Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

April 16, 2020
Press Release

San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today via conference call.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Hello, everyone. 

It’s sad to be with you at this unbearably heartbreaking time for all Americans.  Nearly 650,000 Americans have been diagnosed, more than 28,000 have tragically died, more than 22 million unemployment claims have been filed.

More emergency services are desperately needed now to protect the lives and the livelihoods of the American people.  We all know that.

This is a time that we’ve come through this past week of Passover and Easter and now Ramadan – a time of prayer and reflection and as I said, just a time of unbearable sadness for the American people. 

We’re listening.  Democrats are listening to the millions crying out for assistance.  I’m very proud of our Members.  They’ve been having their tele-town hall meetings, tele-meetings in terms of listening to their constituents, faith-based organizations, health care workers, food delivery – all of elements that are keeping America going at this time.  And we know that there are still big needs. 

The hospitals, state and local governments are on the front lines of this crisis.  They’re running out – have been running out of money and desperately need emergency infusion of additional funds to care for patients and prevent greater spread and death.

They also need the PPP – PPE, the personal protective equipment, in order to protect themselves, to save their lives, as they save other lives.

The small businesses, particularly in underserved communities in rural and urban areas remain unable to get the financial help they need due to challenges accessing the Paycheck Protection Program, which is running out of money this morning.  It is fully committed, and the money is being spent – they need more money.

Workers and families need national rapid testing, and this is so important – testing, testing, testing.  And personal protective equipment, as I mentioned, they need that so we can stop the spread of the virus.  We also need to collect and publish demographic data to direct resources to those who need it most, particularly the communities of color who are disproportionately impacted. 

I say that as kind of a – a bit of a status – a report of what I hear from our Members, as to where we are and where we need to go. 

We have been proud to say again and again, passed three bills in the month of March, all strongly bipartisan.  The first bill, March 4th, we wrote it in – prepared it in [February], brought it to the Floor at the very beginning of March – March 4th.  Testing, testing, testing.  Nearly a month and half later we still – the Administration has failed the test of testing.  And that is a problem, because everything that we want to do, whether it’s open up government or make – our first and foremost, stop the spread of this terrible plague, depends on testing, testing, testing.  And so that is something that requires our full attention. 

Again, the next bill was about equipment.  Masks, masks, masks.  We wanted to make sure that there were not obstacles to the equipment getting out there.  It’s still a challenge. 

And then the third bill, the CARES 1 bill.  I was very proud of working together to put that together, because we – Democrats believe – House and Senate Democrats working together to flip this from a corporate trickle-down bill to a workers-first, bubble-up bill.  And we are proud of the product of it, and we want it to work.  Of course, we didn’t get everything we wanted, but that’s what a compromise is about. 

And the Paycheck Protection Program is one we’re very proud of.  I’m particularly proud, to use the word again, of our Chair Nydia Velázquez of the Small Business Committee, who was very instrumental in shaping that initiative. 

But as she had said all along, for it to work, we need data, data, data to see how it’s working and for whom it’s working.  In any event, it has been – funds have been committed.  There is a need for more, but there is also a need for other elements of the CARES Act, like the grants program for small businesses and the disaster assistance relief for small businesses.  So, that is the conversation that we are having now. 

We are big believers in small business.  Democrats believe that the most optimistic thing you can do is to start a small business, as you have heard me say before – except maybe get married.  You can weigh those equities carefully.  I'm sure that’s easier than starting a small business, which is – takes courage and takes credit, and we want to make sure that these people have access – everybody in the small business arena has access to credit.  We do not want the billions of dollars spent in the CARES 1 Act, which we fully support, but we do not want it to perpetuate the disparity of access to credit for some of our businesses. 

But immediate in the lives of everyone in our country is the need for us to have more funding for the hospitals and for the health – the state and local governments, whether talking about health care workers, police and fire, EMS, food delivery  all of that.  We really need to recognize the danger that some people are in as they try to help us.  And state and local and hospital are two arenas in which we must have more resources placed. 

So, that is where we are right now.  We’re having a discussion.  We wanted to negotiate on how we could do more for hospitals, state and local government that is police, fire, education, etcetera, as well as recognizing the revenue loss for many of these states and municipalities.  It is about their outlays for the coronavirus.  It’s also about their revenue loss because of the coronavirus that we need to address. 

