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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Town Hall Meeting. Aired 9-10:12p ET
Aired January 31, 2017 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Good evening. We are live for a special CNN town hall with the House Minority Leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California. I'm Jake Tapper. I want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
We just heard President Trump make the case for his Supreme Court pick tonight. With fewer than two weeks in office, President Trump has made many bold moves, provoking forceful rebukes from his critics, many of whom now turn a desperate eye to the opposition party in Congress. So what is the Democratic Party's strategy for dealing with the Trump administration?
Leader Pelosi is one of the two highest-ranking Democrats in Washington. She will face questions this evening from men and women in our audience. We have reviewed the questions to ensure we cover a variety of important issues and perspectives, but no subject was off- limits.
Now, please join me in welcoming the House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
It's great to see you. Thank you so much. Please have a seat. So you just heard President Donald Trump nominate Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. You put out a tweet saying that he is an opponent of women's rights.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Yes.
TAPPER: What do you mean?
PELOSI: What do I mean? Well, first of all, let me say how happy I am to be here this evening. I thought we'd talking about how we go into the future. President Trump found out about our town hall meeting and thought he would upstage us.
TAPPER: We're not only going to be talking about the Supreme Court. But it did just happen.
PELOSI: I know. I know. But what I do want to say about this is that elections have ramifications. And here is a living, breathing example of it, the president and his first appointment to the court, and hopefully his only appointment to the court, has appointed someone who has come down on the side of corporate America versus class action suits, on securities fraud, he's come down against employees' rights, clean air, clean water, food safety, safety in medicine and the rest. If you care about that for your children, he's not your guy.
Gabby Gifford's group, the group for responsible solutions relating to gun safety, said that he comes down on the side of felons over gun safety. Hostile to women's reproductive rights. Hobby Lobby case, for example. The list goes on and on. Criticized progressives for bringing cases that relate to LGBT progress, taking those cases to the court.
What saddens me the most as a mom and a grandmother, though, is his hostility towards children in school, children with autism. He has ruled that they don't have the same rights under the IDEA that children -- that they could reach their intellectual and social advancement under the law. He has said that doesn't apply to them. He's come down against them under the ADA, as well, and again under IDEA.
So it's a very hostile appointment (inaudible) fellow, well met, lovely family, I'm sure. But as far as your family is concerned, and all the -- if you breathe air, drink water, eat food, take medicine, or in any other way interact with the courts, this is a very bad decision.
Well outside the mainstream of American legal thought. Not committed to Supreme Court precedents, Supreme Court precedents.
TAPPER: I want to get to the questions, but I just want to do a quick follow with you, which is there's a big division in the Democratic Party right now about whether or not Judge Gorsuch should be treated the way that Supreme Court nominees normally are or turnabout is fair play, given the fact that Republicans would not even hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, President Obama's pick after the Supreme Court vacancy roughly a year ago.
Where do you come down? Should Democrats allow hearings? Should they allow Judge Gorsuch a vote on the Senate floor?
PELOSI: I come down where the Democrats in the Senate do. It's their prerogative to confirm a justice of the Supreme Court. And we'll take our lead from them in the House.
Our members, though, are a very diverse group. We represent America. And they have their opinions. They've been over there to testify against the candidate for attorney general, Sessions. I'm sure they will be over there to express their views on this subject.
Where the Senate leadership comes down, of course, is up to them. Where we'd like them to come down is to make sure that this confirmation subjects the candidate to the strongest scrutiny when it comes to honoring the Constitution of the United States. That is our litmus test: The Constitution of the United States.
TAPPER: And of course, so many decisions, so many issues that are important to the American people do come before the U.S. Supreme Court. And with that in mind, I'd like to bring in Alyson Dunham, she's a Democrat from Midway, Utah. Alyson?
QUESTION: Leader Pelosi, my question goes along the lines of what you've been discussing. I'm a woman that made and lived through the very difficult decision of having a late-term abortion. I had to make that decision when there were medical circumstances that jeopardized my life in a situation where I was carrying a fetus that had zero chance of survival, no matter what we did or medical science could do.
The thing that made it the worst above and beyond the situation itself was that the state where I live had made it illegal to have a late- term abortion in any circumstance unless it could be demonstrated that the mother's life was in danger. The guilt and the overwhelming intrusion I felt, the violation of being regulated by the state, in a decision that was solely my husband's and mine to make, and the worst thing I've ever had to go through, was just incredibly difficult to deal with.
So my question to you is, I watched President Trump nominate someone who's hostile to women's rights. Congress has already voted to get rid of protections for women and their civil liberties as far as autonomy with their own bodies. Birth control and correct sexual education are getting harder to get, which makes it so we'll have even more unwanted pregnancy and more abortions, not less.
I am wondering what you as the highest-ranking woman in Congress, I believe, if you have any ideas or what the Democrats in particular intend to do to combat this trend with the Republicans to gut the rights of women to make their own decisions in their lives.
PELOSI: Thank you so much for your generosity of spirit to share your very personal decision and situation with all of us. And it's clear from the way you speak that you know that that was a decision between you, your husband, your doctor, your God, and it was not a decision that should be made by politicians in Washington, D.C., in Congress, or in the court, or any other place.
The issue of late-term abortion is one that has been used by the far right to fight a woman's right to choose because it sounds like something that shouldn't happen. But when it's about a woman's health, it's a very personal individual decision.
But you very accurately portrayed what we're up against. Because I have been saying to my friends for over 25 years that have been in the Congress, they don't support birth control, contraception, family planning. The people usually don't believe that.
But what you see now, in a bill that -- one of the first bills that passed in this new Congress was a harsher, harsher Hyde Act -- a Hyde bill that made it very -- very much more difficult for a woman to exercise her personal decisions.
