Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Leader Pelosi Opening Remarks:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
Over the weekend, I had the great privilege of accompanying a CODEL to Galveston, Texas, to witness and be part of the commissioning of the USS Gabrielle Giffords. This is so exciting.
The ship of course, honors Gabby's service in Congress, but it's her bravery and the triumph of the human spirit that have made her one of the most respected figures in our country – as I said in my remarks there, one of the most beloved, respected and admired people in our country.
In honoring that triumph of the human spirit, we need to call on the same kind of courage as we address the tragedy that happened yesterday in Washington, D.C. Our hearts are broken over the assault that was made, really, on all of us, but personally heartbroken over the of what happened to [Whip] Steve Scalise, our colleague.
Our thoughts and prayers are with him and Matt Mika as they continue with the care that they need but also to, as we do pay tribute to them, identify with them, use all of our energy, just like sports, Chad [Pergram]. You have all your energy for them to get well. We all have to pray and identify with their concern.
The sorrow in this House is matched by our endless admiration for the heroism of the Capitol Police, especially Special Agents Crystal Griner, David Bailey and Henry Cabrera. As you know, we had a tragedy in 1998 in the Capitol when two of ours, Capitol Police, lost their lives.
But every single day, they risk their lives to protect us, the Members of Congress; you, the press who covers us; our staff; and also our visitors, probably most importantly, our visitors to the Capitol, to come to this great temple of democracy, an icon of democracy in the world. And so we thank them.
I always reference our Founders because they were so God-blessed us so with their leadership, and they knew that we would have our differences and disagreements – they certainly had their own – that we would debate with passion and intensity. They certainly did.
But they knew at the end of the day, we had to stand not as Democrats and Republicans or as they were then, Federalist and Democratic Republicans, but as Americans. In their wisdom, they chose this creed for America: E Pluribus Unum. Our goal, always striving to reach that goal.
Yesterday was a difficult day for us here for sure, but not long after the shooting in Alexandria, there was news of a shooting at a UPS facility in my district, in San Francisco, killing Benson Louie, Wayne Chan and Mike Lefiti, and wounding two others.
Monday marked the one year anniversary since the Pulse shooting that killed 49 in Orlando. Saturday marks 2 years since nine people were shot to death at the bible study of Mother Emanuel, in Charleston.
On average, more than 90 people lose their lives to gun violence in America every day. Within many families and communities across America, the anguish that we are feeling personally in Congress today is altogether too familiar. We hold everyone in our thoughts and prayers.
Our most important focus right now from a substantive and policy standpoint is to defeat the Republican healthcare bill in the Senate. It's very curious to see that they are writing their bill in private; they are keeping the bill secret from the public, trying to keep the American people in the dark about the consequences.
The secret Trumpcare bill would be just as destructive as the bill that passed the House, from what we're hearing. Senate Republicans aren't making Trumpcare any better; they're just working harder to obscure the consequences families across America would face.
Big issue: Preexisting conditions. Senate Republicans planning to gut essential health benefits is just a more insidious way to charge a fortune to American families with preexisting conditions.
Medicaid: Senate Republicans are just coming up with a new timeline to destroy the Medicaid expansion and inflict suffering on all of those depending on Medicaid coverage. I remind you that this is a middle class benefit for those seniors in nursing homes. It's tremendously important to our veterans. Between one million and two million veterans depend on Medicaid.
And in the House bill, and we'll see what's happening in the Senate bill, Medicaid excuse me, Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. As the Republicans said in the 1990s, and this has been their path, 'Medicare should wither on the vine.’ That's their plan.
And one path to that is the [Paul] Ryan budget, which takes away the guarantee of Medicare and replaces it with an inadequate voucher. Seniors, now you go shop for your care. This is a deconstruction of something that means a great deal to the health and financial well-being of America's families, not just the seniors, but the families that they are a part of.
And so, as I mentioned what it means in the Ryan budget to make it a voucher, but in the bill, the House-passed bill, and we'll see what the Senate comes up with, they shorten the solvency of Medicare. They take it in the wrong direction after we, in the Affordable Care Act, extended it for so many, many years.
Again, so Trumpcare means higher healthcare cost, tens of millions of hard-working Americans losing health coverage, gutting key protections, a crushing age tax, and stealing from Medicare. You know that very well. Millions will lose their care; for others, cost will go up, benefits will go down; a crushing age tax, if you're 50 to 64 years old; and undermining Medicare, Medicare, Medicare.
