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. As we gather here in the Visitors Center, our Congressional Black Caucus is holding a forum listening to people, discussing our legislation, following up on yesterday's hearing. As you know, yesterday, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing: Policing Practices and Law Enforcement Accountability. That was their focus.
The hearing was profoundly emotional. If anyone saw it, it was, especially the testimony of George Floyd's brother, Philonise. He is just – just a remarkable person. He and his wife, Keeta, were here. And he said – if you were in, if you saw, if you were in the room: ‘The people marching in the streets are telling you, enough is enough. Be the leaders that this country, this world needs.’ He challenged Congress.
‘George's name means something,’ he said. ‘If this death ends up changing the world for the better, and I think it will – it has, then he died as he had lived. It is on you to make sure his death is not in vain.’ He talks about how wonderful his brother was, in dying as he had lived.
So, the Black Caucus is having that. And what the subject at hand was, was the legislation, the Justice and Policing Act, to ensure that George's death, Breonna Taylor's death, Ahmad Aubrey's death and so many others, were not in vain.
But you must know, but it bears repeating, what this bill is about. It bans chokeholds. That makes it different from other bills that are around. It bans chokeholds, nationally; stops no‑knock warrants in the case of drug cases; ends qualified immunity doctrine that is a barrier to holding police officers accountable for wrongful conduct; combats racial profiling; mandates data collection, including body cameras and dashboard cameras and establishes a new standard for policing, among other things. It also passes our anti-lynching bill, the Emmett Till bill, that had already passed the House, but that's in there as well.
So, it's very important. I commend the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass, the Chair. She's also the Chair of the Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, which held that hearing yesterday, and the leadership of the Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Nadler, and Congresswoman Bass.
And, yesterday, when I chatted with the family before the hearing, George's brother said to me, ‘I have a question for you. Is this going to happen? Is there going to be a bill that is passed? And why do you think so?’
It's a question that many of you have, but coming from him, it was – it had power. And I had an answer, ‘Yes, it will be passed, because the public insists upon it.’ I, as usual, quoted Lincoln: ‘The public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything; without it, practically nothing.’
But, in order for public sentiment to prevail, people have to know. And more than anything, ever before, people do know what the challenge is, what the solutions are in this legislation and what the obstacles are to its passage.
So, we will not rest until it becomes the law. We will not rest until the changes are made.
And the rest of the country is ahead of us; in states and towns – cities and states and towns, people are acting upon some of these provisions already. So, it is our responsibility now to make sure that it does become the law.
As we're doing this, we see another injustice: the disparity in the deaths of the coronavirus crisis. It is so sad that people of color have a disproportionate share of the deaths in this crisis. And there is a reason for that: because we do not have a strategic plan executed by the Executive branch for testing, tracing, treating, social distancing; to identify the size of the problem, those who are infected, so that we can treat them and conquer the virus.
That's what The Heroes Act does precisely. Under the leadership of Frank Pallone, the Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee; Congresswoman Eshoo; others on the health committee and the rest, this legislation, The Heroes Act, says let's open the economy. We all agree we want to do that. Let's open the economy. Let's have our children be able to go back to school safely, safely.
We don't have a vaccine and we don't have a therapy. God-willing, we will soon, and we hope and pray that science will be an answer to our prayers in that regard. However, we do have a path: testing, testing, testing. If there's one word we should all be saying over and over again: testing, testing, testing. We're not even close to what we should be doing on a daily basis.
The scientists, academics all over the country are preaching this, but the White House has not responded. And we must insist upon it in this legislation: testing, tracing, treating, social distancing. That will reduce the spread, kill – defeat this virus. And that's, sadly, in terms of people wanting to get out and not doing so with a mask – real men wear masks, we always say. Without their masks, without their social distancing – if you're going to insist on leaving shelter-in-place, do so safely: masks, distancing. Also, testing, tracing, treating, distancing.
