Remarks at Media Availability with Leader Schumer
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer held a media availability today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a full transcript:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
As always, it's an honor to welcome back to the House side our former colleague here, but now the Democratic Leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.
Welcome, Mr. Leader.
Leader Schumer. Glad to be here.
Speaker Pelosi. Words have power. When the President speaks, his words weigh a ton, and we've heard some things lately that are very disconcerting. But numbers have eloquence, too.
Yesterday, our nation suffered a horrifying 144,000 new infections recorded, the eighth straight day of over 100,000 cases being reported. More than 65,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID, a new record that threatens to overwhelm our hospitals, and our hospitals in rural areas particularly affected. The devastating milestone of 10 million Americans infected has been passed: 144 [thousand] yesterday, eighth day over 100 [thousand], 65,000 people hospitalized with COVID, 10 million Americans – more than 10 million Americans infected, and more than 240,000 Americans have died.
More than 20 million Americans are on unemployment. America has 1 million fewer teachers than a year ago. That's why we keep saying honor our heroes, state and local government, where our teachers, over 90 percent of their budget comes from. Nearly 8 million people have fallen into poverty, and 17 million children in America are food insecure.
This is a red alert and all hands on deck, but it should have been a long time ago. The President and the Republicans in Congress have ignored by delay, distortion, denial. Deaths have been caused. And what are they doing now? Continuing to ignore, in spite of these numbers that should be so compelling, that are an imperative for us to act upon this. Every kind of avoidance of taking responsibility has been witnessed. Every chance that we had for testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, separation, sanitation, that science tells us to do, they have ignored.
Their contempt for science and their disdain for governance – science says wear a mask, governance says let's enforce that, science, governance, that's not what they're about. That's not what they're about.
And what that is, is they're engaged in an absurd circus right now, refusing to accept reality. The Republicans are shamefully pretending – proceeding, without recognizing what our responsibility is, and making it even harder to address the massive health – health and economic crisis that we're facing.
A delayed ascertainment of the major harm caused to the presidential transition is something of another subject. Right now, we are talking about addressing the crisis, the pandemic. If we do so, scientifically, we will be able, we will be able to open our economy, we'll be able to open our schools safely, but to do so in a way that recognizes the tragedy that has befallen us in our country because of the Republican denial of science and disdain for governance.
So, stop the circus and get to work on what really matters to the American people, their health and their economic security.
With that, I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished Democratic Leader of Senate, Mr. Schumer.
Leader Schumer. Thank you, Madam Speaker. It's good to be back. Now, good morning.
This is a moment of great national challenge. COVID‑19 is surging. Small businesses are shuttering. Families are struggling. People continue to lose jobs and not gain new ones.
We just had a divisive and hard‑fought presidential election. But instead of working, but instead of working to pull the country back together so that we can fight our common enemy, COVID‑19, Republicans in Congress are spreading conspiracy theories, denying reality and poisoning the well of our democracy.
The Republicans should stop their shenanigans about an election that President Trump has already lost and focus their attention on the immediate issue at hand, providing relief to a country living through the COVID health and economic crises. When it comes to the election, Republicans, Congressional Republicans, don't have the evidence. They don't have the proof. They don't have anything. Neither does the President. Congressional Republicans are deliberately casting doubt on our elections for no other reason but fear of Donald Trump. These Republicans are all auditioning for profiles in cowardice.
So, this morning, I have a very simple message for Senate Republicans. The election is over. It wasn't close. President Trump lost. Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States. Kamala Harris will be the next Vice President of the United States. Senate Republicans, stop denying reality. Stop deliberately and recklessly sowing doubt about our democratic process, and start focusing on COVID.
The Republican refusal to deal with reality is hurting our country in many ways: fighting the health crisis of COVID, improving our economy and not compromising our national security.
It's time to move on and get to work for the American people, and I want to be very clear with the American people. The election's not in doubt. This is nothing more than a temper tantrum by Republicans, nothing more than a pathetic political performance for an audience of one, President Donald John Trump. There is nothing. This is nothing, Republicans, like the 2000 election, when the presidential election came down to one state, and the difference between candidates was only 537 votes.
Joe Biden's victory in the Electoral College has been secured by several states where tens of thousands of votes separate the candidates. Joe Biden leads in Wisconsin by 20,000; Pennsylvania, 50,000; Michigan, 146,000. That's the facts. Biden's won. Nothing Republicans or Trump can do will change that.
All over the country, legal claims by the President and his Republicans allies are being laughed out of court. The New York Times called election officials from both parties in every state in the country. Not one, not one reported any evidence of fraud or irregularities. These frivolous lawsuits have less than a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding.
