Pelosi Remarks at Press Availability Following White House Infrastructure Meeting
May 22, 2019
|Washington D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and other Congressional Democrats for a press availability following a planned meeting with President Trump on infrastructure at the White House. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone. This morning, we went to the White House for a follow-up meeting with the President, a follow-up to a meeting we had a few weeks ago where we agreed on a dollar figure, where we agreed on the percentage of 80/20, in terms of responsibility, and we discussed some priorities about infrastructure. It was agreed at that time that we would return today to talk about how we would cover the cost of such a proposal.
Last night – in the time in between, the President was making some sounds that we questioned how serious he could be if he was saying what he was saying. And last night he put forth a letter saying that unless we passed the US-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, there was no reason for us to – you know, we couldn’t go forward with infrastructure.
We didn’t see those two as related, but the fact is, hopeful, optimistic and seeing the necessity for a big infrastructure initiative for our country, we went in the spirit of bipartisanship to find common ground with the President on this.
He came into the room, made a statement that he made, I won’t even characterize it, but I will say this – and what I said after he left – Thomas Jefferson, when he was President of the United States tasked his Secretary of the Treasury, Gallatin, to put forth an infrastructure proposal, initiative for the country. It would follow the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Louisiana Purchase, it would be about the Erie Canal, the Cumberland Road, things like that to build into America.
One hundred years later, a hundred years later, Teddy Roosevelt did his infrastructure – big initiative and it was called the establishment of the National Parks Service, the green infrastructure of America.
We had hoped that we could give this President an opportunity to have a signature infrastructure initiative to create jobs, to improve the quality of life, to just do so much for our country on the ongoing – not only the jobs it created by building, but the commerce it would promote. And that included roads and bridges and mass transit – well, broadband into rural America and other underserved areas, clean water, wastewater, all of the things that have numerous needs. The American Society of Civil Engineers says it’s in the trillions, the deficit we have, we’re talking about a couple [trillion] dollars.
For some reason, maybe it was lack of confidence on his part, that he really couldn’t match the greatness of the challenge that we have, wasn’t really respectful of the reason – of the Congress and the White House working together. He just took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that. In any event, I pray for the President of the United States. And I pray for the United States of America. I’m pleased to yield now to the distinguished Democratic Leader of the senate, Mr. Schumer.
Leader Schumer. Well, thank you, Speaker Pelosi. And to watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop. We, Democrats, believe in infrastructure. We believe our roads and bridges need repair. We believe that rural America, as well as inner city America, needs broadband.
We believe that to bring clean, new energy around the country we need a power grid modernized and updated. We believe in modernizing our transportation fleet with electric cars. We believe in all of these things, and so, despite signals in the previous few weeks that he might not be serious, we went forward. We came here very seriously.
The President asked in his letter last night: where would Democrats spend the money on infrastructure? I was prepared to give him a 35-page plan detailing this in all the areas I mentioned and more that have the broad support of Senate and House Democrats. We were interested, we are interested in doing infrastructure.
It’s clear the President isn’t. He is looking for every excuse, whether it was ‘Let’s do trade first’, or whether it was ‘He’s not going to pay for any funding,’ or whether today, that ‘There are investigations going on.’ Hello, there were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met, and he still met with us. But now that he was forced to actually say how he’d pay for it, he had to run away, and he came up with this pre-planned excuse.
And one final point: it’s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the President’s part. It was planned. When we got in the room, the curtains were closed, the President – there was a place for him at the front, so he could stand and attempt to tell us why he wouldn’t do infrastructure.
And of course, then he went to the Rose Garden with prepared signs that had been printed up long before our meeting. We want the President to do infrastructure. We want our Congress to perform its constitutional responsibilities and create jobs, create income, create wealth for the average American. We can do both. It’s clear the President doesn’t want to do any of that.
Speaker Pelosi. I just would add this one thing: that we had a very distinguished delegation to the Congress, very powerful House and Senate, as you can see: distinguished Leader on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Patty Murray; Mr. Carper, the Ranking Member on the committee of jurisdiction that oversees some of what we’re talking about here; Richie Neal, the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House; our distinguished Democratic Leader in the House, Steny Hoyer. Where’s Dick Durbin? Is he this way? The Senate Whip, whatever the title is in the Senate.
Leader Schumer. Number two.
Speaker Pelosi. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a leader on all of these issues in her committees in the Congress; our Assistant Speaker, Mr. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico; our distinguished Whip of the House, Democratic Whip of the House, Mr. Clyburn; the Chair of the – I love saying Chair – the Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee appropriate to this discussion, Mr. DeFazio; and the top Democrat on the Finance Committee in the United States Senate, Ron Wyden.
So, we came with heft, with commitment, with knowledge, with hope, with a shared vision of creating this great jobs initiative for our country, and the spirit of President Eisenhower when he instituted the interstate highway system. It was important for jobs and mobility. It was a national security initiative and it was bipartisan. Lyndon Johnson and Sam Rayburn in the House and Senate, the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower. We had hoped that we could do something comparable. Unfortunately, the President isn’t ready for that.
Thank you all very much.
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