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. Welcome back. I'm very, very proud of the House Democrats for the – how they presented the Rescue Plan to their constituents over this period of the Easter-Passover break, but also our committee work period in the past few weeks.
This plan is, as is described by its title, a rescue, but it can only rescue if people know how it meets their needs. So, over the – we had nearly 100 Teach-Ins last week across the country so that people could see how they could avail themselves of the benefits of the Rescue Plan, and that will – that continues.
I, myself, participated in Chinatown, where I went to the North Eastern Medical Services – place where we saw, I saw, culturally appropriate, linguistically clear providing of vaccines to many in the beautiful, diverse community of San Francisco, or as a real model to the rest of the country, participated in many Zooms on how you can avail yourself of the benefits of the plan.
Now, some of it is easier than others. As you probably know, about  million Americans have already received at least one dose of the vaccination. About 160 million Americans have received their checks from this legislation. Again, that adds up to – those checks are part of nearly $1 trillion in the pockets of the American workers. We said our purpose in the plan was vaccines in the arm, money in the pockets, children safely in school, workers safely back at work, and that is what is happening now. And so, we're very proud of that. But, we have more to do, first of all, more to do to make sure people know how they can benefit, but more to do as we go forward.
That was the rescue, next is the recovery, and the recovery is the American Jobs Plan. We're very – I think that this is not an opportunity of a generation, but of a century. I call this the promised land for America's workers, the legislation that is being put together now, again, to build the infrastructure of America: roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, mass transit, high-speed rail, education, schools, housing, et cetera.
But in order to do that, you have to have the human infrastructure to go with it. And that is workforce development. That is very much a part of all this. Women being able to participate fully in how we Build Back Better, because women are helping to Build Back Better, and that means we have to have adequate child care or care for whomever women or men are caring for in their families – but that they can confidently be part of the workforce, knowing that their children or loved ones are cared for. So we're very excited about it, and that is in the works.
In March, before the break, I tasked the chairs to reach across the aisle to see where they could find their common ground on all of this. I reported that to you before we left. Since then, they've come back with what they think the possibilities are. They will have hearings now, start to write the bill. We hope, by the end of May, to at least have the substantial part from Mr. DeFazio from Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
And this is – we hope it will be as bipartisan as possible, as it is in the country. When you talk to people about building the roads, bridges, broadband, these are safety issues – water supply, et cetera – and health issues, as well. It's vastly popular in a bipartisan way. So, we hope to continue that as we meet the needs of the American people. Again, I hope it will be bipartisan, and that is what we are striving for now. It has always been, in the past, bipartisan, and hopefully it will continue to be at this time.
One piece of legislation that's on the Floor today about Building Back Better with women is the Paycheck Fairness Act, and I salute Rosa DeLauro, who has been on this case for a very long time. How can you say to your mother, your sister, your wife, your daughter that they should not receive the same pay – yourself – the same pay for the same job? We're really hoping that we'll be able to pass this in the Senate as well. You know the figures, $0.82 for every dollar a man makes. If you happen to be a woman of color, much bigger disparity in all of that.
Our work here is about meeting the needs of the American people. Their economic security is essential to the security of our country. Our national security, in terms of the decision the President made this week, is very important – essential, actually, because we take an oath to protect and defend.
And this week, President – the Biden Administration announced the timeline for safe, strategic and orderly departure of American troops from Afghanistan. It's an important and welcome development. The safety of our troops and the security of the American people must be our priority. We remain committed to advancing peace and security in Afghanistan.
I don't think – I've probably been to, I think I've been to Afghanistan nine, at least, nine times. On every trip and in between, I've always talked about the status of women and girls in Afghanistan. It's important to women and girls. It's important to the whole country. It is indicative of whether they will have security, fairness and – again, we do not want to erase the advances that were made over a period of time for women and girls.
