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.
Well, our dear John Lewis has been laid to rest. I don't know if you saw the double rainbow over the Capitol on Tuesday night. It was quite a remarkable sight to see. It wasn't even raining and there was a double rainbow. As I said yesterday at his service, on the night he died, the flags that were waving over the Capitol were saying goodbye to him as he made his transition. And on the last night before he would be leaving the Capitol, he said his goodbye to us with a double rainbow, saying, as he would say: I'm home in heaven. I'm with Lillian. May he rest in peace, our dear John.
We mourn him as a death in the family, but now we've passed 150,000 Americans who are dead from the coronavirus. Many of them were not necessary to have met that fate. Today, on the floor of the House, we'll have a moment of silence to observe the loss of 150,000 Americans.
Ten weeks ago, we passed The Heroes Act – more than ten weeks ago, we passed the Heroes Act, which had a path to containing this virus with testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, sanitation. The Republicans said they wanted to ‘take a pause.’ Well, the virus didn't.
Since then, over 65,000 Americans have died, 300,000 – just a huge number of Americans have – three million Americans since then have become infected. So much for the ‘pause.’ And now the beginning of this week, the Republicans in the Senate came back with a piecemeal approach.
Clearly, they, and perhaps the White House, do not understand the gravity of the situation. 150,000 Americans died, almost, nearly half of them since we passed our bill. Several hundred thousand – no, three million. You know how it goes. The first million took a hundred days. To get to two million took 43 more days. To get to three million took 27 days. And to get to four million, it took 16 days.
We're now approaching 4.5 million. This is a freight train that is picking up steam and picking up speed. That acceleration is not a good thing. It must be stopped, and we have a plan in the Heroes Act to do just that. Science-based, science-based testing, tracing, treatment, distancing, mask wearing and the rest.
And that is the way to open our economy, to more safely open our schools, to reduce the number of infections, instead of an accelerating pace of infection spreading across our country. Children are – it's really sad to even say. Children are food insecure. Families are food and rent insecure.
Nineteenth straight week, this week, the nineteenth straight week of people applying for Unemployment Insurance. Thirty million people doing that. We really need to, again, stop the spread. That's first and foremost. To do that, we need the people to work and have the equipment to do it.
That's why the Heroes Act has the funding for state and local government, to honor our heroes, our health care workers, our first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, our transportation workers, our sanitation workers, food suppliers and the rest, meeting the needs of the people in our cities and states.
That's why we have our strategic plan for testing in our bill, The Heroes Act, and that's why we have a robust, a robust – put money in people's pockets that the consumer economy that we are can continue to be and to curtail the deepening of the recession we're in.
And so in this time of all of that, what are the Republicans proposing? Cutting the benefit to America's working families. Put $200 on the [Senate] Floor, yesterday. $200 from $600. They want to make it sound like, well, we’d be up for $600; they don't have the votes for $600. And why don't they? Because they're too busy – look, in the CARES Act, just think of this, in the CARES Act, they had $150 billion benefit to high-income people to, shall we say, high rollers, had nothing to do with the coronavirus. It was retroactive in terms of tax benefits to certain high rollers in the economy.
And yet, they resent America's working families getting the $600, which is essential to their needs. So, they've offered $200. We're saying we have The Heroes Act. Respond to us on that and we'll go forward. But the $600 is essential in the lives of these families, and they question: ‘Well, maybe somebody's staying home making more money than they would.’ Well, why don't you subject those high rollers to that same scrutiny as to whether that money was justified. We have the data – they say, ‘Oh, we have data showing that people stay home.’ I said, well, we have data, we have data showing that that is not the case.
Anecdotally, if you want to name somebody, name them. And we'll anecdotally name some of your people. The plural of anecdote is not data when it comes to millions of American families benefiting from this. So, that's where we are on the negotiations. We'll be talking again today.
I think it's important to note that Chairman Powell, once again, said this week, the – I'll read his words: ‘The path forward for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part in our success in keeping the virus in check…This pandemic and its fallout represents the biggest shock to the U.S. economy in living memory.’
And then, of course, he has called upon us to do more. So, again, we stop the spread, open the economy, reduce the infection rates in communities so you can open schools. Recognize that the biggest spread now is among – has been among people of color who haven't had the access to testing.
So, it all comes back down to what I've talked to you about before. It's about equipment. We don't have enough tests because we don't have enough equipment. We don't have results soon enough because we don't have enough equipment to get the results of the tests soon enough.
We have our health care providers at risk and others who come in contact, early contact with people who are infected at risk because we don't have the PPE, the personal protective equipment. We once again call upon the President to get serious about this. No, testing is not overrated.
