Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Rayburn Room in the Capitol. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. It seems different to come into this room without all of our Members and guests, but here we are today.
Last night, I had my – another tele-town hall meeting, as our colleagues are all doing, at home, listening, electronically, of course, to their constituents, and, again, bringing us the intelligence of how things are on the ground across the country. And, of course, it is a dire situation.
So, our hearts are broken for those who have lost their loved ones. So very, very sad. And so many who are diagnosed and have that uncertainty.
The key to our opening up our country and our economy is really science, evidence and data, which can only be obtained by testing, testing, testing. So, as we go forward here, again, listening to scientists, listening to public health officials and the rest from around the country, as well as to the intelligence from their areas that our colleagues bring, we prepare for CARES 2.
CARES 2 will honor our heroes, those who have, on a day to day basis – our health care providers, our first responders, police, fire, emergency services, people transit, food providers, the teachers, teachers, teachers. We honor them, and that takes the form of state and local funding.
In the previous bill, we had $150 [billion] in CARES. We kind of followed the CARES model, $150 billion for state and local. We will have to do very much more than that. And Democrats and Republicans around the country, governors, mayors, county officials, et cetera, have been calling out for this funding. So if we are going from just doing state and local as one chunk to state, local, county, et cetera, it nearly doubles what we really need to do in this bill, which is much bigger than what was in the original CARES bill. That's a discussion that we are having.
Next. Next, we talk about saving of lives and the livelihood of the American people, and of course, the life of our democracy. So, in terms of saving lives, the only way we are going to have – rid ourselves of this, as well as open up our economy, is evidence, science-based testing, testing, testing. Testing – just think of the ‘T's’: testing, tracing, treatment, and isolation and, when necessary, of course, with social distancing. But in terms of the legislation of what we can legislate and fund, testing will be a very major part of this.
We need a national strategy to do so. I think it is long overdue. Our first bill, March 4th, was testing, testing, testing, but it really didn't produce. It didn't come through in terms of policy. Our last, most recent – not last, but most recent bill, the interim bill, signed a week or so ago by the President, is about $25 billion for testing. That's not enough, but it's what we could get, and we need to do much more.
Whether we're talking about testing, tracing, treatment, et cetera, we have to do it in the most ethical way, that everybody – when we hear about the disproportionate number of people dying among people of color, well, we want to get to them sooner to test, to trace, so we can save lives and recognize that there is a path that is better than the one we're on in this regard. So, that will be a major part of this. And with the testing and the tracing and the treatment that we will have, to have a core of people to be going out there, culturally appropriate, linguistically appropriate and the rest of that, into communities to trace. More on that, perhaps, in a moment.
Then the third part. Honor our heroes: state and local. Open up government: testing, testing, testing. Science, that's the key to opening up government. And, third, putting money in the pockets of the American people.
And, again, this – the heartache that is out there. One mom reported – what did she – reported that – the moms reported that one in four children – I mean, this has been something that is my motivation for being in politics, how children – Brookings – research from Brookings reported that one in five mothers say their children are not getting enough food, three times the rate during the Great [Recession]. So, in addition to putting money in people's pockets, with the direct payments, Unemployment Insurance, some other tax credits, et cetera, we really also need to put food on the table.
We have – we had SNAP in the first bill. In the last three bills, they wouldn't accept SNAP. We have to have – we have to have SNAP. ‘When I was hungry, you fed me.’ I mean, what is it that – why is that a mystery? The American people know it. The food banks are overwhelmed. And we have to have a significant increase in SNAP in there.
So, again, we've tried to do this as much as possible in a bipartisan way. Republican and Democratic governors and mayors across the country support what we are doing with the state and local, honoring our heroes. These people risk their lives to save other people's lives, and they may now lose their jobs. It's just not right.
So, we'll probably have some kind of – well, I won't go into the whole bill here because I have to get the agreement of my Caucus, but those are the broad categories that we will be working in. And among, within them, our appropriations piece will address the Postal Service and things like that. So, that's kind of a taste of what our discussions are, but very important for you to know the priorities.
And, in all the bills, we had some element of this: of testing, of state and local, of distribution of funds. So, this is no departure from where we went before. There are so many other things going on in all of this, and that is that.
