Transcript of Pelosi Virtual Weekly Press Conference Today
San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today via video conference call. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Hello, everyone. Good morning, if you’re on the West Coast. Wherever you are, have a good day. Holy Thursday, a very special day in this Holy Week. Whether you’re observing Passover, as this would be the day of Christ’s Passover, the Last Supper and Passover Seder, the Last Supper. And then, of course, Easter Sunday coming up. This is the most glorious feast in the liturgy. Christmas is joyous. Easter is glorious. Christ has risen. So, I'm very, shall we say, excited about what is happening this week in this season of spring, the season of renewal, this season of Holy Week. Whether it's Passover, Easter, Ramadan, whatever you observe or don't observe, I wish you the joy of the season.
And the joy of the season is marked by another renewal: the renewal of reconstruction that President Biden put forth yesterday in his presentation. He promised when he took the oath of office that we would Build Back Better. He also promised ‘help was on the way’ – and help is here, help is here. I'll get to that in a moment.
But in Building Back Better, what he presented yesterday, he was in the tradition of America to think big. I always like to recall to my colleagues – something I've said to you before – at the beginning of our country, Thomas Jefferson tasked the Secretary of the Treasury at the time, Gallatin, to initiate a Gallatin project, which was to build into America. America was expanding – the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Louisiana Purchase and the rest. And President Jefferson tasked Gallatin to build infrastructure, Cumberland Road, Erie Canal, all kinds of projects like that – big.
One hundred years later, the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, and in the centennial of the original infrastructure plan, Teddy Roosevelt put forth his infrastructure plan. It was called the National Park Service – again, thinking big, transformational, making a difference for our country.
And now, in this century, President Biden is undertaking something in the tradition of thinking big, being transformational and creating jobs for America. It is quite remarkable, the comprehensive nature of what he put forward. We can talk about that in its specifics as we go along. But I'm very happy to see that, as we build the infrastructure, we're also recognizing the need for the human infrastructure to be enhanced, whether it's workforce development, whether it's recognizing that for everyone to be taken along this path, that we have to have child care, home health care, whatever. It's really quite a remarkable and comprehensive plan.
And when it comes to infrastructure, I always say to our Chairman, Peter DeFazio, the Chair of one of the committees of jurisdiction, Transportation and Infrastructure: our hopes are riding on you. It's about jobs. It's about the jobs in building the infrastructure. It's about the jobs that are created by promoting commerce, good-paying jobs. But, we need people to be ready for them. And that's what this package that the President put forth does.
It makes bold investments in broadband, investing in long-neglected areas of infrastructure, whether we're talking about clean water – getting the lead out –building schools, issues relating to child care, as I mentioned, of seniors, long-term care, veterans facilities, the list goes on. And again, more to come in the next package. But right now, what the President is doing is creating in communities of color and rural communities, giving more opportunity there.
So, in my time in Congress for most of the time, infrastructure was never a partisan issue. Only when President Obama was president, the Republicans insisted on a much smaller infrastructure package. But in the past, we had always been able to work in a bipartisan way because it was about a four letter word: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, good-paying jobs, investing in workers and turbocharging our global competitiveness, and to do so in a way that is resilient and that is in some ways green – I know that word sometimes frightens people, but the fact is that it's about working together to save our planet, to have clean air, clean water for our children. It's a health issue. It's about competitiveness, to be competitive in establishing good-paying green jobs, competitive in that market globally. It's about security in terms of what we do.
I did talk about President Jefferson. I talked about Thomas Jefferson. I talked about President Teddy Roosevelt. And when I mentioned security, remember – ‘remember.’ You don't remember. You’ve read in history books that President Eisenhower, when he was president, he put forth another transformational, large infrastructure initiative called the interstate highway system. And he based it on the national security of our country so that we would be united as a country, and that was a security issue. Actually, Al Gore's father – then a Senator from Tennessee – had initiated that legislation, so it was bipartisan at that time. Hopefully, it will be bipartisan again.
So, we're very excited about what he did and as I said for some of my colleagues on a call yesterday – a bipartisan call with the Administration – infrastructure is renewal. So, it's good that we're talking about it in the season of renewal.
At the same time, we're still very much insistent that everyone understands what is in the rescue package and how they can readily avail themselves of the benefits.
