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, everyone.
Thank you for being here, a very sad time as we observe over 100,000 people in our country dying of the coronavirus. So sad. We'll always carry them in our hearts, that big number of people. It is a scar on our nation that we could not save them. It is sad for their families, and they are in our thoughts and prayers.
On top of that, 1.7 million have been diagnosed. 1.7 million people have been diagnosed. There has to be a stop to this. The answer is testing. We have in our Heroes Act a plan for testing: testing to open up our economy, testing to open up our schools, testing to heal. But in order to heal, we have to know the gravity of the problem.
You know, we talk a great deal about a vaccine and a cure, and, God-willing, we pray that that will be soon. But we don't have it yet, and we do have testing. And you notice in countries that have controlled the spread and the deaths from the virus, they don't have a vaccine. They don't have a cure. But they have common sense. They have used testing, tracing, treatment and separation – isolation where necessary. And that's exactly what we should have been doing all along.
On March 4th, the House passed a bill, its first bill on the coronavirus. We wrote it in February, brought it to the Floor March 4th. It was about testing, testing, testing. Throughout all of our legislation, which has all been bipartisan thus far, it's been about some testing or the masking and the things that we need to prevent the spread of the virus.
The CARES Act, we put forth resources. In the interim bill, the interim bill on PPP, we put forth a major $100 billion for health, for testing and for hospitals. And now in The Heroes – and still, we have not had from the Executive branch the appropriate determination and strategy to test. People are dying: 100,000, over 100,000. People are sick. There's a horrible impact in the communities of color in our country. So many of the deaths, at least one third, are our seniors in nursing homes and the rest. And, yet, we can't seem to get the Executive branch, the President of the United States, to make the decision to show the example of what we can do to stop this.
Yesterday, we came here, many of you were with us, with representatives of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, the CAPAC, the Congressional [Asian Pacific American Caucus], the Native American – one of the first Native American women ever to serve in Congress, Deb Haaland, with our distinguished Whip, Mr. Clyburn, and Mr. Pallone, the Chair of Energy and Commerce Committee.
Mr. Pallone talked about what's in the bill, The Heroes Act, the Energy and Commerce piece, which is about a robust and rapid testing initiative, a strategy; a strategy with a timetable, benchmarks, milestones and the resources necessary to get the job done, and the job is to save lives.
And those who were gathered here yesterday were pointing out how affected communities of color are by this, but there's not adequate testing there. We've got to get a handle on the challenge that we face. And we can only do that if we test, if we trace and, then, if we treat, we can reduce the number of deaths and, of course, the isolation that goes with it and wearing masks and following common sense and good guidance.
So this – I'm here today to say to you 100,000 people. How many more of those – how many of those could have been saved? We have example after example after example. The plural of anecdote, we always say in appropriations, is not data, but the fact is it is illustrative of the fact that people are dying who don't have to die. And the data is what we want them to collect. And that's part of the plan too, to collect the data so that we know the impact so we can save the lives, so that we can kill and defeat this virus.
As our hearts are broken over over 100,000 deaths, we're also very sad about what happened in the case in Minnesota. Mr. Floyd’s – to watch Mr. Floyd be murdered in a video, at a time when we're all so sad to begin with. It's always tragic. It has always been tragic. But there we saw it on TV, him being murdered on TV.
So, our Congressional Black Caucus is working with the Judiciary Committee. There's correspondence that will be going to the Judiciary Committee. That's their information to share. We have a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys that Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has been pushing for a while now. So there are all kinds of expressions of concern, but not just expressions of concern, plans to take action so that this stops, so that this stops.
So, again, I spent my time talking to you about testing because it is – what's in The Heroes Act, I'll be specific: strengthening its testing and contact tracing by requiring an updated testing plan with clear benchmarks and timelines – I mentioned that – providing $75 billion in grants to support testing, tracing and isolation, with special focus on addressing disparities. And that money will be distributed to the states, and we want the tracing to be done by those who are culturally compatible with the communities in which they are collecting data and tracing, and require, again, culturally and linguistically appropriate strategies for increasing access.
With all of this, with all these deaths, the need for us to pass so that, as law, more specific prescribed direction to the Administration, who should have done this on their own. Mitch McConnell says: ‘No, we need a pause.’ We need a pause? Tell that to the virus. Is the virus taking a pause? Is hunger in America taking a pause?
Do you see that the children in America have food insecurity to such an extent, even though we have passed legislation to provide more food for children who are not in school because that's where they get their main meals. But we have to be more effective in how that is distributed and we need more resources, and that's in The Heroes Act as well.