And this is, again, part of the challenge here. People saw the injustice of the disparities of the coronavirus. We have an answer: The Heroes Act, The Heroes Act. The Heroes Act is also important because it's aptly named to honor our heroes: our health care workers, our first responders, our teachers, our transit workers, our food suppliers, all the rest who meet the needs of the American people.
Many of them are risking their lives to save lives, and, now, they may lose their jobs. And why? Because states and localities have had extraordinary expenses to address the coronavirus, and they have lost revenue because of the coronavirus. The answer is The Heroes Act, which supplies resources for those two purposes, to states and localities.
I say this every meeting, if you want to know how your area is affected, go to speaker.gov/heroesact. You'll see the whole bill, but you'll also see how your state, your locality, your county is affected. That's why we have bipartisan support across the country from state and local officials, Democrats and Republicans, demonstrating the need for this legislation.
And, by the way, it's a big ticket, but it costs less than half than the Republican tax scam to give a tax cut to the high – the wealthiest people in our country, 83 percent of the benefits going to the top one percent. This is half of that. It is a stimulus to the economy. It is a job protector for our community, as well as meeting the needs of the American people.
And The Heroes Act also puts money into the pockets of people who need it most: Unemployment Insurance, direct payments to families in our country, issues that relate to feeding the hungry. Why would the Republicans object to that? I don't know. You have to ask them. But there is bipartisan support throughout the country to feed the hungry: food stamps, the WIC program, emergency funding programs to feed the hungry.
It also has money for expanding FMAP, which is Medicaid, very important part of our health initiatives. And also saves the Post Office, the Postal Service, bipartisan support. One of the most popular elements of government. In fact, probably the most popular, over 90 percent favorable rating for the Post Office.
So, meeting people's needs in a very special way now, but always. Ninety percent of veterans get their medicines through the mail, and so do other seniors as well – a large percentage of other seniors as well.
And, of course, I'll just end with this piece of it – well, we also have the OSHA in there, the worker protection in there, which is really important to stopping the spread of the coronavirus as well. We also have in there something that relates to our most fundamental principle of our democracy, voting. Voting: $3.6 billion in the bill, less than 0.1 percent of the whole bill, for voting, for voting-by-mail. It's something that has, again, bipartisan support across the country, bipartisan support among secretaries of state across the country. It is absolutely essential to our democracy that we remove obstacles to participation, now, even more so, when it is a health issue.
And I want to just dwell on that for a moment. What we saw in Georgia the other day was shameful. It was either a disgrace of incompetence or a disgrace of intention to suppress the vote.
Time, it's all about time. The time it takes you to vote: four, five, six hours or more. In certain neighborhoods, twenty minutes or so, or less, in other neighborhoods. Really requires careful scrutiny, because it looks like part of a pattern, on the part of some, to suppress the vote. And some have even admitted it, and some – you've probably seen some statements.
But it is also a prelude to what could happen in November, because we see it as a pattern of suppressing the vote, misinterpreting the vote. I said we have to protect the vote: protect it leading up to the elections, protect it on the day of the elections and protect the count of the vote, so that every vote is counted as cast – as cast.
We see, as I say, manipulation of it in the social media. We always saw social media manipulation in terms of the peaceful demonstrations by those who would exploit that situation from outside the country, some inside the country as well.
So manipulation of the social media, obstacles to participation, suppression of the vote, all part of the Republican playbook. All part of the Republican playbook, because they're afraid of the voters. They're afraid of the vote. And we must inoculate against the actions that are predictable that they may take, and we got a picture of that in Georgia just a couple of days ago.
So, now, in terms of The Heroes Act, some of you have asked the same question that – I was asked about is the Justice in Policing bill going to pass? Are we going to pass The Heroes Act?
More and more, we're hearing – this is from Senator – oh, excuse me – Secretary Mnuchin just this week, ‘I think we are going to seriously look at whether we want to do more direct money to stimulate the economy.’ I definitely – he went on to say, ‘I definitely think we're going to need another bipartisan legislation to put more money into the economy.’
