Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 748, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I thank the distinguished Democratic Leader Mr. Hoyer for yielding and for the manner in which he has enabled so many of our Members to participate in this debate today. Thank you, Mr. Hoyer, for your leadership on the legislation and also for leading us today. And I thank Mr. Brady for his leadership as well, for facilitating this conversation. And I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for keeping us reasonably on time, as much as possible for Congressional Members. Thank you for the strength of your authority as Speaker Pro Tempore today. I thank all Members on both sides of the aisle for the seriousness with which we have all taken this important challenge.
Mr. Speaker, last week, His Holiness Pope Francis said, in his world prayer, he said, ‘Enlighten those responsible for the common good, so that they might know how to care for those entrusted to their responsibility.’ That is His Holiness' quote. And that is the responsibility that we all have.
Today, as we have all acknowledged, our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the worst pandemic in over 100 years. As I proceed with my remarks, I want to say to our colleagues, who are watching the proceedings from their chambers in the House, to come forward and come to the Gallery and listen from here, so that when the time comes we will be prepared to proceed. The distinguished Leader on the Republican side, Mr. McCarthy, and Mr. Hoyer have sent a communication to all of you to that effect. But it is very important that you come now. The sooner you come, the shorter my remarks will be.
And I want to thank the distinguished Leader on the Republican side for his leadership throughout all of this to achieve a bipartisan legislation and to do so as expeditiously as possible in the House, in the House, so that the message will be clear to the American people that whatever concerns we may have and whatever we want to do next, right now we're going to pass this legislation. And that is because so many American families have been touched by this crisis.
More than 82,000 Americans so far have fallen sick – a number certain to surge as testing goes forward – which is already the most in the world. We've gone past China and Italy. More than 1,200 Americans have tragically died. It gives you chills just to think of it. Millions of workers are losing their paychecks, including more than, as has been mentioned on both sides of the aisle, 3.2 million Americans who filed for unemployment last week alone. A staggering, record-shattering figure. Countless health care workers, first responders and others fighting on the front lines in this crisis are at great personal risk.
The American people deserve a government-wide, visionary, evidence-based response to address these threats to their lives and their livelihoods, and they need it now. Again, I acknowledge the bipartisanship in which we – on which we bring this legislation to the Floor.
Last night – late Wednesday night, as the Leader acknowledged, the Senate unanimously passed legislation which transformed, in our view – since you acknowledged, Leader McConnell, I will acknowledge our distinguished chairmen on our side, which – they transformed a Republican, corporate-focused bill into a Democratic, workers-first focus. And we salute our chairs, working in a bipartisan way and in a bicameral way, across the aisle, across the Capitol, we are able to dramatically expand Unemployment Insurance and defeated attempts on the Senate side to claw back the $600 per week added benefits that would provide essential relief to the record number of Americans losing their jobs.
And I salute Chairmen Richie Neal and Bobby Scott for the work that they did on this. I know this is the work of the Ways and Means Committee. And successfully achieve full direct payment for workers, this is so important, ensuring that working class American families will be eligible to receive as much as $3,400 dollars for a family of four. I thank, again, Mr. Neal and Madam Chair of the Financial Services Committee, Maxine Waters, who – both of them had bigger proposals. But, nonetheless, advocating for all this.
By the way, I would suggest, instead of saying it's going to take a few weeks for the checks to get there, that the Administration electronically transfer those direct payments immediately.
We ensured in the bill that any taxpayer dollars given to industry goes first and foremost to workers. Workers' paychecks and benefits, not used to pay CEO bonuses, stocks, fund buybacks or dividends and the rest. And I thank – and we have secured robust special oversight that will hold the Administration accountable for this. And I thank the distinguished Chair of the – where did he go? Energy and – the Infrastructure and Transportation Committee, Mr. DeFazio, for his leadership in that regard. I will not try to find all of you because you may be in the Gallery as we are encouraging Members to come. Here we go.
We're also proud – again, I want to salute the Congresswoman Waters for the work, for the holding – having the oversight provisions in the bill for the account that is going to be spending money out.