Meanwhile, insurers are saying that the Trump administration sabotage is driving up America's health premiums and cost. Let me just read to you some of them. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan said, ‘There has been a discussion in Washington about whether to continue cost share reduction funding or not.’
This is one way that the Trump Administration is sabotaging the Affordable Care Act. It is the law of the land. There are Republicans who are saying we must fund the cost-sharing reduction. We must do that. Not to do it means, predictably, premiums will go up. That's just unfair to the American people, wrong to do.
Anthem in Ohio said, ‘An increasing lack of overall predictability simply does not provide a sustainable path forward to provide affordable plan choices for consumers.’ And so we're just saying to the President, do what you did for the first month of May, and now let us continue with the funding of that.
And for these and other ways, they're trying to have a self-fulfilling prophecy as they undermine the Affordable Care Act, not extend reinsurance, not deal with the cost share reductions. They're making bad things possible for the American people, even in the absence of their repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Just by saying they want to repeal it admits that it is the law.
So I thank you for your interest and welcome any questions you may have. The good news is, it's all over. The Warriors won so beautifully. The bad news is I can't go to a game because I've been here. And people said, wouldn't you like it to go to seven games so you can see a game? I said, no, we want to win. We want to win. And how wonderful we win on the home court.
Any questions? Yes, sir.
Q: Former FBI Director James Comey testified that he told the Gang of Eight that President Trump was not under investigation for obstructing the Russian investigation. Has that changed at all in the last few days? Have you become privy to any information that the President is under investigation by the Special Counsel for attempting to obstruct the Russian investigation?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all, Comey is one thing, and Special Counsel is another.
You really don't expect me to answer a question about what I've been briefed in as the Gang of Eight. Right?
Leader Pelosi. Never. Never. But thank you for your question and your interest.
Q: Madam Leader, have you heard from your Members concern that when they're out in public, that they may be sitting ducks, that they need more security? To be very clear, the Capitol Police that were there yesterday were heroes.
Leader Pelosi. Heroes.
Q: And they can't be everywhere where they're not assigned, obviously.
Leader Pelosi. That's right.
Q: So for your rank-and-file Members, do you think there will be security changes going forward, perhaps?
Leader Pelosi. Well, that's all under discussion. But what I hear most from my Members is the concern that they have for their staff, because the staff are in the frontline, in the districts when they're here, and even when we're there.
And so the question is, how do we make evaluations of the situations that people have in their offices, that can be done by either the local police, or the Capitol Police, and then what other remedies would be suggested.
It is you don't really want to live in a world where there're so many police monitoring everything that anybody does, with all due respect to their courage and their bravery. So that would be an almost impossible task. And I've not heard anybody say, ‘I want security in my dealings.’
That means people get a number of threats, then the Capitol Police may make an evaluation that from a security standpoint, they need to make some changes in how that person is protected.
I think though that, for example, the Democrats were practicing at another field. And since I'm not on the team and [Whip] Steny [Hoyer] is not on the team, there was no security there. Thank God Steve Scalise is on the team because security was there, able to respond. The consequences would've been much worse without that.
So, again, the security evaluations are really up to the Capitol Police. Members can express their concerns. And there are varying degrees of threats. Nobody has as many as I do or over time, just an incredible amount, and it's really disgusting some of the forms it takes.
But, again, you know again, the staff but when I was in a different building in San Francisco, they had metal detectors if you came in the Federal building and you were going to the courts. But if you were going to the congressional offices, you just didn't have to go through a metal detector, and it was weird. Because somebody who might be not really appropriate to come into the courts then would say, ‘I'm going to go express my wrath in the congressional offices.’ And they did, and we had a terrible incident with Tom Lantos' office a few years ago.
So anyway, some kind of those evaluations can help to make people safer.
Q: Madam Leader, you ticked off some of these horrific events we've had here. You started with Giffords. You talked about the incident with Chestnut and Gibson in 1998, and so on and so forth here.
I remember asking you in March of 2010 about the vitriol, and some of the threats, as you say, were leveled against Members asking you about Harvey Milk and George Moscone from your home city here. But each time we have these incidents, Members seem to come together for a couple of minutes, and then it's right back out, right back out.
Do you really think it's going to be different this time?
Leader Pelosi. Well, what is?
