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, everyone.
In anticipation of seeing a proposal finally from the other side of the aisle and the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, I invited the distinguished Leader and the Democratic Leader in the Senate to join us today to have some observation about what we have seen – we thought we would have in hand; we'll see.
We come together today on a day that marks – for the eighteenth-straight week, the eighteenth-straight week, more than one million people have filed for unemployment claims. We come at a time when, today, they predict that we will reach, they predict that we will reach four million cases in our country.
What's important about that is the steamroller that it is, the acceleration that this has. It doesn't diminish because people have filed for Unemployment Insurance so we must have reached the peak. It continues. This is the Trump virus acceleration of all of this.
Now, listen to this. It took just about 100 days to reach one million people infected. It took 43 days to get to two million. It took 27 days to get to three million. And it took sixteen days to get to four million. That acceleration is an assault on the lives and the livelihood of the American people. If we want to open our schools, if we want to open our economy, we must defeat this virus.
We had hoped with this legislation, The Heroes Act – we put forth ours two months and one week ago. They said they needed ‘a pause.’ Well, they still are not prepared. They didn't use the pause to prepare. And what we have seen so far falls very short of the challenge that we face in order to defeat the virus and to – in order to open our schools and to open our economy.
Science, science, science and science. Seems to be ignored. The delay, the denial have caused deaths. We can do something about it, but we must have the appropriate response to it in terms of testing, tracing, treating, just dealing with the virus and not ignoring and saying, ‘Well, too many tests,’ and ‘I don't believe in tests,’ and all the rest of that.
So we have a real challenge. Forgetting politics, forgetting partisanship, this is patriotism for our country. We're up to four million people in a matter of just over two weeks from the three million mark. We have to act, and what they are proposing falls far short.
With that, I want to yield to the distinguished Ranking – Leader in the Senate, who has been – well, he'll describe to you what he has been up to. But I salute him and the Senate Democrats for the work that they have done to make sure that the first four COVID bills were all bipartisan. Hopefully, this bill will be too.
Leader Schumer. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi, and thank you for all the great work you have done on so many things and now, most notably, The Heroes bill, which our Senate Democratic Caucus is in full support of.
Now, faced with the greatest economic challenge in 75 years, the greatest public health challenge in a century, Democrats have waited for months for our Senate colleagues to go – our Senate Republican colleagues to get serious about helping the American people who have suffered so much during this pandemic.
Now that Senate Republicans have finally woken up to the calamity in our country, they have been so divided, so disorganized, so unprepared that they have struggled to even draft a partisan proposal within their own conference. They can't come together.
Even after all this time, it appears the Republican legislative response to COVID is un-unified, unserious, unsatisfactory. The Republican disarray and dithering has serious, potentially deadly consequences for tens of millions of Americans; 1.4 million Americans implied – applied for unemployment last week, the first time the number rose since March. Tomorrow, the moratorium on evictions expires, exposing millions of Americans to the risk of being kicked out of their homes through no fault of their own. And over the weekend, many states will send out their final enhanced unemployment checks.
But here we are, still waiting for the Republicans to put together a partisan bill that will never become law, just so they can muster up the courage to negotiate. And now we're hearing that the Republicans may only be able to produce a series of disjointed small proposals that don't even add up to a coherent plan to fight COVID.
From what we've read in public reports, their proposals or series of proposals, won't include food assistance for hungry kids. From what we know, it won't include rental assistance or extend the moratorium on evictions, keeping tens of millions of Americans with a roof over their heads. It won't provide hazard pay to essential workers who have been risking their lives and their families' lives since the crisis began. It won't make the necessary investments in communities of color that have been ravaged by this virus, disproportionately so. It won't provide new funding for state and local governments and the need to keep teachers and bus drivers and sanitation workers on the job. And from what we know, it won't even include funding to ensure our elections are safe this fall.
Remarkably, the likely centerpiece of the Republican legislative response to COVID is not help for the 20 to 30 million unemployed Americans or resources for testing and tracing. The centerpiece of the Republican proposal is a liability shield to protect big corporations from lawsuits if they put their workers at risk. Seriously, Leader McConnell has made corporate immunity the centerpiece of the Republican response? Once again, the Republican Senate is far more comfortable providing relief to big corporations than relief to workers and families.
How about instead of shielding corporations from liability, we shield renters from eviction? How about instead of shielding corporations from liability, we shield the unemployed from poverty?
