Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

August 13, 2020
Press Release

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.  How are you all?  Stay well.  I'll begin and end that way. 

Ninety days ago, Congress passed the Heroes Act, 90 days.  When we passed that legislation, which was designed to meet the needs of the American people in relationship to the coronavirus crisis, it was based on science, economics and institutional expertise as what was needed to address the needs of the American people. 

At that time, Mitch McConnell said we need to pause.  He hit the pause button.  And that, since that time, since that 90 days, 3,750,000 Americans have become sick, have been added to the infected list.  3.75 million people added to the list.  77,000 people have died.  Tens of millions more people are out of work.  Clearly, the virus did not take a pause. 

When sometimes some of you reporters ask why can't we resolve our differences?  I want you to see how vast those differences are.  It's no wonder we have a vast difference, because this Administration and the Republicans in Congress have never understood the gravity of the situation. 

For months and even until now, they have ignored the science.  They called it a hoax, ‘by miracle, it would go away.’  I'm a deeply religious person.  I believe in miracles, and I believe the miracle of science will help us through this.  ‘Magically it would go away.  It was a hoax.’  No, they are the hoax.

And, so, the virus has picked up steam, and they – and like a freight train, it's coming down the tracks.  And they, like a convoy, going as slow as the slowest ship, are going so slowly that at that rate, they'll never overtake the virus.  We cannot let that stand. 

And, again, let's just talk about it from the standpoint of the children.  As you know, as a mother of five, grandmother of nine, adviser to people with children, whether they want my advice or not, I want to just talk about the children.

Millions of children in our country are food insecure.  That has existed before the virus.  It is completely exacerbated because of the virus.  And so, in the bill, we have over $60 billion to meet the hunger needs of the American people, food stamps, WIC, Women, Infant, and Children initiative, food banks, other food nutrition initiatives.

In the GOP – that came out a couple weeks ago, $250,000. $60 billion, $250,000.  Does that say anything about a value system? 

Hundreds of – excuse me, millions of families are on the verge of eviction in our country.  We tried to get this legislation earlier, in earlier COVID bills, they rejected it.  Now, the moratorium is coming to – has come to an end.  We need a moratorium – yes, they said the President was going to do a moratorium.  That would have been great, but a moratorium without money is not that great.  The Princeton Eviction Lab, the Low‑Income Housing Coalition, all of these authorities have told us it will take about $90 billion in the current situation.  We have $100 billion in the Heroes Act.  They have zero, nothing. 

Testing and tracing.  If we do not defeat the virus, we're never going to be able to open our economy and open our schools safely to send our children to school.  $75 billion, they had $15 [billion].  They went up, ‘Oh, we'll go up to $16 billion.’  $16 billion.  This is what they wanted.

Since the bill, 90 days ago, and the fact that we were hopeful that if we could pass it then we could stop the spread of the virus, but since we didn't, the virus has taken its additional toll.  It has made matters worse in terms of opening the schools.  So, we've increased our number because the Association of School Superintendents say we need at least $200 billion in order to safely open the schools, and that does not include $4 billion, they are very precise, for technologies for kids for virtual learning, remote learning.  They have $105 billion.  But what's interesting about their $105 billion is that the bulk of what they have in the bill goes to only schools that are opening actually, only schools that are opening actually. 

Of the 100 largest – see, we learn every day from those who are on the frontlines, instead of those who are on the sidelines.  From the 100 biggest – the largest school districts in the country, the 100 largest, 62 of those largest districts have declared that they will open virtually, completely virtually, remote learning, another fifteen or so, hybrid, a small number actual.  But the President's money, he says, will go to the schools that open actually, when it is a small percentage of those 100 top schools.  So, again, for the children to go to school it relates to the rate of infection in the community in which they live, and there are formulas for this that the scientists have put forth. 

It also is about money, about if you're going to have children in school, you must have more spacing.  If you have more spacing, you need more rooms.  And if you need more rooms, you need more teachers.  You need better ventilation.  The number of schools – nearly half the schools do not have the appropriate ventilation system as it is, much less to contain a pandemic.  For the teachers, for the support staff and all that go into opening up a school, it takes money.  And we have shown them well‑documented by all sorts of experts in the field that to do virtual, to do actual and to do hybrid cost about the same amount of money.

