Speaker Nancy Pelosi

U.S. House of Representatives

Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

June 20, 2019
Press Release

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, congratulations, congratulations.  Do you believe you call yourself the ‘Bad News Babes’?

[Laughter]

A strong win over a championship Congressional women’s softball – at the game last night.

I’m very proud of our team, though, from Congress: Democratic women, Republican women, Senators and House Members in unity playing the press.  I wasn’t asking for any credentials of some of those, shall we say, younger players.  But it was a great game.  You did well.

And we all should be very proud that the event raised $365,000 to benefit the Young Survival Coalition, a breast cancer charity, especially geared to young women who are – who are diagnosed with cancer.

And it was always a joy to see the survivors who were there last night.  And, we’re very proud of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, our own young survivor, who has been the leader in all of this.

Speaking of health care, we’re very proud that over the weekend, 140 Members of the House Democratic Caucus participated in events across the country, events that were about – town halls, press conferences, online, all the rest – talking about preserving the pre-existing conditions, preserving access to quality, affordable health care.

It was just beautiful to behold the stories that people told about their situations.  I had one in the Bay Area with my colleagues Jackie Speier and Mike Thompson, and then in Southern California with Congresswoman Judy Chu.

But Members – again – this was a drumbeat across America, which will continue on the issue – the very important issue to America’s working families: health care.  It’s a health issue.  It’s also a financial security issue because of the cost of prescription drugs, which we are determined to do something about, hopefully, in a bipartisan way.

But in the meantime, we have to stop the Republican and the President’s assault on the pre-existing condition benefit on the Affordable Care Act.  It’s just remarkable that the – the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land.  It is the responsibility of the Justice Department to defend the law of the land in court.  Instead, this Administration has instructed the Justice Department to oppose the law of the land and completely undo the Affordable Care Act, including removing the benefit of pre-existing conditions, lifetime limits on insurance that insurance companies are supposed to provide.  The list goes on and on.

Also, now, this week we’re coming toward the end of the appropriation, passing all of our appropriations bills.  It is a wonderful process to behold.  I’m from the culture of the Appropriations Committee, so I have always said, left to the own devices, the appropriators, Democrats and Republicans working together, can produce good legislation, and they are.

I am trying to defend the number at which they are writing the bills in our conversations with the White House about lifting the caps.  And, so that’s where we are on that.  We’re hopefully making progress as we come to the end of passing our own bills.

In addition to that, we all know that we want to avoid sequestration, that we want to avoid a continuing resolution, but we have to meet the needs of the American people in a way that is reflected in our appropriations bills.

So, we will almost be finished this week.  There might be one for after the Fourth of July – a tribute to Steny Hoyer, who is our Leader on the Floor, who has, in spite of the interventions from the other side for a roll call vote on every amendment, nonetheless tried to stay on schedule with all of this.

And next week we’ll take up a few more bills as well as very important legislation for election security.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Administration Committee, whose jurisdiction this bill is, will be putting forth legislation, but it’s only step one.  It’s about preventing foreign intervention in our elections.  But, also, this particular piece of it is about protecting our electoral system and allocating resources to help states do so.

When we come back, working with many of our Members on other proposals that they have and trying to work in the most bipartisan way possible, we will have other legislation to prevent foreign intervention, including the duty to report rules and sanctions that will be put forth as a warning to countries not to interfere into our elections, especially Russia, and legislation to promote transparency and accountability in the legislation.

This is, again, about the integrity of our elections.  Obviously, it’s very clear that the Russians disrupted our elections.  There’s no doubt, in terms of the intelligence reporting at the highest confidence level, that that happened and that it continues to happen.

And yet, the President of the United States, who takes an office to protect and defend our Constitution and, therefore, our democracy, is saying that Russian interference in our election, that charge is a hoax, and that, in fact, not only does he call it a hoax and not want to do anything to stop it, he and his comments have given a green light to the Russians to continue to do it.  It’s really quite stunning.

So, there we are.  We have the Leader in the Senate, the ‘Grim Reaper’, still saying he’s going to stop any legislation that goes over there.  I hope that he will honor his oath of office by helping to protect our democracy by protecting the integrity of our elections.

So, this is the day we welcome Prime Minister Trudeau to the Capitol, as it turns out, in timely fashion for me to – what would be the word?  Pay off my debt, the bet, is that –

Q: Settle?

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, settle, okay.  Settle the debt with beautiful California chocolate, California almonds – that’s how we say it in California, almonds – California walnuts, California pistachios, California wine – that we get back to the chocolates because we’ll have more than one variety.  And to do so, congratulating the Raptors, but also saying that they won against mighty champs, the San Francisco – the Golden State Warriors, soon to come to reside in San Francisco.

