Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

May 13, 2021
Press Release

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. 

Earlier this week, the Speaker of the House issued a statement on the Floor of the House that we would have a rules change that, when Members were on the Floor, they must always be wearing a mask except when they were speaking.  We have understood from all of you that as long as I keep my distance from you, which I fully intend to do, I can abide by the House Floor rule on this.

As you all know, yesterday, the President had a bipartisan meeting of the Congressional Leadership.  It was very positive.  I think the tone of it was very appropriate to the important work that we have to do.  Very proud of what the President is presenting: a big, bold plan to Build Back Better for our country. 

A significant part of that is building the infrastructure of our country.  How you define infrastructure is part of how we go forward.  We don't want to define it in an old way; we want to be thinking in terms of the future.  But, again, we'll see how far we can go working together. 

Bipartisanship has always been the hallmark of our work on building the infrastructure of our country.  It has never been something that we have not come to terms.  In the Obama Administration, the bill was smaller than I would have liked, but when you think that it was negotiated between Barbara Boxer – Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Inhofe – although, yesterday, Senator McConnell injected that it was Boxer and McConnell who came to the final agreement on that bill, and that is a – shall we say, that was progress. 

But we want more, and that's what we're here to do.  There was recognition that the country needs a strong infrastructure package.  You know, look no further that the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gives us a D, C minus, depending on the category of infrastructure they're addressing. 

It's an issue of commerce.  It's an issue of clean air.  It's an issue of quality of life for people, to have them out of their cars with more mass transit and the rest.  And it is also an issue of, just, again, growth in a way that is about safety as well as jobs, safety issues.  In Mr. McConnell's state alone, there are, like, a thousand bridges that are insecure.  And, well, I could go state by state on that.

In any event, it is – we look forward to working as much as possible in a bipartisan way.  And I salute the President, as I began my comments doing, for the goal that he has set, the tone in which he has conducted the discussion, the end – well, I won't say ‘endless,’ because I'm not there for them – the series of meetings he's having with Members of Congress in a bipartisan way.  And I think today he's meeting with the Republican Senators, some of the Republican Senators, once again.  So he's making every attempt, and I think it is bearing fruit.  We'll see.

Again, we're very proud of what happened when we passed the Rescue package, but in order for people to avail themselves of the benefits of it, they have to know.  Right now, we're in the course of a Child Tax Credit Week of Action, Week of Action.  Before, we had [a] Day of Action for one aspect of the bill or another.  This is a Week of Action, because it leads up to May 17th, which is the day that we're encouraging people to file their income tax forms even if they are below the level of having to file a tax return.  Because, in order to get the tax credit refundable, you need to file your tax return. 

So, I'm very, very proud of the work that's being done.  I've been involved in a series of those meetings, and many of the community groups who have the confidence – culturally, linguistically, in so many ways, with so many people in our community – are helping a great deal.  They're helping a great deal also in terms of vaccines in the arms, money in the pockets, children in school, as well as workers going back to work, to communicate with the community, members of the community who might have been previously underserved.

Then, as I say, we go on to the Jobs bill.  And I think that's pretty exciting. 

Just saying on the tax credit, since we're having Child Tax Credit Week of Action, it will benefit 27 million families, and it cuts child poverty in half.  It cuts child poverty in half.  And that's kind of remarkable. 

So, as we, again, Build Back Better, we think that it's important for us to have more women in the workforce – shall we say, that child care is very important to that, that we have workforce development so that people can be trained for these jobs as we build in a more futuristic, resilient way. 

And that's why this package has an integrity to it, a oneness that says if we're going to Build Back Better, if we're going to have many more people involved, both in the job creation and the equity that could come from contracts and the rest for women, veterans, people of color, rural areas and the rest, that we have to be more open to many more people being involved. 

And for that to happen, the transformative measure is child care, elder care, care for our people with disabilities.  So, in terms of child care – children learning, parents earning.  In terms of the others, people being able to go into the workforce with the comfort of knowing that their loved one is cared for.  And that goes with the respect that we would have for the workforce to get that done. 

So, I'm very excited about everything that the President is putting forth.  To me, it's like the promised land of so many good things.  But, of course, I want more.  But the President has modulated his proposal in a way that hopefully will be as bipartisan as possible, as green as possible and as soon as possible. 

The other subject I want to bring up today with you is what is on the Floor today.  We have this bill on the Floor that means a lot to me as a mother of five.  It's the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan step to ensure that women are no longer forced to choose between healthy pregnancies and their paychecks. 

