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. Good morning.
We've had a couple of days of electing our chairs. Yesterday, we approved eighteen chairs, and it was pretty exciting for us. We had three contested races, and that included Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, now Chair of the Appropriations Committee, following in the footsteps of the first woman to serve in that capacity, Nita Lowey paving the way. All three candidates were women, for chair of Appropriations.
The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Greg Meeks of New York – did I say Rosa is of Connecticut? – Greg Meeks of New York, following in the footsteps of another New Yorker, Eliot Engel. And the Chair of the Ag Committee, David Scott from Georgia, the first African American ever chosen to be the Chair of the Agriculture Committee – pretty exciting – following in the footsteps of the great leadership of Collin Peterson. Greg Meeks is also African American. So, it was pretty historic, a woman and two African Americans, in the contested races. But throughout our leadership, half the leadership are either women or people of color in the chairs of the committees.
There are more chairs to be announced, but these were the ones that related to – Rules and Budget, related to the Steering and Policy Committee. So, those were two of the Speaker's announcements that I made. There are others that will follow.
But as I said to the Members then, “The gavels.” We held the House. We will hold the gavels, 132 of them, starting with the eighteen that were chosen yesterday.
But I am excited about it because, when they made their presentations over several days this week, it was a demonstration of values, of knowledge, of commitment to America's working families in every one of our committees and the beautiful diversity of those committees as well. So, it was a cause for celebration.
As you know, we are in the – let me do this right – we are – oh, wow, it hurts – but it will stay up – we are in the lame duck session. We have important work to do here. We have spent a good deal of the first part of the lame duck on the National Defense Authorization legislation. I want to salute our Chairman, Adam Smith and Mr. Thornberry, the Ranking Member, for the great bipartisan legislation they put together. This is the national security oath we take to protect and defend our Constitution and our country. And I am very, very proud of the work that went into it and now will come to the Floor next week. Our leader, Mr. Hoyer, will be talking about scheduling there.
But I want to reference some of what Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry said about the bill in their statement on the conference report. "Among the provisions we are most proud of" – and we join them in this – "the authorization of hazardous duty pay for our servicemen and women and members in harm's way; improvements to military housing and programs for military families and children with special needs" – quality of life for our military families is very essential to our national security – "addressing the shortage in military child care; authorizing $8.4 billion in military construction projects to fortify critical infrastructure and base realignment and closure cleanup" – very essential – "important new tools to deter China and Russia; reforms to make the Pentagon more efficient, innovative and cost‑effective; significant bipartisan provisions on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity; and provisions that strengthen our alliance with Israel."
I especially want to acknowledge how pleased we are with the leadership, also, of Congressman Anthony Brown, a member of the committee, a veteran of armed services, a decorated member of the military who now serves in the House, Anthony Brown, who provided long‑term – we included the process of changing the names of military bases purposefully, purposefully named for white supremacists. How could that have been? They just decided to name the bases for white supremacists.
I am also happy, personally, because I have four brothers who served in the Army, and they served on many of those bases around the country, and we would always just say, “Why is that?” Now it isn't.
But it also provides long‑overdue benefits to [Vietnam-era] veterans who were impacted by Agent Orange. This was really important to many of us. This issue was long overdue when we passed it. Now, it needed to be improved, and they do so in the bill.
And, again, to get back to the bases, it reflects our highest ideals as Americans. We urge the President to sign the NDAA, which has been passed on a bipartisan basis for 59 years. This will be 60.
So, again, this is very, shall we say, intensive in terms of the attention it requires. Our Members were constantly working on it. And that's why I wanted to take the time to take the pride in this legislation.
As you know, we are engaged in talks on the omnibus bill. When I spoke to Leader McConnell yesterday, we talked about the possibility of putting a COVID package on the omnibus bill. But he and I, being appropriators, know that if you are going to do that, you have to have an omnibus bill. And so, we have to work through all of the provisions that are still unresolved there. We're making progress.
Madam Chair Nita Lowey and Chair Shelby, Richard Shelby, on the Senate side, have come to great agreement on the 302(b)s – that's more Appropriations talk, but – and how they would proceed. They have made great progress. More needs to be done. And at the same time, simultaneous with that, we're working on the COVID package.
And Wednesday was our deadliest day – every day that anyone dies is a complete tragedy for our country – 2,800 Americans lost. We believe that one of the saddest parts of it is the neglect that this Administration has paid: delay, denial, distortion, hoax.
