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. It's a good morning. I came back last night in time to root on the Ravens to have a two‑point conversion to tie up the game, to win in overtime, at the same time as the San Francisco Giants won the second of three games for the – in terms of baseball. More to come on that. It's always a unifying thing, sports, where we all root for the home team. In my case, it's San Francisco – and Baltimore as well.
Now that we've dispensed with the truly important in most people's lives, I want to just report on a very important visit that I had [at] the end of last week and over the holiday weekend. As you may, some of you, know, the climate issue was my flagship issue when I was Speaker the first time, when President Bush was President. And we passed the biggest environment, energy bill in the history of our country, some of which was used as authority by President Obama, when he was President, for executive orders regarding climate and energy. We weren't able to pass the legislation for climate, needing 60 votes in the Senate, but it has always been of the highest priority.
And so this weekend, the end of last week and this weekend, I had the privilege of representing the Congress of the United States at the G20 meeting, which largely – well, it's always about security, economy and governance, specifically focused on COVID and climate in this case. And then, in addition to being part of that opening, to also participate in the Opening Ceremonies of the Pre‑COP26 session of the legislators gathered there.
It was particularly exciting because, while we were there, the announcement of the Nobel Prize winners for physics was named, and one of them was an Italian, who then participated in the Opening Ceremonies as well, because he received it – I won't try to describe it to you. Never try to describe why somebody gets a Noble Prize in physics. But it relates to climate and his early understanding of how things are interconnected. Giorgio Parisi is his name. And it was such an honor to be [in] an Opening Ceremony with him, showing us a path for what we must do – in addition to what we know from our experience, but knowing it from the standpoint of physics.
It was interesting because every country is ready. We're all sort of measuring each other's commitment to meeting our emissions goals, and the President's is a strong one. Basically, what we said at this meeting is that ‘America is back.’ That is exactly the message of President Biden. Back in terms of multilateralism, back in terms of the transatlantic charter, which was an important part of our discussions, as well as back in terms of leading the way, again, on the climate crisis. His is not only to meet the Paris goals, but to beat them, and we would have over a 50 percent goal by 2030, 100 percent by 2050.
Part of the commitment, in addition to meeting our own goals, is to make sure we help developing countries with the technology and resources to meet theirs. They are not responsible for many of the emissions, but they pay a big price in terms of rising sea levels, encroachment of deserts, melting of glaciers, drying up of rivers and the rest that have an impact on their lives. It's a very big issue. The World Health Organization has just issued something last – within the last 24 hours, I believe, I saw it when I got off the plane – that they think that the climate issue is the biggest health challenge that we have.
And it is a health issue: clean air, clean water for our children. It's a jobs issue: good green jobs for many new people, many more people to take advantage of the opportunities they present. It's a national security issue, as our foreign policy experts tell us that the competition for habitat, resources, et cetera is a security issue because of the migrations that it may cause from drought and famine and all the rest, natural disasters that spring from that.
But it is a moral issue as well. We have a moral responsibility to pass this planet on in a responsible way to future generations, and that was much of the conversation I was able to have with His Holiness Pope Francis. It was so thrilling to bring the greetings of the Congress to His Holiness, to thank him for his strong message on climate: ‘Laudato Si',’ his first encyclical, which he spoke about when he spoke to the Congress in a Joint Session five years ago. And to continue on that conversation as we prepare for COP26 in Glasgow. It was just a remarkable experience to have that private audience with His Holiness and, again, to bring the thanks and gratitude of our colleagues and his blessings back to us.
Then I went to – I was in the region to join a Congressional Delegation, a bipartisan delegation, in Portugal for the NATO meeting. The other was G20, et cetera, and this was the NATO meeting, presided over by our own Gerry Connolly. Congressman Connolly of Virginia has been elected – for the entire NATO Parliamentary Assembly, he is the President of it. So, he presided over the presentations by the President of Portugal, the Prime Minister, the Speaker and, of course, the Secretary General of NATO. And I had the privilege once again to address them and talk about women and security, and I was honored to receive their first award in that regard – because women and security are one of the answers to it. So, in any event, if you want, I can talk some more about that.
The whole time, though, we were all focused on Building Back Better. The Europeans and others from all over the world, the G20, were interested in what was happening here. And, of course, these discussions went into the night because of the time difference. We have some important decisions to make in the next few days so that we can proceed.
I'm very disappointed that we're not going with the original $3.5 trillion, which was very transformative. But in the – whatever we do, we'll make decisions that will continue to be transformative about women in the workplace, so transformed because of child care and universal pre‑K – which sort of go together – the Child Tax Credit, home health care workers. Men benefit, too, but largely women. And women are those caregivers as well. So, not only to free up women to go into the workplace for their own professions and interests, but also to recognize the work that women do in providing that health care, issues that relate to family and medical leave and the rest.
