Dec 8, 2021
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Transcript December 8
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference on December 8, 2021. She discussed the bill the House passed to raise the debt ceiling. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Speaker Pelosi: (00:00)
Good morning. We are here today on Wednesday, instead of our usual Thursday, because tomorrow we will welcome Majority Leader Bob Dole back to the Congress of the United States, where he will lie in state under the Capitol dome in the Rotunda. All of us who served in Congress at the same time as he did take great pride in that, and also that he was a person who taught everyone here about dignity, duty, integrity, and patriotism. Our condolences go to his wife Elizabeth, who’s a leader in her own right. Madam Secretary, Madam Senator, and now working so hard for our Hidden Heroes, to care for our men and women in uniform when they come home. So again, we salute him, and of course, more will be said about him tomorrow.
Speaker Pelosi: (01:11)
Yesterday, President Biden and [inaudible 00:01:14] American leadership to the world on his call to Russian President Putin. President Biden was clear, direct, and candid in making sure there was an understanding that should there be any actions taken by Putin in Ukraine that there would be tough consequences if he violates Ukraine’s territorial integrity. These consequences would include strong economic measures, sending military support to Ukraine, and bolstering military support for our NATO allies in the region, including the Baltics, Poland, and Romania. Congress supports the president’s strong leadership and the NDAA bill, which we passed in the House last night in a very strong bipartisan vote. We secured 300 million dollars in security assistance for the Ukraine.
Speaker Pelosi: (02:14)
That National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA, which was overwhelmingly, as I said, bipartisan, contains many victories. We’re very proud that it provides a pay raise for our military, supports military families’ financial security and health in so many ways, modernizes our defenses and fortifies our military’s technological edge, and combats adversaries and invests in alliances and supports our partners. We’re particularly proud that in this legislation, thanks to Jackie Speier, it contains historic reforms to combat sexual assault in the military. I commend Jackie for her lifetime of service on this subject, even before she came to Congress, but now as the chair of the subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee that oversees personnel.
Speaker Pelosi: (03:07)
And on the floor yesterday, I was very, very proud of the action that was taken to secure the full faith and credit of the United States, which is written into the constitution. As you were probably aware, the legislation we passed provided a process under which we could lift the debt ceiling with a simple majority, rather than 60 votes in the Senate. In doing so, we are protecting families and the US and global economies, preventing a loss of millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of household wealth, trillions. Drastic increases in interest. Do you have a car loan? Do you have a mortgage? Do you have credit card bills, student debt, any other type of borrowing? Your cost would go up if we do not lift the debt ceiling.
Speaker Pelosi: (03:58)
And again, even a discussion of it in the past has served to downgrade our credit rating. We will not have that happen this time. And it has a massive drop, should this have happened, in the value of the dollar, with global long term consequences. This is as serious as it gets in terms of public policy, the people’s interest, and the public interest. So again, that has gone over to the Senate. As soon as they go through the process of how to bring the bill to the floor, vote on it, come back to us. And we will be done in the time from middle December, which the Secretary of the Treasury has said when the time and the money run out for lifting the debt ceiling.
Speaker Pelosi: (04:48)
I’m proud of what’s happening on the floor today. It’s an anniversary of some things that I want to call to your attention, but the House continues our leadership with a package of strong legislation that sends a clear message that Beijing’s crimes against the Uyghur people constitute genocide and must end now. I’ve said over and over again, if we refuse to act upon or speak out against violations of human rights and countries because of economic reasons, then we lose all moral authority to speak out against human rights violations anywhere.
Speaker Pelosi: (05:26)
So 73 years ago this very week, 73 years ago, the world convened the UN Convention on Genocide to condemn and combat this crime of genocide, which the Chinese are engaged in, in terms of the Uyghurs in China. 20 years ago, China, again, right now, succeeded [inaudible 00:05:47] to the World Trade Organization. And that action, the interaction trade wise, has not been a success. And during the same week, this week, that the inaugural Summit for the Democracy is launched under President Biden, we salute him for making that a priority at the head of state level, and again, happening at an opportune time for observing human rights. The president has always said, the challenge we have is democracy versus autocracy, and again, he is making a decision to highlight that at the highest level.
