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.
We are so pleased with the actions taken by the House of Representatives last night. Last night, we made just a giant step for democracy. Some of you heard us talk about it on the steps of the Capitol, led by John Sarbanes and Zoe Lofgren, who are the masters of putting H.R. 1 together, and also other Members speaking, including Terri Sewell, who is the author of H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Act.
We waved flags in honor of our democracy. This legislation is there to protect the right to vote, to remove obstacles of participation, H.R. 1, For The People, For The People. The first 300 pages were written by John Lewis, to remove voter suppression tactics from our political system. Some of the rest of it was written to protect the integrity of our electoral system, the physical infrastructure of our elections. Important in the legislation is to stop foreign interference in our election; to reduce the role of big, dark, special interest money, again; to have redistricting done by commission and not by partisan redistricting, to have voters choose their elected officials rather than elected officials choose their voters; to honor small donors by having matching funds in that regard; and, again, removing the role of big, dark, special interest money in our electoral process and our governmental process.
What's exciting about it is that it restores confidence that people have that their vote and their voice is as important as anyone's. That, yes, we can address the climate crisis if big, dark, special interest money is not suffocating the airways with misinformation about how we protect the planet. That we, yes, can have background checks passed in the whole Congress of the United States to protect our children if big, dark, special interest gun lobbying money is not suffocating the airways. And, yes, we can have lower costs to prescription drugs. The list goes on and on.
We can Build Back Better For The People in every ZIP Code, as we said in our Caucus yesterday. Build Back Better For The People, advancing justice, opportunity and prosperity in every ZIP Code.
Also last night, we pulled forward the bill that we were going to bring to the Floor this morning for a vote. We had a short schedule today because the Republicans are going to – going to their issues conference. We had ours virtually here, but they're going to theirs. So, this was only going to be the votes in the morning on that one bill, the debate and votes on that bill. And we decided to do that last night, and that was the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
It's pretty exciting to have a big, strong democratic vote for that. We had wished it would be bipartisan. It is something that we all take great pride in. Millions of the people worldwide marched, came out, peacefully demonstrated, to say, ‘Enough, enough,’ when they saw George Floyd lynched before their very eyes for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
Congress has not – we passed the bill last year. We passed it again this year. We feel very optimistic that there must be some bipartisanship here in the Senate. Karen Bass was the master of this, and she, she is in negotiation on the Senate side on this legislation.
But, nonetheless, we took great pride in the fact that we were able to pass it last night on the Floor of the House. Members quoting him, ‘I can't breathe. I can't breathe.’ Or calling for his mother. Calling for his mother.
Now, this bill will not bring him back, or Breonna Taylor – say her name, Breonna Taylor – bring them back, but, hopefully, it will prevent – and I say that as one raised in a political family where we were taught, as we grew up, to honor the men – that was a long time ago – the men in blue. Be true to the men in blue. Now, we would say the men and women in blue. We respect what our first responders do for us, to protect us. They leave home sometimes not knowing if they're coming home because of any danger they may be in protecting the rest of us.
On many occasions, we are present at the annual event to – for those whose lives are lost. So, this is not without respect for those in our – in blue who protect us. But it is – that respect should not be a path to apathy in regard to those who are not honoring their profession and who are unduly, unduly doing violence to so many of our young people, especially in the Black community.
And here we are, the Senate has received our rescue package earlier this week, on Monday, and now they are acting upon it.
We're very excited about the prospect at the end of this week or the beginning of next. I don't know their schedule. It depends on how many bills. Some of the – and amendments – some of the Republicans want to be read. But that's – I don't know so much about the, shall we say, the wisdom of that. However – or the value or the time of some of the people who are proposing that.
But, nonetheless, we will, in a matter of several days, be sending back to the House, and then we'll send to the President the American Rescue Plan, the Biden American Rescue Plan, which we're very, very proud of, which, as we said, it puts vaccines in the arms of the American people, money in the pockets of the American people, children in school safely, and workers back into their jobs, among other things.
We're very proud of the legislation. We wish the Senate well in its deliberations. This is the – this is Congress working its will. We sent our product. They will act upon it. Apparently, there will be some changes, so it will come back to the House. We'll review it and send it to the President.
Do you have any questions? Yes, sir?
Q: Speaker Pelosi, I was just wondering, what role the security threat played in moving the votes from this morning to last night? And then, also, if it did play a role, does that send the wrong message?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I don't think so. We – as I said earlier, this was going to be a very – we were going to be out by noon, because we promised that to the Republicans, we would not prolong anything because they are going to their, their issues conference. We had ours virtually this week, as you may be aware. I hope you are. And theirs was starting around now. In another hour we would be, at the latest, we would be adjourning so they can go on theirs. So, it was really just as a convenience.
And, frankly, there are a lot of us. You know, there are Senators in, and they should be and that, we're four, at least four times more people, and, therefore, all that that implies in terms of numbers of people in the Capitol, if in fact there's any troublemakers around, and it made sense. I don't think anybody should take any encouragement that because some troublemakers might show up, that we changed our whole schedule. No, we just moved it a few hours, and it largely will accommodate the Republicans going to their own session.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am.
Q: There were reports that the Capitol Police had asked the National Guard to stay for two additional months in addition to how long they've been here. Do you think that need exists? Do you agree you want them to continue to stay here?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the – that's a question for them. The decisions about security are made by the security leadership here, and we'll see what that ask is. Right now, we have some drafts that have been put together, a draft that has been put together by General Honoré. He is briefing the leadership of committees in a bipartisan way, Leadership of the Congress. And, hopefully, next week, we'll have presentation – we'll be able to have presentations to the Floor, Membership.
