Transcript of Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer Media Availability Following Senate Passage of Interim Coronavirus Funding Package

April 21, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer held a media availability after the Senate passed the interim emergency coronavirus funding package.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, and congratulations on the unanimous vote in the Senate today on a package that we recommended two weeks ago.  

Two weeks ago, today, Secretary Mnunchin and called me, and he said he wanted a quarter trillion dollars – $250 billion.  And he wanted it in 48 hours.  That was Tuesday.  Then on Thursday, Leader McConnell was bringing this bill to the Floor, and that he wanted our support for it.  I told him that wasn't possible.  We had to have our consultation with House Democrats about what we would propose.

The next day – the 8th of April – that was the 7th – on the 8th, working together, Congressional Democrats came together around a proposal described by the distinguished Leader already, on how we address the underbanked – how we address those in rural – Native Americans, veterans, women, people of color – small businesses that are considered the underbanked – how they could be in the loop.  Because it was a principle for us that we were not going to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to harden the disparity in access to capital that already exists in our economy.  This was a way to open that door.  And then, of course, as the Leader said, funding for hospitals and testing that he described, and I associate myself with his characterization of all of that.  

Here we are today, two weeks from that Tuesday of the request, when the Republicans and the Administration replied that there was no way they were going to join us, that they had that $250 [billion].  That’s the way it was going to be.  There was going to be nothing else.  They took a defeat on the Floor, because the Congressional Democrats stuck together.  Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen objecting and then proposing our proposal, which is almost exactly what they passed today.

So, in terms of holding up the works, they were the ones that held up the works for a package that is more effective, fairer and the rest as we go forward.

They like to say, ‘Oh, we held up.’  No, we didn't hold it up.  They held up.  And now we have prevailed.  This is a real victory for smaller businesses, as the Leader has said, who really didn't have the banking relationships.  But they don't need them under this legislation as it has passed.   

The one thing that we really have to insist upon in the next package is how we support our heroes.  Under the framework of state and local government, we have health care workers, transit workers, police, fire, EMS all kinds of public employees, who risk their lives to save lives and now lose their jobs.  This is most unfortunate, and they cannot stand.  They have a huge loss of revenue, because of what's happening to the economy.  They have huge loss of revenue because of what is happening in their public hospitals and the rest, in terms of other procedures.  And they have enormous coronavirus cost.

And we want the legislation that we pass in the next bill to reflect the need for them to have that recognized both with corona – COVID 3, CARES 1 and CARES 4 – corona 4.  We have to get our names down.  Are we going to call them COVID 4?  Is the standard thing?  Okay COVID 4, everybody knows what that is, and that’s what we have been working with already, some of which we haven't been able to get in other bills.

So, under the framework of our heroes, our health care workers, our police and fire, etcetera – our teachers who teach our children, the list goes on of our public employees who are so essential to the success of our society.  Under that, we wanted to be sure that there is safety in the workplace, that people are not laid off, that they have their jobs, they’re employed, that their pensions are protected, that they are healthy, that we have the PPE to protect them as they do their jobs and that we do so in a way that is values-based as we go forward.

We are very excited about that.  We have legislation, for example, the OSHA legislation, which they have rejected before.  The SNAP – to feed the American people, which they have rejected before, that we would hope to incorporate.  This is about the lives and the livelihoods of the American people.  

So just from the chronology of it all, two week ago they asked for a quarter [trillion] dollars with nothing that has been put forth to improve the situation.  On Thursday of that week, they were rejected.  They said they were bringing it up the following Monday and then the following Thursday and in the days since this passed Thursday.  They have seen the light.

We have a great victory for the American people, but we certainly need to do more.  Our first bill on this – and I will close with this – our first bill – three bills we passed in March, all bipartisan.  This bill is bipartisan.  The next bill will be bipartisan.  It's important for us to work together, but we have to – we have to insist on the truth.

On March 4th, we passed a bill that we had worked on in February; March 4th we passed it in the House.  Testing, testing, testing – the recognition that that was the key to everything.  

And so as we close off with this bill, as the Leader said, testing – $25 billion in there for testing and for hotspots and for others for initiatives that will enable us to test, to recognize that we must contact – we must find out the contacts that those who are tested positive have engaged with.  And we have to have isolation, quarantine.  Testing, contact and isolation.  That is why we are going to open up our great economy.

Everybody is restless.  Cabin fever has set in in many ways, but I'm so proud of the American people.  They are so beautiful in their care about their own health, the health of their loved ones and their families and the health of our country.  Overwhelmingly, they have said they don't think we should open up before we are ready from the standpoint of the health and well-being of the American people.  

Again, we want to facilitate that with testing, testing, testing, contact tracing, isolation, treatment, prevention first and foremost.

With that, I’m sure the Leader would be happy to take any of your questions.  

Thank you.

Q:  Thank you.  Leader McConnell said just before you came to the podium that he will require the full Senate – we wants the full Senate to come back before considering the next relief legislation, and he actually said he assumes the House will do the same thing.  Any reaction to that?