In addition to that, we've heard from the Fed that – well, the Fed has said again and again that we need more money in the economy and that we, as legislators, have a responsibility to tax and to spend in a way that grows, that grows the economy.
So, you know, they changed their tune. At first, they said we're not going to do anything. Chairman Powell reiterated his statement this week when he said, ‘The key thing people need to understand is that there's just a lot of work to do in the labor market. We're going to stick with this and support that until the work is done. I think it may require Congress to help as well.’ He went on to say, ‘Unemployment is historically high.’
He said during a news conference, Wednesday, that would be yesterday: ‘My assumption is that there will be a significant chunk, well into the millions, of people who don't get to get their jobs back – who don't get to go back to their old job and there may not be a job in that industry for them for some time.’ Further, ‘Elected officials have the power to tax and spend and to make decisions about where we are as a society, should direct our collective resources.’
So, again, this is – to do nothing is the most expensive course of action. As the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimated just this past week, if we do not take immediate action, $16 trillion could be erased from the American economy over the next decade, $16 trillion.
And, yesterday, the CBO stated, restated that because of COVID, growth for the next year alone will be nearly $4 trillion lower than predicted as recently as January. Yet, Leader McConnell says, ‘Let's take a pause.’
Let's take a pause? This virus, again, is not taking a pause, hunger is not taking a pause, joblessness is not taking a pause, rent checks being due are not taking a pause and the bills are not pausing.
Okay. So, again, during this precarious time, COVID‑19 continues to rage. Racial injustice makes this deadlier. We cannot – we cannot pause. And so we are building public support in a bipartisan way across the country for The Heroes Act, building public support across the country, across all party lines for the Justice in Policing Act.
I'm pleased to take any questions you may have.
Q: Do you have any – have you spoken at all to anyone in the Administration about a police reform effort? Did they say they're – they'd like to do something? I'm curious if you, since you control the Floor, have any – have heard anything about that?
Speaker Pelosi. I have – I trust the judgment of our Congressional Black Caucus and our Judiciary Committee. They have made overtures to each other. I –
Q: To each other, you mean to the Administration?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, to Republicans on the other side of the aisle and the other side of the Capitol. So far, that's what's been reported to me. I don't know what the overtures are from the White House, but I hope that they are sincere and I hope that they are real and I hope that they are statutory, that they will be the law of the land.
We want this to be as bipartisan – non-partisan as possible. We think that in the public domain, in the public, people, Democrats and Republicans, non-partisan, Independents, however they identify themselves, want this to be non-partisan. And what we are proposing, what the Black Caucus and the Judiciary Committee had proposed is so very reasonable. Reasonable. It's very reasonable legislation.
It's not the end. We may have more things. But for now, in terms of violence, and justice in the police department, this is the bill.
Q: Madam Speaker, related to that, the White House this week has said that the issue specifically of the police immunity aspect is a non-starter for them. I'm curious, as you move forward in the process, of how central that component is to the legislation. If you can have a bipartisan –
Speaker Pelosi. What is a non-starter to them?
Q: The police immunity aspect of it.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, I didn't hear them say that, but that's very important. The qualified – the qualified immunity doctrine, which reigns many places, protects police officers from prosecution in spite of bad conduct that might be there. I think that's a conversation that must be had, and we do have it in our legislation.
We don't paint all police with – our police officers, our first responders, with the same brush. I've had conversations myself with some of the leaders in the community, in the law enforcement community and first responder community and I think there is an openness, a recognition that things have to be done differently. Now, let's find our – let's find our common ground.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. A question about opening up the economy and one of the issues is the child care facilities. Millions of Americans want to go back to work, but they don't have facilities open to secure care for their children. And, yesterday, Congress received a letter from chambers from local and state, or local – state and local chambers yesterday sent a letter urging Congress to provide emergency funds to child care centers in the next relief package. They're saying that these are very small businesses owned by – women owned, mostly, and they haven't received PPP loans, mostly. So, how is The Heroes Act responding? And do you think it's safe to open the child care facilities?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it isn't safe to open them until it is safe to open them. I don't know what that letter is. I'll be on the lookout for that. I haven't seen that letter.
