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, that was a night. You’re thinking of the debates. We’re thinking of the game.
Last question from Chad as I was leaving, ‘Who’s going to win, the Democrats or the Republicans?’ And I answered, ‘The children.’ I thought you were asking a different question.
14‑7, I like it like that. The trophy is beautiful. The only thing is that it took a long time, the game. We missed, many of us, the original presentation of the debate.
But everything about it looked really good – in terms of us being very proud of all of the Democrats who put themselves into the arena – to be continued tonight.
We just are getting a mixed review on the Senate on the, excuse me, the Supreme Court on the Census. It appears now that they’re sending it down to, perhaps a lower court, because the Chief Justice – now this is all reporting, so I’m getting it from you – is saying that there wasn’t sufficient justification from the Commerce Department for the citizenship question. There could be justification, he says, so let’s go see what that is.
First, we heard they ruled in favor of the question, but then, now, it’s a little bit of a different question. But, that is all to say, that we have to make sure, whether that question is on there or not, and I certainly hope it is not, but whether it’s on there or not, that the American people come forward and be counted.
It would be a sad occurrence if people said, ‘Well, since that’s on there, I’m not going to be counted,’ because it means so much in terms of who we are as a nation, in terms of what makes up America, who are we and how do we address the needs of the American people. And, by the way, how do we reapportion seats in the Congress of the United States so that people have the representation that is justified by their numbers.
Here we are, right now on the Floor we are voting – debating the SAFE [Secure America’s] Federal Elections Act. This is part of H.R. 1. We’re taking some of it in pieces.
We see no reason why this should not be bipartisan – paper ballots, funding to fortify our voting machines and the rest, and addressing the cybersecurity concerns that we have.
I salute Congresswoman and Madam Chair, Zoe Lofgren of California, Chair of the House Administration Committee. This is step one. We’ll have more legislation. Mr. Bennie Thompson, Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, has been working on this issue, and there will be other legislation.
This happens to be the jurisdiction of the House Administration Committee, and it is exactly, word-for-word the same as a Senate bill.
So, we’re hoping to get some bipartisanship today For The People – For The People – so that the resources that are allocated, the standards that are set, will give us an honest count.
Speaking of bills being word-for-word, we would have hoped that would be the case with the Senate when it comes to the children, the children, the children.
As you know, when anybody asks me, “What are the three most important issues facing the Congress?” I always say the same thing: the children, the children, the children. Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, a safe, healthy environment in which they can thrive, a world at peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.
And, right now, we’re faced with a situation where we can do much better for the children. I always am fond of the phrase, ‘You’re in your mother’s arms.’ That’s one of the most reassuring and comforting phrases for a child, that everything’s going to be okay – in their parents’ arms, mother and father, family.
So, what we were just hoping to do is to have an improvement on the Senate bill for the children. For the children’s health, we must have a higher standard of medical attention for them, as well as for their hygiene, their nutrition and for the training of the personnel who deal with – who address their needs.
For the children, for their safety, we want them not to have to be in an influx center longer than 90 days so that they can safely be placed with family or other opportunities for their safety – 90 days. And, that in those influx facilities, that the contractors who are hired, if they don’t live up to the standards of the influx centers, that they would be terminated after 6 months.
For the children, we want to reimburse all the faith‑based organizations, local governments, even the Armed Forces – the states, the state for the funds that had been spent to protect the children and their families.
So, these are very simple things: for their health, as I said, for their safety, for their well‑being and for their comfort. We want – we’re hoping to have this model, really a pilot program, of a place of cultural, linguistic, religious comfort level for the children where they can be in a migrant processing center that is, like I say, for the comfort of the children.
So, what we’re asking for is to have transparency and accountability in how we deal with them. This isn’t about – I hear some people saying it’s about more money. No, it’s not about more money. It’s about more accountability and more standards that I think we all share. I don’t know why anybody would be afraid of that.
My view, as many of you know, I would be considered one who’s not inclined to violence and war in any way, but if you start endangering children, I become a lioness. You get near those cubs and it just evokes a response that is natural. And as a mother of five, grandmother of nine, I just feel that way about all children. I know what opportunities our children have. We want all children to have those.
So, all we’re saying there is, for their comfort, for their safety, for their well‑being, for their health, we can do so much more. It will only take a few minutes in conference. These issues are not unknown.
