Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Speaker Pelosi. Good afternoon. Good afternoon.
Yesterday, our country lost a giant of the Court and a clarion voice for justice, equality and the rule of law, Justice John Paul Stevens.
Justice Stevens was a true guardian of the Constitution. He made history not only as [one of] the longest serving justice[s], but as one of its finest. Our country mourns his loss.
He will be lying in state Monday. The service will be Tuesday. And again, it is a great loss to our country.
Last night, I had a particular pleasant experience, which was to sign the legislation which enabled us to use the Washington Monument as a background for the moon launch. Pretty exciting. I hope everyone will take advantage of observing that as we observe that historic event in our country’s – the world’s history. It is pretty exciting.
So, here we are. As you know, we campaigned on the For The People agenda: lowering health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. And to that end of bigger paychecks, this week we will have three bills on the Floor.
Raising the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage. It will increase wages for up to 33 million workers and lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty.
It would help secure fairness and equality for women, many of whom will be the beneficiaries of this, giving nearly 20 million working women a raise and help narrow the gender gap, the wage gap that disproportionately impacts women.
We are also proud to pass this bill tomorrow on the anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, which America declared that all men and women were created equal.
We are also continuing to deliver our promises to workers. Today, we will honor our promise to the hard-working men and women of labor as we lift the Cadillac Tax, protecting health benefits that workers have negotiated.
And next week, the House will move to pass the Butch Lewis Act, ensuring that millions of Americans will receive the retirement and benefit securities they have earned.
We are very pleased at the outcome of all of the back-and-forth on the Census, proud of the testimony our House Counsel made before the Supreme Court, because the Census is a pillar of our democracy, enshrined in our sacred Constitution to ensure that we are all equally counted and represented.
And so, we will continue to follow the facts and hold the Administration accountable for the policy decisions. This is not about partisanship, it is about patriotism. And now, having instilled fear, hopefully we can allay that fear by having people sign up for the Census.
As we approach the 200-day mark of our transformative Majority, which is coming up soon, House Democrats will build on the bold promise we have made on our For The People agenda.
We talked about lower health costs by preserving the prescription drug benefit – lowering the prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing condition benefit. And some of that legislation will be coming up next week.
Raise workers’ wages. I talked about that.
Reduce the role of big dark money in Washington, H.R. 1. But part of H.R. 1 we have divided into parts, to save our federal elections, the Voting Rights Act and the rest, and we are hoping to get some of these passed discretely.
As you know, Senator McConnell has called himself the ‘Grim Reaper’. We have news for him. As I have said before, these bills are alive and well with the public. And public opinion, as Lincoln has said, can make almost anything happen. So, we look forward to that.
Q: Speaker Pelosi –
Speaker Pelosi. Wait a minute. Any new?
I will come back to you.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Next week at this time, Robert Mueller will be here testifying. What is your expectation for his testimony? And is there a chance that after his long-awaited appearance there might not be any further clarity on the findings of the Special Counsel’s report?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think that the report has brought some clarity and his own public statement brought further clarity, and now when he speaks about it, more people will know what is in the report.
I think we should approach it with all of the appropriateness and seriousness of purpose. This is about our country, our Constitution and the separation of powers, obstruction of justice, issues like that.
So, I would say that, again, it’s about patriotism. Let us listen, let us see where the facts will take us and let us have this be as dignified as our Constitution would require. And then, we’ll see what happens after that. We’ll go where the facts lead us.
Q: Speaker, Al Green said today talking about his impeachment resolution –
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. On the same subject.
Q: He said that today we have the opportunity to punish the President, we have to send him a message, we’re not going to allow him to make America a racist country.
Why is he wrong in the approach that he is taking?
Speaker Pelosi. You mean in terms of bringing up an impeachment? Well, for an impeachment, articles of impeachment to succeed — I haven’t really actually seen his articles of impeachment, but are they about racism? We’ll deal with that resolution on the Floor.
But as I have said over and over again, with all the respect in the world for Mr. Green, he’s a very prayerful person, and he cares very much about our Constitution and our country. So, as I say, with all in the respect in the world for him, we have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the President may have engaged in.
That is the serious path that we are on. Not that Mr. Green is not serious, but we’ll deal with that on the Floor.
Q: Will you vote to table it?
Speaker Pelosi. I don’t know what we will do, but we will deal with it on the Floor.
Q: Madam Speaker, thank you. On the debt ceiling here, you’ve been talking to Steven Mnuchin.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: What is the pathway now on that and spending caps, and what are the stumbling blocks to get this done before now and the end of next week?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let’s start with next week and engineer back. We would like to have something on the Floor next Thursday so that we can send it in a timely fashion to the Senate so that they can go through their, shall we say, particularly senatorial process to get it done in time before they leave.
So, if we’re talking about next Thursday being on the Floor, we have to back up almost until this Friday to have an agreement reached so that we can duly note it, because under the new rules we don’t count weekends in the 72 hour notice. So, we’ll have to have something that we can post sometime this weekend so that the time ticks away in order for us, for it to go to Rules, to Committee – Rules and to the Floor.
