Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

June 17, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning.  Good morning. 

As we speak, we're on the Floor overturning the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that is twenty years old, ten years after we withdrew from Iraq, but not negating our ability to protect and defend our troops, who may still be there, and the American people. 

As we come together now, we are, of course, happy with the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.  I think it's really important to note this historic decision.  Once again, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and the transformational protections that it provides every American, no matter where they get their coverage. 

I want to thank the grassroots across the country who worked tirelessly as advocates for the Affordable Care Act to pass it, to save it and now to once again save it.  Thanks to them and the Democrats in the Congress, the Affordable Care Act endures as a pillar of American health and economic security, alongside Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  When we passed it, I said, ‘This is a pillar of economic and health security, along with the others.’

Today's Supreme Court decision is a landmark victory for Democrats' work to defend protections for people with preexisting conditions.  Every day, we'd think, ‘How far will the Court go on preexisting conditions against Republicans' relentless assault to dismantle preexisting conditions?’  On Day One of our House Majority, Democrats acted decisively to throw our full legal weight of the House of Representatives in the fight against this Republican lawsuit.  We will never forget how Republican leaders embraced this monstrous way to rip away America's health care in the middle of a deadly pandemic. 

More than one million Americans have signed up for the Affordable Care Act since President Biden extended the enrollment period.  More than one million Americans, because of the extension, but also because of the expansion of access to benefits that we have put into the Rescue package.  I'm very proud of all of that. 

Now, Democrats will continue our work to build on this transformational – the Rescue package to make what's in there permanent in terms of affordability, access and quality health care for all Americans.  For the People, we will continue to work to lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs.  That is a very important part of where we go from here.  So, we thank the Court for its wisdom in declaring the cases against the Affordable Care Act to have no standing. 

We are so proud of our President.  He's back from his bilateral trip, the trip to visit – to participate in the G7 talks, of course, the NATO talks, the EU talks and, of course, the one-on-one with Vladimir Putin.  He, I think, made a remarkable presentation for America, to say, ‘America is back.’  You've heard me say, many of you, that in my communication with Members of Parliament and leaders in other countries, that they were very happy to hear that America is back in full strength, as we talk about NATO; in full values, as we talk about who we are as a country; and in true friendship to the countries that have been part of our multilateral approach to security, growing our economies, protecting the planet, as well as honoring our values. 

He was direct, the President, about saying that there would be consequences if Putin hurts our interest, including relating to Russia's election interference and cyberattacks, making clear that certain assaults on our infrastructure, our critical infrastructure, will be met with a reaction.

Earlier today, some of you were there maybe, I hope you were, because we signed – we had the enrollment signing for the Juneteenth becoming a national holiday ceremony.  It was pretty exciting to thank Sheila Jackson Lee, the author – current author, Danny Davis, the original author of the Juneteenth legislation; Madam Chair of the Caucus, Joyce Beatty.  And, of course, Mr. Clyburn regaled us of stories of the history as well as any possible connection to South Carolina.  We can always count on him for that. 

But it's pretty exciting.  And we signed it, sent it to the Senate, and the President of the United States will sign it later today.  It's almost record time from the Senate two days ago, to the House yesterday, to signature to the White House.  It really is – it was a day of celebration and also reflection.  I can talk more about it if you wish, but we have a lot to cover here because we have to get on with the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. 

We seem to be making some progress there.  I'm very proud of the work of Karen Bass for what she has done on that legislation, and it's challenging.  We're proud of the bill that we passed last year and this year and hope that in the very near future we will have come to agreement in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation, all of it a part of how we Build Back Better. 

The negotiations are going on about the infrastructure bill, but we are committed to our full American Jobs and Families Plan.  I want to just commend the President again for his leadership with our Rescue package.  We went Rescue package first and now the recovery with the Family Plan and Jobs bills. 

