Pelosi Remarks at Media Availability on Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement 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 evening, everyone.
I'm very honored as well as, tonight, happy to welcome the distinguished Leader of the Democrats in the Senate. I want to salute him for the masterful work he did last evening to find a solution, to give us a path to bring the legislation forward that will help America's working families.
Our purpose has always been to crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people, which we do in this legislation. Sadly, our third purpose to honor our heroes was not fully appreciated by our Republican colleagues and so our support for state and local government, while significant in this legislation, requires more to be done. So, we consider this a first step. And that, again, more needs to be done. And we're so excited that that will be happening under the Biden-Harris Administration, about 700 hours from now.
What I'm excited about in this bill – and it is really the Democratic difference – is what it does for America's working families. As we see food lines all over the country. It was our legislation that had the initiatives for food, for nutrition, for our children in school and seniors, as well as America's working families, their rental assistance and so many – let me just say about food, maybe 15 million children in America are food insecure. Many adult food insecure people. Highest percentage of them, I believe, is in the state of Kentucky. Nonetheless, the food, the nutrition piece of it has always been central to our Democratic proposal.
With the millions of people on the verge of eviction, we have rental assistance and a moratorium until the Biden Administration. Food, rental assistance, Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for America's working poor families. The Democratic difference. CDFI, assistance for Community Development Financial Institutions to help small business, minority-owned businesses, women-, veterans-, rural, Native American-owned businesses to participate in a way. Because they're not big and they don't have financial relationships, sometimes they are overlooked. But that is central to what our legislation has done.
Child care, child care. Children learning, parents earning. Very important, especially in the time of the pandemic, when children cannot actually in many cases, go to school. Therefore, their parents can't go to work. Child care.
Again, these and so many other issues that are so central to the kitchen table needs of America's working families. That has always been my focus and that is the Democratic difference between what we have succeeded in doing and what was not even present in any way in any bills that the other side put forward in the Senate.
In addition, we're very pleased that investments in transportation system and what that means to our economy, jobs, etc. WRDA is in this legislation. We're very pleased that bipartisan, bicameral support for WRDA. That is a job creator, as well. The Employment Retention Tax Credit. Some of these things just made it in late this evening. That's why it's taking us longer to write the bill to bring it to the Floor. But these are some of the later developments. And, of course, we're very proud that surprise billing is a part of this.
And again, one thing that we didn't achieve – the money that was left over from the CARES Act: we wanted to have flexibility, so it could be used for revenue loss, as well as Coronavirus expenses by our communities in our states. Republican and Democratic governors, alike, supported that. We did get an extension of one year. So, perhaps, unfortunately, with the spread of the virus, they will have those kinds of expenses.
So, in any case, whether it's education, transportation – let me just say this one thing, because I, from time to time, hear a question here, Mr. Leader: ‘What took so long?’ What took so long is because we could not get our Republican colleagues to crush the virus. I couldn't understand it. Why would they not want to invest in the science that has told us so importantly that it required testing, tracing, treatment, separation, sanitation and the rest?
And when we had the bill in the Heroes Act and even in the smaller Heroes Act, because we reduced the time, they said, ‘We just made a light touch on your language on testing.’ No, 53 percent of it, to take out everything that referred to minority communities. Communities of color was so hard hit and all of this. And now, we see why. They didn't believe in the science, we knew that. But they did believe in herd immunity. And that's why they never, they never could come to that first bill pillar, to crush the virus.
So, for these and other reasons, we're on a new path now. I'm proud of the legislation. It's a first step, we need to do more. But they – what gives us hope is a vaccine, and we have to make that available, free and fairly, equitably distributed in our country and I encourage everyone to be vaccinated. And, again, what gives me hope is that in that 700 hours, Joe Biden will be President of the United States, bringing his values, his commitment to America’s working families to the fore as we prepare for additional legislation.
With that, I'm very pleased to, again, welcome our distinguished Democratic Leader of the Senate, praise him for his masterful work last evening, to take us from a place where American working families were shortchanged and left out to dry, except for his brilliance in getting the job done for us. In that spirit, I welcome Leader Schumer to the podium.