So, when we have an agreement, we’ll write it up, and we have to do all of that by Friday evening.
Q: What are the policy issues that are stalling this?
Speaker Pelosi. It’s all about money, right? And so –
Q: Is there a certain number in terms of the non-defense side?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I think I said yesterday – I think if you read my letter, it was very clear. Our concern is that the additional initiatives that have been added for veterans, whether you approve of the policy or not, they have become the law, and we need to cover them. We don’t think that that should be coming out of the regular base.
And so, we don’t want the veterans’ resources to be competing with each other or competing with other very valuable domestic priorities.
So, I think we are understanding each other, and when we have an announcement we’ll let you – you’ll be the first to know.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, on your House resolution condemning the President, were you surprised that more Republicans didn’t side with Democrats? And what do you think at the end of the day was achieved given that it was essentially a party line vote?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the fact is that it was a resolution of the House and not legislation that has to go to the Senate or be signed by the President. And it was for us to say – and by the way, in the most gentle way. You have no idea of the provisions that some people wanted to have in that resolution.
This was as benign – it condemned the words of the President: not the President, but the words of the President. And in doing so, it anchored itself in the words of Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan, beautiful speech by Ronald Reagan, which I reference all the time. And so you would have thought that that benign approach might have appealed to them.
But when you say, ‘Were you surprised? Were you disappointed?’ My expectations are not great, but you always hope that they might do the right thing and say that that language that the President used was not – was beneath the dignity of the President, beneath the dignity of the people he was criticizing.
And by the way, we were offended that he spoke in such a way about Members of Congress, but we’re offended that he says that about people across the country all the time: ‘Go back where you came from.’ And that, by its definition, those words are racism. If you go look in the AP and other places where they define certain words, that’s what that is.
But we weren’t just saying that he was racist, we were saying that the words that he used were racist. So, that was as gentle as it could be, considering the inappropriateness and the disgusting nature of what the President said.
So, we did what our Members wanted to do and had a very strong, 100 percent vote on it.
Q: Madam Speaker, the President is clearly trying to cast this broader debate as a choice between him and your more progressive Members. This fight has now dominated the conversation this week. You’ve had your resolution. The Democrats are rallying behind these Members. Are you concerned that the President is goading you? Is there any –
Speaker Pelosi. No. You know what? With all due respect, let’s not waste our time on that. We’re talking about what we’re going to do to help the American people. Our Caucus is unified on all of that.
Throughout the whole campaign, I said to the candidates, ‘Don’t even mention his name. Everybody knows who he is. You don’t have to describe him to anybody. Let’s just talk about what we are going to do.’
And we’re going to devote the whole month of August to our For The People agenda, which was successful in terms of connecting with people and their concerns. It’s still the cost of health care, the stagnation of wages, and the distrust of government still loom large as concerns for the American people, and that’s what we’re going to be about. We’re not having him set our agenda; we’re setting our own agenda.
Staff. Last question.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma’am.
Q: Madam Speaker, do you have any concerns that the focus on impeachment today and the votes on the Floor related to it could jeopardize Robert Mueller’s appearance next week?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I think we’ve got rid of all this right now. We’ve done our – we did our resolution expeditiously. We’ll deal with Mr. Green’s resolution. But we do have to have a clear path.
I do, I do think that the President is trying to – and we cannot, and you cannot and we cannot buy into his fog that he wants to create over everything. Because he knows, we all know the argument that can be made against us in terms of our philosophy, in terms of our priorities and the rest, and the President knows the argument that could be made against him, and therefore, he wants to distract from them.
You have to give him credit. He’s a great distractor. And that’s what this is about.
So, it is – let’s just take it to a better place. Let’s take it to a better place: America. The President wants to make America great again. We all do.
What does that mean? What is America? So many times we’ve come together and we’ve talked about America. America as our ideals in the Constitution, an example to the world of Founding documents that rejected a monarch and put forth separation of powers, Article I, the legislative branch having that priority and listing. And that is being under – that’s being dishonored by the President of the United States.
What is America? We the People. We the People. A nation of immigrants, by and large. And he is denigrating every – all the newcomers who come to our country, in complete opposition to the beautiful words of Ronald Reagan in the last speech that he made to the country as President of the United States.
What is America? This beautiful land, from sea to shining sea and beyond, God’s gift to us, that he is almost every day, but certainly every week, degrading and saying that we’re not going to deal with climate on the basis of any science. Really?
What is America? Our values. And that’s the debate we have all the time, in the battle of the budget and the rest, in terms of how we invest in our children’s future and how these things all come together. Under the guidance of our Founders, ‘We the People,’ they said in the Preamble to the Constitution.
But they also said, ‘E pluribus unum. From many, one.’ Couldn’t imagine how many or how different we’d be, but they knew we had to be one. And that beautiful guidance is something that we must constantly keep in mind as we engage in our differences.
At the end of the day, we want to be unifying and not dividing. I wish the President would read that.
Thank you all very much.