And today at three o’clock the women play Sweden, isn’t that exciting, in soccer.  At that time, I will be settling the debt, at three o’clock, at a press event with the Prime Minister.  We’ll talk about other things, including trade, I’m sure, but we have to settle up first.

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Any questions?

Q: Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir.

Q: Iran shot down an unmanned drone, unarmed, in international waters.  The President says that Iran has made a big mistake, and Iran says that it’s ready for war.  I know that you’ve called for a second all‑Member briefing.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q: How do you think the administration should respond? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, first of all, we are going to – I’m going to leave here – and the reason we called the meeting earlier today, and thank you for accommodating that – is that at eleven o’clock we will have a briefing.  I think it’s now expanded to a gang of twenty, but that includes leadership and senior Members, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, on committees of jurisdiction.  And so, we’ll learn more in that briefing as to what is happening there.

I think it’s a dangerous situation.  The high‑tension wires are up in the region.  We have to be strong and strategic about how we protect our interests.  We also cannot be reckless in what we do.

So it will be interesting to see what they have to say, whether the – I don’t think the President wants to go to war.  There’s no appetite for going to war in our country.  And so, we want to see what they have to say.

And, then, I have called for a broader briefing for more Members, but they’re starting with this briefing this morning.

So, this afternoon, between four and five, I’ll have a meeting for my Members to hear from some experts on the Iran Project: Wendy Sherman – Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Ambassador William Luers – head of the Iran Project.  Wendy Sherman, our former Ambassador who helped negotiate the Iran Nuclear Agreement, as well as John Brennan.

Yes, ma’am?

Q: Madam Speaker, first of all, can we ask – well, I’ll do it separately to staff.  Let me just go to my question. 

In the conversations about race in the 2020 campaign and the – you are the leader of the Democratic Party, and there’s been a back‑and‑forth between Vice President Biden and some of the candidates. 

Do you think that it is helpful to the party to sort of fight that fight over who best represents the party when it comes to sensitivities about race?  Do you think that there are apologies owed or should be extended?  And is this helpful to the Democrats at this time? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I think that authenticity is the most important characteristic that candidates have to convey to the American people, and Joe Biden is authentic.

He has lived his life.  He considers certain things a resource, that he has worked across the aisle.  That’s what he was saying.

That’s not what this election is about.  This election is about how we connect with the American people, addressing their kitchen table needs.  For us to spend time on an issue like this – which is important, but it’s not central to what the election is about.

What the election is about is the financial stability and well‑being of America’s working families.  Central to that is lowering health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, bigger paychecks by creating more opportunities, building the infrastructure of America in a green way, and having cleaner government by giving them the assurance that what we do here is in the public and the people’s interest, not the special dark money interest.  That’s what the election is about.

So, while we all have a great vision, all of our candidates, and I’m proud of every one of them, have a great vision about our country and how we go forward, know their specialties very well and have good judgment and can talk strategically about how they will get it done, just watch them on – I can’t wait to see the debates – but, all of that is up here – the vision, the knowledge, the strategic thinking.

Heart to heart, where they connect with the American people, assuring them that they have an understanding, their hopes and dreams, aspirations, fears, as well as apprehensions – that’s what the election will be about.

Yes, ma’am?

Q: But on the same topic, I think the argument from Senator Booker and others, of course, is that Vice President Biden is disconnected with a large group of Americans, especially African Americans, who have a problem with his rhetoric.  

Of course, as you say, Senator Biden – or Vice President Biden – is saying authentically he feels strongly about what he said, that it was proper.  What do you think about Vice President Biden’s words, referencing his work with segregationists and talking about his idea of civility? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I have answered that question, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

We have massive challenges to our democracy, whether it’s the integrity of our elections, whether it’s the values in our budgets that we put forth, whether it’s the respect for the people of our country – a nation of immigrants, unless you’re blessed to be born Native American, and that’s a beautiful thing.

But, we have a White House that says, ‘We disrespect America. We disrespect America.’

What is America?  America is the Constitution and our rights contained therein.  ‘We do not support our oath of office because we’re walking away from checks and balances, freedom of the press, and the rest.’

What is America?  America is a nation of immigrants, and ‘We will denigrate them, as opposed to what Ronald Reagan said about immigrants and the constant vitality they bring to America.’

