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. Good morning, everyone.
Another happy day, Joe Biden, President‑elect.
This week, our nation paused for the sacred observance of Veterans Day. Every day we honor our veterans, but one day especially set aside. Just as the military leaves no one, no soldier on the field in battle, when they come home, our commitment is to leave no veteran behind.
This morning it was my honor to be joined by the chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Chairman Mark Takano, as we enrolled, signed the Veterans’ COMPACT Act, critical legislation to prevent veteran suicide. As our nation confronts the accelerating coronavirus crisis, it's important to note that this has affected tens of thousands of veterans and VA workers. It is imperative that we secure even more funding to support the VA and care for our veterans and their families.
I also had the privilege of participating in the work of Elizabeth Dole, with the observance that she had on Veterans Day this year. It was in cars at the Kennedy Center, and some of us were virtual, but Secretary, Senator Elizabeth Dole has been an angel for our veterans, and I was honored to be asked by her to join Senator John McCain and others to be part of the initiative to honor our hidden heroes, the families that care for our veterans. Thank you, Elizabeth Dole, for all of that.
Again, as we honor the needs of veterans in every area, we must recognize that it's not just the VA that meets their needs. It's the role the veterans, veterans' small businesses play. We want more opportunity for that. Many of our veterans rely on Medicaid. They constantly come to us and say that the Medicaid piece is important to their lives, food stamps and housing assistance. So many of the things that we have actually in the coronavirus bill, the Heroes bill, affect our veterans.
On a separate – associated with this, yesterday, as you're probably aware, Leader Schumer and I had a call with President‑elect Joe Biden. We will stay in close touch in the coming days. We spoke about the intensifying pandemic, epidemic – pandemic and the economic crisis accompanying it and about the urgent need for Congress to pass a bipartisan bill in the lame duck session that provides resources to fight the pandemic and relief for working families and small businesses, support for state and local governments to keep the frontline workers on the payroll, and engage – expanded Unemployment Insurance and affordable health care for families, the health care piece, of course, being essential.
At the same time, as you know, earlier in the week, the Administration was, instead of crushing the virus, trying to crush the Affordable Care Act, and, of course, we're very pleased of the presentations that were made in support of the Affordable Care Act in the Courts.
But on our call, after our call, that wasn't a hard call, we also discussed the need for bipartisan solutions to create millions of good‑paying jobs, including through investments and infrastructure, manufacturing, research and development and clean energy.
Infrastructure legislation has largely not been a partisan issue. We believe this is a good place where we can find common ground. But that – that is something we can work on now, but as we go into the new Congress. But for now, the two areas of the coronavirus and also to pass an omnibus bill in a bipartisan way. I'm optimistic that that will happen. I'm an appropriator, so I have a good rapport with the appropriators. And I think that, left to their own devices, they can get this done. As I've said before, Chairman Shelby and I had this conversation, assuring each other that we want to have a bill.
Again, our focus in the Congress now, in this lame duck, continues to be on COVID relief. This is a red alert, all hands on deck. As Leader Schumer and I discussed yesterday, this is an emergency of the highest magnitude, and yet, our Republican colleagues want focus elsewhere, instead of recognizing this is a health emergency, which science is giving us a path to crush.
Again, we have worse numbers than even yesterday. Numbers speak very eloquently. One hundred and sixty thousand infections were reported, a horrifying number, following more than a week of over 100,000 infections a day. These levels are two times higher than the summer peak. More than 67,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID, a new record, threatening, overwhelming our hospitals, and our hospitals in our rural areas, too. Over 10 million people have been infected, over 10 million people. Two hundred and forty thousand Americans have died because of this pandemic.
According to a news report this morning, which I'm sure you've all seen, it was reported that more than 130 Secret Service agents are infected or quarantining in the wake of Trump's reckless campaign schedule, 130 Secret Service agents.
Meanwhile, on the economic front, over 20 million Americans are on unemployment. America has a million fewer teachers and education jobs compared to a year ago, and that has an impact on our children's education; 8 million people have fallen into poverty; 17 million children are food insecure.
There's no time to waste. We must save lives and livelihoods, and yet, Republicans in Congress continue their tactics of delay, distort and deny, which has led to deaths, has led to deaths. Now, they're trying to distract and divide the country as they refuse to accept the election results. The election is over. Joe Biden is the President‑elect, elected with a mandate of over 78 million votes.
But don't take it from me. The Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committee said in their joint statement, ‘This November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.’ ‘There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.’ They went on to say, ‘While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation, in the process of our elections, we can assure you that we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too.’
The Republicans shamefully, pretending otherwise, are doing serious damage to our American democracy, here, and as viewed throughout the world. They're making it even harder to address the massive health and economic crises facing America right now. The longer the Republicans keep up the charade, the further out of control the COVID crisis will spiral and more endangered Americans will be. I urge our Republicans to accept the facts, acknowledge the crisis and immediately come to the table to work on COVID relief.
Again, this takes place at a time when there's a vaccine on the horizon, giving people hope. But that should also give them encouragement to listen to science on the way to the vaccine, testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, isolation, separation, sanitation, all of those things, because the sooner we do that, and the sooner we have a vaccine, the sooner we crush the virus. I hope it would be an incentive for people to follow science all the way to the vaccine.
