Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

March 26, 2020
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. 

Reporter.  Good morning.  Happy Birthday!

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.  I am not celebrating, though, until I can hug my grandbabies.  I am waiting for that day.  Hopefully, that will be soon.  But thank you. 

Last night, as you know, the Senate passed important legislation.  We're very proud of the product.  We think it is a – we did jiu‑jitsu on it and it went from a corporate‑first proposal that the Republicans put forth in the Senate to a workers‑first – Democratic, workers‑first legislation. 

But let's first back up.  As I was coming here, I saw that nearly a thousand deaths in the United States.  Nine hundred yesterday, so I don't know what the number is today, but they're saying nearly a thousand deaths in our country.  Tens of thousands of people are – we have tens of thousands of cases.  This is a pandemic that we haven't even seen since – for over a hundred years in our country.  It's really such a tragedy. 

So, we had to take important action.  We had to take action, though, that puts families first and workers first, and that's what we did when we did our first legislation.  The first two bills were about addressing the emergency directly: $8.3 billion for research for vaccines, for a cure, and that's of course the light at the end of the tunnel.  But funding for testing, testing, testing, very important so that we know – we can take inventory of the challenge that we face and, more importantly, that we can address each family's concerns about this.  The next bill was about masks, masks, masks, so that we can test, test, test, among other things. Emergency. 

The bill that was passed in the Senate last night and that we will take up tomorrow is about mitigation.  Mitigation for all the loss that we have in our economy while still addressing the emergency health needs that we have in our country.  And next, we'll go from emergency, mitigation to recovery in terms of where we go to grow the economy to create more jobs in light of the reality that we have just been through. 

So right now, we have the legislation that will come to the Floor tomorrow.  I anticipate – I feel certain that we will have a strong bipartisan vote.  And we take some pride in the fact that, as I said earlier, Congressional Democrats in the Senate and in the House were able to flip this over from corporate, trickle‑down Republican version to bubble‑up, worker‑first, families‑first legislation.  So, again, we have some other things we want to do, but first we want to take pride in what happens there. 

For workers, we were able to get, of course, extended and expanded – extended from what the Republicans wanted and expanded Unemployment Insurance.  That is so very, very important.  Of course in terms of funds that go to major corporations or companies or anyone, the direct condition is that, for example, at the airlines, that the money – the money that is given to the airlines is given to the workers directly.  Just a pass‑through, it goes directly to the workers, and have some conditions on – for other money that goes to any of these companies that they have no buybacks, no dividends, no bonuses.  All of those kind of concerns are so offensive, that happened before with federal funds infused into their entities.  So we're very happy about all of that. 

One of the differences, as I said, they're corporate down, we're bubble-up from workers.  I think was demonstrated last night.  Can you believe that almost – I think it was every Republican – I think it was 49 Republicans last night voted, in the Senate, to deprive those on unemployment insurance of the additional $600 a week.  How could it be that in this time of stress and strain and uncertainty about health and life and livelihood that they would vote that way?  But I think it does demonstrate the point that I made, that [they are] not about workers first.

But the bill got to be there.  And I thank the Senate Democrats for using the leverage they have with the 60 votes.  I take pride in what we had in our House bill that is in the Senate bill now.  So for workers and for families, with all three of our bills, we have put families and workers first. 

Again, I hope that the UI will – right now we want people to take advantage of all of this quickly.  The UI will depend on how the states do it, and they're not all uniform, but we want people to know exactly how they can benefit from that.  And we're putting that all together so all of our Members, on both sides of the aisle, can know how they can facilitate enabling their constituents to take advantage of the opportunities there. 

So, again, the bill last night and tomorrow will be a large infusion of funds for hospitals, health systems and state and local governments.  We want more.  And this was a big, strong step, but we need more. 

Small businesses – I am so proud of the work of all of our Chairmen.  They were just dazzling in their knowledge, their strategy, their just – their experience in getting the right kind of bill passed, even though, again, compromised – compromising – not getting everything we want, but recognizing that we won the day.  Small businesses wants fast relief.  Small business, they have – for rent, mortgage, utility costs, eligible for SBA loan forgiveness.  I salute Congresswoman, Madam Chair Nydia Velázquez for what she was able to accomplish there.  

