said this is how we want to protect the border, so securing our borders – never a question. Always important to us.
Bipartisan, bicameral legislation sent to the President which he signed. Now, Mitch McConnell is also an Appropriator and we’ve all worked with him over the years.
As Mr. Hoyer said, and he probably will again, we have our numbers, we will negotiate and we will negotiate in a way that, I think, will make our Members very proud because we will have again non-defense domestic figures that will enable us to do great things for the American people, as we protect and defend. But also recognizing that the strength of our country is in the health and education of the American people as well.
Leader Hoyer. Let me just add briefly to that because I want to reiterate what I just said. We had a victory yesterday, our Republican friends would like to think it was not and frankly it was reported as somehow we lost control.
Let me tell you, Speaker Pelosi and I were in charge, along with Mr. Clyburn for four years. We never lost a vote that we wanted to win. And very frankly, we wouldn’t have lost a vote this week, if we wanted to win. And we did win.
We set the numbers for the Appropriations. And very frankly, in my mind, the fact that John Yarmuth and his Committee were able to report out a number, which is the number that we adopted on the Floor of the House of Representatives almost unanimously on our side of the aisle to give to the Appropriations Committee the necessary direction that they needed to mark up their 12 bills.
I believe those bills will be passed by the end of the June, which I believe will be the earliest time all 12 bills have passed in the last 40 years. I’ve been there 38 years, so, yes –
Q: Can you expect that to happen at the non-defense and defense levels that Mr. Yarmuth specified –
Leader Hoyer. That will be up to the Appropriations Committee because as you know we adopted a gross number, that is the total number of discretionary spending.
As you know, only 30 percent of the money that we spend every year is discretionary funds, but we have set that, we’re on a path, Ms. Lowey is not here, but she’s one of our leaders, she and I have been working.
Both the Leader and I have talked regularly to Senator McConnell with reference, he wants the caps set, now he didn’t come forward because he wanted to see what we were going to do. But once the committee reported out a number then he obviously wants to participate in making that number.
Frankly, at that point in time, we felt, the Speaker and I both felt, there was no point in going forward with a caps bill when were going to have negotiation with the Big Four.
Clearly, we cannot pass a caps bill on our own. The Senate must act and the President must sign, the caps is set, the sequester is set in law. But we could procedurally set the numbers for the Appropriations Committee and we did that successfully.
Speaker Pelosi. Before we leave, I just want to say something. I join Mr. Clyburn in saying something about Fritz Hollings. We were in different Houses, but long before I was in the Congress, many of colleagues – well I don’t think any of our colleagues were in the Congress at that time – well many of our colleagues were advocating for a nuclear freeze, and that was a big thing, so many, Mr. Markey, so many of the Members that was their mission. Mr. Hollings says, ‘Jeez’ or Southern words to that affect.
What would it be?
‘Nuclear freeze? Down South we consider that a summer dessert!’
But he was so wonderful and we interacted with him in many ways from House and Senate. He was a great patriot, he and his wife were just so lovely to all of us, and so welcoming to us, and he was a great patriot and it’s a loss to our country. But Mr. Clyburn thank you for speaking so much about him to the press in the last few days.
Q: Madam Speaker, can I follow up on your comments about the Attorney General? As a member of the Gang of Eight, do you have any doubt in our mind that the foundation of the counterintelligence investigation of the President’s campaign was sound?
There are obviously former Chairmen of three House Committees that have all raised doubts about that. And do you have confidence that the Attorney General in this investigation of the investigation, will conduct it in an appropriate manner and potentially come up with a proof point?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let’s just say, first of all, we want to see the Mueller report. There was an assault on the integrity of the elections in this country, the basis of our democracy. There is no doubt about that. There’s high confidence consensus among all of our intelligence agencies that such a assault took place, and it took place by Russia.
So you would think that every resource in our country would say, we want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, instead of engaging in this silliness. No, it isn’t silly, it’s too serious to be silly. This obstruction of giving the truth to the American people.
So I have confidence, yes, in intelligence and what I have seen, but I can’t confirm or deny what I’ve seen as a Gang of Eight member. I can confirm or – just talk about what I and others have seen in the public domain.
In answer to your second question. No.