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.
So this has been quite a week. What a historic evening we had last night with the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
We couldn't be prouder of our Congressional Black Caucus, the work of Karen Bass, the Chair; the work of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Nadler; and the fact that it was bipartisan, both in rejecting the Senate bill, which was their motion to recommit, and by passing our legislation, which will make a tremendous difference in people's lives.
And justice served also by what is happening on the Floor right now, in terms of statehood for the District of Columbia, long overdue. First time Congress will pass legislation for admission of Washington, District of Columbia as a state: Washington, Douglass [Commonwealth] – Frederick Douglass. That would be the name of the new – the 51st State.
And, of course, yesterday being the seventh anniversary of the Shelby v. Holder, horrible decision on gutting the certification – Section IV of the Voting Rights Act – Title IV. And so, this morning, some of us were gathered in this very place to talk about the fact that we had passed H.R. 4, Voting Rights [Advancement] Act, that we hope that the Senate will pass.
All about justice. You know it is about the vote. It is about our democracy. It’s about fairness. And we know that there is a wish to suppress the vote and voting rights for the District and the rest. But we will make our mark. We will stand our ground.
And what is really important about all of this right now is the health of the American people. Martin Luther King said, ‘Of all,’ he said exactly, ‘Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman,’ he said, ‘and the most inhuman, because it also – it often results in physical death.’ Of all forms of injustice, inequality, health care, the most inhuman.
So, it is unfathomable, unfathomable, that as we gathered here, late at night, last night, in the midst of a pandemic, the White House, the Administration, in the dark of night, filed their brief in the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, saying to the American people,  million families, if you have a pre-existing condition, you will no longer have the benefit of access to quality care. And the list goes on of the benefits that it would overturn. Lifetime limits that they support, that we want to overturn; that, if you have a pre-existing condition, that there is no lifetime limit on the amount of coverage that you would receive.
Midst of a pandemic, 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose ACA's life‑saving protection, 23 million Americans will lose their health – access to quality, affordable health care. The ACA's ban on annual lifetime limits, young people staying on other people's – being a woman no longer a pre-existing condition. Forget about it. The Administration wants to do away with all of that.
As bad as that is, they think they can get away with saying, ‘Oh, we support a benefit for a pre-existing condition,’ when they don't. So, when they say that, understand they are in court to overturn that now. They continue to be, and now they have filed their briefs. And all of this as the ACA enrollment has increased by 46 percent by a similar period last year, showing an increased need during the coronavirus.
So many people have lost their jobs, and, hence, in some cases, their insurance benefits. Therefore, they are turning to the Affordable Care Act. Again, in the middle of a pandemic, the President is saying, ‘We want to slow down the testing.’ The testing.
I just was thinking during the night about all of this, thinking of being in school and learning about the scientific method, thinking about legislation we have passed over time here to say we should have evidence‑based legislation. And what does the scientific method say? The scientific method is a systematic method of research involving the recognition and formulation of a problem. You have to do testing to recognize the fullness and the formulation of the problem. The collection of data through observation. You have to do testing to observe the data, and the formulation and testing of how you go forward.
This Administration and the Republicans in Congress have two things going against the will of the American people: they are against science, they do not accept science, and they do not accept governance. Now, none of us wants any more government than we need, but they are against governance. So, look at all the issues we are faced with: health care, a pandemic. And they resist – they resist the insistence, the imperative that the scientists are putting forth, that we must test, trace, treat and separate, wear masks, wash our hands, keep our distance. They resist that.
And governance? They don't want to have – they are overturning the Affordable Care Act. They don't believe in a public role. And some of their supporters say, ‘Hey, government, keep your hands off my Medicare.’ Well, what do they think Medicare is? What do you think Medicare is? It's governance.
So, anti‑science, anti‑governance. If you deny science or ignore it and you don't believe in governance, you don't have to do anything. You don't have to do anything about climate. You're in denial. You don't accept the science. And you don't want to punish polluters or have regulation of pollution in our atmosphere, which is a health issue. If you don't believe in science, you won't take the measures to protect the health of the American people. The list goes on and on.
And so we have the legislation that we have passed, and part of the CARES Act called for a GAO report, and this is what it said. In the middle – the GAO report said: ‘In early February, the sole FDA‑authorized COVID viral tests were deployed by the CDC to state public health laboratories, but they experienced accuracy and reliability issues, resulting in significant delays in testing nationwide in the critical early weeks of the outbreak.’ It went on to say the absence of complete and consistent COVID‑19 testing data reported through May 31st, 2020,’ a few weeks ago, ‘has made it more difficult to track and know the number of infections, mitigate their effort and inform decisions on opening communities.’
