Pelosi Remarks at Election Security Week of Action Press Conference
July 9, 2019
San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla for a press conference marking Democrats’ Election Security Week of Action. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning.
As we continue to observe the birth of our nation, the Fourth of July – Declaration of Independence, isn’t that – it’s so exciting, the courage of our Founders to have a vision, to act upon it, to declare our independence based on the principle that all people are created equal. It was just remarkable, unheard of.
They, at the time of the Revolution, following the Declaration, Thomas Paine proclaimed, ‘The times have found us.’ We think the times have found us now.
Not that we place ourselves in the category of greatness of our Founders, but that we do see an urgency to the challenge of our democracy and what is happening in elections.
‘From all enemies, foreign and domestic’ – we take the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution. Central to that and central to our democracy is the right to vote.
Today, I am very honored that we will be joined by Arianna Nassiri from the San Francisco Youth Commission. We are just thrilled that she is here because she is the future, a powerful voice in our city for the youth and for our nation’s future.
We are also joined, and this is a special honor for all of us to be joined by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Secretary of State of California. He has been such a champion, such a national leader in so many respects and setting an example from California. He is a committed champion for the people as a strong advocate for protecting and defending our elections, but, again, not just for California, but for setting an example for the rest of the country.
Then we will hear from California Clean Money Campaign – thank god for you Trent Lange. He’s fought to protect the sanctity of our elections and to reduce the role of big, dark, special interest money.
And, you know, we talk about voter suppression, but what’s important to recognize is that one of the biggest suppressions of the vote is big, dark money suffocating the airwaves with misrepresentations and people just give up on it. So, thank you for what you are doing.
And then I want to salute my colleague from the Congress, Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, who is leading Democrats in the fight to defend our democracy with great patriotism. And today we celebrate the passage in the House, before the Fourth of July break, of the SAFE Act – [Securing] America’s Federal Elections.
And she is a virtuoso legislator as Chair of the House Administration Committee. She is known as the Mayor of Capitol Hill. I have to report to her and ask her permission to do things. So, thank you for making time to be with us here today.
But it is, under her leadership and with other Members under our Democratic Majority, we have passed H.R.1 the For The People Act to secure our elections. It’s about this bill, SAFE, that’s one piece of it, but the Voting Rights Act is a piece of it. John Lewis’ voter suppression legislation is part of it. It is all encompassing, and this SAFE Act is one piece of it. But we [introduced] the overarching bill, H.R.1, the first day of the new Congress.
We passed, as I said, the SAFE Act to further strengthen our defenses and we secured, in our appropriation bill, $600 billion for grants to states to bolster election security.
And, that’s where the California example comes in as well – how to use resources to bolster our defenses.
And this month, we will take further action to harden our democratic institutions against attack. This is our week and next – the four days since the Fourth of July – but in another couple of days we will have a customized briefing from the leadership of the Intelligence Community about the assault by a foreign power on our elections.
We’ve recognized that that has happened. Our President refuses to do so. He’s just said that if they offered help again he would accept it, giving a green light. That’s totally unacceptable – totally unacceptable.
But again, we don’t agonize, we organize. So, we’re organizing around legislation, around leadership to get the job done.
So now, it’s a special privilege for me to bring forward Arianna Nassiri of the San Francisco Youth Commission – a leader for the present, a leader for the future – welcome, Arianna.
Speaker Pelosi. As you see, we have a vision that we share with our Founders. To honor their vision, you see a level of specificity and knowledge of what to do and to make sure that our vote is protected and, as all of our presenters said, that the votes will be counted as cast.
Many of them mentioned the Mueller report – several of them mentioned the Mueller report, which concludes that Russia attacked our systems in ‘sweeping and systemic fashion.’ And, intelligence and law-enforcement officials warn Russians are waging another attack as we speak.
We all recognize that. Yet, the President openly says he sees no problem with foreign interference in our elections and when Senator McConnell, Leader McConnell, as Chairwoman Lofgren has said, he calls himself the ‘grim reaper’ with great pride – that he’s going to bury all the legislation that comes over from the House.
We have news for him – this legislation is alive and well in the public and we are going to make it just too hot for him to handle burying this legislation because it is central to who we are as a nation and because it is a model – not only California as a model to the nation, but country as a model of democracy to the world.
So, as I said, it’s not about politics. It’s not about – it’s not about partisanship. It’s about patriotism. That’s why we are here today.
