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, good morning.
So here we are. The Supreme Court, including the President's appointees, have declared that he is not above the law. The path that the Supreme Court has laid out is one that is clearly achievable by us in the lower court, and we will continue to go down that path.
The decision enables – to enable the Trump Administration's – I don't even know what they are saying about it. I hear he is tweeting one thing and then other people are saying another. But whatever it is, it is not good news for the President of the United States. It is a path that we will take.
So I put out a statement. I don't see it here. Do we have a copy of the statement? Do we? It’s not here. So – but, anyway, you don't need me to give you a piece of paper to have what the statement is, but it took me a little longer to get out here because I wanted to read to the bottom, end of the decision. And Chief Justice specifically speaks to the fact that the President is ‘not above the law.’ And that was something that was proclaimed in the decision, including two of his recent appointments.
Now, let me say: A careful reading of the Supreme Court ruling related to the President's financial records is not good news for President Trump.
The Court has reaffirmed Congress's authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, as it asks for further information from Congress. Congress’s constitutional responsibility to uncover the truth continues, specifically related to the President's Russia connection that he is hiding.
The Congress will continue to conduct oversight For The People, upholding the separation of powers that is the genius of our Constitution. We will continue to press our case in the lower courts.
That is what happened this morning.
Earlier this morning, for the sixteenth week in a row, over one million Americans applied for Unemployment Insurance – the sixteenth week in a row. We have to open up our economy. We can only do so by killing off the virus. That is what is in The Heroes Act. Testing. Tracing. Treatment. Separation. Masking. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. As I said, that is what is in The Heroes Act.
All of the scientific pronouncements have spoken to the need for more testing and the urgency of tracing and the benefit of treatment so that people do not die. Again, this Administration seems to be turning its back on science and instead saying: Open up. Take a risk. And oh, by the way, open up the schools. Open up the schools.
As a mother and a grandmother, we all – everybody I know wants to open up the schools. Indeed, a large percentage, overwhelmingly, the teachers want to open up the schools, but it has to be safe for the children. And to be safe for the children, we must attack this coronavirus. We must kill it off. We cannot ignore it and we cannot call it a hoax and we cannot misrepresent the facts as to what the status of it is.
In order for the children to go back to school, our state and local governments have to function. That is what The Heroes Act is about. The first piece of it: honor our heroes. State and local government, hiring our first responders. Our teachers, our teachers, our teachers. Our health care workers who risk their lives to save other lives, and now they may lose their jobs. Over a million public employees have lost their jobs in the course of this coronavirus and we can change that if we make the commitment in The Heroes Act to state and local government.
And by the way, go there – Speaker.gov/HeroesAct – and see how much money goes to your community. Your state, your locality, your county, your municipality. And then recognize that it is only one‑half of what the Republicans gave to the top one percent in their tax scam. Their tax scam costs twice as much as what we want to spend to open up government, to provide the services that people need, to open up our economy and to open up our schools.
The Secretary of Education indicated that children should go to school. They have to take risks. Everybody takes risks: you take risks to ride a bicycle, to be an astronaut. There are risks. You have to take risks.
No, we don't want our children to take risks to go to school. We are supposed to mitigate for any damage. We are supposed to keep them safe. So, with stiff competition, that was one of the most ill‑informed statements – stiff competition though in this Administration on this and other subjects.
And the third part of it is, we are never going to have our economy come back unless we recognize that we must put money in the pockets of the American people. And that is what we do with the third pillar of The Heroes Act.
Unemployment Insurance will expire in a few weeks. In July, Unemployment Insurance will expire. The Heroes Act extends it, extends it. And, again, the last checks go out about July 26th, or something like that, but it is over by the end of the month.
We must renew Unemployment Insurance. This morning, sixteenth straight week of one million people, over one million people applying for Unemployment Insurance. And we have to put the money in the pockets of people with our direct payments, absolutely essential.
If we do not, if we do not help our state and local governments honoring our heroes, if we do not kill off this virus and if we do not put money in the pockets of the American people, our economy will only worsen. Don't take it from me. Take it from authorities on the subject who track this all the time. So it is absolutely essential, absolutely essential, that we come together in a bipartisan way and get this done in the next few weeks.
