Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

February 4, 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.  Busy time in the Capitol.  This week we are doing the budget.  Yesterday, I was very proud of the vote that we had on the Floor of the House.  You have heard me say, again and again, that our budget is a statement of our national values; what is important to us as a nation should be prioritized in our budget.  I commend the Chair of the Budget Committee, Mr. Yarmuth, and the members of the Committee for the great work that they did bringing it to the Floor.  And Mr. Don Beyer, the Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, for his work in the debate yesterday as well.  I am very proud of the vote. 

Remember, what we do here is always to honor our oath of office, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  And our Constitution has as its Preamble our guidance for a budget, ‘We, The People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution.’ 

So, it's about the Constitution and the liberties and the form of government that it contains, but it's also our value statement.  So, I am very pleased that it passed the budget resolution – we passed the budget resolution that paves the way for the passage of landmark coronavirus legislation that will save lives and livelihoods.  We hope that the Republicans will join us in support.  We would prefer that.  But we need to have the leverage to proceed whether they do or not.  We need to act now because it's urgent, and Americans cannot afford any further delay. 

Our committees, now, will continue to work with a bill context.  That will be all – but as soon as the Senate finishes their work, and then we pass on what they do.  So, hopefully, that's in the next 48 hours.  Then, we can signal that we're ready to mark up the bills.  We can file the bills.  Our committees will form the text, as I said, so that the Biden relief package will put money – we're putting money in people's pockets, vaccinations in people's arms, children in school, workers to work. 

And speaking of back to work, also this week, I'm very pleased with the legislation, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2021.  As soon as – we'll be debating that and voting on it tomorrow.  But that is very important legislation for us to have trained for – the workforce development piece of anything we do is very important.  And as we prepare to go beyond this rescue package, which is what this bill – the bill I'm talking about now – and then to the recovery bill, the recovery bill will be about many other things, including infrastructure.  And workforce development is very important in preparation for that, this apprenticeship legislation. 

I want to commend Bobby Scott, the Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, for his ongoing work.  We passed this last year, and it had bipartisan support.  We hope it will again tomorrow. 

As you know, sadly, this week, the Congress recognized the service and sacrifice of Brian Sicknick, who died following the terrorist mob insurrection on January 6th.  He passed on the 7th, the next day.  We had that lying‑in-[honor] ceremony in the Capitol.  And what was so important about it – of course, we pay our respects and sympathies to his family, who spoke so lovingly and beautifully about him – but also to see the connection among our Capitol Police and how they mourned the loss of their colleague. 

Indeed, Officer Sicknick is a martyr for democracy.  That was martyrdom that he suffered, as well as the others who passed, Officers Liebengood and Smith.  And we will be honoring them appropriately at some point when it is – sometime soon. 

But, right now, when it came to danger in the Capitol, Officer Sicknick and the Capitol Police, whom we are enormously grateful, enormously grateful, put themselves between us and the violence, saving lives and defending democracy. 

Indeed, Officer Sicknick was, again, a martyr for democracy.  His service and that of other heroes in uniform, some of them of the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia, bring luster to our Constitution, as I said yesterday, and to our democracy.  So very, very sad. 

To do the People's work, it is essential to keep the people safe and to keep this House safe.  For our Members, our staff, the custodians who – custodial staff who make all of this possible, for those of you who cover it in the press, for our visitors – hopefully soon we'll have some again after COVID.  And I want to salute the – General Honoré for his work in reviewing the security here.  I can't – I am honored that he accepted the charge to study how we keep Members safe here as they do their jobs in Washington, in the Capitol, as they do their jobs in their districts, and their travel to and fro.  Again, the security posture of the Capitol complex, and that includes the House Office Buildings, this will run until March 15th. 

One of the proposals that he made that we already have some good news on is that it was clear that many – that the Capitol Police had been severely affected by COVID.  Separate and apart from everything else that's going on, like the rest of the country, they have been severely affected by COVID.  And he recommended that we vaccinate the Capitol Police.  And now, with the cooperation of the Biden Administration, we are able to do that.  And I thank the acting police chief for her statement that she put out this morning. 

