Transcript of Speaker Pelosi’s Remarks at Weekly Press Conference

January 13, 2022
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.  And a good morning it is.  Today is a big day for our democracy and a big day in the House of Representatives.  Today, the House will make a major step toward defending our democracy, as we vote to send the Freedom to Vote: John Lewis Voting – John Lewis Act to the Senate for urgent consideration.

I just want to say four things about the bill, the Freedom to Vote bill.  We passed it twice in the House under different names.  Same thing with the John Lewis bill – passed it twice in the House.  So now, today, we're sending it over with the prospect that it will have consideration in the Senate.  Four things people should know about it, four reasons why Members should be voting for it.  And we have a vote on now, so I'm going to have to go gavel that down. 

But the four things are: one, it stops partisan redistricting.  Very popular with the American people, by making sure we honor the Constitution, the Voting Rights Act and the community of interest.  Ends partisan redistricting.

Two, it stops voter suppression and the nullification of elections.  You know the story: over 400 bills introduced across the country, thirty-some of them already enacted into law, which not only suppressed the vote, particularly among people of color, but also – but also, nullify elections.  People have voted, we’ll decide how that turns out – nullifying elections.

Third, it insists on disclosure of big, dark, special interest money, which suffocates the airwaves, which is a form of voter suppression – the misrepresentations that they put forth.  The Supreme Court has said they can give as much money as they want, but we're saying they must disclose.  They must disclose.  Transparency. 

And, fourth, to amplify voices of small donors and the grassroots – and no taxpayer dollars used to do that.

Stop partisan redistricting.  Stop the suppression of the vote and nullification of elections.  Stop big, dark money from having such an impact on our political process.  And, honor the grassroots participation.

In addition to that, in terms of the John Lewis part of the bill, every Republican President has since – Nixon, Ford, Reagan, President George Herbert Walker Bush and President George W. Bush.  George W. Bush signed the most recent Voting Rights Act, a bill that passed the Congress like, 390 in the House, almost unanimously in the Senate, not that long ago.  It had always been bipartisan, until now.  And so, passing that bill will be very, very important for voting rights in our country, so fundamental to our democracy.

So, I'm excited about today, that we received this – we're sending this over to the Senate, receiving some optimism that the focus will be on it.  And hopefully, the success will be there, especially in time for Martin Luther King Day.

Again, I just want to commend Terri Sewell, Mr. Butterfield, Jim McGovern, Jerry Nadler, Zoe Lofgren, Zoe Lofgren, Zoe Lofgren so many times.  Her Committee didn't even have a Christmas or Hanukkah or any holiday.  So many people.  John Sarbanes has been the patron saint of this – or the godfather, whatever analogy you want to make – of this legislation.  So, I want to thank all of them for giving us this special, special opportunity.

Earlier this week, we passed the G.I. bill to protect our democracy.  Again, House Democrats worked – it's really important to know about that.  And, I said this on the Floor the other day, but in case you weren't paying strict attention, when we had the first G.I. Bill, it was the fruit of the advocacy and labor of the American Legion and other groups following World War I.  They were not treated as fairly as they should have been, and they wanted future veterans to be treated better – hence, the G.I. Bill.  President Roosevelt signed the bill and made great statements about how we owe so much to our veterans.  We all know that. 

Listening to the veterans, that bill came forth with education, with housing and all those – homeownership and the rest.  We continued to listen to our veterans when we had the Post‑9/11 G.I. Bill, which enabled – even expanded the benefit for education, not only to our vets but also to their family members.  And, even if they died in action, still the benefits survive for their families, which is very, very important. 

And, now we are listening to our veterans, who are telling us that we really need to have – expand and strengthen the G.I. Bill eligibility for Reservists and Guardsmen.  And, so, so that's what we did earlier this week in the House.  I hope it will pass the Senate. 

As you see today – this takes me to my next subject of COVID – that the President is enlisting some of that talent and those resources in the fight against COVID.  As we work For The People, the virus – coronavirus, still is a very top priority.  We know the science tells us vaccines, masks, testing, testing, testing, spacing and the rest, are a path to ridding ourselves of that. 

When it comes to our schools, as a grandmother of a public school student, I'm very hopeful that we can have children safely in schools to the greatest extent possible.  Masking and testing, separation, vaccines help us to do that.  And, I'm glad that the President has this initiative now for 500 million tests to be sent out – and then with the prospect of another 500 million tests – so that people are, know that they're surrounded by safe people.

It's always sad to see the numbers.  Eight hundred – nearly 850,000 Americans already died.  We send our prayers and – our, our prayers.  They and their families are in our hearts and in our prayers. 

And yesterday, we had his final public resting event – Harry Reid lying in state in the United States Capitol.  So appropriate for someone who did so much to make the future better for America.  The comments that were said there, the show of support for him, the President of the United States, the Vice President, Members of the Cabinet, bipartisan Members of Congress coming to pay their respects to this great patriot. 

Those of us who were at his funeral service, his celebration of life in Nevada, to hear two Presidents – President Biden and former President Obama – making their remarks was quite remarkable.  But to hear Harry Reid's children talk about him was something just glorious to behold.  We would all hope that our children could even come anywhere in the same category of reflection about us, as Harry Reid's children did.  It was so, so beautiful. 

Now, they took him home last night to Nevada, the state that he loved, worked for, always looked out for in every way.  As I said, not only the environmental climate by protecting the beautiful, natural patrimony of Nevada, but also the political climate by protecting their status in the presidential election process.  He will always be remembered for his goodness.  He was about family.  He was a person of great faith.  And, he cared about the future.  We will miss him.

