Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

October 28, 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 afternoon.  Thank you very much for accommodating the excitement that we had this morning with the visit of the President of the United States, a president with a big vision for America.  And he came to speak to us about how he saw things now, presenting a framework about Building Back Better With Women.  I've said over and over again: the provisions in the bill are about children learning, parents earning.  And that means with universal pre-K and child care, with home health care, with child care tax credit and all the rest.  That is a liberation for women to be able to pursue their careers – helps take care of their families, while their children and their family members are cared for.

So, in any event, what we talked about was that the fact that if any one of these features were in a bill that we were taking up in the Congress – if we were taking up the child care pieces of this and the home health care pieces of it – it would be historic, big, nearly a trillion dollars.  Children learning, parents earning – caring for our loved ones at home and respecting those who do so.

Second piece, on the health care – this one is particularly meaningful to me because of the Affordable Care Act.  The Affordable Care Act has been expanded, of course, to make it stronger, but also to include the people who were not covered in the states that did not expand Medicaid.  We don't expand Medicaid; we expand the Affordable Care Act to enable those folks to have – those families to have access to the affordable care.  If that were the only thing we were doing in this legislation, it would be transformational, transformative and cause for celebration.  So, on the health side, there are many aspects to it.  But that one makes a drastic difference.

And then, when we go to the third bucket, climate – well, as one who, when I was Speaker the first time, I got the climate issue – well, for a long time has been my flagship issue.  But at that time, I formed the Select Committee on Climate.  And we got good things with President Bush in terms of an energy bill, but not a climate bill.  We couldn't get 60 votes in the Senate.  That was when President Obama was president.  And then we moved on to the – we, at the same time, were doing the health issue.  But it was then so important, now drastic and urgent – short fuse on the well-being of our planet.  And so, in this bill – I mean, imagine a half a trillion dollars in this framework that the President discussed – a half a trillion dollars, both in tax credits and in outlays, of what we need to do to protect the planet For The Children.

All three of these – health, planet, child care, et cetera – are all about the children.  They're also about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs – how people access them, jobs that are created by the new green technologies, jobs that are part of the national security of our country, that is necessitated by our protection of the environment.  And so, it is an initiative that gives a big tax cut to the middle class, creates jobs, good-paying jobs, lowers costs for families and while making the wealthiest and big corporations pay their fair share.  That's really the framework that the President shared with us this morning.  And it's remarkable.  It's remarkable in that it’s a big vision, bigger vision than we've seen in a very long time, maybe dating back to President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal – in some respects to Lyndon Johnson, who had a great agenda as well.  Bear in mind, we always remind everyone that Franklin Roosevelt had 319 Democrats in the Congress at the time, and we have 220.  And that makes it – it makes a big difference.

So again, that transformative agenda.  The President was knowledgeable – I mean, he knows chapter and verse because he wrote this.  He campaigned on this.  He spoke to this in his State of the Union address.  I told him last night and this morning – on phone last night, but today in front of our colleagues – that when he gave that State of the Union address, we were standing behind him, sitting behind him: the Vice President [of the] United States, Kamala Harris, and Speaker of the House, me.  And people said, ‘How did it feel?  How did it feel, the two women?’  I said, ‘Well, that was exciting and historic, but what was really exciting is the speech the President made about women – not about two women, but about America's women and what would happen with this progressive agenda that he was putting forth.’

At the same time, we're moving forward with BIF, a once-in-a-century chance to rebuild the infrastructure that – that – that has been, passed the Senate a while back.  The BIF has good things, and it has missing things.  And, of course, the fact that we have the, the reconciliation – but let me not call it that anymore, let's call it the Build Back Better legislation – is essential because that's where we have the major investment in climate, although there is some in the BIF.  

Roads, bridges, water systems crumbling.  Some water systems are over 100 years, made of – and our colleagues talked about their own experiences in their own communities – some made of bricks and, bricks and wood.  That's a nice water system, right?  Electric grid is vulnerable to catastrophic outages, which you have seen, and decades of underinvestment have taken a devastating toll on the safety of our infrastructure.  

There's absolutely no question: the most expensive – the most expensive maintenance is no maintenance.  And that's where we are in many cases.  And it's about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.  Over this, the life of this bill, there’d be seven and a half million jobs, just in the BIF.  If you take it with the other bill, it’d be more like 20 million jobs over the ten year period.  Just with these two bills, not talking about what else happens in the community – in the economy.

So it is – it's pretty exciting.  We are, so where we are in time – that's what you want to know, right?  At three o'clock, Rules – or 2:30 –

­Staff.  Three.