So, for the President to say he's going to put the bulk of this money into schools that only open actually ignores the needs of our children and their safely being able to go back to school.  We all want our kids to go back to school – well, my grandkids – to go back to school.  You have every version of the story, public school, Catholic school, private school, people who teach as well as my grandchildren who go there.  It's a problem. 

Again, we keep coming back to the virus, the virus and the children.  As you know, they have said testing is overrated.  They've said tracing doesn't really work.  They've mocked the masks, the distancing and the rest.  But it has to be done until we have a vaccine, which God-willing and science-creating, we will have a vaccine sometime soon, hopefully legitimately, not skipping any steps in terms of its safety and its efficacy.

But right now, we don't have it.  We do have testing, tracing and the rest.  And I am optimistic that science has given us a path where we can do much more testing, come closer to our goal of what we must have, should have had from the start, 3 [million] tests a day, 3 [million] tests a day.

And the testing, science has – the innovation has taken us so far down the road in this period of time, but we need the Defense Production Act to be called into play and able to take us to the number of tests that could be just – you take the test here and before this press conference is over, fifteen minutes, you would have the results.  Making a tremendous – just a game changer altogether.  But it would require the Defense Production Act, because the firms that are excelling in this do not have the production capacity to take us to 3 million a day. 

This is important, because so much of the disparity that we see in the spread of the virus is into communities of color, which have been not properly served in all of this.  The amount of deaths is disproportionate to the demographics of the number of people in our population. 

But think about the children.  Think about the children.  Think about this: if you are a Hispanic child, you are eight times more likely to go to the hospital because of the coronavirus than other children.  If you're an African American child, you are five times more likely to go to the hospital for the coronavirus than other children.  That challenges the conscience of our country.  It's indicative of the disparity in the communities at large, but the impact on our children. 

So, we have to do this, and we have to do it in a more significant way than going from $15 [billion] to $16 [billion].  And I am hopeful.  I'm hopeful that at long last, they may pay attention to science and say, ‘If that is what is there for us, then we have to act upon it and have the Defense Production Act to produce the test.’  And with that rate of return, you know, that is to say, you can find out in a matter of minutes, that makes all the difference in the world in terms of tracing, because we can get a test.  And you can get tested more frequently because it's much less extensive to do.

And so we talked about the schools and that.  In terms of the housing, housing has a big impact on the psychological well‑being of children.  This is a very, very important issue for us.  And so when they said the President, by Executive Order, was going to do a moratorium on evictions, good. 

Not good enough, because we need money so that they don't have to be collecting more months of back rent and then the end of the year have to pay eight months or whatever it is, nine months of back rent.  So, we need to assist that, and we have a model for it that we implemented during the 2008, 2009, during that Great Recession.  So, we're just using that model for this here.  Nothing. 

Okay.  So there we are on that.  If we're going to educate our children, it's not just the federal dollars that matter; it's the state and local money that goes into it.  Over 90 percent of the funds for the education of our public education come from state and local government.  To withhold money from that is, well, it's ideological.

What did Mitch say?  Let them go bankrupt.  Let them go bankrupt.  Economists tell us that our economy depends on the fiscal soundness of state and local government.  State and local government employ, what, about fifteen percent of our population.

When they don't have the resources because they have spent money on the coronavirus, or they have revenue lost because of coronavirus, without an infusion of cash, they will be furloughing or firing people, already 1.5 million.  It could go up 4 million more people laid off. 

They will go on Unemployment Insurance.  So what are we saving there?  Diminishing meeting the needs of health care workers, first responders, teachers, teachers, teachers, transportation, sanitation, food workers and the rest, to meet the needs of people.  So, the needs won't be met, the people will be out of work, and they will go on Unemployment Insurance.

Much is being said – now, this is about the lives and the livelihood of the American people.  The lives and the livelihood of the American people.  It is also about the life of our democracy.  So, I see much in the news about Postal Service and what they're trying to do to the Postal Service, which is – well, they've always had an idea of privatizing it because that's who they are.  But this, coming at this time, the Postal Service is the most popular agency of government.  It's a quasi-government agency, nonetheless, the U.S. Postal Service memorialized in the Constitution of the United States.  Perhaps you saw my letter to the Members – and the letter Members sent to the Postmaster General.  The Congress – [The Constitution] empowers Congress to establish Post Offices and post roads.  So, we have a role in this. 

In the Heroes Act, we put $25 billion.  That figure is the figure that was recommended by the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service, bipartisan, Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service, 100 percent appointed by Donald Trump.  100 percent appointed by Donald Trump.  $25 billion.  They also asked for $25 billion for some infrastructure, trucks and all that.  We didn't put that in this bill.  We put that in our Moving Forward infrastructure bill in the hopes the President would come around to that.