And in my travels, of course, I've met with women in Kabul and professional women and that – and that's interesting, and I'm happy to see their advances. But we've also gone out to the hinterlands to see the poorest of the poor women, as well as to schools to see little girls now in school and the rest. And just to see so much of the progress that was made to be reversed is something that we have to keep a bright light on.
I was privileged to be part of honoring Laura Bush for her work for Afghan women. This has been completely nonpartisan; in fact, if you want to say bipartisan, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, Democratic and Republican Senators, Democratic women – Democratic women and Republican women in the House and across the country. So in any event, I think that's sort of a bellwether of how things are there, how things will be for women and girls.
Nonetheless, again, I salute the President. I've said this to my colleagues: we could not be better served than by this President making this decision at this time. A former Vice President, a chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a person who, every time he speaks, at the end he said, 'God bless our troops.' He cares about our troops. He cares about our security. He understands strategic thinking about our mission on how we protect the American people, and how we prioritize all of that. So, you know, I'm very prayerful, as I say, how proud we are of the action that he had the courage to take. I thank him all for that.
And speaking of courage, I just want to say, as I was coming over here, every time I see the Capitol Police, I want to thank them, thank them, thank them. And, of course, I'm very indebted to my own security detail for the security they provide to me. We were very sad this week to have the service for Billy – Officer Billy Evans in the Rotunda of the Capitol, where his family came, enabled us to pay tribute to him, to thank him, but in thanking him, to thank all of the Capitol Police for saving our lives on that horrible day, January 6th, and, again, for being a force to protect our Capitol.
We'll be moving forward with a secure – a supplemental. I'm just waiting for the latest – I think we just got it as we were leaving here – from the Appropriations Committee, to have the prioritizing of how – what we need to do as soon as possible to harden the Capitol, to increase the police force, the Capitol Police force, and its training to, shall we say, compensate other entities that expended resources on that day, and since then, again, to bring it all to justice.
With that, again, so I thank Billy Evans' family, of course. It always reminds us of Brian Sicknick, Mr. Liebengood, Mr. Smith, Mr. Chestnut, Mr. Gibson. We never want to forget any of them who had the courage to protect the Capitol, our temple of democracy.
Speaker Pelosi. Any questions? Yes, sir.
Q: Madam Speaker, do you expect – two questions – the security supplemental this month? And could you give a sense of how –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: You do expect it this month. And could you give a sense of how large it's going to be?
Speaker Pelosi. I'll go back and review it now. It's about, again, expended that day, the actual expenditures that day, and it's about what the Architect of the Capitol wants to do to harden the windows, the doors and the rest. That's a big ticket item. It's how we compensate some of the national – the reserves and the, you know, and that, how do we go to that place. It's how you expand the police force to fill in the vacancies that are there, or, perhaps, expand beyond that, as well as the training. So it's about the physical structure and the human resources as we go forward, as well as bills that need to be paid from January 6th.
Q: And this month is when you expect it?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I, you know, I'll take a look, and we'll see. We want to bring it as soon as possible, because we want to get going. The architects, others have informed me that it's very hard to make a decision about – do you have a temporary fence, a rollout fence, into the – unless you have some idea if you're going to – how much it's going to cost, and you can't find that out unless you take steps forward.
So that is – you know, that's been controversial. I don't think anybody wants a fence around the Capitol, a permanent fence around the Capitol, but we do want to protect the Capitol, and we want to protect those who protect the Capitol, because we do see this. And, as soon as we can, to have it be, again, the – if you call it the temple of democracy, that is, that people can come and feel safe. Most of the restrictions right now, though, are because of COVID.
Speaker Pelosi. And that's not to be confused about why we can't have this meeting or that meeting. It's largely because of COVID, so the two. And so, some of the expenses in the bill will relate to COVID as well, but we'll have it soon.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Do you support Jerry Nadler's bill to expand the Supreme Court by four seats, and would you commit to bringing that bill to the Floor?