And remembering, all of these children are God’s children. They all have a spark of divinity that we must respect and hope that our own spark of divinity in us will relate to theirs, the humanity that that should evoke in us.
So, this isn’t about threats or challenges or anything like that. It’s only about humanity and the courage to do what is right for the children. It’s not – it wouldn’t take a long time, but it would make a big difference.
And, that is what I’m very proud of our colleagues for what we voted on the other day. A conference is a compromise, and so we would suspect that that would be part of our conversation. But, for some reason, the Senate Republicans have decided they don’t want to go there, and I think that the public should know that.
I had a very good conversation with the President. I think he would have been well disposed, but now he’s in Japan. So, hopefully I have a chance to share our religious values with Vice President Pence this morning.
And what else is happening? Okay.
We’re out there For The People. When we come back, we will be doing national security issues. We will be doing the National – the Armed Services Committee authorization bill, the National Defense Authorization bill. That’s when we come back. We’ll be talking about following up on what the Senate did on arms sales and the like.
And we will hear, on another note, we will hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on July 17. We look forward to hearing that from him.
But, I would hope that we could – I would hope that we could pass today, in a bipartisan way, the SAFE Act, [Secure America’s] Federal Elections, because that is – again, John Lewis said this at a press conference we had on the Voting Rights Act, which is a partner to this bill in H.R. 1, it’s a sacred right, the right to vote.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me see if we can do somebody new. New, new, new. Okay.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker.
As you know, Senator McConnell has said he would table your new border bill if you send it over, and the Administration also opposes it. So, if it comes to it, would you put the Senate bill, as passed, on the Floor of the House?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I haven’t been told by the Administration that – the President seemed well disposed to some of what we were proposing.
And here’s the thing, what are they afraid of? I don’t see that same attitude coming from the Administration. I see that coming from Mitch McConnell, and I just don’t know why.
We have respected the fact that the Senate has passed their bill. We think they should respect the fact that we’ve passed ours. So, if this is how he sees things for the future – cooperation is a two‑way street, and when you’re talking about the children, this is a very big priority for us.
So, we’ll continue our conversation, without threats or without predictions, but holding up this concern for the children on the border and for children across America as a moral imperative, and we will fight that fight.
Q: So, Madam Speaker, are you ruling out, are you ruling out putting the Senate bill on the House Floor?
Speaker Pelosi. We are looking forward to having a conversation, further conversations, on this matter. One step at a time.
Q: I wondered with all the attention focusing on immigration and the picture of the drowned immigrants, do you think there’s any prospect for broader immigration legislation this year for policy instead of just spending today?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m encouraged by my conversations with the President on the subject. I spoke to him on Friday, and I spoke to him on – yesterday. Yesterday. And we talked about the fact that if we’re going to deal with these issues, we have to deal in a way that builds on the Dream and Promise Act and goes further to address the many people in our country who need to have a path to citizenship, which is overwhelmingly supported by the American people.
So, yeah, no, I think that we’re going to have some – we’re going to continue those conversations, and hopefully that’s something that can be done in the near near, rather than the longer term.
But, it has to be done. You know, we can talk all we want about one thing or another, and we have always talked about comprehensive immigration reform, but since that didn’t happen, we did the Dreamers. We want to do some visas, maybe, when we come back, Ag jobs. There are a number of things that really must be addressed.
But, hopefully we can work in a way that respects the dignity and worth of every person, understands what immigration means to America.
I’m constantly reminding people of President Ronald Reagan’s last speech as President of the United States when he spoke about the vital force of America’s pre-eminence in the world being every new generation of newcomers that comes to America. So, look it up. It’s a beautiful speech. Much better than I just did.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Wait a minute. New, new.
Okay, you go.
Q: Madam Speaker, I wanted to follow up –
Speaker Pelosi. We had like a Williamsburg Rule in our Caucus, it’s if you asked a question at a previous meeting, then you have to be in line behind other people who didn’t ask –
Q: But we’re here every week.
Speaker Pelosi. I’ll see if I can answer. Because we were at Williamsburg, and you know how it is, sometimes the same people jump in the front of the line. You wouldn’t understand that, I know.
Q: I just wanted to follow up on his question about that photo of the man that was drowned with his toddler daughter. What was your immediate reaction when you saw that photo and who do you hold responsible for it? Is there anybody to blame for that?