Now he's come to see about masks. If he had done that months ago, we would be in better place right now. Then it was a hoax. Everything he says is really about him: hoax, overrated. He projects.
Speaker Pelosi. With that, I'll take any questions you may have.
Q: Madam Speaker.
Q: Republicans and the Administration got a lot of heat when they released their bill because there was a lot of unrelated things in there, including money for the FBI building, money for defense to replenish the wall. There's some things in your bill that's not directly related to COVID, like they're talking about cannabis or the SALT reduction. Are those things that you're willing to also strip out of the bill?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't agree with you that cannabis is not related to this. This is a therapy that has proven successful, and it is by no means of the caliber of money or misrepresentation that remodeling the [FBI] building is for over a billion dollars so that another hotel doesn't come in there and compete with the President's hotel. That's what that's all about. That has nothing to do with the coronavirus.
So, we're going to have to come to some compromise on the legislation; I just don't accept that there's any equivalence in what you put forth there. And they have – so we'll see. We'll see what they come back with today. But do not accept any thought in their mind that they want to continue the $600. They distrust, they distrust American workers. They're condescending and disrespectful of the needs of America's working families.
Why else would they not have had food in their proposal? Food. Children are hungry. Families are in food banks that they never thought – go to food banks that they never thought they would ever go to.
But let's just calm this. Let's be prayerful. Let's turn the page on it. Let's say that the path that they have taken us down with their delay, their denial and their distortions have caused death – speaking alliteratively – have caused death, unnecessarily. Let's say that we should, all of us, concede that scientists should be making the decision about how we stop the spread of disease and not quacks that the President seems to tweet about.
And, again, after all is said and done, we'll have an after-action review. Right now, we need them to recognize the gravity of the situation.
Any other questions?
Q: Last night, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows offered you a one week extension of unemployment benefits at $600, which you rejected. And after that, he called you a politically-motivated party that won't take yes for an answer.
Can you explain why you rejected it and also your reaction to his comment?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, as I say, they're into projection. Every time they say something, I say, perhaps you are characterizing yourself and think that that's how we are. We're not. We're here. This is serious. This is life and death.
When you have a six day – one week extension on a provision, it's usually – it has always been to accommodate the legislative process. If you're on the verge of having an agreement or you have an agreement, but it has to be reviewed by the CBO and the legislative counsel, go to the Rules Committee, take the days that it does to bring to the Floor, take the days – God knows in the Senate, I don't know how many days it takes to bring something to the Floor there – but to give Members an adequate amount of time to review what is in there. And, for us, that's 72 hours. And then you go to the Rules process and the rest. And then it takes – then the President's signature.
So, a week would be a time for that, if you have a bill. What are we going to do in a week? What are we going to do in a week? What are you going to do in a week? That is – first of all, they don't even have the votes for it in the Senate. Let's get real about what – who says what.
We passed a bill ten weeks ago. It was bipartisan. We passed a bill over ten weeks ago. They couldn't even get a shell bill. They couldn't even get a $200, which we totally reject. They couldn't even pass something like that among their own Members. Forget 60 votes. Talk 51 votes.
So, it's no use. Why don't we just get the job done? Why don't we just get the job done? And there’s just – the only accommodation that such a bill is is if you're on the path. We're not.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about this new Mitt Romney proposal that would extend Unemployment Insurance for three months?
Speaker Pelosi. No. We have to have – look, people, the business community talks all the time about needing certainty in their lives and this or that, but somehow or other we think that we can diminish that – the recognition for that.
God bless him for having a proposal. I don't think he can pass that in the Senate either, but we'll see. You know, he'll see what he can do. But the – all of it is predicated on a lower benefit for America's working families at a time where the virus is accelerating, more people are applying for Unemployment Insurance. Nineteen straight weeks of over a million people applying for – and they're saying let's do this for six days.
No, let's sit down and get this done. Let's recognize people need $600. Let's recognize state and local need help with laying – with the money they have spent to fight the virus and the revenue lost. Cities, municipalities, counties, states all over the country say they need that money, in a bipartisan way.
And then, of course, let's get real and scientific about stopping the spread of the virus. So, no.
Yes, and then yes. Okay.
Q: If you look back at March and April, there was a lot of partisan bickering, but, at the end, almost every vote was either by unanimous consent, unanimous vote or just simple voice vote. What is so different now? What changed in the last three to four months?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say, with all the respect in the world for your question, we weren't bickering. We were having major policy disagreements about how we meet the needs of the American people.
I know that you all are engaged in characterizing us as bickering and equivalence, when we want to help America's families – working families and they want to give tax cuts to the biggest – the richest people. Why can't they come to agreement? We don't have shared values. That's just the way it is. So it's not bickering. It's standing our ground or trying to find common ground.