We have a pandemic. The last couple – two days ago, what was it? 36,000 cases, a record. Yesterday, 40,000 cases, a further record. And the President is saying, ‘Slow down on the testing. If we didn't have testing, we wouldn't have these cases.’
So, my purpose here this morning is about health care. This is about health and the ignoring of science, the resistance to all of the advice we are getting from scientists. The early denial, delay caused deaths – caused deaths. And now, with the spike that we are seeing, the President is saying, ‘Slow down the testing.’ Others said he was joking. He doesn't say that. And, by the way, this is not a laughing matter. It's a matter of life and death.
And, as I said, many more people are signing up for the Affordable Care Act. And, so, I am so pleased that on Monday we will be putting forth our Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act. It will lower health care costs, negotiate lower prices, expand coverage and push hold-out states to adopt Medicaid expansion, combat inequity in health coverage, combat junk plans. The list goes on.
Now, let me say this. As I said earlier, many people who have lost their jobs have turned to the Affordable Care Act because their job – their health care was tied to their job. So, hopefully, they will get their jobs back, but, in the meantime, they have that access. That's what the President is trying to overturn in the courts. So, God-willing, the courts will do the right thing, but we just don't know. So, we are getting prepared for what comes next in all of this – in all of this.
But let me tell you this about the ACA enhancement. It has – why we have some things in it and some things aren't that were saved for another day, because the President said he would support these things. He said he would support negotiating for lower prices. That is what he said during the campaign.
That has been for years our – one of our priorities that we have never been able to get 60 votes in the Senate and get it passed into law. But the President said during the campaign he was going to, ‘Negotiate like crazy.’ Crazy, that is a good description of his actions throughout. But, ‘negotiate like crazy’ apparently means not negotiate at all. That is the only way you are going to get the prices – the lowered prices.
And, in the bill – the Affordable Care Act – it brings down the cost of prescription drugs, which we are promising to the American people, and the savings to the Federal government from not having to pay those prices will go to expand, in a way – bigger expansion of Medicare since its inception. Benefits for hearing, for visual and for dental. It's quite remarkable. It has other advantages for seniors in terms of cost of prescription drugs as well. But we are very, very proud of that aspect, very understandable about everyone.
And so, it is really important, as we quote the GAO, and what is lacking in terms of what the White House is doing on testing, and we comment on the President's – I don't know how you would even describe them – anti‑scientific comments, we have a better idea. It started March 4th with the first bill we passed on the coronavirus. Testing, testing, testing. In April, we passed the enhancement, the further PPP bill, and we had a big investment in testing, testing, testing, not really embraced fully by the Administration, as you know.
In The Heroes Act, one of the pillars of The Heroes Act is open up our economy, testing, testing, testing. Testing, tracing, treatment, separation, wear a mask, wash your hands, keep your distance. Testing, tracing, treatment. It has a big investment for that and the health care institutions that would implement that. It goes a long way, to get back to my first point about justice and Martin Luther King.
The coronavirus has demonstrated very clearly the injustice of how a pandemic hits, the disparity of deaths that is so clear in communities of color. The disparity among groups and the big impact on communities of color requires that we do this testing. As Mr. Clyburn, our distinguished Whip, has said, we need to have mobile units to go out into communities so that people will be tested and then traced and the rest. Why should there be more deaths in the communities of color? Because there hasn't been testing and tracing and treatment to prevent those deaths from happening.
So, it's really important for the Senate to pass The Heroes Act for what it does for our heroes who are risking their lives to save lives, and now may lose their jobs because of the coronavirus and the revenue lost to communities, state and localities that are footing that bill. That's one part of it. But the second pillar is about testing, tracing, treating. It's evidence-based. It will provide us with the analysis of what the magnitude of the problem is and the data to say how it is affecting communities of color and everyone in our population and help us defeat this virus.
God-willing and science granting it, we will have, hopefully, a vaccine at some point, a cure, therapeutics and the rest, but we don't now. We don't now. But we do have the tools to kill the virus – testing, tracing, treatment, separation, mask, sanitation. And, in our bill, we have the resources to do so, and they respect the role that the States play in all of this. So, I'm hoping that the Grim Reaper will not be responsible for even more dangerous behavior that causes more deaths in our country, because we've ignored science, we haven't acted in an evidence‑based way.
