Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Interim Emergency Coronavirus Relief Package
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 266, The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. I thank the gentleman for yielding and I thank him for managing this important legislation on the Floor of the House.
I also commend him for the work that he did in the previous legislation that we've had. As has been acknowledged, this is the fourth bipartisan bill that we have brought to the Floor to address the coronavirus pandemic, and this is a very important piece of legislation.
So, we come to the Floor with such heartache, with such sorrow about those who have lost their lives and their loved ones, those who are suffering from the virus's assault now and for those who are in doubt about their economic situation. It's about the lives and the livelihood of the American people. That's what this is about.
Nearly 900,000 Americans are diagnosed – have been diagnosed and are sick. Nearly 50,000 have tragically died. Oh, my goodness. We have to be prayerful, prayerful about this assault, again, on the lives and livelihood of the American people.
Countless hospitals and health care systems remain swamped with cases and far too many frontline workers don't have the personal protective equipment that they need. And just this morning, we learned that four – more than four million workers filed for unemployment last week with more than 26 million having lost their jobs during this pandemic so far.
And so, as we work to protect the American people, we have to make decisions. We recognize that the key to opening up our economy, the key to opening that door, the threshold we must cross is a scientific one: testing, testing, testing; contact tracing; isolation; of course, treatment and, best of all, prevention. But the key is scientific and we must make our decision in that way.
So here we are, and I say this in terms of the overarching, the American people have told us they do not want any taxpayer dollars – when we did our earlier bill – they do not want any taxpayer dollars going to enriching shareholders, give dividends, bonuses, CEO pay and all of that. They want the taxpayer dollars to keep people in their jobs.
And the oversight of that is exactly what we passed – we will pass – or we passed by voice vote earlier, we'll vote on later. That's very important. It's very important for the American people to have confidence as they make their sacrifices that our taxpayer dollars that they pay are not being squandered.
Our colleagues have said, ‘Why do we need oversight? We have all these committees to do oversight.’ And I hope they will, but they have other work to do as well. And, as the Republicans have put forth select committees themselves, Benghazi, trying to destroy Planned Parenthood, which didn’t have any urgency for the American people, this has an urgency for the American people.
We need a Select Committee whose focus, whose purpose is to address the challenge that the coronavirus places on us. So, that's one.
Two, the American people want their checks. They want their checks, and that's what we are doing with the PPP and the direct payments and other initiatives that are there, and we need to do more.
And third, and we haven't done enough in this regard, third, they want our heroes, our health care providers, our police and fire, first responders, our emergency services folks, our transit people, everyone to have – our food service folks, they want everyone to have the equipment they need to do their jobs. Our health care workers are on the frontlines, as are the others: emergency services, police and fire, some of them are the first people to respond to a 911 call. They’re in the line of defense and they do not have the PPE, the personal protective equipment, that they need. And we owe them.
We do not – we are not worthy of thanking them, thanking them, praising them, unless we support them. And that's not being done sufficiently and that's what they have to do in the next bill. I call it the Heroes Act, when we will come together to support our heroes.
Unfortunately, there was not enough interest in this bill right here, on the part of others, to join us in supporting our heroes: our health care workers, our police and fire, our emergency services, our – in the form of supporting state and local governments. When you hear state and local, it might sound bureaucratic, but it isn't. Those are the people who meet the needs of the American people and are on the frontlines of fighting this virus.
So, when we finish this, and I’m pleased to hear the distinguished Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Neal, talk about the fact that we're already preparing for that. We have been for a while because we just didn't really know that this interim bill would come up. But when it did, again, we had to meet the needs of the American people.
I'm so proud that all of the bills we're passing, as has been acknowledged, have been done in a bipartisan way. And the next bill will be as well. But let me just correct the record, because the distinguished gentleman from Texas said we held up this bill and I want to correct that record, because nothing could be further from the truth and perhaps he isn't aware, but let me inform.
And that is, two weeks ago, the distinguished Secretary of the Treasury called me and said, ‘I need a quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours.’ ‘Oh, really? Well, I don't know about that. Let's see what we can do. Let's see what we can do. Why do you need that?’
