Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

October 22, 2020
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 we gather here this morning once again, the toll rises: 222,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus that we know of.  Over 8 million have been infected by it.  Over 20 million people are out of work because of the coronavirus. 

It is urgent that we come to agreement to crush the virus, to put money in the pockets of the American people and to honor our heroes – our state and local workers, our health care workers, our police and fire, first responders, our transportation, sanitation, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, all of whom make our society function and run, many of whom risk their lives to save lives.  And now they may lose their jobs, and over a million already have because we have not honored them.

We lose all authority to thank them and honor them and wish them well if we do not want to allocate the resources necessary to compensate for the money outlaid to fight the virus, to meet the health needs of people and their communities, as well as the revenue lost because of the virus. 

So we, again, to protect the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy, we continue to be engaged in negotiations, and I am hopeful that we will be able to reach agreement. 

We've made good progress this week on the subject of crushing the virus, crushing the virus.  We are so long overdue to have a national strategic plan based on science, funded adequately, in order to get the job done. 

I don't know what – who or what the Administration was relying on since February to neglect or to avoid or decide not to crush the virus, but we have made progress this week.  Because we will not go forward unless we get to the heart of the sadness of the matter, and sadness of the matter.  We are not going to be opening our schools and our economy safely unless we crush the virus. 

So, I'm pleased that we have reached a point where we at least – well, we still haven’t, they still haven't completely signed off on it, but I think we're just about there – that we will allocate, again, the resources and the policies necessary to do that. 

Health comes into a number of things: testing, tracing, treatment, sanitation, separation, mask wearing – all the things that science tells us would have stopped the spread, would have stopped the spread of this virus.  In fact, a report this morning that had well over 100,000 people who could have been saved if we had engaged in those practices as science dictated, but was not followed.

Also, how we fund the health care providers, and that is something that we're reaching agreement on, as well as how we fund the vaccination, vaccine and the distribution of the vaccine; and how we meet the health needs of people who have lost their jobs and, therefore, lost their health care, are on unemployment, how we come with some assistance for health care to them.  So, that's the health care package that I think we're at a good place on. 

The issue of educating our children.  I mentioned safety in the workplace and safety in our schools – essential to crush the virus to make that happen.  But, in the meantime, our schools should be the safest places in America for our children, for our children to learn.  Children learning, parents earning.  If children can go to school, parents have an easier time of it to go to work. 

The workplace has to be safe, and that's part of our discussion here, but let me spend a moment on the schools, because it relates to everything we need to do for our children. 

It only takes – in other words, we can make our schools safe.  It only takes money.  And, really, not that much more money than we have – that they have in the bill.  But it's not just the money; it's how it is spent.  For our schools, we need more space, more classrooms, and, therefore, more teachers, more support staff.  We need better ventilation, technology to address some of the learning responsibilities that we have for our children. 

It's hard to understand why we would shortchange our children by holding back on what we need to do for our schools.  So, that remains one of our questions.  And I'm hopeful.  We just – we exchanged texts.  We just sent them the most recent text.  In that text, we talk about why we need those resources. 

And our provenance of our Members – of our numbers are the American Association of School Superintendents: well‑documented, institutional, academic, scientific basis as to why we need more resources to make our schools safe for our children.  It seems to me that should be our highest priority because children are affected so drastically by not being able to go to school.

And many children are affected by the virus.  You've heard me say again and again, if you're an African American child, you are five times more likely to go to the hospital for COVID than a white child.  If you're an Hispanic child, you are eight times more likely to go to a hospital for COVID than a white child. 

More people of color have died of coronavirus than white people.  And that's why our crush‑the‑virus testing, tracing, treatment is so important, because we have to do what we need to do to make it happen and to see the impact in the minority community, which they had erased from the bill, but now it is back. 

So, the children, again, from the standpoint of COVID, are affected; from the standpoint of school safety, are affected.  And another point that affects the children is one thing that we have not received a positive answer ye,t but I had been hopeful – we'll see – was to help children in families who have lost their jobs because of COVID or children who are in families that are falling into poverty.  The figures range from six million to eight million families more have fallen into poverty because the CARES Act benefits are running out. 

This can't happen in our country.  How can we have a bill that sustains a CARES Act provision that gives $150 billion – $150 billion – to the wealthiest families in our country and won't – we give a third of that to the neediest families in our country so that they can get back on their feet. 

The scientists – the economists in every place on the scale in terms of philosophy and experience, whether they're Secretaries of the Treasury or some other academics, they have told us that the best way, the best dollars we can spend are the dollars we spend on the neediest.  The neediest.  They need the money the most, and, therefore, they will spend it the fastest, injecting demand into the economy, creating jobs, stimulus – stimulus.  It's also the right thing to do for our families, but it is also stimulus. 

