Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning. How are you all?
You know, as Speaker, over time people have said to me, ‘What keeps you up at night?’ The night of the debate, you saw what keeps me up at night. To see a President of the United States, in a debate with a potential President of the United States, refuse to condemn white supremacists, refuse to commit to a peaceful transfer of government, to ignore the climate crisis as our country is burning and our coasts are hit by fierce storms, to be there to crush the Affordable Care Act instead of crushing the virus.
What keeps me up at night is that. What we saw that night was authenticity on both sides of the stage: the President authentically a bully, Joe Biden authentically a decent person who cares about America's working families.
But it isn't just, like, a Democratic or Republican debate. That's the exchange of ideas. That's what we came here to do. This is something quite different, undermining our institutions, undermining our democracy, by the President of the United States with no respect for the office that he holds. So, in that – my colleagues don't like it when I don't get enough sleep. So, in any event, hopefully we can resolve some of these challenges to our great country as we go forward.
Right now, we are at the table discussing how we go forward with a possible COVID bill. Again, at that table are reflected some of the differences that you saw in the debate. For example, we have – we're hopeful that we can reach agreement, because the needs of the American people are so great, but there has to be a recognition that it takes money to do that and it takes the right language to make sure it is done right.
So, again, we have concerns about a sufficient amount of money to address Unemployment Insurance needs of the American people. We have concerns about – for example, how about this as a stark example of a difference not just of dollars but of values? In the CARES Act, the Republicans sneaked in a piece of legislation that gave $150 billion to the wealthiest people in our country, $150 billion. In the Heroes Act, we take that out. They put in $150 billion, which is more money than they spent on state and local in the CARES Act.
And, in the Heroes Act, we had $149 billion for a refundable tax credit, for the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, refundable, $149 billion, almost the same amount. In the interest of coming down, we came down to $54 billion just by changing the timetable, but nonetheless came down two‑thirds, almost, to $54 billion. They have zero in their proposal. They still want to keep a $150 billion tax break for the wealthiest in our country and have zero in terms of a refundable tax – Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that addresses the poorest of the poor.
When I sent out the letter saying we had this bill and we had tremendous response, every possible kind of organization in our country who cares about how government meets the needs of the American people supporting our legislation, I framed the legislation in terms of what it means to a family of four making $20,000 a year. You probably saw that; I don't have to go into all of it. But some of it relates to these tax credits I'm talking about, which make a big difference in their lives, what happens in terms of health care, what happens in terms of if they become unemployed. It is about the children and how their needs are addressed.
And that's how we have to look at this. So, we're looking at it from the standpoint of a family making $20,000 a year, a family of four. And they're looking at it from a standpoint of $150 billion to the wealthiest people in our country. That's why we not only have a dollars debate, we have a values debate.
Still, I'm optimistic. We have come to, kind of, in the ballpark of some things. Still way off in terms of state and local government, state and local government, our heroes: health care workers, police and fire, teachers, teachers, sanitation, transportation, food workers – the people who make it possible for us to be here. They make government function, state and local. We're still far apart on that. We're far apart on, again, the refundability that we talked about already.
And, again, we are coming closer on money for our health provisions in the bill; it's just a question of the language. Because we've had provisions before, but the language was not adhered to. So, that's a question of language.
We're coming closer on small business. But we have the restaurant and small venues for stages, et cetera; we're not in agreement as to how that all would be treated. Because PPP is one initiative. That other initiative is a grant from the Secretary of the Treasury as opposed to a loan from a bank. And we’ll – I'm hopeful that we can work that out, but that's a big piece of the legislation. So, there are just some examples of how we are trying to reach common ground.
Then, of course, everything always comes back to health care. Health care, health care, health care. That's how we won the Congress in 2018. It was the most, the three most important issues for America's working families: health care, health care, health care, their good health of course, but their financial health as well.
So, the President, of course, on the very day that Ruth Bader Ginsburg left us, ten states were already voting, we’re already in a Presidential election. He's rushing this so that he can get to court in time to be there for the November 10th oral arguments to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The President – so we're saying to everyone, ‘Vote your health.’ Because what they're out to do is to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
That means no more benefit for if you have a pre-existing medical condition. That means eliminate the preventative care and free exam every year, which is very, very popular in our country. That means being a woman would once again, will be a pre-existing medical condition, where you have to pay more. That means rolling back the improvements in the Medicaid, in those places where Medicaid was expanded, to help those on long‑term care, seniors on long‑term care, much of that paid for by Medicaid. People think of it as a poor‑people initiative, and it is for poor children and others, but it is also a middle‑class benefit for long‑term care for seniors.