Again, we have the threat from within, as you are all well aware.  Some Members refuse to comply with security protocols to keep Members, staff, police officers, everyone, including all of you, safe, which is why we are passing a rule mandating fines for noncompliance in that regard.  You're aware of that, I'm sure. 

Also, in terms of acknowledging threat, I remain profoundly concerned about House Republicans’ leadership acceptance of extreme conspiracy theorists.  Particularly disturbing is their eagerness to reward a QAnon adherent, a 9/11 truther, a harasser of child survivors of school shootings and a value – to give them valued committee positions, including – who could imagine they would put such a person on the Education Committee. 

Today, the House will vote to remove Representative Greene from her seat on Education and Labor and the Budget Committees.  It's just so unfortunate.  You would think that the Republican leadership in the Congress would have some sense of responsibility to this institution, as they did when they did not seat Representative King of Iowa two years ago.  For some reason, they have chosen not to go down that path, even though we gave – Mr. Hoyer gave Leader McCarthy sufficient notice that this was a path that we would follow. 

Again, on legislating on terms of the budget, in terms of the apprenticeship program, in terms of putting together our legislation for a commission similar to the 9/11 Commission, I'm very pleased that others – and I commend Debbie Wasserman Schultz for taking the lead on honoring our oath of office to uphold and protect the Constitution, but not only that, to uphold the standard for the House of Representatives, that respects the institution in which we serve, and does no harm to it institutionally or to our Members, staff, visitors, personally. 

* * *

With that, I would be pleased to take any questions.  Let me see.  Let me see. 

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I have a question, and I also have a question from one of the pool reporters, who's not able to be here today.  So, if I could – they do go together. 

First, just looking up ahead to the impeachment trial –

Speaker Pelosi.  Was that an announcement that you're going to have two questions? 

[Laughter]

Q:  Yes, ma'am.

Speaker Pelosi.  Is that all right with all the rest of you?  On impeachment, go ahead. 

Q:  Thank you, ma'am.  Looking ahead to the impeachment trial next week, it will be one month since the attack on the Capitol –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  And the former President is long gone.  There are plenty of people who say, ‘Why bother, why go through this entire exercise?’  What do you say to that?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I appreciate that question, because it seems to me that the answer is self‑evident.  Again, we're here to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. 

The world witnessed the incitement that the President caused to incite an insurrection against our government, against our Capitol, against Members of Congress, with the use of force and violence.  So, we – for us to – ‘Why bother?  Why bother?’  Ask our Founders, ‘Why bother?’  Ask those who wrote the Constitution, ask Abraham Lincoln, ask anyone who cares about our democracy why we are bothering.  You cannot go forward until you have justice. 

And what did we say about the Preamble to the Constitution?  Didn't we say it started out with justice?  ‘We, The People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice…’  You've heard me say, again and again, Pope Paul VI said, ‘If you want peace, work for justice.’  Martin Luther King, ‘Peace is not just the absence of [tension], it is the presence of justice.’  So, we will honor the Constitution by establishing justice. 

And, again, we can do a couple of things at once.  We are moving with our legislation to pass the Biden Administration – Biden‑Harris Administration COVID package. 

The people – the whole world were witnesses to this, as I said before, so we'll see.  I have no idea how the Managers will proceed.  I saw their brief when you saw their brief.  I'm so proud of the dignity with which they have brought to enabling us to honor our Constitution. 

If we were not to follow up with this, we might as well remove any penalty from the Constitution of impeachment.  Just take it out.  But our Founders, they knew about two things, and we keep hearing this again and again.  They wanted – they were fearful of a demagogue and they were fearful of a demagogue and a mob.  And that's exactly what descended.  The effect of that is exactly what descended on the Constitution. 

But I want the public to know that there is no opportunity cost in our defending the Constitution.  In fact, it is an enhancement for us to do our work in a way that is respectful of the institutions in which we serve, the Constitution which we take an oath to protect and defend. 