So, right now, we are in those negotiations.  My staff and the staff of Mr. – Leader Schumer spoke with Secretary Mnuchin yesterday and will do so again today.  We want to, again, we want to support what we did with PPE, but we want to make sure that as it gets more money, many more people get access to the credit.  There had been some questions asked about the money being committed, but we haven’t – many of us have not received it.  So, that’s all, as I said, back to Chairwoman Velázquez saying that we want – we want the data. 

In terms of the state and local government, the U.S. Conference of Mayors endorsed our proposal saying, ‘Cities are right now being faced with having to make decisions that include laying off employees, cutting budgets and reducing or eliminating critically needed services.  At the same time, we are being called on to help lead the fight against the pandemic.’  That is the U.S. Conference of Mayors. 

The National Governors Association Chairman Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican, has urged Congress to appropriate assistance to the states and territories to meet shortfalls from the crisis, writing, ‘Without sufficient federal relief, states will have to confront the prospect of significant reduction in essential services, which will in turn devastate the economic recovery and our efforts to get people back to work.’ 

So, hopefully our negotiations that are proceeding now are respectful and championing small businesses, but recognizing that there are other aspects of our economy that will affect small businesses as well. 

So, again, it started off sadly.  That is what we will come back to.  Very sadly, instead of focusing on the needs of the American people during this crisis, the President continues to wage an assault on the truth.  On Tuesday, I sent a letter to the Democratic Caucus that said, ‘In order to move forward, we must first understand the truth of what has been put what put us into this position.’ 

And I enumerated some of the truth that Donald Trump dismantled, the infrastructure.  He ignored the warnings about the pandemic, he told his most loyal followers it was a hoax and would magically disappear, that we the truth is we did not have proper testing available in March, despite his repeated claiming that we did.  Even now, we do not have adequate tests, masks, PPE and necessary equipment, which creates unnecessary death and suffering.  And the truth is because of an incompetent reaction to this health crisis, the strong economy handed to Donald Trump is now a disaster, causing the suffering of countless Americans and endangering lives.  I skimmed over some of that.  I'm sure you have seen my letter.  And then I say very confidently and sadly, ‘The truth is a weak person, a poor leader takes no responsibility.  A weak person blames others.’  So, you see the President blaming the WHO, blaming this, blaming that and the rest of it. 

As we go into what comes next, we hope that Leader McConnell will show the respect to the facts for the needs of the American people and join in passing this interim relief package. 

And as we do so, we are preparing CARES 2, which must be transformative, far reaching and extend and expand the bipartisan CARES 1 Act.  We still hope to have a second CARES bill in short order in the coming weeks.  It is called CARES 2.  In my view it should be called CARES 2, because it builds on CARES 1 with confidence and respect to what we did in a bipartisan way there. 

Again, a lot of the focus now is on small businesses.  And they are the lifeblood of our economy, a creator of jobs, a creator of wealth in our country.  And we want to be sure that they have the resources they need.  We want data to show how it is being implemented.  And also we want it to be for everyone. 

Today, again, I quote from Pope – from the Pope’s Easter Monday mass, when he said, ‘Today, let us pray for government leaders, scientist and politicians, who are beginning to study a way out of the pandemic.  May they find the right way always for the good of their people.’  

I started off my conversation with Mr. Mnuchin a few weeks ago with the Pope’s earlier quote.  I end this conversation with his most recent one regarding government leadership, scientists and politicians’ responsibility to find the right way always for the good of the people. 

With that, I am pleased to take any questions that you may have.

 

***

Operator.  Okay, our first question will come from Susan Cornwell.  Your line is now open.

Q:  Hello, Madam Speaker.  Thank you for doing this.

This week, Leader Hoyer said the House is looking very hard at remote voting in an emergency.  And I wondered if your thinking has changed on a remote voting at all?  You didn’t sound like you thought it was such a great idea earlier.  And do you anticipate something happening on this fairly soon in the House?  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I've not been negative on [remote] voting.  

