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. Good morning on Earth Day. Here we are. As you know, today is Earth Day. On this day, Americans celebrate our glorious natural heritage and renew our pledge to care for God's creation.
On this day, the President is having a virtual meeting with leaders of 40 countries to address the climate crisis. Today, the President has taken historic, transformative action by announcing the bold pledge that America will cut our carbon pollution in half by 2030.
To put this in perspective, President Obama committed to a 25 percent pollution reduction by 2025 in the Paris Agreement. President Biden – and it is anticipated that we will reach that goal, and now President Biden is doubling that cut in five more years to 2030.
I think I've got a lot of stuff here. Excuse me.
In order to do that, we need the American Jobs Plan. When any of us, starting with President Biden, talk about climate, and you hear the President say this all the time, ‘When I think about climate crisis, I think of one word: jobs.’ Jobs.
Our Chairs are advancing the American Jobs Act, which will – we hope will be bipartisan. Millions of workers are in need of a good‑paying job, while our infrastructure is crumbling. Despite being the wealthiest country, we rank thirteenth globally in the quality of our infrastructure. You know the figures that – the poor grades that the American Society of Civil Engineers gives us on the condition of our infrastructure.
Now is the time for a once‑in‑a‑century investment to create millions of good‑paying jobs, ensure Americans can compete with any country in the world and pave the way for economic growth for years to come. I say ‘once-in-a-century.’ It's early in the century. I'm sure others will have maybe something even bigger down the road – way down the road – to Build Back Better.
Today is important. As a part of the For the People agenda, we reintroduced the powerful drug price reduction act, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now [Act], in honor of our dear Elijah. This is about families. You have heard me say again and again that when we're out on the campaign trail or in Zooms and the rest, this is – the cost of health care, especially prescription drugs, is debilitating for families. I've seen grown men cry because they just cannot meet the obligations that they have for their families if they have someone in drastic need of drugs on an ongoing basis.
When we did the Affordable Care Act, it was essential because we could not sustain the cost of health care. It was unsustainable to individuals, to families, to small businesses, to corporate America, to the taxpayer. And one of the successes of the Affordable Care Act was to decrease the rate of increase of health care costs, which we succeeded in doing, except for one thing: the cost of prescription drugs. And that's why we have been trying again and again to have legislation passed that enables the Secretary to negotiate for lower drug prices. In the beginning, when we started, it was about Medicare drug prices, but then, in this legislation, it's about all drug prices.
It is unacceptable that Americans have to pay three times more for prescription drugs – for the very same drugs that are sold at one‑third of the cost overseas. Millions of Americans that are sick cannot afford their medicines, particularly during the pandemic, where profits have soared for the pharmaceutical companies.
Also this week, in the For the People agenda, we have legislation on the Floor this morning. We are passing H.R. 51 – some of you were with us yesterday when we talked about that with Eleanor Holmes Norton – to secure statehood for the District of Columbia, for Washington, D.C., whose residents pay taxes, fight in our wars, power our economy, yet do not have a full voice in our democracy.
Yesterday, we passed two bills: the NO BAN Act, a real cause for celebration, to get rid of that act of discrimination; and the Access to Counsel Act, rejecting xenophobia and discrimination on the basis of religion and reaffirming that all people, including immigrants, are entitled to civil rights, civil liberty and dignity, access to counsel.
Finally – but before I go on about the District of Columbia, let me just talk about this. I said yesterday when I was here, because Steny was talking about his history of how long he was going back on this one, this one, how far he went back on this issue – and I said, ‘This District of Columbia statehood is in my DNA.’ And I bring you this picture. I mentioned it yesterday. I said, ‘Come to my office and see it.’ But until COVID enables you to do that, I brought it here.
This is a picture of my father and the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. It was the first time – he had a hearing as the Chair of the District of Columbia Appropriations Subcommittee. As Chair of that Committee, he was known as the unofficial mayor of Washington because, sadly, the Congress had so much say over the – what happened in the District of Columbia. He did not support that. He was all for home rule and what would come after that.
But this was an invitation extended to Eleanor Roosevelt, and she, as I said, was the first First Lady to ever testify in Congress. And she testified about the conditions in St. Elizabeth – welfare institutions in the District of Columbia, and this is the picture that was taken. We're so proud of it and, again, proud to help – but help meant letting the District of Columbia decide for itself.
So, as everybody talks about how long they have been working on it – DNA, District of Columbia, statehood.
So that was then. This is now. Next week, we celebrate 100 days of the Biden‑Harris Administration. At that time, with the American Rescue Plan and President Biden's actions, we have made extraordinary progress in crushing the virus and recovering from the economic crisis.