It's a reflection of the lack of respect for women that we saw in the campaign on the part of the candidate for president, saying things that you would not allow a person in your house if he ever said such a thing. And that same lack of respect is demonstrated in the appointment that he made to the court.
You have again, gently, beautifully, almost prayerfully, spiritually shared your story with us. When you asked, what can we do? I believe what President Lincoln said was the best advice for everything that is challenging us right now: Public sentiment is everything. The more the public knows about the choices that are made, the more families know how those decisions affect them, the more they may weigh in and hold elected officials accountable.
And by that I don't mean to be partisan. I just mean hold whoever you vote for, whatever party he or she is in, accountable to your beliefs. And this is for me a very big issue, because my daughter who is here tonight, my baby, youngest of five, the week she was born, my oldest of five turned six that week.
So when I talk about this issue with my colleagues, I'll say, step up, anybody who knows anything about this. They say, oh, Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the Pope. Yes, I do. Yes, I do. Yes, I do.
And I respect what was wonderful for our family. But each family has to make its own decisions. And if you are concerned about some of these issues, in terms of termination of a pregnancy, you should love family planning, birth control, contraception. But what is their plan? To defund Planned Parenthood, which just provides so much of that.
So thank you for sharing your story. I'm sorry that you had to go through that. And so our fight is always to be concerned about the health of the mother, her ability to continue her family if she and her family decide that is the case. And that's part of the decision I know that you had to make.
Thank you for sharing your story.
TAPPER: Thank you.
PELOSI: And by the way, when Jake said the questions had been reviewed, not by me.
TAPPER: Not by her. She has no idea what's coming. And as evidence of this, let's bring in Brianna Kristyn Roberts, who's from Pennsylvania and currently a college student at Alvernia University. Brianna?
QUESTION: Hi, thank you so much for being here. And thank you for sharing your story with us. That's such an incredible story and situation that you had to go through.
I am part of the pro-life generation. I believe that abortion is not the answer for unplanned pregnancy. My birth mother was faced with the decision that many women today are facing with -- without the means of properly raising a child, she chose the most ethical decision and chose adoption.
With her courageous and unselfish decision to make such an awesome decision, I now have the ability to thrive and succeed in life. Don't you think that everyone has the option -- or needs the ability to thrive and succeed in life?
PELOSI: I certainly do. And I love the word you used. You said my mother chose. My mother chose.
And we want other people to have -- have that -- have that opportunity to choose, as well. And when we do -- my whole thing, when people ask me, what are the three most important issues facing the Congress? I always say the same thing: Our children. Our children. Our children. Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, clean environment in which they can thrive, a world peace in which they can succeed and reach their aspirations.
But many of our friends who are so intent on when life begins in their view do not subscribe to that after the child is born to meet the needs of the children. So I hope you will join us in our quest to say that all of the children in our country -- that one in five children in America lives in poverty, goes to sleep hungry at night, in the greatest country that ever existed in the history of the world. And why? Because we haven't made the right decisions to lift all of those children up.
And that's why I say to my colleagues, show me your values. Show me your budget. What are you doing to lift these children up? So I hope that -- respecting your mothers to make her -- ability to make her choice, I hope you will help us, help all of these children to be able to thrive when their mothers make that choice to have them, as well.
TAPPER: It's -- thank you so much for your question.
PELOSI: Thank you.
TAPPER: It's very likely that the Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in on any number of President Trump's executive orders that have come down in the last week or so. One aspect of the order that came down Friday evening, President Trump's immigration executive order, is the suspension of the U.S. refugee admissions program for 120 days. I want you to meet Bushra, she is a Yemeni refugee, who is personally affected by the executive order. Bushra?
QUESTION: Hello, my name is Bushra, as you mentioned. I am an artist-activist from Yemen and I'm a refugee. Recently, my mom -- she wasn't able to come to the U.S. because of the standards that Donald Trump signed recently. Before four weeks, my dad passed away because we didn't have any medicine back then in Yemen because of the siege.
PELOSI: I'm sorry. QUESTION: And my mom is now recently living in a destroyed house
because of the air strikes. And she wasn't able to come to the United States because of this decision that Donald Trump did. So my question is, what can the -- sorry -- what is the Democratic leadership -- sorry...
PELOSI: It's OK.
QUESTION: Could help us -- sorry. What could you help us and our people to ensure that -- to ensure that more families are not torn apart?
PELOSI: Again, thank you.
Thank you for your courage in sharing your story. I'm sorry about the loss of your dad and the situation that your mother is in.
When I received this invitation to come here this evening, I thought I would be talking about the Affordable Care Act and what that means to the American people, how we can address income inequality in our country, how we protect God's creation and this planet from degradation and the rest.
And in the meantime we had this ban, b-a-n, ban, b-a-n, on -- on people coming from Syria into the country, largely Muslim, and the prohibition on other people coming in, as well. They don't want to call it a ban, even though they called it a ban, and they said the press called it a ban, because the press reported on them calling it a ban. But that's what this is.
And if you -- have some impatience in my voice, it's because your family is suffering, because our president is reckless, reckless, and his administration is incompetent. How they did this...
How and why they did this is because they're a grand illusionist. Any time they have a problem with something, they create another problem. They see the immigration problem looming and so they decide they're going to early -- on an earlier schedule appoint a justice of the Supreme Court to change -- always to change the subject. It's a decoy, decoy, decoy, decoy.
I was very proud because scores of my members were at the airports all weekend, and some of them are there still now, because this ban has -- ban has not been rescinded.
And it is -- we follow the lead of our spiritual leaders, when the Pope talks about it is un-Christian to turn away refugees, when some of our cardinals say it is un-American to not accept strangers as the Bible says, strangers into our country, in need. In need.
The Statue of Liberty, as we all said, is in tears because of what they have done. So this, again, comes back to Abraham Lincoln, who probably has tears in his eyes, as well. This is about public sentiment. And some of the polling looks like, oh, I think the president is doing -- because they really don't understand.