The other question? 

Q:  Yes, ma'am.  Our colleague from the L.A. Times had asked that the House Managers are walking into a trial where all signs point to acquittal. 

Speaker Pelosi.  They don't know that. 

Q:  What does that make –

Speaker Pelosi.  They don't know that.  They haven't heard the case.  They don't have the case.  But the – in the court of the Senate, they will make their case.  And in the court of public opinion, they will make their case.  And for history and posterity, as our colleague – as our Founders said, to ourselves and our posterity, they will make the case.  But I have great confidence in them, and we'll see.  We'll see if it's going to be a Senate of courage or cowardice. 

Q:  She asked, what does a victory look like?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you know what, we have – why don't we just wait and let them make their case.  They have been very, shall we say, silent, hardworking, brilliant – in terms of what we saw on the brief – not only wise, but you might appreciate, well‑written, and no spelling mistakes of the ‘United States.’ 

So, again, I am not here to talk about that, because they are going to be there to present the case.  And we don't have to defend why it is necessary, and we don't have to talk about who's going to be there or not, because we just don't know.  They know, and they will present it when – when they do. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  I was wondering what you thought of the Republican Senators' plan, they went to the White House this week to meet with the President, and how much – the plan is at $ 1.9 [trillion].  Joe Biden has indicated he wants to stay there.  Is that where you think it will end up? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the – Joe Biden had presented a plan that meets the needs of the American people.  This is very important, because we have been – let me see.  I want to read this to you because I think this is very important for people to know. 

We’ll get around 450,000 people who have died, before you know it, sad to say.  And hopefully we don't achieve it, but we're on a path to half a million people dying from COVID.  And that is because of a complete failure on the part of the Trump Administration. 

But don't take it from me.  This is what the GAO, in a 346‑page government accountability document has said.  It said, ‘Almost 90 percent, 27 of 31 of the GAO's recommendations from June, September and November remain unimplemented as of January 15th.’  Less than a week before Trump left office.  ‘GAO remains deeply troubled that the agency had not acted on recommendations to more fully address official gaps in the medical supply chain.’  And the list goes on. 

We want to save lives and save livelihoods; it's going to cost some money to do so.  But it is a good investment.  And don't take it from us, whether you're talking about the Chairman of the Fed, the Secretary of the Treasury, Mark Zandi, other economists have said – even the Governor of West Virginia has said, go big rather than go small.  And that's what we have to do. 

It is a reasonable plan.  It meets the needs.  It is not excessive.  It is coronavirus‑centric, it is in a timely fashion, and that's where we have to go if we are going to, again, put vaccines in people's arms, children in school, money in people's pockets and workers back in their jobs.  So, it's pretty exciting what he's put there. 

And what we did at the end of December, plus this, is approximately what we had been advocating in the Heroes Act all along, $3.2 [trillion], this comes up to nearly $3 trillion.  But that's what the needs of – for the Republican Senators to come in at $600 billion, one‑third.  Well, what is it?  Are we going to feed fewer children?  Are we going to inoculate fewer people?  Are we going to – how do you cut that? 

I think they have not respected our heroes by supporting state and local government.  These are the people who are on the first line, whether it's health care workers, police and fire, first responders of any kind, sanitation, transportation, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers.  Our schools.  And we have to invest in safely returning our children to schools. 

So, again, I just don't see how you have to make those choices about who you cut out when you decide to cut the funding in the package. 

Yes, sir, in the back. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, given some of the events in Russia and Burma this week, curious if you believe that the House can move forward with any sort of response, sanctions, anything like that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we look to the leadership of our new President on that score.  I, myself, have been a supporter of sanctions of Burma at the time, going way back.  Still call it Burma, as a matter of fact.  And then – and, of course, to really enforce the sanctions on Russia in a way that really reaches the, shall we say, enablers of Putin. 

