Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning. Good morning. A good morning it is today.
Today, we celebrate 100 Days of the Biden-Harris Administration. In that time, working together, Democrats have made historic progress to defeat the pandemic and to address the economic crisis, administering over 200 million doses of medicine – the President had 100 million as his goal, and we’ve exceeded 200 million shots – delivering over 160 million checks and putting $1 trillion into workers’ pockets.
And we've made historic progress to Build Back Better, cutting child poverty in half. Imagine – in the Rescue package initiative to cut child poverty in half, delivering health care to an additional 800,000 Americans through the ACA, because of the provisions in the Rescue package that enables more people to have access to the subsidies. This is so exciting. I feel very proprietary about the Affordable Care Act. And creating 1.3 million jobs – more jobs in the first 100 days than any president ever.
All of this puts our economy back on track to grow six percent this year. That's not my figure. That's according to the International Monetary Fund. The IMF has said. And this is the fastest pace in over 40 years – in nearly 40 years. As the President said last night, ‘America is moving.’
Last night was historic. It was the first time two women – the Vice President of the United States and the Speaker of the House – sat behind the President as he delivered his address to the nation. It sends the message to girls and women that beyond the sky's the limit. We would say ‘the sky's the limit’ years ago, but now with the technology that we see, it's – there is no limit.
The President’s speech reflected that message. It's one thing to have two women there. It's remarkable, actually, I say immodestly. But what's really important about the night was what the President said in his speech. It was a triumph for women, women at home, women in the workplace, equal pay for equal work, paid family and medical leave, affordable child care, universal pre-K. I love that because it's children learning, parents earning – men and women, but largely women as caregivers. The Violence Against Women Act that he urged the passage of in the Senate and many other initiatives for women. The list goes on. This address was a recognition that we can only Build Back Better with a fuller participation of women in our economy. So, I indeed thought it was a triumph for women.
This is an ambitious, transformative vision for seizing a once-in-a-century opportunity to Build Back Better. The bold investments of the American Jobs Plan [and] the American Families Plan invest in the foundations of our strength: families, workers and the middle class. The Jobs Plan is the largest plan since World War II. And the Families Plan will make historic differences for families.
The Democratic House looks forward to working with the Administration to enact this vision. Congress will work its will. We have many ideas in our Caucus, and our Committees are hard at work, advancing the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.
Just to go back to the President's address – I mean, we're talking about it, but specifically, he lifted up the progress made by the Rescue Plan, told people what's in it so that they can be sure to avail themselves of the benefits of it and what can be done in the American Jobs Plan.
In addition to all of that, he talked about other priorities for our community and therefore some pieces of legislation already passed the House or the Senate. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, that we are optimistic will see some progress in a bipartisan way soon.
A gun violence prevention bill – very popular across the country among gun owners and the rest. This is just only in the Congress of the United States is there objection, but there is bipartisanship – or nonpartisanship – on this subject across the country.
H.R. 1, For The People. This is about our democracy. We must pass this legislation we have in the House. The Leader has called it a priority in the Senate – Mr. Schumer.
And then, what they did pass in the Senate and we have to take up in the House is the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, led by Mazie Hirono in the Senate, Grace Meng in the House. We'll take this up when we come back.
The Equality Act – any discrimination against [the] LGBTQ community. Passed the House. Popular in the country. Corporate America by and large support the legislation. Let's just get that done.
Immigration reform, as the President called for, Dreamers and TPS, et cetera. Let’s say popular across the country in a bipartisan way.
Action to lower prescription drug prices. We've been working on this for almost a generation. It's time to do that. If we can pass the legislation to enable the Secretary to negotiate for lower prescription drug benefits, it will be an assist to America's working families. Overwhelmingly, in any poll that you take, the cost of health care is a challenge to America's working families because of the cost of prescription drugs. The Affordable Care Act – we have lowered the rate of increase of the cost of medical care except for the cost of prescription drugs.
These and other initiatives will be addressed by either one of our houses, as is appropriate. And the House is proud of the progress that we have made. And we are committed to ensuring that these bills become law.