Students: we secured billions of emergency education funding.  Thank you, Bobby Scott, on our team, and our appropriators, Rosa DeLauro, Nita Lowey, etcetera, doing so much work there.  Don't get me started on naming my Members, I will be talking about all of them.  I will, and you will see how they present tomorrow on the Floor.       

And we have oversight.  You know, there was this idea that they put forth that there would be a $500 billion slush fund for the Secretary of the Treasury with no accountability whatsoever.  Are you kidding?  For all respect in the world for the Treasury Secretary, that was a complete nonstarter.  So, I am pleased that language that was in the House bill and in the Senate bill – it has an Inspector General specifically for that account, and also a Congressional panel of five people appointed by the leaders to oversee how that funding is disbursed. 

It comes back down, though, to the fact that people are at risk.  As I say, tens of thousands of cases, nearly a thousand deaths in the United States.  I said from the start we must have a proposal that is government‑wide, science‑based, so that we can really address the challenge that we face in a scientific, evidence‑based way.  That is not necessarily the course that has been advocated by some, but it's where we must be if we're going to end this. 

From a scientific standpoint, we have the best minds working 24/7, all hands on deck to find a cure, which is of course the light at the end of the tunnel.  But, if you do not heed the advice of the scientific community about isolation and not – and avoiding as much communal contact as possible – in fact none, then the light at the end of tunnel may be a train coming at us, the proverbial train.  And we cannot – every day, every week that is wasted on not taking that warning seriously is a problem.  It's a problem. 

So let us thank our men and women, our health care providers, our first responders, our emergency service people, firefighters and the rest who are not only responding to this but initiating their own efforts, sometimes risking their lives to save others' lives.  We need to get them more personal protective equipment, it's absolutely essential, and it is a shortfall right now.  We would hope that the government production – Defense [Production Act] would be called upon to call upon industry to convert to making ventilators and the rest. 

Testing, testing, testing.  Masks, masks, masks.  Ventilators, ventilators, ventilators.  What's the mystery?  We need many more.  And the ventilators, just for your information, is not about making you breathe easier.  It's making you breathe, period.  It is vital to life and death in many, many, many cases.  So, we need an unlimited number, let's think of it that way, endless number of ventilators, just to name one thing. 

But everyone: the farmers, the producers, the grocers, everyone who's keeping America fed, our truck drivers, postal workers, delivery people, everyone who is making this survival possible, we thank.  And again, we thank our scientists for striving to find a cure. 

So tomorrow we will go to the Floor for this legislation.  But as I have said, there are so many things we didn't get in any of these bills yet in the way that we need to. 

So the next step would be – well, among other things, we want to have more – better definition of who qualifies for family and medical leave.  I can give you some examples if you wish.  Stronger OSHA protections for our workers – essential, essential to life. 

Pensions: we had a proposal on pensions in the legislation that, my understanding was and I trust it is true, that the President supported, but Senator McConnell wouldn't do it, but said we'll do it in the next bill.  So we're ready for that. 

Increased SNAP: one disappointment in the bill was they would not increase – we were asking for a fifteen percent increase in food stamps at this very fragile time for many families.  They wouldn't do that in this bill. 

More money for state and local governments: that could be – I spoke with the Secretary this morning about how we we're just not doing enough for state and local government.  That's just the way it is.  We had 200 billion in our bill.  We ended up with 150.  But neither of those figures is really enough.  But we're hoping, and I mentioned to him that the Fed, and I talked to Chairman Powell about this, that they would expand the opportunity for, shall we say, helping out state and local government, municipalities and the rest. 

In the bill we call for that, but really permissively enabling the Secretary to do it, but not requiring him to do it.  And the Administration did not want the requirement.  But they say that that is what they intend to do.  We'll see.  And, hopefully, that is the case.  But we're still going to need to have more money for state and local governments, municipalities and the rest. 