So, let me speak directly to my Republican colleagues in the Senate. Once again, Joe Biden has won. Now, move on and work with us to solve the COVID crisis. Let us bring the country together and get things done. Every day, as the Speaker mentioned, hundreds of thousands are getting sick, thousands are dying. We don't have time for these kinds of games. The American people are waiting for relief from the COVID virus, but Republicans refuse to take comprehensive action that meets the needs of the country.
The Heroes Act, passed in the House, does meet this moment. It doesn't pick and choose who we're going to help during the greatest health and economic crises in decades. It's laser‑focused on health care issues that are at the heart of this pandemic. The Heroes Act does something that's vital. It strengthens Medicaid and improves access to health care coverage, support for hospitals. At a time when COVID is raging, health care money, Medicaid expansion should be at the very top of the list.
These are the issues we should be discussing and debating. And the Heroes Act should be the starting point, not an emaciated bill that prioritizes protections for corporations and considers the needs of American families as an afterthought.
Every day that goes by without the Republican Party acknowledging and accepting the results of this election is another day Americans' faith in their wonderful democracy declines. The longer Senate Republicans play the sad game is the longer they are denying working families much‑needed relief from the COVID health and economic crises.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Leader.
Yes, indeed, the Heroes Act has now, for nearly six months, been a formula for crushing the virus, for honoring our heroes, our health care workers, our police and fire, our first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, our sanitation, transportation, food workers, people who make our economy and our society work.
As I said earlier, over 1 million teachers have already lost their jobs since last year. We need to help our state and local government. They say from time to time that they want to do that but they – we haven't seen that evidence.
Secondly, secondly – and this is almost sinful – crushing the virus is essential. In the time of the pandemic, instead of crushing the virus, they want to crush the Affordable Care Act, as was demonstrated in the Supreme Court the other day and, a very important point, among many others, that the Leader made about the expansion of Medicaid. Many seniors, this is a middle‑income benefit, middle‑income family benefit. Many, many seniors who are in long‑term care, almost 70 percent of that long‑term care is covered by Medicaid. So, yes, it is for poor children and poor families, but an overwhelming amount of it goes to help middle‑class families have long‑term care for their seniors.
Again, again, part of the Affordable Care Act not fully implemented by some states. But, again, under siege in the court, the central issue of it, access to affordable health care, preventive care and protecting the pre-existing condition benefit, which will go right down the drain with the President's case in the court.
So, there's – it's hard to – what are they thinking? Or am I using the word ‘thinking’ loosely? People are suffering. Even before the coronavirus, the Affordable Care Act was essential, not just to the people who got, the 20 million more people, and that's a blessing, but the 150 million families who have private health care, health insurance through their employment and who have increased benefits in the bill, as well as the Medicaid expansion, so important. And the list goes on and on. I won't go through all the benefits except to say that over 75 million people voted their health to protect the Affordable Care Act, crush the virus, so that we can open up our economy in a healthy way. And it's all doable.
Let me just end on a hopeful note. The news of the [vaccine], at least one [vaccine], and perhaps another right on the heels, coming out that are very promising, and with high levels of protection, should give people motivation to do what is necessary, to self‑quarantine, to wear a mask, et cetera, because just – it will only take a short period of time with many more people doing that, to reduce the incidents of the virus, as we go into the path of a vaccine.
So, again, we should be hopeful but we have to be careful and we have to honor the science, whether it's about how we, how we embrace a vaccine. The vaccine will be – the more it is embraced, the more effective it will be. And the more effective it will be, we need more of it and call upon the President to use the Defense Production Act to make sure that enough is produced so that everybody is cared for, because unless we're all protected – that means in the world, not just in our country – none of us is protected.
So, on the health issue, it's just they seem to have a mental block to doing the right thing, a moral block for respecting what it's doing to America's families as we – I'll close with Martin Luther King who said of all the inequalities, the inequality of access to health care is the most inhuman because people will die.
Any questions on this subject? We're sticking with this subject today. Tomorrow I'll have my weekly, and I'll go into other things.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: Is it fair to say your position on the coronavirus relief has not changed since before – since where it was before the election? Is that a fair characterization? Your position –
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, relief. On relief.
Q: – on the coronavirus, has that not changed since before the election? Is that fair?
Speaker Pelosi. It has been our position all along to crush the virus, honor our heroes, put money in the pockets of the American people. But you have the Administration saying, ‘Well, we have just made a light touch on their language on testing.’ No, 55 percent of the language, which addressed what we were trying to do for people of – communities of color. So, yeah, no, we're in that same place, even more so –
Leader Schumer. Even more so.