Any family members in the room know that the blessing of a child coming into the family should not be jeopardized by any heavy lifting on the job.  But that's to put it simply.  I'm especially pleased that it's going to be strongly bipartisan.  And I'm excited about that, personally as well as officially.

I want to talk a little bit about some security issues that we're hoping to bring to the Floor next week.  One of them is the supplemental.  Rosa DeLauro, Chair of the Appropriations Committee, may be prepared to file that today.  It's in the works, and that would come up in Rules next week and to the Floor.  It's very essential that we get going with that.  In my view, it's overdue.  But, nonetheless, it is urgently needed now. 

It benefits from the report of General Honoré and a cadre of people, both from law enforcement and from national security, who made recommendations about how to secure the Capitol, how to strengthen the police force, how to have us return to a Capitol where visitors can come, children can experience our democracy, you all can cover it, our workers can safely do their jobs here, our custodial staff feels safe and that Members can serve. 

Sadly, yesterday, there was a hearing in the Committee on [Oversight and] Reform that was quite appalling.  It's no use my even telling you about it; you'll have to see it for yourself, because you would not believe that – a Republican Member on the committee said that what happened that day was just the normal, orderly visit of people to the Capitol. 

Really?  Really?  Well, I don't know on a normal day around here when people are threatening to hang the Vice President of the United States or shoot the Speaker in the forehead or disrupt, injure so many police officers.  I don't consider that normal.  Multiple people were killed.  Over 140 police officers were [injured].  A gallows was put up, and the attackers chanted, ‘Hang the Vice President.’  Normal?

Yet, in a hearing held yesterday, some House Republicans defended those actions, saying the rioters were orderly and acting similar to a normal tourist visit.  They basically – if you saw them, they said, ‘Well, they were just walking through between the velvet ropes that are there to direct tourists, the tourist path.’  You have to see it, because it was beyond denial.  It fell into the range of sick. 

And that's what we have to deal with when we are saying it's urgent for us to secure the Capitol.  ‘Why?  It was just a normal tourist day.’  We have to strengthen our police force.  ‘Why?  It was just a normal tourist day.’  And we have to establish a Commission for January 6th.  ‘Why?  It was just a normal tourist day.’ 

It's the same denial that they've acted upon in terms of our colleague, Congresswoman Liz Cheney.  The denial that they have there, the denial about what happened that day, the denial for the need for more security to make sure it doesn't happen again and the denial of reaching – finding the truth is what we have to deal with. 

And we will find the truth.  And we're hoping that we can do so in the most bipartisan way possible.  I think that that's essential, but I think it's also important to the American people to have confidence in the results of such an investigation. 

What else did we want to talk about here now? 

At the beginning of our meeting yesterday, the President talked about the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline.  As you know, then, last night – or was that this morning – he issued an Executive Order.  Very important, and something that hopefully we can codify when we get to a place where we would have the votes to do so, but for the time being, an Executive Order. 

Really, the first point of it: encouraging the private sector to share information with the government so that we know what the threats are in real time.  There are threats quite a bit.  And what happened the other day was not damaging the pipeline; it was a threat to the pipeline.  But the company decided to shut it down to make sure that they could proceed.  Now they have.  As of early this morning, they've decided to open it up again.  And according to the Secretary of Energy, things should be normal tomorrow or the next day or the next day, but certainly by the end of the weekend. 

We are going to – there was a briefing for Members last evening, as more information becomes available.  That was in our unclassified briefing.  But, essentially, most of what we know is in the public domain.

***

Any questions on any of those subjects? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, thank you.  On the meeting yesterday at the White House, can you tell us, did you hear anything surprising from the Republican leadership about the infrastructure plan?  Perhaps on how to pay for it?  Just anything surprising from them? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, your question is an interesting one, because my motto is ‘I'm never surprised.’  Around here?  No, I'm never surprised.  Almost, yesterday.  But I'm never surprised.  And not at the meeting, but at the Committee meeting. 

No, I think it was pretty regular.  You know, Mitch McConnell doesn't want to open up the tax scam of 2017.  Kevin was more conventional in terms of what you would – I mean, excuse me, Leader McCarthy was more conventional when you talk about, ‘What is infrastructure?’  I think it was pretty standard in that regard. 

As I say, the President was clear: he wants bipartisanship.  He wants as much as possible, soon, and closer in terms of the amount that we would be investing.  And it was polite, courteous, pleasant almost. 

Q:  Any new pay-fors that you heard anyone –

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  Well, the one thing that was brought up – and I mentioned this in a press event afterward, yesterday – was, so what other pay-fors are there?  That doesn't mean we were – the President has said nobody making under $400,000 a year is going to have his or her taxes raised.  And he's consistent with that. 