Q: The idea that, as you say, there are always going or be policy and political differences. You said Founders—
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: But then it gets back to that level of vitriol and invective.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think a lot of vitriol and invective I mean, one of the people that went to jail for threats to me eventually, when they finally found him, because he was very resourceful in hiding when he was being tried, his mother said he just watches too much FOX TV. That's what she said.
No, right now, I think our energy should be used in our thoughts and prayers for Steve Scalise and Mr. Mika, and that's really where our hearts are right now. It's a question of gun safety that, you know, has never happened. Little babies, little children in kindergarten were massacred and nothing happened, so if you're talking about going back to that kind of a vote.
But most of the, I don't know, I mean, the horrible stuff that I hear that is crude and disgusting really comes from the outside. They may be inflamed. I don't know. This mom said it was FOX News.
But I think, you know, some of us have been here a while, and we remember a time when we always worked together, proud of our differences, confident in our point of view, humble enough to respect another point of view, understanding that we had to find common ground. And I hope that that is still possible.
Q: So as such like a chaotic time as this, and you yesterday called for unity. So I want to ask, has there been any practical actions that there has been taken on your side to unify the parties?
Leader Pelosi. Any practical action since last night to unify the parties? Well, we're going to go to the game today. We're going to play our hardest to win. Each team will. And throughout the whole game we will all be Team Scalise, and that will be a camaraderie, I think, will be very positive as we go forward.
Q: On this security question, just to clarify, do you support some tougher protections in the wake of yesterday? We understand that there are discussions about perhaps at least when a large crowd of lawmakers would be gathered at wherever, at a practice, at a congressional picnic, those sorts of things, that even if leadership was not there, there might be some police presence. Are those types of things being discussed?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, well, I believe that the security evaluations have to be done by the Capitol Police. That would be based on what Members tell them they have been how they've been threatened or what their staffs have been exposed to and kind of strange behavior.
And I do believe that if a number, I think there should have been, in the future, in light of what has happened, it seems self-evident that when the teams are practicing, there should be security there. Because if this security had not been I mean, Steve, our hearts are broken. We love him. Italian American, don't forget that part. And it could've even been worse [if he weren’t there], certainly for other people there.
The other thing that you have to remember about security for Members of Congress is, it's security for other people who are there too. If somebody is coming after a Member of Congress, you don't want to be anywhere nearby. So it's not just it's about the institution, and, again, in the timing of things, at certain times maybe some individuals have more needs and a cause for more concern, but I have always trusted the Capitol Police to make the evaluation.
And I think that I do think and I would support and I have suggested they need a bigger budget, because right now, they have a perimeter that they cover, and these parks were outside the perimeter. That really maybe shouldn't be the standard of what they secure.
Maybe it's they secure Members, tourists, press, staff, wherever there might be a gathering, specifically identified as congressional that might be because lots of times, if you have something that, for example, the practice. A regularly scheduled event at a definite location, you know, you have to I think you have to prevent.
Q: But wouldn't that be Congress to step in to change the rules, or would it be…?
Leader Pelosi. No, they change the rules, but I think we can get them more resources. And as you may have heard, there has been an initiative an overture made by one of our colleagues, [Representative] Cedric Richmond, the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, because they're getting so many reasons for concern, let me say it that way.
And he was suggesting that there might be a way for members to have additional resources or a call on resources to protect their homes or their offices or whatever, depending on the threat.
Q: Thank you.
Understanding that, as you said, it's a time for prayers, for Scalise and the others, could you just comment on the possibility that this incident could be used against Democrats or the Democratic Party politically, because the assailant was apparently motivated by some kind of anti-Republican sentiment. And we have heard comments from Republicans, including Congress, about vitriolic rhetoric from the left being in some way to blame.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think that your question is an excellent one. And I think that the comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous, beneath the dignity of the job that they hold, beneath the dignity of the respect that we would like Congress to command. How dare they say such a thing. How dare they.
Well, I won't even go into the whole thing. I can't even begin probably as we sit here, they're running caricatures of me in Georgia once again, over $100 million of vitriolic things that they say, that resulted in calls to my home constantly, threats in front of my grandchildren, I mean, really, predicated on their comments and their paid ads.
So this sick individual does something despicable and it was horrible what he did, hateful, but for them to all of a sudden be sanctimonious as if they've never seen such a thing before. And I don't even want to go into the President of the United States, but in terms of some of the language that he has used.
