Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference on GOP Plans to Blow Off Critical Budgetary Deadline
“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Your presentation was a reflection of some of the concerns that were addressed in our caucus.
“I’ll focus on the budget piece. As the Chairman has said, we are going into meeting a deadline for when a budget is due. I’m not so interested in the process of it, as I am in the substance of it. What is a budget? The federal budget should be a reflection of our national values. What is important to us as a country should be reflected in how we allocate our resources. When we talk to people about issues that relate to state governments or national governments throughout the world – show me your budget. Because you show me your budget and we will see what you value in your country.
“The budget that Republicans have put forth, the Ryan Budget, over a period of time, has been described by us as a ‘Road to Ruin.’ It eliminates the Medicare guarantee, it is hurtful in terms of investments in education, it increases poverty, as opposed to the President’s budget and budgets being put forth by the Democrats, which are budgets that invest in the American people, grow our economy, keep us number one globally, as we reduce the deficit.
“This is the classic battle that we have between trickle-down – the ‘Road to Ruin’ Ryan budget is about trickle-down economics. Feed the rich, feed special interests, and benefits may trickle down. On the other hand, we’re talking about middle class economics, recognizing that we are a consumer economy and that what we do in our budget must increase paychecks, to increase consumer confidence to grow our economy in a way that is fair to the American people. So, this is a very big distinction between the parties.
“But, it’s important to know that as disastrous as the Ryan budget is, it’s not bad enough, cruel enough, brutal enough for some in his party who want to even go further, and that’s why they have trouble getting the votes. Attention, please, on the budget. It has a direct impact on the lives of the American people. It has a direct impact on the success of our country. With that, I yield to the distinguished Vice Chair of the caucus, Mr. Crowley.”
Q: On Puerto Rico, Leader Pelosi, we saw your statement late last night. Sounds like you’re gettable, but you’re not there yet. What’s it going to take to get Democrats behind that bill?
Leader Pelosi. Well, thank you. Obviously, we are all aware of the crisis facing American citizens in Puerto Rico. We have a responsibility to help meet the challenge. What is being proposed is something, that contrary to negative ads on TV, does not cost the taxpayer one dollar. It’s just the ability of Puerto Rico to be able to solve its problem.
The categories of concern are – will the restructuring that is in the proposed legislation really work? Does the broad scope and make up in the legislation undermine the ability of the restructuring to work? This is the heart of the matter. Will the restructuring work? And that is the test that we have to put it to. In addition to that, there are concerns that we have about undermining the ability for the economy of Puerto Rico to come back with provisions to stop any increase in the minimum wage over a period of time – there could be a compromise on that. We have concerns about the transfer of public lands to Vieques because we don’t know if they can manage those lands. They are additional. They really aren’t necessary to the legislation. The first part of it is the restructuring and the implementation of the restructuring are not there yet. This bill is on a path that, maybe, [will] achieve its goal – but it’s not there yet. And so, our measure is, really – does it work?
Q: I’ve got a question about Flint aid. Before the recess started, you said the Republicans shouldn’t leave without bringing up a supplement for Flint aid. Do you have any update on what’s happening there? Are we likely to see any progress on that this week?
Leader Pelosi. Well, from our standpoint, there are two issues that need a supplemental urgently. I would say three, but there may be another path for the third. The three are Zika, secondly, Flint – not in any particular order – Flint, and third, the Opioids crisis. The Senate has already passed the Opioids bill but with no funding. We’d like to see funding in a supplemental on that. But, on the Flint issue, we do not see a positive response to the needs in Flint. The response we keep getting from the Republican majority – and this may not be official, but the feedback we’re getting is: this is Michigan’s problem. While they praise the Governor for how he dealt with this, they’re leaving the problem at his doorstep and we’re saying we think there should be a joint, collaborative effort between Michigan and the federal government to help Flint. This is a moral challenge. It challenges our conscience – how we meet the needs of the children of Flint.