Speaker Pelosi. No. I support the President's commission to study such a proposal. But, frankly, I'm not – right now, we're back. Our Members are – committees are working. We're building the – putting together the infrastructure bill and the rest. I don't know that that's a good idea or bad idea. I think it's an idea that should be considered, and I think the President is taking the right approach to have a commission to study such a thing. It's a big step.
It's not out of the question. It has been done before in the history of our country, a long time ago. And the growth of our country, the size of our country, the growth of our challenges in terms of the economy, et cetera, might necessitate such a thing. But in answer to your question, I have no plans to bring it to the Floor, no.
Q: Madam Speaker, given the potential flexibility the Senate parliamentarian has offered the other Chamber on more reconciliation bills, can you give us any insight into your thinking about how you'll approach the jobs plan in terms of – do you think you might do multiple bills? Single bill? I mean, have any of those decisions been made yet, and, kind of, how are you looking at that strategically?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't – right now we're waiting on guidance from the Senate as to what that actually means. As I've said to you before, I don't get involved in their rules –
Speaker Pelosi. And they don't get involved in our rules. However, for us to proceed, we just need to know how we meet the needs of the American people, what our goals are, what the needs are and how we prioritize that spending. How it will fit – I hope it wouldn't need a reconciliation bill, but we'll be ready if it does.
Q: Can I ask that a different way? I mean, given also that you've got a smaller Majority to work with now, too, does it make it easier for you to split this package up into more pieces, or are you agnostic on that?
Speaker Pelosi. No. I'm not – frankly, the process will – the policy will determine the process. The process will not determine the policy. So when we go forward with what the President has put forward as a guidance, not a bill, it's a –
Speaker Pelosi. Twenty-four pages or whatever of priorities. We'll work with the Senate, work across the aisle hopefully, work across the Capitol, work down Pennsylvania Avenue. And I don't want to spend a whole lot of time on, 'Is it one bill? Is it two bills?' It is the legislation that we'll need as we proceed.
But the conversation, not to take away from the conversation, is about these are priorities of importance to the American people. Air their children breathe, the job opportunities in building the infrastructure – but not only building it, the commerce that will flow from it – the broadband that we are in desperate need of, either in rural America, yes, but in urban deserts as well. So that's where our conversation is. How we process it, we'll see. It's not important.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: A number of lawmakers on the Republican side have been going to the border, have been going to a lot of these border facilities and have been calling on you as well as President Biden and Vice President Harris to make these same trips. What's your response to that?
Speaker Pelosi. My schedule is not determined by the Republicans in the Congress of the United States. It never has been. Nor is their schedule determined by me. I've been to the border many times. I've been to the Northern Triangle right up until close to the time of the – COVID descending upon us.
But I'm glad you brought up the border, because I do think – and I commend my colleagues as well as the President for being solution oriented there. The fact is that the Trump Administration made a mess, because they did not share the values of any respect for any of the people there.
I've talked about the three Rs. Go to the root cause. Go to the Northern Triangle, as the Vice President is going to do. Go to the root cause, see what is there. When I was there with a delegation, what we saw, of course, confirmed what we suspected about violence, about corruption. What I didn't suspect until I got there was the impact of the climate crisis on production of food and agriculture and occupations related to that that were a source of migration to our country.
Many of these people are coming here because they are hungry, because they are hungry. And, so, we have to help there. And it didn't help that the Administration – the previous Administration – cut off the resources that were there for that region to meet the needs of people so that they could stay home.
This is our hemisphere. Since we're neighbors, let's be friends, Mr. Rogers. And we could have – for them to cut off those resources, I think, Mr. – we had a CODEL there when they cut if off. But in any event, that is now – USAID has resumed an initiative to be helpful there so that people stay home. That's root causes.
The second R: reconstruct how we deal with this at the border. Again, the Trump people had it wrong, and it has to be – and in order to reconstruct, you have to deconstruct. You have to take down some of the things that they have done, and that means that we want to facilitate, be accommodating, whether it's children coming in so that they are not in the hands of the – as well intentioned as the Border Patrol is, that's not what they're equipped to do.