As you have seen, imagine in this time of the coronavirus and all the apprehension that comes with it in terms of access to health care that the President has said that he is all out to make the case in court. Now, mind you, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. The Executive branch's role is to protect and defend the law of the land, except they are going against the law of the land, okay? But let people know what that means in their lives.
When there was a chance that they could only do pieces of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, their top priority was to make sure that repeal of the pre-existing condition benefit. The pre-existing condition benefit, it means everything. The Little – you've seen the Little Lobbyists here, right on this rug. Little Lobbyists born with some challenge or other pre-existing conditions for life. Anyone who – anyone, women – being a woman was considered a pre-existing condition. No more. But you know the list of benefits that are in there.
But I just want to focus on the fact that, when they thought they had just a few, it was severable and they would go after a few provisions, their focus was on ending the benefit of a pre-existing condition not being a barrier to access to health care. So, we had the briefings. We had a press conference, and maybe some of you were on the call with Xavier Becerra. I salute him for taking the lead against this Texas initiative, and now Trump initiative, to end the access for 20 million people as well as 125 or  million families whose benefits were greatly increased, essential benefits. But the President says, ‘No.’
So, that is a bigger fight on health care. You would think, at the time of the coronavirus, there would be some sensitivity, some empathy for people who have uncertainty about their own health care and their predisposition to something like this, and their ability, at this time of economic uncertainty, to be able to afford health care.
There are so many other things, but, with that, I will yield to you for questions.
Let me – Jennifer – you see, we have a new system here. This is new to me because I only heard about it last night. I don't know where it came from, but I'll find out.
Jennifer Haberkorn of the Los Angeles Times.
Hi, Jennifer. Oh, there you are. Oh. Here we are.
Okay. So, whoever invented this, the sound is not working. I have learned to be very good at reading lips, you know, on the Floor of the House, but I don't know if everybody else can, so we'll wait for the sound.
In the meantime, I'm sure you've seen that, once again, the Trump Administration is dismantling Title IX, the protections for students and survivors. I say, once again, doing something to undermine protections that are there. That was yesterday, we studied that.
There is also – are we ready?
Staff. Why don't we take a couple questions from the room?
Speaker Pelosi. Okay. Where are the people from the gallery? Someone in the room. Okay. Someone in the room.
Yes, sir? Okay.
Q: Madam Speaker, can you outline some of your preference, what you would like to see in CARES 2? Is that something you are actively negotiating with the Administration right now?
Speaker Pelosi. No, no. No, this is a reflection of the needs of the American people, and it is consistent with the precedent in the other bills. So, it's not a new thing there, in what I named, yeah.
Q: Do you intend to pass something with just those priorities before negotiating with the Administration, or –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we shall see. We'll see. We'll see. I'm not going to negotiate it here. I would hope that they would see the need.
As I say, everything that I just mentioned has bipartisan support in the country. I hope it does in the Congress. But we have to start someplace, and, rather than starting in a way that does not meet the needs of the American people, we want to set a standard. And, again, we need a Presidential signature, so at some point we'll have to come to agreement.
But we want the people to know that their heart – they are heartbroken, of course, about loss of life and loss of health, but also their economic security, as well as their health security, that we're setting a standard that helps meet their needs and get them through the – this is about them. It's about our heroes. It's about testing. It's about the American people.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, there are about 43 states right now that are partially re-opening, at least partially re-opening, and today, the White House said they would not be implementing CDC guidelines about re-opening.
Is it the right approach to allow the states to do this piece by – on a patchwork basis, or should there be a federal standard for re-opening the economy?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say that I think everything should be based on science and not state or local, whatever it is, and, if you're going to have a standard, you really have to have a federal standard, because, as we know, viruses know no borders nationally, but they certainly don't know any state borders.
I think that the way this has been handled is most unfortunate, because, first of all, they had guidelines, which were weak, but, nonetheless, guidelines. And then, the President said you don't even have to honor them. And then we find out now that there was a CDC report that had much more comprehensive guidelines, and they buried it in the White House.