And in that score, in our COVID bill, we do have sufficient funding, a great deal of funding for the vaccine. The development, as I said yesterday, should be taken up under the Defense [Production Act]. I just don't know why the President is not doing that. And then, also, we want to make sure that, when the vaccine occurs, there will be sufficient funding and sufficient vaccine to reach everyone in our country, as well as in the world, because as we all know, unless we're all secure, none of us is.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, a record number of women, Republican women, have been elected to the Congress this year.
Speaker Pelosi. That's great.
Q: Republicans are saying it's the year of the Republican women. Is it?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I'm excited that we have more women in Congress. That doesn't mean we have shared views, but hopefully, we can find common ground on some issues that relate to domestic violence, which was how the Women's Caucus, in a bipartisan way, came together in the beginning. Issues that relate to teen pregnancy have been a bipartisan focus over time, reducing that. So, let's see. Let's be optimistic and let us see, but I congratulate and welcome each and every one of them.
Of course, we have 90. We have, I think, nine or ten new women coming into our Caucus this time. We're sadly leaving Nita Lowey, Susan Davis, a few of the women in the Congress. So – but we're happy to have all these new Members, and they're beautifully diverse.
Q: Thank you. Good morning. So, obviously you're going to have a narrow Majority here. You always talk about ‘know your power.’
Speaker Pelosi. Know your?
Q: What is your power right now?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, know your power. Yeah.
Q: Using ‘know your power,’ what is your power right now with a smaller Majority, pressures inside the Caucus, and your route to the speakership when you lost votes last time?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me say on that score – and we are still very much involved in these races. We have a number that haven't been counted. When we were impatiently waiting for the count on the presidential, it seemed like an eternity. And now, it's another week later. So, we're still involved in that.
But, listen, we had a very deep victory two years ago. I don't think that people are quite understanding. Of the 40 seats that we won, 31 were in Trump's districts. He wasn't on the ballot. And right away, we said he's going to be on the ballot, that's a steeper climb in these districts, and with the actions that were taken, we saved most of those seats. So, we're very proud of that. We now have a President of our party in the White House, Joe Biden. We have a Majority in the House, albeit smaller, but no less a Majority, 132 gavels, chairs of committees, subcommittees and the rest, the beautiful diversity of our Caucus.
And we see it as a tremendous opportunity as we go forward, because we have to address – the fact is, that President Trump, to his credit, turned out a big vote and in some of these districts, which were – people wondered how we won them before, they were so Trumpian, and now with him on the ballot, bringing a bigger vote.
But we're getting ready already for the next time. A number of our candidates have already said they're going to run again. I'm not going to make any announcements for anybody, but a number of them have told me that they're ready. They loved being in Congress. They were proud to have won. They were proud of the campaign that they made.
After Joe Biden was declared the winner on Saturday, I spent most of the weekend listening to those who did not win the election. They succeeded in their campaign in terms of putting forth their views, but would not be coming to Congress right now. I have pages, in fact, books of notes about how they saw what happened in their districts, and how they see how we go forward.
And it is clear that a number of the people who – there are certain issues that may have worked one place or another, but we had to have a deep dive. We have to really have the data. And so, all of them gave me their view, for the moment, and said when we get more data, we'll have a clearer picture.
Q: But is there a limit in any way by having a smaller Majority and what that means for both the Caucus, control of the House, and for your speakership?
Speaker Pelosi. May I remind you, we have a President of the United States. We have a President of the United States. That is so very important. And whether you're in the minority or majority, if the President is of your party, you have more power. And I think that that's what Mitch McConnell's going to find out now, that whether he's in the majority or the minority, not having Donald Trump in the White House is going to change his leverage and that dynamic.
But I'm very proud. I'm very proud. I knew it was hard in terms of what we did. I never said that we were going to pick the – all these pollsters did, and that's another question about the polling and the rest and the overestimation of what could be there. But the fact is, President Trump got out his vote and in those districts, some of them he made a difference, and every majority is fragile. But we're well on our way to the next election, as we are counting still for this, have a running start with some of these same candidates saying that they will run, and others who are waiting because of their own personal decisions to run next time.
Q: Speaker Pelosi.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. As the President continues, as you noted, to falsely claim that he won the election in one form or another, his allies are making unfounded claims about irregularities with voting machines. We've seen the social media companies be forced to step in and crackdown. I'm curious, from your perspective, have you seen big tech do enough, specifically a website like Facebook, to correct the President's lies?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm not a big fan of Facebook. I don't know what they've been doing, but I know they've been part of the problem all along. And I just refer back to the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committee and what they said: ‘The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.’ ‘There's no evidence that any voting system was deleted or lost votes changed, votes that were, in any way, compromised.’
And this is so important, because we've had resistance from the other side in protecting the critical infrastructure of our elections, the mechanics of it, and this is a good report back that things were going well.