So again, 100 Days. What a difference a day makes. What a transformation 100 Days makes. Thank you, Mr. President. Especially thank you for making your speech, your presentation, such a triumph for women.
Any questions? Yes, ma'am?
Q: Good morning, Madam Speaker
Speaker Pelosi. Hi, good morning.
Q: You covered a lot of topics this morning on CBS. I want to ask you about something that didn't come up about the House itself. Roughly – two questions – roughly, what percentage of the House do you think is fully vaccinated right now?
And then second, there has been some pushback – let me take my mask off. There's been some pushback from both the right and the left about requiring social distancing and fully masked participants last night. Why not consider something like requiring that everyone be fully vaccinated? Why require masks at a time when public health officials want the message to be about vaccination?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, public health officials still encourage wearing masks indoors, but your question is an excellent one that should be made to every Member of Congress.
We are guided by the Capitol Attending Physician and the Sergeant-At-Arms, but the science demands how we can – why we have masks on still.
With more, as you rightly point out, with more vaccinations, we should be able to have a shorter period of time for voting so that we don't – if we're all vaccinated, still with a mask inside, but nonetheless. Perhaps when we are speaking would be a time we could, as you did, take down the mask, but so far, that's not what we can do.
So – so here is the thing. We are – we cannot require someone to be vaccinated. That's just not what we can do. It is a matter of privacy to know who is or who isn't. I can't go to the Capitol Physician and say, ‘Give me the names of people who aren't vaccinated, so I can go encourage them or make it known to others to encourage them to be vaccinated.’ So we can't – we can't do that.
But you would hope that science would guide them to protect themselves, their family members and be good colleagues in the workplace to get vaccinated.
And the sooner that that happens, the better for everything in terms of – because all of the requirements that we had last night were not about security, by and large – that security issue is always there when the President of the United States is present, but in terms of COVID.
COVID had us in a room where normally 1,600 people would be gathered for the address by the President of the United States, 1,600 people to 200 – I think it was 204 people, because the Capitol Physician insisted that that social distancing, that mask wearing were necessary so that we are not contributing to the spread of COVID, especially with the President of the United States there, but also in terms of the Congress of the United States.
So, if we could, but we can't require vaccinations for the Members, much less for the American people. Some people want to say, ‘Don't come into my store unless you're vaccinated, this or that. It causes commotion.’
But we don't have too much – I mean, there are some individuals who say – and I can't even – I don't even know who they are, but if you say there are – that they don't want to social distance, and they don't want to wear a mask. But that's incidental. It's not anybody important.
Q: Do you know the percentage –
Speaker Pelosi. Hm?
Q: The percentage of the House [that] is vaccinated, do you know right now?
Speaker Pelosi. The percentage?
Speaker Pelosi. It's about – I think it's about 75 percent. It's about – it may be in the last few days some more, but I think it's about 75 percent.
But, again, the Physician cannot tell us Democrats, Republicans, or who. And that's right. We should be respecting people's privacy. But that's – that's approximately what it is.
And the Republicans come up to me and say, ‘Let's shorten the time for votes. Let's shorten the time for votes.’
I say, ‘Well, tell your friends to get vaccinated.’
That would help. That would help a lot.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Madam Speaker? Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. What do you got, Chad?
Q: Good morning.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, he sits in front. You guys have to just ice him out because he just he's so – he's so Chad.
Q: The 49ers, guards or tackles or something?
Speaker Pelosi. I got the Warriors' colors on today.
Q: I see that. In any event, did you get to hear any of Senator – did you get to hear any of Senator Scott's response last night?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I didn't, because we were thanking the Capitol Police and the custodial staff for making the day possible, so I didn't see it. I – and I usually don't see it.
Q: Is there anything that you have maybe read about or something that you think from his message that gave you hope that you could work with them or – from that message, or not?
Speaker Pelosi. I didn't see it. But the one thing I did hear was that he was ready to continue the discussion about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and I think that was a very good message to come from that.