And that holds true of what we have in the Earned Income Tax Credit refundability; the Child and Dependent Tax Credit, refundable; the Child Tax Credit, and makes a tremendous difference in the lives of these families as they hopefully will return to work and more work, because some of them are still working.  These are the working, working poor. 

Essential to our children's well‑being, whether it's their education or their health or their economic security, is honoring our heroes.  I talked about them before.  And, again, we're not going to have safe schools unless we have strong support not only from the federal government but also from state and local government, who largely fund – well over 90 percent of public education is funded at the state and local government.  The money from the federal government is largely about helping children who are in economically disadvantaged situations as well as children with disabilities. 

So, again, you're hurting kids if you're not doing state and local; you're hurting kids if you're not doing enough for education; you're hurting kids if you're giving tax breaks to the rich and ignoring their families; you're hurting kids unless you're doing what we need to do to crush, crush the virus. 

And then putting money into people's pockets, that's one way.  And the other is – we've come, I think, to terms on the direct payments. 

But, we still haven't come to terms on – and I'm sad about this, because it's so central to who we are as a people and so called for in our Constitution, and that would be the Census and the elections.  So, that's where we are on that. 

And, again, they don't – we're having to make a case to crush the virus at the same time as they are crushing the Affordable Care Act.  They have – they're in court.  You know, people talk about it's twelve days until the election.  It's nineteen days before we go before the Supreme Court for the oral arguments to overturn the Affordable Care Act, a goal of this President and Republican attorneys general across the country and the Republicans in the Congress of the United States.  It's why they're in such a hurry to confirm a Justice who shares their view, as she has written, who shares their view on it.  And she's even written about it and criticized the Chief Justice for his support of it. 

But even on top of all of that, Senator Feinstein asked the nominee if she believed that Medicare was constitutional, and she could not respond.  She did not give an answer to that.  She said she could not answer that question in the abstract. 

Here we have a nominee endangering one of the most sacred American pillars of health and financial security for seniors and their families.  ‘I cannot answer that in the abstract,’ is Medicare constitutional.  No surprise to any of us here, because for years we've been hearing the Republicans say Medicare should wither on the vine – Medicare should wither on the vine.  So, we have a lot at stake in this nomination and, therefore, all the more at stake in this election.

One of the things I got the most calls about, about the hearings, was what she said when she was asked about climate, the climate crisis.  She was asked if it were happening, and she said – she was asked about the scientific fact, if climate change is happening.  She called it ‘controversial.’  ‘I am certainly not a scientist.  I have read things about climate change.  I would not say I have firm views on that.’  Really? 

Defiance of science, we see it throughout everything we do: defiance of science in not facing up to the coronavirus so many months ago, where so many lives could have been saved; defiance of science in terms of saving our planet; defiance of science in recognizing the need for the Affordable Care Act to meet the health needs and, in effect, the financial needs of America's families because of the cost of health care. 

And that's exactly what is on the ballot: the Affordable Care Act.  The Affordable Care Act and the preventive care benefits that are in it, they will be gone, and no longer – because insurance companies would no longer be required to cover essential preventive services, which are some of the most popular aspects of the bill. 

The most well‑known benefit that will be gone is the pre-existing condition protection.  That benefit will be gone.  Insurance will be able to deny people coverage because of pre-existing conditions.  And now COVID has added millions of people to that list.  Already, about 150 million families are affected by the pre-existing condition challenge and, therefore, benefit from the Affordable Care Act. 

Medicaid expansion: states will lose their funding for the Medicaid expansion.  And people think of it as a poor‑children's initiative, and it is, thank God, but it is also a middle‑class benefit, because much of the money that is spent on long‑term care for our seniors comes from Medicaid.  Not so much anymore, if the Republicans have their way and have a Court that does not believe in precedence. 

Again, all the other things.  Being a woman is – under the Affordable Care Act, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition.  We're back to that.  If your child is on your policy up to 26 years old, forget about that.  The list goes on and on. 

And we talk about the fact that those of us who were involved in the Affordable Care Act were so proud that 20 million more people would have access to quality, affordable health care.  But it's not just that; 150 million families have better benefits because of the Affordable Care Act.  Let me name them again: a benefit of having a pre-existing condition protection, preventive care benefits, Medicaid expansion.  Women paid more before the Affordable Care Act.  You know the list.

So, in any event, this election becomes very, very important, because, no matter what the Court does, now that they've lined it up against the American people, against their good health, we in the Congress can change all of that.  And we've already introduced legislation to enhance the Affordable Care Act, because we know any bill can always be better, any legislation can always be better. 

But people have to know, don't be afraid of the Court, as scary as it is, as we approach Halloween.  Understand that the election – the election has ramifications.  If we win the House, the Senate, and the White House, we'll be able to have an even stronger Affordable Care Act to overcome what the Supreme Court may dangerously do. 

