Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

July 16, 2020
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.  How are you all? 

So much happening.  Yesterday, it was two months since we passed The Heroes Act, as some of you are aware, who were with us as we observed that.  Calling upon the President to activate the Defense Production Act so that we can get the equipment we need.  The President has made so many bad executive decisions.  We wish he would make a good executive decision and do that. 

Observing his behavior, I have concluded that he is like the man who refuses to ask for directions.  All of the answers are there.  The scientists have the answers.  We know that testing, tracing, treating, distancing, masking, sanitation can stop the spread of this virus.  And yet, the President continues to go down the wrong path and refuses to ask for direction from scientists who know better than any of us. 

So, again, we observed that it was two months.  In that period of time, two million more people, two million more Americans have become infected, for a total of 3.5 million people infected.  Since that time, 50,000 more people have died, for a total of over 137,000.  Tens of millions of people are still out of work, and UI benefits expire soon.  And today, we marked the seventeenth straight week – weeks of more than one million people filing for UI benefits.  And we still don't have the needed testing and PPE.  And the President refuses to use the full power of the Defense Production Act needed for reopening: reopening our schools, reopening our economy and the rest. 

So many people have said, ‘I've had a test, but it's taken me at least a week, or sometimes two weeks, in order to get the results.’  You know why?  Because there is not enough equipment.  So many people have said, ‘I couldn't get a test because I was not qualifying with a disposition, a pre-condition, whatever it is – an impending operation.’  You know why?  Because there isn't enough equipment.  So why, for what reason does the President not fully implement the defense bill?  And in hospitals and in places that are giving care to people, there is not enough PPE, personal protective equipment. 

There is not enough equipment.  But we could have it if the President exercised – executed the Defense Production Act.  We called for it in the CARES Act.  Yesterday, a number of our – not yesterday, the 14th, a number of our colleagues wrote to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Health and Human Services and asked why.  Why was the DPA not used in the way that was called for in the legislation?  An assessment of the amount of each of the categories that we need: PPE, diagnostics, serologic and other COVID tests, treatment for COVID-19, other medical supplies and equipment.  The list goes on. 

This is such a massive dereliction of duty.  People are dying.  And so what we are saying to the Senate: join us in asking the President to use executive action for good instead of ill, as he has done, and pass The Heroes Act, which, as you know, supports our – but let's just focus on what it would mean for our schools.  Because across the country, the angst that people are reporting to us about the anxiety they have about the decision as to whether to send their children to school. 

What does the President do?  The negative.  ‘We are not going to give you money unless you open up.’  No, you give people, schools, money to open up.  And that is precisely what we do in The Heroes Act.  We have a $100 billion Education Stabilization Fund specifically geared to the coronavirus. 

Quite frankly, with the time that has gone by and the attitude that the President has had, the negative attitude the President has had, we probably will need more money.  We probably will need more money. 

We do have, in the going – the Moving Forward legislation that we passed, our infrastructure bill, we have another $100 billion for school construction. That was important even before coronavirus.  It was about ventilation, it's about wiring, it's about getting rid of lead poisoning in the schools, it's about meeting all the needs of our students. 

We tell our children that education is important, that they must study for their own personal – to reach their own personal aspirations and for the good of our country.  But we send them a different message when we send them to schools that are not wired with the technology for them to learn properly and modernly, when there is lead poisoning that makes them sick and diminishes their capacity to learn, when the ventilation systems are such that it exacerbates the situation.  And now, all of that exacerbated by the coronavirus. 

So if we add that – and then, of course, we have the resources to honor our heroes by supporting our state and local government.  And much of what state and local government does is the education of our children.  But they have had opportunity lost.  Their revenue lost because of the coronavirus.  Their revenue lost, their outlays of costs because of having to pay for coronavirus care, et cetera, has given them serious budget deficits.  So let us honor our heroes by doing that.  Let us open our schools and open our economy by testing, testing, testing, testing, tracing, treating, isolation. 

These schools are saying that they should be six feet apart.  That's for sure.  You're going to need fewer people in the classrooms.  They're going to need more space, therefore you need more teachers.  And the President is saying, ‘If you don't open up, we're going to deprive you of an eight-point-something percent that the federal government provides to schools in our country.  State and local do over 90 percent of it, and we – and they have, again, serious budget deficits because of the coronavirus. 

So, again, we need, we need – we need the DPA to open up schools, to open up the economy, to open up the economy.  And we need to help America's families.  Actually, if you put it all together, in our two packages, we have $230 billion specifically for the schools.  And then we have nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, which I remind you is one half of what they gave away in their tax break; 83 percent of the benefits going to the top one percent. 