Some other sources of funding include the people who are not paying taxes.  Now, we all know, it is reported that 50 major corporations in our country paid no taxes last year – none, zero.  But they did that by the manipulation of the laws.  I mean, I'm not talking about them.  They’re  should pay more, and that's something that we have to talk about. 

But what the President was referencing was the people who are illegally avoiding taxes.  I'm not saying ethically or morally; I'm talking about illegally avoiding taxes.  And my understanding is, it's at least a trillion – it could be a trillion and a quarter or a trillion and a half dollars – of illegally unpaid taxes in the country. 

So, part of the answer is to beef up the IRS so they could take in those taxes.  And that's a big chunk.  That would go a long way. 

Separate from the meeting – we didn't go into it – but, as you know, the Chair of our Ways and Means Committee, Richie Neal, has some ideas about Build America Bonds and that – but we really didn't go into that. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, on security, clearly, yesterday in that Oversight Committee, there were several members of the Republican Conference who doubted what happened on January 6th or downplayed what happened on January 6th.  Then, in the evening, you had an interaction between Marjorie Taylor Greene –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q:  And Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, where MTG sort of went after her –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  And started berating her in the hallway.  I'm wondering just generally, is there a sense that your Members are safe here at the Capitol?  Do you have concerns about what January 6th has done to the relationships here on the Hill?  It feels like things are just more contentious.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I think that what you saw – it was reported to our office about what happened as Members were leaving the Floor yesterday, the verbal assault and, really, abuse of our colleague, Congresswoman AOC.  The – it's so beyond the pale of anything that is in keeping with bringing honor to the House – or not bringing dishonor to the House.  

It's so beyond the pale that you wonder, is this – it probably is a matter for the Ethics Committee.  But that's up to someone – I've always kept the Leadership offices separate from any motions to take anything to Ethics.  But as one who served on the Ethics Committee for seven years – six years is the maximum; they asked me to serve another year.  That's how I paid my dues to the Caucus.  This is beneath the dignity of a person serving in the Congress of the United States and is a cause for trauma and fear among Members, especially on the heels of an insurrection, which the Majority – excuse me, the Minority in the committee yesterday denied ever happened.  ‘It didn't happen.’

I don't know if you saw last night the body camera – I think CNN had the body camera video of Officer Fanone.  It is stunning.  If you haven't seen it, you have to see that, because it was such an abuse, battling a police officer.  Now, he's a Metropolitan Police officer.  I have met with him.  He's trying to meet with the Republican Leader.  I hope that that would happen.  But when these people were yesterday saying they were just friendly to the police and all that – sick.  That's just the only one word. 

So this is not behavior that is – I could give you chapter and verse of many other things that they have done, that being the most recent and very egregious and not in keeping with the behavior of a Member of Congress.  And their own Caucus, their own Caucus should exercise some – ‘discipline’ is not the word – respectable behavior standard for them.  But it could be that this would rise to the level of an Ethics complaint.

Q:  Madam Speaker, I had a followup –  

Q:  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me just see.  Yes? 

Q:  You talked about the pipeline earlier.  And –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, yeah.  Colonial.

Q:  Colonial.  And they paid the ransom.  We know there are issues larger than we thought with the D.C. police hack as well.  Obviously, President Biden put out his executive order last night, but should these firms – and it's a question of whether it's a private matter or a public matter because they serve so much of the public – should these firms be kowtowing to these terrorists to pay these ransoms, especially on the scale of what Colonial has done?  And what –

Speaker Pelosi.  What's the question?  Should these firms what?

Q:  Well, should they be paying these ransoms?

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Q:  Okay.  So did you disagree with them paying the ransom today, Colonial? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the point is that we don't want people to think that there's money in it for them to threaten the security of a critical infrastructure in our country.

Again, they made their decision.  But, really, because of the service to the public that this is, we've made drastic adjustments.  We waived the Jones Act so that ships carrying petroleum can come to certain ports in our country to keep the supply going.  That's a big deal. 

So, to the extent that we know, especially in advance, what might be happening – and, again, I think that we have to look to – this is, shall we say, Russian-oriented – we don't know Putin-oriented – but they don't even deny it.  You know, the perpetrators of this don't even deny it. 

So, we have a responsibility in three ways.  One, security.  That's the oath we take: protect and defend.  This is a security issue.  Two, economics.  This is an economic issue, the dependence on energy.  As we know, people – personally, but business-wise – depend on that.  And, three, a governance issue.  A governance issue.  This cannot be open season for hackers who can make money off of a threat, even if they don't go as far as crippling the entity.  As with Colonial, they did not. 

