Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

May 14, 2020
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 afternoon, everyone. 

Thank you for being here.  Here we are in kind of a new arena, so thank you. 

I hope you're all – now when I call my colleagues, I say, how are you?  That used to be sort of a turn of phrase, and now it is a question: How are you?  If you're well, come here for Friday.  If you're not, stay home.  Thanks for not sharing. 

This is really quite an exciting time for us because we have a monumental need for our country at this sad time.  You know the figures.  You know the 85,000 people tragically dead.  Nearly 1.4 million people infected.  More than 36 million people have lost their jobs and filing for unemployment. 

Yesterday, the Chairman of the Fed, Chairman Powell, estimated – he stated the need for Congress to act immediately and pass further economic relief.  In his words, he said: Additional relief – additional fiscal support should be – could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid long term economic damage and leaves us with stronger – leaves us with a stronger recovery.  That's our hope.  This tradeoff is one for our elected representatives who wield powers of taxation and spending.  Chairman Powell of the Federal Reserve Bank. 

Also, representatives calling for urgent action are the representatives of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank.  And this morning, as you probably have seen, Dr. Rick Bright testified at the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee warning that next winter will be the ‘darkest winter in modern history’ unless we do more to fight the coronavirus. 

So, the challenge is a clear one, and we are very proud of The Heroes Act, which addresses the urgent needs of – and the actions we want to take to meet those needs.  The House will vote on The Heroes Act tomorrow. 

And it has three pillars.  The first pillar is to, again, open the economy, open the economy by science, which calls – and health experts who call for testing, tracing, treatment and isolation.  Do that.  And in the package put together by largely the Energy and Commerce Committee with the, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman Frank Pallone, assistance to hospitals, all that goes into that.  It has a strategic plan, a strategic plan for testing, tracing, treating and isolating.  It's what this country needs to defeat the COVID-19 virus.

Secondly, honor our heroes.  That's the title of our bill: The Heroes Act.  The health care workers, the first responders, police, fire, emergency services, sanitation, food workers, our teachers, transportation workers and the rest.  The list goes on.  Many of them risk their lives to save lives, and now they may lose their jobs because of the coronavirus and the cost that it is to their communities. 

Third – no, first, open the economy.  Test, test, test. 

Two.  Two, we want to honor our heroes by helping state and local entities. 

And, three, we want to put money in the pockets of the American people.  We're doing that with direct payments to American families with Unemployment Insurance, with child tax credit, low income tax credit, employment retention tax credit, a number of different ways.  And until it is necessary – not necessary anymore, this is the path that we have to be on. 

All of the things that I have just mentioned have their origin, their provenance, they have been voted upon by the Congress in one or the other of the four coronavirus pieces of legislation.  So, there's nothing really new in what I had to say.  The size and the strategy of it more emphasized, but not anything that we haven't voted on before. 

In addition to that, we want to help the Postal Service.  We want to have a strong OSHA provision to protect our workers and to protect our employers, and we want to have more money for our election vote by mail initiatives.  And one other piece that is sort of old and new again is the assistance that we want to have for our renters and for the homeowners who are seriously finding themselves at the mercy of forbearance for mortgages.  So, that's essentially what the bill is in that way. 

And let me just characterize it for you because people said, ‘Oh, it's just partisan.’  Wait a minute.  The first CARES Act was written by the Senate Republicans, the Majority Leader of the Senate.  He introduced the bill.  We acted upon it.  We came up with a bipartisan bill: the CARES Act. 

The second – the interim bill for PPP was written by the Senate Republican Leader.  He introduced it.  We had suggestions, we negotiated, we acted upon it, and we had a bipartisan bill.  So, it's no different when the Leader in the House, a Democrat, writes a bill and says:  Here is – many of the issues, more than 80 percent of the bill we have already passed in one way, shape or form.  We have a few more things, more than 80 – well over 80 percent. 

So now, we're putting our offer on the table.  We're open to negotiation.  And so, when people say partisan, it's, like, wait a minute.  It wasn't partisan when they did it.  Did you say that? 

