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. Thank you for accommodating the time change today. Since we finished our legislation yesterday, we are getting ready for the next round of legislation to come to the Floor. But it changed the nature of today.
Here we are. Tomorrow's a national holiday, getting ready for the Fourth of July. I wear this flag pin quite frequently. I have a couple different flag pins, but this one particularly fraught with meaning. It says on it, ‘One country, one destiny.’ The American flag: ‘One country, one destiny.’ These were the words that were woven into Abraham Lincoln's coat. It was an imperative then, ‘One country, one destiny.’ It is an imperative now, especially now, when we have such challenges to the well-being of our country.
We have a pandemic that is wreaking havoc in households and across the country, hurting our economy. In that regard, we must put aside bias and embrace science. Science, science, science. Testing, testing, testing. An answer – an answer that helps us address the virus, the pandemic, and enables us to open up our economy in a way that is safe. That's what's in the Heroes Act: testing, tracing, treatment, separation, hand washing, masks, science, science, science.
Also in The Heroes Act, so named for the heroes that it honors, by keeping them employed – state and local health care workers, sanitation workers, transportation workers, teachers, teachers, teachers, food suppliers, you name them, employees of state and local governments. And many of them, especially in the health care sections, risking their lives to save other people's lives and, now, they may lose their jobs. And in the Heroes Act are the resources to keep state and local governments running so they don't have to fire people, so that they can continue services. Because that's what they'll have to do, raise taxes or lower services or some combination thereof.
Also, in the Heroes Act, is – that we have to come together around, recognize our ‘One country, one destiny’ – is putting money in the pockets of the American people. Direct payments, yes, but also Unemployment Insurance. I also have in there funding for voting at home, supporting the Post Office, food – many people are going to food banks who never thought they would. So, it's for every reason: personal, economically, patriotically, budget-wise and the rest, it's very important for us to pass the Heroes Act.
When we ran in 2018, our agenda was a simple one: For The People. For The People we would lower health care costs by lowering the cost of prescription drugs and preserving the pre-existing condition benefit, among others. That's exactly what we did. That's exactly what we did on Monday when we passed the Affordable Care Act enhancement legislation. And a part of it was to lower the cost of prescription drugs by enabling the Secretary to negotiate.
At the same time as we were passing that enhancement, the White House is in the Supreme Court trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act because they don't believe in science and they don't believe in governance. So, if you put the two together, let's just overturn it. And that may be what they believe. But if that's what they believe, then they should tell the truth about it instead of saying, ‘Oh, we support the benefit of pre-existing condition existing.’ No, you fought to overturn it. You've been trying to overturn it for the full time of the Trump Administration. And now you've taken it to the Supreme Court. And we will fight, we will fight that fight there.
But I’m very proud of the work of our chairmen to bring our agenda For The People, and the work of the committee members. The second part of our agenda was the – was to lower health care costs, bigger paychecks by building the infrastructure of America, and to do so in a green way for the future.
It was a very lengthy bill, 25 hours of – in the Rules Committee – not in the Rules Committee, but in the amendment process. And then a long time on the Floor. I want to salute the maestro of it all, Peter DeFazio, but many other chairmen played a role in that and I’ve acknowledged them. But this is a broad bill. It's transformational.
It's the biggest and greenest infrastructure bill in the history of our country. And it's about roads and bridges and surface transportation, for sure. It's also about clean water. Some of our water systems are over 100 years old, made of brick and wood and now this will be resources there to change that.
It's about infrastructure for broadband so that all children, all families in our country can have distance learning and telemedicine and all that that takes, whether they live in rural areas, which is a focus on rural, or urban deserts in that regard.
Interestingly, Senator McConnell complains, ‘this so-called infrastructure bill would siphon billions in funding from actual infrastructure to funnel into climate change policies.’ Exactly. We're not siphoning off money. We're building infrastructure for the future, not for the ’50s. And we're doing it in a way that cleans – it’s a health issue: clean air, clean water. It's an economic issue: transportation, transfer of product from farm to market and the rest. It's a fabulous bill. It would take too long to go further into it, but be sure it's the safest and greenest infrastructure bill.
