Pelosi Remarks at Reporter Pen and Pad at Democratic Issues Conference
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. I just wanted to be sure you saw our 100 days fighting For The People. So many of the pieces of legislation that have already passed the House, a few of them signed into law.
What we have been doing our hearings on our agenda, For The People. Lower health care costs by reducing the costs of prescription drugs, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure of America in a green way, cleaner government, H.R. 1 which we are very proud of.
Yesterday before we came here, we had a tremendous 100 percent vote on net neutrality. This is something quite remarkable, an attribute to Mike Doyle, the Chair of the subcommittee that led the way on this. But a testimony to the power of the public sentiment.
Millions of people watched the markup and the Floor action, imagine that? With all due respect to C-SPAN, it’s not exactly where millions of people go during the day when they’re young and net neutrality fans.
So, you couldn’t hear me? Should I start all over about the cookies and all of that?
But anyway, I want to hear what you want to hear about. We’re excited about our meeting. It turns out to be a blessing that we’re having it later because we’re able to review what we’ve down, plot – I know we keep using that word plot because we have to show how we will go forward and it’s a tremendous bonding experience.
I want to commend Hakeem Jeffries and Katherine Clark, they really listened to members to see how they would like to participate. So, it’s a workshop, member participation, member leadership of what is going on. People are – we’re off to a good start. They were very happy yesterday.
Q: Speaker, Jerome Powell will be here this evening and I’m wondering what you hope to hear from the Fed Chair and also, Vice President Mike Pence has said that Trump’s two nominees that are Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, share his philosophy. I was wondering if you could respond to that and what you think of that?
Speaker Pelosi. Fine. Well, I think it’s pretty exciting that the Chairman of the Fed will be here so that we can hear what he has to say about the economy and the rest.
I do think that with stiff competition, with stiff competition, these two appointments to the Fed are the worst, ill-suited appointments that the President could come up with. Ill-suited for the purpose.
If in fact the Vice President is saying they share his view, does that mean meddling in the decisions of the Fed? The Fed should be an independent agency – it is an independent agency.
We as Democrats in the Congress have always said that the Fed should be determining the rates, not politicians. And that is a dangerous thing for an economy when the central bank of a country has an influence, a political influence there is just wrong. Doesn’t mean that people don’t bring their political philosophies to the table, but when you have two people totally ill-suited, unqualified for the position because they may just go in and say, ‘The President wants an increase in rates, so we’re here to do that.’
That’s not about being serious about our economy. And the role of the Fed, not only in our country, but the Chairman of the Fed is the leader in the world of Central Banks.
Now, thank God Chairman Powell was there but for him to have to deal with a politically motivated Fed is something that – there’s so many bridges too far here, but this is a really dangerous one.
Q: Madam Speaker, speaking on that point. Are you concerned at all with that the Federal Reserve Chairman coming here adds to the politicization to the whole –
Speaker Pelosi. No. I think he’s available to go – I’m sure if the Republicans invited him, he would be there too. He’s a very – he’s not a political person anyway, in any way.
Q: But the image that might send?
Speaker Pelosi. No. If he’s not, I’m not.
But I think that they should invite him and hear what he has to say. We have, within our own ranks in the past, had to say that we want the Fed – we don’t want how we do our appropriations to have any impact on the Fed.
The Fed is an independent – if there’s anything that should be totally devoid of any partisan influence, it’s the Fed.
So, I would hope that the Republicans would invite him there and more visibility, independence the Fed has, the better. And I think that would be part of his message.
Now we’re treading on very thin ice in terms of what this administration is about. We I think have to take inventory of the dismantling of our government that this administration is about.
Whether it’s EPA, whether it’s OPM now, Office of Personnel Management. Whether it’s taking down protections for the American people, which they called – mislabel as regulations, but are protections for the American people. Whether it’s the Constitution of the United States, whether it’s the first branch of government, the legislative branch in terms of the President’s ridiculous motion that he put forth that twelve Republicans in the Senate voted against. Republicans in the House too, but twelve Republicans voted against the President on his motion that we view as unconstitutional.