Speaker Pelosi: (06:25)
I salute the president on his call this week that there would be no diplomatic presence of the United States in Beijing during in the time of the Olympics. Some of us called for that in May. We must support our athletes. That’s very important. We’re not calling for the boycott, and neither is the president. The president’s saying no diplomatic presence. We’re saying diplomatic boycott, but we cannot proceed like there’s nothing wrong with having the Olympics in a country that is engaged in genocide and perpetrating human rights abuses. I don’t get it about the Olympic committee. We had this fight in the early nineties with them, when they had crushed people with tanks at Tiananmen Square, and now again.
Speaker Pelosi: (07:20)
The PRC, the People’s Republic of China, is waging a brutal campaign of oppression against the Uyghur people and other minorities, with mass incarceration, torture, and forced labor. We talked about it last week in this meeting. But these bills, the House is combating the horrific situation and shining a light on Beijing’s abuse. I salute Chairman McGovern, who’s really been really our spiritual leader on human rights, as the co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, as well as chair of the committee on China. His bill blocking in [inaudible 00:08:02] of goods made with forced labor by the Uyghur people, that really is our law, that we don’t have our workers compete with slave labor in other countries. But this focuses specifically on that.
Speaker Pelosi: (08:15)
Then we have legislation by Congressman McCaul, the ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee. His legislation condemns the International Olympic Committee for failing to uphold human rights commitments. And I join him in that, and Representative Jennifer Wexton’s resolution condemning the genocide against the Uyghurs by the PRC. Again, if we don’t speak up because we have an economic interest, we lose all moral authority.
Speaker Pelosi: (08:42)
This is human rights day for us. We put all this together because of the change in schedule, for reasons that I mentioned at the beginning of this meeting. At the same time, we’re laser focused on continuing to lower cost and fight inflation, including with further action to address the supply chain disruptions. This week, we’re passing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, a bipartisan bill to bolster the Federal Maritime Commission, strengthen the overseas supply chain, and ensure fairness in ocean shipping. This is strongly bipartisan. In fact, the National Retail Federation yesterday wrote, “While the bill cannot solve all current supply chain disruption issues, it will go a long way to address some of the core issues that existed well before the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Speaker Pelosi: (09:41)
Again, this is just one of several bills that we will pass that build on the success of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. In there, there are billions of dollars, 17 billion, in fact, for ports and waterways, for commerce to run more smoothly. And in the Build Back Better, that’s the BIF, and the Build Back Better includes billions to identify and fix disruptions in the supply chain. So we’re building back better with a more efficient, productive economy, with lower prices, lower prices for the middle class.
Speaker Pelosi: (10:15)
Tomorrow, we have very important legislation that goes to the heart of the matter of our democracy. Under the leadership of chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, we will be passing legislation to secure our American democracy, the Protecting our Democracy Act. It is a package of democratic democracy reforms to restore the constitutional system of checks and balances and ensure that no future president can abuse his or her power, including the abuse of pardon power and abuse of office for personal enrichment, soliciting a foreign interference in US elections, retaliatory attacks on whistleblowers and inspectors general, and contempt of Congress’s oversight powers, including our lawful subpoena power and power of the purse, and more. I commend the distinguished chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Mr. Schiff, for his long term work on all of this. And we look forward to a strong vote tomorrow. For the people, we will continue to fight for our democracy.
Speaker Pelosi: (11:20)
It’s a very busy time. I couldn’t be prouder of our members. Democrats deliver. We delivered with the rescue package, we delivered with the BIF, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. We delivered with BBB, Build Back Better, awaiting that return from the Senate. We’re delivering on the supply chain supply legislation. In the bill on Monday, I want to go back to it because it was so important. When we were addressing the process for how we lift the debt ceiling, in there, we also address the sequestration issue that would come due on January 24th. We touched on this in previous meetings, and now that date no longer looms for another year.
Speaker Pelosi: (12:11)
And then we also took out a two percent cut in Medicare that was going to go into effect the end of December, that would be very harmful to our healthcare workers, our docs, our institutions that provide healthcare largely to our seniors. So that was a very important bill last night. It was like three bills packed into one, in addition to the NDAA. Our strength in terms of our military and our men and women in uniform, our strength in terms of the wellbeing of the American people.