But let's just review.  More than 300 million vaccines are in people's arms, an average of 540,000 new jobs, new jobs each month, the fastest rate of growth in modern U.S. history, annual economic growth revised two points from last year, up to a projected seven percent would be the fastest economic expansion in 40 years, and unemployment projected to go down a full two percent from projections of one year ago, and the biggest paychecks across the board, especially for low income workers. 

Our work isn't finished.  As Chairman Powell said, we have more to do.  It would be premature to declare victory.  So, we know that we need to do more.  We must Build Back Better.  And that's what the discussion is about.  Where do we come to agreement on what is infrastructure?  How close can we come on the funding?  How is it paid for?  Those are matters of discussion right now.  And we hope that we can have a bipartisan infrastructure bill. 

However, that doesn't mean that we will abandon how we see infrastructure for the future.  Not 1959, with all due respect to President Eisenhower and the Interstate Highway System.  That was important.  But now we have to have other features that relate to broadband, to water systems that are now over 100 years old.  The list goes on. 

But you can't Build Back Better unless you have more people Building Back Better, and that's why the human infrastructure pieces are so important.  Child care, let's enable women to fully participate.  Child care, home health care, issues like that, family and medical leave, the Child Tax Credit, issues like that, that enable families to fully participate in the economic prosperity of our country as we go forward, at the same time their children and their loved ones safe.  So, again, we like to say Build Back Better with women. 

We must also address the economic inequality.  So, some of our Members say, ‘Build Back Better with Equity.’  And for that reason, yesterday, some of you were here when we put forth the Members of the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness and Growth.  As we proceed with the Committee, we've got to listen attentively to those in most need, listen respectfully to some new ideas about how we go forward and do so with openness, listening to everyone concerned.  It is a priority of addressing the wealth and financial disparity.  It's broad and across the board.  You've seen the headlines – some of them you've written – about how this just persists.  And I won't read you my Dear Colleague to my Members that quotes many of these headlines. 

I'm very proud of our Chair of the Committee, Jim Himes, who brings extensive professional experience, as well in the private sector, and expertise in affordable housing is one way to address the racial inequality and inequity of ownership.  Marcy Kaptur focusing on regional economic revitalization, representing the Great Lakes area and areas that have lost jobs in the last few decades.  Gwen Moore leading action to close the racial wealth gap from her perspective as an inner city Representative.  Vicente Gonzalez recognizing the ties between economic growth and infrastructure connectivities there in a rural area affected by trade immediately with Mexico, with immigration and the rest – a very interesting perspective.  Pramila Jayapal, who has been talking about worker fairness, making workers – well, she has many good ideas that will come before the Committee, but they all relate to delivering workers better wages and a better future.  Angie Craig representing family farmers and Ag community and with a strong emphasis on unionization.  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addressing generational disparities, as well as increasing worker power.  Everybody is about increasing worker power, and so is she.  And Sara Jacobs focusing on the future of work with both a family and global perspective.  I take the time to say that because that embraces many of the challenges we face, all of it to set a higher standard for how we pass our legislation.  It's not a legislative Committee.  It will make recommendations to the Committees – the standing Committees of jurisdiction. 

And as we talk about such actions, as we talked about Juneteenth, we talk with sadness and pride about passing legislation to designate the National Pulse Memorial – that site a national memorial.  We did that yesterday.  Our hearts break thinking about that haven for young people, Pulse, where young LGBTQ, mostly, Americans enjoyed music and dancing, was violated by an act of bigotry and violence.  When I met with the survivors and families immediately after that, and then later when they came to D.C. to make their case, it was all about,  ‘Stop the gun violence.  Stop the gun violence.’  We were there to console them, but they were using their pain to prevent other people from joining that horrible club of losing a loved one.  Today, again, also marks six years since the racist attack on Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.  This all comes down to the gun violence issue.  And as we keep saying, we are not going away until we pass legislation to stop gun violence.  And we will have a better chance to do it if we pass H.R. 1.  Clearly, the Republicans in Congress are handmaidens of the gun industry, and they have prevented us from passing in a – although it's bipartisan, it's not enough for us to pass it in the Senate. 