But, again, we'll take our lead from the President, because he's made his voice clear to Putin, and he said – made a statement about Myanmar.  And so in Myanmar, they said they were arresting her for importing illegal radios.  And in Russia, they arrested Navalny for not reporting to his probation officer or something like that.  So, again, it's an interesting time to see demagoguery around the world, and we have to prevent it from happening in our country. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Good morning, Madam Speaker, thank you.  On the budget reconciliation package –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir.

Q:  – for coronavirus, obviously, there are a lot of Democratic policy priorities that they'd like to put in this.  There's a hearing going on right now about the minimum wage with Marty Walsh.  If some of those things like the minimum wage don't wind up in the bill, because, you know, you have to work through this process, you have to get the vote, what's the message to folks who are saying, this was our chance to get these things done?  What do you say to those who have –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it doesn't mean it won't happen just because it won't happen there.  As you know, in many ways we're at the mercy of the Senate in terms of the Byrd Rule.  And, again, the Parliamentarian of the Senate is going to make some determinations.  We had hoped she would make them by now, but until we have our bill, which we now have, we don't have those determinations from her. 

But there's so much in the package that has to be done right now, and we'll do the best we can. 

Q:  Do you have concern, though, that some who said, okay, Democrats are going to have the House, they're going to have the Senate, they're going to have the White House, and you say, you know, just because it's not in this bill, doesn't mean it doesn't get done.  But they will be disappointed, and how do you respond to them and say, look, you know –

Speaker Pelosi.  We already are introducing the minimum wage.  That's a very high priority for us.  But we can't – and we hope that we can get it in reconciliation.  I'm a veteran of reconciliation bills over time.  And I know the – I know, shall we say, the struggle that it frequently is to have everything comply in a way that meets the standards of the Senate in terms of the Byrd Rule.

We in the House think of it as sort of a House of Lords attitude.  Why don't we just – why don't we just pass what we can pass without having it being determined by one person as to what can be contained in there?  Just put it on there.  Vote it up or vote it down. 

But, in any event, we have – we're very proud of the legislation.  And, again, it's not the last bill we'll pass.  This is the recovery – this is the rescue package.  This is the rescue package.  We must pass this bill to crush the virus, to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people, to put children back in school and people back to work.  That is its purpose.  We want to do it in a way that is fair, that addresses the disparities that have existed. 

Do you know, in the Native American community, two times as many people, percentage-wise, have died than Whites.  The disparity in the Asian – the African American community and in the Hispanic community is sinful. 

So, as we do this bill, we want to do so in a way that is fair and equitable and continue to do testing, et cetera, distribution of the [vaccine], but keeping a record of how this has been distributed.  Then, then, hopefully, we can get to a place where this bill will be a force for fairness rather than ossifying some of the unfairness that has gone before. 

Then, we have it, the – the next bill will be – this is rescue, that's recovery.  And we're already working with some of the provisions that we would have in a recovery act.  We're legislators.  That's why we're here.  That's what we do, and so we're always getting ready for the next legislation. 

Build Back Better, For The People, these were some of what we talked about.  Joe Biden said, ‘Help is on the way.’  And the recovery package, with lower health care costs and bigger paychecks for the people is what we need to do.  So, just because something might not be in one bill, and we don't accept that yet, but if it isn't, we have other places to do it.  In fact, I wish we were talking about a living wage, but $15 an hour is an important improvement over that. 

I just have time for one more question.  Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, I'm just curious, as far as the impeachment trial is concerned, Senator Graham said that if the Democrats call any witness, that they'll be prepared – the Republicans will be prepared to call in the FBI and, quote, "Tell us about people who preplanned this attack and what happened with the security footprint at the Capitol."  What's your response to that?

Speaker Pelosi.  Your question is a waste of time. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, are you worried at all about the precedent that it would set? 

Speaker Pelosi.  None.  Not at all.  Not at all.  If any of our Members threatened the safety of other Members, we'd be the first ones to take them off of a committee. 

That's it.  Thank you, all.