Oct 12, 2021
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Press Conference Ahead of House Vote on Debt Limit: Transcript
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference on October 12, ahead of the House vote on the debt limit. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (00:01)
To have a two point conversion to tie up the game, to win in overtime, at the same time as the San Francisco Giants won the second of three games, in terms of baseball. More to come on that. It’s always a unifying thing, sports, where we all root for the home team. In my case, it’s San Francisco, and Baltimore as well. So now that we’ve dispensed with the truly important in most people’s lives, I want to just report on a very important visit that I had the end of last week and over the holiday weekend. As you may some of know, climate issue was my flagship issue when I was speaker the first time, when President Bush was president. And we passed the biggest environment energy bill in the history of our country, some of which was used as authority by President Obama when he was president for executive orders regarding climate and energy. We weren’t able to pass the legislation for climate needing 60 votes in the Senate, but it has always been of the highest priority.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (01:17)
And so this end of last week, and this weekend, had the privilege of representing the Congress of the United States at the G20 meeting, which it’s always about security, economy, and governance, specifically focused on COVID, and climate in this case. And then in addition to being part of that, to also participate in the opening ceremonies of the Pre-COP 26 session of the legislators gathered there. It was particularly exciting because while we were there, the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners for physics was named, and one of them was an Italian who then participated in the opening ceremonies as well, because he received it. I won’t try to describe it to you. Never try to describe why somebody gets a Nobel prize in physics, but it relates to climate, and his early understanding of how things are interconnected.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (02:29)
George Parisi is his name, and it was such an honor to be on an opening ceremony with him showing us a path for what we must do, in addition to what we know from our experience, but knowing it from the standpoint of physics. It was interesting because every country is ready. We’re all sort of measuring each other’s commitment to meeting our emissions goals, and the president’s is a strong one. Basically, what we said at this meeting is that America is back. That’s exactly the message of President Biden. Back in terms of multi-lateralism, back in terms of the Transatlantic Charter, which was a important part of our discussions, as well as back in terms of leading the way, again, on the climate crisis. His is not only to meet the Paris goals, but to beat them. And we would have over a 50% goal by 2030, 100% by 2050.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (03:45)
Part of the commitment, in addition to meeting our own goals, is to make sure we help developing countries with the technology and resources to meet theirs. They are not responsible for many of the emissions, but they pay a big price in terms of rising sea levels, encroachment of deserts, melting of glaciers, drying up of rivers, and the rest that have an impact on their lives. It’s a very big issue. World Health Organization has just issued something within the last 24 hours. I believe I saw it when I got off the plane, that they think that the climate issue is the biggest health challenge that we have. And it is a health issue, clean air, clean water for our children. It’s a jobs issue, good green jobs for many more people to take advantage of the opportunities they present.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (04:45)
It’s a national security issue, as our foreign policy experts tell us, that the competition for habitat resources, et cetera, is a security issue because of the migrations that it may cause from drought and famine and all the rest, natural disasters that spring from that. But it is a moral issue as well. We have a moral responsibility to pass this planet on, in a responsible way, to future generations. And that was much of the conversation I was able to have with His Holiness Pope Francis. It was so thrilling to bring the greetings of the Congress to His Holiness, to thank him for his strong message on climate, Loudato Si, his first encyclical, which he spoke about when he spoke to the Congress in a joint session five years ago. And to continue on conversation, as we prepare for COP 26 in Glasgow.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (05:48)
It was just a remarkable experience to have that private audience with his holiness. And again, to bring the thanks and gratitude of our colleagues and his blessings back to us. Then I went to, as in the region, to join a congressional bipartisan delegation in Portugal for the NATO meeting. The other was G20, et cetera, and this was the NATO meeting, presided over by our own Gerry Connolly. Congressman Connolly of Virginia has been elected for the entire NATO parliamentary assembly. He is the president of it, so he presided over the presentations by the president of Portugal, the prime minister, the speaker, and of course the secretary general of NATO. And I had the privilege, once again, to address them and talk about women and security. And I was honored to receive their first award in that regard, because women and security are one of the answers to it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (07:07)
And so in any event, if you want, I can talk to you more about that. The whole time though, we were all focused on building back better. The Europeans and others from all over the world, the G20, were interested in what was happening here. And of course these discussions went into the nights because of the time difference. We have some important decisions to make in the next few days, so that we can proceed. I’m very disappointed that we’re not going with the original $3.5 trillion, which was very transformative. But whatever we do, we’ll make decisions that will continue to be transformative about women in the workplace. So transformed because of childcare and universal pre-K, which sort of go together, the child tax credit, home healthcare workers. Men benefit too, but largely women, and women are those caregivers as well.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (08:11)
