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, yesterday, we had a culmination of a lot of work over a period of time to pass the caps agreement in a very strong, bipartisan way on the Floor of the House. Of course, I always want more, but it was bipartisan and it was a compromise.
It was historic. It ended sequestration. Just for what that means in the lives of the American people, sequestration is a place you go when you can’t reach agreement and you start cutting how we meet the needs of the American people in a very indiscriminate way. It’s harmful to children and other living things. It’s harmful to our national security. It’s over.
We avoided a shutdown, for the moment. We still have to go through the appropriations process. But the way that the legislation was written for bipartisan agreement on any – for us to proceed on any extraordinary measures, I think we have forestalled any prospect of a shutdown.
Offsets, they wanted overwhelming offsets. We have less than, we have half of what they wanted, and they even wanted more than that, but it was, it was good. Because what we were – they want to offset our investments that we make in people, and we just weren’t going to go to that place.
Parity, I’m always fighting for parity. To the extent that you increase the defense budget, you have to increase the domestic budget. Except, this time, we got ten billion dollars more than parity.
Our fight was to get more funding for our veterans. That was a constant fight for us because the needs keep growing. And, also, this time, in a one‑time situation, for the Census, so that we can have, as the Constitution requires, an accurate count of who lives in America.
And, of course, one of the issues of interest to the Secretary of the Treasury was lifting the debt ceiling. Well, that’s of interest to all of us. The full faith and credit of the United States of America should never be in doubt. The Constitution says that. And now we removed all doubt, at least until July 31, 2021. This is a very long debt limit lifting or, they call it, suspension of the debt limit.
You saw on Wednesday the testimony of – I guess we don’t call him Special Counsel anymore – Mr. Robert Mueller. We can go more into that if you wish. But one focus, I want to make is, in his testimony, he said that, ‘The Russians are attacking our elections in a sweeping and systemic fashion,’ and that, ‘They are doing it as we sit here.’ Disruption of our election that happened in 2016, and now they are doing it again. That was Wednesday, when Mr. Mueller testified in person on that.
Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report showing that the election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia. And yet the President calls this a hoax, and Senator McConnell refuses to act. Just the other day in the Senate, there were a number of bills, one of ours, the SAFE Act, [Securing America’s] Federal Elections Act, that the Republicans objected to bringing to the Floor.
This is about patriotism for our country. Our electoral system is the heart of the matter of our democracy. And yet the Republicans still continue to say, ‘No need to protect that.’
The path that we have is one that respects that the states manage our elections, but when it comes to federal elections, we want them to have the resources to do their job well. So, we will continue to legislate on that score, legislate, investigate, and litigate on that, on other issues that Mr. Mueller testified to as well.
Yesterday, on the steps of the Capitol, perhaps you were there, we celebrated the 200 days of progress, the ongoing progress, that we’re making for the American people, building on our promise to the American people, For The People, in the election.
Lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs. We sent the Senate ten bills to lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, reverse the GOP’s sabotage of the health care, and strengthen pre-existing conditions benefits. Lower health care costs.
Bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green and modern way. We secured paycheck fairness by equal pay for equal work, which we passed in the House, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Over 30 million people will get a raise in our country, over 20 million of them are women. And as we pass other initiatives in our appropriations process and the rest to build the infrastructure of America.
Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. Cleaner government. Clean up corruption and reduce the role of big, dark money in Washington. We passed H.R. 1, For the People. We will be passing the Voting Rights Act, and that is part of that as well, as we did pass the SAFE Act. And we really do call upon the Senate to pass a version of the SAFE Act to protect our elections.
We go out now for our district work period. Democrats intend to own August, to make so many of the bills that we passed too hot to handle for the Republicans in the Senate not to raise the minimum wage or end gun violence by commonsense gun violence prevention measures. The list, equal pay for equal work, the list goes on and on.
But we’re very, very proud of the work that our Members have done. We will be across the country, a drumbeat across America: lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government.
And, with that, I’ll be pleased to take any questions.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. When you were becoming Speaker again for a second time, you once said that you want to show Americans the power of the gavel. Some have been critical and said that here you are, a San Francisco Representative, known as one who is very liberal, yet not fully using the gavel for some of the top liberal priorities, starting with impeachment and then some of the others, what we saw on the homeland security bill.