So, in any case, Mr. President, admit it.  You've gone down the wrong path.  Ask for direction.  Ask for direction from our scientists who know better.  They knew better. 

As we urge the President and the GOP Senate to get on it and help the American people: help our state and local governments by honoring our heroes, open up our economy and our schools by having the equipment needed to do it and the funds to the facilitate that, put money in the pockets of the American people.  The time is running out on that.  This is drastic.  I know we keep saying this over and over, but it still persists, and the clock is running out on it.  

But as we urge them to do that, House Democrats are still working very hard for the people. 

This week, the Appropriations Committee has been marking up the fiscal year 2021 legislation, putting us on track to have passed legislation to fund 96 percent of the government in July.  The second time in two years we have been on schedule.  We will pass those bills next week.  They are being marked up this week and last week. 

We're holding nearly 30 hearings and markups as we are here now across committees, including Energy and Commerce markup yesterday, at this time, some of it yesterday; 30 health-related bills, and hearings on COVID relief and vaccine, pandemic preparedness, environmental justice in the era of COVID and much more.  So we have a lot going on.  We will be taking these votes to the Floor next week to be on schedule to meet the needs of the American people.  And, again, the clock is ticking.  The Unemployment Insurance will run out by the end of the month, even before the end of the month.  We need to have the direct payments to people. 

But on the subject of the kids, you know, I'm a grandmother and a mom – five kids, nine grandchildren, all ages.  The youngest one is in public school in San Francisco.  We are very concerned, not only for her, but for her classmates.  They don't all have all of the technology that would be needed for distance learning.  All of them – many of them go to school for meals.  Well, they go to school to learn, but they get their food there.  And so with all the concern that we have for all children, we have to make sure all of that is in place.  But that's a situation that is replicated across the country.  And so, instead of threatening schools, instead of the Secretary of Education saying ‘Children should take risks.  Astronauts take risks.’  Oh, really?  Oh, really? 

So, in any event, this is personal.  It's about our children.  And at the very least, the President could say we're going to have the equipment necessary. 

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Any questions? 

Yes, ma'am.

Q:  Madam Speaker, you’re talking about spending billions, if not trillions, more money on this bill.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  You and Mitch McConnell still have not agreed on a Chair for the oversight of this money.  What’s the hold up?

Speaker Pelosi.  We had a – different suggestions about it, and we came to a conclusion about an excellent person.  And he agreed.  But there’s some process in the Senate, which I was not aware of, that takes a lot of time and that was a deterrent for the person staying on board.

Q:  Was that General Dunford?

Speaker Pelosi.  Hmm?

Q:  Mr. – General Dunford?  Was that person –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  So who’s your second choice?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I’ve proposed someone to the Leader and we will see if he accepts.  But I won’t be announcing it right here.

But this is – you know, it’s a funny thing.  You would think it should be the easiest thing in the world to come to such a conclusion.  And I was particularly proud that General Dunford was interested in considering this because I do think that a person of his stature and in the military; a person who knows how to manage things.  A leader, completely apolitical, would have been the perfect person.

I just don’t know A: how the word got out about him before there was an announcement, which then made, ‘well, what are we waiting for’ part of the issue.  So I would – I would hope that we would have somebody.  There are plenty of people in the military who would, I think, be willing to exercise their patriotic duty in an apolitical way with their management skills and the rest.  And that’s what I’m hoping will happen.

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, do you have any contact with anyone in the Administration over this next package, coronavirus package?

Speaker Pelosi.  Everything in this package, except for like – say, 95 percent of what is in this package is what we have had in previous bills.  So nobody is being asked to vote for something they haven't voted for before. 

The one thing that is different is – they have resisted, in the past, any strong OSHA standard, and that is absolutely essential for us to have to protect our workers, at all times, but an even stronger one at the time of coronavirus.  So they know what they have to do. 

There is another piece that they have resisted that is very urgent now.  They resisted in the CARES Act – but very urgent now, and that is the assistance for renters.  The moratorium is going to end, or has ended in some places, and we really need to get that assistance.  And that – not only do we have it in The Heroes Act, but a couple of weeks ago, we passed it on the Floor of the House as a separate bill: $200 billion; $100 billion to help with renters, $75 billion in addressing the mortgage forbearance – foreclosure forbearance issue, and then the rest of it for homelessness and special rural housing programs and the rest. 

They really have to do this.  This is very, very urgent.  Now, that would be something they haven't voted for, haven't supported before, as well as they haven't supported a strong worker protection, OSHA standard.  But other than that, they've supported state and local government, they've supported testing, they've supported direct payments, they've supported unemployment benefits.  One time they supported – they even supported food stamps.  They've resisted since then, even though people who've never been to a food line before – a food bank before are in long lines to get in.  You would think they'd have some sensitivity on emergency food initiatives, including SNAP, the food bank.  So that would be one where they have resisted, but they have voted for it before. 