The president has made us less safe with what he has done. Nine hundred diplomats sent him a letter saying you are making us less safe. This isn't the right thing to do. But it is red meat to some of the people that he wants to continue to support him.
And again, he had to change the subject by appointing a justice of the Supreme Court, because the opposition was mounting and the education of the American people was increasing on this subject. So I would like to personally take some responsibility for an individual case, because that's what our members are doing at airports around the country.
I think we should be grateful to the women for marching on the day after the inauguration, because...
Because that was spontaneous, Jake. You know, that wasn't organized by politicians or establishment. It was spontaneous. It was organic. Women just said, "I'm going. I'm showing up." All over the country, all over the world, every continent. All over the world.
And therefore, when this started to happen at the airports, people said, I'm going to the airport, because they showed their power. They knew they had power. They showed their power. And that was very helpful in trying to at least even open the door, physically open the door to the customs offices to get the cases made for individuals.
So I'd like to work with you on your mother's situation. And I thank you for sharing your story, which is a story of so many people and addresses our values as a country.
TAPPER: Thank you, Bushra, appreciate it.
I want you to meet -- obviously, not everybody shares that view. I want you to meet Nedal Tamer, he's a Lebanese-American Muslim, he's from Dearborn, Michigan. He has a different take on President Trump's refugee policy. Please?
QUESTION: Congresswoman Pelosi, you opposed President Trump plan to stop refugees from coming to the U.S.
PELOSI: To stop -- I'm sorry, refugees?
QUESTION: Refugees to come to the U.S.
PELOSI: Yes, yes, I did.
QUESTION: Countries like Syria. I am Lebanese American Muslim. There are countries that harbor radical Islamic groups and teaches teenagers to hate anyone who is not Muslim. PELOSI: Yes.
QUESTION: How can you -- it all takes to some of them to come as a refugee and create problem here. How can you guarantee the safety for all Americans?
PELOSI: Thank you so -- are you finished?
QUESTION: Uh-huh. Guarantee the safe for all Americans if we let these refugees to come.
PELOSI: OK. Well, thanks to our comprehensive immigration reform, which we've had before, our country is blessed with many newcomers, including yourself, to reinvigorate America with your hopes, dreams, aspirations, courage, determination to make the future better. That optimism is all American. And every refugee -- person, newcomer who comes with all that determination makes America more American, in my view.
The reason I oppose this specific thing that President Trump did was the following. Refugees have the most stringent vetting of all newcomers to our country. The most stringent vetting. And so when he cuts off Syria, largely, those are refugees coming, the most stringent vetting.
We take an oath to support and defend the American people and the Constitution of the United States. It's our first responsibility. So we're not casual about our reasons to -- our need to protect the American people. But we have to be strong and we have to be smart. We don't have to be reckless and rash. And we don't have to discriminate against people because of their religion.
And so that's why I oppose what he's done with the seven countries. He has no case, in my view, with the refugees. That's why I identify with what Pope Francis has said about that.
But make no mistake. We -- I thank you for your question. I thank you for your courage coming to America. I've been to Lebanon a number of times. I've seen the situation there. And it's wonderful country. And I hope that we -- the way things go, that people can enjoy staying home and enjoying their lives there, as well as exercising the right to come to America.
But what the president did and the manner in which he did -- in which he did has not made us more safe. And that's why I oppose what he has done.
TAPPER: (Inaudible) let me ask you. Are there additional -- you oppose President Trump's executive order. Are there additional screening measures that you support, separate from what President Trump did?
PELOSI: Well, we have -- President Obama instituted more stringent vetting when we thought -- when there was a threat, you know, to prevent a threat from happening. And so President Trump now said, I just did the same thing President Obama did. No, he did not. That was about vetting. It wasn't about banning.
And of course we have to vet people coming into our country. And as I said, for the refugees, that's the most stringent vetting process of all.
TAPPER: You don't think anything more might be...
PELOSI: And mostly they're women and children. Yeah, we have to make -- we have to make sure that the system that is there is thoroughly adhered to, so that it isn't -- it's not -- we're not indifferent to it.
PELOSI: But it -- whatever is there has to be executed meticulously to protect the American people. But what we have a problem now is with some homegrown threats of terrorism. And what the president did with this ban is something that doesn't lessen the threat. It exacerbates the threat.
TAPPER: We're going to take a very quick break. President Trump said he's going to build a wall and Mexico is going to pay for it. Next, we're going to meet somebody in the audience who lives where that wall would be built.
TAPPER: Welcome back. Let's talk about the border wall that President Trump wants to build. I want you to meet Dr. Mike Vickers. He is a veterinarian from Texas. He owns 1,000-acre ranch on the Mexico-U.S. border. Dr. Vickers?
QUESTION: Congresswoman Pelosi, it's a pleasure to meet you.
PELOSI: Pleasure, Mr. Vickers, Dr. Vickers.
QUESTION: Brooks -- I live in Brooks County, Texas. It's a little bit off the border, but it's very close. There in Brooks County, Texas, my closest neighbor is a Border Patrol checkpoint four-and-a- half miles away. It's one of the most active checkpoints in the nation for human and drug smuggling, controlled by the Mexican drug cartels.
And imagine this situation. You go to the grocery store, you come home, you live out on a ranch, you pull up into your -- out in front of the house, and in the yard your dogs are playing with something that looks like a ball. But upon further investigation, you find out it's actually a human head, a skull, with still brain matter in it. A woman's skull. We found her body 150 yards from our backdoor a short time later the next day. She had a broken ankle. We found hundreds of bodies in Brooks County over the past decade, 56
the last count, last year, and it may be over 60. A few years ago, there was 129. Most of these are within 15 or 20 minutes of my front door. The body count is staggering.