Speaker Pelosi.  Right now, the Rules Committee is preparing to go in.  They have text.  The text is up.  You know, people have said, ‘I want to see text.’  The text is up. The text is up for review – for consideration and for review.  People will then say, ‘Well, this should be this way’ or clarification or addition, subtraction, whatever it is.  This is the legislative process.

And right now, though – we, today, we will be having a hearing.  They'll hear from our Chairmen about the greatness of the Build Back Better initiative.  And it's pretty exciting.  I'm so proud of the work that our Chairs have done and the work that everybody did to try to cut it in half and in a way that we could maintain support for it because that – it is competition for the dollar, even at 3.5 trillion.  When you cut it in half, it becomes shall we say, keener.

So – so that's what's happening now.  So, we had said, for a long time now, if we had a framework that had our priorities spelled out clearly and agreed to, that added up to a topline – start with the priorities and then added up to a topline, which was the limit.  Priorities – I mentioned the topline 1.75 [trillion], approximately, and the commitment that we would have the same bill pass the House and the Senate.  That's what we have now.  That is what the President presented.

And we won't have anything, regardless of whatever input we have in the bill, unless it is agreed to by the Senate.  And, of course, we have to have it comply with a Senate 51-vote rule, the Byrd Rule, and the – there are two things: the Byrd Rule and the privilege scrub.  Is that more in the subject than you ever want to know?

But anyway, that's what we have to do, and we hope to do that soon.  But we, again, have to listen as the printed version goes out.  There's some clarifications that will come forth because there's – it's always moving a bit.  And that will happen in the manner of just amendments.

So we were on a path to get this done.  But for those who said, ‘I want to see text’ – the text is there for you to review, for you to complain about, for you to add to, to subtract from, whatever it is.  And we'll see what consensus emerges from that.  But we're really very much on a path.  So that's where we are.  We have the, the, the, the BIF, we have the hearing today, we have the text out there.  We’re on a path to get this all done.

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  We've been hearing from a lot of progressives who say they would still not vote for this package.  So, is it premature to move forward with a vote on the bipartisan package today?  And do you trust that Senators Manchin and Sinema will vote based off of what is outlined in this framework?

Speaker Pelosi.  I trust the President of the United States.  And again, the text is out there if they have some, anybody – any Senator, any House Member – has some suggestions about where their comfort level is or their dismay might be, then we welcome that.  But, I trust the President of the United States.

We will – we have, you know, all the things I need, we have agreement on most of those things.  Now, when people see the language, they may say, ‘Well, this goes more – further than I thought.’  I don't know.  We'll see what they say back.  But we are within range on, on other – those things.  There's some things that aren't – not in I frankly have not given up on.  But, being mother – five in six years – I always bring that up: changed more diapers than anybody in the Congress.  I still would like to see paid leave for the babies, if we can't get the rest.  But, that's still a work in progress, shall we say.

Q:  Did you hear from some of your Members, like Cori Bush from Missouri, who say that she felt that she was, quote, her word, ‘bamboozled’ by what she was expecting today.  And Pramila Jayapal, the Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – and that she has the vote to keep the infrastructure bill from passing.  What's your response when you hear that kind of dissention in your Caucus about where you stand, when you presented a very positive picture of where you are?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I have respect for all of our Members on, in the full spectrum of the big tent that is our Democratic Party.  And they have concerns when they hear Senator Manchin say something – he may have other sub-concerns, when they hear them.  It's something – everybody has the chance to say what they wish.

Yes, sir.

Q:  So, one of the things that progressives want is to have a vote on the Build Back Better bill at the same time [as] the Infrastructure bill.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, that's right.  That's what they say.

Q:  Why not just wait – delay it for a few days, a week, whatever, in order to move these bills at the same time?  Why are you insisting on having this infrastructure?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we have had a target for this for a long time.  You have to remember that we planned the $3.5 trillion, we were totally ready – and I say this because I feel some level of responsibility for working everybody so hard to be on time for the September 15th.  And then, then, the rug was pulled out when they said, ‘We're not going that high.’  And then we had to take it down.  But in the meantime, the clock did not stop ticking on the calendar.  Did I mix my metaphors or my timeframes?

The – so, when we see that October 31st is the date of expiration of the Highway Trust Fund, then we made this the target date for us to get this done.  We need certainty.

Let me just, just read this to you from, from our colleague.  Today – if the House does not pass the Build Back by October 31st – this is from Peter DeFazio – ‘surface transportation programs once again must be extended.’  ‘Without an authorization in place, the Federal Highway Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Federal Transit Administration will have to cease affected operations and, as a result, that would force the furlough of approximately 3,700 employees at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Short-term extensions are highly disruptive to transportation project planning and delivery carried out by State Departments of Transportation, transit’ – and it goes on and on.

