Today, Leader Pelosi was joined by Rep. Sandy Levin, Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Mark Critz at her weekly press conference:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. Thank you for joining us once again for our regularly-scheduled Thursday morning press conference.
As usual, we are here to talk about jobs, about protecting Medicare, and protecting the middle class.
If you’re here to ask a question about Congressman Weiner, I won’t be answering any. I have made the statements I am going to make. It is my understanding that later in the day he will be having a press conference, and after that I will have a statement available. I just tell you that up front.
It is day 163, 163 days since the Republicans have taken over the majority of the House of Representatives—almost 6 months, and still no jobs bill on the floor. Instead, the Republicans have put forth a budget that ends Medicare, while making seniors pay more to get less or give tax subsidies to Big Oil. They are harming seniors by changing Medicaid, while they give tax breaks to businesses that send jobs overseas. They are reducing our investment in education and making it worse for our children and making it more expensive for nearly 10 million young people to go to college, making it prohibitively expensive for them, while they give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country.
We want to put people back to work. We want to do so as we put our fiscal house in order. We will not do it on the backs of our children, our seniors, or the great middle class. Democrats are focused on creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, preserving Social Security, and responsibly reducing the debt.
We have introduced—you have been here with our Whip, Steny Hoyer with a Make It in America agenda. It is an agenda about stopping the erosion of our industrial manufacturing and technological base. It is an agenda about, again, making it in America by building the infrastructure of our country with Build America Bonds and the rest.
We have had this presentation over and over again. We have not been able to get one of these bills brought to the floor under the leadership of the Republican majority, and so we are going another route.
We are taking one element of the Make It in America agenda that is a component that addresses the manipulation of currency by the Chinese government. This is unfair to American workers. It is costing us over 1 million jobs.
And I’m very proud of the leadership of our Members who are here with me. I’m very honored to be joined by the former chair and current ranking and hopefully soon again chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Sandy Levin, who knows this issue well and has worked on it for a long time, and with one of our newer Members of Congress, Congressman Mark Critz, who knows firsthand with his interaction with his district the impact of the manipulation of the currency by China on exports to our country.
It is a subsidy for their exports. It is a disservice to our workers. And we are going to have—and Mr. Critz will talk about a discharge petition. They won’t bring to the floor. We are moving to discharge this legislation.
And now I’m very pleased to yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Congressman Mark Critz.
Congressman Critz. Thank you, Madam Leader; and it is actually an honor to be here to stand with the Leader and Former Chairman Levin talking about the manipulation of the currency by the Chinese government.
What you may or may not remember is that, last year, Chairman Levin brought the bill to the floor; and in September of last year, 348 Members voted to pass it. It was a majority of both Democrats and Republicans. We all recognize that this is an issue.
And here again, because it didn’t pass in the Senate, Ranking Member Levin on Ways and Means introduced the bill again—it is H.R. 639—in February of this year; and it has been sitting at Ways and Means ever since.
When I go back to the district—I’m from southwestern Pennsylvania—all I hear is concerns about the economy, concerns about what we are doing to create jobs, and the manipulation of the Chinese currency costs this country and the estimates range, as the Leader said, around 1 million jobs every year in this country. Now, when we are talking about a high unemployment rate, that is real numbers; and that is real jobs in my district where we lost steel, we lost garments, because of foreign competition.
So here we are 4 months later. The estimates are that the Chinese currency is undervalued by about 24 percent, and this costs us a million jobs. It reduces our GDP by estimates by about 1.5 percent. So here we are standing, waiting for the Republican leadership to move on what Americans want us to talk about. It is about jobs and the economy.
So this morning I dropped the discharge petition to the Rules Committee so that we can get Congressman Levin’s bill to the floor, which both Democrats and Republicans support. We just need to get their leadership to move it.
So, with that, I would like to yield to Congressman Levin so he can talk about more details of the bill.
But this is something that we need to talk about. This is about the future of this country, and this gives our administration—gives our country leverage when they are dealing with foreign countries who manipulate their currency.
Congressman Levin. Thank you, Mark and Madam Leader.
Currency is a jobs issue. That is the major point. And when another country manipulates its currency, especially a China with its huge economy, it hurts American jobs.
The estimates do vary from a half a million to a million and a half American jobs. We get every day from the ITC the latest on China currency, and the basic estimate of IIE is that it is more undervalued now than last year.
Mark, you mentioned about 24 percent. IIE estimates 28 percent undervalued. So it tips the scale like this.
So I just want to show you, as I finish, a chart. This has essentially an every two-week estimate. And it shows when we acted on the bill in the fall, it impacted. It impacted, and there was this kind of a drop, a change in the undervaluation. Since then, it has been much smaller, and so the playing field continues to be rigged.