Sometimes, people just don't know how, if they qualify for a low-income tax credit or a child tax credit that is refundable. And so, next week we are having a Teach-In. Members have had great opportunities in their districts already to do some kind of spreading of the information, and that is part of what we will take advantage of as we put forth more information and how community groups can be helpful in making sure that everyone who is eligible for a benefit knows that. So again, at the time when we passed it, we said it's about vaccinations in the arms, it's about money in the pockets, it's about children safely in the schools, it's about people safely back to work. But in order for that to happen, there are many provisions in the bill that relate to child care and the rest. They want to make sure people know how to avail themselves of it. So, we're very excited about that.
You know more than 100 million vaccines have already [been delivered] — doses in the first 100 days. The President said 100 million doses in the first 100 days. It'll be closer to 200 million doses in the first 100 days. By April 19th, 90 percent of adults will be eligible for the vaccine and have access within five miles of their homes – and that is important. And on the economic front, well over 100 million checks have been distributed and more on the way.
I'm very proud of the fact – because I feel so proprietary about the Affordable Care Act – that under the Rescue Plan, new ACA benefits will now be available, which will dramatically lower health care costs for millions of more people.
And so, again, the President has extended the enrollment period and the rest. This is – again people have to know. How many times have you told – heard me say, President Lincoln said, ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it you can accomplish almost anything, without practically nothing.’
But in order for public sentiment to prevail, people have to know, and that is what we are engaged in, making sure people know what their opportunity is. And again, I repeat, next Wednesday April 7 is – we'll be holding our Teach-In as part of our Day of Action to lift up how the package saves lives and livelihoods in our communities.
I'm so proud of House Democrats for the courage that they have had to go forward with it, the COVID package and now that was rescue. This is now into recovery, about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. And again, the President said in the campaign, ‘Help Is On The Way.’ Now, we can proudly say Help Is Here, and by the way, more to come.
* * *
Staff. If you would like to be added to the queue to ask a question, please select the raise hand option under the reactions tab at the bottom of your screen. One moment while we wait for reporters to join the queue.
Speaker Pelosi. Okay. So, with all of these vaccinations, it's important for people to still remember to wear masks, because we want everyone to be as healthy as possible so we can truly, truly crush this virus. We now have the tools at our disposal. As we wait for members of the press to queue up. Oh, I see a lot of hands raised now.
Staff. So, our first question, our first question will go to Emily Cochrane with the New York Times.
Q: Hi Madam Speaker, thank you for doing this. I wanted to ask –
Speaker Pelosi. Hi Emily.
Q: Given the view allegations against Matt Gaetz, do you think he should still remain a Member of Congress? Should he step down? And if anything, should he be removed from Judiciary?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we have so much going on in our country that hopefully we will get back to, but in terms of that, and I think it's an important issue, the integrity of the Congress, not to minimize that. It just surprised me that that was the first question, and I'm rarely surprised.
The – if in fact these allegations are true, of course, being removed from the Judiciary Committee is the least that could be done. But again, I think, from what we've heard so far, this would be a matter for the Ethics Committee.
Staff. Alright, our next question will be Jake Sherman, with Punchbowl News.
Q: How are you?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m okay.
Q: I'm curious what you think of Gottheimer and his crew saying they won't vote for anything with changes to the tax code without the SALT caps undone. I'm curious what you think of that, and how you see that playing into the package?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, my – I'm a big supporter of their position, as you probably know. It was devastating to the state of California for the Members, the Republican Members of California to vote against our state – and by the way, without any consultation with the Finance Director of the state as to what impact that would have on our meeting the needs of the people of California.
They have the same view, I'm sure, in New Jersey, New York, other states that had been affected by this. And it was a political action on the part of the Republicans in a tax bill that gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent, the injustice of it all.
So, I'm sympathetic to their position. I would say that I would withhold any comment about whether you're gonna vote for a bill or not until you see what the bill is.
But again, I share their exuberance about the subject of the SALT tax. It was mean-spirited to begin with, politically targeted, had no place in that – well, that was a tax scam to begin with. So, it was a mess all around. But hopefully, we can get it into the bill. I never give up hope for something like that. Means so much to American people.
Staff. Our next question will be Lindsey McPherson with Roll Call.
Q: Madam Speaker, thanks for doing this call today.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi Lindsey.