They can move quickly to ORR, which is the Health and Human Services auspices under which those children would come forth. And most people are being sent back. Most people are being sent back. But you've got to – you have to have a plan, and you have to have it – one that will work, and that's what is in the process.
And then the third part: root causes, reconstruct, the third is refugees. We have a moral responsibility in the world, as every other country does, too, to receive refugees who have a well-founded fear of persecution or harm to return to their own country.
As I've told you before, and I'll tell you again, when we had a hearing, when the former President did the Muslim ban four years ago – a month ago – we had a hearing – we were not the Majority. It had to be an informal hearing. And the people who came to that hearing were our national security advisers. Military people came and said: ‘You have to respect refugees. We make promises to people in other countries that if we help them, that they will – we will help keep them safe so they don't pay a price for helping us.' That's going to be useful in terms of Afghanistan, in fact.
But in terms of the border. So, secondly, the diplomats as you may recall, 1,000 diplomats signed a letter objecting to what the President had done, because it would affect so many refugees. And, this is my closer: the [National] Association of Evangelicals, they spoke out about refugees, and they said, 'The United States' resettlement program of refugees is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.'
So we have to recognize our moral responsibility, as we see other countries take in refugees and the rest. I think right now we have – well, it's a very few thousand, and we have to increase that number – but, again, with a well-founded purpose, a well-founded fear, not to be abused, but to be valued.
So, again, I think that people should feel confident that there is a path, if you attack the root causes, if you reconstruct how you deal with it and you have a value system to respect what our moral responsibility [is] as a country. And we don't have time for me to go into Ronald Reagan and all that he said about the value of newcomers to America.
I think we have time for one more question?
Staff. One more.
Q: Madam Speaker, back to January 6th, in a recent interview you suggested that you may consider a select committee instead.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Have you given up on a 9/11 style Commission or have you changed –
Speaker Pelosi. No, no, no, no.
Q: Or do you intend to resume negotiations with Republicans?
Speaker Pelosi. I said that that was among the possibilities. I would rather have a 9/11 Commission – type commission. I, many of you have heard me say before, was the author of the Commission at 9/11. I won in committee. I lost on the Floor. It wasn't until Tim Roemer, our colleague, brought it up again with the help of the families of 9/11 that it passed the Congress, and it was established.
The challenge that we have is: what is the scope? The scope – what we want is one thing: the truth. 'What happened on 9/11 and how we can prevent it from happening again?' It's not about reviewing the elections. It's not about examining Black Lives Matter. It's about what happened on January 6th and how we can prevent it from happening again.
So if we can agree on scope, I think that we can agree on a commission. The size, timing, all the rest of that, those are negotiable, and that's not the main part of it. That's what they like to say, to hide from the fact that scope is part of the difference that we have had. But I'm optimistic, because, frankly, we have to have a commission, in my view. We have to find the truth. And whatever compromise we have to make to get to that place, as you weigh the equities, the truth must prevail.
So, no. But, again, if they can't – we can't come to that, or even if we do, we still may want a select committee to review it, because when we did 9/11 – you wouldn't recall. You were all too young. But at that time, we also had a joint committee, House and Senate. I was a co-chair of it. It was Bob – Senator Bob Graham and Senator [Shelby] in the Senate, Porter Goss. We were split. I mean, the Democrats had the Senate, the Republicans had the House.
So Bob Graham was the chair in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Porter Goss was the chair in the House, but we were the four co-chairs of that Committee, and we did extensive work that was useful, useful to the Commission when it took place, when it was formed, A. And B, the committees will always continue to do their work in terms of their responsibilities, whether it's the security of this building, whether it is the fact of domestic terrorists in our country, who are a threat to this building, this democracy, and that particular day, which was a day to ascertain who would be the President of the United States.
Thank you all very much. To be continued.