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. Thank you for being here.
And what a sad day. I know people, as am I, are quite shaken by the fact that we have passed the 50,000, number of people who have died from the coronavirus, mark. Over 50,000. The numbers are staggering, but each individual case is so heartbreaking.
Yesterday, on the Floor, we heard about a five-year-old girl, her mother a police officer and her father a fire fighter. Five years old and she died of the coronavirus. And then we hear Maxine’s sister is dying. Senator Warren's brother died. That is people we know, but people we don't know, they are having the same kind of terrible grief in their families. So, our prayers and thoughts are with those who have lost their loved ones. Our prayers are with those who are diagnosed, over 900,000 people – approaching 900,000 people diagnosed. And also, 26 million having lost their jobs. Staggering numbers. Lots of personal and family grief.
The conversation going on now is if we were to open government, how and when? As I have said, it should be science-based, science-based. Testing, testing, testing holds the key to opening the door to taking us from home into the economy. We had testing – everyone agrees, testing – well, not everyone. Scientists agree that testing, contact tracing and isolation are the path to opening up our economy.
Since this has occurred, three times in March and then yesterday, the Congress has passed four bills in a bipartisan way to address the coronavirus crisis. The first one, March 4th, we wrote it in February and brought it to the Floor in the beginning of March, testing, testing, testing. That is what we talked about at that time. Still, a month and a half later we don't have anywhere near the adequate testing or plans for it that we need. That is why we are so glad we had [this] provision in yesterday's bill, which I will talk about in a moment. It is hard to even explain why we don't have the testing, why we don't have the kits, sufficient kits and we don't have the reagents and the rest.
So, yesterday brought us some hope, because we have $25 billion in testing in the bill for – and then we have a large amount of money for small businesses. We were especially pleased that we were able to get a set-aside for $60 billion for small businesses, shall we say, the underbanked, but businesses, small business: mom and pop, women and minorities, veterans, urban and rural area and tribal lands, Native Americans, all who have not made – were not first in line, shall we say, in the first round of this.
I just want to say this, because I see something out there and I want to give light to it. You saw on the Floor, yesterday, the Members on the Floor saying, the Republicans saying, ‘We should have done this two weeks ago.’ Yes, we agree. We agree it should have been done two weeks ago. And the person who led their debate, the Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Brady, he said specifically, he said – it is just so stunning – he said, ‘We could have agreed on this in sixteen minutes. Republicans and Democrats. It got held up for all sorts of extracurricular stuff.’ ‘Extracurricular stuff.’
A hundred billion dollars for hospitals and testing --$75 [billion] for hospitals, $25 [billion] for testing. $120 billion more for small businesses, $60 [billion] in the set aside, another $60 [billion] more for grants and loans from the Emergency Injury Disasters Loans. It is used by many for small business because it is faster to get them and you have a longer time to pay them off and a low interest rate. That was $60 billion, which is leveraged to over $300 billion in loans. $10 billion in grants – we wanted $15 [billion], we got $10 [billion]. We need much more, but nonetheless.
$120 billion more for small business in addition to the $250 billion that – we all support and all helped create the PPE. We certainly support it, but we want to be sure we are not hardening the disparity in access to credit that exists in our society by spending hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to not have access – fair access for everyone.
So when they just say that ‘extracurricular stuff.’ Now, that ‘extracurricular stuff’ was by and large what we put forth on the Floor of the Senate. Remember the timetable.
April 6th – no, April 7th, Secretary Mnuchin called me and said, ‘I need a quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours for the PPP.’ Well, we all support the PPP, but, let's see the data, how is this working? I’ll get back to you. The next day we got back to him with a plan. Democrats in the House and Senate putting together a plan that had just what we're talking about now, a set aside for the smaller, underbanked community, the funding for hospital and testing, et cetera.
And that was when Mitch McConnell took to the Floor, on the 9th. He went to the Floor two weeks ago and he said then, ‘This is it. $250 [billion]. Not one penny – $250 [billion], $250 [billion].’ He would not hear the objections raised by Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland. They objected to the unanimous consent request he made and offered the amended version that contained what we passed yesterday and what he passed by unanimous consent on Tuesday. But for at least one more week, they resisted until the beginning of last weekend, when they agreed to negotiate.
And here we have a bill that has the set-aside carveout for the smaller businesses, the increase in the loan and the grant program, $100 billion for hospitals and testing. ‘Extracurricular stuff’ to the Republicans. Vital to the life, and livelihood, and success of the American people.