Congresswoman Pelosi, we witness the depravity of man in Brooks County, Texas. We find children as young as 2 years of age that are left behind. One child, 11 or 12 years old, was left behind by the cartel smugglers and was so weak trying to keep up, he couldn't climb over a gate, and that's where he died. I have pictures of him.
We encounter pregnant women that are left behind. And one -- one incident, one collapsed from heat stroke and we were able to revive her and get her to the hospital. We find a lot of women that are left behind. A lot of women leave the groups to avoid sexual assault. And we have a lot of women that we say that have been sexually assaulted. It's incredible.
PELOSI: God bless you.
QUESTION: It's incredible. On that subject, one of the most disturbing events for my wife was to find a rape tree within 300 yards of our front door. Border Patrol and our citizens are at risk whenever they encounter these smugglers. I've had Border Patrolmen assaulted on my ranch. And these guys are our heroes. They really are. My wife has had encounters with gang members at the back door. And she's had encounters with gang members at the front door.
TAPPER: Sir, I don't mean to be rude, if you could get to the question, just because there are a lot of people to ask.
QUESTION: Our property damage is staggering. My question to you is, is this -- will you and your Democrat colleagues support President Trump in building the wall or a fence, shutting down the sanctuary cities, and giving more manpower to the Border Patrol? Give us more Border Patrol agents. We need at least another 1,000 more in the Rio Grande Valley sector and we need at least another 1,000 more in the Laredo sector. That's my question.
PELOSI: Thank you, Dr. Vickers.
PELOSI: Thank you so much for the sensitive presentation that you made about the experience that you have there. The question is not about, do we need to protect our borders? Of course we do. Is it effective to build a wall to the tune of tens, could be $40 billion? And you know and I know that the Mexican government is not going to pay for that. So where does that come from?
But even if it cost 10 cents, is it an answer? Does it produce the results that you need to see and that we as Americans need to do to protect our borders?
A lot of the thinking is we need more technology, we need more manpower, some fencing, perhaps we have some. It's not overwhelmingly effective, but with more technology and more manpower. I think we have a better result than with thinking that Mexico is going to pay tens of billions of dollars to build a wall.
And there is no -- you know, they're not saying where this money comes from in terms of our budget. So does it come out of more Border Patrol? Where does this money come from?
But I will then go to your next question. And again, I am -- I appreciate your sensitivity to the loss of life that you have seen, the threat to security that you are experiencing. And your experience is important for us to hear, and I thank you for sharing it.
As far as sanctuary cities is concerned, our city of San Francisco is a sanctuary city. And we see it as a place where it makes us safer. It makes us safer because people can go to school, they can get driver's license, they can be witnesses against other violence that they see in the community, whereas if they came forward to -- to profess that, they'd have to be taken up by ICE. And we don't think that we should make our police officers immigration officers. So we think that the sanctuary city makes us safer in our experience.
In fact, I heard today -- and I don't know if it's true, but somebody said the whole state of California is thinking about becoming a sanctuary state. I know that brings a smile to your face, but...
TAPPER: Let me just...
QUESTION: It's different in Texas.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Houston, Texas?
PELOSI: Well, we are a border state, too, with Mexico. We are a border state, too. And our people near the border have the -- express their concerns.
But let me say this. You have one experience. Many of our colleagues and I have visited the Border Patrol in different locations, whether it's in Laredo, where we're at the entry, or whether it's in McAllen, Brownsville, you name it, I've been and visited and praised the work of our Border Patrol in all of those places.
But in a place like El Paso, for example, it's a community with a border running through it. It's a safer place because there's this respect for law and order and the rest there.
TAPPER: I just want to bring in -- since we're on the subject of sanctuary cities, I want to turn to Laura Wilkerson, who's a Republican from Pearland, Texas. She also has a question of border security. It's an issue that prompted her to appear in a presidential campaign ad for President Trump.
QUESTION: Thank you for having me. Please excuse my voice tonight. There are over 300 cities in this country that are sanctuary cities, like San Francisco. And you're not only choosing to disavow a law, but you are adding sanctuary to people who can come there and disavow the law.
In 2010, one of the illegals slaughtered my son.
PELOSI: I'm so sorry.
QUESTION: He tortured him, he beat him, he tied him up like an animal, and he set him on fire. And I am not a one story mother. This happens every day because there are no laws enforcing the border. We have to start giving American families first. This is not bad to not put Americans first. You know, we have family that fought and died for this country.
How do you reconcile in your head about allowing people to disavow the law? And the second part of my question is this. If you need to go home tonight and line up your babies, as you say, and your grandbabies, which one of them could you look in their eyes today and tell them that they're expendable for another foreign person to have a nicer life? Which one would you look to say, "You, my child, are expendable for someone else to come over here and not follow the law and have a nicer life"?
PELOSI: Well, again, I commend you for sharing your story. I can't even imagine the pain.
QUESTION: You can't.
PELOSI: No, I can't even imagine. There's nothing, I'm sure, that can compare to the grief that you have. And so I pray for you. I pray for you. And again, we all pray that none of us has to experience what you have experienced. So thank you for channeling your energy to help prevent something like that from happening.
But I do want to say to you that in our sanctuary cities, our people are not disobeying the law. These are law-abiding citizens. It enables them to be there without being reported to ICE in case of another crime that they might bear witness to.
QUESTION: Will my son's killer get sanctuary in your city once he's let out of jail?
PELOSI: I'm sorry, dear?
QUESTION: Will my son's killer get sanctuary from the law in your city when he gets out of jail?
PELOSI: Of course not. Of course not. Was your son in a sanctuary city when this happened?
QUESTION: Houston is. It was just outside Houston.
PELOSI: Is that where your son -- was he a victim of somebody in a sanctuary city?