We're proud of this legislation because, you know what, it advances environmental justice. In our health care bill, it was about justice in health care, addressing the concerns of previously under-served communities who are now more drastically affected by the coronavirus. Part of it was, again, in that regard, many of you were there when we were on the steps of the Capitol, rolling out the Solving the Climate Crisis Action Plan led by Congresswoman, Madam Chair, Kathy Castor of Florida, the most detailed, sweeping climate plan in over a decade, reflecting over 100 hearings across nearly every committee in the Congress.
Lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. And the cleaner government piece in the last few days, the centerpiece was the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which will fundamentally transform the culture of the policing – of ending police brutality and bring accountability to our police departments. It will save lives. It recognizes that overwhelming our men and women in uniform – overwhelmingly our men and women in uniform take great pride in the integrity that they bring to their job. But some don't, and this bill addresses that.
And we're so proud that George Floyd’s family allowed us to name the bill for him. They said it met their standards. That was last Thursday. And, last Friday, we proudly, for the first time, the House voted to grant statehood to the District of Columbia.
Our Members of Congress, again, our priority, and even – all elected officials – safety is our top priority. If you're – if the people aren't safe, what is the rest? The rest of it doesn't matter as much. And as a matter of intelligence, force protection is a top priority. To protect our men and women in uniform, before the initiation of hostilities, or in response to them, when they are in danger, their protection is of the highest priority. And so when there are allegations of a threat to our men and women in uniform, we expect the President of the United States to give them that same force protection, that same priority. And we are disappointed that that has not happened.
In the last – I called for Russian sanctions to be expanded. In our last Russian sanctions legislation, you may recall, we had a strong bipartisan bill that was to be sent to the President. But the White House said they wanted us to take out the sanctions on Russia that pertained to the intelligence and the defense sectors, the very sector that is accused of possible threats on our men and women in uniform. We have to restore those. Whatever else happens of this, we must restore those sanctions. And we must act upon them.
While we're in the international arena, as many of you know – I saw some of you there – this week, Beijing passed its so-called ‘national security law,’ which signals the death of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. When I say I saw some of you there, I meant the Foreign Affairs Committee hearing yesterday. As one who has worked on human rights in China in a bipartisan way, with our colleagues across the aisle and across the Capitol, it was so encouraging to see the room was an overflow crowd of Members, from both sides of the aisle. Of course, we had to keep our distance, and therefore the Members had to sit in the, shall we say audience, and others had to come in virtually. But it was the fullest participation for us to review what is happening there.
It was a proud and broad bipartisan participation to shine a light and condemn this law. Congress, again, on a bipartisan basis, is united in our mission to hold Beijing accountable. Last year, the House passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. And, yesterday, we passed Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which had already passed the Senate. And that is to help end China's campaign of cruelty against Hong Kong. You've heard me say it again and again: if we don't speak out against violations of human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out against human rights violations any place in the world.
Getting back to the flag and the Fourth of July, we take that pledge every day in the civic arena. The pledge to the flag ends with ‘liberty and justice for all.’ And everything that I talked about here, whether it was health care or job security or environmental justice or Justice in Policing or statehood for the District of – we're talking about liberty and justice for all. That has to be central to all of the legislation that we have put forth, and I’m proud to say that it has been in this array of bills that came forth between last Thursday and yesterday evening, and now we’ll come back – continue our work in committee to bring forth legislation when we come back. Central to them all will be liberty and justice for all, especially poignant for us as we observe the Fourth of July.
Speaker Pelosi. Any questions?
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. My question is about Hong Kong. There's a new proposal that grants refugee status to Hong Kong residents. Do you support that bill? There's a bipartisan bill on that. And also, what is your overall reaction to mass arrests in Hong Kong during the July 1st protests against the security initiative?