The issue about the National Guard is one that will be made by the Capitol Police and the Police Board and the rest, but I'm not in a position to respond to that. But we should have them here as long as they are needed. And the silliness of this being Inauguration Day, and that in [March] the President will be inaugurated is – falls into the realm of – let's not waste our time on it.
But in terms of that, what we need, we have to have what we need when we need it and in the numbers that we need it, but that's a security decision.
Yes, sir? Yes, ma'am?
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. About the rescue plan, critics, including Senator Mitch McConnell, this week said the extension of ObamaCare insurance subsidies will disproportionately benefit wealthier people. And they argue that the rescue plan could give subsidies to households making $300,000 or more, and also discourages people going to work – from going to work?
Speaker Pelosi. Are you talking about the Affordable Care Act?
Q: Yes, the expansion of the rescue plan.
Speaker Pelosi. No, this is, this is a two year extension of an improvement on the Affordable Care Act so that the subsidies would be available to the next tier of income people. It's not about wealth.
If they want to talk about wealth, they should look at their own Tax Scam that they passed in the dark of night, in the speed of light, that gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent, forcing nearly $2 trillion of debt on our children to pay in the future, in order to give tax breaks to the high end. They ought not to be complaining about some people making a little more money getting a subsidy.
Yes, sir? Back there.
Q: You mentioned the Senate staying possibly late because of an amendment reading on the rescue plan?
Speaker Pelosi. Late? I don't know if I said ‘late.’ I mean, you mean late at night?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, I don't know how late they’ll stay. I don't know anything about their schedule. Staying longer, yeah.
Q: Right. Staying longer. My apologies. At the beginning of the year, there was also a kerfuffle over the organizing resolution. There are still nominations that are making their way through the process.
I'm wondering, do you think that Republicans are intentionally trying to delay as much action on Democratic priorities as possible because they think that you guys will lose the House next year?
Speaker Pelosi. I don't – I don't know. You'd have to ask the Republicans about that. I would be – it would be curious to think that the Republicans in the Senate are enthusiastic about reading the bills and all the amendments. And, in fact, the characterization of what happened on January 6th, which was posed by that very same Senator, who wants to read all of that. So, I can't – I can't speak to their motivation. You have to ask them.
Q: Madam Speaker? Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah?
Q: With respect to the –
Q: Thank, you, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Then we'll go to you.
Q: There are some bipartisan talks about another War Powers Resolution, and I was wondering if there's any discussion within the Caucus, and would they have your support?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we did – in the committees of jurisdiction, of course, there's always talk about the AUMF. That's an ongoing conversation that we have had, and, of course, that relates to the War Powers Resolution.
But, as a Caucus, we've spent the last few days on our economic agenda for how we go forward, also, how we respect people in our communities that – in terms of communities of color, immigrant communities and the rest.
So, it was more of a domestic – we did have Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, speak about some national security issues. He was fabulous. It was a beautiful, values-based, visionary presentation. But in terms of the committees of jurisdiction, that would be the Armed Services Committee, others on the Appropriations Committee, that applied to that, yeah. I'm sure we'll be having those conversations.
Q: Madam Speaker, with respect to the Honoré review, some details that we found as far as adding more than a thousand Capitol Police officers, having retractable fencing, and also having a quick reaction report. Do you support those findings?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the fact that there are some – it's a draft. It's a draft. And so, we're seeing the draft, and we'll review the draft and then hear what the – our security folks have to say about the draft as well. I'm not here to talk about any particulars of it.
But I have enormous respect for General Honoré. I think it is a blessing to us that he was willing to take the responsibility to engage so many others who are with law enforcement and national security expertise to look at the situation here about how this – what happened from a security standpoint and how we could have prevented it and how we prevent it in the future.
Perhaps next week we will be presenting to the fuller body and at some point have decisions made about what is feasible. It'll have to have a supplemental. It's going to take more money to protect the Capitol in a way that enables people to come here, children to come and see our democracy in action, all of you to cover what happens here safely, Members to be comfortable that they are safe when they are here and not be concerned about what happened last time. That just doesn't have a place in a democracy.
And that's why, today, again, it has not impeded us, because we only had a small agenda for this morning – big in terms of George Floyd bill, but the rule had been passed earlier in the week. So, it was just the hour of debate and then the vote on the bill, which we could easily accommodate last night.
But between COVID, where we need to have vaccinations more broadly in the Capitol, so that many more people can come here and do their jobs and the threat of all the President's men out there, we have to – we have to ensure with our security that we are safe enough to do our job, but not impeding.
Now, I live in San Francisco. So, people say, ‘Well, if you want to be totally protected by – from earthquakes, you just live in a, like, an iron igloo, and then you're completely safe.’ Well, who wants to do that? So, how do we make the judgments of what is needed to protect ourselves from the – what has been described by the Director of the FBI as domestic terrorists? How do we protect ourselves against that – makes COVID look almost doable, because it is just a matter of money and vaccines, et cetera.
So, in any event, we're ready for the task. We have expert guidance and intellectual resources available to us, and we will make decisions and prioritize. It's about prioritizing how we go forward.
But it is – it's going to be a great day as the Senate proceeds with the legislation. We're thrilled with what we were able to accomplish last night. And it'll be a cause for celebration when we pass the rescue package. And at the same time, we are already moving forward with the recovery, with the recovery package. So, it's an exciting time.
I hope you felt safe coming in today. We're way ahead of where we were last time because we have fences and we have National Guard and the rest. But, nonetheless, we don't want to have all of that. We want to have our Capitol be respected by everyone in our country, so that, as Lincoln did during the Civil War, he said, we're going to build the dome so that people know that we are proceeding. And that's really what our spirit is.
Thank you all very much.