Not even knowing if Medicare is constitutional.  And, again, criticizing the Chief Justice for his vote in support of the Affordable Care Act's constitutionality when that vote came up. 

One other subject I wanted to bring up is the subject of the foreign interference in our elections.  When I leave here, I will go to a briefing from the DNI and perhaps others, and I'll be very interested to hear what they have to say in a classified briefing, because everything we have seen in the public domain does not justify the statements that we heard yesterday. 

We don't want any foreign interference in our elections from anyone.  We think intimidation in the election is wrong, foreign or domestic, foreign or domestic.  So, to give equivalence to one country and another, when we know that Russia has, for a long time, 24/7, in the past election and this one, been there to undermine our election, they try to make an equivalence with China. 

I take second place to no one in this Congress in my criticisms of China, whether it's human rights, whether it's trade violations, whether it's proliferation of weapons technology that are dangerous and sending it to rogue nations.  But the fact – I know what they're doing.  I've tracked them every day for 30 years or a little bit more. 

But in the public domain, you can see that what they are doing is their usual, trying to infiltrate the thinking of people in our country to be sympathetic to China, a lot less to do with the elections. 

Russia is the villain here.  From what we have seen in the public domain, Iran is a bad actor but in no way equivalent.  And they always try to find some equivalence to protect their friend, Russia. 

I have confidence in this Director of the FBI that laws – votes will be protected, that laws will not be violated.  And we don't want this message coming out from the DNI now to give people any impression that they should be afraid to vote, that their vote will not be counted as cast. 

I'll be eager to hear what they have to say.  I'm glad I'm having this meeting with you before I hear what they have to say, because everything I've said to you now is in the public domain. 

Elections are sacred.  They should be treated with respect.  I don't know what the DNI is up to with this.  Hopefully, it is wholesome.  That remains to be seen. 

Again, I urge everyone to vote.  There's a lot of poison out there.  The best antidote to the poison is the vote, is the vote. 

Over 30 – is it over 30 million people that have voted by now? 

Staff.  Forty‑two million. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Forty‑two million people have voted already.  God bless them.  Whoever they voted for, God bless them for exercising their sacred right to vote and to do so in such a patriotic way, waiting in lines and the rest. 

And I hope that will continue well up until the close of polls on Election Day, twelve days and – let me see – about ten – not ten hours – well, ten hours from now in California, and I have to always think in terms of California. 

***

With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions you have. 

Garrett? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, forgive my cynicism, but I don't understand your optimism on a deal on the COVID relief.  I mean, you're twelve days out from an election –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  – with a President you expect to defeat, who you'd need to convince anybody in his party in the Senate to vote for this thing.  They don't seem to have any appetite to vote for anything bigger than this, you know, $500 billion package on the Senate side.  You know, we're months into this.  I just – I don't understand.  Are these talks going just to keep the talks going at this point?  I just – 

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, no. 

Q:  – don't see how this happens. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Garrett, let me just say this.  If this talk – these talks did not have a purpose and if we were not making progress, I wouldn't spend five seconds in these conversations.  And I say that in friendship to the Secretary.  ‘Why would I even be talking to you?’  And he says the same thing to me.  ‘Why would I even be talking to you?’ 

So, this is not anything other than, I think, a serious attempt.  I do believe that both sides want to reach an agreement. 

I can't answer for the disarray on the Senate side.  One day, the leader says, ‘I don't want to do it before the election.  Put it together.  We'll do it after.’  Another day, he'll say, ‘Send it over, and I'll put it on the Floor sometime.’  Another day, he says other things.  It's not up to me to psych out Mitch McConnell.  It's about the President of the United States engaging in a discussion, that it's up to him to deliver what can happen on the Senate side. 

But, again, as I've said to you before, we're not going to make the world straight in this bill, but we are going to crush the – finally, finally take a step to crush the virus and do other things.  And we can't pass a bill that makes matters worse, which is what everything – every time they do something, they have something in there that – one step forward, two steps back.  No, we want to keep going in a forward direction. 

I mean, I'm used to negotiations, and when you get to the end is really the hardest part.  But we've sent more paper over. 

I told you one of the big issues is education.  We have a different view of how the money should be spent on education, again, grounded in what we are told by the Association of Superintendents of Schools, other associations which have no political past; they're just objective measures of what is needed. 

And we could do something great.  And I'm still optimistic that we can do that.  We'll have to compromise.  We can't swallow – neither side can swallow poison pills.  And we're narrowing those differences.

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Q:  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir? 

Q:  Do you –

Q:  If you –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, one, two. 

Q:  Okay.

Speaker Pelosi.  One, two.

