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, everyone.
As our nation prepares for Thanksgiving, we just thank God for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us. Our men and women in uniform who keep us safe, we thank them and their families for the sacrifices they make for our democracy, for our freedom.
This year, we won't be able to be joining each other in the traditional way, but virtually we'll come together to thank God for our blessings.
As we do so, though, it will be with great pain, it will be great pain that, in our country and the course of this year, 250,000 Americans have lost their lives to the coronavirus. Daily cases have averaged over 160,000 in this past week. Hospitalizations have set a national record for three days in a row last week, and over 11 million – it is 11.7 million and growing – people have been infected. Cases are set to rise.
On the economic front, 20 million Americans are on unemployment with the benefits soon set to expire, and millions have fallen into poverty and are food insecure and face the threat of eviction. This is what is in our hearts.
Sadly, our traditional – some of the things that we do regularly, but especially at Thanksgiving, to minister to those who are food insecure and the rest will not actually be possible, but, nonetheless, we must try.
We are in a full blown economic and health catastrophe, and it is amazing to see the patience the GOP has for other people's suffering.
In another week – a few weeks, we'll observe the eighth anniversary of Sandy Hook. Eight years ago, we saw the unspeakable horror of innocent children being gunned down at Sandy Hook. The people cried out for gun violence prevention, but the Republicans just brushed it off. This too shall pass.
Several months ago, we all watched the murder of George Floyd. The American people poured into the streets. In fact, people all over the world poured into the streets for days and, in some cases, weeks. But Republicans ignored that, refused to pass legislation. This too shall pass.
Now, 250,000 Americans, as I mentioned, are dead. The number is rising. Over six months ago, when we passed the Heroes Act, Leader McConnell said, ‘We need a pause. We need a pause.’ Well, I would hope that for him the pause can come to an end. Nearly 200,000 people have died during that pause. So, we're asking him: come back to the table.
A few days ago, Leader Schumer and I sent him a letter, which you've all seen, asking the Republicans to come back to the table to meet the needs of the American people, which they have been willing to ignore.
We would like to extend some of the provisions of the CARES Act, which are set to expire the end of this year. We want to again add to that meeting the food needs. Seventeen million children in America are food insecure, and we have a hard time getting to put food – addressing those food needs into legislation. We must have that. The American people want that. That's part of our value system. Again, let's have help with rental assistance. Okay. Have a moratorium, but unless the rent is paid, people are not going to be able to stay in their homes and their landlords are not going to be able to pay the bank. So, this helps everybody. It has become clear in the past six months that we needed more PPP to help our small businesses. Let's work that in as we have tightened our belt any number of times in our Heroes Act and once again, months ago, to include PPP.
The list goes on and on. But some of these things about Unemployment Insurance, food security, stopping evictions, PPP to keep our businesses, small businesses thriving. And they have refused to crush the virus. They even admit it. They had no intention of controlling it, much less crushing it.
It is my hope that with a vaccine now – with a vaccine, that will give a different perspective; it will cross a threshold to say there is a light at the end of the tunnel so that the President and the Administration and the Republicans can say, ‘Yes, we should follow science.’ In a shorter period of time than we've been through already, if we test, trace, treat, wear masks, social distance, sanitation, recognizing the hit that this is taking on communities of color, if we do what is in the Heroes Act in this regard, we'll be ready for the vaccine to have a big effect right the from the start. And in light of the vaccine, as we have in the Heroes Act, and perhaps we should do more now because the vaccine is here; it's imminent.
With that, we should be having the resources to make sure that the vaccine is distributed immediately, equitably so that everyone has access to it. In that regard, though, for that to happen, the President must, must, must implement the Defense Production Act so that those companies, those entities that are used to this new technology that both Pfizer and Moderna have used can undertake making this vaccine more available because we're going to need quite a bit for ourselves and for the world because, unless everyone is safe, as I said, no one is safe.
So, let's hope that, let's hope that it's time for McConnell's pause to end. We have been working on the omnibus bill, and I thought that would be a segue into this. Let's hope that it is. Again, it is curious to see how they are trying to impede progress.
In another misguided act of irresponsibility, Secretary Mnuchin has said he would end many critical emergency lending initiatives at the end of the year. Now, why would they do that? Drawing a rare rebuke from the Fed, that rarely speaks out. As the Fed said in its statement, it ‘would prefer the full suite of emergency facilities’ – excuse me – ‘facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic to continue to serve their important role as a backstop for our still strained and vulnerable economy.’ The Fed, the Fed, ‘Would prefer the full suite of emergency facilities established during the coronavirus pandemic to continue to serve their important role as a backdrop for our still strained and vulnerable economy.’ It is highly unusual for the Fed to comment in that manner on something said by the Secretary of Treasury.
