Weekly Press Conference With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
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SPEAKER PELOSI: Good afternoon.
Here we are, May 1st. Five years ago today, the president declared "mission accomplished." Mission unclear, but "mission accomplished." The banner on that aircraft carrier was really tragic, and the president is still without a plan to accomplish that mission, whatever it may have been.
This president has led us into a war that has taken us deeply into debt, that is taking us into recession. As you know, gas prices are -- are at record highs, unemployment benefits will soon run out for many people, returning veterans find their educational benefits are insufficient, the mortgage crisis undermining the dream of owning a home in -- in our country. It is time for the president to help us -- help us accomplish a different mission and one that I believe is related, restoring America's economic strength.
To fight gas prices, we are asking the president to do three things: to stop filling the SPR -- when this was done before, the cost of a barrel went down $10. That was when the oil was lower in cost, so it might even be greater now. Why should we be buying oil at record highs? You buy oil at -- when it's lower in cost to build a SPR, not when it is at record highs. So we're asking the president to not fill the SPR at this time.
We're asking the president to call upon the FTC to obey the law. Congress passed an economic -- in the -- excuse me -- in the energy bill direction to the FTC to investigate market manipulation of oil. Up until now, the FTC has not issued the rules to do that. We're calling upon the administration to make that happen.
And the third thing is that we want the president to remove his objection to is our repealing the subsidies to Big Oil so that we can use that money instead for a tax credit in research for renewable energy resources. A time of record high -- every time we say this, "record high, historic profits by the oil companies," the profits get bigger -- the profits get bigger.
ExxonMobil just released its first quarter earnings. What is it, $10.9 billion? $10.9 billion first quarter earnings, up 17 percent from last year. As you may remember, last year their earnings were over -- their profits were over $42 billion for the year, the biggest -- the highest corporate profit in the history of corporate profits. And yet the president says we can't repeal the subsidies to Big Oil -- we're just talking about the five largest oil companies -- in order to use that money. It's about $1.8 billion a year, a small fraction of the quarterly profits of one of those oil companies.
In addition, we would hope that -- that the president would help in enactment -- we have passed it in the House -- of NOPEC, which empowers the Justice Department to fight the cartel price-fixing of OPEC, and then also to enact stronger FTC -- again, but a different subject -- authority to investigate price gauging. That's Mr. Stupak's bill.
All these bills have passed the House. We probably will be bringing up in one form or another on one vehicle or another the repeal of the subsidies for Big Oil soon.
That's about it for now.
I'm very pleased that Mr. Barney Frank's committee today -- Chairman Frank's committee today is marking up a very important legislation to bring relief to homeowners who are faced with possible foreclosure. This is a -- the statistics on this, as with many things at the federal level and national level, are staggering. The numbers are huge and -- and harmful to our economy. But we have to think of these foreclosures one working family at a time, and try to have remedies here that are relevant to -- to helping those families survive this mortgage crisis. It's important for the families, it's important for the communities they live in, and it's important to our economy.
And that -- again, he will have legislation or Maxine Waters will have legislation trying to help the localities address this challenge, because these properties had been tax contributors, and now they are tax eaters because of needs in these communities for empty properties.
So we're talking about the price of oil. We're talking about the legislative action on the mortgage revenue.
I'm pleased what's happening this week on the floor. We're going to send four bills to the president: the GINA bill -- which just passed overwhelmingly, I think there was only one vote against it -- the genetic discrimination legislation; the higher education bill that just came back from the Senate to make more loans available to students; the transportation jobs bill, which will create 40,000 jobs -- (snaps fingers) -- immediately; and the bill that -- establishing -- it has quite a number of new parks in it, very important legislation in terms of what we're trying to do to keep America green and what that means in combating global warming.
So it's a busy time. Lots more at work in the committees. Next week, we hope to have the Consumer Product Safety bill, hopefully by next week, but shortly thereafter if not.
The committees are hard at work churning out their work. The farm conference is going on as we speak, and hopefully they'll have some -- some news for us soon.
With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions.
Q Madame Speaker, the supplemental is coming down the pike here. You've talked about energy prices and needs to do that. Will there be some sort of an energy-related provision on the supplemental? And if so, what form might it take?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I can't tell you that right now. Mr. Obey has been working with the Senate on what might be in the supplemental and what we might just take up in a free-standing way. So those judgments are being made now. Our goal is to move a supplemental as soon as we can, a supplemental that the president can sign, and -- and that's the goal.
Now, there are other equities to be weighed, other than just the president's wish to have just what he asked for in the bill, and that's what's happening now. But no decisions have been made on that. When they are, you'll know.
Q Some of the things you're thinking about adding to the supplemental the president says he would veto, and you just said you wanted a supplemental that he can sign. Are you willing to go through an exercise in which there is a veto first and then come back? Or do you want to --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we'd rather just save time and get it over with right from the start. But one of the things that -- I can't really tell you what is going to be in there because it has -- honestly has not been decided. But one thing that I am pushing very strongly for, as well as a bipartisan coalition of members, is the GI Bill. Welcome our troops home. Thank them. Send them to college. This new GI Bill is very, very important for how we receive our returning troops.
