Press Conference with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
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SPEAKER PELOSI: Good morning.
Q Good morning.
Q Good morning.
SPEAKER PELOSI: As was reported to you a couple of days ago, last week I led a bipartisan delegation to China. At that time, we talked about climate change and how our two countries could work together to come to some agreement that would fit within a bilateral Copenhagen agreement.
We also talked about human rights, and as you probably know, today is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. We have a number of events following this: a(n) opening of a photo exhibit under the auspices of the National Endowment for Democracy; following that, an event on the West Lawn of the Capitol. And yesterday -- the day before -- we had a resolution on the floor of the House that passed overwhelmingly in a strong bipartisan way.
Also part of our discussion when we were in China was the issue of fiscal responsibility. And as many of you may recall, earlier this year, I sent letters to our chairmen asking them to have hearings on how we can cut waste, fraud, abuse, duplication, obsolescence out of any initiatives under the jurisdiction of their committees. They had the hearings. They had a June 2nd target for us to get that information back, and we've gotten a great deal back this week from our members.
Fiscal discipline is one of the key components of how we go forward: health care, energy, fiscal discipline. This was our conversation with the president a couple of days ago. It's been our ongoing conversation. And it was part of our conversation in China, to impress upon the Chinese that we're very, very serious about passing legislation, PAYGO, making it statutory, reducing spending, reducing the deficit, not heaping mountains of debt onto future generations.
Next, we will go to how we pass the statutory PAYGO, which is a very strong commitment that I have with Leader Hoyer, working with our caucus, especially with our Blue Dog leadership, as well as with the president of the United States.
The next two issues that we will bring up are the ongoing -- of ongoing interest. We continue to move forward on the health care initiative. Actually, committees are working in unison. When they are ready, we will have legislation to be dropped, as they say -- put forth. And we may -- the Senate may go ahead of us in doing that. We'll see. We'll go forward when we're ready.
Same thing with energy. We're very excited, as I've said before, about the progress made in the Energy and Commerce Committee to pass a bill out, the Thursday night before we left on Friday for China. Frankly, it was a game-changer for us in our discussions in China, that the U.S. was ready to do something very substantial, and that therefore it was important for China to do so as well. We'll wait to see what their initiatives are, but we were very impressed with what we saw in their energy initiative in China.
So then, we go back to, again, the issue of Tiananmen Square. When I leave here, I'll go to the opening of the photo exhibit; from there, to the -- to the rally on the grounds.
The issue for the floor now is the supplemental. It still is not resolved. We're working with the Senate to finalize that legislation, and when we get the final reconciliation of it -- the final conference report, is a better word -- then we will be able to make our count and take the legislation to the floor.
But the issue of IMF is one that is, I think -- has strong support on the Democratic side; not many support, we're hearing, on the Republican side. The IMF in its reformed state -- and I'm very pleased with the work that Barney Frank has done on this -- has been a -- can be a force for alleviating the fury of despair among people, poor people throughout the world. It's a very important national security initiative. I believe there are people in the Republican Party who support it; they just don't want to support it on this bill. So we have -- we have to do that with all Democratic votes.
I just, in closing, would like to salute the president for his speech in Cairo. I think it was an absolute triumph. He made us all very proud by speaking in a very positive way about a new beginning with the Muslim world and how we can work together, the necessity to fight -- to work together against violence. And I was so pleased that he addressed many of the human rights issues, including women's rights.
With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions.
Q In these letters the chairmen have sent you, can you characterize for us how much in savings they have outlined?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we're reviewing it now.
Q And is it in the area of eliminating programs, cutting programs?
SPEAKER PELOSI: It is -- we're just getting them in now. January -- or, excuse me, June 2nd was the deadline. What we asked them to do was waste, fraud, abuse, obsolescence, duplication, and any other standard they wanted to use to reduce spending. And there might -- and thank you for asking, because when we go forward with the appropriations bills, there will be in each appropriations bill a -- a call for reducing spending in that manner as well.
So it is a judgment that they will make, about how they see it in their committee. We'll take a look at the overall list that they give us and be as happy as we can be, to see as many consolidations as possible. We know that that is possible.
Q Madame Speaker, are you concerned that the subpoena of Representative Visclosky will raise issues of separation of power, as much as it did in the Jefferson case? Are you having the general counsel look at it, to make sure that the Speech or Debate Clause is upheld?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, Mr. Visclosky, I do not -- I think his records were subpoenaed, in relationship to an investigation of something else, not of him, as I understand it. But the fact is, on any of these things, we want the public interest and justice to be served.
We of course have to uphold the highest ethical standard for the House; protect the rights of the individual but also again do so in a manner that is the most open for justice to be served.
Q Will the general counsel be involved in sorting out whether these are privileged or not?
SPEAKER PELOSI: My understanding is that Mr. Visclosky has the most generous -- called for the most generous interpretation, to the Justice Department, of those records.
But I don't know that much about those particulars. But that hasn't risen as a problem in that respect.
Q Madame Speaker --
Q Madame Speaker --
SPEAKER PELOSI: But so the speech and debate is not a place to hide. And that's not -- you know, speech and debate is about speech and debate.