It also has in there, resources that had bipartisan support in the country for helping the Postal Service – keeping the Postal Service going, keeping voting‑at‑home funded; and also, a very important part, putting people back to work, our OSHA provision for safety in the workplace.
PPP and its availability, or lack thereof, is very much a part of everything we have been talking about, about meeting the health care needs of people who are diagnosed. It is essential to our teachers and our children going back to school, teachers, custodians, all of those who are responsible for the education of our children, which is of the highest priority for us all, safely – PPP, necessary. And, again, we have a shortage of that.
So we have to have commonsense weigh in on this, commonsense to listen to the scientists and not CDC regulations that are predicated on a tweet, on a tweet. What? We always want any guidance that we get to be updated by the scientific knowledge and the rest, but for this to be downgraded on a tweet, just tells you how senseless all of this is.
As we are gathering here this week, the – many things are going on. The Appropriations Committee is meeting every day, starting Monday, over the next two weeks putting together our appropriations bills which, as you know, must be passed by September 30th. That is the deadline.
The Armed Services Committee is meeting, I think right now, as we speak, and they are being briefed on matters that relate to Russia. Right now, today, I guess it is a continuation of the work of the Committee on Energy and Commerce that is having its hearings. Appropriations, Homeland Security – these are the subcommittees of Appropriations.
Foreign Affairs Committee on Europe is having its hearings. Education and Labor: examining the impact of COVID‑19 on the future of higher education. Financial Services: economic perspectives on alternative approaches to protecting workers during COVID‑19. Oversight Committee goes into the life‑threatening impact of single‑use plastic on human health. And then in Natural Resources, there is a meeting of Democrats only on the restoration economy, examining environmental and economic opportunities.
The list goes on: Homeland Security, Small Business, Budget, Veterans Affairs, Energy and Commerce, I said. There are, like, three days of these meetings.
So, I am very proud of the work that the Members are doing to prepare us for the votes on the Floor when we call all the Members back.
Intelligence Committee, when we come back, will be marking up the intelligence bill. But it is all in the works now. So, we are getting ready for when they come back. And as I say, many of these meetings are virtual. Some are hybrid. Some are actual – all of them important, and all of them to be acted upon when we come back, including the appropriations bill and almost immediately, the National Defense Authorization Act.
The urgency – it is more than urgent. It is so necessary and so obvious of The Heroes Act demands. It is an imperative that we put something together that passes out of the Congress, signed by the President, by the end of July so that people who have uncertainty in their lives because of unemployment, uncertainty in their lives because of just not having resources, will have the comfort of knowing and therefore the consumer confidence to spend, which is so important.
Anyway, it is just a very eventful time, sad about the, again, the sixteenth week of people applying for Unemployment Insurance.
Carefully reading the Supreme Court decision and responsibilities for them that they lay out for the Congress, which we will abide by in the lower courts. And, again, seven to two, even the President's appointees saying the President of the United States is not above the law.
Speaker Pelosi. Any questions? Yes, ma'am.
Q: Leader McConnell said this week in Kentucky that he is open to direct payments – another round of direct payments to individuals making under $40,000 a year. Can you tell us if you have spoken with him about this?
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: It seems like a departure from his initial comments where he was saying, ‘We need to wait and see before there is more spending.’ And, now, does that make you more open to liability protections on a next relief bill?
Speaker Pelosi. No. Let me just say this. Every day you see them opening up more. We get overtures about, ‘Can this be in the bill. Can that be in the bill,’ because they know there has to be a bill.
What doesn't measure up is, ‘Oh, it can only be a trillion dollars.’ No, we need a trillion dollars for state and local. We need another trillion dollars, another trillion dollars for Unemployment Insurance and direct payments. Something like that, but probably not as much for the testing, tracing, treatment, etcetera.
So, a trillion dollars is: okay, that is an interesting starting point, but it doesn't come anywhere near. I don't know where the $40,000 came from. I think there are many families depending on size of family and so many different things, that the $40,000 would have to be explained, justified and the rest. But I think families making over $40,000 probably need assistance. Again, just depending on their family situation.
We think there is a path to talk about protecting businesses and workers and customers who come in, and that is our OSHA provision. But, again, let's hear what everybody has to say. But don't say, ‘You all have to go back to work even if it isn't safe. And by the way, we are removing all responsibility from the employer.’ I mean, that is just – no.
Q: You said ‘trillion.’ Did you mean billion?