So, I am very very proud of each of our presenters.
Arianna talking about the present and the future, and soon to be old enough to vote in the November election 2020.
Secretary Padilla, well, what can we say, just a masterclass he gave us on what we need to do.
Trent Lange, thank you. You know the role of money – we won in this election, in 2018, in the most gerrymandered, voter-suppressed political arena you could. Is that not right?
But, because people just organized – as I say, we do not agonize, we organize. It was about owning the ground and getting out the vote. It was about recognizing that big money was playing this dangerous role, and that we had to counter it.
One hundred of our candidates, new candidates – not Members, but new candidates – sent me a letter saying that they want H.R. 1 to be brought up as the first bill, as it is designated H.R. 1.
So, this was a drumbeat across America for patriotism and for our democracy. Day one we [introduced] H.R. 1, as Zoe said, we are taking piece by piece.
Now, Senator – Leader McConnell, even during the 2016 election, when Leader Reid asked him to sign a letter to protect our system, was reluctant do so.
You know what it all comes back down to? Follow the money. It is about big money having an impact on Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, Attorney General Barr, all of them. They are all in that very, very dark circle.
But, I have confidence in the American people and we have not only a vision, but a plan for how we go forward.
I thank our distinguished guests, once again, Arianna Nassiri; Secretary Alex Padilla; Trent Lange, President of Education California and Executive Director of California Clean Money Campaign; Zoe Lofgren of House Administration.
We would be pleased to take any questions, first and foremost focused on the subject at hand. Any questions? No? I anticipated a lot of you.
Q: So, the Republicans have already approved the $380 million that you spoke about, and now you want to pass more. Mitch McConnell has said that we have done enough about it, why add this extra money? Do you have a response?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I want to yield to Zoe to address that.
Chairwoman Lofgren. Well, the money has been appropriated through the regular appropriations process on the House side and, obviously, we need to get through the Senate.
But, the experts indicate that what we have appropriated so far last year fell short of what is needed. We have equipment out in the country that is still running on Windows 2000. We have equipment that cannot even be updated, that is insecure.
And so, we really feel if the Russians are coming to get us, should we not have a national response? If this was missiles instead of cyberattacks, we would not be asking the counties to defend the country. No, this is a national emergency.
We need to provide the defense our nation needs.
Secretary Padilla. I am going to chime in here with what I think is a very important clarification. Yes, Congress appropriated $380 million last year. It was helpful, it was timely, but it certainly was not enough.
But, I want to be clear, what this $380 million was. It was not new money. It was simply the remaining balance of the Help America Vote Act dollars that were approved nearly 20 years ago.
So, this was money that was intended to address butterfly ballots and hanging chads, not 2020 cyber threats. So, that is why we welcomed it, we utilized it, but we know we need much much more.
Speaker Pelosi. And it’s astonishing to us that while that money from before was appropriated, the Republicans in the House and in the Senate refused to appropriate any more funds for the additional new needs that we have.
It was stunning. It was like, you mean you do not want to protect our electoral system? They did not. It took us winning the Majority to get this money out there to protect the electoral system.
Q: I am sure you want to turn up the heat on Mitch McConnell, well other than having a bench like this one, how do you do that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the American people, we have a number of issues that he said he is going to bury. He is going to bury H.R. 1. He is going to bury the [Securing] America’s Federal Elections Act. He is going to bury the Dream Act and Promise Act – about our Dreamers. He is going to bury our gun safety bill. All of these pieces of legislation have very broad support in the – net neutrality, he is going to bury net neutrality legislation.
The list goes on and on of our top pieces of legislation in our For The People agenda. Our For The People agenda – lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, bigger paychecks by building infrastructure in America in green ways. He is going to bury the Climate Action Now legislation.
All of these have broad support in a bipartisan way across the country. So, we are going to make all of it too hot to handle for him. But central to it all is the right to vote.
So, we have a drumbeat across America. A couple of weeks ago we had, what was it, 150 events across the country on issues particularly related to health care.
But it all comes back to elections because elections have ramifications. And that is why they do not want to allocate resources. That is why they want to ignore the foreign assault on our elections. That is why they want to suppress the vote. That is why they want to gerrymander the districts, because they want to be sure that just their people vote and not the general population.
And that is why they are fighting the Census. And that is another place where you probably see a contempt action on the part of the House of Representatives from the Trump Administration to bury the census.
