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, and it is a good morning.
We are so excited that today the Equality Act will come to the Floor. We have passed it in the House before – the Equality Act, H.R. 5 – to end discrimination against the LGBTQ community. This time it will be not only passed in the House, but on a path to a signing at the White House. We're very excited about that. Later, we'll be gathered – I think right here, right? – to talk about that more specifically. But I want to salute Congressman David Cicilline for his leadership on this legislation and Senator Merkley, and just point out that when we announced that legislation, John Lewis stood with us, as a leader, as a leader in that passing of the Equality Act.
Again, we're waiting, as we all are to hear from the Senate Parliamentarian as to what will happen with the minimum wage piece of the legislation. I don't know what other considerations she has, but I feel that we have a very, very strong argument and we have a very big need in our country to pass the minimum wage. We've been working on this fight for fifteen years, for a number of years now. And it's long overdue. And it will be phased in. And we would hope that it could be part of this reconciliation bill. But it could be any moment. If you hear, because I don't have a phone up here, before I do, let me know. Okay?
And then that will be, as you know, is part of our American Rescue Plan that we are putting forth. It's – it's about putting vaccinations in the arm, money in the pocket, children in the schools, workers in their jobs. And it is – it's what this country needs. And I salute the President for recognizing those needs and courageously going forth. And the American people with it – like, over 75 percent of the American people support the legislation. Overwhelmingly, Democrats, Republicans and Independents support the legislation. So, hopefully, by the end of the day, tomorrow, it will be passed and then prepared for – to send it over to the Senate by Monday morning for them to act upon it. And then if they change it, we'll take it back and pass it and then send it to the White House. We're very excited about that.
And it is receiving such very widespread support from economists, and the need for something substantial is very recognized, as well as the timing and at a time when interest rates are low. So, the need is great. The opportunity is there. And the precision of this legislation to directly address the needs of the American people, the lives of the American people and the livelihoods.
Earlier this week, we sadly observed the over 500 people – 500,000 people who died from the Coronavirus. I was so pleased that we had a big turnout of Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate on the steps of the Capitol for a moment of silence and music – no speeches – music to share our sympathy with the families of those who lost their loved ones.
Any questions? Yes, sir.
Q: The other week, prior to the Senate verdict on the impeachment trial, you were asked whether there might be something else Democrats might think about punishment if there was not a conviction or censure, and you said you might have something to say about that. I was wondering if there was anything you guys are looking at, maybe the $200,000-plus pension that Trump gets as an ex-President, or is this a kind of closed chapter in your book?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I think that – what I was thinking of is that we have to get what we need. He's gone. What we need is the truth. And that's what we want to find out, the truth about what is happening in our country to enable something like this to be acceptable to the Republican Party. Secondly, the, obviously separate from him, the need for us to secure the Capitol in a way that gives people confidence that they can visit, their children can come and see this temple of democracy. But so many things are happening outside of the Congress, in regard to your question, that we – right now, our focus is on finding out the truth.
And I'm disappointed in what I heard the Minority Leader yesterday, McConnell, say on the Floor of the Senate. It was really quite stunning, because in my brief conversation with him on this subject, I had the impression that he wanted to have a January 6th, similar to 9/11, commission. But what he said on the Floor was really a departure from that. It seemed when he spoke that he was taking a page out of the book of Senator Johnson. It was really disappointing.
He said, ‘We could do something narrow that looks at the Capitol, or we could potentially do something broader to analyze the full scope of the political violence problem in this country.’
No – we have a domestic terrorism challenge in this country. That's what the Director of the FBI testified to the end of September. Domestic violence, taking more lives than international violence in this country and the biggest number since Oklahoma City. The biggest buckets under that category of domestic violence, were white supremacy, anti-Semitism and another list of xenophobia, Islamophobia, etc. I reference – I refer you to his statement.
So, for the Leader of the Senate to make light of this and his – well, it's Don Johnson. What’s his first name, John?
Speaker Pelosi. What is it? Ron? Senator, let me call –
Q: Ron Johnson.
Speaker Pelosi. [laughs] Not "Miami Vice" or anything like that, Don Johnson. Ron Johnson seems to be taking the lead on what the scope would be of how we look at protecting our country from domestic terrorism.
Q: Can I follow up on that topic?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: The Minority Leader has also said that he would want to see this commission be a 50/50 bipartisan split. Why do you not want to go down that road? And are you concerned about who Republicans would appoint?Speaker Pelosi. No. I was the author of the legislation for the 9/11 Commission, and we passed in the committee – the Intelligence Committee. I lost on the Floor, the ball was picked up by Tim Roemer. And he, with the enthusiastic support of the families of 9/11, was able to pass the bill.
But it was resisted at first by our Republican colleagues. Not in the committee – I won in the committee, but not on the Floor of the House. They were in the Majority. And that was a different time, a different commission.
The most recent commission of scope has been the one I take great pride in: the centennial of women's suffrage. That was a committee where each of us had two and the President had two. So, it was six to four. It isn't unusual to give the President – and we don't talk about Democrats and Republicans. These could be Independents. They could all be one.
I hesitated to put in there, that there should be a difference only of one because maybe more Independents would be named? We don't know because there's a criteria for who it is. So, it is – that's not the point, though. That's easily negotiated. The point is the scope. If you don't know your why, if you don't have your purpose, as to what the purpose of this is, then the rest of it is not the important part of the conversation.