So, it is – it has to be subject to review.  I don't know what the conversations were with the management of Colonial.  But I do think that there is a governance role in how we protect our people and our economy from these hackers. 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  The President has been criticized, including by Democrats, for not doing enough to deescalate the violence in the Middle East.  There was a readout of his call yesterday with Prime Minister Netanyahu in which he said Israel has a right to defend itself.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  So there was no mention, it seems, at least, of the Palestinians nor any apparent criticism of what many see as a disproportionate response by Israel.  I wonder what your reaction is to that.  And should, could the President and the U.S. be doing more?

Speaker Pelosi.  I think the President took the appropriate, proportionate response to it all.  The fact is that we have a very close relationship with Israel, and Israel's security is a national security issue for us, as our friend, a democratic country in the region.  That the President has restored the money to the Palestinians, $200 million, early in his Administration – so there is a respect for meeting the needs of the Palestinians.

But there is a Palestinian power struggle, and that is about Hamas.  So I wouldn't just label it ‘Palestinian;’ I would say ‘Hamas.’  And Hamas is threatening the security of people in Israel.  Israel has a right to defend itself. 

Many of our Members in our Caucus are great friends of Israel but understand, also, that we respect the self-determination, that we want a two-state solution in the region.  But that doesn't give license to Hamas to bomb Israel.

Q:  Madam Speaker, on immigration, please? 

Speaker Pelosi.  On immigration. 

Q:  Thank you.  In the latest Border Patrol report, it shows a deterioration in the border situation, lower interdictions.  Do you think Vice President Harris is in the best position to exert her presence there to fix this? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.  First of all, let me just correct the record here.  I don't know what aspect of the border you're talking about, but the record – the figures that came out in April showed that there was an 80 percent decrease of the number of children under the auspices of the Border Patrol – 6,000 something to 1,000 something.  They had been moved out more expeditiously than before, because the Biden-Harris Administration had reconstructed how we deal with the situation at the border. 

As I have said on the border, three R's – three R's.  What are the roots of this immigration?  And that's where the Vice President has been tasked to, I don't know about visit physically, but communicate directly with the governments of the Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  I think she is very well-suited to do that.  Roots. 

The second ‘R,’ reconstruct.  You had to deconstruct the horrible situation that the Trump Administration had created at the border, deconstruct it so you can you reconstruct a better system.  And they have. 

And the third is our friends, the refugees.  As I've said to you all before – you've heard it, you can repeat it, I'm sure, because you've heard me say it over and over again that, when we had a hearing on this subject, the Evangelicals said the U.S. – the United States Refugee Resettlement Program is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.  This is something, now, I'm pleased that the President has raised the number of people who can come into our country.  Every country has a moral responsibility to help those in fear of persecution or danger in their home country. 

So, I think – now, that did come up in our meeting yesterday, because I was mentioning that when I took a group right before COVID, say, about fifteen, I don't know, a year and a half ago, about, to the Northern Triangle, to the countries I mentioned – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – recognizing from previous visits to the border over and over again that violence, economic hardship – but that's not a cause for amnesty, but, nonetheless, a reason why somebody might leave home – violence and corruption and all those things were what were causing people to flee. 

But what I learned in that more recent visit was that the climate issue and the drought was having such an impact on the agricultural industry there that people lost their livelihoods.  They lost their jobs.  They lost their ability to farm.  And not only were they losing their ability to produce food, they were hungry themselves.  So, Madam Vice President said that she has engaged the Secretary of Agriculture to be part of that. 

So, it's secretary – Vice President – I'm so proud of her – Vice President Harris, but with the resources of the Biden-Harris Administration.  Get to the root cause of it; reconstruct the system that was there so that it works better; and, third, understand our responsibility to refugees – the three R's. 

I will say, in that conversation, the President was totally knowledgeable, chapter and verse, very concerned, and something, I think, that he deals with every day. 

Go ahead.

Q:  I just wanted to ask you, on the supplemental –

Staff.  Last question. 

Q:  Whether you believe there's agreement with Republicans on it.  And, secondly, on the January 6th commission, whether you believe there's any – whether you plan to put it on the Floor next week and whether you believe there's any movement into negotiations. 