Who we are as a people, who we are as a people, they want to suppress that and have it only be certain people counted. People who will vote with them.
So, again, the times have found us to save our democracy in every possible way. And we will make it too hot to handle, especially in the states that matter to Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate.
Any other questions on this?
Speaker Pelosi. And, it should come as a surprise to no one that California is an example to us in our writing of legislation as well.
Any other questions on this subject?
Q: So, just a quick question, Madam Speaker, you mentioned the Census, I’m just curious what conversations are being had right now around protecting our responses to the Census being that this is going to be the first online Census to happen.
And, secondly, I don’t know if you have any thoughts about the President’s remarks about potentially doing an Executive Order to add the citizenship question to the Census.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, since I mentioned the Census, consider this part of this conversation, so if anyone else wants to chime in.
For a very long time, we have been fighting the fight on the Census. This is, not just because the Court made a ruling, but for – well, for a couple of years, since the election of 2016.
And the Constitution of the United States gives Congress authority when it comes to the Census.
As many of you know, the Census is essential in terms of the government meeting the needs of the people, but also in terms of re-districting. We, House Democrats, testified on behalf of the Congress – since we are the Majority, we testified on behalf of the Congress – that it was essential to have an accurate count in order to do re-apportionment. That’s how who serves in Congress is decided.
But, the other organizations that also testified testified about how we meet the need of transportation, education, you name it – all the subjects of need.
So, this isn’t an academic discussion. This is very essential to who we are. What you saw on the part of the Administration with regard to the citizenship question, it’s disgraceful in this respect.
First of all, they decide to put that on the ballot, why? They couldn’t even respond to the Supreme Court on that subject. The Supreme Court did not rule in their favor because they said the Administration did not give sufficient evidence so they kicked the can.
And then the Administration said, ‘Okay, we won’t put it on there.’ And then the President injected himself into this. This is about – you know the ‘Make America Great Again,’ it’s ‘Make America White Again.’ They want to make sure that people, certain people aren’t counted. It’s really disgraceful and it’s not what the Founders had in mind.
And it’s not – we can decide who we are as a people. Who are we? What is America? We celebrate America on the Fourth of July. What is America?
America is our Constitution, our separation of powers, our co-equal branches of government, our freedoms, including freedom of the press – the guardian of our democracy.
Who is America? America is our Constitution.
What is America? It is this beautiful land that God gave us from sea to shining sea and beyond that they are degrading on every single day that they serve in office.
What is America? America is our people – the beautiful diversity of America and they denigrate newcomers to our country.
They dishonor the Constitution. They degrade the environment from land. They denigrate the diversity that is the beauty of the mix of America and they undermine our values as a country, who we are as a country.
So, central to this is the Census, which as money is to the election, the Census is – it’s like currency of the realm – the people. And that is the fight that will we continue tonight.
We will see. We have passed in the Committee of jurisdiction – the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has already passed a contempt of Congress of Secretary Ross for not responding to the subpoenas of Congress as to why do you have this question.
It’s self-evident as to why they do. And what they want to do is to put a chilling effect so certain populations will not answer the form. They will not answer the form. They won’t respond.
So, we’re saying don’t give them that victory. You must respond because otherwise they win.
So, to further answer your question, other discussions, right now we’re in a discussion on the money. They’re saying, ‘Oh, most people will just respond to the Census online.’ But, really, online? Not so. Maybe half will, but not 80 percent will.
And so, we must have the outreach that is necessary. And in that outreach, they say, ‘Oh, maybe one knock on the door, two knocks on the door. That should do it, we only need resources for one or two visits to a home.’ That’s not true. It’s never been like that. It’s been five or six times that you visit.
But, in addition to that, the most important part, and more important now more than ever – than ever – is the fact that community groups, that have the linguistic and cultural confidence of the people we are reaching out to, need the resources to do that outreach.
So, whether it’s on the policy, whether it’s on the subpoena power, whether it’s on the money – those are the discussions that we’re having now.
Zoe, did you want to say something?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just make a follow-up on what Zoe said on re-districting. As you know, subsequent to the arguments – the oral arguments that were presented at the Supreme Court there was a disclosure. A man who died and when they had his hard drive, they found that the purpose of this was for re-districting.
Now, that court said it’s too late and this and that, but nonetheless the court said that they did not justify the purpose.
But this is, again, this is the essence of who we are and we are fighting very hard on this. And, however it comes out, we have to be sure that people do not take the bait that they aren’t counted because they do count.