And now, finally, we have a new dynamic: a new President, in a little more than a month, committed to crushing the virus. A new dynamic: a vaccine, a successful vaccine – more than one successful vaccine – to make all the difference in the world. That is imminent.
Until the inauguration and the emergence of the vaccine, which will be soon – but not for everyone, just because of the quantity needed and the money needed to go from vaccine from the lab to vaccination to the arm. And that is going to require more than we're talking about now, but what Joe Biden has been talking about.
We believe – Schumer – Leader Schumer and I believe that the framework, the bipartisan framework unveiled by the Senators in a bipartisan way, with the support of House Members – Josh Gottheimer in the House, from our side – on both sides of the aisle, could be a basis for real bicameral negotiations.
It's not text yet. It's a framework. So, as they work on the text, we hope it will take us very close to something we can put into the omnibus, which is, at the same time, being worked on.
President‑elect Biden has said that this package would be just, at best, just a start. And that's how we see it as well. It's less money, but over a shorter period of time. And we need to do it to save lives and livelihoods, with the hope that much more help is on the way.
Again, we will – this vaccine has had such high – 95 percent was the – Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine give us great hope. But, again, we have to have the resources to exercise our options that we have to buy the vaccine. We would hope that the President would immediately exercise the – call upon the Defense Production Act to produce the vaccine.
That's what it is going to require to have the amount that we need, and then have the logistics, the money there for the states to – and that further highlights the need for funding for state and local government. Because we can pay for the vaccine, we can pay for its delivery, but the administration of it by health care professionals and others still needs to be funded as well. So, that's good news from – that help is on the way from Joe Biden, who sees the need.
We had some not‑so‑good news on the jobs front that further necessitates our taking action to crush the virus, to open up the economy, to open up our schools. But in order to do so, we must do so safely; science‑based in our approach on all of this. You probably did see the jobs report this morning, which is indicative. It is indicative of – further indicative of the need for us to have crushed the virus so the economy can get going.
So, all of that is to come to this place to say: there is momentum. There is momentum. With the action that the Senators and House Members, in a bipartisan way, have taken with them, it could provide meaningful relief for millions who are suffering economically, personally, health‑wise. And so I am pleased that the tone of our conversations is one that is indicative of the decision to get the job done.
With that, I'll take any questions you may have.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, who’s here? Nancy, you haven't had a question in a while.
Q: Thank you so much.
I heard what you said about momentum. Realistically, how soon do you and Leader McConnell need to cut a deal in order to have a package to vote on before the holidays?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we will have – we have the time to do it. It doesn't – and, again, if we want to have it on the omnibus, we have to have an omnibus. And we're hoping that that will accelerate the discussions on the omnibus.
We are going to keep government open. You know, we're not going to have a Continuing Resolution. But we need to take the time to do that.
And then, as I said, we saw a framework. They're putting – now, they have to turn it into text. And then – so we'll take the time we need. And we must get it done. And we must get it done by this – before we leave. We cannot leave without it.
Q: So, does that mean you have about a week to negotiate?
Speaker Pelosi. No, it just – it doesn't matter. We will take the time that we need. And the question is: when will the text be ready so that we can combine it into the – but the omnibus is not finished yet. We have a number of what we call ‘ash and trash.’ It's a lot of other issues that need to be resolved. And they're in the course of doing that.
And I don't want to in any way undermine the great bipartisan negotiations that are going on between the Democrats and Republicans, Senator Shelby as the Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the Senate, Nita Lowey as the Chair in the House, their staffs working together.
So, don't worry about a date. It will be in sufficient time for us to get it done. The sooner, the better, but not at the expense of the initiatives that we need to address in the bills.
Q: Thank you. So, just to be clear here, you said no Continuing Resolutions?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't want any. No.
Q: Yeah, I understand that. But if you are on the precipice of getting a coronavirus deal and you can't –
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, we’ll be along before that.
Q: Okay, okay.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: But what shifted, in your opinion, from when the Problem Solvers Caucus had a much larger bill a few months ago, you did not like that piece of legislation –
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. Like I said –
Q: What has shifted now, when they're on board with this piece that's come out of the Senate?
Speaker Pelosi. Perhaps you missed what I said earlier. Joe Biden, committed to ending and crushing the virus and having a Build Back Better America initiative, Build Back Better. A vaccine – answer to our prayers, an answer to our prayers – of 95 percent effectiveness in terms of Pfizer and Moderna, and there may be others coming forward. That makes – that is a total game‑changer: a new President and a vaccine.