And we're saying: Okay.  Here is our offer.  Let's see where you are.  You have supported supporting our heroes with state and local support before.  You have supported testing in the first, very first bill we passed on May – on March 4th and the very most recent bill that we passed with $25 billion in testing, as you later agreed to.  You have supported direct payments to the American people and support for Unemployment Insurance, et cetera.  So these are no – these are just taking us further down the path of most of that legislation. 

In case you're curious, I want to just say that I sent this letter to my colleagues, actually just now, and in the letter I thank all of them, Democrats and Republicans alike, for their interest and leadership in helping meet the needs of the American people.  I tell them about Chairman Powell's statement, about the urgency of acting and our elected Representatives' role – thank you – that they must play at this time in order to avoid further economic downturn. 

And I also say to them that this is not new, that one side of the aisle might offer, put something on the table – as they did in the two previous bills, and now we're putting ours and invite negotiation.  What I just also tell them is that they can, in preparation for the vote on the Floor, I want to encourage them to consult the resources on The Heroes Act prepared by the committee of jurisdiction, including state-by-state estimates, estimations of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and the resources on relief provisions for your district and state prepared by the Appropriations Committee.  Do we have a site? 

Staff.  Speaker.gov.

Speaker Pelosi.  I urge you to support this life-saving legislation and to be present on Friday. 

If you go to speaker.gov, to our friends who may be watching, if you go to speaker.gov, or to our friends who are in this room, you can see this letter.  And, also, it will cite a place that you can go and say, what congressional district – who your Representative is or what district you live in, certainly what state you live in, and see how your community is directly affected. 

We have two tranches.  The first tranche, in no particular order, the recognition of the role that the states play in honoring our heroes, and that will be what goes to the state.  And then, in terms of county and municipalities, it is also visible there.  I think you'll be very pleased.

I also think it is important to note that the enthusiasm that we have received for the legislation.  The National Association of Counties, for the first time, they are discretely mentioned to get specific resources.  The National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors.  The list is a long one, very long.  If you ask, I'll tell you who's on here, but it's a very long list of organizations.  The National Governors [Association], Governor of Maryland and New York put out a statement supporting this part of the bill, the honoring our heroes, state and local, part of the legislation.  So, we're very pleased about how that is all going. 

So, here we are, a day before.  A lot is going on, but for us, we have, this is our focus.  Now, as I said, the four previous bills were all overwhelmingly bipartisan, and we hope that this one will be too.  Sadly, though, Leader McConnell said, ‘We have not yet felt the urgency of acting immediately.’  That could – ‘That time could develop,’ he said, ‘but I don't think it has yet.’ 

He wants us to just ‘pause.’  He wants us to just pause.  But families know that hunger doesn't take a pause, not having a job doesn't take a pause, not being able to pay the rent doesn't take a pause.  The hardship of it all, losing a loved one or having someone in your family sick, it just doesn't take a pause. 

So, Members of the Congress, the House and Senate, need to come together.  We have to come together to pass another bill, The Heroes Act, and deliver the relief that our families desperately need.  And so, you know, the American people know, as I always say of them, the American people have hearts full of love.  They want us to work together.  We're all heartbroken over the loss of life.  The numbers of loss of life, infection, losing jobs, et cetera, are unimaginable.  But they must – they exist, and we must act upon them.  And so we want you to go look to speaker.gov to see how you can find out how you are affected directly in your district because all of these people, these heroes, they affect how your city, county, township, state, meet the needs of the American people. 

And as I say, it's to address – I'll just close by saying that the funding is to address the outlays that community – that political entities have made to address the coronavirus crisis, and those are large, larger in some communities than others, but all communities have a high percentage of revenue lost because of the coronavirus crisis.  And that's part of the distribution of these funds as well. 

 

I'll go into this very prayerfully, having listened to so many people across the country express their concerns and to make a best effort to come together based on what we have done before in a bipartisan way but to go further because the coronavirus has gone farther. 