And we're very proud of Karen Bass and the work that she has done in a bipartisan way on the House side, and now on the Senate side, working with Cory Booker and Senator Scott for sure, a very important factor in all of this. So, that was one thing that I saw on the news that it came out.
But I – it's – for us, when the President comes, whatever the party, whatever the capacity, it's until midnight. And the President was very gracious in being willing – not being willing – wanting to, suggesting that he say thank you to the custodial staff who suffered so much January 6th and who continue to make the Capitol work, as well as the security.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am?
Q: As far as the metal detectors are concerned, Jim Clyburn was – was just – he was fined $5,000 for breaching one of the metal detectors, and now a pending lawsuit that Andy Clyde is being talked about. Can you respond to that now that one of your own –
Speaker Pelosi. No. I think that we are safe protecting the Members of Congress, and people – if people have a disagreement on the charge that was made, then they can appeal it, and that's what's happening.
Yes, ma'am? What do you got? You had a question?
Q: Yes, thank you. Sorry. Well, Madam Speaker, just to follow up on police reform, as you may be aware, the families of George Floyd, Botham Jean, Terence Crutcher and Eric Garner are on the Hill today. And, number one, are you meeting with them?
And, number two, besides Karen Bass, who have you designated to negotiate with Senate lawmakers on this issue today, and what have you tasked them with as far as trying to get this done?
Speaker Pelosi. What's the last part, dear?
Q: By the Floyd anniversary?
Speaker Pelosi. What have we – you said, have I chatted with the families? The second part was, who have we designated –
Q: Who have you designated to negotiate with –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I heard that part, but what was the third part?
Q: And I guess just what your hope is or what you have tasked them with to try to get this done by the Floyd anniversary? I know you would like to get it done, but kind of – what has been your mandate to them to move the ball forward?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, Karen Bass certainly has received my authorization to proceed with discussions, and they will be having a meeting today.
The – she had – nearly one year ago, as you know, toward the end of May, George Floyd was murdered in full view. His assassination was something that caused demonstrations, show of support for his family all around the world. Millions of people turned out for days and weeks in some cases, certainly in our country, beyond Congressional Black Caucus leadership. It was spontaneous. It was organic. People turned out.
And in that period of time, by like the second week of June, Karen Bass introduced her legislation. At that time, when it came to – for the hearings, I met with the family. And at that time they said to me, ‘Madam Speaker, will you – will you name the bill for our brother? It will mean so much to his daughter.’
And I said, ‘We will name the bill for your brother – we will name it for George Floyd if it is worthy of his name.’
We then went through the Committee process. By a month, four weeks or so after the death of George Floyd, the bill passed the House.
The – nothing happened in the Senate. The bill came up again this year, and I met with the family again in preparation for it being passed in the House. I have spoken to them by phone. Because of COVID, we're limited in terms of actual meetings, but I had met with them on – in person, but most recently spoken to them by phone on the day – actually, before – right before the verdict, and then after the verdict. So, I had been in touch with them all along, though, long before COVID.
But in the course of so many other sad deaths, I have met with the moms, many of the moms involved here. And of course we serve with one: Lucy McBath, she lost her son. She's an inspiration to us in so many ways. And for years, we have been in touch with some – the families of victims, and we have promised them, in terms of victims of gun violence, that we will never give up until we pass legislation to stop, to stop gun violence. And that is, you know, part of the tragedy of many of these moms who've lost their children, and some of it relates to need for justice in policing.
We will bring it to the Floor when we are ready. And we'll be ready when we have a good, strong bipartisan bill. And that is up to the Senate, and then we'll have it in the House because it'll be a different bill.
Q: Do you think your Members – do you think your Members are willing to bend on qualified immunity?
Speaker Pelosi. That – you know what, why don’t we let them have their negotiation? The President, I thought was – calibrated his remarks beautifully last night to say, ‘Let's continue the negotiation.’ What do we got? We got? Okay.