So, again, let's go there another day. But since you asked, how could they possibly say such a thing? First of all, the timing of it all. Everybody is so sad, so concerned, so coming together. And for them – I don't know if I can.
And I was hacked. We were all hacked last fall. And when I was told I was hacked, when I got on a plane in Florida, to go back to California, and so I couldn't do anything. You know, you get on the plane, they close the door, turn off your phone.
So when I get back to California, I have scores of horrible, disgusting, yucky messages, a lot of them toward me, a lot of them toward Hillary Clinton, a lot of them toward Barack Obama, and using language that is from some of the messages that they had put out.
So, you know, let us all take a step back, examine our own conscience, see what negative attitudes we can all curtail. But the sanctimony of it all, really. Really? What do you think? Don't you think it's strange? Don't you think it's strange that instead of being prayerful about all this, that they would start saying [this] – let's have this conversation another day, okay.
One more. Yes, sir.
Q: Just to follow up on what Erica asked. This affliction, this coarsen-political behavior, do you see this as equally afflicting the left and the right and –
Leader Pelosi. No, I do not.
Q: and on whose burden is it to address this and change it?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I told you, we'll have this conversation another day. But I think any review of the incidents and the I told you about my hacked messages. When I hand them over to the Capitol Police, which I wanted them to hand it over to the Secret Service, I don't know what happened to them.
But I do know that they were horrible and completely consistent with the calls that have been made to my home all night, all day. I could never have any of my grandchildren ever answer a phone for the foul language that would be there.
And so, I'm just talking about my own experience. But let's all say, let's examine our conscience; let's see how we can rid ourselves of our negative attitudes that go to a place that is like this.
We've had it didn't used to be this way. Somewhere in the 1990s, Republicans decided on politics of personal destruction as they went after the Clintons, and that is the provenance of it and that's what has continued.
But, again, I feel as if we're, you know, having a family moment that is very, very serious, and we're talking about things that we can save the discussion for another day. But you have a President who says I could shoot somebody on 5th Avenue and nobody would care; when you have people saying, beat them up and I'll pay your legal fees; when you have all the assaults that are made on Hillary Clinton, for them to be so sanctimonious is something.
But I really am almost sad for myself that I have gone down this path with you, because I don't think it's appropriate for us to have the fullest discussion of it. And it will be for another day. It will be for another day.
But in terms of the rest of it, we have to protect our democracy, and our democracy is about people being able to come and express their views and come as young people, to come and see the Capitol, because everything we do here is for their future as we honor our past with monuments and statues and the rest. The work we do has to be about their future. We want to attract them to public service. I don't think any of this discussion attracts anyone to public service, whether in terms of a noble calling, or in terms of personal security.
Thank you all very much.
But let me just close with this: I want to go back to the Senate bill. I want to pay tribute to the outside mobilization on this, calls and meetings, et cetera, with the Republican Senators to make sure they know that the American people know what is happening to their financial security because of their health security.
I'm very proud of the efforts that are being made, inside maneuvering, outside mobilization, because when we're talking about safety, we have to talk about people's good health, and that's part of keeping them safe as well.
So I congratulate the outside mobilization, the people, spontaneously, organically speaking out, paying attention. I hope the Republican Senators are paying attention to them.
Thank you, all.
Q: Are [the Golden State Warriors] going to visit you here at the Capitol?
Leader Pelosi. I mean, I'd like them to bring their families when they want to come. You know what I mean? In other words, this isn't about a hoopty doo. This is about when you're here, bring your families. We'd love to welcome them, just as we welcome all of America's families.
But people have to know that there's something wonderful here for them to see, the greatness of America. And if there's anything that gives me optimism, it's the greatness of our country, and that God is always with us and we can get through anything. We'll get through this. Right now, it's very personal, and we want Steve Scalise to get through this as soon as possible, as well as Mr. Mika as well.
So hopefully some of them will take us up on it. We'll see. Barbara Lee is actually in Oakland. Barbara Lee and I are extending invitations to them.
You know, this may come as a surprise to you. I have never gotten the impression from teams, especially baseball teams, when they win, or football teams, that one of the first things they want to do is get back together and come to Washington, especially a football team, because they're home. They're with their families. They're in their other jobs. And so, again, as they wish to come, we want them to know that they're welcome.