Democratic Leaders on Fighting for All Americans, 2017 Issues Conference

February 10, 2017

(Baltimore, MD) – House Democratic leaders held a press conference today to open the 2017 Democratic Issues Conference – a three-day policy meeting of Members of Congress, political leaders, grassroots activists, and policy experts that centered on ‘Fighting for All Americans.’ Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (N.Y.) and Democratic Caucus Vice Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (Calif.) were joined by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan (N.M.).

Below is a transcript of the leaders’ remarks:

CHAIRMAN CROWLEY:  Good afternoon, and welcome to Baltimore. It is my great pleasure to welcome you to our 2017 Issues Conference. These conferences give House Democrats an opportunity to come together as a party to chart a united path forward. As I’m sure you know, our theme for this week is ‘Fighting for All Americans.’ Because a fight is what we are in. A fight for our nation’s values. A fight for our nation’s future. This is why I’m so passionate about our focus for the next three days – and beyond. Whenever I meet with my colleagues, I see a group of dedicated individuals. People who believe that America can work for everyone. Whether it is health care and equal rights. Economic opportunity and education.

A safe and secure nation and healthy environment. The fights before us are difficult. And the list is long. But these are the fights that are worth fighting. These are the fights that will define generations to come and determine the fate of our country.  Fighting for All Americans is what we do. I’ve been asked a lot over the past three weeks about how Democrats can keep our momentum going. How we can continue to oppose President Trump day after day, week after week, when he has another four years in office? Won’t this fight get tiring, people ask. Absolutely not. I’ve never seen my party more unified in a single goal: fighting to prevent President Trump and Congressional Republicans from hurting All Americans. We’ve come energized to Baltimore and we’ll carry that fight forward.

We will not sit by as President Trump looks to enact xenophobic laws to keep out refugees and immigrants. We will not sit by as President Trump dismantles the Affordable Care Act without a seriously or scholarly thought on how to ensure millions don’t lose their healthcare. Weakening our economy. We will not sit by as President Trump appoints unqualified individuals to his Cabinet – people whose only experience is writing out massive checks to the GOP. Democrats are going to fight for a strong and secure economy that boosts up working class families.

To ensure that everyone – no matter where they live or where they are from – has the economic opportunity they deserve to provide for their family, save for the future, and make life better for their children. We’re going to be the champions of those who feel left behind and unheard. My colleagues and I will proudly stand up for workers, families, and individuals of all stripes and say you’re welcome here. This country is for you. You’re going to see that House Democrats will fight for this country. Over the next three days, House Democrats will hear from advocates and thought leaders, policy experts and – perhaps most critically – one another. Vice Chair Linda Sanchez and I made sure there were opportunities within the schedule for members to sit together and discuss what they want our focus to be. And how to make sure a strong message reaches all voters – no matter where they live. Democrats have always had a united vision for this country.

And by coming together, we can make sure that vision is shared with our constituents. We’ll talk about the economy and jobs.  Health care and equality. Security and the environment. And you better believe, we’ll talk about ways to Fight for All Americans under President Trump.

LEADER PELOSI: This is going to be a great few days and will be part of our ongoing conversation about how we show our unity in our values, our good spirit in working together, and fighting for all Americans.  I love the title.  Fighting – I love that word.  For – A very positive word.  All – Americans, All Americans. At this conference Democrats, again will show our values, our harmony and our good spirit.  We’re developing a bold agenda with clarity for the American people.  I want to associate myself with the comments made by the distinguished chairman.  Because he put forth a statement that unifies Democrats, saying everything which you already said, which is so positive, so from the bottom up and for the good the American people. I would just say, how we will be different from what President Trump is talking about.  We’re talking about good-paying jobs and financial security for hard-working Americans.  That’s what people thought they voted for him for in the election.  Instead his administration has been reckless, rash and incompetent. The first weeks of the Trump Administration have completely exposed the hollowness of the President’s promises to the American people.  He talked about renegotiating NAFTA, but several weeks have gone by, and indeed, a couple months have gone by since the election.  He must follow the law, complete the consultations with Congress and start the 90-day clock.  He hasn’t done that.  The ball is in his court.  Where are you on NAFTA, Mr. President? Infrastructure, he talked a lot about infrastructure, now didn’t he?  We said we’d be happy to talk about that as long as it wasn’t a tax break for his rich friends but a real investment in infrastructure to see real good paying jobs in our country.  Where’s the bill? Show us the bill.  We’re hearing Trump’s budget is going to be late.  How late?  Weeks, months, years?  We’ve heard that he might not even have a budget. Tax giveaways, we’ve been fighting the Republicans for years to eliminate breaks for companies that send jobs overseas.  He talked about that in the campaign.  Where’s the bill?  Show us the bill. As you know, I’ve been questioning the President’s relationship with Russia.  It’s extremely alarming, and it could undermine our national security.  What on earth do the Russians have on Donald Trump?  That he could flirt with the idea of lifting sanctions on Russia despite their aggressive military behavior? That he could lift the sanctions already on the successor to the KGB a group that we know hacked into our systems, disrupting our election?  That he is saying things about a person, that qualifies as a war criminal and giving some equivalence to the United States of America? This is the President of the United States.  The President of the United States.

