Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

August 22, 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 afternoon.  We're just contemplating whether this is the first time we've ever done this on a Saturday.  Thank you for being here on a Saturday.  And I'm so proud of our Members who are here to protect the Post Office. 

Before I go into that, though, I want to say what a sad time it is across the country with storms coming and the rest, but from my own personal experience in the state of California.  We have wildfires burning that are burning the lay of the land the size of the state of Rhode Island.  The size of the state of Rhode Island.  We thank our firefighters for their courage, our first responders for their courage and community service. 

It's so sad.  I remember when we had the fires before, they said the fires, the smoke cannot – will not exceed the love that we have for each other to come to each other's support.  It is – it's very, very sad, and I commend our governor, Governor Newsom, for his leadership.  But he and I and all of us, Mike Thompson, whose district is very affected by it, all of us salute our firefighters and all of them. 

We just came out of the convention, as you know, and I'm very proud of – I'm very proud of the values that were presented there.  In my remarks, I said we come together not to decry the darkness but to light a way forward for our country.  That was my own statement, but I was so pleased that it was so much a part of our President-to-be, our nominee Joe Biden's statement. 

And so today, I come to shine a light forward for our postal system.  Most people don't know, perhaps you do, how significant the postal system was in the establishment of our country.  Since that time, it has been as American as apple pie, motherhood, baseball, you name it. 

Over 90 percent of the American people support the postal system.  There isn't any agency of government that can make that claim.  It is a service, Postal Service.  So, when people say, ‘Well, it doesn't pay its own way,’ it's not a business, it's a service.  And while we always want to subject every federal dollar to the scrutiny of what we're getting for it, let us remember that it is a service. 

No business that I can think of would ever be saddled with what we've done to the Postal Service, saying that they – in 2006, a bill passed that said that the Postal Service should pay 75 years of its health benefits in ten years.  Seventy‑five years of its health benefits in ten years.  That is a responsibility that I don't think most businesses could meet and also come out on top. 

So, earlier this year, Mr. DeFazio put forth a bill to limit what that is.  So, when they say it doesn't pay, if we had to do these cuts and those cuts and those cuts, we're cutting service.  We're cutting service.  Not we, but the new Postmaster General. 

So, we have called our Members back for legislation that allocates the resources, $25 billion, that were recommended by the U.S. Postal Service, the Board of Governors of the Postal Service.  They are a board that are bipartisan and 100 percent appointed by President Donald Trump, and they recommended the $25 billion.  Actually, they recommended more, which we will have in other bills.  So that's part of this legislation. 

It is also necessary for us to have this legislation because in my conversations with the Postmaster General, which were most unsatisfactory, he said he had no intention of restoring the post office boxes that were removed, no intention of restoring the sorting machinery in the Postal Services and other infrastructure very essential to keeping the mail on time. 

And when I suggested that we have the ballots in the election treated as First-Class mail, he said he had no intention of doing that, but if it was in the bill, then he would, and yesterday you see that he's now saying that he will.  But to make sure that that happens, because his comments are one thing, his actions will be another, and that's why we have this legislation. 

We'll be talking about it on the Floor.  Our distinguished Chair, Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the committee of jurisdiction, will be making her presentation as soon as the vote is over, at 1 o'clock, and we'll have more to say. 

But I think it's very useful to people to take the pride that it does.  Letters to Santa, messages from the Tooth Fairy, families communicating.  I know people are doing some things on social media, and that's good, but as a grandmother, I can tell you, there's nothing, no substitute for a drawing or a note from your grandchild through the mail. 

But more important than that, as important as that is to our country, our health: 1.2 billion prescriptions sent through the mail in 2019; 80, 90 percent, depending on the figures, and we're trying to verify them, but at least 80 percent of the prescriptions sent from the VA to our veterans through the mail. 

So, when the mail slows down, the medication slows down, the health of our veterans are affected.  And that's who we are hearing from, the mail slowing down, and that's what we have to address today.  And, again, we'll go over all of the provisions of the bill about stopping the slowing down of the mail. 

But this was an intention.  Now, the Postmaster General is saying we're going to not do any of this until after the election.  Our legislation is not just about the election.  It's about, surprise, surprise, Mr. Postmaster General, the coronavirus, COVID‑19, which has a big impact on the election, as well as, first and foremost, on the health of the American people. 