QUESTION: It was a spoken policy at that time. It was not written. But most of the suburbs, all of the big cities... PELOSI: No, but, I mean, it doesn't matter, you've lost your son, and that's the important thing. But I just do think that we have to stipulate to a set of facts, and the fact is, is that, no, no, your son would not -- that's not what the point is. The point is, is that you do not turn law enforcement officers into immigration officers. That is really what the point is in the sanctuary city.
So it's not a question of giving sanctuary to someone who has -- who is guilty of a crime. They should be deported.
PELOSI: Well, they need to be deported. Or sent to jail for what they do.
TAPPER: So many stories.
PELOSI: If you can catch them in time. But thank you. I am so sorry for your story. Thank you for your courage.
TAPPER: Thank you, Laura, for being here.
So many stories on so many different sides of the issue of illegal immigration. I want you to meet Victor Erives, Jr. He lives in El Paso. He has a question for you about immigration.
PELOSI: Oh, El Paso. El Paso, been there many times.
QUESTION: Greetings, Leader Pelosi. Yes, yes, a great city. Just want to thank you and everybody else here. It's a great privilege to be here.
I am on the opposite side of the spectrum. My name is Victor Erives, Jr. I was brought to the U.S. illegally as a one-year-old baby, the decision I had no jurisdiction over. My sister was born on U.S. soil. She recently was able to petition for both my parents, and they are currently on their path to U.S. citizenship.
If DACA is removed, which is a provision I am under, I will lose my education, which I am paying for myself, I will lose my occupation as a sign language interpreter, mainly in part because my parents are deaf, and ultimately be sent back to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a place I don't even know, and I will be separated from my entire family. What can you do for dreamers as myself and families who are distraught on the idea of being separated?
PELOSI: The dreamers are so spectacular and so inspirational to all of us. And that is why when we had the majority in the Congress, the House of Representatives, led by our Congressional Hispanic Caucus, passed the Dreamers Act. It didn't pass the Senate because you needed 60 votes, and we didn't have 60 votes there.
But the president in the absence of congressional action issued the executive order to protect the dreamers. But when a dreamer comes forward, they out their parents, and so the parents are in jeopardy, so it is an executive order to protect the parents, as well. In your case, your sister, who is born here, a citizen, could...
QUESTION: Anchor baby, yes.
PELOSI: ... intercede for your parents, but not for you.
I'm hoping that with public opinion, again, coming back to our old friend, the people, that this administration will not be so harsh in lifting the dreamers' executive action of the president.
I spoke to the secretary yesterday. Was yesterday Monday? I have lost track of time.
TAPPER: Yeah, Monday.
PELOSI: I was in Kissimmee, Florida, at Valencia College, listening to students there, many of them dreamers. And so when I went to speak to him about the ban, I also spoke to him about the dreamers. And that's a conversation that I hope we can continue to have so that we won't jeopardize this beautiful advantage we have, which is the dreamers in our country.
But I think it's really important to note this. And this is what some of my impatience -- some of my impatience with President Trump. President Obama acted because Congress refused to act in terms of the dreamers and their parents and in some other issues relating to immigration. When President Reagan was president of the United States, the Congress did act, the Immigration Act of 1986. Very strong piece of legislation, immigration legislation.
And after he signed the bill, the president said Congress didn't do enough. So I, by executive office, am going to issue family fairness. And family fairness as a percentage protected more people than President Obama is protecting in these -- the executive actions he has taken to protect immigrants in our country. President Reagan. And President George Herbert Walker Bush, his vice president, continued that, the two of them together, a higher percentage of protection than even President Obama. President Clinton, of course, continued that. President George W. Bush was one of our best presidents on immigration, speaks so respectfully of people, newcomers to our country, tried to pass a bill, couldn't convince his party to go along with passing an immigration bill.
So this is really the first Republican president -- first president, but certainly first Republican president of the three that we've had of the past five president who was going in a different direction on understanding who we are, a nation of immigrants, and the value that our dreamers bring to our country.
So I am hopeful and prayerful, working with people of faith and the rest, that we can convince them to protect the dreamers.
TAPPER: Thank you so much, Victor. Appreciate it. Can I ask you just a quick question? While we're on the subject of illegal immigration, I want to ask you about a somewhat related topic. You were in a meeting recently with President Trump and other congressional leaders. And it's been widely reported, so you're not telling me any tales out of school, it's been widely reported that in this meeting the president claimed that he only lost the popular vote because three to five million illegal votes were also cast. Obviously, there is no evidence for three to five million illegal votes.
And part of the allegation is, among these three to five million illegal votes that do not exist as far as we can tell according to evidence, is that a lot of them were undocumented immigrants. What did any of you say, if anything, when he made this wild claim?
PELOSI: Well, he didn't actually say they were illegal. I mean, the inference to be drawn was that -- but he said 3 to 5 million people voted illegally. Now, I would have -- I've attended meetings with presidents for the past 15 years as a leader. I would never say what a president says in a meeting. I would say what I say in a meeting. I wouldn't say what one of my colleagues says in a meeting. That's up to them to say.
But the Republicans want out and said President Trump said that he won the popular vote by 3 to 5 million votes. So that made it in the public domain. And Chuck Schumer went out and said, Nancy said that's not true, Mr. President, there's no evidence to support that. So that's in the public domain, that I said that to him, because I ready to -- and when I said that, it's not true. There's no evidence to support that. And he said, and I'm not even counting California!
So my reaction to it was -- I feel sorry for you. You're the president of the United States, and you're so insecure, A. This isn't even true. It's like the size of your inauguration.
And I pray for you, Mr. President. I pray for you. But more importantly, I pray for the United States of America. Because this is really sad. There is no evidence to support that.
But you know what it is? It's a predicate for the president to go out there and say there's voter fraud rampant throughout the country, which is not true. And we've asked every attorney general in the country to come forth with the names of anybody they think that has voted illegally in our country.