The Heroes Act is an answer. It has a strategy. It has three main pillars. Honor our heroes: our health care workers, our public safety, police, fire, emergency services, food suppliers, sanitation, transportation, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers. They risk their lives, many of them, to save lives and now they may lose their jobs, and that's why we have to support state and local government.
Secondly: testing, testing, testing. You want to open up the schools? You want to open up the economy? You want to keep people healthy? There's an answer, and it works: testing, tracing, treatment, isolation. Make a decision, Mr. President, to do just that. Take responsibility.
And, third, put money in the pockets of the American people. All three of these we've done in a bipartisan way, already, and we need to do more. We cannot take a pause. And, again, there are many things within there in terms of having safety in the workplace with OSHA, having support of our Post Office, where over one billion – last year a billion packages of medicine were sent through the mail. It's a health issue. Ninety percent of our veterans' medicine comes to them through the mail. It's a health issue.
Vote-by-mail, it's a health issue. It's always been the health of our democracy, and now it's a personal health issue as well. And food security. What is their response when they have turned down our request for more funding for food stamps, for SNAP, for emergency food services, for WIC – women, infant and children – for all of those initiatives? How cruel can you be to say, at a time of this economic uncertainty, that we are not going to provide more funding for food?
Fortunately, there are people around the country, in a bipartisan way, who are acting upon all of these initiatives. They're causing a drumbeat across America, an echo chamber of America to say: We can't wait. We need to get the job done. So we are on that.
Now, I'm going to talk to you about the – well, what happened yesterday on the Floor that I'm very happy about, the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act in a very bipartisan way, overwhelmingly we voted on legislation. Senator Rubio has been a leader on this. In the House, Chris Smith, Mike McCaul brought the bill to the Floor with Eliot Engel, our Chairman of Armed Services – excuse me, Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. Sherman and Mr. Suozzi and others. Jim McGovern, of course, has been our champion on human rights in China and every place else in the world. So, we're very pleased of that.
And now as we approach the 31st anniversary of Tiananmen Square, more focus on human rights in China, Tibet, Hong Kong, all of China, including in Beijing and of course with the Uyghurs. The statement that was made by the Secretary of State about – under the law that we passed last fall, which was a strengthening of the Hong Kong Democracy Act, the Secretary of State had to certify that China was honoring the basic law, the terms of the relationship of ‘one country, two systems.’ The Secretary has stated that he cannot certify that that is the case. And so, we want everyone to oppose this law that the Chinese are putting forth to take away that autonomy from Hong Kong.
So much going on. So much going on. Again, today on the Floor, we are not going to be taking up the bill that was sent over by the Senate, the FISA bill.
Yesterday, in the morning, the Republican of the committee of jurisdiction, one of the committees of jurisdiction, Judiciary, Mr. Jordan, testified in favor of the bill. Sometime after that, the President said he would veto the bill, so all of the Republicans then abandoned their commitment to security and said that they were going to vote against the bill.
This has always been bipartisan. Mr. Jordan said in the committee yesterday, ‘I would like to thank Senators Lee and Leahy for their amendment to the House-passed bill, which strengthens the amicus role in these proceedings by extending them to any sensitive investigative matter involving U.S. persons.’ This was in his testimony in support of the bill yesterday, until the President spoke, and then, all of a sudden, the commitment to national security disappeared by a tweet, twinkle of a tweet, as they say, disappeared.
So, this has always been bipartisan, and I don't have any intention of departing from the fact that, on FISA bills, we are always going to have to go in a bipartisan way. And if the Republicans were abandoning their commitment to that because of the President, that means we could not override his veto. So we didn't want to subject everyone to something that was not consistent with what we did just about two and a half months ago when we passed a bipartisan bill. Two-thirds of the Democrats, two-thirds of the Republicans voted for the legislation, overwhelmingly veto-proof, sent it to the Senate.
The Senate sent back a bill with 80 Republicans – 80, excuse me, Senators voting for it,  Republicans.  Republicans voted for that strengthened FISA bill, strengthening the protections for American people in it. And then the President said he would veto it.
But it's no surprise because the Administration, especially those in the Justice Department, really don't want any bill that provides protections for the American people. They want to have all of the leeway in the world to do what they do. It's most unfortunate.
But we will, hopefully, go to conference so that we can represent and debate all of the views in our Caucus and their Caucuses, the Republican Caucuses, Democratic Caucuses to come up with a bipartisan legislation because I do believe we need a bill in order to protect our security and our liberty. Security and liberty, always the balance that we have. But with all the technology that is out there, we have to take extra steps in terms of protecting privacy and the rest.
So, with that, I would yield to any questions you may have.
