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 you can see, and as I indicated earlier in the week, when we observed the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I said on that day that our President said this is a day that will live in infamy and united the country to fight for freedom. In that war, in World War II, 291,557 people, Americans, died in combat in World War II.
Today, we have an assault by a virus on our society, our economy, our schools, our children, our people. We do not have a unifying President of the United States. In fact, we have a President, for a long time, in denial, delaying and distorting, calling it a hoax. Many thousands more people have died because of that.
Now, we're up to 290,000. Today, we will probably surpass, sadly, the World War II number. In another few days we'll observe once again, sadly, 300,000. We observed 100,000 as if it was an impossible number to accept. Two hundred thousand, how could it be true? Three hundred thousand by the time we get through the weekend.
Let us hope that this vaccine will inspire people to follow a regimen of masks, separation, sanitation and the rest so that they can be prepared for a vaccine to hopefully reverse this tide, in terms of these numbers.
To that end, I have great respect for the bipartisan group of folks, mostly Senators but some of our folks, Josh Gottheimer, from the House, who are engaged in conversations about this bill. It is a smaller bill than we think is needed for our country, but in light of a completely changed dynamic, a completely changed dynamic: in less than 1,000 hours Joe Biden will be inaugurated President of the United States, and we have a vaccine which hopefully will be approved by the committee today to go forward.
That change in dynamic enables our President-to-be to say ‘this is a first step,’ but that we will – much more needs to be done.
So, while this has our values, which some of the other bills did not, it has a shorter timeframe, but in light of a new President, gives us time to inaugurate a President, have discussions about how we truly meet the needs of the American people.
We should all be so saddened by the fact of these loss of lives and these families across America approaching the holidays with this sadness in their hearts. And we have to make sure they know that we carry them in our hearts, in our prayers, in our thoughts, and that hopefully, whatever we do can prevent more, the rate of more deaths from occurring – more deaths pretty soon, sad to say, than lost their lives in World War II.
This COVID package, which I'm hoping will come to be shortly, then has to go onto the omnibus bill, and that's another set of discussions that is going on. I salute our chairmen, especially Nita Lowey, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, that's carrying much of the negotiation; but also Richie Neal, in terms of what's happening from the Ways and Means; Frank Pallone, Energy and Commerce; Nydia Velazquez, in terms of Small Business; Maxine Waters, renters, et cetera; and all of our chairs. Now – and Bobby Scott, Ed and Labor, in terms of issues that protect Americans, American workers.
On the PPP, we all know that we need more money for small business and we all support that. We want it to be done, though, in a way that I think is possible, that honors what has been said before about small businesses with women-, minority-, veterans-, rural, Native American-owned businesses, small businesses being able to participate, and the CDFIs, the Community Development Financial Institutions, to meet their needs. Nydia Velazquez is working in a bipartisan way on that issue.
So, whether it's in the omnibus or in the COVID or some combination thereof, that is the work that is being done right now.
I am very excited about the fact that, in a very strong bipartisan way, about 80 percent of the House voting for the National Defense Authorization Act. I commend, as I have before, again and again, Chairman Adam Smith, Chair of the [Armed Services Committee], Mr. Thornberry, for whom this – the bill is named, the Ranking Member on the Committee, for their leadership in presenting a bipartisan bill.
The President has threatened to veto the bill, largely because it has a provision in there championed by Anthony Brown of Maryland, a veteran on the Armed Services Committee, who has fought to have the renaming of these bases as an important priority.
The bill received a rousing vote on the Floor. It was like 337. I don't have the number right here, but it was like 80 percent of the House voted for the legislation, which the President threatens to veto. It will be coming up in the Senate. I don't know what their schedule is until they announce it.
But nonetheless, it is – will be interesting to see, because the Senate Republican Chairman there said, ‘We're bringing the bill to the Floor,’ even though the President is opposed to it because of renaming; also because he wants Section 230 to be included, the repeal of it, in the bill.
I don't like Section 230, I think it needs to be revised, but you cannot repeal it or else you will destroy protections for small businesses and entrepreneurs working their way up, as we also recognize that some of the organizations that did not even exist when this Section 230 of the telecommunications bill in the nineties – no Facebook, no Google, no – none really were on the scene, and certainly not of the size and consequence that they are now.
So, again, it needs to be revised. I think there's bipartisan support to do that. I know there is. But, nonetheless, it should not be repealed in this legislation. So, we'll see what the President does and what the others do.