And they started out, you know, the CARES Act – the first bill was a small bill, but it was about testing, testing, testing. They really didn't do it, scientifically. Then the next bill, big bill, was the CARES Act. The CARES Act came out as a corporate trickle-down bill, and we said that's not what we need. And so we put – we had our Take Responsibility bill, which was bubble-up from working families, and we came to agreement. Some bad things were still in the CARES Act, like $150 billion to the richest people in America, retroactively, having nothing to do with the coronavirus. But, nonetheless, we were able – four bills we did in a bipartisan way.
The next bill was the PPP, the additional PPP bill. And they – what did they say? ‘Never, no way, none of it will pass in the Senate. We're having this and this is what it is.’ And, then, they ended up doing what we had: a $60 billion set aside for small and women- and minority-owned businesses. They ended up having the money for the hospitals, more money for testing, because that – we made the case and we got to that place.
It didn't mean we swallowed their first offer or they swallowed our first offer. It's the legislative process. We put forth what we think is urgently needed by the American people because we recognize the gravity of the situation.
They don't, and that's for – they’re like what, food? Food? I mean, really. The one that gets me is food. I guess, as a mom and I guess as an Italian American, food means a lot to me. That people are hungry is – and we're not doing anything about it, and that's not in their bill. We had food in one of the early packages: SNAP, food stamps, those things. But not since; they haven't accepted it since.
So, we anticipate that we will have a bill, but we're not there yet.
I just said Chad would be next.
Q: Thank you.
So, I'm having trouble understanding where is potential compromise for you. I know you said that there's no interim bill right now, unless there's something that's on the table that you're working toward that –
Speaker Pelosi. But there's something on the table what?
Q: Unless there's something on the table. You said –
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, yeah. Yeah. I'm sorry. I just didn't hear you.
Q: You know, you said if they were doing a bill, if it was within grasp, then you might be able to do an interim bill.
But where is the area of give on the Democratic side? You insisted on the $3 trillion. You said today food. Okay. What are you willing to give to get this across the finish line and get it –
Speaker Pelosi. And you expect me to tell you that right here and now?
Q: But we don't know. Nobody seems to know where the Democratic give is. It seems like they were willing –
Speaker Pelosi. Because it's a give and take in a negotiation and, so far, we don't see that they want to – in other words, in negotiating there are two things to remember: one is the person you're negotiating with has to want something. You have to think they might want something for the American people. So far, so bad.
The second part is that the people you're negotiating with have to know that you'll walk, you'll walk. If it isn't there, it isn't there. I don't think that we are in that place. I do think that with the public view of all of this, that the urgency from a health standpoint: a pandemic, 150,000 dead, [4.5 million] plus infected, the number growing in an accelerated way.
So this, again, this is an imperative that may take them to a place where, in order to get something they want, they may concede something for America's working families.
Q: The Heroes Act had $3.6 billion for states to spend on elections. You heard the President, of course, rail on mail-in voting.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Are you open to approving a bill that would be silent and have no money to provide for states for mail-in voting?
Speaker Pelosi. I mean – thank you for that question because I've been thinking about it during the night, in light of the President's statement yesterday.
We all respect the Constitution of the United States. I respect the office of the President, and I have acted in a way in terms of policy and legislation: keeping government open, U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement – some of the things that we could find our common ground.
I do conclude that I respect the office of the presidency and the President doesn't. And, just, every single day he degrades the office that he took an office – an oath to serve in. To say yesterday that he thought that we should postpone the election, you have to wonder, is this – I would say what does he have on his mind, but I'm not even sure that that's a logical territory to go into.
This is very serious, very serious. So, we need to have an election that does not jeopardize the health and well-being of the American people. I was a party chair before I came to Congress, chair of the largest party in the country, the California Democratic Party, and voting by mail was always what the Republicans did best. We could win on election day getting out the vote. When you see the absentee ballots, you knew that that's where they would have their greatest success. That has always been the case.
So, what we're talking about here is not necessarily a political advantage to us. And Republicans want it; some Republican secretaries of state want it. And they want the money without the restrictions that the Republicans put in the last bill. We have a letter to that effect; I can show it to you, from the Association of Secretaries of State.
But, right now, we have a situation where going into polling places, having to stand in line for hours and do people keep the distance and all the rest. That’s a health issue, but it's also a health of our democracy issue. So that if people do want to go to the polling places, there are enough of them open. There are enough of them open hours- and days-wise. So, this isn't just about absentee.
Now, the President is making a distinction between absentee and vote-by-mail. I rest my case. It's the same thing. ‘I vote absentee, and that's okay.’ Vote-by-mail – well, what do you do? You mail it in.