Can't help but say, that on this – in this election in November, science, science, science and science are going to be on the ballot. That is what is at stake here, and it's a matter of life and death.
Speaker Pelosi. With that, I would be pleased to take any questions you have.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir?
Q: On the D.C. bill, the last time we brought states into the Union, it was a compromise, Alaska and Hawaii –
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me. I'm sorry?
Q: I said the last time we brought states into the Union –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: – there was a compromise, Alaska and Hawaii, that one would be the Democratic state, one would be the Republican state, and the politics flipped. Isn't that part of the inherent problem with bringing in D.C., or the challenge, because there is no political balance because they perceive D.C. to be automatically a Democratic state and that means two Democratic Senators?
Speaker Pelosi. That shouldn't be how we have enfranchisement in our country, what's the nature of the vote. Actually, Mr. Hoyer said here from the podium yesterday – not here, we were in a different room – but that at the time of that – late '50s?
Speaker Pelosi. People thought that Alaska would be a Democratic State and Hawaii would be a Republican State, and of course they're not. So, while that's interesting, it shouldn't be dispositive of the issue, no.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. And, you know, they talk about the too’s. Too Black, too Democratic, too whatever.
Q: Do you see any possibility to have any other type of compromise if it came to that, because even when they had the bill in 2007 to grow the size of the House, the deal was that Utah was to get a seat in D.C., and that was the compromise. Isn't that the inherent –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that was voting on the Floor of the House.
Speaker Pelosi. That was voting on the Floor of the House. That wasn't statehood.
Q: Right. Right. But, again, that was the idea. There was a balance to have Utah to have a seat, because that was to be the Republican seat at the time, and then –
Speaker Pelosi. Right.
Q: D.C. would have a Democratic seat.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't – forgive me for not valuing your question to the extent that you are valuing it. I don't think that what the state is – that can change over time. But the fact is, people in the District of Columbia pay taxes, fight our wars, risk their lives for our democracy and, yet, in this state, they have no – in this place, they have no vote in the House or the Senate about whether we go to war and how those taxes are exacted and how it is all played.
And you don't want to hear about it, but this is in my DNA. I am very committed to this. When I was born, my father, Thomas D'Alesandro, he was a Member of Congress from Baltimore, and he served on the – as Chair of the [District of Columbia Appropriations Subcommittee]. That committee was – whoever chaired that was considered the unofficial mayor of Washington, because they made all the decisions for the District of Columbia. It was wrong.
He was a big believer in home rule. And over time you see some evolution in all of it. Home rule emerged, and then a mayor. You don't know this, but there was a time there wasn't even a mayor of Washington, much less a Governor of the state. And now we are to this place.
So, this is it. We are at a state of compromise. And we think it is very long overdue that people – that residents of the District of Columbia, all good Americans, should have a vote in the House and in the Senate.
Q: You frequently criticize the President's rhetoric. So why do you think it is appropriate to suggest the Republicans are trying to get away with the murder of George Floyd with their handling of police reform?
Speaker Pelosi. I think George Floyd's murder would have been prevented if our bill, that we have now is – were the law of the land. That's what we're talking about, is how we go forward. You know, I don't have any – I have no –
Q: Was that comment going too far? On that comment –
Speaker Pelosi. Hm?
Q: Do you think you go too far?
Speaker Pelosi. No, I do not. I do not. I do not. I am telling you, we are talking about something that is an incident that everybody saw, the martyrdom. Everybody saw eight minutes, 46 seconds of a knee on the neck. That should – and then they come up with a bill that says – and the President comes out with his, whatever it is, saying no chokeholds, but maybe some.
Yeah, no. I have no – absolutely not. We are talking right now – the Administration, in terms of their denial, their delay on the coronavirus caused death. Add that to your bill of particulars. Policy has an impact, and we can prevent future deaths if we ban the chokeholds. I'm fully committed to that.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, why do you think Chairman Engel lost his election?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know that that's determined yet. But I know that he loves his district, I know he loves his constituents and I know he would want us to welcome whoever represents them in an appropriate way to Congress, and we will. But I think we have another week before we know the outcome of a couple of the different races in New York.