At the same time, we have this incredible threat to the public health of the American people in the form of Zika, and they will not put forth a supplemental to address this emergency. And that’s what supplementals are about – emergencies. So, rightfully so, the Administration has said, for the moment, we’ll transfer some of the Ebola funds, but that is, really – it can’t be the path we’re on unless we have a plan to return the Ebola funds to the purpose that they are designated for because we don’t want to neglect one public health menace to pay for another public health menace. And on top of it all, it’s not enough money.
So, we, again, have a moral responsibility as the Congress of the United States to address the Zika challenge. Why are we saying that we’re taking from another public health challenge? It isn’t smart. And the fact is, the American people understand, in a larger measure, the threat of Zika and, I think, will hold us accountable for not taking appropriate and significant and large enough action to address it. It all comes back to the budget. What is important to you? How do you allocate resources? This is important to our country, it affects so much. Without going into the details of the public health threat that Zika is, to say that Dr. Fauci and also the head of the CDC spoke out Monday about the fact that this is a threat and that it was not a smart move to use Ebola funds. But, that’s the only option that we have because of the resistance to it.
Now, in terms of Flint, anyone who has visited there sees the injustice of it all. This is a situation that was created because of bad decisions – bad decisions about budgets. Bad decisions about budgets – and the children are paying the price. We, again, have to move in a very important way in that regard, but I see no encouragement from the Republican majority on that score.
Chairman Becerra. Before we go to another question – can I give you, sort of, a tale of two states on this? In California, we had a situation in Los Angeles with a battery plant that had operated for a few decades, just right outside of Los Angeles, in the City of Commerce but affected a lot of people. Where it was found that this battery plant was contaminating the area, a lot of residential neighbors there – schools, other establishments in the area – this battery plant had been contaminating the area with lead. It has now been shown that more than ten thousand families have been impacted by the release of lead by Exide over the years – many families are being tested, kids are being tested and found to have elevated levels of lead. Exide is ultimately responsible for this under the laws of the state, to pay back and remediate for all of this, for both in terms of the health impacts and in terms of the environment. Exide is slow walking this.
This past month, Governor Brown and the state legislature of California stepped up to the plate and will provide 176 million dollars of assistance that will come fairly immediately to help families because, while we intend to go after Exide for every single dime that it costs, both in terms of the health impact and the environmental impact of what Exide has caused, we don’t have time to wait because lead can be so damaging to everyone, including young children. And so, Governor Brown stepped to the plate, our legislature stepped to the plate.
Now, you take a look at Michigan and look at what Governor Snyder is doing, you’ve got to wonder if the leadership in the state of Michigan cares more about its public image than it does about their people. It’s time for Governor Snyder to step to the plate. Members here in Congress are ready to work with Governor Snyder to take on this immediate challenge of helping families that are impacted by lead. Let’s go after those who are criminally responsible, legally liable, but let’s not wait until we resolve some case in court three years from now, while families are suffering and kids may be having their lives impacted forever. And so, this tale of two states – it makes it very clear that government can be done on the cheap or it can be done as a first responder to take care of the needs of its people. And I think California and Los Angeles in the situation with Governor Brown versus Governor Snyder gives us a clear example of how you actually represent the people of your state.
Congressman Crowley. Let me just say one thing to that. What Xavier made reference to is that this may very well be the tip of the iceberg in terms of pollutants in what is a critical system, that is our water system, our drinking water, in the United States for different reasons. And that what is happening in Flint is just the beginning of more and more things to come to light. And what the American people want to know is whether or not the Republican Caucus, the Republican Conference in the House of Representatives, has the back of the people of Flint, Michigan. That’s what they’re demonstrating today because if you don’t have it for them, how can you have it for people in Los Angeles? How can you have it for people in upstate New York? How can you have it for people all over the country who may be facing circumstances similar, if not exactly what Flint is facing today? That’s what they want to know: does the Republican Conference in the House of Representatives have the back of the people of Flint, Michigan? And so far, they failed to show that. They are siding, from my opinion, with those who polluted the system, with the governor who refuses to take action to help the long-term effects of this – as Leader Pelosi has said, the children get hurt the worst here. This is possibly a lifetime commitment that needs to be made to the people of Flint and elsewhere.