We're also proud to have secured truly historic investment of hundreds of billions of dollars in hospitals, health systems, state and local governments, ensuring that they have the tools they need to combat the virus. I salute Chairman Pallone, Congress – Chairwoman Lowey of the Appropriations Committee and Chairwoman DeLauro for making so much of all of that possible. And when we talk about state and local government, I want to express pride in our own Governor, Gavin Newsom. He was on the front line of attacking this, as well as my own Mayor Breed who has disciplined us to shelter in place.
For small businesses, thank you, Congresswoman – Madam Chair Velazquez. And working in a bipartisan way, we want fast relief for those in need, including by securing $10 billion for SBA emergency grants of up to $10,000, and making payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest and utility costs eligible for SBA loan forgiveness. And for the first time, we have grants from the SBA and, thanks to Secretary Mnuchin – he is facilitating this by not just all of the loans going through the SBA, but going through banks with the SBA, which makes this all go much faster.
For our students, we've passed payments for – paused payments for federal student loan borrowers, paused the payments, and suspended wage garnishment and negative credit reporting during this time for that and for so many other things relating to our students. I thank Bobby Scott, our Chairman of Education and [Labor].
And for our veterans, you heard earlier all of these chairmen make these presentations. For our veterans we secured nearly $20 billion dollars in funding to improve VA’s readiness with equipment, tests and additional care, as, again 571 veterans and 185 employees have now tested positive. I thank Chairman Takano and others on the Committee for their leadership.
For our homeowners, renters and homeless creditors, again, I thank – and consumers, I thank Chairwoman Waters for her leadership there.
Since the beginning of this crisis, we have fought to ensure that our nation's response puts families first. As we go through this. So the first two bills – that we worked in a bipartisan way on – were about addressing the emergency. The first bill was about testing, testing, testing, to ensure that everyone in the country would have access to free testing, among other things. It had in there issues that relate to research for vaccines, research for a cure, but many other things, addressing the emergency. In the second bill, which also focused on the emergency, we have masks, masks, masks and many other provisions focused on the emergency.
But taking us to this bill today, which is about mitigation. The distinguished Mr. DeFazio would say, ‘first we had emergency, then we had mitigation.’ Doesn't mean we're finished with emergency. But it's moving on to mitigating some of the economic and health damage caused by it this pandemic.
Next, we'll move to recovery and hopefully that will be soon. Always, though, addressing the emergency and the mitigation needed.
How are we coming, Mr. Leaders? How are we coming with our Gallery?
Speaker Pro Tempore. The House is not in order.
Speaker Pelosi. As we have all said universally, and we say it almost all the time that we come to the Floor, no bill is perfect. No bill is perfect. But we want to make sure that at least it comes part of the way to being sufficient. I do think that we should, when we're considering a bill, appreciate for what is in the bill rather than judge it for what is not in the bill. But we do know that we must do more.
There's been a constant communication among all of our Members – I'm sure on both sides of the aisle – when you're at home or here, with doctors, health care providers, laborers, small businesses, nonprofits, faith groups and scientists on the daily needs and developments in your communities. The on-the-ground reports and clear-eyed thinking we have are essential to crafting our approach to all of this. So, again, listening to Members on both sides of the aisle and the comments here today, as well as the input you have been giving in the legislative process we know that this cannot be our final bill.
Yet, this bill, again, is – I think Bobby Scott called it a down payment. We must advance a fourth bill to address the continued needs. For our fight against the coronavirus, our state and local governments will need vastly more support for preventing, preparing for and responding to the crisis. Our hospitals and health systems still need vast infusions of funding so they can treat those in need. We must do more for our health care workers – and this has been a current theme on both sides of the aisle, our gratitude for our health care workers. They are our heroes. We're thankful and grateful to them. We pray for them. But we need to do more for them than just to say those words.
Our front line health care workers, and whether they're emergency need, our firefighters, our law enforcement, face a dire lack of medical and personal protective equipment – PPE – personal protective equipment. That's the reference. When you see PPE, that's what it is. We must ensure that the President uses the Defense Production Act to its full extent to provide the tools that we need to combat this crisis.
All workers are risking their lives on the front lines of this fight and need stronger OSHA protections to keep them safe. Thank you, Mr. Scott.
