Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
May I sadly convey condolences to our friends at The Hill and all of you and the family of Vicki Needham. What a sad thing to learn of her passing. I know she's your colleague on The Hill. I know her family needs our prayers, and I just wanted to extend my condolences.
Yesterday, we had a big day on the Hill, to observe the 70th anniversary of NATO with a Joint Session to hear from the Secretary General Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO. He talked about how successful NATO had been. It gave us a chance to say thank you to him for his leadership and to NATO for being the force for peace that it has continued to be.
I was very pleased that we had strong bipartisan invitation and support for his visit. This is a continuation of that demonstration of support for our trans-Atlantic relationship. As he said yesterday, ‘The Atlantic Ocean does not separate us, it unifies us.’
Just a month ago, many of us were in Munich for the Munich Security Conference. Over 50, 51 House and Senate Democrats and Republicans went to that meeting to demonstrate our support for the trans-Atlantic alliance.
Following that, we went to Brussels, where even more bipartisanship was demonstrated at the NATO inter-Parliamentary meeting in Brussels. Again, strong bipartisan support for NATO and for the trans-Atlantic relationship.
As he said at the end of his speech, he addressed the Vice President and he said, ‘It is good to have friends,’ and that friendship is what we saluted yesterday. I was very proud of the occasion to join Leader Mitch McConnell and other leaders to invite the Secretary to commemorate the 70th anniversary.
Last night, Representative [Henry] Cuellar and Representative Veronica Escobar introduced a resolution condemning the President's reckless threat to shut down the border. He likes shutting down things. Shut down government, shut down the border. Shutting down the border would threaten good-paying American jobs, hurt our economy, violate our values and gravely hurt our country.
You should read the resolution because it talks about the concern that we have for our jobs in the United States, shortages of fruits, vegetables, fresh food, how harmful it would be to the auto and manufacturing plants, risking furlough of American workers, shutdown of American production lines.
It also says that the President should not stop the assistance to the Northern Triangle countries of Central America. If we, in fact, want people to stay home, we have to address some of the challenges they have at home.
And we do quote the U.S. Southern Command, Commander – former Southern Commander [James] Stavridis, in saying, ‘The best thing we could do to reduce the flow of refugees from Central America is help improve conditions there. Suddenly stopping all foreign aid will only increase the driving forces creating the caravans over time.’ It goes on. You can reference it. And then it also is sad about what it means to our values.
We passed legislation in a bipartisan way – the President signed – for humanitarian relief at the southern border for medical professionals, for food, for even diapers and the rest.
So, the President should use the tools that are at his disposal to address the humanitarian needs at the border, should stop engaging in activities that are harmful to the subject in terms of stopping assistance that we've already voted, the money is there for Central America, and recognize the closure's impact on our economy.
We also affirm asylum seeking individuals have a right to due process. And the President wants – the Administration wants to shut down the number of judges, which we funded in order to facilitate those cases one way or another.
So, I'm very, very proud of the work of Representatives Cuellar and Escobar, and many other Members will be joining them as well.
This week, as you know, we focused on our – again, continue to focus on – our For The People agenda. You saw us in front of the Supreme Court in opposition to the President's wanting to overturn 100 percent of the Affordable Care Act while he pretends and the Republicans pretend that they care about protecting the benefit of pre-existing conditions, of lifetime limits and the rest, removing those lifetime limits and the rest.
So, we continue down that path as part of our For The People agenda, to lower the cost of health care, to increase paychecks by building the infrastructure of our country, to have cleaner government, advancing H.R. 1.
On the health care front, we are fighting the President and saying, this is the law of the land. It is the responsibility of the Justice Department to uphold the law of the land, and now he's reversing that.
At the same time, we're hard at work to lower health care costs and strengthen health protections. Last night, Energy and Commerce, they were [working] all day, but up until last night, reported out 12 bills to lower health care costs and the price of prescription drugs, expand access to care and protect people with pre-existing conditions.
Many of these were bipartisan. One of them came out 51 to nothing, the CREATES Act. And all of them would deliver results, positive results in the lives of the American people.
This week, Education and Labor advanced Democratic efforts to lower health care costs by holding a key hearing on protecting Americans from surprise billings.
And yesterday, in sharp contrast to what you hear them say, 185 Republicans voted against Representative Colin Allred's resolution to call on the Administration to end their brutal Texas v. U.S. lawsuit to destroy the ACA and its lifesaving protections.
I come back to where I began on this earlier in the week in front of the Supreme Court: protections against pre-existing conditions, bans on lifetime limits and annual limits, the Medicaid expansion, savings for seniors on their prescription drugs, vital premium assistance that makes health coverage affordable to millions of Americans.
It's not just, however, important, and that would be reason enough to expand access to health care to 20 million more Americans, but what it did also for more like 150 million families was to take us on a path of lowering costs, increased benefits, some of which I named.
And we will fight this fight and we will fight it in court. Our Republican colleagues keep saying they support these things and yet every time they have a chance, they vote against them.
As you know, today on the Floor, happily, we are bringing another initiative to help end violence in our country. House Democrats continue our work to deliver results with the passage of the strong, bipartisan, long-term reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
The bill preserves the vital progress we made in 2013. I was even here in the '90s when we first passed the bill, actually, a pretty exciting time for us. And we had the most recent reauthorization in 2013 under President Obama.
This bill, again, protects LGBTQ, Native American, and immigrant women, and every woman, everyplace. And this is for women and for men, end violence against women and families and men as well.
I'm very proud of the work that we have done. Pretty soon, and we'll be observing it, our 100 days in office will be coming up.