So not only to free up women to go into the workplace for their own professions and interest, but also to recognize the work that women do in providing that healthcare, issues that relate to family medical leave and the rest. The build back better is three baskets. It’s climate, which we spent some time talking about already, health job security, and moral responsibility. Healthcare, the issues that relate to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and family care. I mentioned some of those issues already. And so whatever we do, it will be transformative. It will produce results. And we are very grateful to our president for saying, “I want to pass the bipartisan legislation on infrastructure, but I will not confine my vision for the future to what can be in that bill. Hence, we need the build back better.” In addition to that, of course, and again, let me just say, that’s really a very important jobs bill.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (09:22)
It’s a jobs bill, and it’s a bill about our children. And it is about our values. So I’m pretty excited about the prospect that we have to make some difficult decisions, of course, because we had fewer resources. But nonetheless, no diminishing of our commitment to a transformative agenda for the children. As you know, we’re back today to do the debt ceiling, and this will go until nearly $500 billion until December 3rd. In the meantime, we’ll be working to try to have bipartisanship, as we always have had, on the legislation. Let me just say some of the things that could happen if we do not achieve that. If we don’t lift the ceiling, it could be a loss of 6 million jobs, $15 trillion in household wealth, and drastically increase the cost… Do you have a credit card? Do you have a car loan? Car loans, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and other borrowing. So domestically… And when I say domestically, I don’t just mean within the United States. I mean at the kitchen table, domestically, it will have a tremendous impact.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (10:48)
It’s about the economy. If we’re preventing decline in the GDP of up to 4%, the GDP could go down, and a surge in the unemployment rate, as the economy. Right now, we’re recovering from a pandemic. We don’t need that. And then just to say what it does globally, a default would send shockwaves through global financial markets and would likely cause credit markets worldwide to freeze up and stock markets to plunge. Employers around the world would likely have to begin laying off workers. Again, this is a report from the White House on that, and so I refer you to that. And again, it’s about kitchen table. It’s about our economy, global economy, but it’s also about our Constitution, which says the full faith and credit of the United States shall not be in doubt, 14th amendment section four. So as the validity of the public debt of the United States authorized by law shall not be questioned. Okay. Any questions?
Speaker 2: (11:54)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (11:55)
Let me see how to reward those who are here the most. That’s the way it goes. Well, let me talk to some of the women first, then I’ll come back to you men.
Speaker 2: (12:02)
Speaker, the supply chain that we’re seeing right now, the disruptions that are going on… Right now, we’re seeing our American courts that are running at 60% capacity. But the problem is, right now, that they were closing at night and on Sundays. And do you think that the president right now should be talking to the unions and perhaps asking them to loosen up some of their worker regulations as to when they should be working, so they can be working more often, and we should be able to start our supply chain?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (12:28)
Oh, the supply chain issue is not just an issue of what happens here. The supply chain is an issue globally. And that was something that we talked about at the meeting, because there are obstructions in other countries of product even making it to the ships to come to our country. Yeah, we’ve got to address that issue, because it has a direct impact on everything because we are so dependent on global trade and our trade going out as well. Yes, sir.
Speaker 3: (13:02)
Your letter last night to the caucus, you said that you may need to do fewer things well, as the guidance you got from the member. So are you suggesting that this package may ultimately draw either universal pre-K, child tax credit expansion, tuition free community college paid med family leave, or even the Medicare expansion?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (13:21)
Well, let me just say that at $3.5 trillion, we were doing everything well. So not a question of, now we’re doing it well because it’s less money. But the fact is, is that if there are fewer dollars to spend, there are choices to be made. And members have said, “Let’s get the results that we need, but we will not diminish the transformative nature of what it is.” Some members have written back to me and said, “I want to do everything.” So we’ll have that discussion. But again, in the family section of it, the transformative nature, the Biden child tax credit, childcare, and universal pre-K really go together. They go together. They’re part of meeting the same need. It issues that relate to home healthcare. There’s certain things that we… We’re still talking about a couple trillion dollars, but it’s much less. So mostly, we would be cutting back on years and something like that. But those are decisions that we [crosstalk 00:14:34]… Excuse me?
Speaker 3: (14:34)
Would you have to drop one of those program?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (14:36)
Well, we hope not. We hope not, but we’re going to have to make sure we have a bill, which I also said is that we have to have something that will pass the House and pass the Senate. Pass the House and pass the Senate. And I’m not asking members to vote for something that has no chance to pass in the Senate.
Speaker 4: (14:55)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (14:56)
I’m optimistic that we will get to where we need to be in timely fashion.
Speaker 4: (15:03)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (15:04)
Speaker 4: (15:04)
About the debt ceiling-
Speaker 5: (15:04)
Two part question. Do you think-
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (15:05)
Two parts? Are two parts aloud? There are a lot of questions here.
Speaker 5: (15:11)
Do you believe you’ll get this done this month still, and also on the debt limit, are you still of the view that you should not do this as part of reconciliation?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (15:21)
Yeah, I did tell you that. Didn’t I?
Speaker 5: (15:23)
No, I don’t think you did actually. I think you said-
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (15:25)
Well, you asked me and you forgot. You said, “Are you going to do it in reconciliation?” I said, “No.”