Q: On that, to that end, though, are you concerned, though, if the commission were to have a lack of equilibrium, that the public would have confidence in it, then? Number one. And number two, to your point about scope, that Republicans would look into things such as political protest violence last summer on the left, and then that would be their method of trying to say, okay, if we're going to – it's not going to be focused just on what happened in the Capitol, we want to look into what's happened –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that's exactly what my – Senator McConnell said. What we need to – we had an event on January 6th, which I'm sure the world has not forgotten. At that time, there was a descent on the Capitol instigated by the President of the United States for an insurrection on the Capitol and on our democracy to overturn or to prevent the Electoral College votes to be counted and the President of the United States to be ascertained. After there was an assault on the Capitol, and those of us – and to his credit, Senator McConnell, Leader McConnell was part of it – we insisted on coming back to the Capitol to resume the proceedings, not doing it as an off-site or any of that. He was very much a part of coming back to the Capitol. Even after an assault on the Capitol, they still insisted on objecting to another state to take us into four o'clock in the morning, and then overwhelmingly voting against the count.
And, and so we're saying, okay, something happened here. There's – it's about domestic terrorism. We want to solve this. And now, I want – we'll do anything to have it be bipartisan. So, as your point is, that it would be well received by the American people. But if we're talking about scope and saying, well, we got to go and look at all mob – but it's, it's the Ron Johnson School of January 6 – investigation as to seeking the truth. And that's most unfortunate.
You had two already. Yes, sir? Did you have more?
Q: Not to steal the thunder at 2:15, but can you talk to us about why this Equality Act is needed? And secondly, about the Republicans calling it an attack on religious liberty and religious freedom and open up to lawsuits?
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you for the question. I love talking about the Equality Act.
The – it is needed because there is discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community. To give you a little background on that, we had for a long time a series of four things that we were going to do. One was we were going to pass hate crimes legislation, which we did, and I’m so proud of that. And Matthew Shepard’s parents helped us pass that legislation. Secondly, we were going to do the repeal of ‘Don't Ask, Don't Tell,’ which, under President Obama's leadership and with his courage and the rest, we were able to do that. The next thing we were going to do is ENDA to end discrimination in the workplace. But then, it was like, why just the workplace? Why not in every aspect of the economy and of our society. So, we went to the Equality Act, so that it was more comprehensive and just in the workplace. And that's where we are now. And our fourth was not our doing – it was the courts – was marriage equality. And the courts took care of that for us.
So, the piece that was remaining of the four that we set out to do a number of years ago, is the now the Equality Act. It's its manifestation. Earlier, it was ENDA. But we broadened it.
And it is necessary because of this. I wish it weren't. It breaks my heart that it is necessary. But the fact is, and in fact, we had a sad event here even [yesterday] demonstrating the need for us to have respect – not just respect but take pride, take pride in our LGBTQ community. Thank you for your question.
Q: It doesn't seem that you've made changes to the legislation or the police reform legislation since you passed it in 2019, 2020. You still need 60 votes in the Senate. So, how do you see the path to this becoming law if Republicans won’t sign off.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we are passing the legislation here, which was – is a very balanced – I thank you for your question about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which we will have on the Floor next week. Next week. They know we – and Congresswoman Bass, to her credit, has worked in a very, very diligent and fair way to put something together that was respectful of those in blue, who do their work so honorably and to whom we are in debt, but also to recognize that not everyone does that. And so this is what that legislation is about.
What the Senate will do with what the Senate will do. But we will send over the bill that has the balance that we have in it. When we sent it over before, the Senate said, well, we're for all these things, let's study them. And it was a well, we're either going to do something or we're not going to do something. But we're not hundreds of thousands – millions of people – marched in the street all over the world, not just for one day, but over and over again to say, make the change that is necessary.
And this legislation, when we had the hearing for it in the House, the family came – George Floyd’s family came. And they said, ‘Madam Speaker, will you name the bill for George Floyd?’ And I said, ‘I will only name the bill for George Floyd, if you think it is worthy of his name.’ Now, let's go into the process. They did. And we are honored to call it by his name.
Q: On COVID relief, you know, let's say the Parliamentarian does allow the minimum wage.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: What's your strategy to get it done? Isn't it going to be an uphill climb with Manchin, Sinema, others against it? Is there some – what's the path forward on minimum wage?
Speaker Pelosi. You know, you're going to have to go ask that question on the Senate side. But we are very, very pleased with the case that has been made. And we will pass, we will pass a minimum wage bill. We must pass a minimum wage bill.
Again. When we had the majority in 2007, one of the first bills that we passed, it was part of our Six for ‘06 and the first 100 hours, we passed the minimum wage bill, $7.25. It had not been passed in eleven years. Now, it's even longer.
After we passed it in the House, it went over to the Senate and toward the 22nd of January, the Senator from West Virginia, Senator Byrd, put out a press statement supporting the passage of the minimum wage and how important it was to the people of West Virginia.
I call that to your attention because he might be an unlikely advocate, but he was out there urging the – when we passed it in the Senate, we went out and had a big – I would say a rally I guess – on the lawn. And I spoke for the House Democrats, and Senator Kennedy spoke for the Senate Democrats. And he says, you know what we have to do now? We have to pass the minimum wage, recognizing that already, that was not enough for families to live on.
So, here it is – what that was ‘07 in January, signed by President Bush, signed by President Bush, George W. Bush. And what are we fourteen years later? And we still haven't raised the minimum wage.
Thank you all very much. I'll see you, some of you, two o'clock – 2:15 for the Equality Act. Thank you.