The next day, that was April 7th – the next day, on April 8th, Democrats came together, House and Senate Democrats, and made a proposal that went beyond the 250, $250 billion for the PPP, a program we helped shape and that we fully support, supporting our small businesses, the entrepreneurship of America, the optimism of America, the creators of jobs and wealth and community in our country.
But we saw some evidence that everything wasn't being done as we had hoped, and so we proposed, one day later, that we would have an additional, additional funding for small businesses. A $60 billion set-aside for the smallest of small businesses: women, minority-owned businesses, rural America, veterans, Native American communities and the rest, who were not, shall we say, as bankable as some others, the underbanked. $60 billion.
Another $60 billion we said for all of our small businesses. 50 of it, $50 billion of it for this – the EIDL, the disaster assistance loans. We put $50 billion there. That $50 billion is leveraged to over $300 billion in lending. Easier lending than for some than PPP because it's just a loan. It's not about the bank deciding.
And then the other $10 billion, we wanted $15 [billion], we got $10 [billion] for the grants. So there we got $60 [billion] and $60 [billion], $120 [billion] and then another $100 billion for the hospitals. That was on April 8th. $100 billion for the hospitals divided: hospitals $75 billion, testing $25 billion.
The Senate Republicans went to the floor the next day on April 9th, which was  hours from the request of the quarter of a trillion dollars. Mitch McConnell went to the Floor and said, ‘This is it, $250 billion, not one penny more. This is what it is.’ The Senate Democrats objected, offered an amendment that includes what we're voting on today.
Mitch McConnell said, ‘Absolutely not, that was it.’ So, for one week, he kept saying, ‘Going to bring it up again on Monday,’ ‘Going to bring it up again on Thursday.’ For one week there was that delay.
Finally, as of Thursday of last week, there was interest in negotiation. And what we have on the Floor today is the result of the, not time we delayed the legislation, but the time that the Republicans refused to accept the fact that we needed $100 billion for our hospitals and our testing, that we needed more money for the – those who do not have sophisticated banking relationships where we can have community development financial institutions reach into communities where they know the businesses, the neighborhood, the community, the people, the customers, the clients.
And so we should be very, very proud of the work that was done by Congresswoman – Madam Chair, Nydia Velázquez, of the Small Business Committee and Madam Chair, Maxine Waters, Chair of the Financial Services Committee. Banks, small business, coming together with an idea that was rejected out of hand by the Leader of the Senate. ‘Don't even bring that around. It's only this. That's it or else you don't support small business.’
So, when I hear during the previous debate on the other bill – and then this distinguished Ranking Member on the Ways and Means Committee, whom I respect, and he knows that, to say we delayed this. No. You delayed this because – now, this isn't about assigning blame. This is about taking responsibility.
Without the discussion over this past weekend, which resulted in the Senate passing the bill, unanimously, Mitch McConnell, who wasn't going to do one more penny, unanimously passing the bill, and then saying it has all this additional help that we initiated – that he initiated. He resisted it – that he initiated it.
I think it's really important for people to understand what this fight is about. It's not about trickle-down. We were successful in turning the CARES Act from a corporate-oriented trickle-down bill to a workers first, bubble-up bill, and we were proud of that and that it passed and signed by the President.
Once again, they just had the $250 [billion]. We fully support that. We helped create that. That isn't the end of the day for what else we needed to do, and while I understand that they are resistant to helping those at the lower end of the scale, I can't understand why they resisted $100 billion for the hospitals and the testing, because that is central to meeting the health needs of the American people. I want more, of course. I want more.
So now, we go to the next bill. I call it the Heroes Act. Unfortunately, they did not want to put the heroes into this bill today, as fully as they should by supporting state and local. And what is the distinguished Leader on the Senate side, Mr. McConnell, say? ‘I’m not doing any more bills. I think the states should go bankrupt.’ Oh, really? And not pay the health care workers and the public hospitals and the rest, first responders and the rest, oh, really? What made you think that was a good idea? It's just more notion mongering to get attention, I guess.
I came to this Floor fully happy in terms of our bipartisanship, totally sad about what it is in terms of the lives of America's families and the uncertainty they face and the illness that some are suffering and the loss of life of the many others, tens of thousands have suffered. But to hear them say, we held up this bill, when they are doing today with great pride exactly what the Senate Democrats asked them to do on April 9th. Just wanted to set the record straight on that.