Q:  But have you spoken to Meadows or Mnuchin or anybody in the Administration about what their feeling is on any of these?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we have conversations on individual things.  And Members – Republican Senators have approached me about individual things.  They know there's going to be a bill.  And, we – first, it was going to be no bill, and then it was going to be some little bill.  Now it's 1.3 [trillion dollars].  That's not enough.  That's not enough. 

And when they say it's too expensive, how can they say such a thing when, right now, the Fed is just propping up the stock market?  The stock market looks good, huh?  Well, federal dollars are helping to make that happen.  And that's okay, and that's a good thing for the economy.  But we should have trillions of dollars to prop up workers.  We've never seen anything like this. 

So on one subject or another – but it also just gets me that they say, oh, it's too expensive.  $2 trillion, that's what they added to the deficit to pass their tax scam a couple of years ago, which gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent.  I mean, they're like in a caste system mode.  ‘Whatever we can do at the top, that's what we really like to do.  Perhaps it will trickle down.  If it does, that would be good.  If it doesn't,’ as they have said, ‘so be it.’  

But we have to make the fight and we know that it will happen.  They have to do Unemployment Insurance.  Democrats and Republicans across country are calling out for them to do the state and local.  Republican mayors and county executives, governors, they need that money.  They have outlays for coronavirus and they have revenue loss because of coronavirus.  So, they'll be there.

Yes. 

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  The Administration and some Republicans are proposing the idea of back to work, return to work bonuses for employees.  What's your thought on that and would you consider including that in the next bill? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't know if they know what they're talking about, so I can't really, thoughtfully address what you just asked.  But I will say this: testing, testing, testing.  People do not want to risk their lives and that of their families by going to work that isn't safe.  We can open the economy if we make it safe for people to go back to work. 

Are they going to pay people to risk their lives without any OSHA standard and the rest?  People are not staying home – they want to work.  They want to go to work in a safe place.  So, the direction that the President should be asking for is how do we open our economy to make it safe for people to go to work?  And it is so self-evident. 

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, I have a question and I have a colleague who has a second question, if you will allow for that.

Speaker Pelosi.  Is that person here?

Q:  No.  They're not able to be here.  One per outlet. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, that's up to the rest of you.  Do you want somebody who isn't here to have a question before you do?

Q:  My question is just that, you know, a few months ago, it was hard to predict that we would have such severe spikes, I guess, now, in July.  Other countries clearly have handled this in a way that we have not. 

Moving forward, if in the next couple of months we still don't have a full grasp on it, is there a point where trillions more in stimulus just becomes unsustainable?

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  I mean, the point is, if we don't invest the money now, it'll be much worse.  If we don't invest in further testing and getting the equipment to do it, it will be worse.  If we don't put money in the pockets of the American people with their direct payments and Unemployment Insurance, it will be much worse.  If people are being fired at the state and local level, being health care workers, transit workers, teachers, sanitation workers and the rest, it will be much worse. 

So this is what is about the survival of our economy.  And it is about spending the money in a way, in a way that brings us back.  And don't take it from me.  The Chairman of the Fed, he even recommended state and local.  He said, ‘I call to Congress's attention state and local government.’  Really?  We already have it in The Heroes Act.  The Secretary of the Treasury knows that we have to do more to prop up our economy or else it will be worse.  It will be worse. 

Your next question? 

Q:  The President today is going to be talking about how his Administration has been rolling back regulation over the past four years and helping Americans rise out of poverty.  He’s doing that from the White House today, I don't know if he's going to be talking about –

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm sorry.  I don't know what he's doing today.  What's he doing today?

Q:  Today, the President is supposed to be talking about his Administration rolling back regulation and helping Americans rise out of poverty.  I'm not sure if he'll be focusing on COVID. 

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't know what he's doing, but I want to tell you something.  What he did this week in terms of NEPA, and what Richard Nixon, Richard Nixon, put in place to protect our environment and, therefore, the good health of the American people – oh, some of the, shall we say, polluters were saluting it, but it was the wrong thing to do.  So, I don't know what specific danger to the environment or the health and well-being of America's families and workers he's considering today, but if it's anything like what he has been doing, that's most unfortunate. 

But I'll tell you this.  He's done a lot of bad things.  But nobody – you can't tell whether it's methane or mercury or what he's doing to the environment, once or twice a week, terrible things that have an impact on the health and well-being of the American people, the air our children breathe, the water they drink.  But what does he do but say, ‘I've got beans on my desk,’ and that's what people cover, instead of the danger that he is proposing to our country and his Administration.  He has the henchmen of the polluters in his Cabinet, always has, and he's implementing an agenda that he's going to rise up people from poverty by making them breathe foul air.  I don't get it. 

