Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
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.
Well, yesterday was quite a day. I really lost sleep last night after watching over and over again the testimony of the Attorney General of the United States. How sad it is – how sad it is for us to see the top law enforcement officer in our country misrepresenting, withholding the truth from the Congress of the United States.
I think it’s really time that – as I watched him, I kept thinking, what could possibly be motivating the Attorney General of the United States to disrespect the Constitution of the United States, the separation of powers, the right of Congress to know? What possible motivation could the Attorney General of the United States have to dishonor the office that he holds by, right there for the whole world to see, to misrepresent the facts to the Congress of the United States?
And then it just – I began to connect the dots. We have Mitch McConnell, who in his fundraising pitches has described himself as the ‘grim reaper,’ the grim reaper for any legislation that comes over from the House that will go a Senate graveyard – calls himself the grim reaper.
Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, Attorney General Barr. There’s a connection. There is an ideological, anti‑government, anti‑science, anti‑meeting the needs of the American people.
So, when he was testifying and being so cavalier about Special Counsel Mueller, the Mueller report, and so disrespectful of Congress, I thought, this isn’t about President Donald Trump only. It’s about a right‑wing ideological handmaiden – they are handmaidens to the special interests in our country.
And it’s important to connect the dots, but the American people have to know what this means to them.
If you’re a young person, you care about the climate crisis. We’re passing that bill right now on the Floor, and I’m going to have to leave momentarily to vote for it. And that’s going to be dead on arrival in the Senate.
If you’re a young person, you care about net neutrality, freedom on the internet. The grim reaper is going to kill it in the Senate.
If you’re a woman, the Violence Against Women Act, equal pay for equal work that we sent over to the Senate, the grim reaper, Mitch McConnell, will kill it.
If you care about reducing the role of money in politics as H.R. 1 legislation, stopping the voter suppression and expanding the voice of the people in our political process, Mitch McConnell will kill it. Because he has said the problem is not too much money in politics, he says there’s not enough money in politics.
Our H.R. 1 is about expanding the voice of the people. Their H.R. 1 was giving 83 percent of the tax benefit to the top one percent. So, this is about policy.
It’s also about gun safety, gun safety. We sent over H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112 for responsible background checks. Handmaidens to the National Rifle Association and the special interests.
Connect the dots. When you see Barr sitting there, what’s his motivation? His motivation, his loyalty is not to his oath of the office, and it is to Donald Trump, but all of it and the Republicans in Congress is to the special interests.
So, whether it’s H.R. 1 or the gun safety, Paycheck Fairness, Violence Against Women, Save the Internet, Climate Action Now – the list goes on. And we will be sending more legislation.
But, apparently, I have news for Mitch McConnell: he may consider them dead on arrival and the grim reaper for all of these actions taken by the House of Representatives, but they’re alive and well among the American people. And there is a direct connection.
And, really, probably the biggest and saddest of all is, while the Attorney General was sitting there withholding the truth from Congress, misrepresenting, being inconsistent in his statements – the shame. How could he do such a thing?
But, again, having the support of the Republicans in Congress and the Senators behaving in a way that has said to them, ‘We don’t care about the branch of government in which we serve. We’re not even loyal to strengthening the institution of which we are a part.’
While he was sitting there, once again, his Justice Department was intensifying its assault on the Affordable Care Act. And they did their filing – their further filing – to get rid of the entire Affordable Care Act.
So, that’s what it means to people with pre‑existing conditions, his sitting there in that arrogance: ‘I don’t care about your pre‑existing condition. I care about the special interests in our country.’ That was the message from Barr.
So, the connecting of the dots between Mitch McConnell, the Republican agenda and Congress, such as it is – the special interest agenda fueled by dark special interest money, that’s what that hearing was about.
It wasn’t about technicalities. It wasn’t about who wrote the letter and how he characterized the letter. That’s interesting, but what is deadly serious about it is the Attorney General of the United States of America was not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, what kinds of consequences are you considering for members of the Administration who don’t comply with congressional subpoenas?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it is – I have great confidence in our Committees.
We have six Committees that have ‑‑ five of them have subpoenas. So far, we don’t have one from the Foreign Affairs Committee. But five of the six Committees of jurisdiction have the potential for subpoenas. They haven’t all issued subpoenas, but that’s where we see some of that activity.
As you probably know, in the Articles of Impeachment for President Nixon, Article 3 was that he ignored the subpoenas of Congress, that he did not honor the subpoenas of Congress. This is very, very serious. But my judgment will spring from the judgment of our committee chairs.
And in terms of – I was just looking at Mr. Nadler’s statement. In the close of his statement today, relating to the Attorney General, he said, ‘History will judge us on how we face this challenge. We will be held accountable one way or another. And if he’ – Barr – ‘does not provide this Committee with the information it demands and the respect it deserves, Mr. Barr’s moment of accountability will come soon enough.’
And I think that probably applies, whatever the –
Q: Do you think that jail time should be on the table?
Speaker Pelosi. I said the Committees will ‑‑ the Committees are trying to make accommodations in terms of receiving the unredacted Mueller report. Let them work their will, and then we’ll go to the next.
Q: Madam Speaker, did the Attorney General commit a crime?
Speaker Pelosi. He lied to Congress. He lied to Congress. And if anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime.
Nobody is above the law, not the President of the United States and not the Attorney General. Being the Attorney General does not give you a bath to go say whatever you want and it is the fact because you are the Attorney General. It just isn’t true.
Q: Should he go to jail? Should he go to jail for it?