Again, I want to thank Maxine Waters and Nydia Velázquez. I want to thank Frank Pallone for the good work that he did and the staff of all those committees. My voting today on the Floor on the strong agreement that sets the path we had in the CARES Act – these are the issues that were addressed in the CARES Act, of course we had state and local in the CARES Act. They wouldn’t go there here.
So, what we are doing is we are helping small businesses. We strengthen the Paycheck Protection package. It's $310 billion, including that critical $60 billion reserve for underserved rural, urban, tribal communities. By supporting small businesses that cannot access PPP, we secured $50 billion for emergency assistance lending. That will be leveraging to over $300 billion in disaster assistance loans and $10 billion more for the grants to small businesses.
For the hospital, providers and health workers, we secured $75 billion for health providers, which are losing revenue every day, and for physicians and health workers risking their lives because they don't have PPE. They don't have PPE. One of the New York hospitals, I heard a nurse say on tv that when she went to meet the needs of her patients, she was given not the regular gown and mask and gloves. She was given a New York Yankees rain poncho. Others were wearing garbage bags. Some of them said they were wearing medical waste on their faces because they could not change the mask, and they would go to maybe four patients instead of the one and discard.
So again, we thank them. We honor them. We revere them. But we have no right to do that unless we support them with what they need. They are risking their lives to save other lives. And now, they may lose their jobs unless we do our Heroes Act, which I look forward to doing.
For testing, we secured $25 billion for testing which is key – central to reopening our economy and resuming our lives. The Administration has also agreed, and this is very positive, a national testing strategy that will increase domestic testing capacity and address disparities, including across race, ethnicity and geographic regions.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the Administration was not ready to include funding for our heroes, our health care, fire, EMS and other essential workers, the postal system, which is essential to getting information materials where they need to be.
That's why CARES 2 must be our Heroes Act, focusing on support for those health care and essential workers. I can't say it enough. And then with that overarching concern for them, OSHA, so they have safety in the workplace, family and medical leave so that they can meet the needs of their families, COBRA for those who lost their jobs, and we need full funding for COBRA. And I hope the Administration will be receptive to that. Pension, additional UI and direct payments and more.
Let us be clear, the health and safety of our country will be endangered if we cannot pay the heroes who sacrifice to keep us safe. They are being fired as we speak. Mr. Schumer was referencing hospitals in his state where people were let go from public hospitals. But that's not unusual. Our teachers, the custodians of our children, being let go. We have to face that and we have to do it very soon and next.
And it's unacceptable that Leader McConnell thinks that no further legislation is needed. That's what he said: No further legislation is needed. And he thinks our heroic workers can wait and our states who hire them should go bankrupt.
As CARES 2 protects the lives and livelihoods of the American people, it must also protect the American democracy, safeguarding the integrity of our elections, and supporting voting by mail. So again, it's the lives of the people, the livelihood of the people, the life of our democracy.
Again, our prayers are with those who are suffering. His Holiness, Pope Francis, and I quote him all the time, he said weeks ago, his world prayer, that God would enlighten those who have responsibility to take responsibility for those in their care. Let us hope that we can all be prayerful, take responsibility, do the job for the American people. We have an extraordinary opportunity to do that, but we must do so in a way that keeps them safe as we want to open our economy and do so again. Science, science, science and science. Let us show the same courage and strength and move with great urgency to provide the support that they need, that they provide to others.
And again, we have our differences. There is no question. I heard the gentleman speak out against the $600 for people who are unemployed. I think that we have to do whatever we can to recognize that public policy has a role here. That governance, governance carries with it responsibilities and opportunity and results and progress for the American people. And that science and governance are the answers to meeting the health care needs and meeting the needs of our economy as we go forward.
So, I thank our colleagues for their leadership, Maxine Waters, Nydia Velazquez, Frank Pallone our distinguished Chair of the Ways and Means Committee for his work, so many people. And again, others, right now as we speak, the Agriculture Committee is meeting and, as some of our colleagues have said, we can't do SNAP? They turned down SNAP? Food stamps at a time when America is hungry?
We have our differences, but we are coming together on this particular bill. I'm proud of that. It is bipartisan. It is urgent. And let us get on with it so that we can get on to supporting our heroes in a way that is worthy of their sacrifice.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I yield back.