Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

October 21, 2021
Press Release

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, everyone. 

As you probably observed, earlier this week, we had a moment of silence on the Floor for over 700,000 people, over – what's now almost 725,000 people who have died of COVID in the United States.  This issue always is the top of our agenda in the work that we do here.  I know there's lots of attention to other legislation that goes on, but this is an important priority for us. 

Last weekend, when I was in the G7 – the G20, G7 and NATO, the COVID issue looms large on the global scene as well.  Just now, we had a press – a Caucus – actually, it was a Whip meeting under Mr. Clyburn’s leadership, who chairs our COVID Select Committee, with [a] report on what we're doing domestically, what we're doing globally. 

But, it just continues to be a preeminent concern for us in the Congress, as it is a preeminent concern for the American people.  That's the report – reports we get back from our Members from their districts.  We know that, and we want to praise the President for his exceptional leadership in addressing these concerns.  Vaccines in arms, money in people's pockets, safety in the workplace, children going back to school – all impacted by governance and science in this regard.  At the same time, we have a global responsibility.  And we know that, and we certainly are doing a lot, but we have to do more. 

So, here we are, down through the stretch.  You know, I'm from Maryland, I'm – horse-racing, sports, sports, sports, but now, horse-racing.  And you get to the – we're almost to the stretch.  We've rounded the turn, and we're almost to the stretch.  And we're making great progress to our goal of securing a framework agreement for Build Back Better in a timely fashion.  We're going to – it's going to be – although it's a smaller bill, it's still historic, transformational, and it will make an enormous difference in the lives of America's working families. 

Again, in the health care arena, we have lowering health care cost by reducing prescription drug prices.  That's part of our goal.  Expanding Medicaid in the states that did not accept the expansion before, strengthening the ACA and improving Medicare, taking us near – to nearly universal coverage in our country. 

Another bucket is the family care piece of that.  Children learning, parents earning.  Especially moms, but dads, too, who have responsibilities in the home.  With the Child Tax Credit, child care/universal pre-K – they go together.  Home health care, paid family and medical leave, workplace development and housing, to name a few of the aspects of that.  And, again, very important to our children.  These are jobs issues.  Health and jobs.  Family issues and jobs. 

And, now, climate.  Helping achieve the President's vision to cut emissions in half by 2030, advancing environmental justice.  That's a very important part of all of this for the President: justice.  And creating good-paying, clean energy jobs.  So, it's about the health of our children.  The air they breathe, water they drink.  It's about jobs, good – creating good-paying, green jobs to make us preeminent in the world.

It's about a security issue, as our experts, our security experts tell us.  Competition for habitat and resources in time of drought and the rest and the migration it contributes to, other, other natural disasters.  It's a national security issue.  

And, of course, always a moral issue: to pass this planet in the best possible way on to future generations.  Children understand that much better than some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, in fact. 

So, this will – Build Back Better achieves a better future for workers, their families and their children: creating good-paying jobs, giving a tax cut – a big tax cut to the middle class, lowering costs for families and making the wealthiest – the wealthiest and corporations pay their fair share, so this legislation will be paid for.  In fact, it may be more than paid for.  Again, it's transformative.  It's historic.  It's life-changing.  And it will pass soon.

Again, everything that the Congressional Democrats do is our title: For The People.  But sadly, Senate Republicans continue to stand in the way.  Yesterday, yesterday was such a sad day: Senate Republicans voted to aid and abet the most dangerous campaign of voter suppression since Jim Crow, as they blocked a vote on the Freedom to Vote Act, hurting their own constituents and dishonoring the sanctity of the vote in our Constitution.  

The stakes could not be higher.  State lawmakers have introduced 425 voter suppression bills in 49 states in the 21st – 2021 sessions alone.  A number of them have become law, and they must be overturned.  And this legislation would do that.  It would not only end the voter suppression laws, but it would end their voter – vote nullification laws.  They're there to overturn the results of an election.  Really? 