Again, why? Why? Because they want to impede the ability of the next Administration to have everything available to them.
The situation could not be more dire. The need for action could not be more urgent. Real, meaningful relief is desperately needed. No surprise to anyone, perhaps except Mitch McConnell. The families are losing lives and livelihoods, the hospitals are overwhelmed, the frontline workers are risking their lives and losing their jobs, the parents are unable to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. Seventeen million children in America are food insecure, and we couldn't even get the food issue into the CARES Act. So, we need to get it into the legislation now.
Schools are unable to keep students and staff safe. That could happen. All we have to do is follow the science. We now know how we can open our economy, open our schools safely, but we have to make a decision to follow the science and good governance.
Again, this week, again, Senate Leader Schumer and I wrote to McConnell demanding that he finally come to the table in a bipartisan, bicameral, COVID relief. As we said, the letter that I referenced earlier, ‘The dual public health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 continues to devastate communities across the country. What is becoming clear to all Americans is that we cannot achieve real economic recovery until we address the expanding public health crisis… The time to act is upon us like never before. The pandemic and the economic recession will not end without our help.’
Later today, Leader Schumer and I will be visiting President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris. We will be discussing the lame duck session, the urgency of crushing the virus and easing the pain in this economic crisis, keeping the government open, as I referenced earlier, the omnibus bill. We are pleased that moving forward – Moving America Forward legislation that we passed in the summer and Build Back Better of Joe Biden, are so compatible for creating good paying jobs, including investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, workforce development, clean energy. The list goes on and on.
We are very proud – okay, now, you wonder about this, you wonder about this – did you know, did you know that House Democrats got nearly two million more votes than Donald Trump? I say that because everybody said, well – everybody turned out and it was a great victory, a mandate. The most important thing we did two years ago was win the House. We won 40 seats, 31 of them in Trump districts in the most gerrymandered, voter suppressed political arena you could name: 40 seats, 31 in Trump districts. I said then it's going to be harder next time because he'll be on the ballot, and it was. And it was. And so we will lose some, a few of those seats, a couple in Hillary districts and a few in his districts.
But imagine, nearly two million more votes than Donald Trump and people say, ‘Well, the Democrats didn't turn out.’ No. We did. We turned out our votes, in fact, more than three million more than the Republicans did. But as I said, again, in the most gerrymandered, voter suppressed political arena with President Trump on the ballot. So, I congratulate them for the seats they won. I congratulate him for the turnout that he created. He got a good vote. I didn't have Joe Biden up here. What is he up to now 78 million?
Speaker Pelosi. Seventy-nine million. But I just wanted to show you how we related to these others. So, we need, we need everything. First time we were a big tent in our party. We are proud of everyone in it. The turnout was across the board. We do believe that our House races in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia contributed to those Electoral College successes and across the country to the almost 79 million votes that Joe Biden had. We're very proud of him and Kamala Harris. We're proud of him as a unifier for our country, and we're proud of the big vote that House Democrats contributed to that success because so many people were saying, well, this and that and the other. No, no, no. We want more, and we will have more, and we've already started that. But I wanted you to be sure you knew nearly two million more votes than Donald Trump.
Q: Madam Speaker, your Oversight Committee sent a letter asking for the head of the GSA to come and testify. I am wondering if you could speak to why they decided to do that now? And more broadly, what do you see as the House's role in ensuring a smooth transition?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know that they asked her to testify. They wanted a briefing.
Q: A briefing, excuse me.
Speaker Pelosi. They asked for a briefing. Testify is different. That's a hearing.
Q: Okay. Pardon me.
Speaker Pelosi. They asked for a briefing, and that is hopefully before Thanksgiving that that will happen. You hope that people would have good faith in the jobs that they have. You want to give them a chance to get that done. It is totally mystifying that the GSA refuses to make the statement necessary for the transition to happen in an orderly fashion. They've been sort of Trumpian from the start, from the Trump Hotel and all the rest of that way back when.
So, no surprise that they are following that lead, which is most unfortunate for the country. But what they are saying is, ‘Explain to us what your basis is for going down that place.’ Yeah.
And, again, everything was kind of let's let it – see what – you know, let's hope for the best. Let's hope that there will be enough Republicans to say, ‘This is America. The people's voice count, and that must be respected.’ So, to the extent – it won't be long before we have a certification, the meeting of the Electoral College, December 14th, and then here in the House on January 6th.
But, again, it was not – it was really trying to be unifying. Let's take our time. Let's give them a chance. And that's why we don't have a hearing; we're just having a briefing.