Q Madame Speaker?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Yes.
Q Are you still receiving intelligence briefings? And as far as --
SPEAKER PELOSI: I'm not -- I've said what I'm going to say on that subject.
Q Oh. Well -- still?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I think -- yes, I am. Yes, I am.
Q Speaker, thank you. On the supplemental, do you have a response to Mr. Boehner's argument that the IMF funding should not be tied to the troop funding bill and Mr. Cantor's argument that IMF funding could flow into the hands of terrorists?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I think that any allegation of that -- you -- there are two contradictory things. One is saying it shouldn't be on the war funding, which is our responsibility to support our troops and the war in Iraq and bring our troops home and fight terrorism where it's a threat to our country, which is in Afghanistan. And we know that we have to do that.
The IMF is, again, an instrument for national security. It has been reformed so that it isn't -- that it will help the poor. They wanted to sell gold; we said, "You can, but the proceeds have to go to help the poor." So we view it as an alleviation of poverty, of -- ending of -- alleviation, also, of the fury of despair: very important in terms of our national security.
I don't know why anyone would say that the money is going into the hands of terrorists. It simply is not based in fact, and is a scare tactic and most unfortunate. But the IMF will have strong support among the Democrats.
Q Madame Speaker?
Q Madame Speaker, you earlier -- a week or so ago, you had talked about posting online the members' allowances and things.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Right.
Q And what some of the members are spending their allowances on have been -- has been quite controversial. Are you concerned that once this is posted -- of course, people want transparency -- but that people will be appalled at what they're seeing that members spend?
SPEAKER PELOSI: No, I don't think so. I think that they will see that people spend -- invest the resources that they have in serving their constituents: largely on staff and communication with their constituents. Whatever it is, it's very important that it be online, that there be that transparency. And whatever the downside might be for any individual, it's very much an upside in the interest of more openness for Congress. And I feel I'm very excited about it.
Q Madame Speaker, on energy, will you include Nick Rahall's oil and gas drilling bill that he wants to to move to the Natural Resources Committee? And secondly, are you concerned that rising gas prices might affect the floor debate on the energy bill as we see gas prices going up to $3 or $4 a gallon?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Actually, quite the reverse, quite the reverse. The rise in oil prices -- in fact, some of you may have asked me a month or two ago, "Do you see the lowering of oil prices as hurting your chances to get real change" -- so quite the reverse. The simple fact is that climate change -- the climate change crisis is a real one. As I said to some of you a couple days ago, on our way to China, we went through -- back and forth through Alaska, and in our own country we saw the melting of the permafrost, and methane gases that result from that, the acidification of the ocean, the melting of the polar cap, where you have a white cap, which reflects on or -- as that melts, a dark blue sea that absorbs heat, changing the thermal regulation of the planet.
We've met with leaders of the villages that said their villages were eroding into the sea. We've heard about the change in the ecosystems of animals and plant life there.
This is urgent. We must do it. And the way that we must do it is in a way that is economically sound for our country, that creates new green jobs that invest in the technologies that not only are renewable energy but keep us competitive worldwide in a way that reduces pollution in the air, this health issue, and again honors our faith that God created this beautiful planet and we must save it. And I don't -- I think the -- and if anything, rising cost in energy, of gas prices, furthers debate for me for alternatives.
And we've done a lot already in the recovery package, with the grid in the omnibus bill, in the budget and now with this.
On Nick, Joe, he's putting that out. That may be something to be considered free-standing. We need to increase domestic production in the manner that he suggests in the legislation. Whether it's part of this climate change bill or not, I don't know. I don't -- what we see now is a bill that will go to our Energy -- our Ways and Means, and Agriculture, and there are other committees who have smaller jurisdiction but that we can get this bill going. But Mr. Rahall's legislation does have strong support.
STAFF: The last question.
Q Madame Speaker, when do you plan on bringing the energy and climate bill to the floor?
You've instructed the committee chairmen to complete their work by June 19th. And if some of the key committees, such as Ways and Means and Agriculture, waive their jurisdiction, how will that influence your decision when to bring the bill to the floor?
SPEAKER PELOSI: We'll bring the bill to the floor when the bill is ready, and not one day sooner. And the few-week jurisdiction is the typical jurisdiction of referrals of multiple jurisdiction. If they need more time, that's not a hard -- it's a goal, and if they are making progress and they need more time, I think that will not be a problem.
However, we are going to go forward, and we want to go forward as soon as possible. But when it's ready. We're on two tracks, with energy and health, and when each of them is ready, we will go. We're not waiting for one to do another. We're just responding to the work of the committees, and when they are finished their work, we'll go to the floor.
And it's pretty exciting. By the end of July, as I mentioned, for sure, we will pass a health-care bill in the House of Representatives. That's our commitment to the president. We'll do energy when it's ready.
Q Is there anything that's --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you all very much. I have to be at the --
Q -- changed in the intelligence briefings that would make you believe they're being honest with you now?
STAFF: Thank you.
Q (Off mike) -- the Justice Department?
Q Is there anything that's changed in the intelligence briefings that would make you believe they're being honest with you?
Q Are they still lying to you?