What do you say to those who are critical of what has been done so far in the House?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, as you probably are aware, Republicans had 137,000 ads, in their view, criticizing me as a San Francisco liberal. In my view, that’s an appellation that I’m very proud to have. Nothing is a bigger honor to me than to represent San Francisco in the Congress. And I say any honor my colleagues give me – Speaker, Leader, Whip, whatever it has been over time – cannot match the privilege of walking on the Floor of the House to speak for the people of San Francisco. And I do that for them.
As Speaker, I have to bring unity to our Caucus and to do so with the boldest common denominator in our Caucus. I say to the Members, your job description and your job title are one and the same: Representative.
And I consider myself a weaver at the loom, just making all of those threads come together in the boldest possible way. And I’m very proud of being the Speaker of the House and, in doing so, in the boldest possible way. And what we are advocating is a progressive agenda for our country.
Q: In the aftermath of the Mueller hearing, you said that you want to focus on what you’re doing in the courts. Now, some of your Democratic colleagues believe you’re simply trying to run out the clock on impeachment.
Speaker Pelosi. That’s not true.
Q: Are you trying to run out the clock?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I’m not trying to run out the clock.
Let’s get sophisticated about this, okay? Okay?
Q: So how long do you think these court fights will take?
Speaker Pelosi. We will proceed when we have what we need to proceed, not one day sooner. And everybody has the liberty and the luxury to espouse their own position and to criticize me for trying to go down the path in the most determined, positive way.
Again, their advocacy for impeachment only gives me leverage. I have no complaint with what they are doing.
But I know – I keep calling him Special Counsel Mueller, but – Mr. Mueller said the other day confirmed, confirmed in the public mind, that the President has obstructed justice. You know what he said. If he could have exonerated him, he would have, but he didn’t. But he was not able to investigate the President’s finances, personal business or otherwise. And, that is what we are doing in the courts.
And so I’m willing to take whatever heat there is there to say a decision will be made in a timely fashion. This isn’t endless and when we have the best, strongest possible case, and that’s not endless either. I mean, it may be endless in terms of the violations of the law that the President is engaged in, but that’s what I say to you.
Q: Madam Speaker, do you think you were able to bury the hatchet with Congresswoman Ocasio‑Cortez in your meeting?
Speaker Pelosi. I don’t think there ever was any hatchet.
Q: Well, she called you downright disrespectful.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that’s – that’s – we’re in a political arena.
Let me just say this, because I have some level of confidence and, actually, joy in seeing diversity in our Caucus. We are the Democratic Party. Ever since I came here, we have been engaged in differences of opinion in our Caucus, and that is a good thing. We are not a lockstep, rubber‑stamp representation of anything, except Representatives of our district and what that means.
So, in our Caucus, we have our differences. Respect that, instead of making a big issue of it. Respect that. Those are our differences. And how we express ourselves as Representatives of our districts is our responsibility.
I’ve never seen – actually, yesterday, we had 219 votes for the bill. Is anybody asking any questions about that? 219. A very unified, very unified Caucus in doing what we needed to do for the American people, even though it was compromise, even though it was a compromise. I certainly wanted more, but it was a compromise.
When we win the White House and we win the United States Senate and we continue to win the House of Representatives, then we’ll have more leverage in that conversation.
But I don’t think there ever – I would never even say that it was a hatchet. But I do think that we sat down today, we had a good meeting. And the Congresswoman is a very gracious Member of Congress. So we had a very positive conversation about our districts and how we represent them, our country and how we need to meet the needs, the diversity of America and the challenges we face in terms of issues, and how immigration and people are respected. I, again, referenced Ronald Reagan as opposed to the current occupant of the White House.
So I feel – I’ve always felt – again, it’s like you’re in a family. In a family you have your differences, but you’re still family.
Does your family always agree on everything?
Q: And sometimes we have meetings to clear the air.
Speaker Pelosi. You do? You have meetings in your family?
Oh, my goodness.