I said to the Chair of the – to the Chairs, one of the Rules Committee, Jim McGovern, and the Chair of the House [Administration] Committee, Zoe Lofgren, to give our Members options.  Show us how we can do what.  What are the options that the Constitution, the Rules of the House, the technology, the security enables us to do.  And that is what they have been working on. 

Until we have an appropriate way to do it, we cannot do it.  So, it is not about being negative on it, it’s just, show us the way.  Tomorrow – no, later today, or later this morning in California time, but later today at our issues – at our Caucus conference, Mr. McGovern will be giving us – will be making a status report of where we are on all of that. 

And he has, he and Zoe have worked very hard on this.  It is not as easy as you may think.  And I haven’t been negative on it, I have been negative on the status quo of it because so far it has not –  we haven’t had a good option. 

However, we did, and I want to point out that working in a bipartisan way we were go to come back and with a voice vote passed CARES 1.  That represents an example of how we could, if we have agreement on legislation, or even if we don't, but an opportunity on how to bring people together in a way that is approved by our Capitol Physician and Sergeant-at-Arms from a security and from a health standpoint, how we can go forward.

But, until we have the technology, and until we have the passing of the rules that will enable it, there is no use to say that we should do it.  I mean you can say we want to do it and we are pursuing it, but it is not any negative attitude toward whether we would have it or not.  We cannot have it before we are ready. 

But, quite frankly, I put that, as they always do, I have a big respect of our Committee Chairs.  And all of them are working very hard on how we can help to solve this crisis, so we can get back to work and everyone else can soon. 

People are dying.  If you would hear the calls of my colleagues about what is happening in their districts, in their communities, you would see that it is absolutely essential for us to focus on the testing, so that we can have a measure of what this is.  So that we can take actions that are appropriate and have contact tracing and the rest.  And that is probably a faster way to get us all back to work than anything you can name.

Testing, testing, testing.  Data collection on the disparities in how this is hitting different communities.  We put that in this bill that went to the Floor last Thursday in the Senate.  It was rejected by the Senate.  I would hope that they would recognize its importance, as we are in these negotiations now, and we certainly will have it in CARES 2. 

But our goal, the goal, is to solve the challenge, solve the problem, get people back to work, including us.  And the best way to do that is to, again, find a cure, which is going to be miraculous, but we want it as soon as it can possibly come.  A vaccine, which is the real answer.  But, in the meantime, the shelter-in-place, the social distancing: that is a very effective way to go forward.  The sooner we can get rid of the pandemic, the sooner we can get back to work.  That is where our energies are focused. 

The committees of jurisdiction that are working with – whether it is Maxine Waters and Nydia Velázquez, Banking, Financial Services and Small Business, working to make sure that we have the best possible implementation of CARES 1 and, now, as we go into the interim package and CARES 2.  Frank Pallone, the Chair of Energy and Commerce, working so hard on the testing issue.  Bennie Thompson, his Committee of Homeland Security overseas FEMA, doing our response – our message this weekend.  All of the chairs of jurisdiction, whether it is addressing hunger as Colin Peterson is doing, Richie Neal trying to get all of these checks out, these direct payments out as quickly as possible.  As well as the Unemployment Insurance, checks getting out and having apparatus to get it done so, because it is a bigger burden than probably we have ever seen.  And Bobby Scott on Education and Labor with the OSHA language that we need. 

Everybody working so hard on all of these initiatives, including how we can come together, whether it is by proxy voting or remote voting or whatever it is, when we are ready, we will do it. 

Next question. 

Operator.  Thank you, our next question will come from Emily Cochrane from the New York Times.  Your line is open. 

Q:  Hi Madame Speaker, thank you for joining the call. 

I wanted to see if you could elaborate on how you see negotiations for the PPP funds going forward, especially since the funds have lapsed?  And, secondly, you have previously said you were hoping to have legislation on the Floor by the end of the month, how has that timeline shifted with the House not returning until May 4?  Thank you. 

Speaker Pelosi.  When I said that, we had an earlier return.  So, obviously, we will not have it by – if we have an interim package, we may have that on the Floor before the end of the month.  But the CARES bill will probably be beyond that. 

As soon as we have it, though, we will have to figure out a way to get people back.  And that is what we are working on.  Excuse me, that is what we are working on now and what Mr. McGovern will be reporting, what those capabilities will be, later today to our Caucus. 