***

With that, I'm pleased to answer any questions.  Wait a minute.  Natalie Andrews of the Wall Street Journal. 

I'll come to you next. 

Q: Madam Speaker, thank you for doing this. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Natalie. 

Q: What is your next step after the House – should the House pass the bill tomorrow?  The White House has said it doesn't plan to open talks.  Will you do more in terms of legislation?  Are there any preliminary discussions happening? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I think that our conversation is with the American people.  They're feeling the pain more than anyone, obviously, who is saying something like that.  It's amazing to me how much patience and how much tolerance some can have for the pain of others.  And I do think, and I have confidence that our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol, and even down Pennsylvania Avenue know, as Chairman Powell says, to avoid even further economic disaster and what the scientists tell us, unless we test, trace and treat, as well as isolate, that we're not going to defeat this.  That they know the hardship the American people are feeling, that they need that cash that we're sending out for the time, and, hopefully, that will diminish as the crisis diminishes.  So, I'm optimistic that the American people will weigh in and make their views known.  And, again, we want to do this working together, predicated on initiatives that have passed in a bipartisan way before. 

And so, our next step is to pass the bill.  We'll get through that tomorrow.  Tomorrow, we'll also be doing something to enable fuller participation in our legislative process by the first vote.  The first issue to be voted upon is the remote voting by proxy.  We won't use the proxy vote tomorrow for this bill, that is my understanding, but that will enable us to take up more legislation, some on the horizon soon that we can do, not having everybody present and voting in the chamber, but voting on the record. 

And so, we'll pass our bill tomorrow, and then we'll – again, with all the appeal that we have from Democrats and Republicans, governors, mayors, county executives and the rest, grassroots organizations who minister to the needs of the hungry.  I didn't mention, but really, one of our – hopefully, it won't be an area of controversy, but food stamps, the SNAP program is something that we have done before in bills, rejected in other bills, very needed now.  So, all of that public sentiment we think will weigh in favor of a decision to do more to meet the needs of the American people. 

Garrett?

Q: Madam Speaker, given the history that you laid out and the fact that it was Republicans pitching in ideas and participating in this process on the other relief bills, what do you make of the fact that there is no Republican counteroffer, no unified position on their end of any kind other than liability protection and not this? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I'm sure that they'll come with something, or they'll have a comment on what we have done.  I have confidence that they will.  When they put forth – we were always quick to respond because we're ready.  We're always ready.  First, we had the Families First, Families and Workers First, and then the Responsibility Act because we are always listening and trying to act upon, in the most unifying way, the needs of the American people. 

So, when they did the second – we never expected a second interim, that interim package because we would have been here with you a long time ago with the CARES 2 or The Heroes Act because that's what we were working on then.  Then came the interim package.  They put forth theirs.  The very next day, we had our proposal about how we could do the PPP, which we fully support, but to do it in a way that has more transparency, more accountability, and addresses the underbanked communities, smaller, smaller businesses of women-owned, Native American, veterans, minority-owned, rural businesses that are smaller, but not having the same access to the banks. 

In this bill, we don't do funding for PPP per se, but we do have some, I would say, improvements, lowering the number of – taking down to ten the number that we would address companies with lower than – fewer than ten people and expanding the access of nonprofits to the program with unlimited number of employees.  That was a big ask for many of the non-profits, who work to meet the needs of the American people, yeah. 

So we're excited about it because we think we have a great basis that is common ground from the past, and then we have a few issues that we haven't agreed on in the past but seem to be more urgent now like SNAP, like OSHA, in terms of, you mentioned liability, in terms of the protection for workers and employers.  We think the best route there is to have a strong OSHA provisions that are mandatory. 

Okay.  Now where are we going to?  Lindsey McPherson?  Roll Call?  Lindsey? 

Q: Madam Speaker, my question — some of your — Democrats — stabilizers put in —

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I heard the word ‘stabilizer.’