So, this isn't just about until after the election, if that can be trusted.  It's about the length, as we say in the bill, the end of January or the end of coronavirus, whichever takes longer.  And so, this is why this legislation is necessary too, because even in his statements, which are ambiguous, they aren't – they don't go far enough. 

I'm excited about the history of it.  In the early 1770s, building on the work of Benjamin Franklin, who oversaw the precursor of the Postal Service from 1753 to 1774, the revolutionaries established underground networks, the Committees of Correspondence, and then the Constitutional Post, that enabled them to communicate without the knowledge of the British.  It goes on to say the earliest committee was formed in 1764 in Boston.  It goes on. 

Our first Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin.  The exchanges that followed what I just described built solidarity during the turbulent times and helped bring about the formation of the first Continental Congress. 

In any event, when Alexis de Tocqueville spoke in that century, he said – Alexis de Tocqueville would praise the Postal Service, writing that not ‘in the most enlightened rural districts of France is there an intellectual movement so rapid or on such a scale as in this wilderness.’  The effectiveness from the start. 

And so that, as I say, rooted in American history, part of the communication that established us in going from colonies to a country, there for America's families to communicate, businesses to thrive, medicines to be delivered. 

Now, at this case, time of an election, at the time of the pandemic, a safe way for people to vote, it's very important to shine a bright light on the postal system and to show our appreciation for what it’s done.  Nearly 100,000, 97,000, I think the number is, 97,000 veterans are employed by the Postal Service. 

So, this for us is a joyous occasion, to come together to vote for the Postal Service and to meet the needs of our people.  Our constituents, you can ask any Member of Congress across the country, Democratic or Republican, if they're hearing from their constituents on this subject, and they are. 

As we go forward then, just to note that tomorrow will be 100 days, today 99 days, since we passed the Heroes Act.  It is very urgent, even more so than when we passed it, for us to have the values.  This isn't a discussion about just dollars.  It's about values and how we value the health and well‑being of the American people, how we honor and value the work of our heroes, our health care workers, our first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our transportation, sanitation, food workers, all, many employed by the state and local government.  And the big obstacle to our going forward is the attitude of the Republicans, ‘Let the states go bankrupt,’ and not fully coming to the table to support that. 

And, of course, right now as a grandmother and a mom of grandchildren in school and children who teach, we have – we really have to make it safe for our children to go to school, and that takes money.  It takes money for distancing, more teachers, bigger classes – classrooms – or more classrooms, ventilation, and the rest. 

Out of the hundred biggest school systems, school districts in the country, over 75 of them are either – 62 all virtual, another dozen or so hybrid, a small number actual.  And our fight with the Administration has been that they want the bulk of the money to go only if you actually open up, which is a small percentage of the biggest school districts in our country. 

And who pays mostly for schools, but state and local government.  So, we can't have the firings that will incur if we don't fund state and local government to address the funds that they have spent, the outlays they have made on the coronavirus and the loss of revenue. 

But more important than that even is the firings.  The firings that will occur could be in the millions.  Already it's a million and a half.  Could be three and a half million more people fired.  And what does that do but add to the unemployment ranks, and what does that do but hurt our economy? 

So, in any event, this today is one piece of what we have in the Heroes Act.  I'm not for splitting it up except this is an emergency and it has policy in it that was not in the Heroes Act.  So, I'm very proud of our Members for coming back for this.  In the course of the day, I'll be meeting with them, and we'll be talking about the justifications. 

By what measure, what justification, scientific, institutionally, et cetera, are we saying we need so much more money for education than the Administration is ready to give?  By what scientific basis are we justifying the funding that we want for testing, tracing, treatment, distancing, et cetera?  By what justification are we saying we need over $50 billion for child care?  We're telling people that they have to go to work, and they can't because they have a child who's not going to school.  So, child care is an answer in some of those cases. 

So, the list goes on, and we have put the justification forward.  We'll do so more intensely as we negotiate an agreement that we must have for the American people. 