Speaker Pelosi. Of what?
Q: You just said ‘trillion.’
Speaker Pelosi. For what?
Q: ‘A trillion here, a trillion here.’ Did you mean billion?
Speaker Pelosi. A trillion for what, dear?
Q: Oh, never mind.
Speaker Pelosi. No, I am saying ‘trillion,’ trillion for state and local, a trillion for Unemployment Insurance and direct payments, a trillion, with a ‘TR.’
Let's put it this way: $1 trillion for state and local. That is half of the cost of the Republican plan in their tax scam, which added $2 trillion to the national debt. So, yes, I am saying ‘trillion.’
And let me say another thing about trillions. The Fed is spending trillions of dollars to shore up the stock market. That may be a good thing to do. We think we should spend trillions of dollars to shore up America's workers, and there is a path that is a good investment, that is stimulus, that keeps people from losing their jobs and helps people get jobs by being a stimulus and having consumer confidence, spending, injecting demand into the economy, job creating.
Chad and then you and then you.
Q: Madam Speaker, so you say that this was bad news for the President on the decision this morning, but –
Speaker Pelosi. I said it wasn't good news.
Q: It wasn't good news.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: With that said, what will the House do now with this? I mean, had they ruled differently, you would have conceivably had these records, you know, before the Financial Services Committee or the Oversight and Reform Committee, and you would have had to parse through these, go through another investigation?
Speaker Pelosi. But why are we talking about what we would have done? They didn't rule that way?
Q: So what will you do? What will prevent you from doing some sort of a broader investigation, which some Democrats will tell you privately that they would prefer not to go down that road just before an election?
Speaker Pelosi. And some will tell me they want to go down that road. But we have a path that the Supreme Court has laid out that we certainly will not ignore, and we will never stop our oversight that is our responsibility under the Constitution of the United States.
By all accounts for many of the, shall we say, constitutional authorities, this was – there was never any way they were going to give us the records right now, but they would give us a path to the records.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, it is very unlikely you’re going to see these before the election. It is also unlikely that, in your case, the tax returns will go before the grand jury before the elections. Are you disappointed that Congress and the American public will not see these records, almost certainly will not see these records before November?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, thank you for that question because it takes me to what was really important about this decision.
This isn't so much about the President's records, although we would like to know how Russia funded his operation all those years, but that is not what was at stake. What was at stake is, is the President above the law? Is this court, a court friendly to the President, going to rule in favor of the Executive branch and say that there is no Congressional oversight, undermining our system of checks and balances?
So, for us, that was what was important, and what is at stake is the system of checks and balances. As I say in my statement, the genius of the Constitution. If, in fact, they would have ruled that he is above – not above the law – I mean, that he can do whatever he wants without any oversight from Congress, that would have been just devastating, to tell you the honest truth. And we would still fight it. We would still fight it, because they would have abandoned all precedents and the rest that has ruled in favor of Congress having oversight authority. However, they did not, and the victory is for the Constitution of the United States.
The process will take longer, but that is not what is truly important here. All I kept thinking is our Founders did this magnificently – magnificently: checks and balances, the separation of power, co‑equal branches of government. And the Court sustained that this morning.
Q: Given the unemployment situation and the rise in cases in the past couple of days, do you think it is possible to extend that unemployment benefit separate from The Heroes Act or some other package that you may have to work out before the end of the month?
Speaker Pelosi. The – people ask me, is it possible that you could do the state and local separately or, acknowledging the horror of what is happening with the spikes in the coronavirus, would you do that separately? They really are all connected. They are all of one piece.
We will be working on, and our Budget Committee has been making progress on this, on how we have stabilizers so that, if you reach a certain unemployment rate, or whatever measure is appropriate to the action required, that it would automatically happen so that there is no doubt. But this Unemployment Insurance uncertainty is devastating to families.
So I don't know if that is the easiest thing. I don't know that they support Unemployment Insurance. But I do think that they will eventually support state and local government, and they are going to have to come around to something on COVID.
And by the way, much of what we have on these testing, tracing, treatment, etcetera, relates to addressing the disparities in our community, how low‑income families and people of color suffer in a disproportionate way because of their predisposition to it, because of their lack of access to testing early enough, and the rest. So every piece of it is critically important. And there is no reason why we should – should we just ignore testing and let this thing go? Should we just say to state and local, ‘Too bad, fire people – fire people, diminish services to populations and also raise taxes’?