And this discharge petition is being introduced as another effort to make it clear to everybody that this Congress cares. Now, it is up to the majority to show it cares. It has said this is not a priority. If jobs is the number one priority—it is for us—they will act on the currency bill.
Leader Pelosi. And we, of course, would hope to get 218 signatures to discharge that bill to come to the floor.
Needless to say, all of the Republicans who voted for the bill more than one time I would hope would see the need to do it and address the concerns of their own constituents about the impact of China’s unfair trade policies on their constituents.
Q: I know you say you’re not going to answer questions about Anthony Weiner. But, at this point, do you plan to withdraw your call for an ethics investigation or keep that call in place?
Leader Pelosi. Perhaps I was unclear. I’m not going to be responding to questions on Anthony Weiner. Let’s see what he decides to do today, and then we will go from there. But I’m not making any announcements for him or about him at this time. But I appreciate your question.
Q: Could you talk generally, though, about what it takes for you to call for one of your own Members to resign?
Leader Pelosi. No, I can’t. I won’t be doing that.
We will have a chance to talk about this, but we are not doing it before we have a decision from Mr. Weiner, Congressman Weiner. We respectfully gave him time when his wife came home for them to talk. He is going to make an announcement. I’m not going to predicate any remarks on a decision that we haven’t heard yet.
But let me say this. We will not be deterred from our quest for jobs, and I wish that the ardor for information on our jobs initiative would be as strong as it is on this other subject. Not that I don’t think it is important, and I respect your question.
But over the kitchen table in America’s homes across our country, people feel very concerned about the fact that the manipulation of currency and other unfair trade practices impacts their lives. We are doing something about it, something that has passed the House before.
And let me say again, this comes in the context of the fact that we may be seeing some trade bills come to the floor in the House in the short term. And we want to be very clear about the interest of America’s workers, jobs in our own country, and put that first.
Q: Speaker Boehner said this morning that the President’s rationale for not having to say we are not in hostilities in Libya does not pass the straight face test. Do you believe that the President has laid out a credible case for why we are not in hostilities and therefore the war powers resolution does not apply in this situation?
Leader Pelosi. Let me respond by saying I have always believed that it is very important to respect the prerogatives of the Congress in terms of being involved in any military action, A. B, that the consultation between the executive and the legislative branch is essential whenever we engage in a military action.
I believe the limited nature of this engagement allows the President to go forward.
Now, I am reviewing the report that they have sent to the Congress. The unclassified is in the public domain. I’m going over the classified aspects of it.
But I think that part of that report shows an interaction and consultation with Congress, and I am satisfied that we can continue in the limited role that we have as part of NATO.
[If] we have boots on the ground; and mano y mano, that is a different story. But the charge that we went into in the beginning, which was to stop a humanitarian disaster with our overhead flights and refueling of other planes, I think from the readings that I see up until now—and I have to read the unclassified. I don’t think it is going to change my view, because I have had classified briefings all along. But I’m satisfied that the President has the authority he needs to go ahead. And I say that as one very protective of Congressional prerogative and very supportive of consultation all along the way.
Q: Madam Leader, with that said, in spite of you saying that you think they are within the realm of what they should be doing in terms of consulting with Congress, the term I hear some people use is we are in this “zone of twilight”, sort of between where the Constitution and the War Powers Act isn’t what the authority of the President and the Congress are. Don’t you feel that we are on shaky constitutional footing here without having at least some up or down vote by the Congress?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the War Powers Act is a controversial initiative in the first place. Usually, the Congress puts more stock in it than the White House.
Having said that, a person who supports the War Powers Act, I say that if the Congress doesn’t feel that it is adequately communicated with, then the administration should intensify the communication. I don’t think they should stop the support that they are giving to NATO, to stop the humanitarian disaster and our limited role there.
Q: Was this amping up of that communication what just happened in the past 24 hours?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think that was important, yes, with the 12, 20-page report, however you divide up the classified and unclassified aspects of it. But it references, what, over 1,000 e mails to—it references other communication as well.
Q: Do you think that the President has done enough generally to make the case not just to Congress and to communicate with Congress but with the American public about U.S. military action, not just in Libya but our direction in Afghanistan?
Leader Pelosi. I saw as I was coming here—and you take it for what it was worth; I saw it on TV—that over 50 percent of the American people support what the President is doing in Libya, 30—is it 30 percent—oppose. So, somehow or the other, the message, while it may not be enough communication for Congress, has reached the American people.
Should there always be more? There should always be more.
I always say to my colleagues, it is like a marriage. You may think you’re communicating; if the other party doesn’t think you’re communicating, you’re not communicating enough.
So think of it that way. You can always do more. It always, I believe, strengthens our hand. You have heard me say it before. President Lincoln said, public sentiment is everything.
Respectful of that, I would always encourage any President to communicate with the American people, especially when we are engaged in a military action. But I also think that if the Congress doesn’t think it is being adequately communicated with, they ought to step up the communication.