I just want to review that timetable because, when I heard Mitch on the Floor the other day, he was saying, ‘We have all these things that we asked for.’ No, you rejected. No, you rejected. But, speaking of Mitch, what’s gotten into him? Well, it’s an indication. The President is asking people to inject Lysol into their lungs and Mitch is saying that states should go bankrupt. It’s a clear, visible, within 24 hours, of how the Republicans reject science and reject governance. If you don't believe in science and you don’t believe in governance, that is their approach.
And we do not – we don’t want any more government than we need, but we know that governance has a role. And we know that science has a role. And without science in our decision-making, we are not going to be on a very successful path.
So what did we do yesterday? We passed the – we strengthened the PPP program, the Paycheck Protection Program. It went from $250 [billion] to $310 [billion], that $60 [billion] as a set-aside. We increased the lending with the $50 billion leveraged to over 300, more like $350 billion in loans and $10 billion more in grants that don’t have to be paid back. $75 billion for resources to the front line including PPE, personal protective equipment, for providers, for hospitals and $25 billion for testing, we were pleased we were able to get language that called for national testing strategy – strategy, imagine that – to increase capacity and address geographic disparities.
This is an interim bill. We were not planning on this. We had CARES 1 and we were getting ready for CARES 2, and then along came this bill. So, this bill followed the path of CARES 1. In one particular way, it did not. In CARES 1, we had $150 billion for state and local. We call them our heroes. State and local, they pay the living wages and salaries of our health care workers and public hospitals and the rest, police and fire, emergency services folks, first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, transit workers who enable people, the essential workers to get to work. And again we have to see what it means to the food workers, whether in grocery stores or carry out or chain stores, whatever. They are on the front line. They are visibly and physically exposed to the virus because of where they are. We have to do something about that. And not to do something, in my view, is morally wrong, it’s medically disastrous.
We cannot defeat this pandemic if Mitch McConnell is letting our health heroes get fired. And that’s what is happening: they’re getting fired now. Chairman – excuse me, Leader Schumer mentioned the other day at a press event – some of you were there maybe, the other day – that hundreds have been fired from hospitals in New York already, public hospitals.
Unfortunately, we are seeing Republicans make comments made with zero connection to science and facts. Let's just put that behind us and let’s go forward in a way that gets the job done for the American people.
I mentioned the President and his – what did he say? We can kill the virus by injecting disinfectants, like Lysol, into the body. Clearly and sadly, the President is not listening to medical experts. And I don't know which ones he is listening to, if any. And as I said in my [Dear] Colleague last week, a few days ago, I said, ‘America must ignore his lies and start to listen to scientists and other professionals in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones.’
So, again, if you wish, I can go over what we are hoping to do in CARES 2.
But, I do appreciate the fact that so many Members came back, 388-5. That was the vote on the Floor for the bill. I am so appreciative of the Members, the staffs of the committees, Nydia Velázquez, Maxine Waters, Frank Pallone. They did a remarkable job in getting this done, this legislation. Plus, I want to thank the – all of the, shall we say, maintenance of the Capitol: the support staff on the Floor, the Capitol Physician's office and the Sergeant-at-Arms who gave us our regimentation on how we could come to the Floor in a way that had as close to zero interaction with each other as possible, enabling Congress to take the vote, which was the – Republicans insisted upon and we were there. We had 210, 211, I think, Democrats who voted for it. And so I am very proud so many people made the effort to come, even though it was clear it would be a very big vote.
In any event, we hope that – again, we had four bills, all bipartisan – that the CARES Act 2 will be bipartisan, as well. I especially was pleased that we were able to pass the legislation to establish the Select Committee to Address the Coronavirus Crisis, which will be Chaired by Chairman Clyburn. And I’ll answer any questions that you may have about that.
Q: You mentioned Majority Leader McConnell’s comments about bankruptcy. To a lesser extent, other Congressional Republicans have been making similar arguments and have little appetite for increased spending. How do you plan to balance giving state and local governments, giving them the funding they need and making sure it is targeted and not going to answer for fiscal irresponsibility of the past?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh no. This is all coronavirus. Thank you for your question. Everything that we have done in these four bills, and what we will do, are all connected to coronavirus. It is about addressing the outlays that the states and the municipalities have made on the coronavirus as well as revenue lost because they have no cash flow, no revenue coming in.
The same thing with the hospitals. They don't have patients, paying patients, who offset the charitable work that they do. So, in the hospitals, as with the state and local, is directly related to coronavirus, outlays, coronavirus and revenue lost.
But it is indicative of the fact that they don't believe in governance, because they don't really see the connection between the transit worker, the public health personnel, police, fire and all the rest who are essential to meeting the needs of the American people.