I mean, this is a very well‑thought‑out initiative, and it is all connected. Open up the economy. Test. Treat the people. Honor our heroes. It is all connected.
Any other women who have a question? Yes, ma'am.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. So you were just talking about congressional oversight. So my question is about United States withdrawal from the World Health Organization.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Q: Since you mentioned that the defund from the organization would be illegal, were House Democrats planning to take any action?
Speaker Pelosi. We are putting together our appropriations bills now. I think the President's withdrawal from the WHO is senseless. It is not only about the coronavirus. It is about polio. It is about other afflictions, diseases, diagnoses that we have worked together to try to eliminate or diminish. So I think it is senseless.
As you know, it doesn't become effective until next summer, practically, 2021. I think it is July. We will be addressing it in our appropriations bill that is being written this week and next to counter that.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, on Tuesday, at the HHS Appropriations markup, Congressman Cole criticized the fiscal spending year – next spending bill for forcing family planning guarantees to provide information on abortion to all pregnant women they serve, regardless of their religious belief. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that.
Speaker Pelosi. I haven't seen that. I don't know what he said about it, but when I see it, I will let you know what I think of it.
Q: And then there is also a push to be able to take out the Hyde Amendment.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say this about the Hyde Amendment: for 40 years, since I was not even in Congress, I have been dismayed by the injustice of the Hyde Amendment. It just discriminates against poor women and, largely, they are women of color.
And so I don't know if that relates to that. I don't know what that is. I don't think that it is in the bill. I don't – you will have to –
Q: It is not in this bill, but there was a push to possibly renew the Hyde Amendment in the coming spending bills in the years to come.
Speaker Pelosi. But why are we talking about the years to come. I, myself, would like to see it gone. Gone. I think it is gravely unjust, but it is not in this bill, as I understand.
So what was he complaining about, something that was not in the bill?
Q: No, he was complaining about – criticizing that family planning guarantees to provide information on abortions to all pregnant women that they serve, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Speaker Pelosi. I don't even know what you are talking about. I mean, I just don't. And I am an appropriator, and I served on Labor‑HHS for many years, and I am very close to the issue of family planning being a mother of 5 in 6 years to the day. Yes, so I know something about this. But I don't know what he is complaining about there.
Q: Madam Speaker, this question is close to home for you. The city of Richmond is obviously in sync with your desire to get rid of Confederate statues, but in Baltimore's Little Italy, the statue of Christopher Columbus was removed or taken down. And I wonder if you have anything to share about that.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I am not a big – you know, I don't even have my grandmother's earrings. I am not a big, ‘Let's see what we have in terms of monuments and this.’ I am more interested in what people have accomplished.
I think that it is up to the communities to decide what statues they want to see, but I think that it is very important that we take down any of the statues of people who committed treason against the United States of America as those statues exist in the Congress, in the halls of Congress, in the Rotunda – not the Rotunda, I don't think, but in the Statuary Hall, and the rest, where many – some of them are.
But I am not one of those people who is wedded to a, ‘Oh, a statue of somebody someplace is an important thing.’ I don’t – again, if the community doesn't want the statue, the statue shouldn't be there.
It doesn't diminish my pride in my Italian American heritage and the fact that it was a country discovered by an Italian and named for an Italian, Amerigo Vespucci. So I have that pride, but I don't care that much about statues.
Q: Shouldn't that be done by a – respectfully – shouldn't that be done by a commission or the city council, not by a mob in the middle of the night?
Speaker Pelosi. People will do what they do. It’s a – I do think that, from a safety standpoint, it would be a good idea to have it taken down if the community doesn't want it. I don't know that it has to be a commission, but it just could be a community view.
And sometimes it is something that has been there – that view has been there for a while. But let's just say, I always say to young people – children – who come to the Capitol, ‘When you look around, you see statues to people and Washington monuments and the rest, who we respect: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. You know, heroes. They would want us to be talking about the future, your future. So everything we do here is about you.’
It is not necessarily – they would want it to be about looking forward, not looking back. So let's just think about what are the values, the vision, the perspective that we enshrine and how that benefits our children rather than having a big fight about, was somebody worth it? We know they are not worth it if they committed treason against the United States.
Thank you all very much.