Q: Well, on that, is it a troubling trend or a sign, you have another powerful Chairman, Maloney, who might also lose her –
Speaker Pelosi. No. I think she will, I think she will win. I will talk to you next week when we see what the results are of the election, but I am not going to speculate on what we don't even know has happened.
But in those districts, a district like mine, anything can happen. It has nothing to do with who controls the House of Representatives and that is where my focus is. Not within Democratic districts, but in who controls the House of Representatives. And I am very proud of our – how we are proceeding.
Our Chair, Cheri Bustos, has been wonderful in mobilization, own the ground, don't yield one grain of sand, messaging in a way that works all over the country on our For The People agenda: lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, building infrastructure in a green way, cleaner government, part of that Justice in Policing, part of that District of Columbia becoming a state, part of that voting – passing the Voting Rights [Advancement] Act.
And not only are we proud of our – what we call our frontline, our – most of the Freshman who are up for re-election, but we are proud of the candidates in the red to blue, where we hope to pick up more seats. That is really where my focus is.
Q: Back on the –
Speaker Pelosi. Again.
Q: Yes, ma'am. Thank you. Back on the policing bill.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: You passed your bill yesterday. You know it isn't going to pass in the Senate. Heading into the weekend, can you just lend us an update on the negotiations? Are there talks happening between the Chambers? Are there talks happening between, you know, Senators Booker, Harris and Tim Scott or McConnell involved in any of this? Can you just let us –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you have to talk to them about that, but what I do know is that it would be important for the Senate to pass a bill that is one that can pass the Senate. And in order to do that, they should engage in negotiations with the Democrats in the United States Senate. And the Judiciary – their Judiciary Committee may be the auspices. I don't know. That's up to them.
But McConnell, you know, the Grim Reaper, who is not going to pass any of our bills, can't even pass his own bill over there. So, they should get together and formulate legislation that can pass the Senate, and then we can see how we come together on them.
We are very proud of our bill. What is it, 135 civil rights organizations and human rights organizations voted to support it? The moms of some of the young people who were killed by police brutality supported the bill. We are very, very proud of it. Now, the Business Roundtable has supported the bill.
So, the range of support for what we have in our bill is very broad. It's focused, it's disciplined and it will save lives. And it would have saved lives if it had been the law already.
Q: Last week, you had said that you wanted to go to conference. It sounds like now you are saying –
Speaker Pelosi. Not with a bill – not with a bill that nobody wants to vote for.
Speaker Pelosi. What they had was –
Q: If the Democrats support something in the Senate, then odds are the Democrats would support it in the House. Would you agree with that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we'll see. Depends on what it is. But I think that that's true, because the bill that we put forth was helped to be shaped by the Senator – Senator Harris – Senator Kamala Harris and Senator Cory Booker. They were part of putting the bill together. So, we will see what they can do in the Senate.
But the American people will not take no for an answer. Hundreds of thousands of people lining the streets, day in and day out, week in and week out, now one month, saying enough is enough, as George Floyd's brother testified before the Congress.
And I am very proud, before the Judiciary Committee, that before he testified he said to me, ‘Madam Speaker, do you think that I can tell George's daughter that his name will be always remembered because you will name the bill for him?’ And I said, ‘Well, I'll recommend that to the Judiciary Committee and to the – to the Congressional Black Caucus, who have shaped the bill. But I only will do that if you tell me that this legislation is worthy of George [Floyd’s] name.’ And he said, ‘It is.’
And so we're very proud. We're very proud to carry that. He will – it's amazing. It was just like – not a tipping point. That would be too easy. Just a precipice our country went over, just a different place to say, that's not who we are. We can do better. And the Senate certainly can do better.
Q: Madam Speaker, I am curious what you would say to Americans who want an answer from Washington now on policing and justice, and those who are tired of Congress being at a standstill despite the public sentiment for the –
Speaker Pelosi. I want to just say this, and thank you for that question. What we put together is the result of decades of concern on the subject of police brutality. We certainly don't paint every one of our first responders with the same brush. That's for sure. Overwhelmingly, we don't. But where there is need to make change, we will make change.
And I think that the press, if I just may say, gave the Republicans too much credit for that Senate bill. It did nothing. It took our language and defanged it. And you are like, ‘Wow, why can't you cooperate?’ Well, what would you do? We are saying, ‘No chokeholds.’ The President is saying, ‘Well, maybe sometimes.’ So, should we agree on the number of chokeholds? Would that be a good compromise? That's not the point. It's about values. This is not even an issue. It's an ethic.