Then one of the important things that just, we have to insist upon, we said free testing, free testing, free testing, but with free testing is the visit to the doctor's office, the treatment that goes with it, and that has to be free as well so that we encourage people to be tested, and if they are and they need treatment, they're not fearing the test because they can't afford the treatment. 

This is all a public health issue.  It's an everyone's issue that everyone be tested who needs to be tested.  Not everyone, but who qualifies to be tested, but that they do not incur a huge deductible or whatever, a copayment, whatever, for being tested and have the follow‑up treatment. 

And then there's just one other – this came as kind of a – I don't want to say a surprise because nothing surprises me around here but it was curious that in this bill they decided to treat the District of Columbia in a very discriminatory way.  It really makes no sense unless you have some other motivation. 

The District of Columbia has always been treated like a State in terms of distribution of funds, and under that formulation they would have gotten well over a [billion] dollars, maybe a [billion] and a quarter or so, and under the formula they just decided to treat them like a territory now. 

And they get maybe a half a billion – excuse me, half a [billion] dollars less.  I don't know exact figures, but it's very significant.  Say it's a third less than what they are getting when they're fighting this challenge here in the District of Columbia.  It doesn't make any sense and we have to have legislation. 

I don't know if you saw Chris Van Hollen, Senator Chris Van Hollen last night at the – during the debate spelling this out.  I know it's of concern to Steny and to Mr. Connolly and Mr. Beyer and our colleagues from this region, Mr. Raskin – well, the list goes on.

But it is, it's just – it doesn't face the realities of the public health crisis that we have in our country, and it goes out of its way to do something so out of the ordinary.  Let's just hope it was – well, it was a decision.  It wasn't an accident.  It was a decision.  So, let's make a decision to correct that. 

But again, let us all be very prayerful about how we go forward.  We want the American people not only to wash their hands regularly and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate all the time, but to understand that we view them as our bosses.  They are our bosses.  We are responsible to them. 

On Sunday morning when we met with the M's – McConnell, Mnuchin, McCarthy – Chuck and I were there, and I said, ‘Since it's Sunday morning, why don't we begin with a prayer’ – my part of it, not their part of it, my part, and I will begin with a prayer.  So his Holiness Pope Francis called for a world prayer.  I won't do it justice, but what he did was to pray that those who have the responsibility to care for others would be enlightened to take that responsibility and act upon it. 

When I finished my prayer, the Secretary said, ‘Well you've quoted Saint Francis,’ – I mean, ’Pope Francis. I'll quote the markets.’ 

So that's kind of how we – God knows we want the markets to succeed.  That's very important.  The markets are not going to succeed unless we take care of people and we restore their health, whether there's a cure or whether there's behavior that reduces this tragedy in our country. 

But let us work together in the most bipartisan way possible to get the job done as soon as possible.  It won't happen unless we respect science, science, science.  And for those who say we choose prayer over science, I say science is an answer to our prayers. 

Any questions? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, a lot of Americans have heard a lot about the direct payments that they're getting as part of this bill. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q:  And the biggest question they have is, ‘When are we going to see these checks?’  Why not approve this bill by unanimous consent so that American families don't have to wait even a moment longer to get this money in their bank accounts? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you for your question.  The two are completely unrelated.  It doesn't have anything to do with unanimous consent. 

Tomorrow, we'll bring the bill to the Floor.  It will pass.  It will pass with a strong bipartisan support. 

I spoke to the Secretary about this today.  I said, ‘Why don't we do the direct payments technologically so that they can be received more immediately?’  I don't know if that's their plan, but I hope that it would be.  But the people are either for them.  We had bigger direct payments in our bill, I don't think we have seen the end of direct payments. 

But with all respect to your question, it has nothing to do with unanimous consent.  I don't think we will get unanimous consent.  I think there are some people on the other side of the aisle who are coming here to – would object to that. 

But we're not worried about that.  Our Members want to come back in order to have the debate, and we expect to have a voice vote on it.  But if we don't, we'll be prepared for whatever it is.  