According to reports, the White House and Senate Republicans want to cut the enhanced unemployment benefits that Democrats secured in the CARES Act to a percentage of a worker's former wage. That's right, America, if you lost your job through no fault of your own and can't go back to work because this Administration has mismanaged the crisis, Republicans want you to take a pay cut of 30 percent or even more.
The number of unemployment claims, unfortunately, increased this week for the first time in fifteen weeks, and Republicans are fighting with themselves over how much to cut unemployment benefits. They're totally disorganized. They're disconnected from the reality Americans are confronting.
Every day, Republicans fight among themselves over how low to go, and hardworking Americans continue to suffer. Democrats are ready to work. Republicans need to pull their head out of the sand, get their act together, sit down with Speaker Pelosi and me and start negotiating a real package.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Mr. Leader. You spelled it out perfectly.
And when I'm listening to you, I'm thinking, what is it that the Trump Administration and the Republicans in Congress have against working families in our country? As they sit around their table and join their corporate friends at the corporate board table, we have to be thinking about what's going on at the kitchen table of America's families.
Many more people than ever, many people who never thought they would, are going to food banks, and, yet, this legislation that they're proffering has nothing to address food insecurity in our country. And it's about our children too. Millions and millions of children are food insecure, yet nothing there for that. And, as the Leader said, in terms of rent, people will be in the streets, the evictions will continue, and, yet, in our bill, we have a proposal, which does just that, modeled after some past initiatives for emergency security.
So, in The Heroes Act, we have, as you know, honor our heroes, which, as the Leader said, their bill does not. Health care workers, transit workers, our first responders, food suppliers, sanitation workers and the rest. Nix; they say no to that.
In terms of what we have to do to address the virus, they are scientifically in absentia. They just don't get it. They don't believe in science. They don't believe in governance. So, why should they pay attention to science and do something in governance about it? So they make a token thing. And now they're saying, ‘Well, we're going to use some of the money we did before,’ which they didn't spend before.
So, this is a crisis. This is a crisis for our country. I had hoped that, as we do in legislating, when they offered their bills before, they offered their first version of the CARES Act, we countered. When they offered the next version of the PPP, we countered. We offered this legislation. We thought they would counter with something that was at least reconcilable. But this doesn't reconcile with the needs of the American people. It is another example of their dereliction in duty for not facing the reality of what this virus is doing to our – to the lives, the livelihood and, actually, the life of our democracy.
Speaker Pelosi. With that, we're pleased to take any questions you may have.
Q: Madam Speaker, it seems as though these negotiations are, as you've outlined, hitting some speed bumps, and millions of Americans are facing their unemployment benefits running out at the end of next week. If you can't get a bigger deal, are you open to temporarily extending those benefits?
Speaker Pelosi. No. No, no. This is the package. We cannot piecemeal this. This is – as you see, it has an integrity. It has a oneness about meeting the needs of the American people, defeating the virus, as we honor our heroes and put money into the pockets of the American people.
Q: And do you think you can get this done by the end of next week?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, depending what they come up with. What do you think, Mr. Leader?
Leader Schumer. The only thing I'd say in answer to your question, we're not going to take care of one portion of suffering people and leave everyone else hanging. That's what they may want to do; take care of this, and then they'll go home. No way. This is a comprehensive proposal that addresses the many problems of COVID, and we have to address it as a totality.
Speaker Pelosi. Do you think we can do it by the end of next week?
Leader Schumer. Look, Leader McConnell didn't even show up and make a speech this morning. I had it all to myself, rare moment.
But, in any case, I hope so. But they're so divided. They're so divided, and there's no leadership from the President. At the same time that they know the President has no leadership, they're afraid to buck him on anything. And he doesn't know how to solve this problem, as we have seen.
So much of what has happened, so much of the illness and so much of the deaths and so much of the economic hardship and health hardship is because this Administration has had no direction, no plan, no straight line of attack.
Speaker Pelosi. And what we had in The Heroes Act was a gift to them, as a strategic plan for testing, tracing, treating, isolation, of course, mask wearing, sanitation.
So, the other day, when the President embraced masks, what he was doing was admitting, admitting how wrong he was for months. And in that period of time, many more people died. And even since we did The Heroes Act, two months and one week ago, 2.5 million more Americans have become infected and 55 [thousand] more people have died while they were pausing, saying we don’t – some of them saying, ‘We don't need anything more.’