So, we have two differences of opinion. The President is in the Supreme Court where he sent people there purposely to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which is something that the American people need, especially at the time of the pandemic.
The legislation we passed is the result of decades of work on this subject, and that's why over 130 civil and human rights groups have come out in support of it. Read their letter. Read their letter. The Senate has to do better. So, it isn't about, you know, this whole thing of equivalence, ‘Why can't you work together?’ Because they don't share our values on this subject. Not yet. But I hope that they will.
Q: For a question, why not agree to go to conference and see if you can work it out?
Speaker Pelosi. Because who wants – in order to go to conference, you have to pass the bill in your house. The Senate – you think I should suggest, nor would I, or any of my Members – 100 percent of them voted against that bill yesterday. So, what are you suggesting? Vote for something you don't – that you – that is completely contrary to your values, so you can go to conference?
You know, I mean, really, I want Congress to work its will. I am always open to the four corners of our negotiations. We always respect each other's opinion. But if one person is saying chokeholds, and the other is saying no chokeholds, it's very hard to compromise.
And, ‘Oh, we're going to have – the President is going to have data collection, but it's not going to be shared.’ What? It's not going to be shared? Well, how will people know what – for example, Tamir Rice. He died because a policeman – he died at the hands of a police officer who had been fired by another department, but the information was not shared by the department that hired him. And his misconduct resulted in the death continued by that.
So, I appreciate your question, and I – as I said when I became Speaker, bipartisanship, transparency, E Pluribus Unum, from many, one. We always have a responsibility to reach across the aisle. But instead of a handshake, you got a slap in the face. Then you say, ‘You better go back to the drawing board.’ And that's what they better do. And that's up to the Senate when they come to their conclusion. They can't pass a bill, and you think that we should embrace it? No.
And thank you for your question. That's it. Thank you all very much.
Staff. Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Bye bye.
Q: Are we going to have sports?
Staff. Thank you.
Q: Sixteen NBA players just tested positive.
Speaker Pelosi. My God. Isn't it sad?
Q: But do you think that there should be sports under these conditions?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think safety – safety is first, and people have families at home that they have to go home to. And they don't want to carry somebody else's virus there.
So, when the President of the United States says he doesn't want to wear a mask and understands the bad example that – well, I don't know if he understands anything – but understand – somebody must, over there, understand the bad example that is to the country and that we are at a place now we don't have to be.
This is a President who doesn't want to wear a mask, who, again, called the virus a hoax. Called the virus a hoax. ‘It is going to go away magically. It is going to be a miracle that is going to make it go away.’ I am a devout Catholic; I believe in miracles. And I pray for them, but I think that science is an answer to our prayers, too. And science says wear a mask, test, trace, treat, keep your distance. The President doesn't support any of that. He has events that are counter to that.
So, we have a – we have a moment. I am in a mood, because this is a matter of life and death, and this Administration has failed miserably. I don't know. I mean, it's about justice. It's about justice in policing. It's about justice in health care and recognizing the coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on communities of color.
So, when you talk about sports, well, you have to talk about safety and health and the families of the people that sports figures go home to. They know that. They know that very well.
But, again, they have to make the – everybody has to make the judgment in terms of testing, tracing, treating, keeping distance. How does that work in what we are doing?
But we do miss our sports. We miss our baseball. We miss – we were going – I don't know if we're going to be missing football. We'll see as we go along. I guess Dr. Fauci thinks we will be. Soccer – well, some sports are more, shall we say, have more physical contact than others. So, let's hope and pray for a vaccine. Let's hope and pray for a cure. Let's hope and pray for testing, tracing and treating.
But I am telling you, two days in a row of record numbers of cases – same – one of those days, the President going to overturn access to quality, affordable care in the – so, if you detect my dismay about saying, ‘Why don't you go and agree with them, find your area of agreement?’ Well, we always want to. That's why, in our bill, we have negotiation. The President said he wanted to negotiate. I guess not anymore. Somebody got to him, I guess.
In any event, we just have to defeat the virus so we can open up our economy, so that we can send our kids to school. But we have to have it based on science and governance. And we have an answer to that, and that is The Heroes Act. So, I would hope that the – the Senate is going to have to take up some version of The Heroes Act soon. I hope it's sooner rather than later.
Thank you. Bye bye.