Again, I'm sad about my state of California.  But any time a natural disaster hits, it's so sad.  And Iowa is suffering so badly in all of this.  I hope that as soon as we can, the Federal Government will be there to support what our Members of Congress, there, have been asking for. 

Any questions?

Q:  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  Two, if I could. 

First of all, we see that it looks like the Republicans will not be supporting this bill, and I'm wondering, if it does not go through, can you tell us, are there any negotiations on the next COVID package?  Is there any other opportunity for this funding that you're seeking, you know, if this stalls? 

And then just more broadly, is there anything you could tell us, what is the message to voters who may be concerned about the problems with the mail and wondering what they should do?  Should they go to the polls?  Should they send their ballots in the mail?  What's the advice? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you have a three‑prong question there. 

[Laughter]

Q:  I'm sorry.

Speaker Pelosi.  First, let me say we will pass the bill, and it will be in a bipartisan way today, and then we will send it to the Senate. 

And let me just say that, as I've always said, public sentiment is everything.  They'll be hearing from their constituents because this hits home.  Not receiving your mail on a timely fashion hits home.  Not receiving your prescription, especially for our veterans, hits home in a way that is harmful to our country as well. 

Secondly, we're hoping that the need for us to go forward in terms of we can open our economy if we have our testing.  We can open our schools more safely if we have the point of care testing, tracing, treatment, et cetera.  Why they will not follow science is beyond me, but nonetheless, we have to make that case, and it's safer. 

As I said, it was 99 days since we passed our bill.  In that time, how many more people?  It was – 4.2 million more people have become infected, 4.2 million, since we passed our bill; 88,000 more people have died, taking us past 175,000 people. 

You see the statements that are being made, that if we wear masks, if 95 percent instead of 55 percent of people wore masks, the lives that could be saved going forward.  Well, why don't we also learn from what has happened in the past? 

When they said, ‘We're going to press the pause button,’ they forgot to tell the virus they were pressing the pause button.  It didn't pause. 

So, we have to – we have to – we must absolutely have an agreement as we go forward that helps state and local government do their job, to fight the coronavirus, to educate our children, to do so in a way that is safe and, again, honors our heroes; pass something that is sufficient in terms of crushing the virus.  Instead, they're crushing the Affordable Care Act in court and the pre-existing condition [protection].

So, we have a – this is not just about dollars and cents.  It's about values and common sense. 

And then to your last point, in terms of voting, is that – look, don't pay any attention to what the President is saying, because it is all designed to suppress the vote.  He's going to have law enforcement.  That's in their playbook. 

We've seen their playbook.  It's in their playbook that they'll have people intimidated to vote by having ICE agents or other law enforcement there to instill fear in people as they show up.  Why are they here?  You know, it's scary?

But ignore that.  It's a suppress-the-vote tactic, as is the suppressing of the ability of the postal system to deliver on its responsibility to treat first class – ballots as First-Class mail and to deliver in a timely fashion and not ignore the need for overtime, not ignore the fact that so many members of the Postal Service have contracted coronavirus, so a need for temporary employees to fill that in, and not ignore – he said, very blatantly, ‘I have no intention of replacing those mailboxes.  I have no intention of replacing the machinery, the sorting machinery.’ 

And that, by the way, is a – that, by the way, is an OSHA issue in terms of sortment and the machinery to help do it. 

So, all I would say to the final part of your question is ignore them.  Make a plan to vote.  Do so to vote early so that we will have an outcome that is clear as close to election night as possible. 

I say that because the more that vote by mail, there may be some counting after the election, but I hope that our victory will be so big, it will be so big, that it will be so clear.  And by the way, from the standpoint of the House, it is my political goal to win so big that we are putting down the down payment of winning for 2 years from now. 

Now, when you get into voting and voting by mail, once again, Mr. President, you come into my wheelhouse.  I was Chair of the Party for a long time, Northern Chair and State Party Chair in California.  I had the experience of recognizing how important time is.  It's about time.  It's about the time it takes to get the mail to the people to vote, to get it to the Post Office, to make sure it's there in a timely fashion.  It's about the time it takes to print some of the materials, both the ballots as well as the persuasion materials. 

So, I've been known to be there with my friends and volunteers, sitting there all night next to a printing machine to make sure somebody else didn't come in ahead of us with their mailer, so that we could be on time for the Post Office. 