And there are some other things. If you're an adult child on your parent's policy, you can stay there until 26. Not anymore, under what the President is proposing. The list goes on, on the benefits that are overturned. The time of pandemic: 207,000 people have died. 207,000 people in the United States have died. We've passed the one million mark globally. We have a higher percentage than our population with the number of deaths. Over seven million people infected. And the President wants to crush the Affordable Care Act instead of crushing the virus. And so, again, this rush to judgment that the President's putting forth is about overturning the Affordable Care Act and all that that means to America's working families. So, that’s what that is.
Again, on the Heroes Act, it's so called because it is about our health care workers, our police and fire, our teachers, our sanitation, transportation, food workers. I listed them earlier and more. They are heroes. They risk their lives, many of them, to save lives and now they may lose their jobs. And when they do, they will go onto Unemployment Insurance, services will be cut, taxes may be raised. They'll be on Unemployment Insurance. And what good is that for our country?
Then, again, we've had, I think, constructive conversations, Secretary Mnuchin and I, but they have not – we are not finished. I'm hopeful, but we do come at it from two different places: $149 billion for Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, refundable; $150 billion for the wealthiest people in our country – retroactive. It doesn't even have to do with the coronavirus. Retroactive.
So, you see we come from two different places. That was the case on the CARES Act 1, because that was written in the Senate. It was a trickle‑down bill. Ours – we went in with our Take Responsibility bill, came together and bubbled it up, with compromises. But, as you see, it still had some of their tax breaks in it – that tax break in it. Hopefully, we can find our common ground on this and do so soon.
Q: Hi. Can you tell us what to expect in these negotiations over the next 24 hours? Will you meet again with the Secretary? Will the House vote on the new Heroes bill?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I'm hoping the House will vote on the new Heroes bill, because, really, it's important for people to see that we completely identify with the concerns that they have and how we have allocated the resources necessary to get the job done.
We came down a trillion dollars as a compromise to begin with. We then went further for another $200 billion, as I said earlier, not undermining our priorities but realigning some things in terms of the timetable, how long they would last.
In addition, we took some things and put them in our negotiation. Right now, we're – again, last night, the Senate passed the Continuing Resolution that we passed last week, which was a compromise that Mr. Mnuchin – the Secretary and I worked out. However, we have to now be working on the actual appropriations bills. So, we moved some stuff into the appropriations bills, because that is imminent. When we first started talking about this was almost four and a half months ago, and now we're in the timeframe that we – some of this can be done in that timeframe. So, I'm hoping that we will be voting on it today.
There are other items on the Floor of great consequence to us, and I'm very proud of our Members for their leadership in bringing legislation to the Floor that relate to the women who suffered abuse. You know the issue in Georgia. Just – I don't even want to talk about it, it's so appalling. But Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal took the lead, working with the Women's Caucus, and we'll have legislation on the Floor about that.
And then Congressman Malinowski has his legislation about QAnon on the Floor. I hasten to add that he, the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights in the Obama Administration, has been a champion for human rights. And now you see these people violating, violating who we are as a people. And, again, he is unfairly being targeted by them in a violent way.
And speaking of violence, the Proud Boys, the President's friends, you know, the Proud Boys, who are celebrating the green light that he gave them in the debate? You may recall, or perhaps you don't, but I will remind you that, a couple years ago, during the 2018 campaign, I was in Florida, in southern Florida. We had the race of Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel‑Powell. And the Proud Boys came – it was, like, a press conference and volunteer meeting. They came and pounded the doors and shook the place, scaring – you know, we sign up for this; these people don't – scaring everyone.
And they had DeSantis signs. They were tasked by the Florida Republican Party to come and disrupt that meeting, which they did and in a violent way. So, in case the President doesn't remember that, he could call his friend, Governor DeSantis, who was part of that thing.
So, yeah, I think we'll have that bill on the Floor today. We will – where we ended yesterday was my concern about no money for the refundability, which is a very important part of our legislation to meet the needs of these people. And, by the way, it's a stimulus. It injects – people spend the money right away, injects demand into the economy, creates jobs.