Q: Any reaction to Speaker Ryan’s announcement yesterday saying that he will not accept the GOP nomination for president?
Leader Pelosi. No.
Chairman Becerra. Next question.
Q: Are you surprised by the April 15 deadline for the budget will be missed? Does it say anything to you about…
Leader Pelosi. No.
Chairman Becerra. We’re shocked that there’s gambling going on in this place.
Leader Pelosi. But you understand how every question comes back to the budget. Show me your budget. Show me your budget. Show me your budget, State of Michigan, that you decided it was a good idea to save money to unleash water that was untreated so that children could get hurt? And you know what? You didn’t end up saving that much money after all because the cost of remedying the consequences of that water being drunk by those children will be to the tune of billions of dollars – whether it’s early childhood education, whether it’s addressing their physical needs well into the future, whether it’s an opportunity cost in terms of economic development.
If you go to Flint, as many of us have done, you will see that people there say: ‘Well I had a restaurant but I depended on people coming in from businesses in the region.’ Those people have left because their families did not want to be subjected to the threat of this bad water in this region. So, it has a downward spiral effect on the economy of the community more importantly, on the health of the children and that will have, most importantly, the cost to them personally, but will have a fiscal cost to the budget as well to meet those needs.
So when you talk about them not meeting the budget deadline – well, nothing is surprising here. Is anybody surprised by anything here? [Does] the word ‘surprise’ still exist in the lexicon of Capitol Hill? But it is remarkable to behold that they would put forth budgets that are not in keeping with the health and wellbeing of our children, the economic security of our families, the healthy environments and safe environments in which they need to thrive and an economy that gives them opportunity.
So, it’s not surprising. It’s true to form and it only gets worse. And in terms of the political consequences of all of this, I think it is important to note that whatever the Republicans are saying – and Mr. Becerra referenced this – you cover Congress, you’ve seen this. The fact that the Republican establishment is all of a sudden shocked at the behavior of the presidential candidates, that’s shocking.
Because the fact is they are a direct reflection of statements made by Members of Congress – Members of Congress who are chairs of committees, who are in a position to impact public policy here – but you don’t see members of the establishment saying about the Members of the House Republican Caucus: ‘You shouldn’t be speaking that way. It’s beneath the dignity of your office,’ while they are distancing themselves from Trump who is a direct reflection. What has he said about Muslims? Look at the public record regarding Chairman Peter King when he was Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. That is shocking. What do they say about immigrants? Look at the record of [Congressman] Steve King – no relation to Peter King – and what he has said about immigrants? Disrespect for women: look at the record all along here in that regard. He tried to make it a crime for a woman to end a pregnancy. Look at how many times in the Congress Republicans have taken up initiatives to impede access to reproductive health by not just the person who is insured but the behavior of other members of their families. This is a shocking place. And that’s why it’s shocking to see that Republican establishment ignored it here, disassociated itself with Trump; but the fact is: these presidential candidates and their statements are a reflection of what we see every day – some of you have reported it – in the Congress of the Unites States.
So, getting back to the budget, every decision that we make relates to some allocation of resources by and large not all, Puerto Rico is not about money, I wish that it were. I wish we were doing Earned Income Tax Credit and Medicaid and things like that but it’s not about that. It’s about a value system but it’s not about an allocation of resources just yet. But almost every decision that is made has an impact on people’s lives. This budget debate is about as serious as it gets. And the ‘Road to Ruin’ Ryan budget is not a statement of American values. If he thinks that not running for president will take the spotlight off of that, that’s not the case. I have great respect for the Speaker because I do believe he believes in his budget and that’s something that the public should know. Thank you all.
Chairman Becerra. Thanks all very much.