Now, what they're also doing, since you brought up the subject, is they're trying to diminish the funding and the rest. They're not accepting our funding for the postal system. Post Office needs funding. What we put in the bill was the proposal of the U.S. Postal System Board of Governors.
The U.S. Postal System Board of Governors is bipartisan, 100 percent appointed by Donald Trump, and they have recommended the figure that we have in the bill. In fact, they actually recommended more, but we put some of the rest of it in the infrastructure bill, the part that pertained to trucks and all that.
So, this is about – now what they want to do is diminish the money for the Post Office, because if you mail in your ballot and it has a stamp, then they have to date that. Sometimes they don't, but they have to date that, postmark it. If it is a prepaid postage, they don't necessarily do it, and they don't necessarily do it in a timely fashion, passing it on in a timely fashion because they just don't have the personnel. And there's a method to their madness.
So, understand this: he wants to cancel the election or postpone the election. Really? Did he learn that from Putin or something? They want to diminish the capacity of the postal system to work in a timely fashion. They want not to give any money that we have in the Heroes Act. But they voted for this before. We have $400 million in the CARES Act. Not enough. But they have voted for the principle that we should be helping to protect our elections. And we do know that Russia is interfering, again, in our elections.
The security – the intelligence community has told us that they're continuing the behavior of what they did in past elections, and there may be other foreign governments that are trying to intervene. So, we need to have – protect the security of our electoral system, and we have to give people the opportunity to vote the way they want to vote, whether that's in person or by mail. But recognizing that in the time of the coronavirus, hopefully it will be diminished by then, but in the time of the coronavirus, this is an answer that has benefited Republicans, overwhelmingly, over time.
Q: Will you not accept a bill that zeroes out –
Speaker Pelosi. I'm not telling you. I'm not negotiating. I'm not telling him what we take, what we give and why we don't, but that is a very essential priority for us.
Anybody who's been here? Yes, you just came in.
She just arrived.
Q: Congressman Gohmert, he was diagnosed – tested positive and now he's in isolation. You got other Members of Congress who have now gone into quarantine because of contact with him. And you've now mandated masks on the campus on the House side. Is it time for you and Senator McConnell to reverse your decision from early in May to not have rapid testing here for Members, for staff, for people who are on this complex every day?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, first of all, it's not a decision of mine. It's a decision of the Capitol Physician as to what – the need for testing. It would be – you know, you think of Members of Congress, oh, there are 535. No. There are about 20,000 people who make the Capitol run. And the Capitol Physician has not said yet that he thinks that we should be tested. But it's not just us. It's not just us. It's others as well.
And as I said earlier, there are many people in the country who should be tested, should have access, in order to quantify the problem, but also to trace and to treat so that people don't die. And I don't think it's a good idea for Members of the Congress to say we should have it but maybe not necessarily the people who work here at the expense of others.
Comes back to equipment. It comes back to equipment. We would probably have to do thousands of people, some would say every day, some would say every week. It's not up to Senator McConnell or me. As far as I'm concerned, it's up to the Capitol Physician. And I hope – I mean, one of the – we had called for masks for a while, but it was a question of enforcement. What happened now really made it certain that we had to do that and the Capitol Police and the rest had to enforce it, not only on the Floor of the House, but throughout. And then they can make their own decision about requiring masks, the other office buildings and other places in the Capitol complex, the whole Capitol Hill complex.
So, it is something that you would have thought, as a matter of courtesy or just safety, that the Republicans would have agreed to before, and some did but not all, and now they must. And what's really of concern to me is because we think of Capitol Hill as us. It's about the staff and the support staff to make it all run, and now you're seeing messages from staffs of Members stating the concern they have about how their offices have been treating the issue of the coronavirus.
Q: Doesn't that raise a question, though, of us all being here today and even the soundness of Dr. Monahan's advice? I mean, I know we have remote voting. I know –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we're separated from each other. I'm not coming anywhere near any of you.
Q: But wouldn't it behoove you because you have – I know you're saying it's not just Members, it's staff and other people, but because the Members are the ones who tend to get on planes, fly back to districts, fly back to States and then come back. Wouldn't it behoove you, both Chambers, to reverse the earlier decision where the President offered to send rapid testing here so that Members could be tested?
Speaker Pelosi. It's not up to the President, and it's not up to me. It's up to the Capitol Physician as to what it is. And I have from time to time asked him. One time when Nydia Velázquez was diagnosed, in a picture that was in the paper, it looked like we were closer together. We were very far apart. And I said, well, since that picture, people are asking me. And he said, ‘Well, first of all, I know you weren't that close together, A. And B, no, you shouldn't be tested.’
Thank you all very much.
Q: We'd love to have a briefing with Dr. Monahan if he'd like to show up sometime?
Speaker Pelosi. That's up to him.