House Democrats have passed H.R. 1 – which is now the bill that I mentioned in the Senate, the Freedom to Vote Act, as modified in the Senate, it's a good bill – H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.  And, today, when I leave here, I’ll go out this door and go to the 10th anniversary of [the] MLK Memorial dedication.  The MLK Memorial.  Ten years, it's been.  Imagine, Martin Luther King was – 58 years ago, nearly 60 years ago, when he stood near that place and talked about justice and democracy and the beautiful speech, the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and this fierce urgency of now.  Now, Martin Luther King is there on the Mall.  As John Lewis called it, ‘America's front yard,’ with Washington and Lincoln and Jefferson – Presidents of the United States – and Reverend Martin Luther King.  So, we’ll go down there and then, honoring Dr. King, of course, being inspired by his work and words to protect the ballots. 

Meanwhile, here on the Hill, the Select Committee on January 6th continues its work.  This week, unanimously on a bipartisan basis, voting to hold one of the past president's advisors to contempt for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena.  The Committee is seeking information from Bannon that is central to the investigative and legislative purpose, to investigate the January 6th domestic terrorist attack that was intended to interfere with the peaceful, Constitutional transfer of power, and then see what legislation is necessary that springs from that.  According to published reports, Bannon had specific knowledge about the events of January 6th before they occurred and had multiple roles relevant to the attack – and very outspoken about it. 

Today, on the House – today on the Floor of the House, we’ll vote to approve this contempt resolution led by the Committee to find the truth. 

Okay, so, everything that the – again, we've got the – everything that the Congressional – the sanctity of the vote, the assault on the Constitution and meeting the needs of the people.  We have a busy, busy few days here.  

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Any questions?

Q:  Madam Speaker?  On Bannon, why is it important that Republicans vote to hold him in contempt?

Speaker Pelosi.  Because they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  The genius of our Constitution, and of our Founders, was the separation of power – checks and balances.  If, in fact, you went to negate the ability of one check of another branch of government over another, then you are undermining the Constitution.  So, this goes beyond Bannon in terms of its importance.  And you would think that if they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, they would vote for that system of checks and balances.

[Crosstalk]

Q:  Do you – I'm curious, do you think a package like this can be completed without rate increases?  Tax rate increases?

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, we changed the subject?

Q:  Yes. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, that's one of the options, that’s for sure.  The last couple of days, just to answer your question, the last couple of days, we've come to – we’re narrowing what the possibilities are, as we see what we need to cover because the bill will be paid for.  And, so, what are the choices that will be made?  So, we met yesterday morning to narrow what needs to be done, and the chairman of the Finance Committee, Mr. Wyden, and the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Neal, had been working to that end.  We had in our House bill, which I was very proud of, an increase in the corporate rate and an increase in the capital gains and that.  It was a very well-received proposal because it wasn't punitive.  It was fair.  But we'll see what survives, prevails. 

Q:  What’s your preference?  Do you have a preference? 

Speaker Pelosi.  My preference is to follow the cooperation that the Senate and House come to.  

Yes, Chad?   

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Next one is a woman, no matter who.

[Laughter]

Q:  Yesterday morning, you said that some – yesterday morning, you said some of the reporting about what was in and out of the bill was not accurate.  Is that because this bill is still in talks?  And does this have to be pre-baked with the Senate before you present it?  Does everything have to be nailed down with the Senate and with Manchin and Sinema?

Speaker Pelosi.  Whatever it is you think I said, what I was saying is that instead of covering what is in the bill, you all seem to be on a jag about a few people.  Ninety-six percent of the House and Senate Democrats support the President's proposal.  You would never know that to see the reporting of it.  But that's your – that's your work.  You do yours, we do ours. 

And you couldn't possibly misrepresent, because it isn't – it isn't done yet.  And it will be, because now we have to narrow the scope, and we are in the process of doing that. 

Q:  And pre-baked with the Senate?  So, that everything is signed off here.  Everything is finalized, before you say this –

Speaker Pelosi.  Our agreement is that we will have an agreement that we – will pass both Houses. 

Yes, ma'am?