Speaker Pelosi. At the hearing yesterday, I had the privilege, by unanimous consent, to participate in the hearing and listen to the testimony of the witnesses. And I said there, one of my concerns about the law was, is it starting now that you cannot – you can practically do nothing? You have no expression of anything, that would you not be susceptible to prosecution probably in Beijing. So my question was, does this retroactive? Does this apply to all of the protests for democratic freedoms that have happened in Hong Kong? I don't know the answer to that. The Chinese government does. And unfortunately, they're not sharing that with us right now. But I fear for it.
But if you saw the security, so-called ‘national security,’ what it is is suppression of any expression in Hong Kong, really sad. So I’m disappointed, obviously, in the arrest of anyone who is speaking out peacefully for democratic freedoms, wherever it is.
In terms of refugee – I’m not familiar with that. But those people would qualify because they have, by this law, a well-founded fear of persecution in the place of origin from which they would come. So, they would qualify on that score.
I would rather we could make it right in Hong Kong so that that place of such entrepreneurship and dynamism and spirit of democracy – I told you before, when two million people were in the street, like a year and a half ago, I said to the President, ‘Could you say something about the young people in the street?’ He said, ‘Did you see the size of that crowd? Two million people?’ I said, ‘Yeah, even more significant when you know that that is 25 percent of the population of Hong Kong.’
This is a real tragedy. It's so sad. But in the Congress, in the House and in the Senate, in a very unified way, we have all worked together. It has been, for me, a joy to be bonding with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, both sides of the Capitol, on this very important issue. The Republicans have been there every step of the way. I hope the President will be.
Yes, ma'am. I’ll do you next, Chad.
Q: Given the briefing that you had today –
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Do you think that the President should have been verbally briefed on the information related to Russian bounties?
Speaker Pelosi. Having nothing to do with the briefing that we had today, I think the President should have been verbally briefed on it. But I thought that before the hearing and it has nothing to do with anything that we were presented at the hearing. Of course the President should have been briefed. This is of the highest priority, force protection. A threat to our men and women in uniform.
The President – it was in his PDB, presidential daily brief, but he wasn't verbally – that doesn't mean that he should't have read that. But again, having nothing to do with what we saw today.
Chad. Yes, sir.
Q: To that end though, I know that you're always limited in what you can say about these briefings here.
Speaker Pelosi. Right.
Q: But I understand that this information should have been things that the Gang of Eight or others would have known about. That said, can you comment if you did know about this?
Speaker Pelosi. I didn't know about it. But I will say this: it was of the consequential level that the intelligence community should have brought it to us in that way. But what is important is the President’s relationship with Russia. This is, this is – at the same time as the White House was aware of the threat to the security of our men and women in uniform, the President was still flirting with the idea of having Russia be part of the G8, in total opposition to the wishes of the other members of the G8. He wasn’t – they weren’t there, Russia wasn’t, because of their annexation of Crimea, their invasion of Ukraine. You can’t be in the G8 or the G7. So why was the President – why were they not raising this to a level to say to the President: this is not a good time for you to be saying Russia should be part of the G8, when in fact there is reason to suspect that Russia was threatening the security of our men and women in uniform.
Garrett. Yes, sir.
Q: To that end, what should happen now? You mentioned potentially restoring those sanctions –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: I know you just had this briefing, but do you think there are other steps that Congress should take in light of everything we are learning about this episode?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say, and Garrett referenced my statement about – I said it earlier, I think – when Congress, in a bipartisan way, passed sanctions on Russia, the Administration told us to take out the sanctions on the GRU, the intelligence, as well as the defense sectors of Russia. Those should definitely still be there. They were there in a bipartisan way. It's just the Administration wanted them out. I don't know why. So, we should have those in there in any event.
As this proceeds, we'll see what other sanctions there should be. But we want to remove all doubt in anyone's mind that just because it's Russia and just because all roads for the President lead to Putin doesn't mean that we shouldn't be taking careful guard of our elections. Because 24/7, they are trying to undermine the integrity of our elections again. And other concerns that we have about Russian behavior in cybersecurity, in actual security issues. But we don't subject it to the same kind of scrutiny, this Administration doesn't, because it's Russia.