So, again, the For the People Act is really important for many reasons, including the personal safety of America's families and children.  And, again, a lot going on, Pulse – Pulse and Juneteenth and stopping gun violence and passing H.R. 1, and we're making progress there, as you probably are observing.  So, it's a busy time.  I'm proud of our Members.  They have been working on their Committee work.  We can talk more about that, what will be coming up next week and the week after, before the Fourth of July.  As we celebrate the birth of our nation, we want to do so having made progress For The People. 

Yes, sir? 

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  David Spunt with Fox News.  I appreciate it.  Speaking about some of these big issues that you have over the next several days, I want to read something that my colleague got from Congressman Yarmuth. 

He said, ‘I think our Caucus understands that essentially we're all Joe Manchin.  With the margins we have, everybody has the ability to tank whatever we're trying to do.  We have zero margin.  Essentially, everybody's in a position to sabotage whatever we're doing.’  Do you feel that way? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  I feel that we are building consensus in a very positive way, and Congress will work its will in a way that is respectful.  We have in our party a common core, and that is, we are here for America's working families.  And I have no doubt that we will have legislation to help America's working families. 

Q:  Your response that there are rifts in the Democratic Party? 

Speaker Pelosi.  There aren't rifts.  We're a democratic party.  We're not a lockstep rubber stamp.  Who would want to belong to a party like that?  You could cross the aisle and do that.  But we are a party of ideas and dynamism, and we respect differences of opinion.  But at the end of the day, we know we will have unity to promote the well-being of America's working families. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  I'm with CNS News.  The Supreme Court this fall will review a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy.  Is an unborn baby at fifteen weeks a human being? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me just say that I am a big supporter of Roe v. Wade.  I am a mother of five children in six years.  I think I have some standing on this issue as to respecting a woman's right to choose. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  On infrastructure, there are some in the Senate, on the left, and some in the House who say that the bipartisan package has to include expansive, bold climate change provisions in order for them to support the bipartisan component.  Is that a position that you take, or would it be okay to include those perhaps in the reconciliation bill that's also being formulated? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I don't think there's any question that the more bipartisan a bill is, the less green it is, because the Republicans, in addition to being in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry – of gun industry – are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry.  And that's one of the reasons it's hard for us to get as much as we want on high speed rail and mass transit and the rest, because they want people in cars, on the road, using gas.  But we will have provisions for electrification, which some of the Republicans have not been enthusiastic about. 

I'm not worried about what you proposed.  We know that one bill is not going to do it for us.  We have to have a bill that – not just about addressing green, but addressing women, people who are in – people with disabilities who need care and the rest, so that their family members and they can fully participate in how we go forward.  I don't think that that's a problem. 

I think it's important for people to say what their priorities are as we develop how we go forward.  One step, two step.  I don't think that's the debate.  I think the debate is: where do we want to end up and how will that happen? 

And I'm very confident that we will have a bill that – you cannot build infrastructure without resilience and sustainability and protecting our planet.  You just can't.  So whether it's in the actual bill or otherwise, we could not be better served than the Chairman of our Committee. 

Peter DeFazio has been, for 30 years – maybe a little bit more – on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  He was the Chairman of the Natural Resources Committee before that – not before that, but simultaneous with that.  He hasn't been here that long.  And nobody knows better how to make transportation resilient, how to use different materials to be protecting the planet as we move people and create jobs. 

So I think we're in a good place.  And I wouldn't – I don't see a whole lot of value in deciding whether it's one bill or two bills.  We're going to get the job done.  We're going to get the job done. 

Yes, sir? 

Q:  Several Republicans have filed a lawsuit to try to knock down the fines to enforce the metal detectors outside the House Chamber.  Is there a plan as to when, if ever, those will be removed or –   

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Q:  Is the idea that they'll stay indefinitely? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  No.  As long as there is a threat, we'll have to have protection.