Q:  Thank you.  How critical is it to reach an agreement on a framework by tomorrow?  Leader Schumer says he wants to get this done by the end of the week.  Are you on track to doing that?

Speaker Pelosi.  We've always been on track for doing that.  The House has been on schedule.  We have a goal.  We have a timetable.  We have milestones.  And we've met them all.  And this is one of them.

Q:  And on the Child Tax Credit, you talked about the importance of that.  Would a one-year extension be sufficient or acceptable to you? 

Speaker Pelosi.  That – if that, that's what the President has agreed to.  Let me just say: I want permanent Child Tax Credit.  I've wanted it for years.  This is the President's big issue.  It's called the Biden Child Tax Credit.  So if he's – if it's acceptable to him, in light of the bill, it's acceptable to me. 

[Crosstalk]

Q:  Madam Speaker, on climate?

Speaker Pelosi.  On climate?  Yes.  Climate?  Yes.

Q:  Thank you.  On climate, the Clean Energy Performance Plan, it – we’re told on the record, by other Democrats, is now out of the bill.  Does the final bill have to have – meet those same emission reductions, as was in the original House bill, in order for you to accept it?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, the – the point is to reach the goals, the emission goals of – I think I said that in my remarks – of the 20 – reduction to 50 percent by 2030, reduction by 100 percent by 2050, maybe even ahead of that.  We have a responsibility to not only meet, but to beat the Paris Agreement goals. 

And we also have a responsibility to help poorer countries with technology and assistance in order for them to meet their goals.  Those countries are not responsible for very much of the climate crisis, but they are paying a big price because of their vulnerability. 

I had the privilege of speaking in Spain, right before COVID, the most previous – [COP25] to a session on the vulnerables.  And those countries, in their own presentations, show that they're – they pay the price sooner than any of us, and yet they're less – least responsible for the emissions.  So, we have that big responsibility. 

So, it isn’t about a particular plan.  It’s about reaching our goals and how we do it.  I feel very satisfied, the path we're on to do that.

Staff.  Last question.

[Crosstalk]

Q:  – the tax question.  Senator Sinema, from what we understand, has opposed to increasing corporate and individual tax rates.  Has she conveyed that to you?  And the follow-up on this question: could this be fully paid for, as you promised, if her view prevails?

Speaker Pelosi.  The bill will be fully paid for, and it – the matter is in the hands of our Chairs of the Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. 

Q:  Has she conveyed that to you?  Her position to you? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, her position is well known.

Q:  Madam Speaker, on the contempt resolution?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q: So far, Congress has, in recent years, has relied on contempt referrals and civil suits.  Why continue to outsource enforcement of Congress's own authority to the courts? Why not, for instance, advance the Raskin-Lieu bill to enable Congress's inherent contempt authority?  

Speaker Pelosi.  To advance what bill? 

Q:  The Raskin-Lieu bill, resolution that would enable –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we have a [Protecting] Our Democracy legislation, which we will be advancing.  It's being led by Mr. Adam Schiff and Jamie, all of – it captures many of those concerns. 

But, we don't take it to court.  We subpoena people, they take it to court.  But, the fact is that we – that's why we're going to criminal contempt here.  Because this goes beyond –

Q:  That still relies on the discretion of the Justice Department.

Speaker Pelosi.  That does.  It's a system of checks and balances.  And, again, we – you will be seeing, in November – I don't have a date – that we will be ready to come forward with our [Protecting] Our Democracy legislation, and that captures many of the ideas that Members have put forth in that regard.  I don't know if the Republicans want to protect our democracy.  So far, we haven't seen a lot of evidence of that.  But, just in the prospect of, maybe one day, they think they'll have a Republican president or the – or we have a Democratic president now, and they want to protect our democracy from –

Q:  What happens if the Justice Department declines to –

Speaker Pelosi.  You know what?  I want to tell you something.  Have you read the [Protecting] Our Democracy Act? 

Q:  Yes, Ma’am. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Good.  Then you know it addresses many of the concerns that you have. 

Thank you all very much.