Pelosi Remarks at Press Conference Urging Republicans to Extend Unemployment Benefits

July 24, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Chairman Richard E. Neal, Congressman Dan Kildee and Congressman Danny Davis for a press conference to discuss the need to extend enhanced federal unemployment insurance.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Mr. Kildee.  Thank you, Chairman Neal.  Thank you, Chairman Davis.  Thank you all for focusing on this very central issue, an issue that goes to the heart of the kitchen table concerns of America’s working families.   

We can talk about a number of things – time, everything is about time.  The time it has taken for the Administration to recognize that you should wear a mask.  The time it took, 98 days, just under – about a hundred days to reach one million people infected in the United States; half that time to reach two million, 43 days; 27 days to reach three million people; 16 days to reach four million.  Terrible.  Terrible. 

And Congresswoman Chu, as I said, Mr. Chairman Davis, thank you, Congressman Evans, Mr. Kildee and Mr. Chairman Neal for bringing us here.  We – you know, we keep saying: you want to open the schools, you want to open the economy, defeat this virus.  And yet, and yet, and yet: delay, distortion, denial has taken us to a place where we have four million people.  And there are many other concerns that we have of state and local government having to fire people, and the list is a long one of concerns that we are trying to address that Mr. Davis rightly calls, really, injustices in how they disproportionally impact communities of color and the rest. 

But right now, we are focusing on this one subject, the extension of the Unemployment Insurance benefit.  This is essential to the well-being of America’s families.  What do the Republicans and the White House have against working families in our country that they would begrudge them $600 of, well, absolutely necessary sustenance?  This is – there are other things in here too.  It’s about paying the rent and it’s about buying food.  So, with this package, we have people on the verge of eviction, we have millions of children starving – food insecure in America, we need the food stamps and the rest and they resent that.   We had legislation in The Heroes Act and independently to help with rent so that people are not evicted.  And we have this money in the unemployment benefit.

So, I thank the Members of the Ways and Means Committee for always recognizing, always recognizing the connection between our policy and the health and livelihood, the lives and livelihood of America’s working families.  Again, as Mr. Kildee said, we hear the calls all the time, people crying on the phone, crying on TV, crying – they’re in pain.  It’s about their dignity and how they meet the needs of their children.  And why?  And Why?  

Because the Republicans are derelict in their duty, taking off for the weekend instead of being ready all these months without preparing something to begin with.  When we had our offer, they make their offer – now, two months and eight, ten days have gone by and where are they?  And where is their offer which, earlier this week, they said we would see in 24-48 hours?  They’re in disarray and their disarray is causing great, great damage to America’s working families.

This is an alarm that needs to be sounded as loudly as possible about what are we doing here if we are not addressing the needs of people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  And as Mr. Davis said, they tell them to go to work: ‘Go to work, you’re an essential worker, you must go to work.  And when you go to work and have no protections, you have no recourse.  And if you don’t go to work, because you’re afraid that you’re going to bring some – the infection home to your children, you don’t get Unemployment Insurance.’

But, Mr. Neal, the distinguished Chairman, he has always been there for the people who need it the most, as a counter by the Republicans, who are there for the people who have the most.  So, when they talk about $600, I want the review of the fact that they put $2 trillion onto the national debt to give a tax break to the wealthy, 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent.

I’ll close prayerfully, quoting St. Augustine.  Some of you have heard me say this almost every day.  St. Augustine, seventeen hundred years ago, he said, ‘Any government that is not formed to promote justice is just a bunch of thieves.’

Let’s use our time to remove all doubt that we’re going to do the right thing by the American people, so they can meet the needs of their families.  Everybody wants to talk about being family friendly – let’s not squawk about $600. 

With that, I yield back to the distinguished Chair or whoever is leading the way here.


Chairman Neal.  Questions?

Q:  Will you pass a bill to invoke a short term renewal of these benefits so that they don’t lapse for Americans?

Chairman Neal.  It’s the Speaker’s call, but I will tell you this: Ways and Means Committee intends next week to hold a hearing on Unemployment Insurance.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, let me just say this: we have food stamps in there, and they’re like, ‘What, you want more money for food stamps?’  We have housing in there.  ‘What?  You want money for housing?’  We have this benefit in there. 

There is – I would be very much averse to separating this out and lose all leverage for meeting all of the other needs.  It’s a fraudulent tactic, and with all due respect to you, an unworthy question when it comes to meeting the needs of America’s working families.

But we have – I’m glad you’re having the hearing to keep the spotlight on it.