So, there's nothing to – these are different. What was then, before, was not more of this. This has simplicity. It's what we've had in our bills. It's for a shorter period of time, but that's okay now, because we have a new President – a President who recognizes that we need to depend on science to stop the virus, a President who understands that America's working families need to have money in their pockets in a way that takes them into the future, without any of the contraptions of any of the other bills that the Administration was associating itself with before.
We feel very excited about the prospect that there's a bipartisan bill. Because I told Members, I am not bringing any more bills that are not bipartisan. We wanted to show what needs to be done in the interest of negotiation. They're negotiating. It's a good product. It's not everything we want; don't get me wrong. I don't want the Republicans to think that this is a dream come true. It is not. But it is a path forward.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, was it a mistake though not to accept half of a loaf months ago? When you said, I'm not going to accept half a loaf –
Speaker Pelosi. Look, I'm going to tell you something. Don't characterize what we did before as a mistake as a preface to your question, if you want an answer. That was not a mistake, it was a decision. And it has taken us to a place where we can do the right thing without other, shall we say, considerations in the legislation that we don't want. No. That was it.
Now, the fact is, I'm very proud of where we are. My chairs – my chairs have worked very hard on all of this. They were not even happy with our proposal that we made the other day before we saw this proposal. They thought we had come back too small.
So, it's not about an – it's about how we address the needs of the American people. And we have to do it in a scientific way, and we have to do it in a way that recognizes people need food on the table, they need to get their rent paid, they need money in their pockets, they need their Unemployment Insurance to be there. They do not need a whole cacophony of other things that are on the agenda that had nothing to do with meeting their needs.
So, we're very pleased at where it is. And as I said, with a Democratic President committed to a scientific solution for this, with the idea that we will have a vaccine, it's a complete game‑changer from them.
Q: Madam Speaker, the petition that –
Speaker Pelosi. No. She – I'm recognizing you.
Q: Oh, thank you. Joe Biden said that, on his first day in office, he will use Title IX to give transgender students access to sports, bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity in all federally funded schools. Does he have the power to unilaterally do this? And do you agree with this?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. And I think he does.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, the petition that Rita Hart is going to file soon, as far as her race is concerned over in Iowa, how is the House going to prevent a situation that was seen in 1985 between McCloskey and his Republican opponents? And would you encourage the loser of the New York 22 race to do the same thing if their recount ends in a very slim margin?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the issue relating to Iowa is an issue for the House Administration Committee. It is my understanding that Rita Hart, an excellent candidate for Congress, will be asking the House to take this up. But for further information about the technicalities of that, that becomes – that's a House, not a political, but a House Administration matter. The House decides who it will seat. We don't have any idea –
New York is a completely different situation. New York is a completely different situation. New York, there could be 1,500, 5,000 votes not counted yet. So, that is going into the court. I think Monday is the day in the court.
And that is, and that is what is – we'll see what happens in the court. And that may end up in the House. I don't know. But the court will decide which votes will be counted. But that's, like, down to twelve votes.
It's interesting, people should know, everyone should know his or her vote counts. Six votes are what the split is at the moment in Iowa. Twelve votes – now, this is on a basis of hundreds of thousands of votes cast, of hundreds of thousands of votes cast.
So, it is one of those matters that time will tell. We'll see what the court says. We'll see what the House Administration options are and what they decide to do as they go forward.
Sir, did you have a question?
Q: I just wanted to get a clarification as it relates to your conversations with Leader McConnell.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: So, is this now a situation where we're expecting an omnibus and any sort of coronavirus relief to be meshed into one piece of legislation?
Speaker Pelosi. That would be our hope, because that is the vehicle leaving the station. And that's probably – I was pleased that he wanted to do it that way, because that's how we have, that's what we thought would be the best way to do it. The vehicle is leaving the station.
Now, when you see a bill come to the Floor, you don't see the whole underpinnings or the orchestration of what it takes to get to a place. So, if there's a vehicle and we can add this language, once we see the text, that is what we will be doing.
Q: Well, would you need an agreement on both components to bring something to the floor?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, yeah, yeah. Yes. And that's what we're working on. Yes. Because we would want a big, strong vote – as we will have, getting back to earlier, on the national defense bill.
We're very proud of the bipartisanship that has gone into that, the quality‑of‑life issues there for military families, also a system to change the names of the bases that were named for white supremacists, in some cases by design, named for former members of the Confederacy well after the Civil War.
So, again, there are many things in there about our responsibility to protect and defend, but also about our values. For us, that was not a provision or an issue; it was an ethic. It was, was a value.
Thank you all very much.