I want to just mention in closing: 41 million Americans out of work. 41 million Americans out of work. Over 100,000 people have died; more than a million and a half people infected by this, and we are not taking the strong position, robust, strong position that we must take to do what we know works. It works in other countries. It works in certain communities that abide by it. We have to put the resources there to make sure that we do the proper outreach to define the problem, to test, trace, treat, save lives and isolate.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am.
Q: The President is expected to sign an Executive Order today that will essentially make the social media giants more liable to lawsuits as a result of what he says is censorship. What are your thoughts on this?
Speaker Pelosi. You know, it's outrageous, but that’s an outrageous situation. While Twitter is putting up their fact check under what the President says about voting, they still won't take off the misrepresentations the President is putting out there about the death of – the gentleman whose wife died, and he's asking them to take down the President's misrepresentations.
So, yes, we like Twitter to put up their fact check of the President, but it seems to be very selective, very selective. And, of course, you know, my view of this, and I've said it before, Facebook, all of them, they're all about making money. Their business model is to make money at the expense of the truth and the facts that they know.
And they defend. They defend that. I think Facebook has made tens of billions of dollars during this period of time where people are so reliant on social media, and they testify that they have no responsibility for the truth.
Q: Do you think that they should be further regulated? Do you think that they should be a publisher or a platform?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the fact is, is that what they are is somebody who's avoiding taxes and regulation, and that's what they're about. And so, when you see, all they want is to not pay taxes, which they got their tax break in 2017, the tax scam that gave all those advantages to the high end. And they don't want to be regulated, so they pander to the White House.
You see what Facebook, Zuckerberg is saying today about all of this, they just pander. Tax cuts, no regulation. Our business model is to misrepresent the facts and to be a platform to do that and to try to hide under freedom of speech, which is, of course, a complete violation of everything freedom of speech stands for.
And they know – they knew during the 2016 elections that the Russians were engaged in foul play. They knew because they saw where the money was coming from. It never occurred to them to check on that.
So, again, what the President is doing is, it's almost seeing people who have been in cahoots with each other. You know, is there no honor among thieves? That's really kind of what it comes down to. They've all exploited the truth, and some have made money off of it and some have made political capital off of their misrepresentations. But what the President is doing is silly. It's silly.
But let's say this: it's a distraction. I opened this meeting talking about testing, how it's going to save lives, open our economy, send our kids back to school, save lives and the rest. We're talking about Twitter. So let's get back to saving lives. Okay?
Yes, sir, back there.
Q: On a practical level, regarding the next steps for response to coronavirus, isn't it more likely that there won't be anything, serious negotiations, taking place until either the $600 UI add-on comes up for renewal or until the PPP runs out of money again?
Speaker Pelosi. No. I think –
Q: And if so, what's the –
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, I'm sorry.
Q: – is there an issue with that?
Speaker Pelosi. No. I think that there's a drumbeat across America. We – our Members have come back with so many positive experiences, of course all virtual, about what they're hearing in their districts and the rest. And, again, the state, local, county governments are so in need because of what they have spent on the coronavirus outlays and what they have in terms of revenue lost. This is desperate need.
As I've said earlier, our health care workers, our first responders, so many people are risking their lives to save lives, and now they'll lose their jobs because their state and local governments and county governments, which provide some of the health care, just don't have the money to – they're either going to have to fire people, reduce services, raise taxes or all of the above. And we have an answer that cost half as much as what the Republicans spent on their tax scam in 2017, giving 83 percent of the benefits to the high end. Half of that money helps states and localities stay open, honors our heroes.
Again, the testing thing is urgent. If they want to ignore it, then they have responsibility for the increases in infection and death. And the American people – all of the things we're talking about, whether it's state and local, whether it's Unemployment Insurance, as you mentioned, whether it's direct payments, whether it's food stamps, all of that are stimulus to the economy, in sharp contrast to their 2017 tax scam, which only benefited the high end and had no benefit to the general public while at the same time adding $2 trillion to the national debt for our children to pay.
So, no, I think that –
Q: Why do you think there will be action sooner?
Speaker Pelosi. I think they'll catch the spark. Their tone is changing, as I think you've probably noticed.
Q: Good morning. On Hong Kong, do you expect the U.S. should remove Hong Kong special privileges –
Speaker Pelosi. I'm sorry, dear?
Q: Do you expect the U.S. should – do you believe the U.S. should remove Hong Kong's special trade privileges? And, also, do you expect some sanctions on Chinese citizens and companies in response to the national security bill?
Speaker Pelosi. We'll see what the Administration is going to do. There is an array of options in the bill, the Hong Kong Democracy Act, which was bipartisanly passed, House and Senate, last year, in the fall. And it is – it has certain, an array of options for the President to use. We'll see what he does.