What is the point – they could have done – they could have done their job, as you said.  Do your job.  I mean, this is dereliction of duty and our responsibility to the American people, and now you’re saying, ‘What?  You just bailed them out.’  So, they can ignore all the needs that we have for testing, all the needs we have for state and local government, all the needs we have for food security, all the needs we have for the OSHA benefit that is in the bill, all the needs that we have for vote-by-mail and other priorities that we have that are about justice. 

Q:  I understand all of that, but are you considering extending these benefits for a month or two while you continue to negotiate?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, no, no, no.

Congressman Kildee.  Point being, Republicans have every bit of information they need to make the decision.

Speaker Pelosi.  Do you understand no?

Q:  Well I just – for people who are at home –

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Q:  – but what do people who are at home –

Speaker Pelosi.  No. 

Q:  – you know, how are they going to pay for groceries next week?


Speaker Pelosi.  No.  Pass the bill. 

Congressman Kildee.  Pass the bill.  That’s it.

Chairman Neal.  And a good bill.  That’s the thing.  It’s really a good piece of legislation, I mean if you go through it with the retention tax credit and all, it’s really a good piece of legislative work.

Speaker Pelosi.  It’s a tactic in order to not honor our other responsibilities.  We will not be a party to their tactics.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi.  If it’s on this subject – let’s stay on this subject, and I’m not going to answer any other questions.

Q:  It’s on this subject.  Republicans – Senate Republicans want to keep their bill within a trillion dollars.  Given money for education, more money for PPP, et cetera, when you bring in the Unemployment Insurance benefit of another $600, do you think it is possible to extend that benefit at that level and keep a bill within a trillion dollars?

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  You know, what we said to the Republicans – I want to tell you something.  This is deadly serious.  A house is burning down in terms of the economic security of America’s families and these people are fiddling, wherever they may be this weekend.

So, when you talk about, ‘Well, they want to do a trillion dollars, so how can we do $600 for those in the most need when they got other things they want to do?’  That’s why Chuck and I – distinguished Leader and I said to them, ‘Put your bill on paper.  Put your bill on paper, and then we’ll see what you have included and what you have left out.  And then the American people will see what you have included and what you have left out.’

But I’m telling you, you can’t have any more patience.  You know, it’s a wonderful thing I read.  It’s amazing how much patience people can have with other people suffering.  Well, we don’t have that patience on our side of the aisle.

And so, for them to say a trillion dollars, when they spent  $2 trillion to give a tax cut to the richest people in American, 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent.

Chairman Neal.  Which was borrowed.  They borrowed it.

Speaker Pelosi.  And they borrowed it.  They heaped it on the backs of our children for future generations.  So, let us see what their trillion dollars gets them, and what are they excluding?

They have nothing for state and local, where people are working, health care professionals, food suppliers, transit workers, teachers, teachers, teacher, sanitation workers, people who make our system run.  Over a million and half of them have been fired already because of the needs of the coronavirus, the expenses of the coronavirus and the revenue lost because of coronavirus.  Take that out.  Let these people go.  Okay, so now they don’t have jobs.  They probably have to go on unemployment, right?  So what money have they saved?

And then, we have testing, testing, testing.  They shut down their cafeteria the minute somebody got infected in the White House complex.  They shut it down.  They’re testing and tracing. 

Why can’t they put that money there for the states in a substantial way with a strategic plan to do that?  So, what money do they have there for that?

Then, we have the money for rental assistance and mortgage forbearance and food stamps, as I keep saying.  The one thing I can’t even understand is how they could even show their faces by saying, ‘Food stamps?  You want more money for food stamps?  Why would we – why would we do that?’  Well, because people are hungry in America.  Doesn’t that motivate you?

So, a trillion dollars that – our bill, 3.4 [trillion dollars], mean and lean.  It’s everything we need.  It’s nothing extra.  So, let’s see where their trillion dollars takes them, and not have them use that as a reason why they can’t give America’s working families $600. 

Don’t get me started on that $600.


Congressman Kildee.  I think it’s important – it’s important to note though, even if somehow – even if somehow the Republicans can’t conjure some empathy for these families, which is hard to comprehend, they ought to at least be able to comprehend the fact that to the extent that this economy has been barely held together is because these families have had this unemployment and the spending power to go down to the corner grocery store and to pay their rent and to take care of their families.  That money goes directly into the U.S. economy.

So, even if they can’t figure out a way to have sympathy and empathy for the families that would be hurt and harmed so much by this, they ought to at least enroll in an entry level economics class and understand if you take that money out of the economy, this whole house of cards is going to collapse.  And that’s why they need to act now.

Q:  On the issue of price tag, The Heroes Act passed two months ago plus, and conditions changed on the ground, obviously –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, we need more money. 