Leader Schumer. Well, thank you, Speaker Pelosi, and thank you for your steadfastness and focusing on the working families of America and their needs.
Now, while this bill is far from perfect, nor is it the bill that we would pass if Democrats had a Majority in the Senate, it is a strong shot in the arm to help American families weather the storm.
For the 20 million people who would lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, help is on the way. To the millions of small business owners who are worried their businesses would go under, help is on the way. To families struggling with less money, direct payments mean help is on the way. To people who might have been evicted from their homes because they didn't have a job and couldn't afford it, help is on the way. To those who need food because they have no money because of the pandemic, help is on the way. And to all of America who wants to make sure that the vaccine is distributed free and fairly and quickly, help is on the way.
So, this bill is certainly not everything we wanted. Our Republican friends stood in the way of so much, but it is a strong, strong shot in the arm to get things going. We all know that President Trump has made the economy a mess by how he treated the pandemic. We all know that President Biden is entering his presidency in an economic deep hole caused by President Trump. This bill helps him begin to get out of that hole. It is $900 billion. That is the second largest stimulus amount of dollars that has ever gone into the economy. The first being the CARES bill, which we negotiated with Secretary Mnuchin, so it is a lot of money.
Unfortunately, the troubles are so deep, the abyss is so, so, so long, that we need more, and this is just a first step. This is an emergency. We need a second bill to continue dealing with the emergency and to start stimulating our economy, so we get back to where we were. And that will be job number one in the new Biden Administration. And whether we have the Majority in the Senate or the Minority, we Democrats are going to push like anything to get a bigger, stronger bill.
This bill is a good bill. Tonight is a good night, but it is not the end of the story. It is not the end of the job. Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what's going on in America, does not look into the eyes of a small business owner who's losing his business.
There are a lot of things in this bill that help New York. I'm very proud of the mass transit provision. I'm very proud of the Save Our Stages provisions. And when it came – comes to state and local, even though the Republicans were relentless against it, we found other ways to aid the states. So, the states will get at least some of the aid they need. The localities and the tribes will get some of the aid they need.
But the Republican relentlessness against state aid is just befuddling. Why is it any different when someone who works for the local government loses his or her job and can't feed their kids or someone from a small business loses it? They're all for helping the small businesses and so are we, because they employ people. But what's the difference between that and state and local governments where people are also losing their job and can’t feed their families? Ideology gets in the way, ideology gets in the way.
But this bill gives us hope and confidence that we can do more, and we will do more. We must do more. And when we come back in January, that will be job number one, to fill in the gaps, the many gaps left by this bill and to make sure that this bill, a strong measure gets the – does the job by making sure it gets the money to the people as it was intended.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, and thank you for your leadership and ensuring that as we go forward, the important role that our state local government plays in the lives of American people is recognized in the states in particular when it comes to the vaccine and how it is distributed and how it goes from vaccine to vaccination, from the lab to the arm. Important legislation, they're recognizing the role of the state and that – and then so many other things, whether it's education, transportation, so many initiatives that do help the states.
But I associate myself to your comments. We have $325 billion in this legislation for small business. It's bipartisan. We support that. However, if we had $325 billion for state and local government, our heroes, our health care workers who risk their lives to save lives, and now they might lose their jobs, our police and fire, first responder some of the first on the scene, when they have to administer to the needs of a victim of the coronavirus, our sanitation, transportation, we said, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, the custodians of our children. We are not forgetting them. We're going to go forward and help them and recognize and honor them for how important they are to enable us to live the lives that we that we live. And so again, right now we're had we've had a readout of the of the relief package, and now we're going through the omnibus in a few short moments.
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So, we have time for a couple questions. Yes.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, quick question, given how hard it was to get this deal, from May you were fighting. Are you under any illusion it's going to be easy to this part two next year?
Speaker Pelosi. I believe in public sentiment. You know that. And we have a great leader who has the confidence of the people that he is there for them, Joe Biden is. And he would, I think – the soapbox, the bully pulpit that he has to say, ‘We're here for you. We know what you need, and we are going to fight the fight for you.’ No, I think that it's – I think we’re going to have a much easier time than we've had with the Republican Senate and a Republican President.