Speaker Pelosi: (12:42)
Any questions? Let me see. What about you?
Speaker 2: (12:47)
Yeah. Ma’am, as you look forward to how this plays out from here, I know you’ve got to wait on the Senate.
Speaker Pelosi: (12:54)
Speaker 2: (12:54)
Do you expect that you’re going to be able to move the debt ceiling stuff ahead of the 15th and before you guys depart for recess?
Speaker Pelosi: (13:03)
Yes, we have to. They will, as I mentioned, the Senate will deal with the process in a couple of days. I mean, you’ll have to ask them about their schedule, but when they do that, only then can they move forward with voting on lifting the debt ceiling. Then they’ll send it back to us, and we will send it to the president.
Speaker 2: (13:23)
Are members then subject to recall for BBB? Do you expect to have to bring folks back this calendar year?
Speaker Pelosi: (13:30)
Bring back? From where?
Speaker 2: (13:35)
Well, if the Senate passes Build Back Better, and there are changes.
Speaker Pelosi: (13:36)
Yeah, I understand. But where are they going that we’re calling them back?
Speaker 2: (13:41)
Home for the holiday?
Speaker Pelosi: (13:42)
Well, we hopefully will have this done before then. That would be my hope. But we have to do the defense bill. We had to do the process, the defense bill, lift the debt ceiling, BBB. And I would hope that we could include in that the voting rights legislation that is over in the Senate. Yes, Ma’am.
Speaker 3: (14:06)
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Congresswoman Omar said after the two of you had a conversation that she was confident that you would take decisive action this coming week. What action was promised, if any, to Congresswoman Omar, and are you expecting to take any action against Congresswoman Boebert?
Speaker Pelosi: (14:22)
When I’m ready to announce that, I’ll let you know. Yes.
Speaker 4: (14:28)
Just to get some clarity here on the social spending bill.
Speaker Pelosi: (14:30)
Speaker 4: (14:31)
So obviously, they-
Speaker Pelosi: (14:32)
On what? Some clarity on what?
Speaker 4: (14:35)
The social spending bill, the Build Back Better.
Speaker Pelosi: (14:37)
Oh, you’re talking about the Build Back Better for the American people?
Speaker 4: (14:40)
Speaker Pelosi: (14:40)
What are we calling it? Okay, however you’re referencing it is not familiar to me, but anyway.
Speaker 4: (14:46)
Speaker Pelosi: (14:48)
The Build Back Better legislation.
Speaker 4: (14:49)
Speaker Pelosi: (14:49)
I just want to know what you’re talking about, and make sure you know what you’re talking about.
Speaker 4: (14:54)
[inaudible 00:14:54] That said, whenever the Senate does that bill, and to get some more clarity on this, you think that you could move so expeditiously that once you get it back, you can move this through the holidays, before the holidays, or do you think that this needs some time to massage in the new year, because that’s going to be a different product and some of your members are going to have to evaluate it?
Speaker Pelosi: (15:17)
All your questions are always about what you’re going to do for the holiday. We are on our path to get the job done for the American people, and we feel very confident about what is in Build Back Better. We know what some possibilities are, and it would be my hope that we will have this bill done before the Christmas vacation and holiday.
Speaker 5: (15:54)
Speaker Pelosi: (15:54)
Speaker 5: (15:54)
Speaker 6: (15:54)
Thank you. You’ve been saying that it’s up to Leader McCarthy to deal with his members, like Congresswoman Boebert.
Speaker Pelosi: (15:54)
Yeah, it has.
Speaker 6: (15:54)
But it was the House Democrats who came in and punished Gosar and Greene. So what makes the Boebert situation any different?
Speaker Pelosi: (15:59)
Well, it’s just an intensification of their neglect of honoring rule 23 that says we all have a responsibility to honor the House of Representatives and serve in a way that brings honor to the House. It’s their responsibility to deal with their people. But how we deal with addressing the fear that they have instilled with their Islamophobia and the rest is something that hopefully we can do in a bipartisan way, but the responsibility is on them. And I just went through a wealth of substance here. I don’t feel like talking about what the Republicans aren’t doing or are doing about the disgraceful, unacceptable behavior of their members. Any other questions on the subjects at hand? Yes, Ma’am?