You have to remember, in the first few weeks of that, we were in the midst of a government shutdown. Even with that, I'm very proud of the record that we have had For The People on the initiatives that we said we were going to work on that we have done. We've either introduced, launched – launched, introduced, had hearings, written up bills in committee, passed some on the Floor and the beat goes on.
But that's another few days. Who knows what we'll do between now and then.
Speaker Pelosi. Any questions?
Q: On the President's tax returns, Chairman Neal has said that this is a matter of policy, not politics.
Speaker Pelosi. That's right.
Q: What is the legislative purpose to having the President's tax returns? What law could you pass that you can't act on now?
Speaker Pelosi. No, well, the law exists. The law is very clear. The law says, and I'll read it to you, the law says that, ‘Upon written request from the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means or the Chairman of the Finance or the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation’ that would be either one of those other two, but anyway – ‘the Secretary shall furnish’ – ‘shall,’ not may, should, could – ‘shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request.’ And that is what he's talking about.
Now, he takes it further. He has been very thoughtful in this. And yesterday, when he informed me that he was making – that it was going to imminently be in the press – this is a policy matter.
The President and the Vice President are audited. That's what happens, that audit. Congress has an oversight responsibility to see that that is happening, if it has happened and how it has happened, and that's the policy aspect of this.
But this is – again, I commend him for his thoughtfulness on the subject and how he has proceeded with it.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, just in the past –
Speaker Pelosi. It's not your birthday today.
Q: On a slightly different topic, have you gotten any indication from anyone on the Mueller team or anyone at DOJ that Attorney General Barr mischaracterized their findings?
Speaker Pelosi. All I can say to that, Nancy, is that – just release the Mueller report.
You're hearing rumors. I don't have any idea how accurate they are. But in the public domain there are comments that people on the Mueller team think that there's a mischaracterization by the Attorney General. I don't know.
There's an easy answer to this: Release the Mueller report as soon as possible.
And let me just say, the Mueller report will be released. There's a question of – to us it is inevitable, to them it is inconceivable. We have to shorten the distance between the inevitable and the inconceivable. Show us the report.
Q: Just in the past 48 hours, your Committee Chairmen have subpoenaed for security clearance, subpoenaed for information –
Speaker Pelosi. They haven't subpoenaed for anything. They haven't subpoenaed for anything.
Q: The House Oversight Committee
Speaker Pelosi. No, no. They have gotten the authority to subpoena.
Q: The House Oversight Committee served Carl Kline with a subpoena to come before it.
Speaker Pelosi. Okay, you have one, but you were listing a whole list of things.
Q: There have been a whole list of things that have happened. Yesterday the authorization of the Mueller report subpoena and the Chairman requesting the tax returns of the President. Are you concerned that this is playing into the Republican narrative that –
Speaker Pelosi. No, I'm not. I'm not.
I salute my Chairmen. They've been very thoughtful. They are evidence-based in what they are doing. They are honoring the Constitution of the United States, Article I, the Legislative branch, which has oversight responsibility over the other branches of government.
Q: Do you think that Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel, should testify before Congress?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm not going into that. I think they should release the report. That's where the evidence is, the information is. Let's see the report.
If they don't have anything to hide, they shouldn't worry. If they don't have any concern about their taxes, they shouldn't be worried about releasing their tax returns.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, are you considering using the USMCA trade deal as leverage to get other things that the Democrats want?
Speaker Pelosi. No. It will stand on its own.
I'm hopeful that we could get a trade agreement, but it has to be one that is real and that works. I myself voted for NAFTA the first time around. I think anything of that longevity that can get a fresh look is important to do.
However, I do also think that we're only chatting unless we're enforcing. And that's my point, is that I want to see stronger enforcement language.
We have three concerns that you know. About workers – the condition of workers in the U.S. and in Mexico. Exploiting workers in Mexico is not good for workers in the United States. Secondly, not in any particular order, but the environmental concerns that we have with every trade agreement. And third, the issue of the price of pharmaceuticals, which is a major concern among our Members, to name three issues of discussion.
But it is all their subtext to the overarching issue of are we going to have real enforcement. If you don't have real enforcement, then, again, we will be disappointed, as I have been in NAFTA, as one who voted for it before.
Q: Madam Speaker, on the tax reports, on the tax returns here, some Republicans have said that this is an effort to, their word, ‘weaponize’ the law and that Democrats have tried to get at the President's tax returns since the campaign. Even Congressman Neal said this morning he thought that this was in for a long court battle.
Speaker Pelosi. That may be.
Q: Is there any reason – do you genuinely think that you guys will eventually get the tax returns of the President?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me say a couple of things about this. The U.S. Tax Code, Section 6103 – remember those numbers, 6103 – provides Congress the legal authority to get the tax returns. The IRS manual requires – the IRS manual requires – requires – an audit of the President, and Congress has the duty to ensure that it has been done and done properly. We also need to determine whether Congress should require, by statute, the IRS to do such an audit and the scope of any audit.
Ways and Means requests under Section 6103 – Ways and Means requests under 6103 have never been denied. Have never been denied. Ways and Means has invoked the authority in the normal course of its oversight of tax administration many times before. So we are, again, honoring the Constitution.
It just seems like every time you turn around there's another thing. The President is saying wind power causes cancer. I associate myself with the remarks of Chairman Grassley, it's an idiotic statement.
So, let's rise to a level of presidential in all of this. Show us the Mueller report. Show us the tax returns. And we are not walking away just because you say no the first time around.
Thank you all very much. Thank you.