But I will say this in a larger sense, whether we're talking about coronavirus, which we are now, but just generally going back to work. In one, in a future bill – when I mean future, I mean imminently future bill – we have to do something very, very significant in terms of child care, because as you indicate and as that letter indicates, this is central to women's participation in the work force, or whether it's as a job, or equity and ownership of a small business. And it can't happen unless we have this key to it all, which is quality, affordable, safe child care for our children.
I find – and I find that to be something that has very strong support. Congresswoman DeLauro, Congresswoman Clark in the House, Patty Murray in the Senate, all leaders on that issue. This will get very big attention.
Another issue, since you opened that door, that requires a major adjustment in our resources, is attending to mental health in our country. We passed Parity Act bills and that and the rest, and that's important, but we have to have a higher recognition of the challenge that we face in terms of mental health in our country. And that's really important in terms of the good, the health and well‑being of families. It's also important in terms of law enforcement and the rest. So, be on the lookout for where we go with mental health and with child care.
Q: Madam Speaker, there's an ongoing debate in the country about Confederate symbols, such as the statues that have been in Congress for decades. It says something to the durability of those symbols in the Capitol, but they're still here despite you being Speaker twice. And yesterday you announced you're going to try to have them moved. Over in the Senate side, the Armed Services Committee says, or has issued, their bill would reinforce the renaming of the Confederate – or bases named after Confederate generals. Can you talk about this phenomena and whether or not your defense authorization bill will contain comparable language, and will you force it through a veto threat if necessary?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh the Senate piece you’re talking about is their bill, that takes them out in three years?
Speaker Pelosi. Okay. Let me just say that when I was Speaker, I did do what I had the authority to do, which was to relegate Robert E. Lee to the crypt, and I could move things around, I couldn't actually take them out. That requires something else. And that's why I wrote the letter yesterday or a couple of days ago, June 10th, yesterday, about Stephens. Just can you imagine Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, treason, they committed treason against the United States of America, and their statues are still up because their states put them here.
So, that's why I wrote to Chairman Blunt, Chair of the Rules Committee and to the Chair of our House Administration Committee, which is the equivalent committee, Zoe Lofgren, and I particularly talked about Alexander Stephens, because in the – these are his words. The infamous words of Stephens makes it clear today, as they did in 1861, the aims of the Confederacy in his corner-stone speech. And he says, Stephens asserted that ‘the prevailing ideas relied upon by our Founders, including – included the assumption of the equality of man.’ He goes on to say, ‘This is wrong.’ And then he goes on from there. You can see my letter and see what he says and see why it has to come out of the Capitol.
Now, we do have – if – I do believe that the committees have the jurisdiction to move these statues, but we also have legislation. Barbara Lee and Bennie Thompson, the Chair of Homeland Security Committee, and Barbara Lee, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, member of the House Democratic leadership, they have legislation that would get rid of – we have eleven of them that we have our eye on. But it may take legislation or action by the Rules Committee. Believe me, if I had more authority, we would have fewer of those statues around.
The question you asked about the Armed Services Committee relates to the names of the military bases, correct? You're not talking about statues in the House. So, we'll see. That may require legislation.
But I want to tell you something, the American people know these names have to go. These names are white supremacists that said terrible things about our country. This is like over a hundred years – after World War II, some of these names were given to these bases, and you listen to who they are and what they said. And then you have the President make a case as to why a base should be named for them.
He seems to be the only person left who doesn't get it, but then again – so whether – I don't know if it will be in the bill. We may have freestanding. It may combine with statues in the Capitol. I don't know, because that will be up to the makers of the motion to suggest how they would like to proceed. But these names have to go from these bases, and these statues have to go from the Capitol.