Yes?  Anyone else?  Yes, sir. 

Q:  On unemployment, you mentioned that the benefit is going to end even before the first of August the way that the system is structured.  And yesterday, you seemed to indicate some flexibility on the $600 figure that had been a demand of the Democrats.  What would be an appropriate replacement for that $600 figure if you were to reduce that a little bit?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I'm all for the $600.  But again, what I said was the whole package will depend on what we do also for direct payments, which are so essential. 

It may be hard for them to understand, while they're so busy giving 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent in our country, that people really do need this money.  Baby needs a pair of shoes.  This is urgent.  They need to buy food.  These are necessities.  And when people use that money for necessities, they inject demand into the economy and create jobs.  And create jobs.  So, it is a stimulus.  But it is more than a stimulus; it is a necessity right now. 

So, when they're giving away all this big money, and they worry about $600 for families who need it so desperately, it just makes you wonder, who are they here for?  I always say – I haven't quoted him lately.  Maybe I have.  St. Augustine, 1,700 years ago, seventeen centuries ago, St. Augustine said, ‘Any government that is not formed to promote justice is just a bunch of thieves.’  This is about justice. 

It's so hard for people and they have so many challenges: fear of catching a virus that could be deadly but, nonetheless, debilitating; and have pre-existing conditions, challenges for them as they go forward; economic insecurity that they have; uncertainty about their children going to school and is that safe, while the President is threatening to take away money from the poorest kids.  By the way, in many cases, Title I funding for children in economically disadvantaged areas; separate from that, but including some of that, children with disabilities, homeless children.  That's a chunk of what the federal government puts into it. 

So, we're at a moment of making a judgment.  Where is justice?  Where is justice in the environment as they roll back environmental standards of clean air, clean water, which affect communities of color in a disproportionate way?  Where's the justice of taking away funding from many of the poorest kids or children with disabilities to act like the big guy?  Where is the justice in not having the testing of the coronavirus so that we can see – and the statistics, the data – so that we can see the disproportionate impact that it has on people of color?  And it does.  Where's the justice of them taking down the website, practically, I understand, of CDC, so that we can’t see what the challenges are to hospitals and the rest, and then saying, ‘We're not going to have people report to the CDC, a scientific organization; we're going to have them report to the Administration?’  And where is the transparency?  When are they going to tell us about that? 

In one of the bills, the second PPP bill, when we put more testing in there, we required that they would have – collect the data and report the data as to how, especially communities of color were affected, because we didn't have much of that; and because that's a place where there hasn't been a commensurate amount of testing.  The Hispanic community and the African American community. 

We're all Americans.  We're all Americans.  And everybody, all of our children are important to us, all of our people are.  And because we are Americans, we are going to beat this, but we have to beat it scientifically.  And in order to do that, you have to believe in science and you have to believe in governance. 

Now, our friend who asked the question about how they're going to lift up everybody out of poverty by taking away regulations probably would not like to hear me say that they don't believe in governance.  If you don't believe in governance and you don't believe in science, you don't want to do anything, and you don't have to because you don't have the data that you accept.  So we're in a very critical place. 

I yearn for other Republican Presidents.  While we may have disagreed on many points, at least we had a shared commitment to the governance of our country.  Richard Nixon signed the NEPA legislation.

So, in any case, as I said yesterday, we're at another critical point.  But this is getting to be – as I said to you, look at all the number of people; 50 [thousand] more people have died since they haven't taken up the bill and a large number more have become infected.  Next week, though, we're going to have some – 137,000, since we've passed the bill.  137,000 are dead now, but 50,000 added to that, and then two million more people infected, adding to 3.4 [million]. 

But let me just tell you next [two weeks] what you're going to see.  We're going to have child care bills on the Floor to ensure that parents can go back to work and child care workers can keep their jobs.  This is very, very important and a very high priority for us.  And then we're going to have the Great Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate, and we will be protecting our natural heritage with that.  And then honoring our values with the NO BAN Act.  We'll be passing the NO BAN Act and Access to Counsel Act. 

So, we have a number of things, including we're going to be passing bills next week or the next about removing statues from the Capitol of people who have committed treason against the United States of America.  So we have a – we're busy.  We're full. 

But nothing more important than the lives of our children, our children, our children, and their ability to go back to school, which we all want them to do and they want to do and teachers want them to do and parents want them to do.  But they can't do it if it isn't safe.  It can be safe if the President executes the Defense Production Act to make sure it does. 

Thank you all very much.