But, in terms of the first part of the question, we have been very clear about state and local government and the role it plays in fighting the virus.  That fact that there is revenue lost, as well as additional costs for the fight against the virus, the pandemic, necessitate that we allocate more resources to state and local government.

That is an important priority for us and for the country.  So, in the negotiations, that is a very important piece. 

Secondly, hospitals, hospitals, hospitals, because that is where so much of the delivery of services is, that is where so much of the need for protective equipment is, that is where so much of the testing and what comes after testing takes place, so we need more resources for the hospitals. 

And again, on the small business piece, we had asked for significant increase in the grants to small businesses, as well as to the disaster assistance loans of the Small Business Administration.  They are completely gone, they’ve been gone for several days.  They almost immediately were gone because they were underfunded, the – predictably so, it was $10 billion for the grants.  That was gone in a whiff.  And $7.5 billion for the disaster loans, and those requests are up to over $300 billion now.  So there is a need there as well, in addition to the PPE.  And we fully want to add money to the PPE.  We, as I have said before, believe in the entrepreneurship of American small business people and we want to – we want to respect their courage and give them the access to the credit that they need.  And if it works, turn it into a grant. 

So, that is where we are.  And we are just hoping that there will be recognition of the need for money for state and local, and for the other assistance to the small businesses as we go forward.  So those are what’s on the table.  Obviously, negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.  That is what we do as legislators and we hope the Administration will recognize those needs and not deprive state and local, as well as hospitals, as well as small businesses every opportunity to meet the needs of the people that we serve. 

That meeting – the next meeting will be this afternoon.  The first meeting occurred yesterday.  The second meeting this afternoon.  So we are hopeful they will come back with something that strikes a balance in what we know we need to do.  Again, we do not have disagreement about wanting to help small businesses.  They would like to say that, but they know that isn’t true because we helped to shape the program to begin with and are big believers in small business. 

Thank you, Emily.  Next question, Michelle?

Operator.  Our next question will come from Heather Caygle from Politico.  Your line is now open.

Q:  Hi, Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you for doing the call.

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m so excited we have all these women getting the lead on these questions. 

Q:  That’s the way it should be. 

[Laughter]

The Congressional Oversight Commission created in the CARES Act, I believe it only has one appointee right now from Chuck Schumer.  I was wondering if you had a timeline for when you were going to make your appointment?  And when you and Leader McConnell would pick the chair?  When you wanted to see this getting started because all of this money is apparently going out the door, so to speak. 

Speaker Pelosi.  I appreciate your question.  Again, as I mentioned earlier, we had some, shall we say, personal time with some of the people I would approach last week, whether it was the Passover or Easter now.  So, the little down time, shall we say, but this is important and it is immediate and I will be having an announcement pretty soon on this.  In terms of the bigger – my appointment. 

In terms of what Leader Mitch McConnell and I agreed to do was submit names who we think might be acceptable to each other.  I'm sure there are plenty of people that would meet that test, who would be good to chair this panel.  And so that is in the process.  But in terms of what I can do myself, I’ll have an announcement pretty soon. 

You know, people want to know whether it is a time constraint, whether it is – you know, I do not think that anybody we would name would have a conflict of interest, but we want to be sure.  It is not like calling somebody else and saying, do you want to go be on the panel?  It is a responsibility and people take it very seriously.  And I am happy that that is the case.  So, I will be having an announcement pretty soon. 

Thank you.  Michelle, is there another question?

Operator.  Our next question is from Laurie Kellman from the Associated Press.  Your line is now open.   

Speaker Pelosi.  Hi, Laurie. 

Q: Hi Madam Speaker.  Thank you for having this call.  I had the same question that Heather asked about the commission.  And I wanted to follow up to get a sense of when you and Senator Mitch McConnell are hoping to find someone.  And, secondly, the same question about the status of the Clyburn committee that you mentioned, where are we in creating and getting that one moving?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the Clyburn committee has to be approved by the House, so when we come in, we will be voting on that.  We may – in other words, when people ask about remote voting or proxy voting, that requires a change in the rules of Congress.  So, if we are to do that, we have to come in to do that, in order to change the rules.  At that time, I would hope we could approve the Committee. 