Q: She was asking about the concerns from the progressives, about the stuff –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah –

Q: That was not included. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we're okay with that.  But in terms of the stabilizers, and that wasn't just the progressives; that's across the board in our Caucus, including in the Speaker's office.  I'm a big supporter of having stabilizers in the bill. 

For those of you, a stabilizer would be something where you might have in the bill something that says, if, by January, the unemployment rate is seven percent or higher, we would automatically have 26 weeks of unemployment checks, which is something that is really standard fare.  But say you put that in the bill.  I thought that would be a very wise thing to do.  Same thing with FMAP.  Same thing with SNAP and the rest.  However, what I know, many years an appropriator and in leadership, do not realize because we have never spoken in these big terms before, is that if you have a stabilizer in it that something will happen next January and then you'll have $400 billion, $500 billion worth of unemployment checks going out, it counts in the bill today.  It counts in the bill today.  Why would it?  It doesn't happen, and it might not ever happen.  God willing, we won't have that high unemployment rate, but we might.  But the CBO, if you say, people are still hungry by such and such, we want to double SNAP after the first of the year, they count it today. 

Now, SNAP is a much smaller program.  So, maybe you can absorb it; maybe not.  But $400 billion or $500 billion, you can't.  So, we were disappointed.  So we want to look and see what our legislative, constitutional and other prerogatives might be to give us more latitude to prepare, even though not spend in the moment, but not have it count in the moment, but I was, I myself, was disappointed to learn that we just couldn't go to that place. 

But we want – I wanted to put hortatory language to say let us declare that we are prepared, should certain things, and they said that's a stabilizer.  So, we couldn't do that, but I do think that everybody should know that the actions taken by Congress are predicated on the needs of the American people.  And should there be reason later to do that, we will be there, and we want to herald that and give that signal.  But I do think it's more efficient to have the stabilizers, the CBO notwithstanding. 

Okay.  From the room.  Yes, ma'am. 

Q: Speaker Pelosi, are you still in active talks with Secretary Mnuchin?  Have you guys spoken since you proposed this Heroes Act? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, we haven't.  My back and forth with Secretary Mnuchin has been – we have been interested in an accounting of the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program.  We had some concerns about transparency, accountability, some loans that went out that may not have been appropriate.  We want to see how proactive they have, the ‘they,’ the banks, the Administration, the rest have been to make sure that the underbanked community has outreach to it so they can participate.  So our back and forth is more on those kinds of figures. 

There are 26,000 loans that went to people making $2 million or above.  I mean – excuse me.  I said it wrong:  26,000 loans of $2 million or above that went out.  Are all of those really appropriate, I would say, because, in order to get a loan, people should know that the criteria, one of the standards for it is that you have to certify, assert, certify that the funds that you're asking for are essential to the sustainability of your company.  It could be for half.  You could ask for half of what would be – but it can't be, ‘I'm a small business.  I know my banker.  I'll get a loan.’ 

No.  That's not what it's about.  And if it was not in – of good spirit in terms of what the purpose was of it, you shouldn't really be asking for that loan.  And, if those loans were made oblivious to the requirement that it be essential to the sustainability of your company, then that's something that really should be reviewed and perhaps returned. 

Where are we now?  We've had all of our – okay.  From the room.  Yes, ma'am.

Q: Are you worried that the rule change tomorrow will amount to a permanent change to the institution? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.

Q: And once it happens, when do you plan to bring the full House back? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we'll have the full House back tomorrow, and that's – you have to have the representation of the body, a quorum of the body, in order to change the rules.  You know, we couldn't just say, ‘We've changed the rules.  Now come back, and we're doing this.‘

I don't see it as that at all.  I see it as the wonderful, entrepreneurial dynamic of the House for us to say in a circumstance that was totally unforeseen, unlike anything we've ever seen before, that is not only an economic disaster but has personal risk, that we would have the opportunity to have remote voting by proxy.  And that is for the duration – I think it's 45 days.  It has a term limit.  I can renew that, the Speaker, but it's finite for this purpose. 