What is America?  This beautiful land that God has given us from sea to shining sea, and beyond, and this Administration is degrading that beautiful environment, as recently as yesterday, with their Dirty Power Scam that they put forth to diminish the air that our children breathe.

What is America, but our values?  Our values – our budget should be a statement of our national values, what is important to our country, as to what we think is important and how we invest in the future for our children.  That’s what we should be talking about.

It remains for the candidates to debate among themselves who among them will appeal.  Joe Biden seems to have tremendous support in the African American community, but it’s for them to decide.  It’s not for me to make a judgment as to how they’re going to react to him.

That’s what elections are about, let’s see who connects with the American people.  Let the election – it’s not for us to say, ‘This is who we think should be the candidate for President.’  It’s for the people to decide.

So, we can have this discussion here all we want while the President is calling an attack on our democracy a hoax, while the Administration is shutting down the protections of clean air for our families, while that list goes on and on.

So, I’m not going to go to that place.  I’ve said what I’m going to say about it and let them all debate it.  We’ll see that two nights next week, and I’m very excited about it because I think any one of them would be a better President than the current occupant of the White House.

Q: Speaker Pelosi, back to Iran. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you for talking about an issue.  God forbid.

Q: What’s your view on why tensions are rising between these two nations, right now? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say that this – I was very much a strong supporter and, I think, played an important role in protecting the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

That is something that was very, very positive in stopping Iran, slowing any process for a number of years as to Iran’s intentions in terms of developing a nuclear weapon.

When we walked away from that, we lost some credibility with our allies.  I think that however we go forward, without saying how we got here, however we go forward, we have to recognize that working together with our allies is very, very important and that we cannot throw our weight around, you know, we have to do this together.

There’s nobody who has any illusions about Iran, their bad behavior in terms of who they support in the region, their spreading of ballistic missiles, and we have sanctions on all of that.  But, this is a dangerous neighborhood and miscalculation on either side could provoke something that would be very bad in terms of the security and our interests.

So, I look forward to the briefing.  I go there with concerns about how we are not – how we should be doing better working with our allies, but also listening to what the intelligence has to say about it.

I think it’s really important, I said to some of you at breakfast yesterday, it’s important for the American people to understand what is happening there.  How many articles, how many news reports did I read about attacks on ships that never said the ships were Saudi Arabian or Norwegian or Japanese, but at the same time, the Japanese Prime Minister, Premier, was in Tehran?

So, you know, let’s make sure that we don’t have a – beating the drum for something without the clarity of the facts involved.

And, again, our responsibility is to protect and defend our Constitution and the American people, our country.  That’s our first responsibility.  That’s what we will honor.  But let’s get – let us get the facts.

As to how we got to this place, I don’t want to make any characterizations about it, but I will say that we started to lose credibility on the subject when we walked away from the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Q: Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  This will have to be the last because we have the hearing.  I mean the briefing.

Q: Thank you.  It’s on the caps and the debt ceiling deal.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q: The Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, suggested that you – and Steve Mnuchin – suggested that you had changed your position.  Last week you said you would lift the caps –

Speaker Pelosi. Do we have to waste time on Mick Mulvaney’s characterization of my remarks?  I mean, I don’t mean to interrupt you, but why do we preface –

Q: What is the position?  Did you alter your position?

Speaker Pelosi.  Why do we preface a question to me about [Mick] Mulvaney’s mischaracterization of my remarks?

We will never question the full faith and credit of the United States of America.  It’s in the Constitution of the United States.

Mulvaney’s one of the people who shut down government because they didn’t want to lift the debt ceiling, and so he has no credibility on the subject whatsoever.  So, I mean, I shouldn’t even be engaged in a conversation that has him mischaracterizing.

We have never said we would not lift – the full faith and credit.  What we have said, though, is that we will fight for meeting the needs of the American people.

I bragged at the beginning about the good work that the Appropriations Committee is doing.  We want to come as close to their number as possible in the discussions.  And that – when the Republicans threaten to not lift the debt ceiling – as you may recall, a few years ago, just the threat of it, just the threat of it, because it was a very legitimate threat and people were scared, lowered the credit rating of the United States of America.  And, he was part of that.

So, you know, please don’t predicate a characterization of a question on that – I have never changed my view on the object.  What we have said is, we have to deal with these things sequentially, and we will.

Thank you all.

Q: What’s your message on the USMCA to Justin Trudeau? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we’ll try.  We’re hopeful on the U.S.‑Mexico‑Canada Trade Agreement.

We’re working in a positive way.  We’re optimistic.  I’m hopeful.  We want to be on a path to yes.

Thank you.