Can we talk on a positive vein now? I mean, let's say -- this is last week -- we didn't go through the incompetence and recklessness of the ban, we didn't go through the appointment of a person who doesn't even support Supreme Court precedent to the court of the United States.
I thought you were going to ask me, are we going to work with the president and I would say, where we can engage, we certainly will. We have that responsibility to the American people, to find our common ground. Where we can't find it, we must stand our ground. We must resist. And if we can build infrastructure, not necessarily the wall, if we can build infrastructure, our roads, our bridges, our broadband, our water systems, et cetera, high speed rail, mass transit, let's find a way to do that together. We can find ways to work family and work balance, as he said in the campaign, was a priority, let's do that.
TAPPER: You still think you can work with him?
PELOSI: Well, I certainly hope so. He's the president of the United States. And by the way, I told him at the meeting, so I'll tell you, I said, Mr. President, we have -- I worked, when I had the majority, I was the speaker, I had the gavel, and President George W. Bush was president, we worked with him even though we disagreed on the war in Iraq. What could be worse than that? And privatizing Social Security, we disagreed on those.
But we passed some of the most progressive legislation to help poor children, the biggest energy bill in the history of our country. He wanted nuclear; we wanted renewables. We had a big bill. The list goes on. Drugs for HIV-AIDS, all of those kinds of things. So we disagree on certain issues. We respect that he's the president of the United States. We want to work together. But where we will draw the line is if he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
TAPPER: And we'll talk about that in one -- I have to cut you off, because we have to pay some bills, but we're going to talk about that in the next block, I promise you.
PELOSI: All right. I hope so.
TAPPER: Massive marches across the country last week. But was the White House listening? That's ahead when we come back. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back. We're at a town hall meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. You wanted to talk about some more positive things. You wanted to talk about the Women's March. You brought that up. I want to introduce you to Madison McCormick. She's a graduate student right here in New York at NYU. Madison?
QUESTION: Hi, thank you, Congresswoman, for the opportunity.
PELOSI: Hi, Madison.
QUESTION: When I marched in Washington, I marched in solidarity with women across the world and across the U.S. I then watched Trump's interview -- first interview as president on ABC when he denied hearing the million people outside his front door. I found this troublesome, because so many people showed up in the streets, not just in the U.S., but across the world, around the world.
My question to you is, do you find this rhetoric that Trump is saying about denying hearing us even more damaging to our cause? Do we need to be louder? And if he didn't hear us, who did? Thank you.
PELOSI: Well, thank you very much, Madison. (APPLAUSE)
Let me say this. Thank you. Thank you for marching. Alexandra, my daughter, was there with her two boys, 9 and 10 years old, in D.C. I marched in San Francisco in the driving rain. But it did not dampen anyone's spirits, pun intended.
The -- Madison, here's the thing. We don't agonize; we organize. So it's no use saying who heard what there. The point is, is that women and their families, men -- many men marching, too, and children, they got their message across. Whether somebody wants to admit to hearing it or not is another thing.
So I've said to the women, you've marched for progress, now run for office. Now run for office. We need many more women to run for office.
And the -- nothing is more wholesome to the political system or government than the increased participation and leadership of women. So I say that to you -- the -- some of what has to happen is as organic as the march. It has to happen in local communities, where people rally around an environmental issue, an education issue, a women's right to choose, whatever it happens to be. And it is a pretty exciting thing. And as I said earlier, I think the reason that thousands of people were at the airports was because millions of people marched the day after the inauguration and, quite frankly, it really gave us all a boost of morale, so thank you.
TAPPER: Leader Pelosi, thank you, Madison. Leader Pelosi, I want to bring in Rabbi Eric Yoffie from Westfield, New Jersey. You wanted to talk about Obamacare? Rabbi, take it away.
QUESTION: Ms. Pelosi, I'm a religious leader and I've spent most of my life working with religious groups to help provide health care for all Americans. Before Obamacare, I saw horrors every day so tragic that they could rip the heart out of a stone. And now I see the president and Republican politicians sitting on their fat health insurance provided by the taxpayers declaring their willingness to return tens of millions of Americans to the permanent state of anxiety that they used to be in when health care was not available.
Ms. Pelosi, I believe that if we deny health care to those who need it, we are losing our humanity and we are failing as a nation. What will you and the Democrats do to make sure that this does not happen? Will you fight for us? Really fight for us? And will you hold the Trump administration accountable for their health care policies? And if so, how?
PELOSI: Thank you very much, Rabbi. I rest our case. I mean, you've made such a wonderful presentation. But let me just say this, because you spoke from a values place and why this is important to families, to people, to individuals, to our values. We could make the case from an accounting standpoint, as well.
So if people are not moved by a values discussion, these are the facts. First of all, if there was no reason to pass the Affordable Care Act, if people loved their insurance and loved their insurer and loved their health care, we would still have to do it, because the cost of health care -- the rising cost of health care in our country were unsustainable to individuals, to families, to small business, to corporate America that was paying a big part of the bill, and to the federal, state and local government. The prices were going like that through the roof.
When we passed the bill, it was a fight. It was a fight. By the way, we call it the Affordable Care Act with the emphasis on affordable. Republicans deemed -- named it Obamacare as a derogatory term, which we quickly embraced and love, but the fact is, the name of it is the Affordable Care Act, because that was its purpose, to be affordable.
Its three purposes were to increase coverage, to expand those who got health care, to improve benefits and to lower costs, and it has succeeded in every way. Some of the costs are still going up because of the cost of prescription drugs, but they're going up at a rate slower than -- lower rate of increase than any time in the over 50 years that they have been measuring this.
So the -- now it's also important to note that Affordable Care Act and Medicare and Medicaid are wed. What we did in the Affordable Care Act to prolong the life of Medicare, to make free examinations available to seniors so they can get in sooner at no cost and stay healthier, lower the cost of their prescription drugs by closing the -- what is called the donut hole. For younger people, that's the prescription drug benefit -- makes that even more important than addressing the 20 million people who -- as -- additionally important.