Speaker Pelosi. Can you just imagine: the father put the little girl on the shore to go back to get the mother and the little girl wanted to be with her father, and she got back in. And then he couldn’t – he couldn’t save her, and then he couldn’t save himself. This is such a tragedy.
I think it’s not a question of blame. It’s a question of being prayerful and understanding the consequences of policy. I’m sure that nobody who decided to have a policy would say, ‘And I don’t care if something like this happens,’ but it does happen.
And, I’ve visited the border so many times over the years, not just in recent years. The Rio Grande has a personality. This is not just a little river that you swim across. It has its moments. So, I can just imagine how that happened and I just think it’s such a shame for that to be the face of America around the world.
So, let’s just step back from it, from a policy standpoint. This is one of those metered situations where people who have – who come to our country and want to be admitted have to meet certain standards. That’s the way it is.
But it isn’t – I have this conversation with my Republican colleagues frequently. It shouldn’t be a crime to have a visa – to have a status violation. If somebody commits a crime or is guilty of a crime, and they’re in our country, prosecutorial discretion would warrant that they, or justify that they be sent away.
So, nobody’s saying if people are – but, if you overstay your visa, or you’re coming in, as this family would have been coming in, but they had narrowed the number of people coming in through the ports of entry, so they were coming in not through the ports. And, that’s not unusual. You know, I’ve seen – I’ve physically seen that happen there.
And, again, enlarge the issue, weigh the equities. We’re talking about human lives. And let’s just subject people to the laws. But, we also have to recognize that everybody in America has rights. Everybody in America has rights. And we’re trying to make people aware of their rights once they’re in our country.
But, you just cannot say – and there’s a disagreement – that anybody coming across the border is breaking the law. Not until there’s been a determination as to whether they can stay or not. But, just because they’re coming across the border, they don’t.
Now, we all want to have border security and do what we need to do, protect our borders – North, South, East, West, Gulf Coast, whatever – we have to do that. But we don’t have to undermine our – who we are as a country by saying it’s a crime to engage in an internationally-recognized opportunity to make your case to come into a country, any country. Any country.
Q: Madam Speaker? Thank you, good morning. Can you describe the time crunch that we’re under?
I know you say, ‘The Senate passed their bill, you’re going to pass another version today. You have to be mindful of what both bodies have stood for here.’ But there is a time crunch, and there is a risk of not doing anything, getting any agreement before the break.
Can you describe what that risk is, if you can’t come to an accord?
Speaker Pelosi. Did I not answer this question?
One step at a time. One step at a time, Chad. We would like to see if we can have some conversation.
And, if there’s a rejection because they don’t agree that we should have healthier medical facilities and nutrition and hygiene and trained personnel, let’s find that out. Because it’s not more money, it’s just how the money is spent.
Or, if they say that those organizations, faith‑based organizations in the region should not be compensated fully for what they have already provided, well, let’s find that out.
So, what is the – what is the objection? They may have some – you know, it’s a compromise. There may be some things that we would yield on, depending on the objection they may have. So, we’re just taking it one step at a time.
We – and I say this almost with a sense of ‘thanks for telling us, everyone’ – we know how urgent it is to get the money and the resources and the changes to these children, and we care very much about them. We just want to do the best we can for them under the circumstances.
But, understand this – this is a day. This is not the end of this discussion because we will have more time to shine a bright light on what is happening there, what difference one policy or another might make and how we can be respectful, not only of those people, but the people who are trying to help them – some in the public sector, some in nonprofit sector, many people of faith.
Yesterday, I spoke to the Cardinal of Houston, the Bishop of Austin, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, all of us sharing our concerns about God’s children.
I am going to have to go forward.
Q: E. Jean Carroll’s friends, Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach, have now gone public to confirm that she told them that the President attacked her in a dressing room at Bergdorf’s right after the incident allegedly took place. What, if anything, should Congress do about an allegation of rape against the President?
Speaker Pelosi. My gosh, we’re so immersed in what’s happening in Iran, what’s happening at our border, so many policy issues that we have responsibility for, including keeping our elections safe today, as well as protecting the children to the best of our ability. I haven’t spent any time on that.
I just am not – I don’t know the people you’re referencing. I don’t know the person making the accusation. I just am not – I haven’t paid that much attention to it.
I’m more concerned about policy decisions that we have disagreements on that we need to come to agreement on, that affect – For The People, the lives of the American people.