The fact is, it is about jobs, as is this small business initiative. It is about jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. So this is about jobs, so many peoples’ jobs depending on it. Teachers are being fired – teachers, the custodians with children and grandchildren, in my case, for a large part of the day.
Q: One more question. In terms of – is vote by mail non-negotiable for you? Will you agree to another relief package that doesn't include vote by mail?
Speaker Pelosi. I don’t know how many more bills we will have, but I don't intend to negotiate while I’m in this room. Thank you.
Q: One question about the White House and one about small businesses. You talked about some of the President’s medical suggestions last night, but there are also some government experts who say they were retaliated against, because they didn't back up some of the President’s medical ideas. Have you spoken to the Dr. Rick Bright, and what do you think the Congress should do about it?
Speaker Pelosi. I haven't spoken to Dr. Bright, but I know of his work, and I respect him enormously. My colleague, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, as the Chair of the Health Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce – her legislation created the department – the entity that he is the head of or had been until a couple of days ago. The allegation, shall we say, that the Administration was encouraging those with responsibility to quicken the approval process for, shall we say, friends, not based on science, but on relationships is a devastating charge. It has to be looked into. Congresswoman Eshoo has said that she would have a hearing on this.
Q: And then on small businesses, just given the backlog of the surveys we have seen, there – looks like there will be a lot of small businesses that are not able to secure funds in the next round either. What do you say to those small businesses?
Speaker Pelosi. Here’s the thing. It appeared to be a good thing to enable the banks to facilitate the loans, rather than have a go through the whole SBA process to facilitate the loans. I heard people who should know otherwise say on tv this morning, ‘Well, that the banks have to look out for their own.’ No, they don't. We’ve looked out for them. These are guaranteed loans by the SBA. This is just like an ATM machine. SBA puts the money in, and the lender takes it out. It isn't any of their money.
On top of that, the Fed has assumed the loans. That is to say, taken them off the books of the banks, so it is nothing to do with their capital requirements or anything like that. They are just a facilitator.
But all of a sudden, in some cases, it looks like they made themselves decisionmakers about relationships that they had and the rest. I think that requires some close scrutiny. This shouldn't depend on what your bank relationship is. The bank is covered. They are protected. It should depend on your application that you make in terms of how you're going to pay your employees, your rent, your utilities, etcetera in order to be able to obtain the loan.
Q: But I’m saying, even if the banks do everything right? There are just so many small businesses out there that have applied. It looks likely the money will run out.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we’ll see. We’ll just see. We want to see the data. From the very start – when I say from the start, when we passed the bill, Nydia Velázquez, with loan experience as Chair of the Small Business Committee said, ‘We have to see the data.’ We have to see the data. The data we saw after the first tranche had some, shall we say, disappointments. But let's see how we go now that we have a carve out to include people. Because it basically said, ‘First come, first serve’ was the attitude. Some people knew that they were never going to be first come, first serve, so they didn't even apply, and others applied and did not even hear back. So, there is more money in the system, let's see.
But we also – this is about protecting jobs, and recognizing small businesses as a source of job creation and wealth creation that comes with the optimism and entrepreneurism – we respect that – and that’s the vitality of our economy.
However, they need customers. You can keep the place open. You can pay the rent on the utility bill and the staff, but if you're door is open and no one is coming in, you are still not getting ahead of the game. That's why we need the other job piece, which is – one of the reasons we need the other job piece – we need it for the purposes that those employees serve in terms of first responders, health care workers, teachers et cetera, the post office and the rest.
It is disappointing that in the first tranche, people had some disappointments. We will see how it goes next.
Q: Do you still plan on having the House come back on May 4th?
Speaker Pelosi. We’ll see.
Q: And if so, do you expect to have the next legislation ready to be on the Floor at that time?
Speaker Pelosi. Any decision that we have about when we come back rests with the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Physician. Hopefully, things will get better. Who knows? But we will be ready soon with our next bill, and the sooner we can pass it, the better. Because our teachers, our firefighters, our first responders and the rest need the resources that the funding for state and local will bring.
Q: If I can ask a follow up on the state and local money, how much do you see as necessary to include in the next package for state and local?
