Pelosi Floor Speech in Opposition to Republican Supplemental Appropriation Bill

July 31, 2014
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor today in opposition to House Republicans’ supplemental appropriation bill, which fails to adequately or appropriately respond to the humanitarian needs of unaccompanied children along the southern border.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I thank the gentlelady for yielding, our Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee, who from day one, knowing of this challenge that we have with the children at the border, has reacted in a very wise, humanitarian – yes, practical – way as to what the best way is to address the challenge, honor the values of our country and save the children.  I was interested in the back and forth between the distinguished Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Rogers, and our Ranking Member on the subject of the change in the law that is in the legislative language that is in this supplemental.

“Because I agree with our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer, and others who have said: There are two things happening here.  One, we need to address the challenge, the humanitarian challenge.  We need resources to do that for particular purposes, and we should do that in the supplemental.  Another is to change the law, which we shouldn't do in a supplemental.  It is legislating on an appropriations bill on a matter in which all kind of statements can be made which may be anecdotally significant, but not significant in terms of the difference that they make – a difference enough to change the law.

“And so, when people talk about witnesses in one context or another, just saying something on the floor of the House, it's interesting.  But there should be hearings.  If we're going to change the law, there should be hearings where testimony can come forth, challenged, confirmed, whatever it may be – but a serious discussion worthy of the country that we are, worthy of the Congress that passed the Wilberforce law, which was a very bipartisan initiative.  And I salute my Republican colleagues who played such an important role in passing the bill.

“And that bill directed agencies of government to incorporate anti-trafficking and protection measures for vulnerable populations, particularly women and children, into – whether it's post-conflict or humanitarian emergency assistance and program activities – according to the law.  There was a purpose for the law.  With a phrase in an appropriations bill, we want to undermine that purpose.  That's not necessary to do here.  Why does this belong in a bill where we are allocating resources to meet a humanitarian challenge that we have?

“Now, let's get to what's in the actual supplemental.  I had hoped that we could work in a bipartisan way, and I thought that was the path we were on.  The Republican majority wanted to decrease the amount of resources and the amount of time.  Well, that's commensurate.  If it's a lower amount of money in a shorter period of time, that's okay.  But when you change what that money is for, then you are doing a disservice to the entire issue.  Instead of providing adequate resources to meet the humanitarian needs – the immediate humanitarian needs, largely – of these children, that is just totally inadequate in this legislation in terms of its proportionality in the bill.

“It fails to provide any resources for legal assistance to these children to plead their case.  They may have a legitimate cause for asylum, refugee status to come into the United States or not.  But they should be represented and they should be represented in a way that repatriates them back to their home country if they do not qualify in a way that is safe.  This legislation does not do that.

“The American people are fair minded; they are wise; they are practical; they want to help but they want to do so in a way that is fair to everyone involved.  They want to feed the children.  There are not enough resources here to do that on the humanitarian side.  They want us to honor who we are with due process for these children.  This legislation does not do that.  They want to have judges to quickly facilitate giving these people a hearing in addition to the representation that they should have due process.  The bill does not.  It tramples due process to rush terrified children back to the violence of their home countries.  That's not who we are as a country.  And it also poses a particular danger to children victims of gang violence and human trafficking, which takes us right back to the Wilberforce Bill.  Human trafficking: it’s a global crisis.  It is happening at our border.  We have a bill to stop it.  This legislation on the floor today weakens that and then a manner of distribution of funds and paucity of funds does not -- paucity of funds does not address the challenge; it takes us backward.  It’s hard to understand.

“Now, what we should be talking about is what Mr. Tierney suggested: How do we help communities that are receiving these children into their communities and our country?  Again, how do we help?  This bill hurts.  So in addition to this, I guess the way you were able to get the votes for this bill – which is even opposed by people who are anti-immigration because it's not bad enough – you had to sweeten the pie by having a follow-up bill that would only be taken up if enough of your Members agreed to vote for this bad bill.  And that, again, does not address who we are as a country.  We are a great country because we are a good country.  Others have said that as long ago as 200 years or longer.

“So let us be good and let us be great; and let us do something that really was closer to what the Republicans were talking about earlier in this discussion.  It seems that in order to get more votes, you had to make the bill worse. The worse the bill, the more votes on the Republican side.  No, let's find common ground in the middle where we can get the most votes to do the best possible job that we can do.

“It may not be every good thing that we would ideally like to do, but is a reasonable place to go forward and to honor what the National Catholic Conference of Bishops have talked about, where all the people of faith are urging us to do here in the Congress of the United States; and that is to honestly respect the dignity and worth of all these children – all of them children of God.  I get mocked for quoting what the Bishops have said because it is so generous to the children.  But let's give the children a fair shot.  Let's do better than this.  And you know this bill isn't going anywhere.  So once again, it is a waste of time.  It is not a statement of values.  It is a statement of meanness.  With that, I yield back the balance of my time.”