Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

February 11, 2021
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, everyone.  It's quite a week, quite a week.  I'm so proud of our Members who are busy at work, especially our chairmen, organizing their committees to get ready for our bill that we anticipate will become law as soon as possible, the American Rescue Plan, put forth by President – by President Biden as a part – as part of how we meet the needs of the American people. 

The pandemic and the economic crisis that go with it continues to be devastating to the American people.  This legislation is necessary, but don't take my word for it.  Yesterday, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve stated that the real unemployment rate is ten percent, matching the worst point in the Great Recession.  In his speech, he said, for recovery, ‘fiscal policy is an essential tool for this situation.’  He referenced that monetary policy would not be enough.  Chairman Powell played down the fears of inflation during the pandemic and noted that, in his words, ‘inflation has been much lower and more stable over the past three decades than in earlier times’ and that he did not expect it to accelerate in a sustained way coming out of the pandemic.

As Chairman Powell said, ‘Given the number of people who have lost their jobs, the likelihood that some will struggle to find work in the pandemic economy – in the post‑pandemic economy, achieving and sustaining maximum employment will require more than supportive monetary policy.  It will require a society‑wide commitment,’ hence, the legislation that our Members are working on this week. 

We hope to finish our markups in committee this week and then send it to the Budget Committee next week for them to work their will on it, then to the Rules Committee, and then to the Floor.  We hope to have this all done by the end of February, certainly on the President's desk in time to offset the March 14th deadline where some unemployment benefits will expire. 

I'm particularly interested in how women are affected by the pandemic but also by this legislation.  Over 2.3 million women have been forced to leave the workforce entirely, including 1 million moms.  That's why this bill is so important, because it has a strong commitment to child care so that parents, moms and dads, are able to go to work.  It has a strong commitment to getting our kids back to school, another path to the workforce for moms.

Last month, January, nearly 80 percent of workers who left the workforce were women.  And in December, it was 90 percent of those who had left the workforce were women.  The women's labor force participation rate is now just about 57 percent, the lowest level in 33 years.  For women of color, the situation is even worse. 

Again, that is about the livelihood of the American people, about the lives of the American people.  I talked about ten percent unemployment, as quoted by the Chairman of the Fed, Chairman Powell.  Another number that is just so somber, sobering is 470,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, 470,000.  Again, this legislation that we're passing now so addresses the needs of the American people when it comes to the coronavirus.  It's about the lives and the livelihood of the American people.

We're proud, again, of our committee chairs, who are moving ahead expeditiously with nine committees working on marking up legislation for the American Rescue Plan, this week.  They're moving forward to crush the virus, the funding there for [vaccine] production, distribution, for testing, et cetera, for other funding in terms of access to health care.  Again, the goal is to put vaccines in people's arms, children back in school, workers back in their jobs and money in people's pockets. 

And the money in people's pockets, we're very proud that in the legislation, we in the House, the Education and Labor Committee marked up its bill on Tuesday until 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, a big part of money in people's pockets in the Education and Labor Committee, in addition to making our schools safe for our children to go back to school. 

In the bill, it gradually raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour, increases paychecks – in doing so, increases paychecks for 27 million workers and pulling nearly a million people out of poverty.  Well over 50 percent, closer to two‑thirds or 70 percent, of people making the minimum wage are women, many of them women of color. 

Again, it secures the Child Tax Credits, helping nearly one in three adults having trouble paying for household expenses and 12 million children from going hungry.  So, in the legislation, we have the Child Tax Credit.  This is quite remarkable, $3,000 for a child.  And then, if they're 6 years and under, it is $3,600.  This is pulling these children out of poverty.  The bill also addresses those who are food insecure, rental – rent insecure and the rest. 

So, it’s a very important piece of legislation.  It is what this country needs, and I salute not only the President and Vice President for their leadership in recognizing that in this important work, but also to do so in a way that is robust, meets the needs of the American people, but also meets the needs of the strength of our economy.  We plan, as I said, to work on it this week, next week, and have it passed by the end of February so we can send it to the President's desk before the unemployment benefits expire. 