Yesterday, we reached the milestone – our country reached the milestone of administering 200 million shots in under 100 days. As we said in the rescue package, vaccines in the arms, money in the pockets, children in school, people at work. Now, 100 – the President, first he said 100 [million] shots in 100 days, and then the success was so great that he succeeded, 200 [million] shots in less than 100 days. Half of the adults have at least one dose. Over 80 percent of seniors have had their first dose, up to eight percent when President – it went from eight percent, when he took office, of seniors having their first shot to 80 percent of seniors having their first shot now. In the first month of the Administration, also 80 percent of educators and school staff have received their first dose. Many are now fully vaccinated.
This is quite an eventful week in many ways. In terms of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, I want to salute our colleague, Representative Karen Bass, Madam Chair, for her tremendous work on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Last year, May 25th, was a horrible day that we saw George Floyd murdered before our very eyes. By June 8th, the House introduced the Justice in Policing Act under Karen Bass' leadership. Soon after, in a hearing that would come up before it could come to the Floor – we had a hearing, the family was here. They asked me – they said, ‘Madam Speaker, can this bill be named for our brother, and for his daughter to know that his life mattered?’ And I said, ‘If you think the bill is worthy of George Floyd, we will name it for him.’
The bill survived the committee process, passed on the Floor on June 25th, one month from the day of the assassination. And on March 3rd of this year, we passed the bill again. We know that this bill must be done. It must be enacted into law. And, again, I want to salute Karen Bass for her ongoing efforts from the start to write a bill, working with all of the interested parties and stakeholders in all of this, and then, again, now trying to reach consensus with the Senate.
She is optimistic. She is fair‑minded. She is open. And hopefully she will be successful in having a meaningful George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I'm just so proud of the work that she has done. She's been working on these issues for years, as has our Black Caucus. That's why they were so ready, they were so ready, to – when this happened – to have a bill ready by just the second week in June and on the Floor and passed by one month since the most unfortunate tragedy.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. What do you got?
Q: Madam Speaker, if we could get an update on the 1/6 Commission, we know that you've said that you want an equal number of Republicans and Democrats and equal subpoena power, but your Republican counterparts have said that they have not received your proposal yet. Have you extended that offer to them? And what are the parts of the proposal you hope to change? And just in general, what is the state of the negotiations?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, there are three things in terms of the legislation: the makeup of the commission, the process within the commission and the scope of the commission. Two objections that the Republicans had was that they wanted to have it even instead of the President having an appointment – just have the House, the Democrats and Republicans – and we yielded on that. I think the President should have it, but, nonetheless, the scope is what is important. If that's where their discomfort is, I yield on – not I, we yield on that.
The second part is on process, where they had a concern about subpoena, the subpoena power. We have said that we would agree to the subpoena power that I think they would agree to; that is, that the Chair and the Ranking Member – not the Ranking Member, the Chair and the Vice Chair would have to agree on a subpoena, or a majority of the committee – the commission agree. That seems to address the subpoena. We'll see.
We still don't know where they will be on scope. But some of this is, shall we say, interaction among Members on committees, et cetera, and if we can come to agreement on the first two, why would they object to the scope, which is to find the truth of what happened on January 6th, when an insurrection descended upon the Capitol violently? Just – well, I don't need to describe it to you. But our purpose is to find the truth for that.
It's not about investigating one thing or another that they may want to draw into this, but I'm optimistic. Again, there are other options, which I would not want to use because I want this to be bipartisan. And, again, if the price of the confidence that the public would have in this is to make it a little harder to get some things done, so be it, but we have to agree on the scope.
Q: Now, Republicans say they haven't heard from you yet. Have you forwarded –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, some Republicans have. Don't you worry about that. Don't you worry about that.
One step at a time, in terms of, you're okay with the subpoena, you're okay with the – then they will have – now, we put out our proposal a few weeks ago. I didn't see anybody write it up at all. I mean, it was like, ‘Oh, nothing is happening.’ Things were happening. It's a process. It's a process. What is your objection? How can we find common ground? Because at the end of the day, you weigh the equities. It's not about the specific things. You weigh the equities. Is this a path to the truth? And that's what we'll find out. And I'm optimistic that we can. As I said, the scope means so much that it's important to yield.
And I listen to my Members, too. That is to say, our Chairman, Bennie Thompson of the Homeland Security Committee, is focused – he has been focused for a long time on domestic terrorism, a long time. All through the previous Administration, this has been a focus of his, and even longer in his role as Chair of the Homeland Security Committee. So, I take some of my lead from him and other Members about what the weighing of equities will get us in seeking the truth. But I think it's very important.