I appreciate that is this getting more publicity. Again, I just am not following it that closely.
Q: She said that she was raped by the President. The first woman to come forward and say that he actually raped her.
Speaker Pelosi. Look, I respect – lord knows I respect the concerns that are expressed by women as they present their truth, their case. And I don’t – as I say, I don’t know the person. It doesn’t matter if I did or not. I respect that. But, I don’t know what Congress’ role would be in this.
But, in any of these things, this is about not what Congress will do, this is about what the President’s own party would do. You’d really have to ask them.
But, I’m busy worrying about children not being in their mother’s arms because of policies that we may have.
I’m concerned about – one thing we did that was great last week, and it wasn’t bipartisan, it was just Democratic votes, but we passed, with Richie Neal’s leadership in Ways and Means, a bill to help poor children in America with the low‑income tax credit, the low – the child tax credit, but the younger children’s child tax credit. That’s what we spend our time on here.
So, I’m respectful of any woman who comes forth with her story. I don’t see – I don’t know what the role is of Congress. Perhaps others are working on this, but I’m not.
Q: Can you update us on the new NAFTA agreement? Do you expect to reach a negotiated settlement with USTR?
Speaker Pelosi. I hope so.
Q: On fixes –
Speaker Pelosi. This will be our last question because I have to go to the Floor.
Q: – or do you expect that this is going to take a reopening of negotiations in a limited sense with Canada and Mexico?
Is that even possible? And does it mean that you don’t get to a vote on the Floor for USMCA this year?
Speaker Pelosi. I didn’t understand, was that a question or a statement, the last? Does it mean?
Okay, no, here’s the thing – on the subject of U.S., Mexico, Canada – we have to get a name for that, NAFTA revisited, NAFTA 2.0, AFTA NAFTA, they have all kinds of names – but, whatever it is, as much as possible, we are trying to keep the discussion on track and on schedule. And what the schedule is, is when we come to agreement. So, engineer back from that, whenever that is.
But, I had the Ambassador Lighthizer yesterday with the Caucus to again narrow in on where our concerns are. I have told you over and over, enforcement, the overarching issue. You can have every kind of agreement in the world, but if you don’t have effective enforcement you’re just having a conversation.
Enforcement: under there, there are three issues. Workers: what does this mean for America’s working families? Environment: what does it mean in terms of the environment? And third, the cost of prescription drugs, the pharmaceutical issue.
Those three are very important to a broad, across‑the‑board group of our Members. We have some dogs and cats under there, other smaller, more regional issues. We love our dogs and we love our cats, so that is not to make them any less important. It’s just the first overarching and the three could be deal breakers.
So, what we would propose is that we have to have enforcement, and we don’t have enforcement if it’s in a letter, a side bar, a law in our country, your country, his country, but not in the agreement. So, I could see a scenario where we would just, for the singular purpose of doing enforcement, that we would suggest that they should open.
I mean this, you know, is a question of having the strongest possible – we want to pass this bill. We do not want to pass this agreement just slightly different from NAFTA with a little sugar on top and say, ‘See, we did something different.’ If it isn’t really going to be enforceable, it will just be NAFTA with sugar on top.
Now, I voted for NAFTA. I took all the heat in the world for voting for it, and I’ve had my disappointment. So, I know what we have to do to make it work.
Q: But if it’s necessary to reopen in a limited sense?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah, it couldn’t be, like, we’re opening it up and now it’s ‘Ollie, Ollie oxen‑free.’ No, it would be surgical. It would be surgical.
And I’m hoping that we can do it. As I say to the President, to the Administration, you have leverage. We want to change NAFTA. And, I think that’s across the board that we do and everybody’s working very hard to understand the differences, to try to eliminate some or prioritize as we go along. So that – I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to do something.
The Ambassador frequently will say, ‘We just don’t want to get this into the presidential.’ And I say, ‘These presidential candidates, there are 20, and I think most of them probably would want a better NAFTA.’ But I can’t – I certainly don’t speak for them. But, that really doesn’t have anything to do with, it’s about the substance of the agreement, not the politics at all.
Q: Madam Speaker, are there any administrative fixes that the President might be able to offer you that you would trust, if you can’t make an agreement with Senator McConnell to address some of these concerns on immigration?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, I think that Senator McConnell will do what the President wants. But, no, we would rather have it statutory. Thank you.
Q: Thank you.