Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
May 9, 2019
|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.
We share sadness today on the passing of Robert Pear. So surprising that all this happened so quickly. He was a titan of American journalism. I had such great respect. He tenaciously pushed the truth and the public good. We’ll all miss him so much. But again, just the shock of it all. Just, life is fragile. We have to appreciate it every day.
I thank you for accommodating earlier coming together this morning. Today, I have the privilege of going to Arlington National Cemetery for the interment of our former colleague, Chairman Ron Dellums. Ron Dellums came to the Congress and people thought he was a rebel, and what would he – how would he be? And then he came, he worked in a bipartisan way.
When he was assigned to the Armed Services Committee, people were, like, “Oh, my gosh. He’s a peacenik. He’s going to Armed Services.” And Pat Schroeder was going to the Armed Services Committee, both in that Freshman Class.
From a historic standpoint – you might like this story – the leadership was not crazy about the idea of these two progressives going to the Committee, so they told them they didn’t really have that much room, so they’d have to share one chair.
Imagine – imagine how it was. And the irony of it all is that Ron Dellums would later become the Chair of the Armed Services Committee and respected highly by the Republicans on the Committee as well.
So, today he will be – he died a while ago, but the interment is now at Arlington National Cemetery. So, thank you for accommodating the change.
Well, today – in keeping with what we said in the campaign – For The People, lower health care cost, we proudly are passing the Protecting Americans with Pre-existing Conditions Act. It is Annie Kuster’s legislation. She’s been a wonderful leader on this, and we thank her for her leadership.
And what this bill does is block the Administration’s cynical guidance that invites states to dismantle protections for people with pre-existing conditions and pushes families into junk plans that discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions and do not cover essential benefits.
It’s so funny. During the campaign, the Republicans kept saying, ‘Oh, we don’t want to do away with the pre-existing conditions benefit’ – but they have. And in any case, it is, again, the Administration’s reckless sabotage of the Affordable Care Act.
Yesterday, we passed bipartisan legislation to reduce the price of prescription drugs by making it easier for generics to come to the market.
This week, we’ll build – next week. This is this week – it’s a very exciting day that we’ll be passing this legislation. We invite it to be very bipartisan, send it to the Senate and hope that the President of the United States, who says he supports the benefit of pre-existing conditions, to sign into law as soon as possible.
Next week, we’ll build upon this action by bringing to the Floor the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act, a package of seven bills to further protect families’ health care and lower their health care costs.
Now, in the time that we have been here, we have brought so many bills to the Floor and our Committees have been very active in preparing other legislation. Hence, these bills this week and next are now ripe.
One of them would further stop junk plans that can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, which I mentioned. Now, this is a further strengthening of that legislation, reversing the Trump Administration’s sabotage, once again, of enrollment outreach and to help states set up their own marketplaces and more strong action against Pharma’s unfair practices with additional steps to move affordable generics to market. Part of that bill is this week, part next week.
Again, as we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day – we all celebrating Mother’s Day? We probably won’t have a basketball game that day. We’ll have this all done by then. That’s how we celebrate – Giants, Warriors.
Q: Your Giants are playing my Reds this weekend in San Francisco.
Speaker Pelosi. On Sunday?
Q: I guess they are.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I have to go to my granddaughter’s play, and depending on the time of it.
Speaker Pelosi. I usually would be going to a Giants game.
As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, we’re continuing to fight to end the tragedy of maternal deaths in America. It’s just such a – it’s so remarkable in this county that we would have this.
And it disproportionately affects women of color. It’s outrageous that women of color die from pregnancy‑related complications, I guess is the word I’m looking for – complications at three times higher than white women. Women of color die from pregnancy‑related complications three times higher than white women.
We salute the leadership of Members to end this needless tragedy. Alma Adams of North Carolina and a Freshman Member, Lauren Underwood, are launching a Black Maternal Health Caucus, and we look forward to working with them.
And now, in terms of the disaster assistance – this week our Democratic Majority is advancing a robust, urgently-needed relief bill for disaster‑struck communities.
In January, the House passed a strong emergency – the Democratic House passed a strong emergency disaster relief bill. And, as you know, there have been some disasters since then, so this bill on Friday will address those.
But the Republican Senate has done nothing. They haven’t taken up one bill. They haven’t initiated their own bill. And while they delay and drag their feet, the devastating floods have wreaked havoc and historic damage in the Midwest. So sad.
Our bill builds on the last supplemental, as I mentioned, bringing an extra $3 billion specifically for Midwest flood relief.