Now, as we – as we proudly passed that bill in such a big way, again, these bases were named purposely for white supremacists, people who had fought in the Confederacy, Confederates, traitors to our country. Purposely, these bases were named for them. It wasn't as if they named it about something and upon final research, other research, it would emerge that they said this, that or the other. No, it was intentional. So, we must properly, and there’s a process spelled out in the bill, change that.
And in light of that respect for our country and the people of our country, I'm so pleased with what we did under the leadership of Mr. Clyburn of reflecting the beautiful diversity of America. This week we will mark the 150th anniversary of the first African American being elected to the Congress of the United States, Congressman Joseph Rainey.
It will come as no surprise to any of you that he's from South Carolina, because that was very much a part of the pride that Mr. Clyburn took in advancing this. He would – just the first African American Congressman was reason enough, the first African American. And he presided over the House of Representatives, the first African American to preside over the House of Representatives. And he was the longest serving Black lawmaker during the Reconstruction.
So, we're proud to celebrate that with the largest ever Congressional Black Caucus. And yesterday, Clyburn and I – Whip Clyburn and I introduced a resolution to name a room in the Capitol after Rainey, ensuring that he can take his rightful place in the Capitol and in the history books as a source of great pride to all of us. So, that is where we are on that.
In addition to that, I just want to, once again, commend all who are working so hard to save lives by coming up with a reasonable compromise that we can all accept, in light of the fact that in fewer than a hundred – a thousand hours, fewer than a thousand hours, we will have inaugurated Joe Biden, a person who has said from day one, 100 million people will be vaccinated, understanding that that has to be done in a culturally, linguistic appropriate way for people to be able to respond to the vaccine.
So, with that, I'll be pleased to take any questions you have.
Q: Madam Speaker, you've thrown your lot in with this bipartisan group that's talking about the stimulus package. They are having a hard time coming to a final product. How long do they have to produce a product? And if they can't do that, do you then have to look at what Leader McConnell is suggesting, which is to allow some of these other things to fall away and do a smaller package?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let's go – this is a smaller package. And as I have said, this is not a stimulus package. It's is an emergency supplemental to deal with what we have.
I think they've made great progress. I think some certain things remain. And that's up to them. I don't know the inner workings. But I think they've made great progress, and I salute them for that. Of course, as always, we have to see the text. But I think the values and the priorities that they have established are what we need to do right away.
So, I don't share your view. Again, who knows? We'll see how it goes. But we do have to – we cannot leave here without having a piece of legislation.
And I can say this unequivocally: What Mr. McConnell is putting forth in terms of liability is such an assault on America's workers that I hope that the group goes nowhere near what he is presenting.
Q: At what point do you have to start negotiating directly with Leader McConnell?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, well, the normal course – thank you for the question. The normal course of events is the committees do their negotiation. And, again, I'm an appropriator, as you've heard me say again and again; left to their own devices, the appropriators can come to the solution.
I've spoken with the Chairman of the Committee in the Senate, Senator Shelby. I think he's committed to not – to keeping government open and having a bipartisan bill. Nita Lowey on our side. Those are the two main negotiators in all of this. Also, again, they want to find common ground, and I think they're close to that.
And then, when the committees cannot find their common ground, what is left is what is kicked up, kicked up to the principals, in terms of leadership. We don't negotiate the bill all along. So, when that comes, if they have not resolved, which I hope they will and they can, then that's when we would – the normal regular order would be. Yeah.
Q: Madam Speaker, this week Congresswoman DeLauro, the incoming Chair of the Appropriations Committee, held a hearing on repealing the Hyde amendment.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Will a bill repealing the Hyde amendment come up for a vote before the whole House in 2021?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know if there will be a bill to do that, but it will be part of legislation. Yes, I think that is – I mean, I, myself, have been an opponent of the Hyde amendment long before I came to Congress. So I would be receptive to that happening, yes.
Q: Does it depend on the outcome of control of the Senate, what the House does, or will the House proceed on the Hyde amendment however?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know, again, our biggest partner in all of this are the American people, are the American people, and the American people know that we have to have fairness in what we do.
And this is not an issue of the Hyde amendment. It is an issue as to the impact that it has in terms of unfairness to women in our country.