Speaker Pelosi. – even more so with the pandemic because look at these numbers. Look at these numbers. Look at the predictions from the scientific community. You know, I've come before you over and over again, some weeks ago, with Frank Pallone saying this is what we put in the Heroes Act to crush the virus. Why won't they do it? They were in a herd mentality, herd immunity mood then.
Leader Schumer. And I would just add –
Speaker Pelosi. Please, go.
Leader Schumer. One more thing. One more thing. Given how COVID is raging, the number of hospitalizations, the number of deaths is increased, it makes the health care provisions in the Heroes Act even more important and more vital that they be included.
Q: Madam Speaker, good morning. Thank you both. That said, though, you know, you look closely at the passage of the Heroes Act, it doesn't seem like there's any more of a path to get to 50 votes in the Senate, get close to there. And by that same score here, it seems as though in the House, your position on the larger bill, you have a weaker hand to play in the lame-duck
Congress. If that's not the case, tell me why that's not the case.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think that the most compelling argument, what I said earlier, 144,000 people yesterday, and these people are spread all over the country, the pressure on hospitals all over the country, including in rural areas. So, if the Republicans want to be cold‑hearted and say they don't care, or as the President's son said, 100 – 225,000, I think, at that time, ‘that's no big number,’ kind of thing. No, every single one of those deaths is important to us. We carry those people in our hearts, and they should be carrying them on their conscience for what they did not do. Since we passed the bill, the Heroes Act, over 100,000 more people have died. That could have been prevented.
So, again, you've heard me say a million times, Chad, public sentiment is everything. And now that the people have expressed their views, Joe Biden has won. Kamala Harris will be the first woman Vice President of the United States. I said to them, if we didn't have masks, last week, they could see us beaming with that success. What they have been proposing is very similar to what we have in the Heroes Act. And we just have to fight to make sure that if the Republicans decide that they don't care about the health and well‑being about Medicaid and what it means to people in their lives, is that the public will know.
Leader Schumer. And I would just say one more thing. Chad, one more thing.
First, McConnell is sticking to his emaciated bill which he's tried twice and didn't get a Republican vote. That's sort of a nonstarter. Then he said, ‘Because we have a vaccine, there's even less need for a bill.’ Vaccine makes greater need for a bill, because it has to be distributed fairly and equitably and there needs to be education that it's healthy and everything else.
Second, the biggest change since Election Day is that Donald Trump, who is not for helping us in COVID and who is against the Heroes bill, has lost. That was an overwhelming referendum by the American people.
So, yes, we think there has been change. It should move things in our direction. We're willing to sit down and talk. They haven't wanted to talk. They seem to have stuck to their position.
Q: Madam Speaker –
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just also say that what Joe Biden got in this election was a mandate, a mandate to address the challenges that our country faces, as well as to have a positive initiative or how we grow the economy in a fair way. And in order to do that, we must address the COVID – the pandemic. We must.
Leader Schumer. This election was more, maybe more a referendum on who can handle COVID well than anything else. The Donald Trump approach was repudiated. The Joe Biden approach was embraced. And that's why we think there's a better chance to get a bill in the lame-duck, if only the Republicans would stop embracing the ridiculous shenanigans that Trump is forcing them to do, you know, in the election and focus on what people need.
Q: Republicans –
Speaker Pelosi. You had your turn.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, Speaker Pelosi, in 2000, Democrat Al Gore was allowed to press his legal challenge against George W. Bush in Florida for 37 days. Do you think the same type of patience should be afforded to President Trump in his legal challenges?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me say what Dick Cheney said at the time. In 2000, the delayed ascertainment caused many difficulties. The Bush Administration was outspoken about the – about what was happening in the country. And as the Leader said, this is a completely different situation. We're talking about one state. VP Dick Cheney said on November 27th, ‘We will pay a heavy price for delays in planning and assembly of the next Administration.’
And I don't think, I don't think this – Biden, having been the Vice President of the United States, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Chairman of Judiciary Committee, he knows the territory. So, he's going to be just fine in the transition. He's going to be just fine in the transition.
It's most unfortunate that the Republicans have decided that they will not respect the will of the people. And let me just say, it's like the house is burning down and they just refuse to throw water on it. But we are on the path now, the vaccines – which were coming out of the private sector, actually, the Pfizer vaccine coming out of the private sector – show great promise, and that promise is to say all the more reason to wear a mask, self‑isolate, self‑quarantine and let us work together to get this done.
This is like a gift from God to come down and help cure, cure this pandemic – not cure, just prevent it from being spread and with a vaccine to inoculate against it. And as we inoculate against the virus, we also should be inoculating against all the injustices that are contained in how it is being spread and the rest.
Thank you all very much. Thank you.