So, again, what is our goal? Our goal is a healthy America, a healthy economy. The route to that is to have the standards, testing and, again, not bury what the CDC is recommending. Then who is making this decision? Anybody – does he pay attention to the scientists? I don't know.
The point is, is that we want to open up, but not in a way that causes more deaths. And, again, I think it's wrong for us not to – no. If states want to open up – we're starting in California, certain limited, with standards and the rest. That is a decision that they make. But there should be a federal standard, because if you live in, if you live in California, you'd be in Nevada in a – you know, you can step over the line. Same thing, New York, you name it, New Jersey, Connecticut, and the rest.
So, no, I do think here should be federal standards, and I think that they should set an example, instead of people with swastikas on going to the legislature of Michigan in direct contact with each other. And I feel sad for them, these demonstrators, because they're going to – they could take something home to their children, which is, would be irresponsible. On the other hand, for the President to sort of praise that just tells you what the challenge is.
But, you know what? What we're talking about is let's go forward. This is what we need. We need the testing, we need to honor our heroes, and we need the money into the pockets of the American people.
Okay. How are we doing? Is this thing working now?
Q: Hi, Speaker. Can you hear me?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi, Jennifer. Oh, yes. Yes, we're ready for you.
Q: Speaker, can you hear me?
Speaker Pelosi. I can.
Q: Thank you. I'm curious on CARES 2, if you can tell us why you didn't start with negotiations with the White House or Secretary Mnuchin or Republicans before the House moves forward with the bill as you did in the prior coronavirus bills?
Speaker Pelosi. No. I –
Q: And –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I tell you what. We had, in all of the negotiations that we have had, a list of things that we wanted to see. Expansion of the family and medical leave. A high standard for OSHA protections in the, in legislation so that, when companies would open, there is a high standard of – particular to the coronavirus, that they would have to meet and the rest.
So, a part of this is the things that they never agreed to before and kept saying, ‘In the next bill,’ ‘In the next bill,’ ‘In the next bill.’ So, these are a part of those negotiations. In the next bill, we are doing these things. And the others that we have, as I say, build on what has been in the other bills.
Okay. Who is next? Philip Elliott?
Q: Thanks, Speaker Pelosi for doing this.
Speaker Pelosi. My friend from Time magazine.
Q: And apologies for the tech issues here. So, last night we learned that President Trump is going to name a donor to head up the Postal Service. What does this tell you about what might be possible in terms of getting the nation's post offices back on solid ground?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I thank you for your question about the Postal Service. My understanding is that the Postmaster General is appointed by the Board. The Board is appointed by the President, so there you have it.
Without going into that, I would just rather say that the Postal Service is very popular in our country, in the 70s, people say, 70 percent or higher say that there should be funding for the Postal Service. Better than that, favorable, unfavorable, they're in the 90s.
This is a connection throughout America. This is how seniors, even before now, would get their, would get – I'm looking – would get their medicines and the rest.
But in this time where so much is being done remotely and the rest and so much depends on it being materialized by the Postal Service, in terms of delivery and the rest, it seems a really terrible time to under – but see, their goal has always been to privatize, to make a profit off the Postal Service for private purposes. We are for the public having the Postal Service meet the public interest, not some special interest.
So, that's the fundamental difference that we have. So, we have to fight for the post office. And people across the country are all tweeting and writing to me and stuff like that saying we really – protect our post office.
Everybody knows that – everybody doesn't know – many people know their letter carrier. They know their postal workers and the rest. These are true patriots who are doing a great job in ordinary times and, in this extraordinary time, pretty exceptional.
And of course we're going to have funding in here for elections, vote by mail, and of course all the more reason that we want to have a vibrant post office.
But that is not the main purpose, but it is, again, more – there are some people who are having, I think it's Swing Left, 10 million letters that they want to have people send that they're going to vote on election day. Ten million letters. And it's a send out. It's a big initiative. And, for these and other reasons, so that people can express themselves other than electronically, because some communities just don't have that opportunity for them, we're going to be fighting for the Postal Service.
Let me see. Nancy Cordes? Nancy, are you here?
Q: Hi, Speaker Pelosi. Thank you so much.