And so we've talked about voting rights, G.I. bill, COVID, Harry Reid.  Any questions?  Yes, ma'am. 

***

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  Leader McCarthy says he will not comply with the January 6th Select Committee.  Does he have an obligation to cooperate, and should he be subpoenaed if he refuses to continue to comply? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, I think he has an obligation as we seek the truth to help with that.  But, it's up to the Committee as to what they do next.  I see what you see.  I mean, they make their decisions.  They come forward.  And, I'm not prepared to say what they do next, but they'll be telling us. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, is it problematic for the investigation if all House Republicans just refuse to talk to them? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  We will seek the truth.  We will find the truth.  And the Committee will use, as they have said, everything is on the table – at one point they said that – in order to do that.  I have confidence in the bipartisan nature of the Committee.  They are working very hard, as we can see in the public domain with the product of their work.  And, I have confidence in them. 

Yes, Chad.

Q:  And, just to make sure I'm understanding your position on this here.  Obviously, you're punting to the Committee, saying, you know, that they're the Committee.  They're investigating it.  They’re in charge.

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right, yeah, yeah. 

Q:  But, a couple of years ago, when there were questions about contempt of Congress for Trump Administration officials, you even referred to the, quote, ‘jail’ that's underneath the Crypt here, saying, ‘Oh, maybe we should do that.’  I mean, this is a particular issue for Congress.  If you have Members who are uncooperative, it is hard to get them with subpoenas.  Therefore, if they were going to take any sort of extraordinary steps, one would think that would fall under the Committee, but it could also go to you to sign off on some particular, you know, discipline or Ethics Committee or whatever you would decide to do it in dealing with a Member of Congress, particularly the Minority Leader. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I have, as one who has served on the Ethics Committee for many years, longer than anybody else, I have always said: any issue about the Ethics Committee referring things should not come out of the Leader’s or the Speaker's Office.  That's up to the process to put forth.  And also, now people can bring a charge from outside because we established the outside entity to bring something forward to the Ethics Committee.

But, I have no intention of interfering with the work of the Committee.  I have absolutely none.  They have their data.  They have their testimony that they are taking.  They know the path that they are on.  I don't.  I defer to their judgment. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, you say today sets up a prospect for consideration –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  Of new voting rights laws. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  Just doesn't seem to be a prospect for actual passage. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it might be.

Q:  What's changing?  Where is this going? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you'll have to go over and ask that in Senate.  But, we do believe that the what we call the For The People Act and now called the Freedom to Vote Act is a bill that very much had the input of Senator Manchin.  As a former governor, as a former secretary of state, he did great things in his state to, again, stop big, dark money from having an impact on elections.  He has a – there's a voter ID law that they have there that has been incorporated into this.  So, he knows the subject.  And, this bill is a reflection of some of his input, and hopefully he will defend his bill in terms of having it brought to the Floor.

But, it's no use wasting your time asking me questions about what the Senate will do.  You just have to go ask them what their next path is. 

But, it is really important for the American people to know, because what is stunning is to see the misrepresentations that are made, for example, on the Floor of the House now.  I mean, I won't even go into them because I don't want to return to their misrepresentations.  But, the facts are, as I said: partisan redistricting, end that.  Big, dark money dominating politics, end that.  Suppressing the vote and nullifying elections, end that.  Supporting the grassroots, for that.  And then, as I say, the Voting Rights [Act] – which has not been partisan before in recent history and now has become. 

So, in terms of the process in the Senate – but we are excited because we passed these bills again and again, in two different Congresses and as recently as last year in this Congress.  And they're – we had to do them again because we're in a new Congress.  We also had to do the Voting Rights Act with a fresh array of hearings around the country because the violations that the Republicans committed in the 2020 election were so blatant that it established another level of documentation for the need of the Voting Rights Act. 

You have to go to the Senate.  Sorry. 

Q:  Madam Speaker –

Staff.  Last question.

Q:  As far as the voting rights bill is concerned –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  We heard what the President said in his speech.  And, it appeared that he – there was criticism from the upper chamber, from Mr. Durbin, saying that he went over – perhaps a little bit over the top a little bit.  What are your thoughts on that?  And, do you think that the President may have gone a little bit too far in trying to sell this particular bill to the American people and trying to get votes to try and get this passed by bringing the filibuster? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  I stand with the President.  I think that I – I thought his speech was wonderful, and I stand with him in the fight for voting rights.  No criticism of Mr. Durbin.  He has to do what he has to do and vis‑a‑vis his own Members and the rest.  

The only criticism I would make, too – I wouldn't say criticisms but observations.  Nobody knows who Bull Connor is.  You know, if we're making the case to say, ‘We're going to be with Martin Luther King or Bull Connor’ – who's that?  ‘If we're going to be with Martin Luther King or the people – Martin Luther King and John Lewis, or the people who unleashed the fierce dogs on them’ – that's who Bull Connor is.  Strom Thurmond – none of us have a lot of happy memories about Strom Thurmond. 

So, again, since you asked my critique of the President's speech, I thought it was fabulous.  I come out, congratulate him for it.  It was well‑received, even among those who had some apprehension of what's going to happen with this, all of this, next.  So, I thank him for it, and I stand with the President in the fight for voting rights. 

Thank you.  I unfortunately have to go to the Floor to vote for the bill, as well as gavel it down. 

Thank you, all.