So, what was immediately needed now was this money.  There has been some word that the negotiators might be willing to do some money, but we have trouble with the language, and that has to be taken care of.  But the President has said today or yesterday or whenever – it was reported today – that he wasn't putting any money in the Postal Service.  Again, for those of you old enough – I don't even like to use ‘old enough’ for all of you – to remember: motherhood, apple pie and the Postal Service, an all‑American institution.

Did I tell you that 1.2 billion prescriptions were delivered in 2019 by the Postal Service?  Did I mention that nearly 100 percent of veterans' prescriptions come through the Postal Service?  You probably know of people writing to Santa or birthday cards being exchanged and the rest.  I know much of it is electronic these days, but not all of it.  And actually, in rural America, the Postal Service is highly depended on. 

They've not really ever liked the Postal Service because they always want to find a way to make money off of something, and they want to privatize.  But now at a, time of a pandemic, you would think they'd have a little sensitivity, but so obsessed are they to undermine absentee voting, that this is their connection there.  So, the President says he's not putting up any money for absentee voting, and he's not putting up any money for the Postal Service, undermining the health of our democracy. 

The money for the elections that is in the bill is not just about absentee ballot.  It's about if people – it's a health reason to vote by mail, because you don't have to go stand in line for hours and maybe have more proximity than even you wanted, or go to a polling place that might not be spaced properly.  So, it's a health issue.  You shouldn't have to choose between your health and your ability to cast your vote.

But the money in the bill is about making sure that if you want to go to the polling places, that they are spaced, that there are enough polling places, that they are opened sufficiently early, that they are opened in terms of days, in terms of hours in the day, that they are sufficiently available for people to vote without jeopardizing their health, and that they would have these boxes to receive – if someone wanted to bring his or her ballot to a box.  Did you see in Ohio, they announced they are just having one box per county?  I guess that's as a discourtesy to the people of Ohio who may want to vote that way.

But there are people who think that the Post Office is election central in this election.  Maybe the President thinks that, too, and that's why he wants to shut it down. 

So, again, the Post Office is a pillar of our democracy, sending medicine to seniors, paychecks to workers, tax refunds to millions and absentee ballots.  Now, the President is making a big distinction between absentee – nothing wrong with absentee ballots.  I just don't like vote-by-mail.  So, I said to my folks, don't call it ‘vote-by-mail’ anymore.  Just call it absentee ballot.  They're exactly the same thing.  And his family, as I've said to you before, has been active in the recent election, in spring, in California on robocalls urging people to get in their absentee ballots.  So, there's some inconsistency, not surprising, but, nonetheless, there on that. 

So, in any event, it's really important.  We have said to them, we'll come – we're ready to compromise.  We know a first offer is not something they would necessarily accept because we, frankly, do not share values, but as a practical matter, where can we find our common ground? 

So, Chuck Schumer, Leader Schumer and I said we'll come down $1 trillion if you go up $1 trillion.  We'll meet you halfway, and when we do that we can negotiate how those resources are spent.  But we do not subscribe to saying to the American people, the virus is intensifying, and for you, we have a benefit cut.  Let's see how we can work together to get this done. 

They called yesterday, the Secretary, and said, ‘Would you like to sit down?’  And we said what we have said all along, ‘You come down $1 trillion we'll go up $1 trillion, but we are not sitting down at the table to validate what you have proposed, because it does not meet the needs of the American people.  And we will not contribute to your using – waiving a partial benefit to the public at the expense of everything else we want to do and to the benefit of the high end, which you are there to serve.’ 

Just think of it this way: We go to the table, we're sitting at America's kitchen table, there for America's working families.  How are they going to pay the rent?  How are they going to put food on the table?  How are they going to safely send their children to school?  How are they going to have resources to meet their needs?  Across the kitchen table are people sitting at the boardroom table of corporate America.  We have different perspectives. 

***

Any questions?  Yes?

Q:  Madam Speaker, to what do you attribute the President's hostility to the Post Office and mail‑in balloting.  Republican ballots go through the mail the exact same way Democratic ones do. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I can tell you, as a longtime former chair of the California Democratic Party, we could win any election on getting out the vote on Election Day.  But when the mail ballots came in, the Republicans would rage.  They've always known how to do it and do it very well. 