The national debt hit $25 trillion this week, and I know there's a lot of blame to go around for how much it has increased over the past decade or so. But, regardless, how much does the increase in the debt weigh on you as you try to decide how much money should go to state and local governments or whether you should put more funding into PPP? How do you, how do you weigh those decisions?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I'm a pay-as-you-go person, much to the dismay of some in my party. But I think that, as a matter of course, when we're doing what we're doing, we should find a way to offset additional spending, or get revenue to pay for it, because the debt is an important challenge.
Years ago, George Miller, when he was a Member of Congress – but this was in '82, when we were at the midterm convention in Philadelphia – he proposed pay-as-you-go. It passed the convention. It became the law when Bill Clinton was President. His Administration, on his Administration, four or five of his budgets were in balance or in surplus.
And then, when President Bush came in, that was erased because they eliminated pay-as-you-go. And then, when President Obama came in, again, the deficit went from $1.4 trillion to $500 billion in the course of his Presidency, reflecting fiscal concern that we all have, because this is a debt for our family.
But what we're talking about now is about a stimulus to our economy at a time when people are crippled with concern about their physical well-being as well as their economic well-being.
So, when we talk about food stamps and we talk about direct payments and we talk about Unemployment Insurance, they stimulate the economy. Their purpose is to meet the needs of people, but they are a stimulus to the economy. And it's far better to spend our money that way, when the Republicans, who are supposed to be these budget hawks, had no hesitation whatsoever, in the dark of night and the speed of light, passed a bill that takes us almost $2 trillion in debt in order to give 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent.
So, when we look at the needs that our people have not the top 1 percent – bless them all, we don't begrudge anyone their success or their achievement, but we have to – there is no upside for our economy unless there is consumer confidence, unless people understand that the well-being of working people in our family is what keeps our economy strong.
So, yes, I'm concerned about the national debt, but I think it's – it would be penny foolish to say, ‘I'm sorry, we can't do SNAP to give you food, because there's a national debt.’ We just did $2 trillion for the wealthiest people in our country, but we can't feed one in four children in our country because of the national debt.
So, I think that – I think that the Secretary – Chairman of the Fed, Chairman Powell, has said it again and again, publicly said it to me, ‘Think big. Think big. The interest rates are very, very low. Think big.’ And that's what we're doing.
Q: Thank you
Speaker Pelosi. I think we have done our people on the thing. Let's see.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, I want to ask you, from a testing perspective, what is going to be necessary to re-open the House?
Speaker Pelosi. From a testing perspective? I don't think it's related to that. I don't think it's related to that. We're going to open the House when the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Physician say that we can come.
Now, we have two examples that worked, one for a voice vote and one for a recorded vote – a couple of recorded votes, and we have a good model to go on. And I'm hoping that, when we come back – and I'm hoping that's next week – we'll have the proxy voting initiative on the Floor so we can vote here. And, if people, for some reason, for health or whatever, can't be here, they will be recorded.
Q: Can you – do you expect to have an expansion of the unemployment benefits from –
Speaker Pelosi. I'm so sorry, dear. Do I expect what?
Q: Do you expect an expansion of the unemployment benefits in CARES in this next package?
Speaker Pelosi. Of course, yeah. Of course.
Q: Can you elaborate on what that would look like?
Speaker Pelosi. No, but, again, we're collecting that data.
The fact is that we, in this legislation, since you asked it that way, let me enlarge the issue for a moment to say this. We think that there should be stabilizers in these bills. So, if the unemployment rate, say, now, if it’s at 7 percent, it triggers 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. But that should be for SNAP. It should be for FMAP, which is the Medicaid funding, and the rest. So, that you don't always have to say let's debate whether that's necessary, there is a recognition that when you have that assault on the economy.
And so, what did they say today? It might be up to 17 percent, 16 or 17 percent unemployment. I would hope that we could see a time in the very near future, when that would be drastically reduced, but we would have unemployment.
And we'll examine other ways to help people, and that is, you know, there are – many people have a sovereign fund, have a paycheck guarantee, have – there may be other things that can help people not go on Unemployment Insurance because their employers will be able to pay them by one provision or another.
But, no. I’m sad to say, I don't. It breaks my heart to say it because of what it means in people's lives. But Unemployment Insurance will be extended, yeah.