Q: I wanted to ask, you know, we've been in for a while now, if you are going to invite President Biden to do a Joint Session of Congress sometime soon?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Lindsey, of course, we will. This – part of the decision in that regard is in the hands of the physician at – the Capitol Physician as well as the Sergeants-at-Arms. So, in terms of how we can do that, and how many people can be in the room and this or that will be – hopefully the more people who get vaccinated, the more people we can have in the room. Some people have objections to vaccinations, which I hope that they can overcome in the very near future.
While I say that, I want to acknowledge that we have a new Sergeant-at-Arms – General, General oh my gosh, he is is so remarkable. And, and the first – General Walker is the first African American Sergeant-at-Arms. This is historic, and he is going to be absolutely spectacular. He has, has formerly been the head of the National Guard at the District of Columbia, so he knows the territory.
And again, we'll weight the advice of the Capitol Physician, the Sergeant-at-Arms, about how many people can be accommodated, but whatever the number we’ll be ready whenever the President is ready to come. And we'll extend that invitation, which is the tradition.
It's a collaboration. We don't pick a date, and they don't pick it. We do it together especially in a time of COVID which is – this is. I mean this is the first COVID. We had the State of the Union last year as you may recall right before COVID. That was when I tore up the speech, the pack of lies. Remember that? But this is now this year. So, it will be soon — I hope as — participated in as safely possible. And our office will be in touch with them – and we’ll – conversation about when that would be.
Staff. Our next question comes from Ella Nilsen with Vox
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker for holding the call. I had a question. I know that the Biden Administration is expected to release a second part of its package dealing with child care and health care. I wanted to ask you if you know yet sort of similar to the American Rescue Plan if the actual drafting of the bill will start in the House and if you have any sort of timeline for that yet on when you think there will be sort of a draft of the bill ready to go?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, first we want to see what the Administration is proposing. Many of the initiatives that are in this infrastructure package and are in the rescue package were in the Heroes Act. We didn't have the vaccine piece last May, middle of May when we initially passed it, but much of what we had in there was either in the December legislation that passed and that had some elements of vaccine in that. And now this rescue package again has the benefit of much more availability of vaccine and still with testing, tracing, treatment, etcetera to crush the virus.
So, again the initiative, the priorities that the Administration put forth were important to us, but they were shared values. And this infrastructure bill looks a lot like what we did in the summer, which was our Moving America Forward legislation that had many of the same elements but refreshed and expanded by this Administration to recognize more fully how you cannot build the infrastructure physically without building the infrastructure personally so that many more people can participate and more communities can benefit.
So, we'll see what the presentation is from the Administration, but I'm certain we’ll have shared values, how it is prioritized and to the amount of funding remains to be seen.
Yes, we will all – if it is a spending bill, it begins in the House of Representatives. Yes, that would be the case, but right now we are again making sure people understand how they can benefit from the rescue package. We have – are building upon what we did in Moving America Forward to blend with Build Back Better that the President proposed just yesterday.
And, well, we eagerly await and I think it's going to be very good news for American families because it will reflect the President's priorities and his values, which we share. But we'll wait to see what they present. We're waiting for the budget, which will be soon, which is imminent. The top line budget, sometimes called skinny, but it's really the top line budget. It ain't that skinny, it's just more top line, and then the full budget to come.
So all of this is the work that we will be – that we are engaged in to the extent that we can until we see what the White House proposes. But remember House – appropriations bills, spending bills begin in the House of Representatives.
Staff. Our next question comes from Jonathan Nicholson with MarketWatch.
Q: Thank you, Speaker, for doing this. Yeah, I had a kind of similar timeline question, which maybe you can be specific on. You’re only into doing reconciliation to ease, to ease this idea of passage. Do you have a timeline for when you guys want to do the FY ‘22 Budget Resolution? And do you have an ending timeline, Labor Day or the August break – I’m sorry, July 4th or the August break, for getting, for wrapping up the infrastructure bill?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say that we – the needs of American people are great. The infrastructure needs are self-evident. The American Society of Civil Engineers has demonstrated that we're trillions of dollars behind. There is no more expensive maintenance than no maintenance for our infrastructure. And it's a safety issue when it comes to bridges, as the President indicated yesterday.
Having said that, we will prepare the bills and bring them to the Floor when we are ready. Not one day sooner, not one day later. And, again, we look forward to writing a bill, maybe much of it in the first week of May for the infrastructure piece of it. And we'll see when the Senate then will act upon those proposals, and then we go either to conference or just amending each other's product. But, again, I'm not one who sets dates, because that's, then you use that as a measure. No, when we're ready and we have the best possible bill, that's when we'll go forward.