Now that Democrats are saying in terms of this pandemic that it's necessary, health‑wise, as well as health of our democracy to do this, they – and I don't know why, you'd have to ask them, except that the President is afraid of the American people.  He has been afraid for a while.  He knows that on the legit, it would be hard for him to win, so he wants to put obstacles of participation.

But we do not agonize, we organize, and whatever the reality is that we have to deal with.  If he refuses to honor the sacred right of the vote, removing obstacles of participation, if he wants to undermine the Post Office for the moment, we'll be here in January, that's most unfortunate, but we will have the volunteer power to make sure that our vote gets out early and that it gets out in a way that has a clear decision on Election Day.

Yes, ma'am.

Q:  Madam Speaker, we are sitting here in the middle of a stalemate that's now lasted for days, and there are suggestions that Congress doesn't have another big deadline until September 30th.  Can Americans wait that long for something?  And how do you expect to get Republicans back to the table before that if nothing changes? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, first of all, let me just say, we passed our bill 90 days ago.  It took them until two weeks ago to come back with a meager piecemeal – bill that they put forth.  They said, ‘Oh, we all work better up against a deadline.’  No, the virus doesn't have a deadline and nor does it take a pause. 

American people don't want this uncertainty.  You're always there to give certainty to the markets.  Let's give some certainty to America's working families.  So we can't wait until September 30th.  I know some have said, well, this will – but people will die.  77,000 died since this bill. 

So, it is – we've said to them, we're here, come $2 trillion, let's sit down and divide how we would spend that, and let's have, based on science and evidence and data and truth and fact, how we can make the biggest difference to send our children to school safely, to open our economy, based on science, as well as put money in the pockets of the American people while we honor our heroes by supporting state and local government.  And they called yesterday, I said, ‘Do you have more money?  Because it's no use what you are – the needs of the American people are not changing.  They're only getting more so.  They're not lessening.’

Yes, Chad. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, so on the Postal Service issue, the President's remarks yesterday about his concerns about fraud in mail, I mean, that seems to be from his vantage point one of his biggest sticking points in these negotiations.  I mean, when you speak with Secretary Mnuchin and Meadows about $25 billion, you talk about what the Postal Service Board of Governors extended, did they tell you that that's why he's balking on that point?

Speaker Pelosi.  They didn't say he was balking.  We just found out yesterday that he was balking.  But he balked before when we tried to do it in previous COVID bills.  But what he's talking about has no basis in fact, has no basis in fact.  So, let's not validate a false claim of the President, another false claim of the President.

Q:  Do you view that as the biggest sticking point in these negotiations?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, no, no, no.  We're trying to meet the needs of the American people. 

Q:  But when you talk to them, they don't say that that's the A number one?

Speaker Pelosi.  They are deciding what our A number one is? 

Q:  No, that they say this is our must have.  We can't have $25 billion for the Postal Service. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Okay.  So that’s – they're going to prevent children from having food, safety in the schools, people from being evicted, all of that, stopping the spread of the virus because of the Postal Service?  That's what they're saying? 

Q:  I'm asking you what they tell you. 

Speaker Pelosi.  You just claimed it.  They've not told me that, no.  No. 

Q:  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  But you're – but what they're saying, see, is different from what the President is saying.  If they came in the room and said the President is never doing this, that's something we'd take to the American people, and the American people want the Postal Service protected and preserved. 

It's a really sad situation.  You know what, let's all just remain calm.  I've said this to you before.  Take a deep breath.  What's going on here?  How could it be 90 days since we passed a bill?  How could it be months since this virus has assaulted our health, our economy, our education, everything?  And we still do not have an acceptance of the science necessary to deal with it, ignoring what could help, 1.2 billion prescriptions mailed in 2019.  

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, I wanted to talk to you about your conversation that you had with Mnuchin yesterday. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q:  And he actually came out and said that what you're depicting is not accurate, an accurate reflection of that conversation.  And then he also said Democrats have no interest in negotiating.  Your reaction? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  You know what?  I think something was wrong with his statement, because Chuck and I said – well, I said – speaking for Chuck and for me – that until they came [up] $1 trillion – we said we'd go [down] $1 trillion that and we could meet in the middle.  When they're ready to do that, we'll sit down.  But we are not inching away from their meager, piecemeal proposal with the idea that the press says why can't you come to agreement.  Because we are miles apart in our values. 

Q:  When is your next conversation with him? 