And I will be speaking – I’ve had one conversation with the Republican Leader, Mr. McCarthy, about this.  I’ll have to have another just to see when that could happen.  And again, how we could agree on the size of the committee and the rest.  So I am ready to appoint, but we need to have the legal authority to have such a committee and I think that’s imminent.  As soon as we can come together we can do something like that.  That will take bipartisan cooperation, though, to come in.  

I mean, I prefer that it would be with bipartisan cooperation.  We have the numbers to come in and have a quorum and vote, but really we see this as a very bipartisan initiative to stop waste, fraud and abuse, price gauging profiteering and the rest.  Modeled off of what President Truman did, excuse me, Senator Truman did, he was a Senator at the time, in a Democratic administration.  So it isn’t about the Administration, it is about how this is implemented.  So I would hope we could keep it as bipartisan as possible. 

But it – basically, most of it is done, it’s just that we just need to make it official, from my side.  Again, I will have to have another conversation to see from the standpoint of the Republican Leader, Mr. McCarthy, where he is on it.  But that won’t hold us up from having it.  It is just a question of doing it in a timely fashion.  And, as you said so clearly, with all the money going out, we really need to do this in a timely fashion. 

Thank you, Laurie.  Michelle?

  Operator.  Our next question will come from Lisa Desjardins with PBS Newshour.  Your line is now open.

Q:  Hello Madam Speaker.  Thank you for doing this.

I wanted to just ask this: Republicans are saying that you are essentially holding the small business money hostage.  And I’ve heard what you’ve said on this call.  But, unlike in all the negotiations where you may be asking for something that Republicans initially say they are opposed to, here, Republicans say they ultimately are not against increasing money for hospitals or for business or for state and local needs.  They’re just saying they need – they think they need small business money to go now.

Can you explain to those small businesses – I’m hearing from them, I’m sure you’re hearing from them – who now feel that they’re in limbo and don’t understand why you would be refusing this money now when you can get the rest of the money later as well?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well the – perhaps it might be clear if you understand this: when we talk to McConnell, he says, ‘Well, I think we should do some of that, but let’s see how the money that is out there is working for state and local and for hospitals before we do more.’  But let’s not see how everything is working when we do states – the small businesses.  Well, we think they all need the resources. 

If it isn’t self-evident that hospitals need the resources, if it isn’t self-evident that state and local governments need the resources – they’re in the hole.  They’re not only out, putting money out.  They have no cash flow coming in.  [Inaudible] depends on – some cities and stuff is spent on sales tax.  There is very little in terms of revenue coming in, in terms of sales tax.

So it is very, in our view, self-evident, that that need for state and local hospitals is urgent now.  Why would you – I turn the question on them and on you – why would you not do that if we’re going to go to the Floor to do that?

I got a call last Tuesday from the Secretary of the Treasury saying, ‘I need a quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours.’  Oh really?  Well, we need some – we need resources for some other things as well.

And it’s not that we don’t share the value of small business, we do.  We have been their champion and I’m very proud of the work that the Democrats – we planted the flag for small business a long time ago.  This is a priority for us.  We see it as the creator, as I said earlier, of wealth and of jobs in our country, the lifeblood of America’s economy.

But, in order for them to succeed, people need to be well.  People need to be safe.  And we need to have the state and locals.  And so we’re not going to them and saying, ‘Let’s just do state and local even though they subscribe – the money is committed.’  It’s not all out yet, it’s committed.  But when it’s committed, it’s effectively – they’re not allowed to commit any more money than they have a call on.  So they need the money.  We understand that.  And we’re willing to give them that money, but we also need the other money.

And the question is not why are we not just saying let’s just do that and forget about hospitals, state and local.  The question is of Republicans, why are you ignoring your state? 

Republican Governor, the head of the National Governors Association, Governor Hogan, said it so clearly for the governors.  He has told me that the governors, Democrats and Republicans, have been very united in calling for this federal relief.  Very united in really wanting [Inaudible] equipment – people on the ground and in the community know what the needs are.  And, again, Larry Hogan said, ‘Without sufficient federal relief, states will have to confront the prospect of significant reductions to essential services, which will, in turn, devastate the  economic recovery and our efforts to get people back to work.’  Even if you’re just talking about the economic sides, but of course, he also speaks in other places about the health side of it all.  So, that’s for the – that’s his comment as the Republican Governor of Maryland, but he has made those statements as the Chairman of the Democratic and Republican, the bipartisan, the non-partisan National Conference of Governors.