Speaker 5: (15:29)
Well, it’s only extended for about a month.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (15:30)
Maybe I didn’t recognize you with the mask. Again, no, I’m optimistic that these decisions have to be made. There’s been a lot of discussion and we are a Democratic party. We are not a rubber stamp or a lockstep party. We have our discussions, and I’m very proud of the values that all the members have brought to the table, the knowledge of the issues that they’re advancing that they bring. And the realization that even at 3.5, you have to make decisions. So again, we have to make tighter decisions. Now, in my last letter previous to this one, I said, everybody sharpen your pencil. It’s an old phrase. Nobody uses a pencil anymore, I guess. But sharpen your pencil, literally, figuratively, and any other way. But I’m optimistic, yeah. In terms of the debt ceiling, well, we’re just hoping that we can do this in a bipartisan way.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (16:26)
There are all kinds of suggestions that members have. One that really was endorsed a while back by Mitch McConnell, but who knows? But it was to the manifestation of it now, Mr. Yarmuth and Mr. Boyle put forth, puts the responsibility on the secretary of the treasury to make the determination to lift the debt ceiling. That decision could be overruled by the Congress. It would take 60 votes under the present custom, but nonetheless, Congress would have to overrule that. That seems to have some appeal to both sides of the aisle, because of the consequences to people of not lifting it. Many Democrats and Republicans have voted against lifting the debt ceiling, but never to the extent of jeopardizing it. This is the first time.
Speaker 5: (17:33)
Are you for that idea? Are you in favor of that idea?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (17:35)
I think it has merit. Yes, I do think it has merit. But in the meantime, where we’re going to pass a bill today to take us to December with a hope that when people realize what the implications of… This is not a technical thing. This is has ramifications, as I say, from the kitchen table to our economy to global and constitutional.
Speaker 4: (18:01)
[crosstalk 00:18:01] One of the pay-fors in the build back better bill that’s been proposed is IRS cracking down on some unpaid taxes. Banks are starting to get calls from customers, and they’re reporting these calls. They’re concerned about this tracking of transactions that is greater than $600. So Americans are starting to be worried about this. Do you think that this pay-for, of giving the IRS more money to crack down on unpaid taxes, is going to stay in the reconciliation bill?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (18:31)
Speaker 4: (18:31)
And what do you say to Americans who are concerned about that?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (18:34)
Yes. With all due respect, the plural of anecdote is not data. I’ve said that before here. Yes, there are concerns that some people have, but if people are breaking the law and not paying their taxes, one way to track them is through the banking measure. I think 600, but that’s a negotiation that will go on as to what the amount is, but yes.
Speaker 6: (18:59)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (19:00)
These people here in the front row have an advantage here. You can go.
Speaker 6: (19:04)
Thank you, Madam speaker. Our latest CVS news poll shows that only 10% of Americans described themselves as no knowing a lot of specific things that are in the reconciliation package, and that the majority don’t know anything at all. So do you think we need to do a better job at messaging. And going forward, how do you sell this if ultimately you have to [crosstalk 00:19:24]-
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (19:24)
Well, I think you all could do a better job of selling it, to be very frank with you, because every time I come here, I go through the list. Family medical leave, climate, the issues that are in there. But it is true. It is hard to break through when you have such a comprehensive package. But as we narrow it down and put it out there, I think that it will… For example, one of the things in the bill is the continuation of the Biden tax credit, that is child tax credit, that is within the rescue package. That has great appeal. Do people know where it springs from? No, but it is a vast bill. It has a lot in it, and we’ll have to continue to make sure the public does. But whether they know it or not, overwhelmingly support it. And by the way, women much more than men. Men like the infrastructure, this one, yeah.
Speaker 7: (20:19)
[crosstalk 00:20:19] to go-
Speaker 8: (20:19)
Speaker 7: (20:19)
… to get the price of the package down.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (20:22)
Speaker 7: (20:23)
What would be the first to go, to get the price of the package down?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (20:28)
You must be kidding. That’s a negotiating. That’s not something that I would be announcing here, and I don’t even know what that would be, in knowing what would be the first go. What would be probably in timing, that the timing would be reduced, in many cases, to make the cost lower. But it only would be in such a way that does not undermine the transformative nature of it, because some of it has to have enough money in order to have sustainability that can be counted on. So again, the first thing would be timing. Thank you. Thank you all [crosstalk 00:21:05]. Oh, and by the way, I have to go. I have Foreign Minister Lapid coming to my office now. He’s in Washington for meetings with the administration, and I will have a bipartisan meeting with him.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (21:16)
And perhaps some of you will even attend our press availability in a short period, but it’s pretty exciting to welcome him here, to once again, take great pride in the relationship between Israel and the United States. That Israel’s security is essential to US security, that we have those shared values, security, security, security, but also values. And to talk about some of the issues about a two state solution. It had to be a solution to commend them for their work. The Israelis have been in the lead on COVID. Small country, but big enough to make an impact, and for us to learn from. So I’m very excited about that meeting, and perhaps I’ll see some of you at that press avail. Thank you all. Bye-bye.