We will pass this bill immediately, tomorrow. Disaster‑struck communities can’t afford the Republicans’ inaction on this. So, hopefully the Republicans in the Senate will – the combination of our earlier bill and this bill that addresses more recent disasters will be something that they will let us proceed on.
I’ve said it before, maybe not to all of you, Mitch McConnell in his political solicitations describes himself as the ‘Grim reaper.’
Would you do that if you were running for office? Would you want that to be your pitch? ‘Let me give you hope and inspiration. I’m the Grim Reaper.’ Meaning that he’s going to kill every bill that comes over from the House.
And I have news for him, that the legislation that we passed – whether it’s Equal Pay for Equal Work, whether it is the Violence Against Women Act, whether it’s net neutrality, whether it’s H.R. 1 to clean up government, whether it’s gun violence prevention in H.R. 8 that we have, whether it’s Climate Action Now – these bills have, are popular, bipartisan support across the country. We, in fact, chose legislation and shaped it in a way that would have the most bipartisan support.
Again, President Lincoln, ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything. Without it, practically nothing.’ So, the grim reaper is going to be hearing from the alive and well people out there who care about this legislation, and many people do.
It’s funny how – not funny – it’s interesting to observe how many of the groups, whether we’re talking about gun violence, whether we’re talking about climate, whether we’re talking about any of those subjects, it all comes back to health and well‑being of the American people – clean air, ending the gun violence epidemic, and the rest.
So, we have an opportunity. So the people want action. We’re going to demand it from the special interest Republican Senate. The American people will make their voices heard.
Speaker Pelosi. Questions?
Q: Your Committees are issuing subpoenas and holding the Attorney General in contempt, but, as a practical matter, do those measures have any teeth behind them that will really compel the Administration to comply with your request?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, thank you for your question.
I’m very proud of the work of our Committees and our Chairmen. They are patriotically – not passionately or not politically or in any way – going forward, following the facts leading to subpoenas, and then when they are ignored – perhaps contempt, or to go directly to court.
That’s up to the Committee Chairs to give us their guidance because they have worked so hard on this and they know the territory very well.
Yes, well, if your question is, ‘Will the Administration violate the Constitution of the United States and not abide by the request of Congress in its legitimate oversight responsibilities?’ – well, that remains to be seen.
Every day they are advertising their obstruction of justice by ignoring subpoenas and by just declaring that people shouldn’t come and speak to Congress, so that the American people can find out the truth about the Russian disruption of our election so that it doesn’t happen again.
So, yes, I do think it has – they have teeth.
Q: Madam Speaker, can you update us on when you will schedule the contempt vote against AG Barr? And also, do you agree with Chairman Nadler that the country is currently in a Constitutional crisis?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, I do agree with Chairman Nadler, because the Administration has decided that they are not going to honor their oath of office. Now, he staked out because he has seen so much in the Committee, the Committee work. I’m very proud of the Judiciary Committee and the work that they have done.
In terms of timing – when we’re ready, we’ll come to the Floor. And we’ll just see, because there might be some other contempt of Congress issues that we want to deal with at the same time. And he wants to do it as soon as possible, and so do we.
Q: And in a follow‑up to that, if you agree that the country is in a constitutional crisis, doesn’t that devalue the argument of also showing restraint? Doesn’t that take away from the emergency element of that?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I don’t think so. I think that what we want to do is get the facts. We want to do it in a way that is the least divisive to our country and the most productive. We’re asking in the constitutional way for the Administration to comply.
We still have more opportunities. We’ll see if Mueller will testify, and that will make a big difference in terms of where we go from here.
Q: But, Madam Speaker, if this truly is a constitutional crisis, how can that not change your thinking or the calculus regarding impeachment?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we have investigations that will give us the facts and the truth.
This is not about Congress or any committee of Congress. It’s about the American people and their right to know and their election that is at stake and that a foreign government intervened in our election and the President thinks it is a laughing matter.
It’s appalling that this Administration would not even pretend to want to protect our elections and, in fact, be an obstacle to our finding out more about how it happened so we can prevent it from happening again.
And so, again, if you look to history and the Nixon experience of non – whatever you want to call that – it was months of hearings and investigation before they got to a place where they had enough, they had a compelling argument that even the Republicans had to go to the President and say, ‘It’s over.’
But you have to have – as I said, we follow the facts. You don’t know this, but for seven years I was on the Ethics Committee, and I really did pay my dues to the Congress of the United States.
Everybody has to participate in some way so that we can have our Congress operate at the highest standard. But it is heavy lifting because you’re making judgments about your colleagues. Nobody wants to do that.