Speaker Pelosi. There’s a process involved here. And as I said – I’ll say it again and however many questions you may have – the Committee will act upon how we will proceed.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, last week, you had said that you wanted your Caucus to focus on the investigations that are already ongoing. Given the fact that you can’t get information, given the fact there has been this unprecedented obstruction from the White House, do you think that the time has come to move that impeachment deadline up?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I think that – I think that the statements being made by the President of the United States has given a blanket statement that he’s not going to honor any subpoenas is obstruction of justice. I think that many of the statements that the Administration has made have been about obstruction of justice.
We are in a very, very, very challenging place because we have a Republican Party in the Congress who are complicit in the special interest agenda of the National Rifle Association, the fossil fuel industry, the special interests writ large. And so, they’re not going to say anything.
So, that’s why I say sometimes, impeachment is the easy way out for some of these people because they know it will end at the Senate’s edge. But, the fact is, is that we still have that responsibility. Now, many people just – and I completely agree with them – our responsibility is to create jobs, protect their access to health care.
As we said in our For The People agenda: lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America and cleaner government in passing H.R. 1 and other initiatives that will spring from that.
So, there is a direct relationship between health care in America and the behavior of the Attorney General of the United States, who is taking the lead on overturning the Affordable Care Act, which has within it the legislation, the law to protect people with pre‑existing conditions. And the list goes on and on.
So, again, every day that goes by, we see more reason why the Republicans in Congress should respect their own oath of office and send a message to this Administration that, while they share their special interest agenda, that it should not include undermining the Constitution of the United States.
Q: Madam Speaker, Mr. Trump tweeted this week that the working people want to get to “yes” on the new NAFTA –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Do you want to spend time to get a consensus in your Caucus on what enforcement is needed for the new NAFTA and how to change the biologics provision so that Democrats also can get to “yes”?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. And I would add to that the environmental provisions. But the three provisions are what it means for America’s workers, and we want it to be positive for America’s workers, but you don’t help America’s workers by exploiting workers in Mexico. The lower they’re paid, the worse it is for American workers.
So, it’s about American workers. It’s about the environment and, again, the climate issue – we’re voting right now on Climate Action Now [Act]. The environmental issues are very important to us. As a Californian, I can attest for the need for us to improve the provisions there. And then the biologics, and there’s a concern for Members.
But the overarching issue is enforcement. You can have all the good language in the world that you want, but if you don’t have enforcement, you’re just having a conversation. You’re not having a real negotiation.
Q: And are you working to get a consensus on what kind of enforcement is needed?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. There’s different suggestions, but I say it has to be part of the agreement. It can’t be a sidebar or side letter or later legislation or anything like that.
But to your basic first question: yes, we would like to get to yes. I thought it would be easier than this, because we’ve been clear about enforcement in any trade agreement – whether it’s with China or whether it’s in our own hemisphere – that enforcement is key to all of it.
Did you have a question?
Q: You answered my question.
Speaker Pelosi. I answered it already. Okay.
Q: Madam Speaker, on infrastructure, with your big meeting earlier this week with the President, I know in a couple weeks you’re expecting him to come up with some pay‑fors, but what do you have in mind? Talking to Republicans here on Capitol Hill, it sounds like they’re not really, you know, looking at a gas tax – increasing the gas tax. What is your opinion on this?
Speaker Pelosi. My opinion is that we’ll wait to hear what the President has to say. I spoke to him since the meeting, and he said we’re going to be putting together what some of the acceptable pay‑fors are to him, and we’ll look forward to hearing what he has to say.
But we were pleased that the President took it up to $2 trillion. What we would like to see is that they make a commitment that it would be 80/20, 80 [percent] from the Federal Government, 20 [percent] from the locality; that it would be – in terms of climate – have resiliency in it. You can’t build infrastructure for the future without resiliency relating to climate.
And we want to see women-, veterans‑ and minority‑owned businesses to participate in the prosperity that this will bring. And we want to see prevailing wage, Davis‑Bacon, to be part of it because we’ve always been about building bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way. And that’s what we hope that we can do, working together.
It was a positive meeting. We advanced the discussion down the road. And we’ll see what the President has to say when he acts.
But this is so important. It’s about commerce. It’s about clean air, clean water – so it’s a public health issue. It’s about the jobs of building the infrastructure, but also the commerce that it would create. It’s a quality‑of‑life issue for people – to get them out of their cars so they can spend more time with their families.
Q: You said that you spoke to him after the meeting, was that strictly on infrastructure or did you guys talk about immigration or anything else?
Speaker Pelosi. No. We talked about bringing down the price of prescription drugs, but only touched upon the fact that we want to – as we finish up with the funding, etcetera, and what our proposal – not finish, but progress our proposal for the infrastructure, that we would move on to how we can lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Thank you all very much.
Let me just say, as I leave you, we had just such really sad, sad, sad news with the passing of our former colleague, Ellen Tauscher of California.
She was a wonderful leader when she served in the Congress – took her experience and values out to the community, being a fighter for nuclear nonproliferation.
In her history, before she came to the Congress, she was one of the youngest and I think the first or one of the earliest women to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. She was a pioneer everyplace she served. She was a leader. She was a friend. She was a mom who took great pride in her daughter, Katherine. And it’s really a sad loss for us.
I was so pleased that so many Californians and others joined us in a moment of silence for her on the Floor of the House the day before yesterday – was that yesterday? Yesterday. It was just yesterday.
But we’ll be honoring her more, but we’ll always be missing her. We will carry her in our hearts – Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher of California.