The Build Back Better is three baskets. It's climate, which we spent some time talking about already – health, job security and moral responsibility. It's health care: the issues that relate to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid. And family care. I mentioned some of those issues already.
And so whatever we do, it will be transformative. It will produce results. And we would – are very grateful to our President for saying, ‘I want to pass the bipartisan legislation on infrastructure, but I will not confine my vision for the future to what can be in that bill.’ Hence, we need the Build Back Better. In addition to that, of course – and, again, let me just say, that's really a very important jobs bill. It's a jobs bill, and it's a bill about our children, and it is about our values. So, I'm pretty excited about the prospect that – we have to make some difficult decisions, of course, because we have less – fewer resources. But nonetheless, no diminishing of our commitment to a transformative agenda For The Children.
As you know, we're back today to do the debt ceiling, and we will be – this will go until – nearly $500 billion – until December 3rd. In the meantime, we'll be working to try to have bipartisanship as we always have had on that legislation. I just want to – you know – let me just say some of the things that could happen if we do not achieve that.
We could – if we don't lift the ceiling, it could be a loss of six million jobs, $15 trillion in household wealth and drastically increase the cost – do you have a credit card? Do you have a car loan? Car loans, mortgages, student loans, credit cards and other borrowing. So, domestically – and when I say ‘domestically,’ I don't just mean within the United States, I mean at the kitchen table. Domestically, it will have a tremendous impact. It's about the economy: bigger, preventing decline in the GDP of up to four percent, the GDP could go down and a surge in the unemployment rate as the economy – right now we're recovering from a pandemic. We don't need that.
And then, just to say what it does globally: a default would send shock waves through global financial markets and would likely cause credit markets worldwide to freeze up and stock markets to plunge. Employers around the world would likely have to begin laying off workers. Again, this is a report from the White House on that, so I refer you to that.
And, again, it's about kitchen table, it's about our economy, global economy. But it's also about our Constitution, which says, the full faith and credit of the United States shall not be in doubt – Fourteenth Amendment, Section IV. So, ‘the validity of the public debt of the United States authorized by law… shall not be questioned.’
Okay. Any questions?
Q: Speaker Pelosi?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me see. I have to reward those who are here the most. That is the way it goes. Well, let me talk to some of the women first, then I'll come back to you.
Q: Madam Speaker, the supply chain that we're seeing right now, the disruptions that are going on, right now we're seeing our American ports are running at 60 percent capacity, but the problem right now is that they were closing at night and on Sundays. And, do you think that the President right now should be talking to the unions and perhaps asking them to loosen up some of their worker regulations as to when they should be working so they can be working more often and be able to start up our supply chain?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the supply chain issue is not just an issue of what happens here. The supply chain is an issue globally. And that was something that we talked about at the meeting, because there are obstructions in other countries of product even making it to the ships to come to our country.
Yeah, we've got to address that issue because it has a direct impact on everything, because we are so dependent on global trade and our trade going out as well.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, your letter last night to the Caucus –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: You said that you should be doing – you need to do ‘fewer things well.’ That was the guidance you got from the Members. So, are you suggesting that this package may ultimately drop either universal pre‑K, Child Tax Credit expansion, tuition‑free community college, paid family leave or even the Medicare expansion?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say that, at $3.5 trillion, we were doing everything well. So, not a question of now we're doing it well because it's less money.
But the fact is, is that if there is – are fewer dollars to spend, there are choices to be made. And the Members have said, ‘Let's get the results that we need, but we will not diminish the transformative nature of what it is.’ And it is – some Members have written back to me and said, ‘I want to do everything.’ So, we'll have that discussion.
But, again, in the family section of it, the transformative nature of the Biden Child Tax Credit, child care and universal pre‑K really go together. That is sort of a – they go together. They're part of the same – meeting the same need. Issues that relate to home health care – there are certain things that we – I mean, we're still talking about a couple trillion dollars, but it's not, you know, it's much less.
So, mostly we would be cutting back on years and something like that. But those are decisions that we have been –
Q: Would you have to drop one of those programs, do you think?
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me?
Q: Would you have to drop one of those programs?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we hope not. We hope not. But we just, we have to make sure we have a bill – which I also said is that we have to have something that will pass the House and pass the Senate, pass the House and pass the Senate. And, I'm not asking Members to vote for something that has no chance to pass in the Senate.
So, I'm optimistic that we will get to where we need to be in a timely fashion.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes?
Q: Do you think – two‑part question – do you think –
Speaker Pelosi. Two-part? Are two parts allowed?
Speaker Pelosi. I mean, there are a lot of questions here.
Q: Do you believe you will get this done this month still? And also on the debt limit, are you still of the view that you should not do this as part of reconciliation?
Speaker Pelosi. I did tell you that, didn't I?
Q: No, I don't think you did actually. I think you said that –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you asked me, and you forgot. You said, ‘Are you going to do it in reconciliation?’ and I said, ‘No.’