However, we were always instructed – it’s not about hearsay. It’s not about politics. It’s not about personalities. It’s about the facts, the law and, in that case, the rules of the House. And that is the path that I am following. It’s about the facts and the law.
Now, as I said yesterday, the President is almost self‑impeaching because he is, every day, demonstrating more obstruction of justice and disrespect for Congress’s legitimate role to subpoena.
Again, this is very methodical. It’s very Constitution-based. It’s very law-based. It’s very factually based. It’s not about pressure. It’s about patriotism.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Chad?
Q: To follow up on the question – power of contempt though, when we have had some of these exercises on contempt in recent years both sides have found it rather unsatisfying. I don’t think the Republicans thought they got very far with Lois Lerner and Eric Holder. Your side, when you held Bolten and Miers in contempt, they didn’t get Miers up for a closed‑door interview until the next Congress and the Bush Administration was out of office.
So I want to clarify why you think that this, in fact – you used the term ‘has teeth’ – if it’s going to be just another civil argument like we had in those four instances prior?
Speaker Pelosi. Because I do. I just do.
Q: Do you think the courts are going to –
Speaker Pelosi. Do you want to have a contempt of Congress against you? That is not a desirable thing for someone to have.
And now we’re not even talking about isolated situations. We’re talking about a cumulative effect of obstruction that the Administration is engaged in and the President declaring that he is not going to honor any subpoenas from the Congress.
So I support the path that our Chairmen are on, and I do believe that it will establish the case for where we go from here.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma’am? This has to be the last question because of the funeral.
Q: Madam Speaker, talk about the President goading you into impeachment. How do you balance dealing with that insult, as you perceive it, from the President and the kind of timing that you’ve talked about here, about the methodical nature and knowing that the courts have their own time? And some of your Members are quite anxious to see things moving expeditiously. How are you going to balance that?
Speaker Pelosi. We’re going to do the right thing. That’s just the way it is. And it is going to be based on fact and law and patriotism, not partisanship or anything else.
I see in some of your metropolitan journals or other reporting that, ‘Oh, it’s political. They don’t want to.’ – it has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ what our Founders – the guidance they gave us, ‘From many, one.’ They couldn’t imagine how many or how different we’d be, but they knew we had to be one.
Impeachment is one of the most divisive things that you can do – dividing a country – unless, you really have your case with great clarity for the American people.
So what we want to do is balance – you’re always balancing equities. The equity of the truth being known, made known to the American people. They are owed the truth. Uniting our country, keeping our country united. When is one in furtherance of the other or is one to the detriment of the other? That’s a judgment that we have to make.
And yes, there is some enthusiasm. But, by and large, it’s not – you act – sometimes people act, I’m not saying you – but sometimes people act as it’s impeach or nothing. No, it’s not that. It’s a path that is producing results and gathering information.
And some of that information is that this Administration wants to have a constitutional crisis because they do not respect the oath of office that they take to protect and defend the Constitution, to support the Constitution of the United States, three co-equal branches of government, separation of power. They don’t support that. And that’s what they’re trying to – that is what – understand, because Chad used the right word, ‘power’ – it’s about power for them.
And for the Republicans, as I said to you in a previous meeting – Barr, McConnell, Trump – their common bond is special interests in our country, whether it’s the gun interest, whether it’s the fossil fuel industry. Not to paint everybody under those categories with the same brush, but I do paint Barr, McConnell and the President with the same brush – that they are here because they’re anti‑governance of any governance role, in addressing climate change, addressing the epidemic of gun violence in our country, to name just two.
And people have to understand what this means in their lives. Yes, it’s an academic discussion in Washington, D.C. for some people, and we have the responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution – that’s the oath we take – but people also have to know that there’s a policy agenda that goes with it, which says we don’t want any governance that’s going to have protections for you in your life – whether it’s the air your children breathe or the fact that gun violence is so rampant in our country and becoming such an occurrence that it breaks your heart.
We passed our bill. We took action. It was an early priority. It was a promise we made. It was a promise we kept in the House.
The American people support gun violence protection, and Mitch McConnell says, ‘Grim reaper. Dead on arrival.’ I don’t think so.
So again, this is not something that is just about their behavior and their obsession with holding power. It’s about what that power, in their hands, means to the American people and that’s part of our fight as well.
But whatever we think about policy, just to understand where we are, the fact is our judgment has to be on the facts of what they did in relationship to the law. And we will make – and we will go forward with that. And we won’t go any faster than the facts take us or any slower than the facts take us.
Thank you very much.