Leader Schumer. Let me just say something. The number one reason we didn't get the bill we needed was the Republican Senate. And Donald Trump just obfuscated the whole issue.
A Democratic President Joe Biden will be able to focus the American people's attention on the Senate, the Republican Members of the Senate, who are obstructing, getting in the way of what they need. If Joe Biden says we need $1,200 checks instead of the $600 – they didn't have any money for checks in their bill. Well, he'll focus on the American people. If we feel we need more money for Unemployment Insurance, he'll focus on the American people.
And I believe the Republicans who have had – who have been able to hide under Trump's circus, almost, will no longer be able to do it. I am very optimistic that we can get a lot more done in a Senate, certainly if there's a Democratic Majority, but even if a Republican Majority remains, with a new President who's going to focus the issue. He said he's making COVID his number one issue. Things will be easier, better and will produce even more.
Speaker Pelosi. And, on that score, so many of you have reported that we have delays because of bickering. It isn't bickering. It's a big difference in how we meet the needs of the American people. A budget should be a statement of our values. Clearly we have a different set of values when we're giving $150 billion to the wealthiest people in America to get the CARES Act passed and shortchanging those who are – who need – who need the money more and whose receiving that money injects demand into the economy.
White shirt, white shirt. Yes.
Q: Given all of the demand still out there that you’ve talked about, how large a package would you like to see President-elect Biden introduce next year as President and how much money for state and local aid do you think should be in that package?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we'll make a judgement all the time about what the needs are. I think that when you see the surge and the Coronavirus, you know that we cannot just think it's over or that we can ignore it.
The denial, the delay, the distortion, the calling it a hoax has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, not all of them attributed to President Trump, but most of them that could have been avoided.
So, this is a matter of life and death: the lives of the American people and the livelihood of our economy and their economic security. So we’ll make a judgement as we go forward as to what has changed and what – what may be for the better or may be for the worse as we go forward.
What Mr. Leader did you want to speak?
Leader Schumer. I think we're gonna have a more robust bill on state and local and many other issues under the President – under President Biden's Administration than we've had now.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. And, again, the difference – people will see the difference. And I do think that there'll be some – there'll be some Republican Senators who will see the light when they – when the American people see what the difference is.
Leader Schumer. And one other thing we left out: what's not in the bill is important also. We succeeded in removing a nasty corporate immunity provision, which would have prevented even the most reckless employers from having recourse. And, of course, we allowed the Fed to move forward. The Toomey sabotage was undone. So, it's not just what's in the bill, but what we got out of the bill. That's important as well.
So, three things about this bill: one, more relief than any bill, but the CARES bill, a good shot in the arm to the economy. Two, lots of help for people in many different ways, which we've outlined. By the way, none of which were in McConnell’s bill: Unemployment Insurance, McConnell’s bill, zero – enhanced UI; direct payments, zero; SNAP, zero; rental assistance, zero; transportation, zero; CDFIs, zero; SBA grants, zero; SAMHSA, zero; COVID research – NIH, zero; broadband, zero.
His bill had next to nothing in it. So, he's – and he is saying, you know that we share that with this. This bill is close to his bill. Thank God, it isn't. Thank God it isn't.
Speaker Pelosi. But to be exact, what he did say, which is amusing, it falls in the ballpark of what Senate Republicans have proposing since – since the summer, I guess it was. It falls in the ballpark, what ballpark is that?
But let me just say, to the extent that we can work in a bipartisan way, we're happy to do so. As the distinguished Leader said, this is a big bill, second only to the CARES Act, which we worked together on, changing it from a corporate, trickle-down bill to a working people, bubble-up bill, except they still got their $150 billion for the wealthiest people in America.
But as we go forward on all of this, to avoid what they tried to do with the liability – the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Practices Act, OSHA, you name it – they were trying to prevent people from having any safety in the courts in many categories that had nothing to do with a Coronavirus. And when I asked one of the Republican Senators, ‘Why do you have the Americans with Disabilities Act on your agenda to prevent them from filing a complaint?’ He said, ‘Let me have’ – he said exactly this, ‘Let me have the Chamber of Commerce call you and tell you why.’ I said, ‘Well, don't waste their time or mine.’
Right now, I have to go vote so thank you all very much.