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. Welcome to the last weekly of this year – of this year, of this session of Congress and of this Congress. Until next week, when we'll be in a new Congress. I wish you a Happy New Year as we go forward.
Sadly, the Congress received the news last evening of the passing of a new Member of Congress, Luke Letlow from Louisiana, due to be sworn in this Sunday, but taken by the coronavirus yesterday. He leaves his wife and two babies, and we extend great sympathy to his family. So sad. Forty-one years old, coronavirus, blood clot complication. Could happen to anyone. And it has happened to nearly 350,000 Americans.
Many of those deaths could have been avoided. As we go forward, we must, we must make sure that we are scientific and determined to crush the virus in whatever form it takes. In the meantime, though, let us extend deepest sympathy to their family and to to those little babies who have lost their daddy.
So, here we are in time, as I mentioned, the last meeting of the year for us. Let's just talk about the last week or so. In the last week or so, we sent to the President the legislation, it took some time for it to be enrolled because it was a lot – a big bill. He received it on Christmas Eve, 3:30 in the afternoon. He did sign it on Sunday evening and we were very pleased with that because it had very strong bipartisan vote in the House and in the Senate.
In the course of, though, of that week, the President announced his support for the $2,000 direct payment, which we madly embraced, and said, ‘We join with the President in supporting this,’ came in on Christmas Eve, were blocked by the Republicans for having a Unanimous Consent to bill – bring up that legislation. But on Monday, in regular session, we brought it forth and it passed with strong bipartisan support. We were very pleased then to send that over to Mitch McConnell and the Senate.
The President of the United States has expressed his support for the $2,000. The Democrats and Republicans in the House have passed that legislation. Who is holding up that distribution to the American people? Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans.
Democratic Leader Schumer, yesterday, asked for Unanimous Consent to bring it up in the Senate, which was blocked by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate. In blocking it, they are in denial of the hardship that the American people are experiencing now. Health wise, financially, in every way. Their lives and livelihood in many cases are on the brink. So, they're in denial of that need in denying this benefit.
I do hope that in the days ahead – we only have a few days left in this session – that they will see the light and understand what the suffering – the suffering that is going on in our country.
Now, I've said before, it's amazing to see the patience that some people have with other people’s suffering. These Republicans in the Senate seem to have an endless tolerance for other people's sadness. We urge Mitch McConnell to stop his obstruction and to bring that legislation to the Floor of the Senate. And we urge Republicans in the Senate to encourage him to do so.
It's really important to note though how important this money in the pockets of American people are. If they have the resources, they spend it. They inject demand into the economy. That is job-creating. It's important to note that with the bill that we passed last week, that the President signed – that we sent over last week and that the President signed on Sunday evening, brought us up to a, nearly a trillion dollars for small businesses in our country – a trillion and just about $950 billion, and we support that. We know that small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. The most optimistic thing you can do is to start a small business, your hopes and dreams, your ideas, your vision.
But for those small businesses to take advantage of that money, they have to have customers. It's not enough to keep the doors open if nobody's walking through. And that's why these direct payments are so necessary.
And for those small businesses to thrive, they must have services provided by state and local government. Our health care providers, our heroes: health care providers, transportation, sanitation, first responders, police and fire, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers. And that's why in this next session of Congress, in the new Congress with the new President, we must pass legislation that not only honors our heroes, but recognizes the services that they provide enable our lives to function, our businesses to thrive, our economy to prosper and our people to be healthy. So, that will be a very important part of what we do next.
But you would think that there would at least be the immediate recognition that the money in the pockets of the American people helps those small businesses thrive. Just for – I've had the poster here before. It's a bigger number now than before: about $950 billion, nearly a trillion dollars to small business. $160 billion, $160 billion to state and local government. 950, 160. State and local government: health care workers, police and fire, teachers, sanitation, transportation, food workers. 160, 950.
But we need more here to exploit the opportunity that is here. And, in the meantime, this $2,000 will go a long way, not only to sustain the financial security of America's working families, but will help small business to thrive as well. So, these things are all connected
At the same time, as we had a good day on Monday passing, in bipartisan fashion, the CASH Act. The CASH Act, Caring for Americans with Supplemental Help – Caring for Americans with Supplemental [Help], the CASH Act. We also, that day, had an overwhelming vote to override the President's veto of the National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA. Overwhelming, overwhelming vote: -87. One hundred and nine Republicans voted to override the President's veto. We hope that the Senate will follow suit. They had a big, strong vote in the Senate in favor of this bill. Hopefully, they will stand by their votes there and sustain the veto, excuse me, overturn the veto of the President. We'll see. Okay, so that's what happened in the past week.
In the past week, we have also seen reports of the vaccine distribution not measuring up to what we need to have a fair, equitable distribution of the vaccine that is free. I support what President-elect Joe Biden said yesterday, that in his Administration, the 100 million vaccinations in a short period of time, that he would engage the national Defense Production Act to make sure that we not only have the vaccines, but the means to make the inoculation. It's one thing to be in the lab, another thing to be in the arm.
There's a lot in between in terms of logistics, in terms of administration, in terms of materials. And one of the things that is holding up the further vaccinations in the country is this Administration, the Trump Administration's lack of cooperation on the distribution of syringes and other things that go into that, and holding up some of the vaccine as well.
So, this has to be done better. This has to be done better. And let's hope in the last few weeks of the Trump Administration, that they will follow the science, that they will make the vaccines available, that they will make the syringes and other materials available, so that you can have many more people vaccinated even before the inauguration.