Leader Schumer. And one more point in reference to your question. One of the reasons we're up against this cliff is because the Republicans have dithered. The Heroes Act passed two months and a week ago. Nancy and I sent a letter to McConnell three weeks ago saying, ‘Let's sit down and negotiate.’ Nothing. Now we're up against the cliff.
We got to solve the whole thing because there are a lot of different cliffs.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Chad.
Q: Two parts to this. So have you been actually given a piece of paper or a phone call from the White House, from McConnell, saying, ‘This is what our plan is’?
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: Nothing like that?
Speaker Pelosi. What we learned, some of it, early this morning was what we learned from K Street. That's where they kind of –
Q: And then the second part is then, you stood here two weeks ago and said $3 trillion, talked about this $3 trillion.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, $3 trillion.
Q: They keep talking about wanting to spend about a trillion dollars, but where is the – where is the give there? If you get anything short of $3 trillion, if it's $1.5 trillion, if it's $2 trillion?
Speaker Pelosi. Do you think we're going to negotiate the amount of money here in this room? No. But let's see what – what is really important is to see their proposal, and that's what the Leader kept asking for; put it on paper.
Leader Schumer. We need a specific proposal, a bill.
Speaker Pelosi. See a specific –
Leader Schumer. We put in a bill legislative language that passed the House. You can't just say five lines and let's sit down and negotiate. The devil is all in the details. And we don't know what's in and what's out. We don't know if the President's on board. You know, is this going to be McConnell's proposal? Is this going to be the Senate Republicans' proposal? Is this going to be McConnell and Trump's proposal? No one even knows any of that. You can't negotiate that way.
Speaker Pelosi. And, actually, what Leader McConnell had been saying is, the impression he gave was that he was going to be negotiating with the Senate Democrats, and then they would come up with something. And, as Congress works its will, one side makes a proffer; the other body then comes back with what they have.
But, to your point, they have nothing for state and local. In our bill, that's $915 billion. State, local, tribal governments and territories: $915 billion. Go to Speaker.gov/HeroesAct and see what it means to you and your community. And, then, understand it's half of what they were willing to add to the national debt for their tax cut for the rich, 83 percent of the benefits going to the top one percent.
So, when you see what they have on paper, you see what they don't have on paper. So, when they say a billion – a trillion dollars and nothing for state and local, nothing for food stamps, feeding the hungry, nothing for helping with rent and the rest of that, nothing – so many things they don't have, then you realize how they're at a trillion dollars, how unacceptable it is.
Q: Madam Speaker, you were pretty clear last week that on the unemployment benefit, that $600 is the number that you were going to be sticking with. Has that changed at all in the week, now that you're seeing at least some numbers floated from the other side?
Speaker Pelosi. Do you want to speak to that? I mean, I'm all for the $600 because people really need it. And – but, again, as I said to you then, we have issues that relate to direct payments for people and the size of what that is and the rest. But I go to the table with the commitment to the $600.
Leader Schumer. Our unemployment provision has kept millions out of poverty, millions.
Speaker Pelosi. It really has. I mean, they like to talk about the $600. I’d like to talk about the 83 percent of $2 trillion that they gave to the richest people, the top one percent in our country. Why are they worried about whether it's 600 or 400 or 500? People really need that.
And as we try to bolster – look, we all know that there's a floor for the stock market, that the Fed – everything that is being done is to keep the stock market from going down past a point. Why can't we have a floor for America's working families? And while they bolster the stock market, which is not a bad thing – I'm not criticizing it. I'm just saying it's a fact – why do they have to make a fuss over $600, which means a lot to many working families in our country, especially single moms in certain parts of the country where the unemployment benefit is very low.
Again, we can try to help businesses, as we try with PPP and the rest of that, and we can help them pay the rent, and we help them pay their employees, and we can help them pay their utility bill, but if they ain't got no customers, they still have a problem. And this money is really important for people to spend, inject – inject demand into the economy, create jobs.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. The Republican proposal is about 70 percent of – approximately 70 percent of the wage replacement.
Leader Schumer. But we don't know that. We can’t – you can't negotiate with a chimera – a chimera? A c‑h‑i‑m‑e‑r‑a. We don't know what it is. We hear different things all the time from different people.
Q: Do you agree that it shouldn't exceed prior wages? I mean, do you have any –
Leader Schumer. We like the proposal we have. It's kept millions of people out of poverty. It's in The Heroes bill to be extended till January 31st.
Speaker Pelosi. And let me just say that there is a great deal that is being said by the Republicans that is not true. I always – you've heard me say many times, they'll have an anecdote about somebody who didn't go to work because he got $600. The plural of anecdote is not data. That's our fundamental principle in the Appropriations Committee. We need data. Okay.