Leader Schumer.  I think, look, we have to put the American people first.  That's for sure, but we also have to ask the medical experts, because we set an example.  So, if we were to come back prematurely, that were to set a bad example for people, that’s a bad thing.  I would like to be governed by the medical experts.  I'd much rather be here in person voting than by UC or by doing it in an isolated way.  But there’s a balancing test and we have to be careful and listen to the experts.

Q:  Thank you.  Senator Schumer, I just asked Leader McConnell if he thought enough had been done to make sure that small businesses, rather than large businesses get the small business loans.  He said that that was a good question for the Administration –

Leader Schumer.  No.

Q:  Obviously there been some –

Leader Schumer.  It's a good question for Senator McConnell.  He resisted the changes.  We have taken a giant step forward.  Have we done everything we need to do for small businesses, rural businesses, minority businesses?  No.  Have we taken a huge step forward, so today they’re going to be much better shape than they were before this bill passed?  Absolutely.

And Leader McConnell did not propose a thing.  He wanted to propose $250 [billion] for the PPP Program, when in fact the EIDL program and the grant program better serve small businesses, and they proposed no increases for those.  We got significant increases in both of them.

Speaker Pelosi.  If I may on that, Mr. Leader.  I’m very proud of the work of two of our chairman – Maxine Waters, the Chair of the [Financial Services] Committee and Congressman – Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez, Chair of the Small Business Committee.  Minority women, women of power in the Congress, chairs of important committees, who proposed working with our counterparts in the Senate – Ranking Members in the Senate that were mentioned by the Leader – this legislation that would benefit these underbanked, smaller businesses.

So, there is this set aside – $60 billion set aside for this particular purpose.  It would not have been there without the Democratic proposal – without our – with our just praising our Senate colleagues to the hilt for sticking by that on the Floor of the Senate.  This is designed in a way to make a change on how we recognize the vitality of our economy.  It’s about small business. 

We plant a flag for small business.  The entrepreneurship, the optimism – to create a small business – you've heard me say again and again, there's nothing more optimistic than starting a small business, except maybe getting married.  But the fact is many small businesses that do not have the same kind of relationship with the bank on a first come, first served basis to be able to benefit.  This is a drastic change and, as the Leader said, it will make a difference for the future as we deal with it.

Q:  Madam Speaker, if I may ask you a question as well, will you allow proxy voting, for perhaps the first time every in the House, on Thursday?

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  We haven’t – we have to pass a rule to enable proxy voting.  

So, the PPP will be on the basis of present and voting, and then we'll go from there.  But whatever we would do on proxy voting at this time would be strictly related to the coronavirus.  How we have discussion further is when we are more fully present to do so.

And to your question about coming back, it’s not just about us.  It's about the staff.  It’s about the press.  It’s about the security and about those who run the building that we have to look out for their well-being because of their – we care about them, but we also care about the people they go home to, their children in families as well.

Q:  I have a two-part question, if both of you could answer it.  What do you say to those who say that this package, even with what you call drastic changes, isn’t enough?  That there’s not enough PPP funds, that there’s not enough for hospitals.  And then, Madam Speaker, as you said, you are advocating for provisions in COVID 4 that have already been rejected by Republicans, why are you confident that in the next package that they will agree?

Leader Schumer.  On the first thing, we agree this was not enough, for this is an interim package.  If there would be no COVID 4, there would be a real problem.  But there is going to be COVID 4.  We will augment state and local business, hospitals, probably small businesses, and it will do many other things. 

And we know there will be a COVID 4 because President Trump has been demanding a COVID 4.  In fact, because he said he wants to do infrastructure in it.  He has said that to us.  Mnuchin, Meadows have said it to us repeatedly, and they will need a COVID 4.  We’re all going to need a COVID 4 to get America going again.  

COVID 4 will be much more along the lines of COVID 2, big, bold, robust, with new things in it than COVID 3.5.  The purpose of COVID 3.5, which they laid out, was to augment some of the existing programs that didn't have enough money and weren’t aimed at the right people.  COVID 4 will be a world of difference: bigger, bolder, better.

Speaker Pelosi.  And, to your point, the President has said he didn't want to do state and local, we call it our heroes, because he wanted to do it in another bill.  He has also said, in his agreement on some of the pension agreement, that he would agree to it.  Mitch McConnell said, ‘no, I want to do it in another bill.’  

Also the public very much cares about the health and well-being of our heroes: our health care workers and first responders who risk their lives to save other people's lives and now could lose their jobs.  The sympathy that people have – not the sympathy.  The empathy, the praise, the gratitude that people have for them is what I think will hold us in good stead when we talk about needing OSHA, better protection language for them and for their safety in the workplace.  

So, all of these things have been discussed with the idea that we will take it up later.  Well, this is later.  And, if I may say on that score, almost every survey shows that the American people care so much about our first responders and our health care workers.  And they – I think we are unworthy of, any of us, to say how grateful we are to them and how much we praise them unless we are willing to support them with the equipment that they need to be protected, with the equipment that they need to save lives, with the paychecks that they need to survive.  Without, as you said, 601 hospitals, something at several hundred in another hospital.  How could this be?  