Q: Madam Leader, you’re saying that the President did not need authorization initially and still does not need any authorization from Congress on Libya?
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Thank you all very much. Don’t forget, job, jobs, jobs.
I want to make two more points.
One is, it is very important for us to keep emphasizing Medicare and what the Republicans are doing to end it, because they are now censoring mail of Members of Congress so that you can’t refer to a voucher. For example, you can’t refer to ending Medicare. They changed their policy I think the day before the election in New York. Before the 23rd of May, you could say whatever you want—and we have the documents to demonstrate, Members sending out mail saying the Ryan plan ends Medicare. After the election, you can’t say Ryan plan, you can’t say ends Medicare, you can’t say voucher. Have you seen all of these charts and the rest?
We want to focus today on specifically the jobs issue as relates to the manipulation of currency by the Chinese.
Q: Can I ask you about WIC? That is another program that Democrats have defended, particularly since the House Agriculture Approps bill was on the floor, as a safety net for the poor. Was the defense of it just a one shot deal because it was on the floor, or will we be hearing more from the Democrats on that?
Leader Pelosi. No, we will be hearing more about it, because this is fundamental.
When I spoke yesterday on the floor on this bill, it was—was that yesterday? I have lost track of the days it was 6:00 o’clock in the East; 6:00 o’clock when families sit down at the kitchen table to have dinner. Usually, parents are saying to children, eat your vegetables, eat your dinner. Congress was saying to them, we are not going to provide food to our children, one in five of whom live in poverty in our country, many of whom go to sleep hungry.
So I was very proud of the leadership, of course, of Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Sam Farr, our ranking member on the committee, and Keith Ellison and Jim McGovern, who have been leaders and fighters on this issue. But not only is this issue important of itself, but it is illustrative of the foolish cuts. That you would cut feeding children as a way to reduce the deficit while you give tax cuts to Big Oil, corporations sending jobs overseas, and the wealthiest people in America I think makes the case of misplaced priorities in our budget. And this is really a big fight for us. Rosa won in the committee, but the Republicans did not protect that amendment when it came to the floor, which is most unfortunate.
Q: What kind of message will we see built around that? You say this is fundamental. What additional…
Leader Pelosi. It is comfortably around that kitchen table or where we are saying to families it is not a priority for us to be able to put food on the table. It is not a priority for us to be concerned about seniors or others who depend on Medicare, because we are going to end that. It is not a priority for us to make college affordable for your children so they have better prospects for the future.
This is all about values, and that is where we will try to find our common ground with our colleagues. If we agree that we must invest in our children, their health, and education; if we agree that we must respect our seniors and their retirement; if we agree that we must create jobs and make investments and budget decisions that do not deter the growth of our economy but encourage it; if we agree that that is the way we must reduce the deficit; then we should be able to come to find common ground down here.
But we must take the higher ground first and agree on those values. The other decisions would then fall into place. If you believe that investing in our children is important for the future, you couldn’t possibly support a cut in WIC. If you believe in respect for the dignity of our seniors, you would not consider ending Medicare, making seniors pay more to get less while you give tax cuts to businesses and sending jobs overseas.
Q: And Anthony Weiner has not helped you take that higher ground, has he?
Q: Madam Leader, we know he is resigning and he is resigning today. Why wait for him to announce it?
Leader Pelosi. So you’re suggesting that I should make his announcement for him? That won’t happen. You will see what his announcement is.
As was discussed at the press conference, Rep. Critz and other House Democrats launched the process to force the Republican leadership to consider the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (H.R. 639) today. The bill, authored by Rep. Levin, is a key part of our Make It In America initiative to increase American manufacturing and create new American jobs by providing effective tools to address unfair currency manipulation by countries like China and could help:
Level the playing field for American workers and businesses
Enhance our economic and national security – by cutting our trade deficit with China by $100 billion per year, at no cost to America’s taxpayers
Specifically, the legislation makes clear that additional countervailing duties can be imposed to offset the effects of a “fundamentally undervalued” currency under U.S. trade remedy laws by:
Reversing a current Commerce Department practice that has precluded it from treating foreign government currency practices as an export subsidy
Directing the Commerce Department on how to measure subsidies provided to foreign producers through currency undervaluation.
The bill passed the House last year with 348 votes, including a majority of both parties voting in favor but Republicans have not once, but twice, unanimously rejected Democratic attempts to consider this critical jobs legislation this year. Members of Congress, U.S. businesses, and workers are concerned that the Chinese government has intervened in world markets, causing its currency to be undervalued by as much as 25-40%. This unfair trade practice translates into a significant subsidy to China, artificially making Chinese imports into the United States much cheaper and U.S. exports to China much more expensive, jeopardizing efforts to create and preserve manufacturing jobs in America.