Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
July 11, 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. Good morning.
Here we are, back from the July Fourth district work period. Did you have an enjoyable holiday? I hope so.
How about the women’s national team? Wasn’t that just a spectacular way to spend a Sunday morning? Apart from going to church, of course. I went Saturday night.
The House again has returned from that work period laser-focused on our strengthening America agenda, as we honor our oath to support and defend the Constitution and protect the American people. Members of Congress will honor our oath and do our patriotic duty to find the facts, as Special Counsel Mueller comes to testify before Congress next week. This is about the dignity of the process. It’s about patriotism. It’s not about partisanship or politics.
The Mueller report revealed that the Russians waged a sweeping and systemic attack on our elections. Yet the President tells us it was a hoax and suggests that he would welcome Russian interference again – a green light.
This testimony will ensure that many more people will read the report and see the facts for themselves. Our national security is being threatened, and the American people deserve answers. Yesterday, we had a classified briefing on election security from the Administration.
As we investigate, the House will also legislate, honoring our oath with bold actions to deliver results for the American people. And to that end, tomorrow, the House will pass a strong, bipartisan defense authorization bill. We are debating it now, have for a couple of days – a bill that advances a strong, smart and strategic national defense.
The legislation keeps America strong, with vital action to improve the economic security and well-being of our servicemen and women and their families.
It keeps America safe, with critical steps to promote collaboration with our allies, harden our defenses against hostile foreign powers and meet the challenges of the future, including the climate crisis, which is a national security issue.
And it keeps America smart, by reaffirming Congress’s constitutional oversight responsibility over the President’s military actions overseas, including action related to potential action against Iran.
I want to commend our Chairman of the Committee, Adam Smith. He’s done a spectacular job. And the Members of the Committee. And, really, he incorporated the views of so many of our Members into the legislation.
It also keeps America humane, by protecting children in this way: prohibiting DOD funding from being used to house unaccompanied children near the border and requiring the Department of Defense to submit certification that any housing provided to unaccompanied children meets Department of Homeland Security standards, including those provided in the Flores settlement.
We must take every action we can, take every opportunity we have to end this child abuse and improve the health care, safety and well-being of children in custody.
In the coming weeks we’ll bring to the Floor – just in the very near future – legislation, under the leadership of Chairman Thompson, the Chair of our Homeland Security Committee, but also work of the Judiciary Committee, legislation of Representative Escobar on accountability and Representative Raul Ruiz, who’s also a public health physician, for best practices based on – based on training for CBP and ICE officers and a ban on separation of families except when it is in the best interest of the child.
It’s very, very specific medical care standards, led by Mr. Ruiz, to ensure health and safety of children and adults in custody.
Some of this – the accountability piece is fresh and new and something that sprang from the visit that Congresswoman Escobar hosted over the past weekend. But the provisions of Mr. Ruiz’s bill, or some of it is more, but most of it is what we wanted the Senate to accept before the break. They didn’t. I think Mitch McConnell would have been happy if we had no bill at all. That’s what he was taunting for. But we wouldn’t go that place.
Again, this is not issues. This is not legislation. This is about values. And our Members did hear this when they went home. Whatever they may think about immigration and any other aspects of it, they all universally came back with questions about the children. The American people, in their decency, care about the children at the border.
It’s about values that the President does not seem to share, and we saw this morning when he announced his heartless raids on families this coming Sunday.
When he announced this before, I called some people of faith about this, evangelicals who support the President for other reasons but who have been good on immigration issues usually. And, basically, they were very concerned that this goes too far, because these raids were not what they signed up for with President Trump. And I think their calls to the President made a difference.
Basically what they said to me is, ‘On Sunday’ – this is the Hispanic evangelicals – ‘on Sunday, west of the Mississippi, our people are in church, and as they prepare to go to church, they feel very threatened and scared by these raids.’ So hopefully the President will think again about it, or these groups will weigh in once again.
Families belong together. Every person in America has rights. These families are hardworking Members of our communities and our country. This brutal action will terrorize children and tear families apart.
At the events that I’ve been going to, recently in Queens and other places – but the Queens one was specifically geared to the Census, and then the raids emerged as part of that discussion – I read them this card: An ICE deportation warrant is not the same as a search warrant. If that is the only document ICE brings to a home raid, agents do not have the legal right to enter a home. If ICE agents don’t have a warrant signed by a judge, a person may refuse to open the door and let them in. An administrative order of removal from ICE or immigration authorities is simply not enough.
Families belong together. Everyone in our country has rights. Many of these families are mixed-status families. We hope the President – we pray that the President will think about this, I would say ‘again.’ Hopefully it’s ‘again.’
Okay. So, one more subject before we go to questions. Tomorrow is a very big day for us because the House will honor our values as we pass Congresswoman – well, she’s Chairwoman of her Committee – Carolyn Maloney’s bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes Act, which renews the 9/11 Victims Compensation Act.