So, this is professional.  Let's do it in a timely fashion.  Let's not just keep having postponements and, and leaving any doubt as to when this will happen.

Q:  Madam Speaker, you know, you have called this – as has the President – ‘transformational.’

Speaker Pelosi.  Excuse me, I'm sorry.

Q:  I said, you and the President have called this legislation ‘transformational’ – the Build Back Better Act.  But, how is this transformational if you're having to cut things like paid leave –

Speaker Pelosi.  If you have to do what?

Q:  I said, how is this transformational if you're having to cut things like paid leave, these major climate programs – and what are the plans?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, thank you so much for your question.  It is transformative.  And it is historic.  And it's the issues that it addresses.  And it's not issues; these are values.  And the resources that are allocated there – I'm still fighting for paid leave.  I, frankly, have a hard time debating it because I don't understand why we don't – wouldn't have that.  But, nonetheless, let us not undermine the fact that, that we have nearly a trillion dollars in universal pre-K, child care, Child Tax Credit, home health care and the rest.  So, one program – as important as it is – does not subtract from the rest of it. 

Again, we still want that.  We have it.  We passed it in the Department of Defense bill – a former Department of Defense bill, which has paid family – not family, just family leave, not medical – family leave for federal Department of Defense employees and the civilian workforce associated with that.  So, we've already have gone down that path very nicely.  In fact, Senator Manchin said some very good things when he voted for that bill, which had that in there. 

But, how can I say that this is – how can I say that this is transformative?  Because it is.  Because it is.  Because children in twelve states, families in twelve states will now have access to the Affordable Care Act.  Millions of people added to that.  That's very important. 

Because we'll have a half a trillion dollars to save the planet – and that's a jobs issue.  Well, it's a health issue, first of all: clean air, clean water, addressing the asthma issues and all the rest and the environmental injustice of it all.  It's a health issue.  It's a jobs issue – of green, new green technologies, had America be preeminent in the world in those technologies.  It's a national security issue, as our security experts tell us that conflict that could arise from competition for habitat and resources, because of rising sea levels and all of the other consequences of climate, the climate crisis.  And it is a values issue: for us to be – honor our responsibility to future generations, pass this planet on in a responsible way.  And the fuse is growing shorter on the timeframe for us to do that.  Matters are getting worse.  And we are not going to make matters worse.  We're going to pass this legislation. 

And, as I say that, we have to – what this legislation will do is to help the President meet his goals, the goals of America, for how we reduce emissions and pollution and the rest.  And not only how we do that – meet and beat the goals of the Paris Accord – but also how we help other countries do so.  The poorest nations in the world have contributed the least to the emissions challenge that we face, and we need to share technology and other resources with them so that they can meet their goals as well. 

So, then, the third part of it.  I talked about the care piece of it, the health care piece of it, and this is quite remarkable.  And if you took any one piece of it, it would be transformative and historic.  Taken together, it's quite a spectacular vision that President Biden has put forth.  I salute him for it. 

And, when I try to, shall we say, make a case for this or that, he says, ‘You don't have to tell me.  I wrote it.  I know the particulars.’  And that was what was so demonstrated this morning: his meticulous attention to detail, his encyclopedic knowledge of what, everything that was in the bill.  We're really blessed with his leadership.  And when he goes to these meetings – with the G20 now and then to meet His Holiness the Pope and to go to Glasgow – we want them to go as strong as possible. 

When I had my meeting with His Holiness the Pope, I brought the President's greetings – and, of course, I brought the greetings of the Congress of the United States.  And the climate was a very big, important issue for His Holiness, as I know it will be part – I assume it will be part of their discussion. 

But, the climate issue is not just about, as I say, health and that.  It's about people in poverty, having – taking a terrible bite of this wormy apple called the climate crisis.  So, it's a big values issue for us.  Any time you want to ask me why I think this is transformative, I'm happy to answer that question.  I’m –

Q:  The White House framework includes a $100 billion investment that they say is separate for immigration.  Is that separate within the Build Back Better Act, or is it separate from the Build Back Better Act?

Speaker Pelosi.  It's over and above the $1.75 [trillion].  It’s over and above, yeah. 

Staff.  Last question. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That was it?  That was the last question.  Thank you all very much. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, a simple question.  Are you holding an infrastructure vote today?

Staff.  Thank you.

Q:  So, are you holding an infrastructure vote today?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I'm just getting my mask. 

[Laughter]