This week, for example, for example – and you probably all have examples – this week we learned of the tragic death of Kious Kelly, a nurse manager in New York who died in the line of duty from coronavirus. He and his fellow nurses risked their lives without proper protective equipment, because the hospital supply simply did not have enough. Nurses were given a single plastic protective gown to use for an entire shift when protocol called for a change of gowns between interactions with patients. Other nurses were forced to resort to tying bandanas over their faces in place of proper equipment. And still others even began tying plastic garbage bags around disposable scrubs they were given in place of proper scrubs for extra protection. As Mr. Kelly's sister said, ‘His death could have been prevented. I'm angry. He was healthy.’
And now our nurses, doctors, health care workers and first responders need action. We have to make sure they know that help is not only on the way, but it is a priority for all of us. These people risk their lives trying to save other people's lives. Then they take home what they interacted within an infected environment – take home. This is just asking far too much.
Our families our workers, our retirees still need more money in their pockets to protect their income security, with increased SNAP. One thing we couldn't get in the bill was the increased – the fifteen percent increase in food stamps for our children, for our seniors, for those who qualify.
Bigger direct payments – I hope that we'll be in agreement. I know that Richie and Maxine had the idea of ongoing direct payments, so bigger direct payments. Pension protections – we had a protection in the legislation. It was supported by everyone. The President of the United States supported it, but Senator McConnell said he would save it for the next bill. So, that's why I'm mentioning it, for the next bill.
And then we need more expanded family and medical leave. Let me give you an example. Come on, my colleagues, to the Gallery. Let me give you an example. If your parent is sick, but had an ongoing caregiver in the home or went to a senior health center on a daily basis, and because of the virus that caregiver couldn't come or that health center was closed, you would be able to give – you would be able to take family and medical leave.
However, as in the case of many Members here, if your mom or your dad are healthy, and they contract the coronavirus, you would not be able to take family and medical leave. But we would like that to say, ‘It’s for those who cannot care for themselves – who cannot care for themselves.’ It just doesn't make any sense in my view. So in any case, we need that and without exception.
And all Americans need free coronavirus treatments so they don't have to fear the high cost of a hospital stay. When we said the tests were free, it didn't mean the test is free but the visit to the doctor is not.
So, in the days and weeks to come, Democrats will continue to advance legislation to meet the urgent needs of all affected by the coronavirus. I keep saying the coronavirus because in this – people say, ‘How come we didn't do this or that?’ Because this is specific to the coronavirus challenge that we have.
I just want to say a word about our children as I close. So many of our children – I want them if they are paying attention – distinguished Congresswoman Brooks mentioned the children. We are so sad for them that they cannot be fully engaged in school as they were. Some have access to remote learning and the rest. And this has had a deep impact on American life as it affects our children as well.
When I see that some graduations have been canceled – and hopefully not so many more if we can get through this – and they – I’ve been, as a mother of five, grandmother of nine personally, but officially in my leadership role, I have seen hundreds of thousands of graduates. And what's exciting about it personally and officially is to see the excitement of the families when their child graduates. But when that family happens to have someone on the stage who is the first in the family to graduate, the pride, the joy, the patriotism, all of it is so exuberant and many of them will be deprived of that experience of seeing that child walk across the stage.
Let's try to get this. We have the best minds working 24/7, all hands on deck to find a cure. Let's make sure that we give them the resources they need to do so. But at the same time, that we obey the science that says shelter in place or whatever it happens to be.
As we go forward, let us pray. Let us remember what His Holiness told us, what he told us was that we have a responsibility for the common good. So, let us pray for all the ones who have lost family members and others struggling with the illness now. Let's pray for our heroic health care workers and first responders who are risking their lives to care for the sick every day; the men and women in our factories making more medical supplies and personal protective equipment; the farmers, producers, grocery workers keeping food on the shelves; our truck drivers; postal workers; everybody who is contributing to the effort; and the scientists, as I say, all hands on deck, 24/7 for a solution.
Congress must show the same courage, same resilience, same strength and with a great unity and urgency to put families and workers first. Let me, again, thank everyone who had anything to do with this, and that means almost everybody in this room. Let me thank the Senate Democrats and Leader Schumer for his work, as you acknowledge Leader McConnell.
Let us, again, return to the words of His Holiness, Pope Francis. ‘May we enlighten those responsible for the common good so that they may know how to care for their – those entrusted to their responsibility.’
With that I hope we have the biggest possible vote for the American people to show them that Congress' heart and the country's heart is full of love for the American people.
And with that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.