Q: And the second part of that question, I mean, do you see an expanded role for the House in trying to make sure this process goes smoothly, especially as the President continues to refuse to concede?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Would you care to elaborate?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm not going to show my hand, but, nonetheless, we're ready. We're ready.
Q: Between the plots against Governor Whitmer and the two guys who drove up from Virginia to Philadelphia during the counting, do you or other Democrats have concerns that the longer that this goes on in terms of Trump challenging the votes and other Republicans saying he should exhaust his legal options, it is still an open question and so on, should that raise the prospect for violence?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we all have to know that the President of the United States, his words weigh a ton. They weigh a ton. And people hear things in a way that could encourage some unfortunate situations as they have done in the state of Michigan. You would think that there would be on the part of all Republicans a rejection. Did you see the array of agenda items the Michiganders had? Public execution. Have you seen it? So, you know how dangerous it is. Burning down the Capitol and not getting, shall we say, told that that's not appropriate in our country.
But instead having – God knows how, what's his name? Atlas. Oh my God. Did you see his statements that encourage that coming right there from the right hand of the President of the United States, saying you’ve got to have – stirred up in the streets and the rest of that?
So, this is bad behavior, but, again, let's try to be unifying. Let's try to be respectful. There is this element in our county. I don't think Donald Trump created it, but I think he fans the flame. And I think that's a dangerous situation.
Q: Madam Speaker, as you mention, businesses are being hurt out there.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: And still there are about $138 million that's allocated in PPP funds that's there, ready, available. Any possibility on releasing some of that money?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that's up to the Administration. And that's why we're saying, what is this? And plus all the other money that Mr. Mnuchin has discretion over, that's for bigger business, but nonetheless as the Fed has said so much a part of our economy that – that's why I referenced Sandy Hook. ‘Forget about it.’ That's why I referenced George Floyd. ‘Let's just move on.’ People are suffering, and if you don't believe in government, then it's hard – it's easy for you to say we don't really have do all of these things. And that's what the problem is. But I'm optimistic that we will have bipartisanship to put something together to go forward because I do believe that many of our colleagues understand what's happening in their districts and want to make a difference.
Q: Any timeline?
Speaker Pelosi. There’s just one big obstacle in the way. In the Senate, it is Mitch McConnell, but the other obstacle – because he does what President Trump says – and that's President Trump.
Q: As far as those negotiations go right now, who are these active negotiations going on with? Is it House Democrats and Leader McConnell?
Speaker Pelosi. No. There are none.
Q: Is it the White House?
Speaker Pelosi. No. That's not happening. Yesterday, there was a meeting of the staff of the four corners. That would be the House, Senate, Democratic and Republican leaders. The anticipation was that it was really about the omnibus. Remember, we have to have an omnibus bill. We must keep government open. That's a very important responsibility during the lame duck. We don't want another Continuing Resolution. I don't think they do either.
So, we have an expression; yesterday was for the staffs to deal with what we call the ash and trash. They are just some of the things that are not up here but need to be resolved so that we can move forward. And then hopefully we would have been able to begin a path to the COVID. That didn't happen, but hopefully it will.
Q: So who did you meet?
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me?
Q: Is it the White House? Is it Leader McConnell?
Speaker Pelosi. No. These were the four leaders, four leaders.
Q: Secretary Mnuchin said this morning that he is meeting with Leader McCarthy and Leader McConnell today to talk about a stimulus deal for COVID relief. Do you have any plans to talk to him upcoming?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, he said in his comments that they would be reaching out, but we’re asking him to come back to the table. We've been sitting at the table for six months plus a week, waiting for them to come back. The obstacles have been they do not want to honor our heroes, our state and local workers, our health care workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, our first responders, our police and fire, our transportation, sanitation, food workers who make our existence possible. They are saying they don't want to do that. And, in fact, many of those workers are laid off, they have risked their lives to save lives, and now they may lose their jobs; over a million of them have.
The other part of that is that the fiscal soundness of our state and local governments is important to the fiscal soundness of our country. So, it doesn't make any sense in terms of meeting the needs of the people, honoring the work of our heroes and again the soundness of our economy.
So, we'll – we have to get something done. And, again, they have been resistant on many of the things that we consider priorities, but everybody knows people are hungry, people are fearing evictions, people need the CARES Act provisions to be extended that address Unemployment Insurance and the rest. I won't go into how they comment on all of that.
But the main thing that they have – the two main things: Honor our heroes so that the state and local governments can meet the needs that we talked about, hospitalizations and all the rest. It is coronavirus centric, as well as revenue loss because of shutdowns. And – but this is the most mystifying to me and the most unscientific, they will not decide to crush the virus. My hope is the vaccine will say, okay, there's a path. So, let's stop the spread of it, while we manufacture more and distribute more of it.
That’s it. Thank you.