Q: I just wanted to follow up on that. I know you said ‘Will your Members bend?’ But some of the more progressive Members of your Caucus have been pretty outspoken about how they don't like some of the compromises that are being floated. How confident are you that Democrat – House Democrats, your margin is smaller at this point, that House Democrats band together and pass something if it passes the Senate?
Speaker Pelosi. Very confident. Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am.
Staff. Last question.
Q: What do you see as the legislative path forward on prescription drugs? Do you envision that passing with other proposals in the American Families Plan?
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me – you’re far away. Just a little bit louder?
Q: What do you see as the legislative path forward on prescription drugs, even though it was not included in the Families Plan? Could you envision them passing together?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I have been – as I say, almost a generation advocating for enabling the Secretary to negotiate for lower prices. I appreciate your question because it relates not only to a legislative agenda, but the kitchen table concerns of the American people, which is what our legislative agenda is – how it prioritizes that.
So, there is big interest in our Caucus, in the Committee of jurisdiction, the Committees of jurisdiction, as well as among the Leadership. We want to see a path to that. What is in one bill or another is not really what is important. ‘What is the path that we are on to accomplish what we need to accomplish, to do what we said?’
For The People, we would lower the cost of prescription – of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs. We would – lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure in a green way. And we would have cleaner government by passing H.R. 1, the For The People Act. Those are still part of our agenda.
In the Rescue package – I guess we call it ARP now – but in the Rescue package, we did a great deal to lower the cost of health care for America’s working families. I’m so proud of what was done in terms of increasing the subsidies for ACA, so many more people – even hundreds of thousands more signing up in the President’s extended enrollment period, and I thank him for that.
Bigger paychecks. It’s really important to note that if you’re going to build the infrastructure of America for the future, it’s not just roads, bridges, mass transit. All that – that’s all very important. It’s water systems. It’s schools. It’s housing. It’s broadband, broadband, broadband – a very significant part of our package that might not have been 10, 20 years ago in our package. It should have been. We should have – but it wasn’t.
So, as we go forward, if we’re going to Build Back Better, we have to do so with a strong workforce development piece. Workforce development piece. The personal infrastructure must be built in order for the physical infrastructure to involve everyone in its success. And that’s why whether it’s women, minority – people of color, veterans, rural, Native American communities, as well as businesses, must be able to participate in all of that. So it is, it is – the question you ask is one that is very supported in our Caucus that we would negotiate for lower prices.
When we first did it, way back when – again, you’ve heard me say this almost every week – in 2005, in our campaign to win back the House in 2006, our Six for ’06 Agenda had six priorities that we would pass in the first 100 hours. Five of them became law. One did not because we didn’t have 60 votes in the Senate: enabling the Secretary to negotiate for lower prices for Medicare. Now, we go beyond that and that those lower prices would be lower prices in the private sector for America’s families, not just those on Medicare. So, this is, this is a central issue for us.
But, we are all – to get back to your question, we are all united around what the President put forth last night. It was an agenda For The People. It addressed their concerns. And he did so extending the hand of friendship, so that we could do this, hopefully, in a bipartisan way. But we do – we must get it done. And I, the shared values that we have in our Caucus enable us to discuss our enthusiasms, our exuberances, and see what emerges. And that's called Congress working its will. So, I'm proud of every Member of our Caucus and the – and their ability to weigh the equities in terms of a bill coming down the pike.
Unlike the Republicans who voted against the bill, and then show up and take credit: ‘Oh, I got – I voted for restaurants.’ No, you didn't vote for restaurants to have a grant. You didn't. And so a number of them are trying to take credit for something they did not vote for. And that, that's not unusual. Vote no, take the dough. That's what the Republicans do. But that doesn't help people.
What we’re there [for] is to have the courage to pass the laws that hopefully are in a bipartisan way, but if not, to make sure we're meeting the needs of the people. And all of these things will come to the Floor, every part of it, when they are ready.
And I'm hoping that the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act will be soon. Today, they are meeting. I think that's great. I pray, I pray that – that they will be successful in a very strong bipartisan way, bicameral way.
Thank you all very much.