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.
And a good morning it is: the Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama's wonderful action to support our Dreamers. The DACA decision is something that supports our values as a country.
The Dreamers across the country enjoy more popularity than almost anyone. Overwhelmingly, it's something like 75, 80 percent of the American people – three‑quarters of the people who vote support the Dreamers. Three‑quarters of – large number of Republicans, Independents. People who – over 60 percent of people who support President Trump, support the Dreamers.
So, this is really – we were in such dread about what could possibly happen at the Court up until last night, just if it goes this way, if it goes that way. But this way is the American way and we are very proud of it. So, that was this morning.
Last night, in the Judiciary Committee, late last night, the Committee overwhelmingly passed out the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which will now go to Rules and then come to the Floor before the Fourth of July. We are very proud of the work that was done by Chairwoman Karen Bass, the Chair of the [Congressional Black Caucus], but also the Chair of the Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee.
This morning, the Supreme Court and DACA; last night, the Judiciary Committee and the Justice in Policing Act.
Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a day that we observe as a day of freedom in our country. It was the day that people in the west found out about the Emancipation Proclamation. In observance of that, I have sent a letter, that you will see, to the Clerk of the House directing the Clerk to remove the portraits of four previous Speakers of the House who served in the Confederacy.
We didn't know about this until we were taking inventory of the statues and the curator told us that there were four paintings of Speakers in the Capitol of the United States, four Speakers who had served in the Confederacy. So tomorrow, Juneteenth – the Clerk will oversee removal of those Confederate Speakers from the House.
As I have said before, there is no room in the hallowed halls of this democracy, this temple of democracy, to memorialize people who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy. You have to see the remarks that they had made and how oblivious they were to what our Founders had in mind in our country. We must lead by example. So, we are glad that that is gone.
I will take some questions in a moment about the Justice in Policing Act, but we are very proud of the legislation that was put together. It was the work of decades. These bills have been in the hopper for a while. But in terms of the public sentiment to get the job done in a strong way, the moment is now. As we take action on the Justice in Policing, we also have to recognize other injustice in our country, whether it is injustice in health care and the economy, environmental injustice that exists, the list goes on.
And one manifestation of it right now is the coronavirus impact having a disparate impact on people of color in our country. And so we are hoping and pushing and advocating for the passage of The Heroes Act, to open our economy; testing, tracing, treating, isolating. Get the job done. We don't have – we don't have a vaccine, and we don't have a cure. Hopefully, we will and that science will be the answer to our prayers in that regard. But we do have testing, tracing, treatment, and we want to address that in a way that takes the data that shows the disparate impact on people of color in our country so that we can save their lives, so that we can save their lives.
The legislation also has an impact on our economy. And yesterday and the day before, the Chairman of the Fed, Jerome Powell, urged Congress not to take our foot off the brake. ‘I would think it would be of concern to Congress if Congress were to pull back from the support that it is providing too quickly. I do think it would be appropriate to think about continuing support for people who are newly out of work and for smaller businesses who are struggling. The economy is just now beginning to recover. It is a critical phase, and I think the support would be well placed at this time.’
He is not the only one. Moody's yesterday, the economic forecasting firm, Moody's, published an analysis that highlights the need for The Heroes Act, ‘Without additional help from Congress and the Administration, prospects are for double digit unemployment through the end of next year, and even this assumes nothing else goes wrong, like a serious second wave of the virus. How well the economy does in the next several years depends critically on what lawmakers decide to do in the next few weeks.’
And in the next few weeks we are hoping that – as you have seen, they went from, ‘Never, we're not doing another bill,’ to, ‘Well, maybe, but not so big,’ and ‘Maybe, but not so soon.’ And you see they're having their own internal debate about the size and scope and timing of what happens next. But we must help our – honor our heroes, help our state and local governments.
I have told you before, Speaker.gov/HeroesAct, to see what it means to you and your community. Open our economy; testing, tracing, treating and isolation; and direct payments. It has been said by economists, including Chairman Powell, that improvement that was viewed in the May employment numbers was largely because of the Unemployment Insurance and the direct payments. We must do that again. And, of course, we want our voting, vote-by-mail money, in there as well.
So, later today, not here, but in the Rayburn Room, House Democrats will unveil H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, taking bold, transformational action to build the infrastructure of America, while again addressing key injustices, justice of transportation and transit and the rest.
