Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

August 27, 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, everyone.

Sad time.  So much going on.  In my state of California, we have wildfires that are being described as Armageddon.  In the Gulf Coast, we have a hurricane coming in, Laura, that has been described yesterday as being unsurvivable.  Unsurvivable.  At the same time, we have a pandemic that threatens the – continues to threaten the lives of the American people.  And then we have the sadness of Kenosha, of Jacob Blake being shot seven times.  So very, very sad.  And the fact is, is there are public policies that could have made a difference in all of this.

Let me just say three words about the wildfires and the hurricanes and about the coronavirus, three words: science, science, and science.

The science that the Administration has chosen to ignore, and the Republican Party for a long time, before the Trump Administration, has ignored — in denial about the climate crisis, the climate crisis that is not only having a physical impact but an economic impact in a way that is, shall we say, another injustice in our society.  These people are getting hit, these people are getting hit off the Gulf Coast are, many of them not in an economic position to survive very well. 

Science, in terms of the virus: ‘It's a hoax.’  Then denial, delay, distortion.  ‘Masks are irrelevant.’  ‘Why should we have tracing?’  ‘Social distancing, forget about it.’  All the rest.  The denial of what scientists are telling us that can stop and curtail the spread, the rapid spread of this virus.  A Senate Majority Leader who says we'll put things on hold now for months with no real respect for the fury of this virus. 

And then science in terms of what we hope and pray for, science being an answer to our prayers.  Therapies, vaccines that are based on science.  Approval of the FDA has to be about efficacy and safety, not about politics from the Oval Office, wanting speed at the expense of the health and well‑being and safety of the American people. 

And the CDC, the CDC — for the Oval Office to be determining what the criteria are for someone to be tested.  The President doesn't want any more tests because that tells us that we have more cases, those tests are causing the infections.  Really?  How unscientific is that? 

The rejection of science when it comes to the climate crisis, rejection of climate – science when it comes to halting this [virus] right from the start, the rejection of science in terms of a vaccine and therapies and the rest, and the CDC, the CDC making that proclamation simply because the President doesn't want to know about any more cases. 

Since we passed The Heroes Act, since we passed The Heroes Act over a hundred days ago and Mitch McConnell pressed the pause button, over 4 million people have been added to the infection list; [90,000] more people have died.  Could we have saved all of these?  No, but many we could have.  And science tells us that that's how other countries, how other countries are dealing and managing this vicious virus. 

So for this Administration to show its face to any children in our country – I say to those who support the President, I respect that.  I respect if you vote and exercise that.  But understand this:  He is asking you to put him before your children.  He's doing that in schools by saying children should – he wants to put the bulk of the money into schools that actually open up instead of recognizing the cost to opening up actually, virtually, online education and at any hybrid of that. 

Stunning when you see that of the hundred largest school systems in the country, 62 of them are 100 percent virtual as of last week.  Another dozen or so more, bringing it over to three‑quarters of them, hybrid, partially actual, partially virtual.  And then just a small percentage actually opening 100 percent. 

We all want our children, grandchildren in my case, to be going to school.  Teachers – in my case, my children – teachers want to teach.  But we cannot risk our children's safety and the safety of our – those who make schools work, whether it's teachers or school support staff in other ways, put that at risk, put them at risk. 

And so the President just decided.  And you see that, I think that was just reversed, but the Secretary of Education was giving all the money that she was giving to private schools, which we want them to be able to be protected, those children too, to have full discretion about how they spend the money, but not in the public school system. 

So I've called for next Tuesday – excuse me, Wednesday, September 2nd, a Day of Action on the part of our Members, a Day of Action to focus on our schools.  This is about as important as anything we do, the protection of our children, the ability for them to learn, to go to school in a safe way, whether it's actually, virtually, or in a hybrid way, and to do so in a way that has OSHA protections for the teachers.  They're called essential workers, the President said.  If they're essential workers, let's value their safety by having protections which the Administration has rejected.  So we'll have that day. 

Last week we had the Day of Action about the postal system because of the President's henchman trying to dismantle the postal system, so that that would mess up any successful vote-by-mail.  But what they really did was hurt our veterans.  Over 90 percent of their VA medications that go out to our veterans go through the postal system; 1.2 billion prescriptions went through the mail in 2019.  I've said that to you before. 

So it's about medications.  It's about Social Security.  It's about people paying their bills, and they're not getting to their destination in time for the deadline they're supposed to meet. 

So the response that people got to the delay in the mail that this Administration implemented in order to undermine our right of people to vote by mail, not having to choose between their health and their vote — well, they got an earful from all of our constituents. 