So we do know that millions of families in our country depend on that $600. ‘Oh, they're not going to go to work. Oh, we want’ – here's what they'll say: ‘We want them to go to work. They're essential workers. We're not going to give them any OSHA protections. And if they don't go to work and take the risk to their lives and that of their families, if they don't go to work, they can't get Unemployment Insurance.’
So they're there to sabotage working families. That's why I say, what did working families ever do to the Republicans and the President that they're out to get them, A? B, they'll say, as they're saying, ‘Well, we're not giving money to state and local because some of their governments are mismanaged.’ We're not talking about that. We're talking about the receipts that they have for paying for coronavirus, A, and the revenue lost because of the coronavirus, all over the country, Democratic and Republican, nonpartisan, whatever you want to call it, red, blue, purple, whatever.
So they're using an excuse that has nothing to do with the coronavirus. So they're – they’re engaged in distortions, delay, denial, distortions. Very damaging to our economy, very deadly to our people.
Q: Madam Speaker, on a different subject –
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just take another person, though, because that's how we do it here.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. On another subject, would you or the Leader care to comment on Federal agents out in the streets in Portland and possibly Chicago?
Leader Schumer. Well, Jeff Merkley is on the Floor now with legislation that I support and others that fundamentally says that police officers, any Federal officers, have to have ID: where they're from and what their name is. And, more importantly, if they go off Federal property itself, and patrol streets or anything else, they have to get the permission of the executive in charge, the mayor or governor. That's how this should be done.
President Trump always likes diversions. He's miserably failing at testing. He's miserably failing at contact tracing. He's miserably failing at getting the economy going. He's miserably failing on the greatest crisis America has, and the American people know it. So he tries a diversion.
There's a real answer. The answer is Merkley's bill.
Speaker Pelosi. And that's the bill that is supported by the House Democrats as well. I hope the Republicans will join us. It's very, very important.
The use of storm troopers under the guise of law and order is a tactic that is not appropriate to our country in any way.
Leader Schumer. It is so un‑American what has happened. It is so in keeping with Third World countries and dictatorships. You haul somebody off the streets, don't tell them who you are, why you're doing it, et cetera. It's also unconstitutional.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. Yes, ma'am.
Q: On Alexandria Ocasio‑Cortez, she went down to the Floor today and put in the Congressional Record what Congressman Yoho said to her. And she said that, you know, having a wife, having a daughter doesn't make a decent man.
What's your response to what she did, and do you think Congressman Yoho's apology was enough?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, to tell you the honest truth, we're focused on trying to save lives with our bill to prevent – to kill this virus, just to destroy this virus, and we're there to open up our economy and our schools.
The fact that the behavior of one of the Members is such that the whole Women's Caucus, the Democratic Women's Caucus, has gone to the Floor at a time when our Floor time is very precious tells you how important this is. And it's a manifestation of attitudes in our society, really.
I can tell you that first-hand. They've called me names for at least twenty years of leadership, eighteen years of leadership.
Leader Schumer. Longer than that.
Speaker Pelosi. I don't know. You know, it’s so funny. You'd say to them, do you not have a daughter? Do you not have a mother? Do you not have a sister? Do you not have a wife? What makes you think that you can be so – and this is the word I use for them – condescending, in addition to being disrespectful?
One of my – I don't want to say favorites – but one of the most – is when we were discussing women's reproductive health a number of years ago on the Floor of the House. They were so angry with me because I had five children in six years to the day, so I had standing on the issue. And they got up there and said on the Floor of the House, ‘Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the Pope.’ Yes.
So there's no limit to the disrespect or the lack of acknowledgement of the strength of women in our – nothing brings more – nothing is more wholesome for our government, for our politics, for our country than the increased participation of women, and women will be treated with respect.
Thank you. Thank you, all.
Q: Opening day today.
Speaker Pelosi. Opening day, yes. How about our coach?
Leader Schumer. Go Yankees.
Speaker Pelosi. How about our coach?
Leader Schumer. Go Yankees.
Q: What do you think about some of the Giants kneeling?
Speaker Pelosi. Say what?
Q: What do you think about some of the San Francisco Giants kneeling?
Speaker Pelosi. What do I think of them kneeling? What do I think of the Giants kneeling? I'm so proud of Gabe Kapler, our new [Manager], who knelt with them, who knelt with them. God bless him.