Medicaid, where many middle-income families have spent down their assets and their seniors are in nursing homes, 50 percent of their care is paid for by Medicaid. You want Mom and Dad to be living in the guest room, the attic, the basement, wherever, because they cannot afford to stay in nursing homes? Then you support the Republicans overturning the Affordable Care Act.
Opioids, don't take it from me. The governor of Ohio, John Kasich, had said thank god for Medicaid, because that's going to help us address the opioid epidemic. So, OK, so you have that.
If you overturn it, you lose three to four million jobs, three to four million jobs. But this isn't just about the economics, lowering of costs, and all the rest, and it's not just about the 20 million people. It's about the 155 million people who get their insurance through the workplace whose benefits have greatly expanded. No more pre-existing -- discrimination because you have a pre-existing medical condition. No more lifetime limits on the care that your insurer can provide. If your child is -- if you have a child, they can stay on your policy until 26 years old, and no longer is being a woman a pre- existing medical condition.
(APPLAUSE) TAPPER: Thank you.
PELOSI: Now, one more thing. And insurers, insurers, the insurance companies, must spend 80 percent of the money that they take in on your health care. Not on advertising, CEO pay, and all the rest, all the rest of that.
So to overturn it is -- I mean, my colleague, Jim Clyburn, the assistant leader, third-ranking Democrat in the House, he has said this is the civil rights bill of this century, because it enables people to have life, a healthier life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness, because they're no longer chained to a job because they get health benefits there.
TAPPER: Thank you, Rabbi. Appreciate it.
PELOSI: Thank you, Rabbi, for what you do. Thank you so much.
TAPPER: We could spend an entire program on the subject of Obamacare.
PELOSI: We should. We should.
TAPPER: And actually, we will...
TAPPER: ... one week from tonight, CNN will air a special debate night, "Sanders vs. Cruz: The Future of Obamacare." That's next Tuesday at 9 p.m. Eastern. Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Ted Cruz facing off about health care in America. It will be moderated by Dana Bash and myself. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We still have a lot more to talk about.
TAPPER: I want to introduce you to William Marsh. And take it away.
QUESTION: Leader Pelosi, our...
PELOSI: Hi, William Marsh.
QUESTION: Hi. Our steel rolling mill operation is in the industrial Midwest. Our workers and my neighbors are steelmen, train men, and oil men. These are the coveted Reagan Democrats. If you ask a Reagan Democrat today about the Democrat Party, you might get the answer limousine liberal. A lot of these workers feel that the core interest groups of the party do not represent their values. For example, the abortion rights activists, the environmental activists, Wall Street, Wall Street lawyers.
PELOSI: Wall Street?
QUESTION: Yes, a lot of Wall Street supports the Democrat Party now and not the Republican Party. PELOSI: They don't support me.
I didn't know what side of the ledger that was going on. No, we don't get much support from Wall Street.
QUESTION: Oh, I can assure you, I speak quite a lot with all sorts of industrial people in the Midwest.
PELOSI: That's the impression they have. OK. That's...
QUESTION: So right from the Midwest, if the Democrat Party wants to recapture the Reagan Democrats, they need to begin speaking to some of these issues. My question for you is, how can a Democrat Party which is separated by political philosophy and economic reality represent the constituents of the manufacturing Midwest?
PELOSI: Yeah. Well, I thank you for that question, because it's the challenge that some see the party has. I question when you said Wall Street, I'm like, no, Wall Street comes out en masse with its money against House Democrats every election. So that was -- that took me down a different path.
Here's the thing. Democrats in the Congress, people say to me, you're so good at keeping people together, keeping the Democrats together. I said I don't keep them together. Our values keep us together. That's what unites us.
And while we may have different views on some of the subjects you just named within our own party, the one thing that unifies us is our commitment to America's working families. That's who we are. That is our organized purpose, to protect those American families that you just named among them.
And it isn't that we -- we failed in conveying that message. How could it be when we, the Democrats in the House and the Senate, with the president of the United States, bailed out the auto industry, millions of jobs directly and indirectly saved, yet Ohio, Indiana, da- da, da-da, Michigan go for the Republicans, who at the time said that what we were doing, Mitt Romney wrote an op-ed to this effect, what we were doing was wrong because it interrupted the free enterprise system, because we were intervening in saving an industry?
When we worked there for collective bargaining, OSHA, NLRB, which are completely anathema to the Republicans, and yet we did not convey that message. And you named some barriers -- when I say barriers, some priorities that people think we have over these priorities. It's not over. They're part of our values.
We're not going to give up our commitment to nondiscrimination in our country. We just are not. We're not going to give up our commitment to what we believe about respecting opinion -- the judgment a woman has about the size and timing of her family.
But it is also important that we are very -- have clarity in whose side we're on with America's worker. And most of us have come -- I grew up in Little Italy in Baltimore, Maryland. It was only a question of Democrats and Republicans, we're for working families, they're not. It's still the case. We're for -- they're for trickle- down economics. You give tax breaks to the wealthy, it trickles down, and somebody gets a job, that would be good, if they don't, so be it, that's the free enterprise system. That's how they talk.
We're talking about trickle up. Increase those paychecks. Increase the purchasing power of America's working families. But the stagnation in wages that you've -- that is part of the heartache of families all over the country, but also in the areas that you mentioned, and I worked closely with the steelworkers. In fact, they've named me a woman of steel. I'm proud of that honor from the steelworkers.
But that is the challenge. And it's not about choosing one over the other. It's about we're all in this together. I told Norman Lear, I said, You had the right title, "All in the Family," with Archie Bunker. You're too young to know what that is, "All in the Family." But it's all America's family.