Sadly, the COVID‑19 crisis has laid bare many vulnerabilities and disparities in our nation in terms of health care, financial security, housing, transportation and more, which we will combat with this legislation. Democrats' plan will protect families' health, create jobs, grow the economy, invest in clean energy and climate resilience and ensure that America's infrastructure is the envy of the world. We will bring this bill to the Floor and pass it before the Fourth of July.
And with that, you know, the three things we said when we ran For The People: we would lower the cost of prescription drugs – lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing condition. That bill, once again, will be on the Floor on June 29th, the Affordable Care Act Enhancement – Affordable Care Enhancement Act. The next day, and maybe it will take two days, we will vote on lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America. That will be the next two days. And, before then, making our government better with the Justice in Policing Act, which will be the end of next week.
Speaker Pelosi. With that, any questions?
Q: Madam Speaker, on the police reform bill, I know this is getting a little bit ahead of things, but I know you are very proud of your bill; the Senate Republicans introduced theirs. Can you imagine – would you support ending up in a conference on this? I mean, there is a limited amount you can do to affect what the Senate is going to do, but if you can move things in parallel.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we would like to end up in conference because that's how Congress works its will. The House acts, the Senate acts, and you go to conference and try to reconcile the legislation.
It's so important. The American people care so much. They know so much. They are watching. And this is an opportunity that we have never had before, as you can see, taking all kinds of shape in terms of setting the record straight as to who we are as a country and how we treat people.
And so, again, my negotiators are led by Karen Bass and Jerry Nadler, the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, and I am very proud of the work that they have done. It is very different, in terms of what it does, than the Senate bill. But at least they have similar categories.
Q: Well, to that end, in your conversations with Leader Schumer, are you encouraging him to let that Senate bill move forward, to ultimately get to that point?
Speaker Pelosi. One of the things you should know about our interaction is they don't tell me what to do, and I don't tell them what to do. That's up to the Senate to make their own decision about how they go forward.
But we do have a bill that is introduced in the House and in the Senate. We're very proud of the work also of Senator Booker and Senator Harris and how they contributed to what this bill is. And we'll leave it up to them to make their judgment about how to proceed in the Senate.
Q: Madam Speaker, thank you. Good morning.
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning.
Q: On the DACA ruling, in mid‑November the President indicated that if the Supreme Court ruling did not go his direction, he might be willing to make a deal. I remember I asked you a couple of years ago, in reviewing the border wall issue, if you would be willing to trade border wall money for a bona fide DACA agreement, and you said no at that point.
Speaker Pelosi. That's right.
Q: Do you see the possibility for any sort of – I mean, based on what the President said in November – a deal on DACA or moving some sort of immigration legislation between now and the election?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we would like to pass the Dream Act, the Dream and Promise Act, which goes well beyond DACA to many more Dreamers. It goes for TPS, Temporary Protected Status, DED, a deferred enforcement kind of provision. So, we would like to see that bill passed.
What we would really like, though, is to come together to talk about the comprehensive immigration reform that goes even well beyond the legislation I just talked about. But there isn't anybody in the immigration community that wants us to trade a wall for immigration.
Q: But what about just doing – is that back on the table now where you could see the House maybe passing an immigration bill now before, say, the election?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we did pass a bill. It's called the Dream Act.
Q: I know, but I mean a comprehensive bill.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we'll see. I mean, there had been times when the President has said that he would support bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform right there on TV, in the White House, with Democratic and Republican Members of Congress in the House and the Senate there, and then reneged on it. So, we'll see. I mean, it would be great if we could do that. It's what we really need to do for our country.
There was bipartisan support in the Senate for such a bill, which the Senate Republicans – the House Republicans would not allow to be brought up in the House.
So, it isn't as if we haven't found our common ground. We can. But there isn't that much time. What is it, a hundred and thirty –
Speaker Pelosi. – eight days?
Q: But who's counting?
Speaker Pelosi. 138 days. Well, let's hope for the best and always try to find that. But I don't – I don't know. I don't know what the President meant. Maybe he doesn't either because he's backed off what he said before.
Q: Madam Speaker, obviously there are stunning allegations in John Bolton's new book. I am curious, do you want to see him testify in the House and will you be willing to subpoena him, if necessary?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it's interesting, because he was so arrogant in terms of the House when we were engaged in the impeachment.
We did impeach the President of the United States. Removing him from office requires a vote of the Senate, and they have said that there is – many of them have said there is nothing that John Bolton has put forth that would change their mind about removing the President from office, because no matter how unfit the President is, they just did not want a Democratic President.