But it was – I'm sad that the conclusion is – but there's no other conclusion to come to if China is going to pass this security act. So, we should all be speaking out against that security act, not just the United States; the EU, people around the world should be speaking out against it. It's a brazen move on the part of the Chinese government. It's a brazen move.
And Hong Kong is so much a part of the vitality of trade and commerce that goes into mainland China. You would think that they would want that vitality to continue, but President Xi is a very oppressive tyrant, as you know. The Uyghurs, we passed the Uyghur bill yesterday. Millions of people, I don't know the exact number, but you could say at least one million people in education camps, and he says they like it there. He said they like it there. So, Tibet, destroying the culture, the language, the religion of Tibet. These are brutal – they're taking brutal actions and now Hong Kong, very visible. It's really tragic.
But, you know, I was disappointed to hear the Secretary's proclamation, whatever, statement. However, in terms of the bill that we passed, he cannot certify that Hong Kong is able to function autonomously with the actions that the Chinese government is taking. And the bill has an array of possibilities for the President to take action. There are sanctions that are included against individuals or other sanctions. We'll see where they go from here.
Q: Senator Kaine announced this morning that he was sick back in March and April, took an antibody test, came back positive. In light of that and, in your overall focus on testing, I'm wondering, respectfully, have you ever been tested for coronavirus –
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: – either diagnostic test, antibody test?
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Speaker Pelosi. No.
At the time when our colleague, Congresswoman Velázquez was diagnosed, we had all been here for the unanimous consent on the PPP, the second PPP bill. And so, you know, when you're taking pictures, people look closer than they are. So people said, ‘Oh, you were in her company.’ We were at a press – we were signing the bill, the enrollment. And so I said to the doctor, ‘Should I be having a test?’ He said, ‘No, you don't have any symptoms, and your proximity was not such that it would justify that.’
We don't want to have the test – for a while, there were a scarcity of tests, and the fact is is we didn't want to be first in line to get tested when so many people who had symptoms and had justifications for it. What I want is to have many, many more tests so that there isn't a competition for them. And I don't think, just as you use that example of Senator Kaine and Mrs. Kaine, that you should have to have symptoms because you could be asymptomatic and be contagious, if that's the word.
And so, what we'd like to see in our bill is this system where there's massive testing, tracing, treatment, saving of lives with isolation that would go with it. But, no, the doctor said, ‘No, you don't need to, and you'd be putting yourself ahead of other people in line.’ So, no, I haven't.
Staff. Last question.
Q: You mentioned the tragedy in Minnesota and specifically the Frederica Wilson bill. What else are you looking at specifically, House Democrats, that you could do legislatively? What are the tools that you even have to your disposal? It wasn't that long ago that you did a pretty comprehensive criminal justice reform bill.
Speaker Pelosi. That's right.
Q: Was that not enough?
Speaker Pelosi. Apparently not.
What we are – I don't want to distribute someone else's letter, but the – Jerry Nadler on behalf of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, and I don't know if it's bipartisan, but the letter that I have is just Jerry Nadler's signature now, they go into that. They also go into the Arbery case, tragedy.
It's a letter to Attorney General Barr and Assistant Attorney General Dreiband – Dreiband and it has an array of questions and the rest. But we are working with our Congressional Black Caucus, who has been working on this.
During The Heroes Act, I spent a lot of time on the phone with them with conference calls and the rest, with big participation of many people, including, in some instances, the press, to talk about criminal justice and how disproportionately it was affecting the coronavirus as it was affecting people in prison and the rest, and stories that went with that. Just one piece of the attention that they had paid to civil rights, to what happens in prisons, the health issue, how they all connect. So, we take our guide from them on these particular issues, and the Judiciary Committee has that commission as one option. But it's only one option.
Right now, the people just want to get the facts in both of the cases. They want to see – they want to see federal investigation and action. We saw a murder take place before our very eyes. And so, the fact that the police officers were fired, that's one thing, but there has to be some justice in all of this.
So, again, you heard Mr. Clyburn. I don't know if you were here – you weren't here yesterday, but Mr. Clyburn spoke about this yesterday, about justice. So, it's a bigger, it's a larger issue. But it's not anything new. It's been happening for a while, and, sadly, at the same time, with so many other deaths, this is so unnecessary.
I don't know if you saw his brother and his sister, his sister Bridgett on TV talking about him in such a beautiful way, and how sad it was and how unbelievable it was to them that their brother had suffered that fate. It's just so counter to who he was and how much they miss him and how much they love him and how, hopefully, it's some comfort to them that so many people share their grief and pray for them at this sad time.
Q: Do you think that officer should be charged with murder, if we've watched the murder on TV?
Speaker Pelosi. Let's take our lead from them in terms of how these things are sequenced. But we did see a murder on TV, and it wasn't self-defense.