Q: Well, it's only extended for about a month.
Speaker Pelosi. Maybe I didn't recognize you with the mask.
Again, no, I'm optimistic that we – these decisions have to be made. There's been a lot of discussion, and we are a democratic party. We are not a rubber stamp or a lockstep party. We have our discussions, and I'm very proud of the values that all the Members have brought to the table, the knowledge of the issues that they're advancing that they bring and the realization that even at $3.5 [trillion] you have to make decisions. So, again, we have to make tighter decisions.
Now, in my last letter, previous to this one, I said, ‘Everybody sharpen your pencil.’ I mean, it's an old phrase. Nobody uses a pencil anymore, I guess. But ‘sharpen your pencil,’ literally, figuratively and any other way. But, I'm optimistic, yeah.
In terms of the debt ceiling: well, we're just hoping that we can do this in a bipartisan way.
There are all kinds of suggestions that Members have, one that really was endorsed a while back by Mitch McConnell, but who knows – you know, who knows? But, it was to – the manifestation of it now, Mr. Yarmuth and Mr. Boyle had put forth, puts the responsibility on the Secretary of the Treasury to make the determination to lift the debt ceiling. That decision could be overruled by the Congress. It would take 60 votes, under the present custom. But nonetheless, Congress would have to overrule that. That seems to have some appeal to both sides of the aisle because of the consequences to people of not lifting it.
But, why would the – I mean, many Democrats and Republicans have voted against lifting the debt ceiling, but never to the extent of jeopardizing it. This is the first time.
Q: Are you for that idea? Are you in favor of that idea?
Speaker Pelosi. I think it has merit, yes, I do think it has merit. But, in the meantime, we're going to pass a bill today to take us to December, with the hope that when people realize what the implications are.
This is not a technical thing. This has ramifications, as I say, from the kitchen table to our economy to global and constitutional.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am?
Q: Speaker Pelosi, one of the pay‑fors in the Build Back Better bill that's been proposed is IRS cracking down on some unpaid taxes. Banks are starting to get calls from customers, and they're reporting these calls. They're concerned about this tracking of transactions that is greater than $600. So, Americans are starting to be worried about this. Do you think that this pay‑for of giving the IRS more money to crack down on unpaid taxes is going to stay in the reconciliation bill?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: – And what do you say –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: – to Americans –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: – who are concerned –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: – about that?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. Well, I mean, with all due respect, the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data.’ I've said that before here.
Yes, there are concerns that some people have. But if people are breaking the law and not paying their taxes, one way to track them is through the banking measure. I think $600 – but that's a negotiation that will go on as to what the amount is. But, yes.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, these people in the front row have an advantage here.
You – you go.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Our latest CBS News poll shows that only ten percent of Americans describe themselves as knowing a lot of specific things –
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: – that are in the reconciliation package and that the majority don't know anything at all. So do you think you need to do a better job at messaging? And going forward, how do you sell this if, ultimately, you have to pare it back?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think you all could do a better job of selling it – to be very frank with you – because every time I come here, I go through the list: family and medical leave, climate, the issues that are in there.
But it is true, it is hard to break through when you have such a comprehensive package. But as we narrow it down and put it out there, I think that it will – and, for example, one of the things in the bill is the continuation of the Biden tax credit that is – Child Tax Credit – that is in the, was in the Rescue Package. That has great appeal. Do people know where it springs from? No.
But it is a vast bill. It has a lot in it. And we'll have to continue to make sure the public does.
But whether they know it or not, they overwhelmingly support it. And by the way, women much more than men. Men like the infrastructure – this one here.
Staff. Last question.
Q: Madam Speaker, what would be the first to go to get the price down, the price of the package down?
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me?
Q: What would be the first to go to get the price of the package down?
Speaker Pelosi. You must be kidding.
That’s a negotiation. That is not something that I would be announcing here, and I don't even know what that would be. No.
What would be the first to go? What would be – probably in timing, that the timing would be reduced in many cases to make the cost lower. But it only would be in such a way that does not undermine the transformative nature of it, because some of it has to have enough money in order to be – have sustainability that is, can be counted on. So, again, the first thing would be timing.
Thank you. Thank you all.
Q: Will there be another reconciliation package?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, and by the way, I have to go – I have Foreign Minister Lapid coming to my office now. He's in Washington for meetings with the Administration, and I will have a bipartisan meeting with him. And perhaps some of you will even attend our press availability in a short period.
But it's pretty exciting to welcome him here, to once again take great pride in the relationship between Israel and the United States, that Israel's security is essential to U.S. security, that we have those shared values – security, security, security – but also values. And to talk about some of the issues, about a two‑state solution. It has to be a solution. To commend them for their work – the Israelis have been in the lead on COVID. Small country, but big enough to make an impact and for us to learn from.
So I'm very excited about that meeting, and perhaps I'll see some of you at that press avail.
Thank you all. Bye, bye.