And you know the provenance. I had the bill in 2001. I was author of the legislation for the commission then. So, we all have a great deal of experience in terms of the makeup, the process, the who, you know, who and how is that defined? The numbers, yeah, but, also, who are these people? The process, timetable, resources for it, but most important the purpose, the scope.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: Good morning. Thank you. Obviously, the D.C. bill will face a challenge in the Senate because of the filibuster and all. You guys have passed a lot of bills here, including later today the D.C. Statehood bill, that are piling up in the Senate. You and many of your fellow Democrats were critical of Mitch McConnell being unable to move the bill – or being unwilling, frankly, to move the bill. But isn't it the same phenomenon happening there, and, therefore, should they get rid of the filibuster?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you realize that Mitch McConnell is still the problem. It's not as if it was Mitch McConnell and now it's somebody else. No. Mitch McConnell is still the problem. And I don't get involved in any discussions on Senate rules. You know that. And I don't welcome any discussion from them on House rules.
However, I do think we have discussion on issues and how the needs of the American people are met.
We think our For the People agenda, with the H.R. 1, for cleaner government and cleaner politics in our country, is very important. We think H.R. 3, to lower the cost of prescription drugs – we think that H.R. 4, the Voting Rights Act, is something that shouldn't be blocked because of process. The list goes on. H.R. 5, the Equality Act. H.R. 6, Dreamers and the Promise Act that goes with that. H.R. 7, the [Paycheck Fairness] Act – equal pay for equal work. H.R. 8, background check legislation, as well as 1446 that goes with that, the South Carolina loophole. Then, H.R. 9 – protect the planet now. And, of course, we're back to H.R. 2, which was our Moving America Forward, the jobs bill that we are hopefully working on, which we may – I hope we can do the bills without reconciliation, that we would have bipartisanship. But should we not have any progress on all of these fronts because of that – well, that's a debate for the Senate.
Q: And isn't that a political problem that you face then? If you are moving these bills and they are stalled in the Senate for whatever reason, isn't the outcome basically the same as what you had when the Republicans were in the majority next door?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let's see what the Senate does. Go ask them. Go ask them.
Q: Are you supportive of Congresswoman Bass formally negotiating with Republicans –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: And trying to come to a compromise?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, yes. I was briefed by her. I mean, again, the Black Caucus has been on this case for a long time, and so the provisions in the bill about chokeholds, about no‑knock mandate, all of the provisions have been issues that they had discussed for a long time, and they were ready. They were ready. And, again, we have to – we cannot not improve the situation. And so, yes, I do. We couldn't be better served. She knows what our purpose is for all of us. She knows the particulars. When she wrote this bill, she was at that time still the Chair of the Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. She had a waiver to do two – one on Foreign Affairs, one on Judiciary. And so she wrote it under that auspices, inspired by a tradition in the Black Caucus of having justice in policing – hence, the name. And then, yes, so she has our full support.
And I wish that you all would use her name more because it is synonymous with justice. She is fair. She wants to get it done. This isn't any – it's the responsible prioritizing for accountability and justice.
Q: I wonder on the police issue, Tim Scott said yesterday, qualified immunity, he is looking to change that. Obviously, it's a big piece of the police reform puzzle for Republicans and some Democrats, and he is suggesting that we change the standard to have people sue departments instead of police officers. I wonder how you view that. He said Democrats that he's talked to have been receptive to that.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say what I said earlier about other things. It's about weighing the equities, just to take one thing and say, would you do this or would you do that? It's weighing the equities. Qualified immunity is very important. The public list, listing is very important. If you agree that there should be a list, then why would it not be public? Chokeholds, it's at 100 percent. Again, no‑knock warrants and that kind of thing. So, I trust Karen Bass's knowledge of the subject, but also her knowledge of the ramifications it would have on the people that we're trying to protect, which is everybody in our country, including our law enforcement officers.
So, I would – I trust her to keep on the table what can be accomplished, and I don't think that – I think everybody knows this has to be a serious bill that will make a difference. So, that's why I trust whatever they decide, yeah.
Okay. All right.
What do you got?
Staff. Last question.
Q: Madam Speaker, two quick questions. Do you support the self‑determination or statehood bills for Puerto Rico? And, two, Senator Ossoff says that you will be looking into allegations of sexual misconduct by Members of Congress against night shift custodians who clean the Capitol Complex. What is Congress' responsibility to protect the custodians who clean these buildings?
Speaker Pelosi. On the statehood issue, that's up to the people of Puerto Rico. That's up to them to decide whether they want to be a State, and then we'll see what happens after that. I love Puerto Rico. I felt embarrassed by how President Trump withheld resources for them after natural disasters and the rest.
Q: Do you prefer one bill or the other, the self‑determination or statehood?
Speaker Pelosi. No. I'm not for one bill or another. It's up to the people of Puerto Rico to make a decision about their status.
In terms of your second question, the chair of the House Administration Committee will be meeting with both the Architect and the Inspector General, and we'll look forward to seeing the report on any progress in this area. We don't have any place here for any question in terms of the safety, in every sense of the word, for our workers in the Capitol.
Thank you all very much.
Don't forget, 51st State. Eleanor Roosevelt and Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr. Isn't that wonderful? Isn't that something to be so proud of? The first First Lady to come to testify before Congress.
Thank you all.