How can we ignore their pleas for help, their cries for help when they are on the front lines of the – relief – of the people they serve, whether it’s municipalities –

[Inaudible]

So, I turn the question on them.  Why would you, when we all know we want to help small businesses, why would you turn your back on the hospitals – who are delivering the services?  

Michelle, next question?  Thank you, Lisa.

Moderator.  Our final question will be from Mike DeBonis with the Washington Post.  Your line is now open.

Speaker Pelosi.  Mike.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, I’m sorry I broke the streak.  We almost had an all-female questioning period, so my apologies. 

But I did want to ask you about a number of Republicans in the last few days, have spoken up to say that the economic situation is so dire that we need to open up this economy, even recognizing the risk that that could mean more infections and, by implication, more deaths.  They said that, you know the economic devastation is such that it has to happen anyway.  The President, obviously, is talking about re-opening the country.  What’s your reaction to that kind of talk?  And what’s your own personal thoughts on the balance that needs to be maintained between re-opening the country and maintaining the safety of the American people?

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me just say that – somebody has come –

[Inaudible]

– internet here.   So, I’m sorry if I’m interrupted. 

Here’s the thing.  I heard one of them say, ‘Well, people will die or we’ll open up the economy and people will die, so that’s the lesser of two evils.’  No, it’s the greater of two evils.  To open up the economy in a way that’s not science-based, bot based on the health and well-being of the American people. 

Testing, testing, testing is the way you unlock the door to opening up.

We all know that this is an assault on the lives and the livelihood of the American people.  We all want to get to a place where there’s enough justification to do so. To risk more people dying – that’s okay to some – I find to be careless.

But again, we want to have this be science-based, informed by those who can take a measure of what is the prospect of this getting worse – should we relax shelter in place and the rest of that.

These are all judgements, and good judgement is based on knowledge.  And knowledge springs from – in this case – testing, testing, testing and [Inaudible] and again, recognizing that some communities are hit harder than others, so morph that into any judgements we may have.

I find it almost frivolous for people to say, ‘So be it.  Some people will die.  So be it.  We’ve got to open up the economy.’  I do recognize that we – that we want to have a path to do so, and science gives us that path.  Science, science, science.  Testing, testing, testing.  Data, data, data. 

[Inaudible]

– more than, as the President has done is to make matter worse.  And that is not without any sensitivity to the recognition of the fact that everybody wants out.  People want to get to work.  They wonder about how the future will look. 

You’ve heard our governor of whom I’m very proud, Governor Newsom, and Mayor Breed in San Francisco and all over the country are governors and mayors who have been on the forefront.  We’re very proud of all of them.  But our governor has talked about how we could possibly begin [Inaudible] – through a transition, but it has to be a transition based on science. 

[Inaudible]

– providing that the present matter, how many people –

[Inaudible]

– very glad to join Heather and Laurie and Lisa and –

[Inaudible]

In closing, let me just say this is something that we’re all in together.  We shouldn’t be having a conversation about how many people is it okay to die for us to open up –

[Inaudible]

– truth and fact.  And that’s why I sent the letter I had the other day.  But at Easter I had really a time to reflect – that one day.  Because otherwise, we’re constantly working –

[Inaudible]

– we hadn’t any – you know – at Christmas and we’d never be thinking that [Inaudible] at Easter, but we are.  We have been.  And it has to be based on truth, and that’s why I just decided on that day that I had to speak truth to power, say to the President, ‘You can no longer make these statements [Inaudible] bill.  The delay is deadly.’

And it’s one thing to say, ‘Okay, we did that then, now let’s go forward.’  Okay, let’s go forward, but let’s set aside the misrepresentations and the falsehoods that you’re putting out there.  Because we can only put the past behind us if we are acting – if we are insisting on the truth – insistent on the truth.  If they want to call that political, so be it. 

Thank you all very much.