And if we can work in a bipartisan way to say the jobs of the -- we have to prepare our country for the jobs of the future as we consolidate those that we have, but take people into the future.
Some people think the election was divided into those who saw their place in the future and those who didn't or for their families. And so how do we say we're all moving in this forward together, and as we have new opportunities, they have to be shared? If we're going to have technology and automation, we have to build buildings in which that can take place. We have to build community, community, community, community, in which we need schools and health care facilities and the rest.
So there's plenty of opportunity for jobs that are not -- that in addition to the jobs we want to bring back or keep, but also to recognize that are the jobs of the future. But in our caucus, we have this discussion. How -- how could they -- how did they not know that we're there for them? Well, as I say to a couple, I said, if a wife says to a husband you're not communicating, and he thinks he is, he's not communicating.
So we weren't communicating. And so it's not about who we are, because who we are is to be there for America's working families, and we fight that fight every day against tax breaks for the wealthy. And that's the fight we have with Donald Trump. Right now, no matter what he said on the campaign trail, he's right there to give tax breaks to the rich. And by the way, if they overturn the Affordable Care Act, get this. The 400 wealthiest families in America will get a tax break of $7 million every year.
TAPPER: So I need -- let me communicate this. This is what we call in this business a soft landing. There's a lighter question from our friend, Trevor Hill. He's a student at NYU. He's from San Diego. Trevor?
QUESTION: Good evening.
PELOSI: Thank you for your question. Sorry, just...
QUESTION: Good evening, Congresswoman.
PELOSI: Hi, Trevor.
QUESTION: Thank you for being here, and thank you for taking my question.
QUESTION: I was originally slated to ask a pretty soft question, but given the dire circumstances...
QUESTION: ... I'm so sorry, Mr. Tapper...
TAPPER: It's OK.
QUESTION: Given the dire circumstances our country is in, I wonder if you'd indulge me in a little bit more of a serious question about the future of the Democratic Party. What I've seen on NYU's campus and what I've seen in polls all over -- I mean, CNN even, a Harvard University poll last May showed that people between the ages of 18 and 29, not just Democrats, not just leftists, 51 percent of people between 18 and 29 no longer support the system of capitalism.
Now, that's not me asking you to make a radical statement about capitalism, but I'm just telling you that my experience is that the younger generation is moving left on economic issues and I've been so excited to see how Democrats have moved left on social issues. As a gay man, I've been very proud to see you fighting for our rights and for -- many Democratic leaders fighting for our rights.
But I wonder if there's anywhere you feel that the Democrats could move farther left to a more populist message, the way the alt-right has sort of captured this populist strain on the right wing, if you think we could make a more stark contrast to right-wing economics.
PELOSI: Well, I thank you for your question. But I have to say, we're capitalist. That's just the way it is. However, we do think that capitalism is not necessarily meeting the needs with the income inequality that we have in our country.
And let me just tell you this. I don't know how much time we have. About 40 years ago, a little bit more now, no less a person in terms of capitalism than the chairman of the Standard Oil of New Jersey said -- he talked about stakeholder capitalism, capitalism that said when we make decisions as managements and CEOs of the country, we take into consideration our shareholders, our management, our workers, our customers, and the community at large.
At that time, at that time, the disparity between the CEO and the worker was about 40 times, 40 times more for the ceo than the worker. As productivity rose, the pay of the worker rose and the pay of the CEO rose. Everything rose together.
Around 20 years ago, it started to turn into -- maybe 15, 20 years ago, it started to turn into shareholder capitalism, where we're strictly talking about the quarterly report. So a CEO would make much more money by keeping pay low, even though productivity is rising, the worker is not getting any more pay, and the CEO is getting a big pay because he's kept costs lows by depriving workers of their share of the productivity that they created. And as I call it, a right angle going in the right direction.
But disparity between the CEO and the worker in the shareholder capitalism is more like 350 to 400 to 1. From 40 to 1 to 350 to 400 to 1. That income inequality is an immorality. And it is not even smart from an economic standpoint, because it doesn't grow the economy. The more money you put in the pocket of the worker for the productivity he or she has produced, the more money they will spend, consume with confidence, inject into the economy and grow the economy.
So what you talked about and what you've talked about, the same thing, the stagnation of wages and the financial instability that families are feeling, tied with seeing priorities that are not necessarily ones that they have as -- well, they care about it, but it's not a job and being able to have a home and send your children to school and have a dignified retirement, or what we want for all Americans, and capitalism should serve that purpose.
The capitalist system has been well-served by the so-called safety net. It's not just a safety net for individual workers. It's a safety net for capitalism, because they can go through their cycles, and when they don't need as many employees, they -- we have unemployment insurance or all kinds of benefits as a safety net that enable them to go through cycles.
But instead -- and there are some enlightened corporations which say I'm keeping my whole staff through thick and thin, at the end of the day, I have a productive, trained, loyal workforce. So we have to change the thinking of people. I don't think we have to change from capitalism. We're a capitalist system. The free market is -- is a place that can do good things.
Actually, Adam Smith, "Wealth of Nations," the invisible hand, he was more compassionate. He wrote two books. His other book was about our responsibilities to each another, as well as "Wealth of Nations." I wish he had written one book where he incorporated all of it together.
So I hear what you're saying about young people. And may I say, we have our -- Eric Swalwell heads up something called our Future Forum, where young members of Congress in their 30s, late 20s, I think they're all -- some of them graduated to 30s now -- go around the country and listen to young people. Perhaps he can visit you at school, as well. But thank you for sharing your... (CROSSTALK)
TAPPER: Let's thank Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and all the questioners and everyone else at home who made this thing all possible. A special thanks to our audience, those asking the questions, sharing their stories, their personal stories, also watching around the world.
Don Lemon picks it up now. Thanks again, Leader Pelosi.
PELOSI: Thanks, Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: No, I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine. Good job. Thank you so much.