Speaker 7: (16:47)
As we approach the end of the year, I have two questions. One is, do you think that the Capitol is safer this year than it was a year ago?
Speaker Pelosi: (16:57)
Of course I do, but we will always ensure that that is the case. And we are having all of the reviews of what we pass into law and how that is being implemented. But let me just say this about one year ago, and that is, I don’t think that whatever preparation anybody would’ve made, that anybody could predict that the president of the United States would incite an insurrection, and a violent one. So I don’t fault anybody for not knowing who had responsibility of communication and the rest on all of this, that the president, the president, was instigating this.
Speaker Pelosi: (17:35)
I’m very proud of the work of the January 6th committee. As I see, as you see, we see it together in the public domain, the actions that they are taking to seek the truth, and the truth will tell us some things about our exposure then further, but also, I don’t know if you can see, but from the windows in the Capitol, we can see actions being taken to protect the Capitol more further.
Speaker 7: (18:01)
And also, there is a lot of conversations among members and staff about just the breakdown of comity in Congress and the tensions between the two parties. 400 staff members sent a letter to leadership today saying that they don’t feel safe because of Boebert and others. So forward looking, how do you address that and how do you fix it, and can it be fixed?
Speaker Pelosi: (18:26)
Well, I’ll never forgive. I’ll never forgive the former president of the United States and his lackies and his bullies that he sent to the Capitol, for the trauma that was exerted on our staff. These are young, largely younger people, who come with idealism to work in the Capitol on either side of the aisle, whatever it is. And for us who sign up for this when we run for office, it’s bad enough for our families to see the danger we’re in.
Speaker Pelosi: (19:02)
But for these young people, when I came back to the Capitol to say we’re going to open up government, in the Capitol that night, we were going to honor our constitutional responsibilities, even though they had an assault on that January 6th date, fraught with meaning from the constitution, when I saw what it meant to the staff, the way it traumatized them, it was frightening. That’s something that you cannot just say, well, we’ll do legislation to make sure this or that doesn’t happen again. You cannot erase that. So I have a lot of communication with staff, with Capitol Police and the rest, so I know pretty much what people are thinking, not everything, and we must always be, it’s like a horizon. You’re always moving to make it better, to make it better.
Speaker Pelosi: (19:59)
And as far as civility is concerned, it would be a good place to start if they didn’t start threatening the [inaudible 00:20:04] of members of Congress, from one of their members to the next, and saying nothing about it. But civility is very important. I just met with the spouses and commended them for the role they play in civility, because it really is, just as you suggest, really important, not only to the wellbeing and our communication and respect for each other, but also in terms of security.
Speaker Pelosi: (20:33)
So I’ll end where I began, with civility and Bob Dole. This was just an exemplary person to serve with in Congress. He served at a time when there was mutual respect, even though disagreement on many issues across the aisle, across the Capitol. I had the privilege of working with him on a number of issues, where I found him to be a man of his word. Everybody did. Everybody did. He was a patriot from the start, as a very young person in World War II, where he was injured. And he always until now has been fighting with his wife Elizabeth, who has been an angel on all of this, to help families of soldiers who are wounded in combat, as he was.
Speaker Pelosi: (21:24)
He took that also to another place, to expand it to people with disabilities, whatever the reason, and championed the Americans with Disabilities Act and its reauthorization and its funding along the way. He always taught us that we respect people for what they can do, not judge them for what they cannot. And of course, when it comes to food, Dole, in so many ways, McGovern, Dole, not our Jim McGovern, although Jim McGovern has been a champion on food, George McGovern and Dole making sure that we were better prepared to feed the American people. So in some very specific ways, and just generally speaking, when you’re talking about duty and civility, integrity, and respect, and I’ll have more to say tomorrow at his service.
Speaker Pelosi: (22:15)
I had the honor of speaking at his 90th birthday at his invitation, a ceremony that was held in Statuary Hall. I told him this summer I was getting ready for his hundredth birthday. I didn’t know, sadly, that as Speaker I’d be speaking at his lying in state in the Capitol. But when he comes there, he’ll bring additional luster to the Capitol, as he has brought luster to everything he has done in the Congress. With that, I wish you well. We’ll probably see each other before the holidays. Thank you.