Two, to your point, what is happening in the social media that is so poisonous to our system? And how do we have a remedy for that? It is, social media, the technology is a blessing, but it's a double‑edged sword in terms of communication, democratizing the spread of information. So, I would – you know, I would hope that they would have some sense of responsibility, because they were very much a part of causing this problem to begin with.
But I do also want to say that with the President, it's not just another branch of government, the White House. It is the bully pulpit. Joe Biden knows why he's there. He has a plan to be effective for America's working families. And he will have, again, he will have the stage. So, it's not as if we're trying to get a distinction made here and the press is engaged in equivalence, which I think was unfair, but nonetheless, in terms of having the bully pulpit, it's not just a branch of government, it's not just having the White House, not just a branch of government, not just appointments to jobs and a cabinet and the rest, it's the connection with the American people. President Lincoln: Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything; without it, practically nothing.
And it leapfrogs over so many other misrepresentations. I hope that everybody will give Joe Biden a chance to have his message out there. What I saw during the Trump Administration is he could say anything and it would be two days' worth of news, whether it had any value or not. Let's hope that everyone will give Joe Biden the chance. He is the President, 78 million votes and still counting, a mandate, a mandate in our country.
So, my confidence and my hope springs from the public. The American people are so good. They're very clear about meeting their needs. And one of the messages for us in all of this is the clarity that behooves us to say some of the fears that they have – automation, globalization, diversity, climate issues and the rest – we want them to know that what we're talking about is we're all going down this path together.
This is not a zero‑sum game. If one person wins, another person loses. No. And there's a place in the future for every person in our country, and how we use the automation, the globalization, and those issues in a way to give them that assurance and those jobs.
I said yesterday, it's a four‑letter word. I say it all the time, a four‑letter word: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, which contribute not only to the economic health of families, but the health and well‑being of America's families.
Q: Madam Speaker, how does the smaller Majority, how does that affect your legislative approach? Are you going to have to compromise more? Are there bills that you're –
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: Not going to be able –
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: To put on the Floor?
Speaker Pelosi. No, not at all. We have a President of the United States. Remember, we've got to have the opportunity to have bills signed into law. I'm very proud of our Caucus because we're beautifully diverse. As I always say, it is a – our diversity is our strength; our unity is our power. And our unity springs from our commitment to America's working families. And that is what we'll be talking about, as I mentioned, putting together a jobs bill that involves building infrastructure of America in a green – resilient and green way, doing so in a bipartisan way, doing so, so everybody in our country benefits, both with jobs, with workforce development, and with services, schools, et cetera, housing in their areas. So, it won't have that much effect at all, no.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me, dear. Sure.
Q: That still requires some buy-in from Republicans in the Senate, the Senate especially, if they keep the Majority. So, how do you shift your approach on the coronavirus?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah, I think you're making more of a – as I said, we had a very big win in the last election. It is smaller now, but it is not – and we still have the power of the Majority. But on top of that, our leverage and our power is greatly enhanced by having a Democratic President in the White House, especially Joe Biden, who is the man. He is the one who will put forth an agenda and will work together on that as we have done, as we did with President Obama and Joe Biden as Vice President of the United States. I don't see that as any challenge at all.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. I see it as an opportunity.
Staff. Last question.
Q: Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Last question?
Staff. Last question.
Speaker Pelosi. Last one. Okay.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. On what you said about Leader McConnell, can you expand on that? You said he's going to find out. What do you mean?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, he's been known to come to my office and say, ‘I'm not doing anything Donald Trump doesn't want.’ So, to me, that was, like, an abdication of your first branch of government responsibilities. You're just going to do whatever the President wants? No. This is a separation of power, something very, very important, the genius of our Constitution, the separation of powers. And if we're just saying, whatever the President wants and we're not having the input or the, shall we say, scrutiny as to what the best way to go is, listening to the beautiful diversity of our caucuses, then we are disserving the American people.
So, there's no – look. There's no question. When your President – the President is the President of your party, your leverage and your power is greatly increased. You must know that. You must know that. So, again, for the good of the country, I am so overjoyed that Joe Biden is President of the United States; his decency, his vision, his values, his authenticity and his connection with America's working families. So, I couldn't be more thrilled.
But I also know that he respects the Legislative branch, and that it's a collaboration and will work together to put legislation together. That will be, hopefully, bipartisan and signed into law.
But, again, the big partner in all of this is the public, the American people. They want access to health care, especially during the pandemic. They want good‑paying jobs. They want clean government. That was our agenda in 2018, it continues to be. For The People, lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, preserving the pre-existing condition [benefit]; For The People, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America and in a green, resilient way; For The People, cleaner government, H.R. 1, which will, this time, be H.R. 1 again, to end the roll of big, dark money and politics. It also will end the – a lot of the voter suppression that is out there.
So, we couldn't be more thrilled. We're sad to have lost some of our Members. As I say, many of them are ready to come right on back. Some want to be in the Biden Administration, all of them proud of their campaigns, and, I think, universally thrilled that Joe Biden is President of the United States.
Thank you all.
Q: Do you accept any responsibility for the lost amount of seats?
Staff. Thank you.
Q: Do you accept any responsibility for the lost amount of seats?
Speaker Pelosi. I take credit for winning a Majority and holding the House.