So, this will be an interesting debate, again, respectful of all views. But nonetheless, again, way before I was in Congress, as soon as the Hyde amendment was there, I was thinking, ‘How can we get rid of that?’ So, it's long overdue, getting rid of it, in my view.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: Madam Speaker, you've long been concerned about China and you have a history –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Steeped on the Intelligence Committee here. Are we to a point now, after what happened with Mr. Swalwell, maybe where there should be background checks for all staff and interns before serving? Obviously, Members' staff who serve on the Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee have that, but should that be universal? And what are your concerns?
Speaker Pelosi. So, what should be universal, Chad? I'm missing –
Q: Background checks for aides or interns across the board for all staff and interns on Capitol Hill after the concerns about Mr. Swalwell.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't have any concern about Mr. Swalwell.
There are those in the Congress who believe, and I am among them, that we should be seeing what influence the Chinese – I've been fighting them, as you know, for over 30 years in terms of their undue influence at universities in our country and the overtures they try to make to Members of Congress.
In terms of Mr. Swalwell, in the spring of 2015 the leadership of the House and the Committee were informed that overtures from a Chinese person was – were being made to Members of Congress. When that was made known to the Members of Congress, it was over. You know, that was the end of any communication with those people.
So, it isn't – I don't – I think we should make sure that everybody knows what they are being subjected to, but I don't know that it means that we have to do background checks for every intern who comes into the Capitol.
I do think that it's unfortunate that Mr. McCarthy is trying to make an issue of this when his leader – we all found out at the same time, the Republican leadership, that several Members had been approached.
Q: Were you briefed on this? Were you briefed on this?
Speaker Pelosi. We were all at the same moment. The House Republican and Democratic leaders and the leadership of the Committee were briefed at the same moment. Make sure you know that, because he keeps throwing out saying, ‘When did they know?’ We knew when they knew. And at that time, that was the end of it.
But you know what he's trying to do, he's trying to deflect attention from the fact that he has QAnon in his delegation over there. And that I think is a danger in terms of our debate here about, you know, what the possibilities are for undue influence to Members of Congress.
Q: Madam Speaker, so government funding is going to come up again next Friday.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: After the CR. Could you give us a sense about – you know how these packages work.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: When do they need to come to some sort of agreement on a relief or a rescue, whatever you're calling it, package? I mean, it's Thursday today, so there's seven, eight days until this is reconsidered.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know, I'm not one to ever say a date for a bill on the Floor. I never was. I'll give you an example of why that was not a good idea.
Remember when the Republicans said they were going to overturn the Affordable Care Act on the day, the anniversary of the day it was enacted? The moment they said that I knew they were doomed, because you have to bring a bill to the Floor when you have the votes, and they didn't and they had to withdraw their bill.
Respectful of the fact that December 26th, the Unemployment Insurance benefits expire, so sometime before then, hopefully that December 18th date we would like to have this done.
For us, it's several days before, because it takes time for the Senate to clear its throat. You know that. So, it is – so, when we have the text and the agreement then we will make that public, go to the Floor, pass the bill and give the Senate time to end before the expiration of this.
Now, if we need more time, then we take more time. But we have to have a bill and we cannot go home without it. I have to believe the Administration and the Republicans in the Senate when they say they do not want to shut down government, that it is possible to do the omnibus. And we're close there. I mean, there's still some concerns, but that's the way it always goes. And then the COVID added to that. In order to have the COVID added to omnibus, you have to have an omnibus, and so we're working dual tracks on that.
But I would hope that it would honor the December 18th deadline, but we can't go before the package is ready and the votes are there, as well as the fact that people do want to get home for the holidays, such as that is. But what's more important is that we get the job done for the American people before the holidays.
But we've been here after Christmas, you know. We were here five years ago. We were here five years ago on the budget, and I can tell you stories about that if you want.
So, you know, again, it has to be done before year's end in order to keep government open. We want it before December 26th, even though it could be retroactive, so that we remove all doubt.
And my view is, as an appropriator myself and a negotiator, what's the – what's – you know, what's the difference? Just make a decision. Just make a decision so that we can move forward. Yeah.
Q: How worried should American renters be at this point that the eviction moratorium will be allowed to expire?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think that we should extend the moratorium. And we do – there is money, funding for rent in this proposal, which is one of its appealing features that the McConnell proposal does not even reference.
But it's one thing to have money to pay the rent, and that's a big advance. It would be important to extend the moratorium, too. But, again, that's part of their negotiation.
Thank you all very much.