So, there’s a measure that has to be taken for how any President of the United States, and in this case the current one, honors his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and all that that implies.
And this Fed is just another example.
Q: Speaker, you mentioned last week that you intend to have House races won by this November –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, November. It’s my goal.
Q: How do you do that and how does that impact the conversations happening here?
Speaker Pelosi. Ok, so you want to talk politics?
We’re not in the Capitol, we just have to think we can’t – maybe one percent of our conversation can be about politics.
Here’s the thing, I do believe – let me put it in a – when – just going back in time, I’ve always said that I can almost predict how well we do in an election one year in advance. Because one year in advance is where you see where the president of the party is. In other words, incumbent President’s party in the polls and where that president is.
So, when 2016 – that horrible tragedy happened in our country, people said to me the next day, ‘Oh, do you think you can win the House?’
I said, ‘I will tell you in one year. In one year, we’ll see what his numbers are and that will have an impact on who runs.’
It turns out, numbers were terrible. We got the A-team, they got the retirements and we had tremendous victory in 2018.
Now, why I say this is a similar thing – now, we go to 2019 and where the President is in 2019, if he’s still in the 40s they have a big problem.
But nonetheless, on the positive side for us, what we will be sure to do is make sure that our incumbents are fortified.
As you see, eighteen of them, of the new Members of Congress are subcommittee chairs, many of them are leaders on issues in the Congress. All of them know that their job title and their job description are one in the same, representative. In order to represent, they have to listen to the people.
You heard Mr. Lujan yesterday talk about the number of townhall meetings and public events that they’ve been having.
So, officially to fortify themselves in their districts. Politically to fortify them in what our new Chair Cheri Bustos is putting out there, owning the ground.
We run in November because we own the ground. We didn’t yield one grain of sand in terms of getting out the vote. We disciplined our message like a jackhammer. For The People, lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. That was our message.
And we had the resources necessary. Most important though – those are three legs to the stool that holds up the most important part, the candidate.
As I say, we had the A-team, they had the retirements. But we continue to have the A-team as we go into the re-election and we intend by this November – if you are deciding to run for Congress and you are a Republican, you’d have to take a look, a good hard look at where the President of your Party was in terms of his numbers, A, B, the strength of the incumbent, and we intend for those incumbents to be strong, as well as where you are.
It is important to note this: frequently these off years are a referendum on the President but the fact that these Republicans in Congress are total enablers of the Trump agenda. He’s their guy. They love him. People say to me, ‘Why do Republicans not take a walk from the President on this, that or the other thing?’ I said, ‘Because that’s who they are.’
Think about any subject. Think about any subject. Think about fairness in our economy, climate denial, a woman’s right to choose, LGBTQ, gun safety, immigration. Name any subject, they’re right there with him. They’re right there with him. So, this is not – his numbers are important, overarchingly, but their votes, they’re going to be held accountable for.
So, we intend not only to protect our Majority but to gain seats as well. But in terms of that, it is really important for Republicans in Congress to know that if they are thinking of running, the President’s numbers are not so great, it is going to cost them a lot of money and even if they win, they will be serving in the Minority. How is that for a motivator?
Q: Madam Speaker, I’m reviewing your very long list of legislation and what a list it is. There is one bill that deals with immigration. It’s the Dream Act including TPS – it does not address what is happening on the border. What are House Democrats’ – what is your is your agenda, what is your plan for addressing what is happening at the border and will you pass legislation on it?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, thank you Michael, we did pass legislation on it. We passed it and the President of the United States signed it. It’s what opened up government. We put forth – it was only one step – we need to do comprehensive immigration reform. We keep saying to the Republicans, ‘Let’s do that, it has to be in a bipartisan way.’ But what we did, to remind, when we opened up government with our legislation, we had bipartisan legislation, bicameral legislation that gave the President the formula to bring order to the border.
It was about funding for more judges, it was about humanitarian assistance to accommodate those coming in, it was about how we deal with the humanitarian challenge that we face there. It was not a national security crisis. It was a bill that was bipartisan, bicameral, sent to the President, signed by the President. But he has not utilized what is in that specifically to the border.