But one way or another, with losing no time with a UC or anything else, we will, we will be passing the bill tomorrow.  So, thank you. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, what would you say to Americans that have concerns about these – these loans given to corporations?  Why wouldn't these corporations seek private loans?  And isn't it a moral hazard to bail them out?  Shouldn't they have been more conservative with their cash flow to be able to weather this storm? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, everything that we do in this bill is about the workers.  And so where there is any transfer of funds to any entity, it is for them to keep their workers employed or pay benefits to their employees.  So nothing is going to anybody without conditions. 

Q:  But some of these CEOs are making upwards of 80 million a year.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, but that's another issue.  We can't deal with that now.  But we did prohibit.  And thank you for your question, so I can say again, the conditions include preventing any buybacks, all the things that they did in previous times when they had resources, just used that money to enrich themselves in terms of dividends, bonuses, and the rest.  And there are some considerations about CEO pay in all of this. 

But this is an opportunity for us to have the leverage switched from the top, from trickle-down from corporate headquarters to bubble-up from the assembly room floor. 

Yes, ma'am?  Yeah, Nancy?

Q:  Madam Speaker, thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.

Q:  You have already started talking about the next phase. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  How quickly do you think that bill needs to come together?  How big do you anticipate it will be?  And do you intend to work on it from Washington or from California?  And finally, who should take the lead on it, the House or the Senate? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we'll be taking the lead.  I think we'll – right now what we're advocating is, you know, we took the lead on some, they took one.  We really should be operating four corners, the four, the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, as we go along to find as much common ground as we can. 

But we will be – I will be working on most of it from here, but also with my committees.  In the course of this whole thing, my committees were outstanding.  The committee chairs were, as I said, dazzling in their knowledge and brilliance about how to get the job done, and they made a tremendous difference. 

Of course we didn't get everything we wanted, but it's a compromise.  We did very well.  And that's why I got a call yesterday from somebody on the other Senate side, not on the Democratic side, saying these Members think that it's too much of a Democratic bill.  What can I say? 

So, in any case, we will go through the committees.  Bobby Scott on the Education and Labor Committee, which oversees Family and Medical Leave, will be working on that, as will be the appropriate appropriators, Rose DeLauro and that.  We will work House and Senate.  We have the legislation with Patty Murray that they rejected, but we'll bring it back. 

The OSHA is also from that Committee.  The OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health issues are very important, more important at this time than any time anybody can remember because people are going into an infectious situation. 

So, we'll be having our technological, by phone and perhaps even beyond that, have our meetings to bring that together. 

But in this case, Nancy, it's going to be public sentiment.  People will say, ‘Well, why do we need another bill?’  We need it because the health workers working in those settings need it.  We need it because if a family – for example, if your mom – bless her heart.  I don't know if she is?

Q:  She is healthy. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Wonderful.  So she is healthy. 

Q:  Isolated.

Speaker Pelosi.  Okay.  So if your mom, for example, if your mom were in a – was in a day senior health center, where they take them in the day and they get the health needs and all that and then come home, or was at home and had a health care provider in the home, and because of the coronavirus those two entities, one would close and the other could not come, you would be able to take Family and Medical Leave to care for your mom. 

If your mom is well and she gets the coronavirus, you can't take off work to care for her and get Family and Medical Leave because those two conditions were not met.  We strove to have them say those who cannot take care of themselves, but they wouldn't accept that language.  But it doesn't make sense, does it? 

So anyway, we want to improve on that and improve how many other people would avail themselves of it. 

So, again, it's a – these are needs that people have.  This is not – this is all – understand this about this, it's really important to know this.  This is all about the coronavirus.  It's not about anything else.  It's about the coronavirus. 

So, this is temporary, for this period of time.  And it's important to know that because people said, ‘Well, why should we do it?’  Because of the coronavirus.  It's a public health issue and we have to keep people as healthy as we can, and Family and Medical Leave is one way to do that. 

And then some of the issues that I meant, if they're getting tested then they should not have to pay a high copay for the other services that go with that test at this time when we're talking about the – of course, the direct payments are directly related to this.  But just to that point, we want to engage the public in that discussion. 