And we also say in there let's pursue and find out what other options there could be to remote voting.  Right now, we don't see any that have the viability, but science is moving all the time.  I'm a big believer in technology, and perhaps there will be something, but we're just talking about this timeframe. 

There have been other changes after 9/11.  It took three years for them to come to an agreement on where we would go if some of the Members of Congress were incapacitated by such an event, you know.  God forbid, but incapacitated, not killed.  Killed, you reduced your quorum, but incapacitated, that you just can't be there.  And so they took a long time and negotiated what would happen and how you established a quorum so that Congress can continue in light of the fact that these Members are alive but not necessarily well or able to be in the chamber at the time.  So, these things take a while. 

This, I think, we're moving, we had bipartisan talks for a while.  There have been some, again, everybody expressing opinions for a long while.  Mr. Hoyer, Mr. McGovern, Ms. Lofgren, Chair of House Admin, Chair of Rules, Democratic Leader of the House with the Republican Leader of the House and the corresponding chairs, Mr. Cole and Mr. Randy Davis.  Yeah.  They had their meetings on a regular basis, and tomorrow, we are striving for bipartisanship.  We've picked up some of the suggestions that they have, but tomorrow we'll have that vote.  But it is in keeping with the vitality of the House that we are doing this, not in opposition to the traditions of the House. 

Q: Is your expectation that you will use that full 45 days? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, God willing, this will go away.  I mean, you know, it could be that – we don't know.  We, we just don't know.  The District of Columbia has just pushed back their shelter in place.  I mean, I would hope that it wouldn't be any longer than that, but we just have to judge at the time.  And when I say ‘we,’ I don't mean me.  I mean the Capitol Physician, the Sergeant-at-Arms, those who make a judgment about when we could lift such a – and I think part of it is has, I know that part of it has a standard that when the Physician of the House, the Capitol Physician – he's not of the House; he's of the whole Capitol – declares such a situation to be in effect, that this would be in effect.  Hopefully it's – the shorter, the better.

Yes, sir. 

Q: Thank you.  Tuesday night, your side lost a special election.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q: How do you feel that fits in with broader politics right now?  Was it just a case of a personality contest as opposed to health care and the kitchen table agenda of 2018? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  I don't see it that way at all, and I think most observers of the scene have just said ‘None of the elections now because of the unusual circumstances.’  We intend to win that seat in November, and we don't see it as any referendum on anything other than it's the first time we had vote by mail in the district, almost exclusively.  Never exclusively because you have to accommodate certain people, but overwhelmingly.  No.  I wish we had won, but we're not, we weren't touting that as something that we – we're looking to November. 

Yes, ma'am.

Staff.  Last question. 

Speaker Pelosi.  I think that's it.  One last question.  So many women today.  Well, some men, yeah. 

Q: Thank you very much.  I know you have some thoughts about China.  Where do you stand?  Do you believe China should be held accountable for its initial mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me just say that what the President is saying about China is interesting.  It's an interesting diversion.  Right now, our focus should be on meeting the needs of the American people.  I've even said putting aside how we got here in our own country because we should be using our energy on how we go forward than making judgments about what his Administration did or didn't do.  We're talking about going forward.  There will plenty of time for after-action review.  And, apart from what we do, there will be scientists and others who will be tracing, rightfully – not only rightfully so; it's urgent and needed for them to trace the origins of such a pandemic scientifically, but not politically. 

And, again, let's keep our focus on meeting the needs of the American people, opening our economy, testing.  It's so clear, with the health experts and the scientists, we want to get rid of the virus.  That's how we can go out.  That's what we go to work and not be fearful that we're going to come home and bring something dangerous to our children.  And so, instead of diverting attention from mistakes that may have been made here, let's just put that all aside and go forward for what we can do working together for the good of the American people. 

Stay safe.  Wash your hands.  Wear your mask.  Thank you all very much.  Don't forget to go to speaker.gov to see where you live, how much money goes there, what state you live in, more generally, and more congressional district. 

Thank you all.