If Democrats control the House in 2019 they would quickly schedule floor action on gun violence prevention, protections for “Dreamers” and infrastructure, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.
“When we win and we take over in January, some of the issues that will come up soon are the issues we are asking the speaker to take up now,” Pelosi said, naming those three issues.
Speaking during a town hall event with students at Georgetown University, the California Democrat several times used phrasing that suggests she’s not thinking about “if” Democrats retake the House but “when.“
“We will have a pro-choice gavel when we win the Congress,” Pelosi said in response to a student’s question about whether Democrats have a litmus test for candidates on issues like abortion rights.
Pelosi described herself as “rabid supporter of a woman’s right to choose,” but noted that she is willing to support an anti-abortion rights candidate “in order to get that gavel to protect all of the other rights that we have.”
She said she took heat for supporting a Democratic incumbent who is anti-abortion rights. Although she did not name him, she was referring to Illinois Rep. Dan Lipinski, who won his primary earlier this year.
Most Democrats, “other than maybe a few people,” are pro-abortion rights, Pelosi said.
”Having said no litmus test, it’s a very high priority for us, protecting a women’s right to choose,” she said.
In another response where Pelosi seemed to be referring to a scenario in which Democrats retake the majority, she spoke about action Congress would take on immigration.
“We will pass legislation to protect the Dreamers,” she said, referring to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
An undocumented Georgetown student had asked Pelosi how many more Dreamers need to write letters, make phone calls and share their stories for Congress to take action.
President Donald Trump remains an obstacle, Pelosi said, noting, “We have to persuade the president that he can’t keep throwing red meat to his base that is anti-immigrant.”
She accused Trump of playing “the immigrant card” every time there is bad news out about him to district from those issues, referring to his tweets suggested Democrats don’t want to do anything on “DACA.”
DACA is the abbreviation for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that provides work permits sheltering some Dreamers from deportation.
Pelosi acknowledged that there is some truth to those claims in that Democrats on the omnibus negotiations, which she said they “killed on,” resisted GOP efforts to negotiate concessions in exchange for protecting the roughly 800,000 people covered under DACA rather than the larger Dreamer population.
“For the moment we are protected by the courts — so don’t give them anything,” she said, describing Democrats’ thinking that unless they could get protections for the millions of Dreamers, including those not currently covered by DACA, there was no point in giving Republicans things they were asking for like more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and detention beds.
Pelosi said Democrats’ “strength sprang from the kids” and noted that calls from Dreamers have led more House Republicans to stand with Democrats in asking for a vote.
“They haven’t signed a discharge petition, which would just bring the bill to the floor,” she said. “They haven’t done that, but they have signed a letter to the speaker.”
Although Pelosi spoke about a wide array of issues that are important to Democrats, she said the focus of their campaign and a big part of their agenda should they retake the majority is the economic policies they’ve laid out in their “A Better Deal” agenda.
“We have to win the debate on the economy,” she said of the key to Democratic success in the midterms.
Part of that debate for Pelosi has been about messaging against the Republican tax overhaul.
When a student who said the law has provided savings for his family and his parents as small business owners asked if she still stood by her comment equating the tax benefits to “crumbs,” she said she did.
“Yes, there are some benefits that some are feeling in a particular way with the tax bill,” Pelosi said. “My statement was really a fuller statement was that while they provide a banquet for the top 1 percent, they are giving some crumbs to other people.”
“Why I say that is here’s a tax bill they advertise as a benefit to the middle class,” but 80 percent of benefits go to top 1 percent, Pelosi said.