This vaccine – this pandemic is horrible. I mean, in every way, the lives and livelihoods of the American people are affected by it in a massive way. However, it has also pulled back the curtain to reveal further disparities in our economy and in our society. They have become – come into sharper focus because of the pandemic. And that is why I have asked the Rules Committee that we will be taking up the new rules package on Monday, or Sunday night if the schedule allows, but following the vote for Speaker, I will have them announce in the next day or so, when they put forth the rules package, a Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth.
As we go into this new Congress, we have to have a scientific start on crushing the virus. We have to honor heroes, state and local government, and we have to put money into the pockets of the American people. Hopefully, we can do this on this side of the weekend, rather than waiting until later, the third point, direct payments. That has always been our goal: crush the virus, honor our heroes, money in the pockets of the American people.
Clearly, the disparities in income and equity in our country are vast. We've known that. They've only gotten worse, and the pandemic, again, puts it in sharper focus. And that's why I'm proud to announce the creation of a new bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, which will be a central force for the Congress to combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America.
Our Members are full of exuberance and many suggestions, on both sides of the aisle. Yesterday, some proposed to me, $2,000 a month as this – as we go through this bad time. Others, Congresswoman Jayapal, has a wage guarantee legislation. Others have, Congresswoman Murphy, has the income – the [Employee] Retention Tax Credit, which is in – which is in the bills that the President just signed, somewhat.
But there are others: sovereign wealth funds to give the profit – the benefit – the income to poor families in America, other bonding issues to try to address the fact that the middle class is the backbone of our democracy. When that is weakened, so is our democracy. So, this is to address not only the middle class, but those who aspire to the middle class. But the disparity has only grown and so I, as a model for this, as you may recall, when we did Mr. Clyburn’s committee, we used the Truman Committee as a reference to how to save money, save lives.
This is something that – it’s modeled after the mission of the Temporary National Economic Committee founded by President Roosevelt and the Congress after the Great Depression to study and combat the concentration of wealth in America and its role in triggering economic collapse. This is what President Roosevelt said at the time. He said, ‘The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself… the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.’
That is why we are creating this Select Committee, which will be a resource to the Congress to make policy related to economic fairness, access to education and workforce development, et cetera. And, again, we'll work with the committees of jurisdiction. This is not a legislative committee. It is a committee to make recommendations. The committees of jurisdiction, have all done a great job, our Education and Labor Committee, Ways and Means Committee, Energy and Commerce Committee, Financial Services, the list – they have done a great job in trying to address these concerns legislatively. We need a bigger spotlight on the problem, and on some of the solutions so that we can all participate in the very worthy suggestions that are made. And again, we will empower American economic growth, while ensuring that no one is left behind in the 21st century economy that we are putting forth.
So, we have a – we're very excited about our new President-elect, and that in three weeks, we will have a new president. It's pretty exciting, President and Vice President making history, that we have the gavel, that we have held the Congress. We look forward to what's happening in Georgia on Tuesday. So, every day is action packed. But I just wanted to review some of what happened in the past week to take us to this point.
This point, $2,000 direct payment to the American people being held up by Mitch McConnell, the same person who put $160 billion tax break for the wealthiest people and firms in America in the CARES Act. $160 billion in the CARES Act for the wealthiest in our country, refusing $2,000 to those who need it most, the same Republicans in the Congress who eagerly passed the tax bill that gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent, taking us well into debt. Nearly $2 trillion for our children to pay off so that they could have a tax break for the wealthy with a mythology that it would trickle down. And it has not, nor has it ever. Mitch McConnell, remove the obstacle that you have the American people having the opportunity to have that direct payment, and do it now.
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Any questions? Yes ma’am.
Q: Madam Speaker, do you plan to seat Ms. Miller-Meeks on Sunday, and are you confident that you're going to have a Dem Majority present?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, and yes, definitely. Yes.
Q: On the stimulus checks, we’re hearing on the Senate side that time is running out. Are you going to commit to bringing this idea back, the $2,000 checks, next week if it does die in this Congress?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let us – let us be hopeful that it can happen this week, because the sooner it happens, the sooner the checks go out. So, we're not giving up on it. The President of the United States, Donald Trump, is advocating for it. The Congress, in a bipartisan way in the House, has voted for it. It would have bipartisan support in the Senate if Mitch McConnell would only allow it to come to the Floor, instead of being an obstruction to those checks going to the American people.
Q: One additional question, we’re just hearing from Josh Hawley that he’s going to object on January 6th and force a debate on Electoral College votes. Could you comment on that move from the Republican?
Speaker Pelosi. I have no doubt that on next Wednesday, a week from today, that Joe Biden will be confirmed by the acceptance of the vote of the Electoral College as the 46th President of the United States.
Q: Madam Speaker, an overview from you: you’ve kept your Caucus together with a fighting spirit this year through very hard times. Did the events of 2020 help keep your Caucus cohesion? And secondly, what are your thoughts on a slimmer Majority next year, next week?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we are very excited about having won the House. We have the gavel, the Speaker's gavel. We also have 132 other gavels of chairs and subcommittees, and they are again, many of them in the hands, this past term of Freshmen and newer Members of Congress. And we're excited about that. Eighteen Freshmen had gavels, that was historic. There has been nothing even close to that before.
The – I have every confidence. Our Caucus is unified around our common ethical belief in our responsibility to America's working families. That's what brings us together. Of course, we have our differences in approach, and some other ideas. And that's our vitality. I would not want to be a leader of a party that was rubber stamp, lockstep. That's called Republicans. We, the Democratic Party, are democratic in every way, including respecting the views of all in our Caucus.
So, I have – I have great confidence that on an agenda that is there for America's working families, we will have the unity that we need to proceed under the leadership of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, the Biden-Harris Administration, and hopefully with the Democratic Senate. We'll see what next week brings.
Okay, thank you all. Thank you all very much.