Speaker Pelosi. Probably a number equivalent to what we have done for small businesses, but I don't know. We are asking them for their evaluation of what is the need, what is the capacity, what can you spend and the rest. But a lot of the money they are getting is money already spent on the coronavirus and, again, loss of revenue. So, we should be able to identify – I have an idea about what the governors want. I’m finding the number from the state – the municipalities. They had a number, but that was a couple of weeks ago. It may have changed. So, we will see. We will do what we need.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Do you think yesterday's vote and the entire process were evidence we could bring Congress back – the lawmakers back to Washington safely, or do you think it was a demonstration is an unnecessary step, particularly on legislation that was going to pass almost unanimously?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, not only yesterday but our first bill, CARES 1 – when I say first – the first that we did since we have been here – CARES 1 was predicated on the fact that we needed to show a quorum to have a voice vote so that we could function as Congress, and those who needed to stay home or for whom it was unhealthy for them to come forward, they could be home.
That was an earlier stage when there was a lot more uncertainty if this would work. Again, the Capitol Physician and the Sergeant-at-Arms laid out a plan, and I thought it was a beautiful sight to behold. I think we didn't get enough, shall we say, visibility for how we accommodated to use the Gallery and the rest, so that people were very separated, for instant, less than a minute.
I object because a quorum is not present. The Speaker designate, the Speaker looks, counts the House, a quorum is present. Everybody leaves. Yesterday was almost easier because you didn't have to be in the place at the same time. That was the challenge because you have to be there in the room at the same time.
So, in any event, the timing how alphabetically or however – geographically, people were kind of, shall we say, doing it their way, but nonetheless, no more than x number of people on the Floor at any given time, and that was enforced by the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Physician's office.
So, it showed that on both occasions, when one of the Republicans insisted on a quorum being present and wanting a recorded vote, and we said, ‘No, we have a quorum.’ Or yesterday, according to what I've heard from the other side – and I believe them – that they were maybe 22 Members who wanted a recorded vote.
The Senate can do this unanimous consent with four or five Members on the Floor. You only need one, but they probably had others who wanted to speak, and we have to have the physical presence, as you said, because we know how this is going to turn out because we were in agreement. It was bipartisan, because of that. So yes, it was an example that we can get it done. As you know, we had some discussion about where we go next with this in terms of proxy voting and the rest of that.
Q: A quick follow-up, a clarification about an earlier question on Leader McConnell’s comment. He had also said, aside from the state bankruptcy comments that, kind of pumping the breaks on CARES 2, that Congress now has to start considering debt and deficits. What is your response to that?
Speaker Pelosi. My response is, is this the same Mitch McConnell who let almost a $2 trillion tax break, that 83 percent of the benefits went to the top one percent without even saying – who was a deficit hawk without saying a word about what the impact on the deficit was, about $2 trillion with no benefit, no benefit to the economy or our children's future, except a $2 trillion debt. So that, again, anti-governance, anti-science. That's who they are.
‘Extracurricular stuff.’ That is $100 billion to hospitals. So understand this, they want to make it like we held this up even though they agreed to what we offered two weeks ago. They held this up.
But there's no use getting into that. Let's move forward. There will be a bill and it will be expensive. I look forward to doing it as soon as possible because jobs are at stake, protection of our people, the health and well-being of the American people are at stake, and the sooner we get this done, the better.
Q: As far as, you have 55 million students all around the country who have been affected by being outside of the regular school and doing distance learning. I know that you have bills here that have been looking at the idea of broadband, but now you have the issue of a number of groups, Harvard and others, are criticizing this whole idea of homeschooling. After the pandemic is over, will you see homeschooling going in light of this whole pandemic, and distance learning is of concern. Where do you see it going?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think homeschooling is an individual decision that people make. I don’t think it’s a public policy that we advocate or not. It's what people decide they want to do, and God bless them for that. And I have no criticism of that, it's what their choice is.
I think people want to get back to school. I think children value the socialization of being together with their friends and the rest. The value to learning of people hearing different ideas, whatever the grade is up to.
I have three grandchildren who are in a grade school who are engaged in social media learning. There are different versions, that’s why I don't say one or the other. I have three in college who are engaged, four in college who are engaged in distance learning and they seem to be doing ok, but I don't think they think it's a way of life. I think they want to get back to school.
So that's three and – I said three. There are four in college, three in grade school. I have two more, one more of them is also, five in college with distance learning, and they are almost finished. It's coming up soon in May, and the same thing with the younger ones. I have one that has graduated from college. He just finished his Masters’ coursework. So, I see it in different versions of the story. And I know they want to be with their friends.
But, again, it's going to school. It's going to school. What we have to do is make sure that at times like this that every child has the same opportunity to learn. For example, in California, if you gave every child the technology, they still don't live in areas that have the service. And so that's why we wanted – we must have a broadband initiative to have high speed always on, social media for everyone across the country and a grid that operates and able to that done.