Okay, two then.
Q: On the domestic front, you're leaving now for a few weeks. You come back July 20th. Is there enough time to negotiate a compromise on the next COVID relief package?
Speaker Pelosi. Of course. First of all, I’m not leaving for two weeks, so don't give my husband and my family any thought that I will be there for two weeks. No.
We come back the beginning of next week, with the Appropriations Committee, starting actually on Monday for some subcommittees, my understanding – for sure Tuesday, so that they can put – the subcommittees can do their work on appropriations and then the full committee the week after can do their – each of those bills, so that when we do come back, we're ready to go to the Floor.
Many people will be here. Some will be virtual, some of it hybrid, some of it actual, some of the virtual. We'll see. But Congress will be intensely working, not just Appropriations Committee, but that is what must be done by September 30th. That has a priority.
And last night, they didn't go too late. It was a reasonable time. The defense bill was passed, the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, 56-0. Completely bipartisan bill, we were very proud of that.
But, yes. Now, we know what we have – everything we have in The Heroes Act is something the Republicans have voted for before. Except one thing, which is a stronger OSHA standard to protect our workers. But everything else in the bill they voted for before. So, this is nothing new to them. Some of it bigger, some of it fresher, but all of it something they voted on before.
How this works is the committees do their work and, then, what is unresolved gets kicked up to the four leaders, and obviously the President is going to sign the bill, would weigh in there. They know – they've made their overtures. They also have said publicly that this or that should be in the next bill. So, we anticipate we will have a bill.
Q: Madam Speaker, back, if I may, to the intelligence aspect of this. The White House continues to say this is not yet verified, one of the reasons that the President – that it did not rise to his level. It sounds like you're speaking about this being maybe a little bit more conclusive than the White House believes that it is. Is that your view?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just say this: you got the con. The White House put on a con that if you don't have 100 percent consensus on intelligence, that we shouldn't be – it shouldn't rise to a certain level. Well, we were practically – we would practically be investigating nothing if you had to start off at 100 percent, so don't buy into that. And neither should the – does the intelligence community. It's an investigation – it's gathering intelligence. And they have enough intelligence to know where we have to go next with it.
So I don't – I don't know what the point of your question is. Just because they didn't have 100 percent consensus, should this be not briefed to the President of the United States when it involves the security and safety of our men and women in uniform? As we said in our statement, Chuck Schumer and I, he should spend more time reading the daily presidential brief – the presidential daily brief, whatever – than planning military parades and preserving the relics of the Confederacy.
Q: Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes ma’am.
Staff. Last question.
Q: On that topic, you obviously care a lot about symbols and symbols of America. I'll make this clearer: can you update us on where you think things stand with the Confederate statues remaining in the Capitol? And, if you just assume that now that's left to the states because Leader McConnell is not engaging?
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: And also, Vice President Biden said this week he believes there's a distinction for Jefferson, Washington. Both of those men, there's a bust of Washington and a statue of Jefferson in the House side, which you control. Do you believe there's a distinction or should there be a conversation about those representations as well?
Speaker Pelosi. I do believe that the people who have committed treason against the United States of America, their statues should not be in the Capitol. And that is – we took down the paintings of the Speakers who were members of the Confederacy. And there will be legislation coming forth to remove those same people who meet that low description, if you've committed treason against the United States of America.
It's not about Washington and Jefferson. It's about Alexander Stephens. Read what he said about people. It's about the President of the Confederacy, whose statue is up there, who committed treason against the United States. So, that's the clarity that we should have.
Some of it is the states have put them there. The states may want to review. But in the meantime, while they may be in the Capitol, we can decide where they are in the Capitol.
Thank you all very much. Happy Fourth of July. Take care. Keep a distance. Wash your hands. Happy Fourth.