Well, you may be a model for the world and we just had a meeting to clear the air.
Q: What are your differences, though, with Congresswoman Ocasio‑Cortez?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I’m not going into that. I just said what I’m going to say on that subject.
Q: You said you have a diverse Caucus –
Speaker Pelosi. We have a diverse Caucus. Let me say, when I came to Congress, the fight was on how we deal with what was happening in Central America. Our then – who would become Speaker eventually, Jim Wright – no, he was Speaker when I got here. But he would then be the leader in a fight to stop the aid to the Contras. The Republicans went after him, but our caucus was divided on the subject.
Shortly thereafter, it was NAFTA. Very big division in the Caucus on NAFTA. Before your time. Very big division on NAFTA.
And then the war in Iraq, differences of opinion. As you know, I was – you may not know – a Ranking Member. I was Adam Schiff at the time. But he’s Chairman. I was only the top Democrat. We didn’t have the Majority. And I said, ‘The intelligence did not support the threat.’ They said, ‘You’re calling the President a liar.’ I said, ‘I’m not calling him a liar, I’m stating a fact. The intelligence does not support the threat that this Administration is using as a justification for war.’
People said to me then – and I had been in Congress over ten years by then, ‘You’re never going any place in this party unless you vote for this war.’ Well, I didn’t vote for it, and a majority of our Democrats didn’t vote for it. And Senator Graham didn’t vote for it, who was a Democrat in the Senate, leader on the Intelligence Committee. In the House, our Members by and large voted against the war. In the Senate, they voted for it. So there was a big division among Democrats on that subject.
That list goes on and on. These – some personality issues and the rest, they’re minor.
We have a big schism in our country between what is happening – could happen in this Congress and what is happening in the White House. Everybody knows we have to keep our eye on the ball.
Q: Madam Speaker, thank you. Some of your colleagues think leaving impeachment on the table heading into the August recess, some of them have said it looks indecisive and that they think it overshadows the agenda.
Do you think there’s drop‑dead point on which the Caucus has to make a decision on this?
Speaker Pelosi. I did not make – I don’t agree with what they say. I think I’ve spoken to what I think we need to have on this subject before we go forward. But, again, I respect where they are on it with the breadth of knowledge that they have on the subject, and I respect where I am on it with the breadth of knowledge that I have on the subject.
Q: So you don’t think –
Speaker Pelosi. I answered.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, one more on Congresswoman AOC. Do you think she better understands the challenges of your job to unify the Democratic Caucus after this meeting today?
Speaker Pelosi. You’d have to ask her.
Q: Thank you. Pretty significant GDP revisions out earlier today indicated that we did not hit three percent growth the way many people had expected we would and perhaps thought that we –
Speaker Pelosi. And the President bragged that we would, yeah.
Q: So I would love a bit more of your response to that. And, specifically, are there any underlying economic factors that most concern you? Is there anything there in the data that gives you pause?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I haven’t seen all of the data yet except the figure, that it’s, what, 2.1? 2.1?
Q: Closer to two and a half, versus three.
Speaker Pelosi. Closer to two and a half. And the President had used three percent as the standard.
I do think that our GDP will rise when we raise the minimum wage and people have more purchasing power, because these are people who will spend, inject demand into the economy and, therefore, our GDP will rise.
I think it will; if we had comprehensive immigration reform, where everybody is brought into the system in a way that is most productive. Economists tell me, ‘You want to grow the economy, have comprehensive immigration reform.’ So, how we not just have trickle‑down to grow our economy, but how we have bubble‑up. And that is a difference of opinion between our two parties.
I think what you saw was that the tax scam that they put out there has not produced the growth that the President was boasting would happen and that it hasn’t produced the revenue, hence we’ve had to lift the debt ceiling earlier than maybe people had expected. So that didn’t work. It didn’t pay for itself, and it isn’t growing the economy to the extent that the President said it would.
And so I think we have to – instead of giving tax breaks to the top one percent, 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent, we should have a more compassionate free‑market system which rewards work and bring brings many more people into the prosperity of our country. That consumer confidence, that spending, that injecting demand I think will accelerate the growth of our GDP.
Thank you all very much.