Yes, sir?

Q:  Is there any concrete measure that gauges whether there's a threat?

Speaker Pelosi.  I just said no. 

Q:  I wonder if you have any reaction to the bipartisan infrastructure plan on the substance of the pay-fors that have now come out.  Assuming you've talked to some of your Members that have been involved in these discussions – decidedly smaller, different pay-fors than you would want.  I'm curious, do you have any reaction to that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I don't know that we've seen all of the implications of the pay-fors.  I, myself, do not think we should be taking money out of the pockets of people on unemployment or take money out of the Rescue package because it's there for a purpose. 

But let's just see what it is.  The Administration, I know, will be reviewing this.  I haven't, frankly, seen all this.  You know, it's very new, and it's not just what is in the public domain but what's in – the devil frequently, and the angels, are frequently in the details, so let's just see. 

But I think the first order of business is, what is this for?  I've never been one to talk about pay-fors at the beginning of any discussion on infrastructure.  What does the country need?  What is in the bill to help meet those needs?  And then let's just see where we go from there.  So, I don't start with pay-fors and work back. 

Q:  Well that's where they're starting.  So, you kind of it seems you have an issue with this process? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, just for one thing that I thought – I don't – I'm not even sure if it's in, but the one thing they were going to do was expand the gas tax.  I would not be for that. 

I don't think that American people, America's working families, should be footing the bill for roads and bridges and the rest that America's wealthiest people and their businesses are using without paying for them. 

So, I just have not been for expanding the gas tax.  We have a gas tax; expanding it is more the issue. 

Staff.  Last question. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, can I follow up?  Do you expect that enabling Medicare to negotiate over the cost of prescription drugs will be included in the reconciliation package? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I hope so.  Since 2005, 2006, enabling the Secretary to negotiate for prescription drug prices, lower prescription drug prices, has been a high part of our agenda. 

When we won in '06, '07, in the first 100 hours we passed our ‘Six for '06:’ the six most important bills, including raising the minimum wage at that time, which hadn't been increased in eleven years.  All six of them became law, except enabling the Secretary to negotiate for that. 

So, we've been fighting for that for a long time.  Whether it's part of one package or another remains to be seen, but we will persist.  Because when we did the Affordable Care Act, we did so to lower the cost of health care for all Americans, and we did except in one area: the cost of prescription drugs.

So, this is something that we will persist on.  And when we prevail, it will enable us to expand benefits in Medicare to dental, visual, hearing and the rest, and it's hundreds of billions of dollars that will be saved. 

So, this is a core value for us where we have great support in our Caucus and have had – what was that, '05? – now where are we?  Over fifteen years. 

Q:  But there are centrist Democrats who have raised concerns about that negotiation piece.

Speaker Pelosi.  In the House? 

Q:  Uh huh. 

Speaker Pelosi.  One or two? 

Q:  More like ten. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I think that, at the end of the day, the point is, do you want to vote to enable the pharmaceutical companies to have America's families subsidize lower cost for prescription drugs in other countries where they're paying three, four, five times less than we are paying, as we subsidize the research and development for it? 

So, I think that, I don't even see it being ten.  Maybe you do, but I get a different response to them on what they would vote for as part of lowering the cost of prescription drugs in the United States and not subsidizing the cost of prescription drugs in other countries, enhancing the profits of the pharmaceutical companies to the tune of a half a trillion dollars or maybe more, and would they be opposed to using that money for better benefits for people on Medicare? 

That's an internal debate that is one – that is one that we all welcome, and respectful of opinions.  And I come from an area that has a lot of pharmaceutical industry research and the rest, and you have to be a patient investor to be an investor in a pharmaceutical company, because it takes a long time for discovery and approval and the rest.  But we don't want you spending the money that you make on television ads and passing that on to our constituents. 

Thank you all very much.  We have a vote on the Floor.  Have to go.