Two weeks ago, America lost one of those heroes, Luis Alvarez. He was here. He came to the Capitol to testify. And we lost him. He was a New York Police Department detective and an advocate for whom this bill is named who died from 9/11-related cancer.
With this bill, we pledge to never forget his sacrifice and that of so many. We had passed the bill earlier, closer to the time of the tragedy. We need to do it more and more fulsomely because there are so many cases of cancer that we’re aware of now. And so, tomorrow, we will do that, send it over to the Senate.
Next week, the House will also act to raise the minimum wage – I’m very excited about this – which will increase wages for up to 27 million Americans and lift 1.3 million people out of poverty, including 600,000 children.
Finally, throughout July and beyond, the House will continue the drumbeat of action For The People for protecting the health and financial security of America’s families. For The People, what we ran on: lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, protecting the pre-existing medical conditions; and to increase paychecks – hopefully the President will still want to do infrastructure; and cleaner government.
Finally, on Tuesday – one last thing – on Tuesday, the courts heard oral arguments in the Republicans’ Texas v. the U.S. lawsuit, in which the Administration asked the court to eliminate every last protection and benefit provided by the Affordable Care Act.
You may recall that during the campaign the Republicans were out there saying, ‘We’re for the pre-existing medical condition benefit.’ Every last provision of the Affordable Care Act.
While the GOP tries to destroy families’ health care, Democrats are fighting to lower health care costs and protect the pre-existing condition benefit.
This is so important to all of us, to protect this. It’s also very important in the lives of the American people, because it’s not just about their health, which would be enough reason, it’s about their financial well-being as well, health care costs being problematic.
Speaker Pelosi. Any questions? Let’s see. Somebody new here.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: Thank you very much. Fed Chair Jay Powell, yesterday, indicated that the central bank may look to lower rates. There’s a lot of head-scratching going on as to why that may be the case. And I’m curious, from your perspective, do you have any concerns that perhaps the Fed has caved into a little bit of political pressure that they’re receiving from the President?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I have long been an advocate that the Fed should be free of any political pressure, even sometimes when in Congress there have been some exuberances to hold the Fed accountable. I just think that that’s wrong.
I don’t know what went into the Fed’s decision, and I shouldn’t until they tell us, but it certainly shouldn’t be because of any weighing in of the President or the Congress of the United States.
It was interesting to see the Chairman’s comments yesterday that he has been appointed for a four-year term and he intends to serve that. We’ll see how it goes. I have respect for him, but I have always had respect for the Fed under whatever auspices, whoever appointed them, that they should be independent.
Q: On the debt ceiling –
Speaker Pelosi. Debt ceiling.
Q: On the debt ceiling, there’s reliable estimates that it could be breached in early September. That could be during the recess break. Does that speak to a need to get it done before you go on break?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we’ll just see. I mean, obviously, we don’t want there to be any doubt about the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The Constitution guarantees that, and we always have supported that.
We’ll just see about the timing. We’re having our back-and-forth conversations. But we understand the value of that. We also understand how important it is for us to lift the caps so that we can meet the needs of the American people. And we’re having those conversations at the same time.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Chad.
Thank you for substantive questions. It’s such a relief.
Q: We have Robert Mueller coming next week.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: There seems to be a lot of consternation inside the Judiciary Committee about what the structure will be and the timing and whether or not all Members will be allowed to ask questions because of the time constraints presented by Mr. Mueller.
Do you see a scenario where you, as Speaker, might have to intervene and help broker some sort of an agreement because some Members are so concerned? Why not?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think that this – we’re very pleased that the special counsel – the former special counsel will be coming. But I have confidence in our Committee Chairs, Mr. Nadler in terms of the Judiciary Committee and Adam Schiff in terms of the Intelligence Committee. They’ll handle it very well.
I wish we had more time, but I’m glad we have the time that we have. But I don’t see –
Q: Should all Members get to ask a question, at least one question?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know, as far as timing, on distribution of timing in Committees, I’ll leave that up to the Chairmen.
Q: Madam Speaker, on immigration, the bills that you all planned to pass in the next couple of weeks, parts of those were already included in the House’s version of the supplemental, and it doesn’t look like they have any better prospects in the Senate than that supplemental.
Have you taken off the table the idea of including those bills or similar ideas in either the DHS appropriations bill or in must-pass legislation like the debt ceiling or the caps deal?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, no, I haven’t – not on the latter two, but we do have many of these provisions in the appropriations bill. The visibility that we have by bringing them up – and the accountability bill is a new – that’s a new bill, as I say.
It’s shameful. I mean, what the Senate did was shameful. What Mitch McConnell did was shameful. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t good things in the rest of the Senate bill, but it did not address all of the things we want to address. So, we’ll give them another chance.
I mean, some of what they said, ‘Well, it’s timing and it’s too late and it’s’ – well, it’s never too late to do the right thing for the children. And when it comes to children, again, I’m the lioness. I’m just going to protect our cubs.