In order to correct the border, you have to bigger to comprehensive immigration reform as well. We are dealing with the particulars but we have to deal with the overarching. The Senate passed a bill a few years ago when President Obama was President. It was bipartisan. House Republicans, Mr. Boehner, would not take up the bill. We think there is opportunity to do that. This President – President Trump put forth some four posters [pillars] or whatever he called them that he wanted to see in a bill. Mr. Durbin and working with the Republicans came back with something that met his criteria but then he walked away from that.
This has to happen. It has to happen for who we are as a people. You know, I’ve quoted Ronald Reagan so many times. But the constant reinvigoration of America depends on us having comprehensive immigration reform where we respect the value of newcomers to our country. I don’t have my phone here – does anyone have it? But we have to respect – when the President said – what did he say? ‘We don’t have the room?’ My God, I thought it was Mary and Joseph at Christmas. ‘We have no room? There is no room in the inn?’ What is this? Of course there is room and there is need. If you talk to some economists they will tell you the best thing we can do to grow our economy is to have comprehensive immigration reform.
One of my favorite Presidents to quote is Ronald Reagan on these subjects and I’ll just say one sentence of it. I’m going to refer you to it so you can go read the whole speech which is one of the most fabulous speeches about who we are as a country. It says, ‘Thanks to each new wave of new arrivals to this land of opportunity, we are a nation forever young, forever bursting with energy and new ideas and always on the cutting edge, always leading the world to the next frontier. This quality is vital to our future as a nation. If we ever close a door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost.’ Ronald Reagan. And that is just the ending of it, you have to read the whole thing. That was the last speech he ever made to the country as President of the United States.
Q: A follow up, quickly. What do you think will bring Republicans to the table on comprehensive immigration reform? Do you think the Supreme Court decision on DACA would do that or are there other opportunities?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I would they would just want to do the right thing and, again, I am a big believer in public sentiment. To quote another Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, ‘Public sentiment is everything.’ And you’ll see that way in on many subjects including net neutrality, gun safety and, hopefully, immigration as well because the American people do know that this is something that has to be addressed. We have to keep it – our view of how we go forward is if we can change peoples’ financial security – see I don’t think these things are disconnected. When we said lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. If we can give some people confidence in some of their insecurities of their own economic situation, I think there would be a better atmosphere for those who are opposed to immigration in the country.
The President is a fear monger, he is a fear monger. He fueled the flame about immigration, globalization, and all that in the campaign but if the economy is better for many of these people, I think that that fear tactic would be diminished. I think people do know that you cannot continue with a situation where we have 11 million people craving a path to citizenship, craving a path to being here legally and just continue to ignore it.
We have our principles that we have established: secure our border, respect the dignity of people coming here, have a path to citizenship that is a strict one. People who are coming in now who would be in that – who are here and on the path to legalization get to the back of the line behind those who have been on the path to coming to our country fully documented.
This is not something – it is complicated but it isn’t hard to do if you have good intentions. I am not giving up on the President on this. I still say to him, ‘We need to have comprehensive immigration reform if we are going to get on a path that eliminates some of symptoms that rear their along the way.’
I’m always optimistic and this has to happen. It’s inevitable. Again, it’s inevitable to some, inconceivable to others, we have to shorten the distance between the inevitable and inconceivable. What’s the time?
Staff. One more.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your working relationship with the President. We are about to hit this 100 day mark, as the Democrat who has worked most directly with him, as the Democrat who will have to cut any deals with him if you are able to get to lower prescription drugs, infrastructure, a number of things. You said you’re an optimist. Are you optimistic that you and President Trump can find ways to pass bigger things in this Congress?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I have to be optimistic. Did you all hear the question? Do you care? What’s the relationship – how I intend to work with President going forward. He’s the President of the United States. I respect the office that he holds. Sometimes I think I respect it more than the current occupant of the White House respects the office that he holds. But nonetheless, he is the President of the United States. We have tried. Remember, our guidance always is, E Pluribus Unum, from many, one. Our founders didn’t know how many we would be from each other but we knew we had to aspire for oneness.