There are many, many veteran students now. They all support this. The Veter Service -- Veterans Service Organizations do. Veterans -- I was just at the beautiful Holocaust Memorial in the -- in the Rotunda and people came up to me there and said, "What's the status of the GI Bill?" So that might be something that would be on that, and it relates to the national security of our country.
Q Madame Speaker, the GI Bill now has 58 votes -- supporters in the Senate, has overwhelming support in the House. Why don't you just do that as a free-standing bill now?
SPEAKER PELOSI: I don't know if this is a veto threat from the president, too. I just don't know. We could. As I said to you, some of the decisions that are being made are what goes on the bill and what can move in a free-standing way. But it is -- it's -- it's very, very important.
I don't know if you attended our rally outside. But you did see bipartisan, bicameral support for it, and you saw great enthusiasm among the student veterans and the -- and the Veterans Service Organizations. Everyplace I go in the country -- I just was in a veterans facility in Minneapolis at the end of last week; next week I go to -- I mean, this weekend I go to one in Alabama. But everyplace I go, people want to hear about the progress of the GI Bill.
Q Madame Speaker, you mentioned in your outline of things you are asking for the president to do to combat high gas prices, one of which is not a gas tax holiday. So you are not going to be pushing that and you do not support that?
SPEAKER PELOSI: That is correct.
Q Secondly, given that high prices help to encourage the kind of behavior that you would want -- energy efficiency, efficient driving, bike or bus, et cetera -- how can you be pushing climate change legislation which would also raise prices, and whose primary purpose is to help to modify behavior?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, let's hope that it doesn't promote higher prices.
In our climate change initiative, which we -- we had a very important meeting last week on Earth Day with representatives of all aspects of the interfaith community who are supporting climate change legislation. We don't know what the particulars of it are, but the need to have climate change legislation. And that is from the evangelical -- every -- we had strong voices there from the evangelical community joining 27, I think it was, Protestant denominations and the Catholics, the Jewish, every faith. And part of it is to preserve the planet, God's creation, and to do so in a way that does not hurt poor people, whether that's in the price of energy for mobility or for home heating or cooling or whatever it happens to be. And then the job creation, to have it be something that lifts people up into the middle class.
So this is a value we have. And anytime --
Excuse me; I don't know what's -- it's being too quiet, I think. Let's see if water works.
But on all of these issues relating to the price of oil, the equities that have to be weighed are: How do we grow our economy? How do we do it in the fairest possible way? How do we do it in a way that preserves the planet? How do we do it, again, with equity and all aspects of that?
And the deterrent that a higher price of gasoline might have on transportation cannot be so much of a deterrent that people cannot afford to go to work. Where I -- I've traveled throughout rural America, people will tell me, "I have to drive 100 miles each day for work because there are no jobs in my area, but the high cost of gasoline makes it unprofitable for me to travel to work."
Last week, in Minneapolis -- I think I mentioned this to some of you before -- veterans were telling me that they have to drive long distances to get health care in Minnesota -- and this is the case in many places as well, in Texas and other places -- and they can barely afford to go get the health care that is their benefit.
So, again, it has to be calibrated in a -- it doesn't mean that -- that there should be an endless increase in the price of gasoline to change behavior so that we have fewer emissions. There are other ways to have fewer emissions than to price people out of the market of going to work or going to the hospital.
Q Madame Speaker, has there been any serious negotiation or serious discussions with the administration on a second stimulus package or even on trade adjustment assistance that can move this Colombia bill forward?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Our conversations continue.
Q Madame Speaker?
Q Madame Speaker, what specifically are your objections to a moratorium on the gas tax?
SPEAKER PELOSI: My -- I think that, first of all -- there's no reason to believe that any moratorium on the gas tax will be passed on to the consumer, first and foremost. This has not been the history of a lower gas tax being passed on to the consumer.
And second of all, it would defeat everything that we have been trying to do to lower the cost of oil. We could do better by the consumer by not refilling the SPR. President Bush not only did this earlier in his term -- he not only did not add oil to the SPR, he took oil out of the SPR, and it brought down the price of oil. So, again, there are other remedies that are much better than that and, again, have a direct impact on the problem we're trying to solve. I think the biggest answer to our challenge is to invest in renewable energy resources and to do it now.
I have been even in a commercial with Newt Gingrich on the subject of preserving the planet and taking those actions now. There's no secret about this. Everybody knows what we have to do. And to reduce our dependence on foreign oil; where we suspect there could be market manipulation or price fixing or something; certainly more supply lowers the price. Why aren't they putting more oil out there? And if they're not going to, why don't we, by not paying a great big price for oil to put it in the SPR instead of putting it into the marketplace?
STAFF: Last question.
Q Madame Speaker, would you support tapping into the SPR?
SPEAKER PELOSI: My recommendation at the time now is to just stop putting oil in because this oil is being purchased at a very high-dollar price, and some of the oil that is in the SPR maybe had been purchased at a lower price. That's when you fill the tank, when the cost is low.
And so right now what I am recommending -- and I think the president could act now. We'd have immediate impact on the price of oil. Stop refilling the SPR, ask the FTC to issue rules related to market manipulation of the supply that is in the market, and remove your obstacles to repealing subsidies to Big Oil so that we can invest in renewable energy resources.
Thank you very much. Thank you.