Speaker Pelosi.  On the latter – I'll start with the latter – I'm optimistic.  We have come closer in terms of the – on a negotiation about a commission.  And if you look at 9/11 and the rest, what you want to do is, who makes that up?  What is the makeup of the commission?  Okay.  They wanted it half and half.  Now, mind you, most commissions that we've formed since then have enabled the President to have appointments.  But, nevertheless, we've come to a place, five and five.  The ‘who.’ 

The ‘how:’ the subpoena power.  They had a concern about subpoena power.  Okay.  We've conceded on that point.  But we cannot concede on the scope.  And that was sort of the last stumbling block.  Because there was an interest – and Liz Cheney addressed that in her remarks, I think this morning or last night, but it was reported this morning, about those in her own party who do not want to keep this focused on January 6th.  And they kept talking about, ‘Well, what about what happened last summer, you know, Black Lives Matter, responses to George Floyd murder, for some reason Antifa?’ – which has nothing to do with any of it. 

So, we're not going down that path.  If they want to use 9/11 as their gold standard, then we can't go down that path.  9/11 was about 9/11.  And I really thank you for the question and hope that you will help spread the word that this is a 9/11-type commission. 

I also add, as one who was the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee at the time, that, at the time, we did have a Congressional investigation.  Much of it preceded the 9/11 Commission.  And so I'm glad that our Committees are having their regular order, those with the jurisdiction in terms of the security issue.  But I also believe that, as with the 9/11 Commission, that whatever information they may produce or law enforcement may produce, as the 9/11 Commission clearly spelled out, could be a resource to the Commission. 

So, do I believe?  Yeah, I believe – let me put it a different way.  I am hopeful, addressing the concerns they put out there, but consistent with the purpose that we should be able to have something pretty soon in that regard. 

If we don't, we can always do a Congressional investigation, with full subpoena power in the hands of the Majority and the majority of Members on the Committee, so the vote would be – for a subpoena or whatever.

Q:  Right.

Speaker Pelosi.  Now, let's hope that we don't have to go that route.  As I said earlier, it's important for us to have it be as bipartisan as possible so the public has the most confidence in the results of it. 

What you should be on the lookout for, though – say we have something soon.  Immediately, you have to appoint the Commissioners.  There is a criteria for that, that they can't be Members of Congress or [hold] elective office.  They have to be recognized figures in terms of national security, law, civil liberties.  There's a criteria, as there was in the 9/11 Commission.  And who they would appoint would be, really, a sign of their seriousness of the security of our country and seeking the truth. 

On the – no, I’m not – I think yesterday was a step forward in terms of the infrastructure.  Again, it –

Q:  No, I was talking about the supplemental.  The supplemental.

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, I'm sorry.  I thought you were talking about that. 

On the supplemental, one of the concerns I have from the other side of the aisle the other day was a letter that I got from Leader McCarthy said, ‘Why don't we just do the supplemental at the end of the year?’  End of the year?  A year from the insurrection.  The end of the year.  We can't.  No, we can't do that. 

So we will go forward with what was recommended.  This is very focused, very – security, both in terms of physical structure and strengthening the police force and the rest, based on what we heard from General Honoré and, as I said before, the national security and law enforcement experts that were on his team, as well as what we've heard from the Inspectors General in some of the hearings. 

So, this is very – now, there are those who want to put this, that and the other thing on there.  And we think it just has to be focused on its purpose, which is January 6th. 

I'm sorry, I thought you were talking about the other thing.

Q:  No, that's okay.  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.

[Cross talk]

Q:  Just about the U.S. archbishops and the Bishops Conference, are – doesn't want to give any money – or doesn't want to give – allow you to receive communion.  Your –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, they don't. 

Q:  Reaction to that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I think I can use my own judgment on that.  But I'm pleased with what the Vatican put out on that subject.  Did you read that?

Q:  It will be up to the individual priests? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  It basically said, ‘Don't be divisive on the subject.’

Thank you. 

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  Are you ready for the cicadas?

Speaker Pelosi.  Hey.  So, I'll be up all night watching the Warriors until 12-something and then the Lakers and the Knicks until 1-something, going into overtime.  Why don't they play these games earlier?

Q:  You know, the Broncos and 49ers play each other this year.  That's on the schedule. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, yeah.  There we go. 

Q:  Are you ready for the cicadas? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Excuse me?

Q:  Are you ready for the cicadas? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Apparently not. 

[Laughter]

Q:  Get ready.  

Speaker Pelosi.  But I'm hoping to go to one of the games this weekend when I go home.  I told my father – my brother – excuse me – I told my husband that we had a nice Father's Day, a month early, in store for him.  We'll see if we can get tickets. 

Anyway, thank you all.