So I think because of commitments and statements of Republicans on some of these issues, we will take it up next, and because of the great mobilization and concern of the American people which is, as Lincoln said, ‘Public sentiment is everything.’  How they have made their voices heard will help us get a very strong package next time.  

And that’s right now because, as I said, we are on our way because of some overlap from before and some that relate to state and local, and that's a running start on it.

Leader Schumer.  And I will just say one more thing on that.  In each time this has come up, the bill has moved in our direction.  Why?  As the Speaker said, ‘Public sentiment is everything.’  

The American people, and even our Republican friends deep down, realize something.  They believe in the private sector.  The private sector can’t handle this problem.  It's too big for them.  Individuals, as brave as they are, can't handle it alone.  The only answer is a strong, active government.

And that is why we have started out with the upper hand in each case.  The Republicans start out with a small thing in this COVID 3 aimed at corporate America.  Why’d we win?  Well, a lot of reasons: the unity of our Caucuses and the strength of our Caucuses and the support of the American people.  But, ultimately, our answers are the better answers to the COVID crisis, which is a more strong, active, focused government.

Speaker Pelosi.  And, if I may add to that –

Leader Schumer.  Go ahead.

Speaker Pelosi.  There are two challenges that we have had in our respectful disagreement in the debate in the Congress of the United States: governance and science.  Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have an unease with science.  If they didn’t, we would have long ago come to testing, testing, testing, testing in its fullest way.  Testing, contact tracing, isolation much sooner than we did.

Their delay and denial caused death because they didn't respect science and they don't favor governance.  Now, they have to get used to the idea that the path to the future, to opening up our economy and our society again, is through science, science, science and governance, governance, governance.

Q:  Have you received those commitments from Senate Republicans to address OSHA requirements, state and local funds –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we did on the pensions from the Republicans.

Leaders Schumer.  Yes, on the pension bill, which we really care about, the blockage there we did get some Republican support and even President Trump –

Speaker Pelosi.  President Trump –

Leader Schumer.  I called President Trump.  On pensions, I called President Trump and urged him to be for it and he was.  The block there was Mitch McConnell, but there were a lot of Republicans Senators he wanted to help out with a pension issue.  

On some of these issues we have Republican support.  On others, we may not now, but we will get it.

Speaker Pelosi.  And we had a large number helping us on the hospital issues.  We didn’t get everything – well, we got a lot. 

We always want more because the crisis continues to grow.  But, what did we say, we had eleven Republican Senators who shared our view on how we would go forward with the hospitals, and I think that helped us get – make the progress that we had to make.

Remember this, there's one principle here that the Leader has been a champion on and that is: when we are talking about meeting the needs of our hospitals and meeting the needs of our heroes, our first responders, our hospitals folks, our health care people and the rest, is that we have to recover the lost revenue that they have.  

Lost revenue for the public sector of the economy not producing the revenue that it should.  For hospitals and other opportunities they would have to pay the bills in the hospital, they don’t have that cash flow.  

So, one of the fights that we were successful with on this was recognizing revenue loss, as well as for hospitals, revenue loss as well as cash – revenue loss as well as coronavirus expenses.  That makes a very big difference for them and it makes a very big difference for state and local, which we will be addressing in the next bill.

Leader Schumer.  In the hospital bill, they talk about the ways to give the money.  We insisted, the Speaker was great – this was also last night around midnight – was, your expenses for corona and your revenue losses.  They resisted, but we won that fight.

Should we take one more?  

Speaker Pelosi.  It’s up to you.

Leader Schumer.  One more.  Oh wait, two more because she didn't get a chance.

You go first and then you because you didn’t have a chance.

Speaker Pelosi.  No, she started.

Leader Schumer.  Yeah, so you go and then you.

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m always glad for a woman to have a chance.

Q:  I was just wondering, earlier this morning on a radio show, Attorney General William Barr said he – said Department of Justice would continue to support legal action against states that continue to enact and impose strict social rules even after coronavirus cases dropped in those regions.

Leader Schumer.  So much for states’ rights.  I mean, I think he will be way off base.  I think he will lose legally.  And his view of an overarching, almost monarchical President never ceases to amaze me.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well – science, science, science, science is the answer to our prayers.  And I wish that – I feel sad for some of the people who are going out into the streets and the rest because I’m afraid for their safety.

They have the right to do what they do, but I don't want them to be endangering others, themselves or their families when they go home.  But I think even the Attorney General is getting himself into a place that I think even the public knows doesn't make sense and I wish he would come to that conclusion himself.

Thank you all very much.

Leader Schumer.  Wait, she gets the last question.

Q:  How quickly do you want a COVID 4 to happen?  And, if Leader McConnell indicated that he wants the Senate to come back, Senate Republicans on the Floor indicated that, what’s the solution here if you’re not for remote voting and how will this happen?

Leader Schumer.  The needs of the public will have to be predominant, not our needs.

We will listen to medical experts.  We will listen to them because we set an example.  Because, as Nancy said, there are so many other people who work here.  But the needs of the public will have to be predominate.

Speaker Pelosi.  I share that.

Thank you.  

Leader Schumer.  Thank you.