This week, as you know, we have seen – it's been such a sad time for us, but as we see what is being presented, we also see the extraordinary valor of the Capitol Police who risked and gave their lives to save our Capitol, our democracy, our lives.  They're martyrs for our democracy, martyrs for our democracy, those who lost their lives. 

That is why I'm putting forth a resolution, introducing legislation to pay tribute to the Capitol Police and other law enforcement personnel who protected the Capitol by giving them a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that Congress can bestow.  The service of the Capitol Police force that day brings honor to our democracy.  Their accepting this reward brings luster to this medal.  We must always remember their sacrifice and stay vigilant against what I said before about, what Abraham Lincoln said, ‘the silent artillery of time.’  We will never forget.

We were so moved by having the family give us the honor of honoring Brian Sicknick, also the Liebengood family and the Smith family.  We share their grief, and we want to recognize the valor of that.  And then also, of course, Officer Goodman for his valor.  But these are demonstrations of much more bravery throughout the Capitol on that sad day.  So, we want to honor them in the best way that we possibly can, and we will continue to do so beyond a medal, but in our hearts.

So, again, as the Senate is dealing with its business at hand, I'm so proud of our – just overwhelmingly proud of our Managers, led by Jamie Raskin.  But at the same time, we're getting our work done to meet the needs of the American people, to crush the virus, to put our children back in school, money in people's pockets, again, people back to work.  The lives and the livelihood of the American people are our responsibility.  Four hundred and seventy thousand people have died.  We have to call a halt to that.

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Any questions?  Yes, sir. 

Q:  Will the bill that you send to the Senate have a $15 minimum wage in it? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, it will.

Q:  It will?

Speaker Pelosi.  It will.  Yes.  We're very proud of that.  As I said, 27 million people will get a raise, 70 percent of them women.  And we will be sending that.  Yes, sir.

What have you got, Chad? 

Q:  Obviously, compelling presentation yesterday, the video –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q:  Heart‑wrenching at times, but if the Managers –

Speaker Pelosi.  May I just, may I just – before you spend any more time on it.  I have not said anything, you haven't heard me talk about impeachment in the past weeks leading up to this.  They're making the case.  I'm not going to be responding to what happened yesterday or what might happen today, except to salute them for the excellence of what they have presented and how proud we are of them.  So, I won't be answering any questions.

Q:  Can I bring something slightly different?  If I can get to the crux of the question, maybe you'll want to talk about it. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Let's hear it, yeah.

Q:  But if that doesn't convince Republican Senators, 67, what does that say? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you know, again, let's let the presentation work its way out.  The American people, we're in a court of the Senate right now.  We're also in the court of public opinion.  We're in the court of our families, who will make judgments about us, and we're in a court of history.

Yes, sir. 

Q:  In your estimation, why was the Capitol not better prepared for the potential violence on January 6th, and why was the National Guard not called in ahead of time, and who ultimately bears responsibility for that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Are you familiar with what's on the internet now about what the Secretary of Defense said in response to the request for the National Guard?  This will all be – this morning, I was briefed again by General Honoré and was so honored and blessed by his service and another general, General Singh, who's working with him on making some recommendations to us about how we go forward, and that will be part of the commission to review the command and control, the interagency cooperation, or lack thereof.

One important thing would be really good, if the state – if Washington, D.C., if the District of Columbia could operate as a state, as any Governor can do, is to call out the National Guard without getting the permission of the Federal government.  It shouldn't have to happen that way.  And if you see the letter, December – I mean, excuse me – the January 4th letter from the Secretary of Defense saying what he wasn't going to do, it's most unfortunate. 

But I think everything has to be subjected to the harshest review to make sure this doesn't come again.  We couldn't be in better hands than General Honoré, who has such experience and commands so much respect in this regard and then further to that to pursue a longer term.  What General Honoré is recommending to us is the here and now, but a larger look at how we got here, where we go from here.

Yes, ma'am.

Q:  Madam Speaker, a couple of weeks ago, you said that the enemy is within the House of Representatives. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right. 