Speaker Pelosi.  And so what he said was strange because what he said was exactly what Chuck and I said in our statement.  We said $2 trillion and, then we can sit down at the table.  Then he said, ‘That's not what she said.  She said $2 trillion or we can't sit down at the table.’  Didn't you think that that was strange?

Q:  When is your next conversation with him? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't know.  When they’re ready, when they come in with $2 trillion. 

Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, thank you.  Can you just say, you've outlined the differences here –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, these are just some, par exemple, because it shows the difference in values. 

Q:  You've outlined the differences, some of the differences.  You've talked about how you believe you are on just different pages –

Speaker Pelosi.  That’s right.

Q:  In terms of your values.  What do you gain at this point?  Is there anything that you gain by waiting, and do you feel that even a half a loaf in this approach is something to stem the crisis is – would be better than –

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  Perhaps you don't understand, nothing, $250 [thousand].  This is not half a loaf. 

Q:  Again –

Speaker Pelosi.  This is not even being in the same room.  Boardroom table, kitchen table.  So it – I appreciate the goodness that you asked that question with.  Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn.  That isn't the case.  So, this is very far apart.  And unless they see the reality of what it means in the lives of the American people, what good is it for us to agree to something that has no relationship to meeting the needs of the American people? 

Paul. 

Q:  Speaker Pelosi –

Staff.  Last question. 

Q:  Next week is the Democratic Convention. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  You'll be speaking Wednesday night. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, I am. 

Q:  You've talked before that you thought you would go home to California to be there with the whatever delegation.  Is that what you're doing next week, or will you be –

Speaker Pelosi.  That's what I'm doing that day. 

Q:  Are you staying here? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you know what, you're starting to sound like my husband.

[Laughter]

And my children and my grandchildren.  I am so excited to be able to be speaking at the convention.  Originally, we thought we were going to Wisconsin, to Milwaukee, and that was something we were all looking forward to.  Milwaukee is a wonderful, wonderful place, and Wisconsin is a wonderful State.  And they were laying out such beautiful hospitality for the convention to showcase their city. 

I was the chair of the convention in 1984 in San Francisco, and it's a nonpartisan role to play when you chair the convention.  It's about your community and how you showcase it to the world.  Leave it up to others to do the politics of the convention.  So, that's too unfortunate, but I hope that we can all go to Milwaukee sometime soon to celebrate the election of Joe Biden.

But so, no, I'm – then they said you could do it virtually, or you could do it – how can I say, you could do it live to tape, or you could do it live, so I'll be doing it live from California, and we're so excited.  We're so excited to have a – decisions are very liberating things.  Wherever you are on whatever side of any discussion, when there's a decision, it just takes you forward, and we were so proud of soon‑to‑be the nominee, I guess, officially, Joe Biden is, but officially at the convention next week and that will be great and then his nomination of Kamala Harris. 

Now, let me just say this about Kamala Harris.  People say, oh, great, the first woman of color, this or that, to be nominated.  Actually, the first woman who will be vice president of the United States.  And she is a woman of color and – but I don't want anybody to get the impression that she was – everybody in that field was great.  Any one of them would've been a great president. 

But she – even if she were in competition that was all men, she would have emerged because she is really the best person to be the vice president because of the confidence that Joe Biden has in her.  You have to be able to be president, you have to cause no harm in the campaign, and you have to have the competence of the nominee for governance.  And she would exceed any demographic in that regard, so we're very proud of that.  And you can just see his confidence.  It was beautiful. 

I'll do one more last question with you. 

Q:  Thank you.  You said yesterday that Republicans seem to be comfortable with a QAnon supporter in their ranks, but I'm curious what you think about Marjorie Taylor Greene being elected to Congress most likely, and what was your reaction when she called you the ‘B’ word? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't – you know what, do you know how little attention I pay when the President of the United States calls me horrible things?  I don't pay attention to that.  It's a judgment to be made about them as to who they welcome into their ranks, and, again, we all have diversity of opinion and that's the beauty of the mix in Congress.  But to have behavior that is beneath the dignity of the Congress, that's a judgment about them. 

Anyway, upward and onward.  I probably won't see you next week unless you're going to be in California or wherever.  In any event, thank you for what you do.  I think the freedom of the press is the – such an important freedom in our Constitution, the First Amendment, because you're the guardians of the gate of our democracy, which I think has some real risk at this time.  So, thank you all for what you do.  Stay safe.