And so, that will – it is my expectation that perhaps it will come back with some counter in terms of all of that. They seem pretty wedded to their tax cut at the high end. I hope they'd be wedded to a tax credit for low‑income children and families in our country.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: These negotiations between you and the Administration have been going on for a couple of months now. Do you see this round of the negotiations as the last chance to get something done before election day?
Speaker Pelosi. They have – with all due respect, they haven't gone on for – we had them early on, and there's been a pause, and now they've called and said they're ready to talk again. I'm hopeful that they can produce something. I never say this is the last chance until election day, although that's 33 days away.
Even if we were to come to agreement on language and money, the constructive – we're pretty ready, because the Heroes Act had its structure, had its leg. counsel approvals, had the CBO scoring and that. But when there are changes, there are changes in that, but still takes time. So, I just think that if we come to a place that is hopeful that hopefully we'll be ready to implement it. But it's in the language. As you know, the devil is in the details. So are the angels, I like to say.
Q: May I ask a follow up? You keep saying you're hopeful. I guess the cynic in me says, why? It doesn't seem like they are moving at all towards your position, at least from what we can see publicly.
Speaker Pelosi. Because of the needs of the American people. I just think at some point they'll have to know that the American people have these needs. And the fact that is we are four and a half months from when we passed the Heroes Act. We're three and a half months until we get sworn in as a new Congress, closer to a new Congress. Less than four months in time when we inaugurate a new President of the United States. So we're getting ready for what comes next. But we need stuff now.
And some of you have asked, isn't something better than nothing? No. There can be an opportunity cost that says we're rewarding the wealthy because they're wealthy, they're successful, at the expense of the poor. We're not going to exploit the needs that people have in order to once again increase the national debt to help the high end.
Q: To that end, though, it seems as though we're at an inflection point right now. So, we asked about, obviously, this question, nothing before the election. But, I mean, there's no inflection point between now and the election that would get us to that point, other than the fact you're here voting.
You just suggested a second ago that you hope you put the revamped bill, the bill you released on Monday, today. That suggests that there's nothing that be can resolved on this –
Speaker Pelosi. No, that has no relation to anything. No. It just says, you asked, here's what it is. This is how we came down. This is how we came down. We shortened some time periods. We moved some things onto the appropriations process, which needs to be negotiated soon if we're going to keep government open, as this CR indicates, by the 11th of December. They have no relationship to each other except to say, this is what we are pushing for.
Q: But wasn't that the idea, to hold out to see if you could get a deal and then maybe not put that bill on the Floor because you had a better –
Speaker Pelosi. That had nothing to do with it, no. It was a mixture of motivations. But our Members are very eager to – and I am too. And the joy of being part of a dynamic, not‑rubber‑stamp, no‑lockstep Caucus is, is wonderful, I have to say. So, we have a lot of exuberance and vitality.
And people worked hard, our chairmen and our committees worked hard to meet the needs with the science‑based, academically justified, institutionally respected amounts that are needed, whether it's rental assistance or mortgage assistance, whether it's food for the food‑insecure in our country, whether it's health care if you lose your job – we have a provision in there to immediately, immediately have people qualify for the Affordable Care Act with the highest level of subsidy for being part of the system. It doesn't require an open enrollment.
So, it's a very smart bill. We're very proud of it. And we want people to see what the possibilities are. It has more to do with that than whatever intricacies you had going there.
Q: On the debate with President Trump, he says that the vaccine is coming soon. Would you be willing to get an FDA‑approved coronavirus vaccine, provided your doctor clears it?
Speaker Pelosi. Would I be – well, let me just say – and I thank you for asking about the vaccine. Because what we have to do is have confidence, trust in the vaccine. And that means politics should have absolutely nothing to do with how the vaccine is approved.
I'm so pleased that the pharmaceutical companies have said they will not market or promote a vaccine that does not go through the clinical trials that are required for approval and the approval of the advisory committee that makes that recommendation.
I don't like the pressure that the White House is bringing on all of this and the statements that maybe we don't need clinical trials as we normally do, we can just do two instead of three and all that. No. This has to have the trials. And let me salute the scientists at the FDA and even some of the people at the CDC, not working on this project, but while I'm saluting, some of the people who have been there for a long time, of the highest caliber of science – now back to FDA – working on this initiative.