President Trump, by dint of what we saw in the impeachment, by what others are being quoted as saying in terms of leaders in the President's own Administration, President Trump is clearly ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to be the President of the United States.
That doesn't seem to matter to the Republicans in the United States Senate. It didn't seem to matter to John Bolton. He chose royalty over patriotism. And so he's going to make money off of his book, I guess.
And so we'll make a judgment. I'll be meeting with the Chairs to make a judgment because it's not necessarily about whether we subpoena or what. We did subpoena some of his employees, and they very courageously testified – some of the people who worked with him, very courageously testified. As Mr. Schiff's statement – Mr. Schiff put out a very strong statement. I'd call it to your attention. Eliot Engel, the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, put out a very strong statement on this. And we'll be discussing how the American people are best served by oversight. The public has a right to know.
As you know, we are waiting for the Court to decide, maybe by the end of this month, as to whether they will support what our Founders had in mind: the separation of powers, three separate, co‑equal branches of government, each a check and balance on the other. That is what is at stake and is before the Supreme Court now when it comes to subpoenas being respected by the Executive branch.
So we'll take a review. One thing is for sure: the American people have a right to know our oversight will always continue. Whether that is by subpoena or some other way, we will discuss that with the Chairs of the Committees.
Q: Given what we have seen in the book, though, do you –
Speaker Pelosi. I haven't seen the book. I'm not paying any money for a book – I don't want to pay any money for a book that was a substitute for testifying before Congress about the well‑being of the American people.
Q: Do you have any regrets about not forcing this –
Speaker Pelosi. I have no regrets. No, I am very proud of what we did. Decisions were made.
So, for somebody who is trying to keep the con going with the right wing of the Republican Party by criticizing us for not subpoenaing him when he said he wouldn't come in. He would only go to the Senate where he knew the Senate would not subpoena him. So, this is called a con.
And we are very proud of what we have done. And it's really a sad thing, because he knew that the President should be removed from office. That's clear. And he does want to keep his ties to the right wing, so he does that by criticizing us. I place no value on that.
I repeat, President Trump is clearly – the evidence is clear, it always has been, President Trump is ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to be President of the United States.
Q: Madam Speaker, related a little bit to what Chad had asked you about these sort of big moments that Congress has faced before, whether it be immigration or gun violence or deficit reduction, we have seen these moments where it seems like there is a lot of buy‑in for a common cause, only for it to fall apart at the end. And I am curious your level of confidence on police reform, given that this appears to be one of those moments?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you know, we go back to Abraham Lincoln, ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything; without it, practically nothing.’
Now, you have heard me say that before, again and again and again, and it is a fact. And public sentiment – for public sentiment to weigh in, the public has to know, and that is sometimes the challenge. Do people really know what the choice is here? They do. They do. They have made it clear, beautifully, patriotically, peacefully. And for the Congress of the United States to ignore that call for justice would be wrong.
So, I have confidence that something will happen now, because it must, because the people insist. And they are not going to stop insisting until we get something done.
Q: Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the police reform bill for a moment.
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me. I am so sorry. A little bit louder.
Q: Sorry about that. There we go.
Going back to the police reform bills for a moment and some of the reactions from law enforcement. Over in Los Angeles, there has been a reaction. Apparently some officers did not show up to work over at the MTA. Over in Atlanta, we are hearing that officers didn't report to work there. Is there a concern about ‘Blue Flu,’ essentially, happening across the country in reaction to what we are seeing up here on Capitol Hill as well as locally?
Speaker Pelosi. I think that the men and women in blue, whether that's – firefighters are in blue, too, I think. But our men and women in blue, there are enough of them there to keep the American people safe who care about doing their jobs in a way that honors justice.
And we have had communication with the Fraternal Order of Police. I have connected them with Karen Bass so that she could hear some of their concerns. And we think that there is a place for us to come together.
We do know that there are some people who, as we have seen their actions, that are not – I don't think everybody who wears blue would be proud of those actions. But I do think there are many people in blue whose actions we are proud of, and I think there are enough of them to keep the American people safe.
Any more women? Any more women? Any more women?
Staff. Last question.
Speaker Pelosi. We can have one more.
Q: Have you spoken to the Administration at all about negotiating on The Heroes Act? And are you open to pulling out elements of The Heroes Act and putting it on the Floor as smaller bills to address the pandemic and the need for relief?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, what would they want to do? If we take out the state and local government money, which is absolutely essential, by the end of June, many states and localities have to have their budgets balanced. But the Grim Reaper says he doesn't seem to care about that.