This is exciting for our country.  It's how we communicate.  It's how we vote.  It's how we protect the health and well‑being of the American people.  And what they are doing, both in the Postal Service – until they got caught – and what the President is saying, and now his move about putting law enforcement, extra law enforcement people at the polls, why would he do that except to scare people off?  Why pay attention to that?  Just honor the vision of our Founders that this is a democracy and everybody's going to have the chance to vote and have their vote counted as cast. 

Another question?  Yes, ma'am?  I have another subject I want to bring up, so let's move on. 

Q:  Chief of Staff Meadows is on the Hill today, and he tweeted out –

Speaker Pelosi.  Who is?

Q:  I'll take my mask off.  Chief of Staff Meadows is on the Hill today. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, Meadows.  Okay.

Q:  He tweeted out a message to Democrats saying, if you really want to help Americans, how about pass relief for small businesses and employment along with Postal Service, postal funding?  You said that you don't want to break things down.  You said that today is going to be focused on the Postal Service. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right. 

Q:  But are you – what about the Members in your party who think that maybe a vote on a smaller Heroes Act, a $2-2.4 trillion Heroes bill with a shorter timeframe, is perhaps a good idea? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say you listed some things that what's his name put forth.  He didn't say anything about schools.  He didn't say anything about crushing the virus.  He didn't anything about people who are being evicted.  He didn't say anything about food insecurity among millions of America's children.  He didn't say anything about state and local.  That's completely unacceptable. 

On the other hand, what my colleagues, my colleagues, I welcome their suggestions, and that we're all in sync.  We said we would come down a trillion dollars.  We're ready to negotiate at that level.  And, again, we're making some plans for some things that we want to do next.  Because it's what, how many days until the election, 73 or something?  Seventy‑three days. 

Ninety‑nine days since the bill, 73 days [until] the election, and we're getting ready for this legislative session that comes and the legislative session that begins in January. 

So, we have – we're in sync in our Caucus, and his list is very deficient when it comes to our children, their childcare, their food, their housing, their education, their health in terms of the virus.  And just, again, state and local does do over 90 percent of the education. 

I want to bring up another subject that the President brought up this morning, which is very scary, and everybody should take note of it. 

The Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, has a responsibility to approve drugs with judging on their safety and their efficacy, not by a declaration from the White House about speed and politicizing the FDA. 

This was a very dangerous statement on the part of the President.  Even for him, it went beyond the pale in terms of how he would jeopardize the health and well‑being of the American people and accuse the FDA of politics when he is the one who has tried to inject himself in the scientific decisions of the Food and Drug Administration. 

One more question, then I have to go to the Floor. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  How does Mr. DeJoy compare to Benjamin Franklin?  What experience does he bring to the job of Postmaster General, Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me also say Abraham Lincoln was a Postmaster.  He was, as well.  I think Harry Truman worked for the Postal Service.  I don't know exactly what his title was. 

So, this, the Postal Service has a great identification with leaders in our country.  I wouldn't use the word ‘compare.’  I would use the word ‘contrast.’  Benjamin Franklin understood the value of bringing people together in our country.  He did not view it as a business enterprise.  He believed in it as a service, Postal Service, and that is what we have to support. 

To bring it in and say, well, they're losing money and this or that, really?  Really?  Are we losing money on delivering prescription drugs to our veterans?  Are we losing money in how we have people communicate with each other and our families and create jobs, good‑paying jobs, 97,000 veterans who are employed by the Postal Service? 

I think the biggest contrast would be one sees it as a service for the American people, the other sees it as a business enterprise, and that is – and doesn't value its purpose.  And doesn't value its purpose. 

But hopefully, he will see the light as he sees the legislation.  And if the Republicans in the Senate refuse to take it up, they're just going to have to answer to their own constituents why they don't want their mail delivered in a timely fashion. 

What is it, neither rain nor sleet nor –

Q:  Snow.

Speaker Pelosi.  – snow, or dark of night will keep the courier from his – or her, now – appointed rounds.  That doesn't seem to be the purpose of the current leadership of the Postal Service. 

Thank you all.  See you on the Floor.