Q:  Given that, do you feel comfortable –

Speaker Pelosi.  I said the enemy is within. 

Q:  Is within. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Within, within.  I didn't say the –

Q:  Do you feel comfortable inviting President Biden to give his joint address?  Can you explain the holdup?  Is it you that's looking for precautions, or is it largely because of these violations on the Floor that we've been seeing? 

Speaker Pelosi.  It will be up to – again, everything that we do in this regard in terms of security, et cetera, relating to COVID and relating to security, security, is in the hands of the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Police and the Capitol Physician, and so they'll make a recommendation about how we're able to do that spatially – I mean, how many people. 

When we swore in Members on opening day, only the Freshman, the brand-new Freshmen Members were able to have a guest: a child, a parent – not even a child of a certain age – older child, or parent there.  Only the new Members.  I, as new Speaker of the House, couldn't have any family member there to see me sworn in as Speaker.  They decide what that number is and what the criteria are for it, and the same thing will hold for the President coming to make the State of the Union address.  We won't be doing any of that until we pass our COVID bill.  That is the first order of business. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, with so many Republican Senators indicating that they're prepared to vote for acquittal, what other avenues of accountability do you think there will be and would you like to see for former President Trump? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I don’t – as I say, this pursuit of justice and truth is in the hands of our Managers.  I will have some things to say maybe next week, but not this week.  Let's just see how – what the case is and what their response is to it, but I'm not acting upon something that hasn't happened yet.

Q:  You have mentioned the commission in the past.  Are you –

Speaker Pelosi.  The commission, for sure.  That has nothing to do with President Trump.  That has to do with what you asked about.  It's about the security.  How did this happen?  Where do we go from here?  And it also, it also will talk about white supremacy because there are many instances leading up to this that could have been indicative that this could happen – acts of violence around the country springing from that.  That's not to say this is only about anti‑Semitism and white supremacy.  It could be about some other things, we'll see, and how that was provoked. 

In terms of the commission, we're listening to folks about what answers we need in that regard, particularly listening to General Honoré about what would be the most useful to protect us as we go forward. 

But next week I may have some comments to make, but I'm not – I haven't said anything.  Most of our Members have not.  We just respected the path of our Managers.  We couldn't be prouder of their presentation, and we don't want any static from any of the rest of us. 

Yes, sir.

Q: Madam Speaker, can you address one argument that many of the Republican Senators are already making?  And that is that it's not valid to even have this trial because you're dealing with somebody who's a former President.  And yet, you in the House impeached him before, while he was still a President, this act occurred while he was still President, but the trial shifted to after he left the White House.  What do you think about that argument of, you know, an impeachment occurring at one point but now people saying you can't try him because the actual trial didn't take place until afterwards? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Actually, again, this is not into the guts of the trial, but when we were – we passed the Article of Impeachment, and then we were prepared, actually lined-up to take it over to the Senate.  We were told early in the day that the Senate, even though they were not in session, could receive the Article and the Managers were prepared to take it over.  As they were preparing for that, we got word from the Senate that, if it's not in session, you cannot bring it over.  And so you have to wait until Mitch McConnell decides the Senate will be in session, which put it off until later, until the 19th.  And then they decided, well, let's get – do this or that and then wait two weeks in order to have the trial.

So, we were ready.  They said no.  In fact, one of them even said, ‘If you bring it over here and just leave it with the Secretary of the Senate, it could be destroyed.’  I don't know if that's true.  They could just ignore it and say, ‘We weren't here.  We never got it.’  But that – it's a little disingenuous to say that.

But separate and apart from that, what I just told you is totally unnecessary because the fact is that the Senate voted and the Constitution allows for someone to be tried after they are no longer in office.  Or else, as Jamie said, you have a January exception – you have a get‑out‑of‑jail‑free card.  Do whatever you want as long as the Senate is an accomplice in terms of putting it off, you're saved.  But in any event, all that I said about when we were going and all is interesting, but it's not dispositive of the interests of the issue because the Constitution is dispositive of that. 

Okay.  All right.  Well, thank you all very much.  Thank you.