The timing is interesting because I see the Senate said they were leaving until –

Q:  The 20th. 

Speaker Pelosi.  The 20th of April.  I guess that's after Easter and Passover.  I think everybody has to be on call for what we need when we need it and we don't know what that might be.  But whatever it is, we'll be ready. 

Q:  A question and a half.  Do you anticipate –

Speaker Pelosi.  Is that allowed, a question and a half?

Q:  Do you anticipate having unanimous support from your Democrats tomorrow on this bill? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.  Well, and let me say this.  I'm not asking any – we will have a victory tomorrow for America's workers.  If somebody has a different point of view, they can put it in the record.  But we're not worried about that.

Q:  The other question was Governor Cuomo yesterday expressed a lot of concern that –

Speaker Pelosi.  Which one was the half?

Q:  That was the half.

[Laughter]

Q:  Yes, that was the half.  Governor Cuomo yesterday said he's really worried about his state budget, that the money in this bill isn't going to go nearly far enough to fill the hole.  Other states will likely have that problem.  Do you think the next bill you are going to have to dedicate significantly more, essentially, to bail out state governments who cannot do this on their own and can't fund the deficit? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, thank you for your question.  I did have the occasion to have the benefit of the Governor's thinking yesterday.  And I have enormous respect for him.  I think he is doing a spectacular job at what he is doing.  And it's something we've never seen before. 

But I also see that with my own Governor, Gavin Newsom in California.  They remind me of each other in terms of they're so values‑based and they're determined to do the right thing and respecting the dignity and worth of every person. 

But it takes money.  And we have, thanks to Jerry Brown, a big budget surplus in California, which is going to be eaten away by this. 

So, it's not a question of bailing out states, it's a question of meeting the needs of the people.  And that's our responsibility to do. 

He’s called it a drop in the bucket.  Well, it's several billion dollars, and it isn't anywhere near enough.  But it's still seven billion – several billion.  I think $5.6 billion, something for New York. 

We have to do more.  And if we don't face that reality – and we're encouraging the states then to give money to localities as well because they – in our situation, in California, for example, San Francisco provides a lot of the – cities and counties provide a lot of the care throughout the country and meeting the needs, whatever they are, on a public health issue. 

So, there's no question that more money will be needed. 

Now, can we do it through the Fed and some low to no interest lending to the states?  Let's see what they can do.  And that was my conversation with the Secretary this morning about, I wish it were more required rather than permissive for the Fed to do that.  They preferred this route, which I respect.  Now, let's get it done. 

But make no mistake, all the states around the country – we talk about New York and California.  Look at Louisiana, which is now ground zero for the world in terms of the explosion of this challenge – in the world.  And that's – and they reference some of that to Mardi Gras and the rest, but we'll see. 

I have grandchildren all over the country, as you probably know, and one who goes to school in New Orleans, so I watch that pretty carefully.  Well, I watch the whole country. 

So, in any event, the challenge is there.  The interest rates are low.  The secretary – Chairman of the Fed, Mr. Powell, said to me, ‘The interest rates are as low as they'll ever be.  Think big.  Because whatever you borrow to do with this is going to be at the lowest interest.’ 

What we did last night and what we will do tomorrow, $2 trillion, is about the cost of the tax scam that the Republicans foisted on the nation to give 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent, whatever it was plus the interest on the loan, on the debt, indebting our kids and their future, paying the bill for tax breaks for the high end.  Said it was going to pay for itself.  It never does.  Said it was going to create jobs.  It didn't. 

However, this is an emergency, a challenge to the conscience as well as the budget of our country, and every dollar that we spend is an investment in the lives and the livelihood of the American people.

We can go bigger, especially now the interest rates are even lower than at the time of the tax scam.

So it isn't even – it's like I gave you a dime for a cup of coffee.  It doesn't cost a dime anymore.  It costs much more.  Let's recognize that reality. 

But again, let's do it in a way that stays focused on the kitchen tables of America's families, their needs, their concerns and how we can again meet those needs as Pope Francis told us to take responsibility for. 

Thank you all very much.  Thank you.