So, I’m just saying, at least show us your tax returns.  Is the audit over?  Is this the audit for eternity?  And of course, that’s never been a justification for not releasing your tax returns.  The President continues to hide his tax returns which could provide vital insight into what financial influence Russia has on him, whether it’s personal, political or financial.  We call upon the FBI to do that investigation, it is in our national security interest.  Chairman Brady is Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and Chairman of the Joint Committee of Taxation, is empowered to demand Trump’s tax returns from the Secretary of the Treasury.  All he has to do is ask, and hold a committee vote to make those tax returns public. Mr. President what do the Russians have on you personally, politically or financially?

The process is – the privilege only goes to the Chairman to make the request.  But then the committee can vote to make the tax returns public.  This is as you may recall, you wouldn’t recall, but in your history books you may read what happened with President Nixon a long time ago.  So, we’re calling on Chairman Brady to bring out those tax returns. Three weeks in the White House has really revealed that President Trump is exactly who we thought he is – incompetent, and in some cases, in terms of our national security, dangerous.  Perpetuating a massive con on those who he said that he would stand up against powerful interests. He’s out there to Make American Sick Again, put Wall Street First, American values last. Dangerous, immoral, unconstitutional, the Muslim and refugee ban demonstrates that. As long as the President continues down this path there is nothing the Democrats can work with him on.  To protect the security of our nation, working families, and the sanctity of our constitution. Democrats will fight this administration, every day with every fiber of our being.

WHIP HOYER: House Democrats are here in Baltimore to discuss our strategy to represent the plurality of voters who opposed Donald Trump and the Republican Agenda. Already we’ve seen this administration take dangerous steps that will make Americans less safe. Trump’s Muslim ban, which is unconstitutional and immoral, also plays into the hands of ISIS, giving them a recruiting and propaganda tool, and can be used to radicalize would-be lone wolves. President Trump also continues to defend Putin’s Russia and suggesting it is equivalent to America. This is dangerous and wrong. He is alienating our key allies, including Australia and Mexico. And he put Steve Bannon on the National Security Council while removing key national security agency heads, putting politics ahead of our national security. These moves are reckless and put all Americans at risk. House Democrats will continue to stand up strongly against these measures. We’re going to defend America’s national security against the dangerous, risky, and irresponsible actions by this administration and the House Republicans who support and enable it.

VICE CHAIR SÁNCHEZ: Thank you. Good afternoon. It is great to be here in Baltimore. Democrats are here today because we are committed and focused on building a better future for ALL Americans – everyone. The results of our last presidential election have shaken this country to its core. And since the inauguration – the President of the United States has launched an assault on our democratic institutions and our very values. You can see his hostility to our values written in his executive orders: Building a border wall that Americans will end up paying for; Establishing a massive deportation force; And announcing an ill-conceived, un-constitutional Muslim ban, in one of the worst roll outs I have ever seen. But now his actions have got people paying attention. A lot of people across the country are mobilized and energized right now. And they are looking to Democrats to lead the opposition against this President’s reckless agenda. Over the next few days, House Democrats will have an open and honest discussion about how we will move forward as a caucus and continue working hard for America’s working families. But I want to make it crystal clear to the President and the nation: we are not going to sit quietly and let him shred our constitution. We are fighting back, and we will win.

DCCC CHAIRMAN LUJÁN: Thanks to our Chairman Joe Crowley and Vice Chair Linda Sanchez for organizing this important issues retreat. Our values and principles drive us to fight for all Americans, each and every day Through our actions, House Democrats will prove to all Americans, from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt, that Democrats have their backs.  Fighting for hardworking people is at the center of who we are. We are the party of all working-class families. We are the party of people who get up early in the morning to send their kids to school before the morning shift, or pick up their kids at the end of the school day, before the night shift begins. We fight for safe working conditions, so that they can always come home safely to their families. We are the party for the folks growing our food, building our homes and cars, and educating our children. Let me be clear, we know we have work to do. Our voice and vision to move our country forward must be heard from the old steel mills in Western Pennsylvania to the growers in the Central Valley.   Make no mistake about it, House Democrats on offense. We are already investing in districts across the country and reaching out to voters so that they stay engaged, volunteer and vote. Thank you.