Q: Madam Speaker, have you heard back from Senator Blunt – to follow up on his question, has Senator Blunt had any conversation or correspondence with you?
Speaker Pelosi. No, but I think he spoke in the public domain saying it's up to the states, but it may be up to the states to send it here. But it's not up to the states where it might be, and we cannot have these statues in that place.
Now, as I said earlier, public sentiment is everything. This is a perfect time for us to move those statues, because other times, people may think, oh, who cares, I never go there anyway. They all look alike to me. They're all these white men there. On the other hand – that's what I think. On the other hand, this might be – the timing might be just right.
Yes, ma'am? Then, I’ll come to you.
Staff. Last question.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, well, I have two.
Q: Have you –
Speaker Pelosi. One more woman, and then –
Q: Have you and Leader McConnell made any progress on naming a chair to the Congressional Oversight Commission? Do you plan to release any names of people under consideration for that role?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, we've made progress.
I thought that was a yes or no. So then, you have a follow‑up question. When? Hopefully soon. I think it will be imminent.
Speaker Pelosi. So, thank you for your question.
Q: To follow up on their questions, are you – do you have the power yourself, then, to move Alexander Stephens, Jefferson Davis from Statuary Hall into some dark corner of the Capitol, in the Visitors Center, in a faraway spot? And, if so, will you do so?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we'll see. In other words, we try. We start with a feather. Always like to start with a feather. Let's see how we can have consensus about this.
But really – and some of our Members over the years, especially our Members in the Black Caucus, have just wondered, what are these people doing here? But most of us don't know one from the other, there they are. But Jesse Jackson, Jr. wrote a book on this, I believe, A More Perfect Union, that did not include Alexander Stephens and Jefferson Davis having a place of honor in the Capitol of the United States.
But let's focus on the bill. Let's focus on no chokeholds, no racial profiling, no no‑knock warrants in case of drug cases. Let's talk about ending injustice, racial injustice in our law enforcement. Let's focus on what we do about immunity in terms of prosecution in the legislation and how we go forward.
Let's see how we can work together, recognizing that there are many fine people in our first responders and our law enforcement. Many of them want to be part of the solution. But they haven't been, and so now we need this legislation.
And, again, statues, this, that and the other thing, that's important, but what's important is that if we had no chokehold, George Floyd would be with us.
If we had no – if we had a data collection, that little boy, oh, my gosh, twelve years old, killed by a police officer who was fired from another jurisdiction, and then – and then hired elsewhere. If we had the no‑knock warrant in place, we would not have had Breonna's passing away.
And so, again, this legislation which translated into lives, and that's what George Floyd's brother was talking about yesterday, save lives. Stop this. Save lives.
Q: A question on COVID. There's a spike going on in some parts of the country. Is there any thought about breaking out the testing part of The Heroes Act and passing that or is there any way to speed up this –
Speaker Pelosi. If the Administration were interested, they would have been doing it themselves, but it does have significant funding for the testing, tracing, treatment, social distancing and the rest. It has a requirement for collecting the data so that we know the size of the problem so that we can take it out and also, that we can treat the disparities, most importantly, that could treat the disparities.
So, again, it is one of the pillars, the three pillars: honor our heroes, state and local government; open our economy with the testing, treating, testing, tracing, treating; and money in the pockets of American people. While at the same time, we have funds for voting, the Postal Service, OSHA and food. So, the whole package is about the security, the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy.
Q: So no thought of breaking it up into pieces?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, any one of those – you know – I can say any one of those we can take out. We can take out state and local, but then we don't have Unemployment Insurance and direct payments. We can take out testing, but then we don't have the job security for the health care workers who would be providing all of that. So, it has a connection.
And, by the way, we're telling the Administration to do what they should have been doing all along. What is – this is June 11th. On March 11th, how many deaths were there? Fewer than a hundred, right, on March 11th? And now there are over 100,000, on the path to perhaps 200,000. Let's see if we can't prevent that.