Q:  That what – that was my question: is 3.4 [trillion dollars] enough given that a lot – a lot of parts of the country are suffering more than they were two months ago?  And where would that be?  I know that you mentioned that education could use more.

Speaker Pelosi.  If I may, I don’t – if I may use your question – but to pivot from what Mr. Kildee was saying: we are a consumer economy.  Our economy grows and succeeds and is strengthened by the confidence – the consumer confidence that is there.  They should know that.

At the same time as they are spending trillions of dollars to bolster the stock market so it has a floor – and that’s not a bad thing – we should be spending trillions of dollars to have a floor for America’s working families because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also the most pragmatic thing to do.  In order – we’re – you put money into businesses – if there’s– if you ain’t got no customers, it’s no use having money to pay the rent and the staff if there’s no business. 

So, this money is spent.  It’s necessary – needed.  It’s spent.  It injects demand into the economy and it creates jobs.  So, I just wanted to go back to your point.

Okay, on education, for example, we need much more money.  We had $100 billion in for education.  We also knew that that wasn’t really quite enough, but we were trying to be lean and mean with the budget. 

And they came in with 105 [billion dollars] this week and they said, ‘Well, you have five hundred,’ but, of course, you have to see where they want to spend that money.  But we probably need double that much, at least double that much, for education for one thing.

But, by and large, we are in pretty good shape with what we have in budget, if we could spend it now.  Now, they want to do zero for state and local.  Really?  Tell it to the governors and mayors across the – county executives across the country.  We have to have that money.

They’re not going to be at a trillion dollars.  And, if you see their trillion dollar list, it’s really going to be a big embarrassment to the Republican party to see who they cut out and who they include, and how they were willing to spend double that for a tax cut for their rich friends.

Anyone else want to – I meant on that question.

Q:  Oh.  Madam Speaker, I heard you say that –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, excuse me, one sec.  Any other women?  I always like to give preference to women.


Yes, sir.

Q:  Directed to you, but anybody can answer.  And I’m following up on Nancy’s question: I heard you say ‘no’ multiple times, but isn’t this issue on a different level in the sense that it is immediate, it is going to expire, and that some of the other things, while also important, funding for elections and funding for education, isn’t going to have the effect that Mr. Kildee has described his constituents are worried about?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, if you were going to be evicted at the end of this month, you might not think the same way.  If you were crying because you couldn’t put food on the table for your children, you might be thinking a different way. 

That’s why we have to have these – actually a safety net for the capitalist system.  Everybody says a safety net for – it’s a capitalist system safety net so that they can wheel and deal in a free way and, then, in the cycle of things, when people need help, there’s a safety net for the capitalist system.

So, if we’re going to have a capitalist system, which I fully support and want to strengthen, we strengthen it by making sure – by removing all doubt that when things go one way or the other, that people are not going to have to explain to their children why they don’t have food on the – on the table.

So this is very important.  So are – you want to see how many people will be on the street being evicted because they cannot pay the rent?  And then they can’t pay the rent exponentially because they’re not getting the $600.

I’m just going to lighten up the mood here.  I’m going to tell you this: Carl Reiner, great – you know, you’re all too young to know but he was a great comedian.  And his son Rob Reiner: ‘Meathead.’  Maybe you’re too young for that as well.  Anyway, he died; a great comedian in his 90’s, 98 years old.  

So I called his son, Rob, who is a comedian too.  I called Rob, ‘Rob, Rob darling, this is Nancy Pelosi.  I’m calling to wish you and Michelle my condolences.  I’m so sad.  Your father was so funny and so wonderful.  I had the occasion to hear him – blah, blah, blah.’  And this man says, ‘I think you have the wrong number.’


I said, ‘Really?  I’m so sorry.  I thought this was Rob Reiner.’  He said, ‘Well, you know, I know Carl Reiner is and I know who Rob Reiner is, but I think you have the wrong number.’  I said, ‘Well, I’m so sorry.  Wait till I talk to my staff about this.’


And he says, ‘But I’m so glad you called me.  I have one question for you.’  I said, ‘Well what is that?’  He said, ‘Am I going to get my $600?’


Q:  What did you think of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s speech yesterday?

Speaker Pelosi.  I am very proud of her.  I thought it was great.  I have four daughters, two great – two granddaughters and I thought she was just great.

You know what she said is what we all know.  A President of the United States who gives license to people to speak that way, who are at ease with that kind of disrespect, condescension and the rest, and in keeping with what the President was saying about his fearmongering for women who live in suburbia and how he treated that.  Fearmongering, discrimination, disrespect, condescension. 

I was very proud of her.

Thank you all very much.  I need to go to my day job.