Really? Really? You don't care about the fact that state and local governments, who meet the needs of people, need to have their budgets balanced? And this is money that is needed for them to pay for the cost of the coronavirus to them, their outlays of money to meet the needs and the loss of revenue. Meet the needs, loss of revenue, on the coronavirus.
Testing, testing, testing. Are they willing to help the states to test in a way that fights this, fights this virus, defeats this virus? Why would we divide those two, because they are directly connected?
And what piece would they want? Would they want to do – they say they don't want to do Unemployment Insurance. This is the thirteenth week that we've had over a million people applying for unemployment, thirteenth straight week over a million. So, what piece would you subtract?
This is a very disciplined, focused, necessary piece of legislation: honor our heroes; support state and local; open our economy; testing, tracing, treatment; money in the pockets of the American people. I think they are all very connected and should go forward together.
I haven't seen any initiative on their part – I haven't seen them say we should help state and local. A few of them in the Senate have. I haven't seen anybody in the House say that. I haven't seen any of them say we really need to test so that we can address this comprehensively, addressing the disparity in all this. And I have heard some of them say they don't want to do any more Unemployment Insurance.
Unemployment – all of the three things I just mentioned, they are all stimulus to the economy. They are all stimulus to the economy. Because I have to say it all the time: the one piece, state and local government, Speaker.gov/HeroesAct. Go look it up – is half, costs half of what the Republicans did in their tax scam, which gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent, did not provide any stimulus to the economy and heaped $2 trillion of debt onto our children. So, for half of what they were willing to do for the high end, we want to do for the whole country and at the same time honor our heroes.
Q: Madam Speaker, I wonder if you – you said you don't like the Republican bill, but you at least – the categories seem the same on the policing reform, or you indicated that.
I wonder if you see more urgency here on police reform than you saw on, you know, kind of the gun question or on any number of other bills that the Senate has not taken up. I mean, at least you are both working on the same topic. I wonder if that's notable to you at all.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the gun issue is very important. Yesterday was the five year anniversary, as you know, of the Emanuel – that terrible shooting, where that young man went in there, prayed with people and then shot them dead. And then shot them dead. So, we have been carrying that around all, you know, for that long time, but memorializing it again yesterday.
So, the gun issue is a very important issue, and it is one that is very – background check legislation, including Mr. Clyburn of South Carolina's fix, is important to us. And like 80 percent of the American people support that, including gun owners who have to have background checks, and they do comply with that and support that legislation.
We haven't seen tens of thousands of people in the streets day in and day out over a long period of time, a message that's spread throughout the world about justice, about justice. So, that demonstration in the streets was about this issue, about police brutality, but also about fairness, just fairness across the board. And when you're talking about brutality and you're talking about safety, you are talking about guns, too. So, that continues to be a very important issue for us.
But you would have to admit, and it's quite obvious to all of us, that we have not ever seen anything quite like the peaceful demonstrations that are out there awakened by the visible strangulation, lynching, chokehold of George Floyd and the reaction that people had to it. It wasn't the first time it happened. It happened many times before. But it just somehow or other was the tipping point.
I will just close by saying what I have said to you before. And we had Bryan Stevenson, we talked to him about – you know, he has the lynching museum in Alabama where many of us were just there in March. And when you go – he has two; one is like a monument and the other one is a museum. When you go to the museum, it's about slavery and this or that. And I bring it up again, because as a mom it just impressed me so. I had my grandson with me when we saw this.
There are two little children on the wall. They are slaves. And they speak. And they say, ‘Mama. Mama.’ They're little children, ‘Mama. Mama. Has anyone seen our mother? Does anyone know where our mother is?’ And, of course, you know the mother has been separated from the children and the brutality of all of that.
And then to hear George Floyd call out for his mother, just a universal call. The humanity of it all, I think it just struck such a chord for many reasons, not just the ‘Mama’ part, but the part of eight minutes and 46 seconds where somebody pled a number of times, ‘I can't breathe.’ The inhumanity of it all, I think, has taken us to a place where we will get – we will have justice. We will have a bill. I hope it is sooner rather than later.
Q: Is there going to be baseball? Is there going to be baseball?
Speaker Pelosi. I hope so.
Q: Have you spoken with any of the league commissioners?
Speaker Pelosi. No, no, I haven't.
Q: Will you, as a favor to us?