It’s not just about school. It's about tele-medicine. It’s about tele-marketing. It’s about families connecting, and the rest. And if the coronavirus – among many things, the coronavirus has taught us that it's really important, not only to have your own equipment, but to have the service. So many kids in inner cities are urban deserts, but especially in rural America they don't have that access. And when they did, if they would go to a local library or whatever, even being in the parking lot so they could have the access, those places are closed, by and large. So this is something that must, must be addressed.
And, as far as homeschooling, God bless people who do that. Because that – as a mother of five, I used to say that I had four in diapers at a time and just when that was – because they were all so close in age. And just when that ended, I thought, ‘Glory hallelujah.’ The light at the end of the tunnel was a train coming at me called homework. And the next years on homework. That was ok then, but now the sophistication of the homework that kids get is quite challenging. So, I am a great admirer of those who have the patience and the know-how and the enthusiasm for homeschooling.
Staff. Last question.
Speaker Pelosi. We only have two more people, so why don’t we take both. Okay.
Q: Actually, this is a two-part question about –
Q: It’s up to you how many questions we take.
But, just about what may be in CARES 4. One question is of state and local aid. If there isn’t state and local aid in Phase 4, CARES 2, should the Fed take an active role in financing state governments through this time using their emergency lending powers?
Speaker Pelosi. With or without it, we will – there will not be a bill without state and local. But, the Fed should be doing that anyway and I'm in communication with Chairman Powell about what we enabled the Fed to do in the last bill.
I wanted the word ‘shall’ do this. They used the word ‘shall,’ but they used ‘shall endeavor to,’ which isn’t quite the same as ‘shall.’ But, nevertheless, the Chairman told me he took that as a ‘shall’ so they could relax. When we were originally having this conversation, he said I have to understand the credit worthiness and are we going to get paid back and this or that. So, you know what, we are in an emergency. We have to see ourselves through this.
So, the Fed has to play a big role in all of this, and they're playing a much stepped up role than they were a month and a half ago. We will see how it's working as we do this bill, and see if they need any more legislative justification.
Q: And on employer liability, when people go back to work, is that an area that you see will be an area of negotiation in the next bill?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m not, again, we have an array of things that have been related to the workers, whether it's OSHA, to have protections for the workers, family medical leave, COBRA, health care special enrollment period, pension support, more for Unemployment Insurance and the rest.
We have prioritized, or some people use the word curated, what the priorities will be. So, when Members present and we get all kinds of ideas, we will see what fits into how we protect our workers.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Could you speak to the Post Office and their status?
Speaker Pelosi. The Post Office has approval of over 90 percent. I don’t know anything in our country that has approval over 90 percent. Oh, Barack Obama, among the Democrats anyway. The Post Office has an approval rate of over 90 percent.
It is a necessary connection for the American people, especially our seniors who get their drugs through the Post Office, who get their communications, for many of them, in that way.
Right now, I see a big danger for our country in the form of the Trump Administration's interest in privatizing the Post Office. This is just about somebody on the outside making money off of the Post Office instead of recognizing the important role that the Post Office plays.
The Postmaster General is one of the earliest appointments in our first cabinet. State, Treasury, Defense, Attorney General, Postmaster General. It's the fifth highest.
And so, now, you see this is really dangerous, and Mnuchin at Treasury is trying to leverage the debt situation in a way that must be stopped. The only way to stop it is if the American people understand what a loss it is for them. People might think it's because the President wants to come after Amazon, whatever it is, but I think it pre-dates that.
I think it is privatization because they are anti-governance, and that's who they are. And that's a legitimate debate to have in our country. And we will have it because, if we don't have a postal system, and again, all the people depend on it for – and, of course, they don't like vote by mail. At this time, at this time with the coronavirus, vote by mail is so important as a health issue, but also medicines and all the rest that people are depending on. So many things that they are ordering online coming by mail. For them to be toying with this notion that they have that they will privatize the Post Office, the postal system, is something the public should be aware of and should reject.
We had – we had money. We asked for $25 [billion] then $20 billion in CARES 1. We got it down to $6 [billion]. And it was bipartisan support. We had some support in the Senate on the Republican side, but the White House – and they tell me it came right from the President: no money for the Post Office. Instead, inject Lysol into your lungs as we shut down the states.
Thank you, all.
And really, let's be prayerful about all this. Policy is one thing, but the personal losses we have of these families, it's staggering. I'm absolutely shaken by it. I kept thinking yesterday, please don't go over but how would it not when we have that many, 900,000 who are susceptible to losing their lives.
Thank you all very much, stay safe.