But we understand that people need these jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. And, as I said earlier, in my comments, this is about addressing, saving the lies and the livelihood of the American people. And that's what this legislation will help to do, as we address long neglected infrastructure needs. Though, we talked history before, some of the water systems in our country are over 100 years old, made of wood and brick. They definitely need to be upgraded. Many of them have water supplies that are full of lead. Not good for children or other living things. And the President spoke so clearly about ridding water of lead For The Children.
There are so many things that are of urgent matter that we'd like to get the bill done soon. I, a couple of weeks ago, I called upon my chairmen, our chairmen, to reach across the aisle to see how we can work in a bipartisan way in order to pass like infrastructure legislation, because it's always, just almost always been bipartisan, nonpartisan. It meets the needs of communities. And, again, whether we're talking about additional needs, like infrastructure for broadband, for distanced learning and telemedicine and so many other reasons that you're well aware of. It's how people communicate with each other and what a disadvantage it is to rural America or inner city deserts, who are not wired or prepared for all of this. And as the President said, it's not just about broadband infrastructure, it's about the system that we have to replace.
So there's a lot to be done. The sooner we can get the legislation done, the sooner we can allocate the resources, the sooner we can reach across America, as we have been saying, in every zip code to make sure that everyone participates fully. And again, when we're ready, we'll go to the Floor. I don't set a date, because we just – are not, okay, we're not in a position to do so until we see the breadth of the legislation that work between the House and Senate and the hope that we have for bipartisanship to get the job done as soon as possible.
Staff. And our last question comes from Chad Pergram with Fox News.
Speaker Pelosi. Okay, Chad, so I've been watching the Final Four. I think have seen a piece of every game, of every game. We're glad UCLA is going to Final Four. USC, I was hoping, but they would be playing against each other. Stanford women are going. That's a California piece. I, myself, we’re a Hoya family. We were hoping that – we were glad Hoyas won the Big East and that they were able to participate in the March Madness. But for some of us, there was some March sadness, like the Maryland women's – Steny brings that up every call that we're on. So between March Madness and the deep sadness of the George Floyd trial, it has been quite a time. And of course, we have to stay focused on the day, the day job, but Chad and I have a conversation going about sports. What do you got Chad?
Q: Right. Well, I was thinking UCLA because Mick Cronin used to be the head coach at the University of Cincinnati, just down the road. But anyways –
Speaker Pelosi. That’s where they got him. You're right, that’s where they got him, yeah.
Q: Absolutely. Now I have a question. You know, we hear a lot about the infrastructure bill, and talking about green energy and green jobs and things like that. And in your remarks earlier, you said that sometimes when people hear the word green, that frightens people and sometimes that's going to be the resistance to this piece of legislation. Why, in your mind, when they hear that word green, why does that frighten people and how could that potentially undercut this bill?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the people I was referring to are the people who are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry in the Congress of the United States. They know that we have to go forward with resilience and sustainability as we build our infrastructure. We would be a delinquent in our duties, derelict in our duties, if we started to build infrastructure a la 20, 30, 40 years ago. We're about the future.
So were – the people I was referencing are the Members of Congress who, again, defy science and governance. Science says that we need to address the climate crisis. Governance gives us some path to do that. If you don't believe in science, and you don't believe in governance and you're in the profit of the fossil fuel industry, that's where you are. And you might call that fear. I call it lack of courage too.
And again, in terms of those who make it be – have some concerns about what will happen to their jobs, that's what's the beauty of what President Biden is putting forth. This is about everybody going forward together. This is not a zero-sum game. If one industry succeeds, another fails. It's about all of America's workers, being equipped to go into the future, with good-paying jobs. Not another job, but much less paid. That's why, that's why I'm so pleased that we'll probably be able to have Davis-Bacon prevailing wage legislation as part of it.
So for those in the community, who may have some concern about what saving the planet might mean to their livelihood, we’re all in this together and we're not going forward without them. It is a path forward that is for an entire country. And that's what's so great about Joe Biden, President Biden, he's a unifier. He's a unifier, not a divider.
And the other questions? Okay, thank you all very much. Happy Easter. Happy Passover. Happy – if you say Happy Ramadan. Whatever you observe or don't, have joy of spring time, enliven your spirits. This is a time of renewal and a time of reconstruction. Thank you all very much.