And so we’re going to use every legislative tactic at our disposal. Individual bills were within the – but we do have – if you’ve seen our appropriations bill, it has many of these provisions.
Q: But the caps deal, it could be part – have you considered that?
Speaker Pelosi. We haven’t had that discussion.
Q: Madam Speaker, there’s been a lot of debate over the way you and Representative Ocasio–Cortez are relating to each other these days. She has said that she explicitly feels – she feels that you are explicitly targeting her and others, women of color, on the issues of race. What is your response to this?
Speaker Pelosi. I’ve said what I’m going to say in the caucus. That’s where this is appropriate, and I said what I’m going to say in the caucus.
They took offense because I addressed, at the request of my Members, an offensive tweet that came out of one of the Members’ offices that referenced our Blue Dogs and our New Dems essentially as segregationists. Our Members took offense at that. I addressed that. How they’re interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them, but I’m not going to be discussing it any further.
Q: What is your concern that this divides –
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma’am.
Q: If I could just follow up briefly, you talk a lot about civility in the caucus. This is the message that you preached yesterday to the Members.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: But many of those Freshman Members who have taken offense to your comment have found it demoralizing. Do you have a role –
Speaker Pelosi. I’ve said what I’m going to say. With all due respect, maybe you didn’t hear what I said. I said what I’m going to say on this subject. What I said in the caucus yesterday got an overwhelming response from my Members because they know what the facts are and what we’re responding to.
We respect the value of every Member of our Caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength, unity is our power. And we have a big fight, and we’re in the arena.
And that’s all I’m going to say on the subject. So if you want to waste your question, you can waste your question.
Q: Ma’am, on the ICE raids that you mentioned in your opening statement –
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: – the President gave Congress two weeks to come to some sort of deal on immigration, especially on the asylum laws that are in the country.
Do you see any momentum to change the asylum laws or to sit down and work towards a comprehensive immigration reform package in the coming weeks?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the asylum laws are what they are. In other words, it’s important for people to understand what they are. We’re part of a global society. And when someone comes to a country seeking asylum and they are not breaking the law coming into the country – and they have to prove their case that they have a well-founded fear of persecution. So, it’s not a question of saying we’re going to change the global human rights dynamic that exists.
There are some initiatives – Zoe Lofgren, who is masterful at all of this, has one of them – that suggest that some review of asylum seekers’ status could be done in–country instead of traveling here. And that’s one thing that I think would be appealing to the Administration. That doesn’t necessarily mean you change the law. You just have to allocate resources to do it.
In terms of comprehensive, I think there’s a real need for it. My understanding is that people don’t even like that term anymore. So, we’re talking about Dream, Promise, and beyond, where we go with it. And I think that is something that we have to do. It’s not something you can do in two weeks.
Q: Will you appeal to the President, though, to put off these raids?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m going to appeal to people of faith, the faith–based organizations to appeal to the President. I think that they put him in office and they have a better voice for this.
I did appeal to some of them to help with the conditions for the children when we were having the back–and–forth before the break, but they were given the short shrift by Mitch McConnell. It’s just like he wasn’t interested in their appeals as to what would be needed.
But, yeah, this is a longer thing. I mean, the possibilities are there. He sent – you know this. I think it’s in the public domain, so I’ll be confirming it. He sent – is the Chairman? Yeah, I guess he is a Chairman, of the Judiciary Committee.
Speaker Pelosi. – Graham to my office to talk about some things that we could do. And there may be some possibilities of some things that we can do. It may not be the total comprehensive, but it would address some of the points.
We have to do that. I mean, we have principles that we’ve always put forth: We want to secure our borders. We want to be respectful of immigration policy that is fair to the American people and to newcomers coming to our country. We want to again have a path to citizenship. And I always like quoting Ronald Reagan, who said this: ‘We cannot close the door’. So, recognizing that we’re not deporting 11 million people because of status of their documents, or lack thereof.
We did have that initial conversation. And there may be some possibilities. But every time you think you’ve made progress, then it doesn’t necessarily happen. But we are having conversations about it, yeah.
Q: Can the President add a Census question by Executive order?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don’t know. I mean, he has an injunction. There’s an injunction that he just has to overcome. There’s an injunction against putting citizenship on the ballot.
We have been printing the Census forms. June 30th was the deadline. So, we’re printing the forms. We fully expect the Census to go forward.
The President’s effort to put the citizenship question on the Census will continue to be challenged in court. The Supreme Court destroyed the Administration’s argument that the question was needed to support the Voting Rights Act – really? – including their rationale was based on a contrived pretext.
Next week, the full House will vote on a resolution of criminal contempt for Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross so we can enforce our subpoenas and get the facts.
So, he’ll try all kinds of things, but he’ll have to get around that injunction. In the meantime, we’re printing the forms. And, by the way, one of our issues in lifting the caps is more money for the Census.
Thank you all.