Let science determine this, not politics, and then people will have confidence in the product. And, again, we're talking about what the distribution of that is, and we have a significant amount of money in the bill for the distribution of it in an ethical and – with equality and ethics, how it would be distributed.
I'm not a big needle‑taker. I mean, I had a hard time getting my ears pierced. I'm not a big needle – I mean, they have to talk me into the flu shot under great duress each year, so – but if it serves as a model to other people, yes, I would take the vaccine if it is approved by the regular order of things. Yeah.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes? And this will be the last, I think, because I have to go to my day job, not that that isn't this.
Q: About the Electoral College, you have been speaking about the importance of trying to block Republicans from having the Majority of the State delegation. Could you explain why you're doing this and what you hope to accomplish and maybe tell us some of the races you're looking at?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let – no, I may not go into that, but – well, maybe some.
Let me say this. The President has made clear that he will do everything to undermine the integrity of the election: declare victory with only the basis of those who voted that day; discrediting vote‑by‑mail, that's one.
The next thing he may try to do is to have chaos when it comes to a state. Joe Biden may win the state. The state legislature may be Republican and say, well, we're still sending Trump electors to the Electoral College. That won't carry, really, but it takes time because it will go to court.
The President loves to go to court, and that's one of the reasons that he's in a hurry to beef up the Court, so he has his protections for all the chaos he would like to cause in the election.
There will be many, many, many court cases, and we've been involved in a number of them under the leadership of Eric Holder, who's done a great job under the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that is also working on this. But many people, Stacey Abrams, you name it, there are all kinds of legal minds at work, attracting other legal minds, to protect us in the courts – and in the court of public opinion, where the President is saying to people, your vote doesn't count, don't go vote, all that. Really? The President of United States? Really?
So, if all that chaos takes us to a time that could be past the date when the Electoral College must meet, the President has said in some – and I've been doing this a long time, because I've been watching all the things that he might like to do: dismantle the postal system; invite, welcome Russian interference into our election, ‘Vladimir Putin should decide who our President is, not the American people;’ you know, all that stuff. We know that. So, tracking all that.
I'm a former Chair of the party. I am in politics because I love the policy and the issues and what it means to the American people. But campaigns I thrive on, and elections. So, on the election, there are three phases.
The time leading up to election day, which we are in, and, now, more and more, early voting has made it the election time, as well as the preparation and the challenges to what he might put out there for voter intimidation and the rest of that. Okay. So, the preparation and the early voting.
Election day, to make sure that his intimidation and his threat of intimidation and all the things that he has said is countered and that people feel comfortable to vote if they, culturally, want to vote in person. I would advise them to do it early so that their vote will be clearly counted in time. I would also advise them to vote by mail if they have any – if they don't want to jeopardize their health.
So – you asked me this question which I love to talk about, so I'm trying to be brief, believe it or not.
Okay. So then we go to the President saying at his rallies, at his unmasked, no‑social‑distancing, dangerous rallies, ‘I'm going to take this to the – the House could decide this. And,’ he points out, ‘we have 26 Republican states, they have 22, so we have the edge in the House.’
Now, the Constitution, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, says the House shall choose if there is no resolution of the – at the Electoral College in a timely fashion. Some of you have heard this over and over, so forgive me for my repetition. As you may recall, I said that we will be ready. We will be ready. And we are going to be ready.
The Constitution clearly says Majority. So 26 is one vote away – is one Majority. We take one seat away from him, one state. Just so you understand, the House of Representatives, voting by state. California has 53 Members of Congress; we have one vote. One state, one vote. Alaska has one Member of Congress, one vote. So, you see the unfairness of it all, with all due respect to Alaska, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Montana, et cetera, et cetera.
So, we have multiple opportunities where we can take down that one vote. And we also have multiple opportunities where we could get to 26 ourselves, but that's not necessary. No Majority? Then it goes into another range where the Speaker becomes the acting – it's complicated after that.
But our purpose – because your last question was really the culmination of it. ‘What do you hope to accomplish by this?’ What I hope to accomplish is to send a very clear message on election day to the President: There ain't no light at end of the tunnel for you in the House of Representatives. That isn't going to work. So, don't cause chaos because you think it will lead to a light at the end of the tunnel. Because that light at the end of the tunnel in the House is going to be a train coming right at your plan.
So, that's it.
Thank you all very much. Have a nice day. Thank you.