Q:  If you can get a deal – if, over the next 72 hours, you and Mnuchin can come together and make a bill, would you bring it to the Floor next week, or do you think you need to wait until after the election?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well – and let's just say, you have a hypothetical, ‘if’ we can get an agreement.  I think that we can.  But, again, we're legislators.  We understand how long things take.  They're not, in the White House.  They are not. 

So, I keep saying, it's just not a question of us agreeing in a room; it's a question of the CBO weighing in with the score, the legislative counsel writes these things, raising their questions and putting it in legislative order.  It takes time. 

I wanted to take the opportunity you've given me to salute my chairs.  Because, before meetings I talk to the chairs, and after I report to them as to what happened in their particular arena.  And they're so smart, and their staffs are so, shall we say, professional in getting into print what we were talking about. 

So, it takes time, because this is not slamming down a – what time we're going to have dinner next week.  This is about establishing a plan to crush a virus, to honor our heroes, to put money in the pockets of the American people and do so in a way that does not harm our children but instead can improve it. 

So, it can happen.  It's up to them.  It's really up to them.  When people say, ‘Take the deal,’ there was no deal.  What deal?  Is a deal one‑sided, take their bill?  No.  It wasn't passable.  It wasn't passable.  It didn't crush the virus.  It didn't do any of the things it was supposed to do. 

So, I'm pretty happy – not ‘happy’ – I'm pleased at where we are now.  And if we can resolve some of these things in the next few days, it will take a while to write the bill.  I had hoped that we could be writing starting now.  And we are putting pen to paper in certain easier parts of the bill.  But it's close.  It's close. 

And the question is, where will the President be at any given moment?  He's been all over the map, all over the lot.  But I think that we have gotten him to a good place to agree, especially on crushing the virus.  This is a major, major advance.

Q:  Will you have time to put it on the Floor?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it depends on when we finish.  It depends on when we finish. 

Yes, sir? 

Q:  Have you come to an agreement on state and local funding? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Q:  No? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, we haven't.

Q:  And on liability?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, we haven't. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, these serious allegations of corruption involving Joe Biden –

[Crosstalk]

Speaker Pelosi.  Excuse me. 

You had a question there? 

Q:  Have you –

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm sorry.  I'm not answering your questions, okay?  We're talking about the coronavirus.  That's what I – I don't have all day for questions.  That's what we're taking now. 

Anybody have a question on the coronavirus negotiations? 

Yes, sir? 

Q:  I wondered how confident you were that thirteen Republican Senators would vote.  There's been skepticism from Senate Majority Whip Thune about not having enough.  And then, also, have you had discussions with Mnuchin about convincing Republican Senators? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me say this: I'm not particularly interested in a bill that has thirteen Senators.  We have to have strong bipartisanship on the legislation that we come together on.  I would hope that we could have bipartisanship in the House and in the Senate. 

We've negotiated four of these bills.  The last bill, the CARES Act, was a terrible bill.  It was corporate trickle‑down.  We had our bill, Take Responsibility, and we brought it to bubble‑up.  We didn't get everything we wanted.  They still got their $150 billion for the richest people in America.  But, nonetheless, we got a bill that made, I think, a good difference, not everything, but a good difference. 

So, getting Republican votes is not my job, in case you didn't notice.  That's up to them.  That's up to them. 

And, again, they know – I think they come to the table with some level of confidence that, if we can reach an agreement, that we can – the President wants a bill.  The President wants a bill.  And so that's part of the opportunity that we have. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  Forgive me on this.  When you say the President wants a deal, the President wants a deal until the minute he decides that he doesn't want a deal.

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right.

[Laughter]

Q:  So how do you deal with that?

Speaker Pelosi.  It's called ‘disarray’ – Mitch McConnell, the President. 

Q:  And you're also running up against some logistics in terms of trying to get this – like you said, you still have things you've got to work out on state and local, you've still got things you've got to work out and get pen to paper and get it done. 

So, that comes just up to the actual Election Day.  So, is it more important to get it done before Election Day, or is it more important to get it done and you don't really care when that happens as long as it gets done?  Like, are you willing to wait until after you get what you want, or do you need it before?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we're not going to agree to a bill that is not acceptable to my Caucus and to my chairs, who have effectively written the Heroes Act.  I think we're talking about the same thing.  It's only about time. 

Now, somebody may make a decision on their side that they don't want it before the election.  I think it is in range for us to pass it before the election.  But it's not up to me to decide what the Senate does.  That's a conversation between the President and the Majority Leader. 

But we wouldn't take less of a bill to get it sooner.  We want the best bill in range. 

And, again, as I've said – and I'll end with this.  What I say is, help is on the way.  It will be bigger, it will be better, it will be safer and it will be retroactive. 

Thank you all.  Bye bye.