Q: So, when would you like to see these election security bills passed? When is it, to you, crucial to get it? Is there a hard date?
Speaker Pelosi. And your question is right on point because the reason the Republicans want to hold it up is because they know it will make a difference in the outcomes of the elections.
What’s really sad about the whole thing is that the Russians have made assaults on elections in other democracies, in Europe for example, and what they’re trying to do is undermine democratic governments. That’s their goal, to undermine democratic governments.
So, this is a big agenda for Vladimir Putin, the richest man in the world, by the way, on a government salary. So, follow the money.
And, for the President of the United States to make light of it once again, just, again, shows the dishonoring of the Constitution of the United States and the beliefs that we celebrated on the Fourth of July.
So, we feel very – people have said to us, ‘Okay, the Russians disrupted our elections. They made a difference in our elections. What are you going to do about it?’ Well, SAFE. We’re going to be safe – [Securing America’s] Federal Elections, H.R. 1 – protect the, our, actually the whole groundwork of our elections within H.R. 1 from re-districting to voter suppression and the list goes on.
And, again, protect who we are as a people by protecting the Census.
Thank you all very much.
Q: Speaker, any thoughts on what we’re hearing about Eric Swalwell dropping out of the race and Tom Steyer getting in it?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m sorry? I heard the first part, but didn’t catch the last sentence.
Q: Tom Steyer getting in it.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, well, first of all, let me say how proud I am of Eric Swalwell. Eric Swalwell is the future. He’s in his thirties. He wasn’t even, he was in his late twenties, early thirties when he came to the Congress. Still in his early thirties when he became a part of the leadership in the Congress.
He had a message about national security and gun safety that he wanted to convey to the country and he did that. He has now made – well, I don’t know, has he made a statement yet? I don’t want to speak to something that hasn’t happened yet, but my understanding is that weighing the equities of what it means to advance his candidacy versus getting closer to the time when we have a nominee to win the White House, I think all of this speaks to the urgency of Donald Trump not having another term. That would be very serious and damaging to our country.
I don’t know that much about Tom Steyer’s decision, I just don’t know. I can’t comment on what I don’t know.
Q: I wonder if you had a message to your four Freshman colleagues who, according to Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, you had a – it looked like a somewhat dismissive message towards all these people, the four who voted otherwise on the border security bill –
Speaker Pelosi. – It wasn’t dismissive –
Q: ‘all these people have their public whatever’ and so forth. I was just wondering if you cared to clarify that?
Speaker Pelosi. – yes, it wasn’t dismissive. It was a statement of fact.
They were four who argued against the bill and they were the only four who voted against the bill.
All I said was nobody followed their lead, that’s all that was
Q: But the ‘public whatever’? I mean that sounded –
Speaker Pelosi. No, all I said was a statement of fact. The four of them opposed the bill.
We were protecting the children. Overwhelmingly, our Caucus voted to protect the children. Our blue dogs, our moderates and all the rest voted to protect the children. They did not and they did not have a voting following. So, that is what I was saying.
They have a following in the public. I’m just talking about in the Congress.
So, thank you all.
Q: Madam Speaker, I was just wondering if you were going to invite the women’s soccer team?
Speaker Pelosi. We did — We did, yeah. Oh, let me just say that.
I guess if we get into another serious matter right now of our Constitution and our country and our country’s future is on the line, but wasn’t it just wonderful this weekend to see the women’s national team be triumphant in the World Cup?
First thing I did was send out a tweet that congratulated them and said, ‘Now let’s give them fair pay,’ because that has not been – they have shown their talent and their greatness, now let’s show them the money.
And then, in another subsequent tweet, I invited them to the [Capitol] on behalf of our bipartisan Caucus, and by popular demand on both sides of the aisle with the co-chairs Kathy Castor and Congressman LaHood, the Democratic and Republican co-chairs of the Soccer Caucus, in a bipartisan way, invited them to the Capitol as a group or if they just want to come individually, we’d like to honor them – anyway they’d like to come, we’d like to welcome them and to honor them.
We’re awfully proud of them. What strength. What energy. What patriotism. We were watching the game with our grandchildren and the rest all around us – it was pretty exciting.
I went to mass the night before, so I didn’t have to miss any part of it – let the record show.
Thank you for recording me just there – we were talking about a warning – thank you for paying attention to the matter at hand and our democracy.
Thank you. Thank you all for coming.