Yes, sir? Okay.
Staff. Last question.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, are you still working with the other side in terms of ways to re-open the House again?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: You mentioned coming back next week. They have been up there with guidelines, and there wasn't anything in their recommendations about proxy voting or about, you know, virtual agreements or anything like that.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, Mr. Hoyer and Jim McGovern and Zoe Lofgren are working with Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Cole, the Ranking on Rules, and Mr. Davis, on House Administration, and they're going over all of that. I'll get their report.
But let me remove all doubt: our Members want proxy – remote voting by proxy. And people keep saying, ‘We want government to open up.’ Well, it can, but, if people can't come because we don't want them to come if they have a fever or if somebody in their home has a fever, they should be able to be recorded. So, let's hope that we can come to some agreement on that.
I was all set to bring that to the Floor when we were here before, and then the Republican Leader said, ‘Let's talk about it.’ So, I said, ‘Well, if there is a way to do it in a bipartisan way, that would be better.’
My Members were not happy because they wanted to be able to vote by proxy, right away. And they couldn't that day, you know, until it became the rule change. It would have to be for the next time. So, now, we're giving that the chance, and hopefully we can do it in a bipartisan way. That's it.
But that Committee is still in communication with each other. Mr. Hoyer would be more conversant on some of the particulars. It's really proxy voting, hearings this way: either in person, electronically or hybrid, something like that. And then the next question is, can you do markups that way? And that's part of the discussion. And a lot of it hinges on the – hinges on what's happening as far as the Capitol Physician and Sergeant-at-Arms is concerned.
But this is, we cannot – we have an emergency of such magnitude that no one has ever seen before. This is probably the worst situation that is only getting worse when it should be getting better.
So, what we're saying is, you want the economy to grow? Put money in people's pockets. You want to be able to open up the economy? Testing, testing, testing; tracing, tracing, tracing; treatment, treatment, treatment; isolation, social distancing. But the three ‘T’s’, right, are absolutely essential. That's what scientists tell us.
Celebrate our heroes, state and local is the term that is used. But the actual people who will benefit are those who are in the health care delivery and security issues, transit issues, food issues, teaching, all of it – all these, Postal Service, all of that is about our heroes. They all, in some ways, interact in a way that is risking their lives so that other people can thrive and survive. But they are in danger of losing their jobs. And we have seen public hospitals laying off people, teachers being laid off. We can't have that. Instead, we want to honor them, and that is a pretty exciting thing.
I think we're totally unworthy to say that we, ‘Isn't it great what they're doing?’ Blue Angels flying over and all that. And that's a beautiful thing. But, those of us with a responsibility for this, have no right to praise them and then ignore their needs because that just cancels itself out.
Let's meet their needs with PPE. As you saw yesterday, the nurse said, ‘We don't have enough PPE,’ and the President said, ‘Yes, you do.’ Well, let's get the facts and go from the facts, the science, the evidence, the data, and go for that to where we really need to be.
Let me just say about my Members, I'm so proud of them. They're so concerned, so empathetic to the needs of their own constituents. So, candid in how they see things happening and how they think we have to come to a consensus.
And, again, we're very proud that our first four bills were bipartisan, and we hope that we can continue that. That's why what we're doing is just following what the path was, in many cases, as to what was in the other bills. We're not drawing any red lines in the sand or anything like that. I hope they won't.
But our Members are just fabulous in terms of their attention to all of this, constantly. And our chairs, our chairs of the committees, are dazzling. They have been the source of more new ideas, more fresh thinking, more challenges to the conscience of our country as we go forward. I couldn't be prouder. And they are the ones who are making their suggestions about what's in this bill. And I ask always, I always do, reach across the aisle. Don't take anybody by surprise. Let them know what your committee is thinking.
We are different. We have different views about the role of government. If you're anti-governance, which many people are here, and you're anti-science, which many people here are, then you don't see the need to have scientifically-based decisions for the federal government to act upon. And the fact is, we don't want any more government than we need, but we have to have the governance that we do, and hopefully that can be bipartisan.
But our first responsibility is to meet the needs of the American people, immediately.
Thank you all. Stay safe.