So in our priorities, look at what we have. Lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs. The President said he wants to do that. Build bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America. The President said he wants to build the infrastructure. So we haven’t taken this, to a place that he hasn’t professed to have an interest. And in my most recent, some people your last – it wasn’t my last – in my latest conversation with the President, we talked about those two subjects and how we can work together. And I think we can.
But I do think that our biggest partner in any of the relationship with this Administration is Abraham Lincoln’s ‘public sentiment.’ And the public knows. So that’s why our Congress is about transparency. Show us what is at stake, what’s on the table, how does that affect me. Transparency. Bipartisanship to the extent possible. We have a responsibility to find common ground. Stand our ground, like a rock – that would be Thomas Jefferson – when we can. But go for the boldest common denominator. And try to unify. Try to unify. Not try to divide our country. He’s a divider. We have to try to bring it to a place where we can find unity for our country. That means that you have to compromise. That means that either side can get their own way, because we have separation of power and coequal branches of government and a balance of power.
So, I feel confident that we should be able to do something working together. We have to try.
Let me just go into, infrastructure. The infrastructure legislation is really, very important, because my whole attitude, and I just a couple days ago talked to the North American Building Trade Union. Build, build, build! Build the infrastructure of America from sea to shining sea. In order to do that, build the human infrastructure, the work force development that is necessary in order to build that, to have the skills and the rest. That doesn’t mean college, it means vocational, or it could mean college, none the less.
Education. Research. All the things that help us build in a 21st Century manner. And whatever we do, build our democracy. Strengthen the institutions of our democracy.
So, build the infrastructure, build the human infrastructure, build the democracy. I think we can work together to do that and I do think that, again, I’m optimistic, I think we can work together. Left to his own devices I think sometimes the President would be agreeable to these things. I have poo poo’d his $200 billion infrastructure bill that said to the communities, you do 80 percent, we do 20 percent. That is a formula that is: ‘Let’s not and say we did.’ It does nothing, and I think he knows that that was probably not a successful path to infrastructure from sea to shining sea.
I think he knows this – well, who knows what he knows – $4-5 trillion of our infrastructure, according to the American Civil Society of Engineers, trillions of dollars of deficit in our roads and bridges and their safety and security. Opportunities for mass transit, high speed rail, airports, ports, deep water ports, our water system, some of them 100 years old made from brick and wood. How would you like a glass of water from that? Some of it from the civil war, some of it 100 years old. Water systems, transportation systems, water transportation systems, airports, I’ve said that. And then essential to our infrastructure to have broadband across America, we want to alleviate that deficit both in rural America. Rural broadband. Very essential. And I think the president supports that. So I think you’d have to ask him. But I do know that he believes how important that is.
We have to, put aside any negative attitudes, we’re going in there with a positive attitude. How much do you want to invest? How do we prioritize because we want to do school construction, public housing, there are other things too. How do we use the amount of money we think we can invest in the most leveraged way, to get miles, literally and figuratively, mileage for the money.
We will meet soon to talk about what that number would be, whatever it is that would be agreed upon we have to stretch it to the limit. But it’s very exciting, especially to build in aa very green way. A new way. A way that recognizes that technology is changing for cars. Self-driving cars and things like that you have to engineer separately.
I think it’s a pretty exciting prospect, I think he appreciates that. There’s plenty of area of common ground, especially if it’s common ground to go forward.
And we have fabulous people in our own Caucus. Peter DeFazio in terms of Transportation and Infrastructure. Frank Pallone, in terms of the broadband and so many of things that fall under Energy and Commerce. Richie Neal, for how we’re going to pay for it. Mr. Grijalva, understanding the issues that relate to clean water, etcetera.
So you have waste water, one committee, clean water, one committee. Different committees that weigh in but all of them tasked to address the infrastructure and climate issues and how they relate to each other including the Select Committee on Climate.
The climate issue is very connected to building the infrastructure as well. But again, there’s plenty of common ground just on the infrastructure piece to get to a good place.
Does that tell you about our relation – it’s all about the policy, it’s all about the policy. That’s what the purpose is. To get results for the American people. I think the President wants to do that, I think the President needs to do that.
Thank you, all.