Speaker Paul D. Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi fielded fewer reporter questions than usual during their weekly press conferences Thursday so they could interact directly with the congressional press corps’ kids.
“Welcome to all our junior members of the press,” Ryan said, telling the kids, “It’s great that you get to come here and see what your parents do every day.”
Ryan still took more questions from the adults, five compared to four from the kids who joined their parents for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. But Pelosi only took three adult questions before taking at least eight from the kids.
Both leaders opened their press conferences by speaking directly to the children.
“I want you to know that what your parents do is really important. … Your parents are here upholding and protecting the First Amendment of our country,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “That’s a really big deal, and you should be really proud of your parents for what they do. And we’re — we don’t always say it, but we’re very grateful for what they do.”
Pelosi, who often starts her weekly pressers later than the scheduled 10:45 a.m., was on time Thursday and remarked to the kids, “We like to be on time, right?”
The California Democrat then launched into some of her favorite talking points, which happen to involve children.
“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, a clean safe environment in which they can thrive and grow, a world at peace in which they can reach their fulfillment,” Pelosi said. “So we have important work to do for you.”
Two kids asked the same question to both Ryan and Pelosi: How do they plan to pay off the $21 trillion national debt?
“That’s a really good question. People like me have actually passed some plans to pay off this debt,” Ryan said, then referenced budget resolutions with entitlement overhaul proposals Republicans passed that he said “regrettably” haven’t made it into law.
Pelosi noted that her grandson has asked her the exact same question about the debt.
“The national debt in my view is something that robs from our children’s future,” she said. “One of the big ways to reduce the debt is to invest in education. Nothing brings more money to the Treasury than education.”
Pelosi also talked about the pay-go rule that says any new spending has to be offset with cuts elsewhere.
The other question asked to both leaders was about what they’re doing about the National Rifle Association and the gun violence in Florida.
Ryan talked about the STOP School Violence Act Congress passed that he said “helps give resources to local school districts and law enforcement to better prepare for these kind of violent acts.” He also referenced a measure to strengthen the background check reporting system. Both bills were signed into law as part of the omnibus spending bill.
Pelosi talked about Democrats being proud of their F ratings from the NRA and the message she delivers to her colleagues who are afraid they’re going to lose their re-election campaigns if they support gun control.
“No one’s political survival is more important, for sure, than the personal survival of our children,” she said.
Some of the other questions Pelosi fielded were more personal, about how she got involved in politics and what it was like being the first female speaker.
She also held one of the children in her lap while she answered their questions. Twice the minority leader conducted a sing-along with the kids, accepting suggested choices of the ABC song and Baa Baa Black Sheep.
Both leaders took photos with the children.
One kid asked Ryan if he wants his children to be reporters and he said he would support them if they were to decide to pursue that path.
“I want them to do what they want to do,” he said.