And what have they said?  ‘We're not reversing any of it.  We took in those blue boxes.  We undid those processing machines.’  Some of them they put out in the rain so that they would not be able to be set up again. 

So clearly the American people are not being served by this Administration.  But their misrepresentations, their distortion of the truth and the facts are very sad for the children. 

So, again, we hope that they will recognize that in order for us to open our economy and our schools safely we must test, trace, treat, socially distance, wear our masks, sanitation and the rest.  If they would only listen to the scientists.  In order for our dream to come true, our prayers to be answered on a vaccine and therapies, they have to listen to the scientists instead of undermining the Food and Drug Administration in a way that is historic in what they're trying to do and very, very damaging. 

And sadly, it will undermine the confidence that people might have in a vaccine when it comes along if they think the efficacy and safety were rejected in the interest of the President wanting speed.  And, of course, the CDC, that's an immorality.  It's an immorality. 

Listen to the scientists when it comes to Mother Nature, who's in a mood, who's speaking out very clearly, do something about the climate crisis.  Accept the science on it.  And the same thing holds true with the viciousness of this virus and the stupidity of this Administration to put speed ahead of efficacy, effectiveness and safety when it comes to vaccines, therapies and other miracles that we are hoping for, miracles of science. 

***

Any questions? Let me see who hasn’t had a question.  Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, Richie Neal, as you know, is facing a tough primary on Tuesday.  For voters in his district who’ve been frustrated with his leadership of the Ways and Means Committee, that he hasn't gone after Trump's tax returns harder –

Speaker Pelosi.  Hasn't gone against what? 

Q:  Gone after Trump's tax returns harder or conducted tougher oversight of the Administration, what is the argument for voting for him? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm so glad you posed that, because the fact is, is that Richie Neal is the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and as such, he has been a strong advocate for our country, the people of our country, the state of Massachusetts, and his district. 

His personal life is something that I always like to call attention to, because as Chair of Ways and Means he has a great deal to say about survivor benefits on Social Security and the rest, and he knows that well because he lived it.  His family lived it.  So he's there for America's working families, America's families who are impoverished by the loss of a loved one, the breadwinner in the family, and the rest. 

In terms of the – I can't even believe they would say about the tax returns.  Richie Neal has been completely strong and tough‑minded on this.  We are at the mercy of the courts, at the mercy of the courts.  But he has been very strong in he has gone forward.  He could not do anything more. 

And, in fact, when we win this election, and we have a new President of the United States in January, and we have a new Secretary of the Treasury, and Richie Neal asks for the President's – the President's returns, then the world will see what the President has been hiding all of this time.

But in terms of dealing with the courts now, he has been strong and persistent and doing exactly what the lawyers say that we have to do in order to prevail in the courts.  The courts want – they want – we have to go through the process, the number of cases. 

And what we're waiting for is also some other decisions that the court has held up.  The Trump courts have held up decisions, which then back up other decisions, want to be predicated on where we go forward.  The McGahn decision, for example, came down in our favor.  However, the Administration will further appeal. 

But they – we could not have a stronger, wiser, more strategic advocate to get the President's tax returns than Richie Neal.  That representation is based on lack of knowledge of what actually is going on and is probably just an idle political charge. 

But Richie has been, in terms of the climate, I mentioned climate earlier, he has placed in the Moving Forward legislation — our infrastructure bill — tax credits, using the tax codes to save the environment in such a way – read it.  Read it.  I'd just ask you to read it because it takes us to new heights in terms of how you use the tax code to support renewable energy in a way that saves our planet.

And then on top of that, on top of that, he brought bills to – we brought two bills to the Floor to unleash the power of women as we observe this week the centennial of the 19th Amendment.  For us, one manifestation to make a bigger difference is to make a bigger commitment to child care.  This pandemic has pointed out very clearly that if children can't go to school, parents can't go to work.  Children learning, parents earning.  They need child care. 

And Richie and Nita Lowey have put forth a package – well, the total package is $210 billion, bigger than anybody's ever thought, transformative in terms of unleashing the power of women.  And in The Heroes Act, $55 billion strictly coronavirus‑centric, because everything in that bill is strictly coronavirus‑centric. 

So, I mean, he has been so progressive.  And when we did the U.S.‑Mexico agreement, with Richie in the lead, we had unheard-of progress in terms of protecting the environment, unheard-of progress in protecting America's workers, unheard-of progress in keeping the heavy hand of the pharmaceutical industry out of that discussion. 

We had the biggest vote ever for a trade bill.  People who never voted for one before, because of — just weren't agreeing that it was in the interest of America's workers, overwhelmingly supported the U.S.‑Mexico trade agreement.  And we would not have had those provisions to protect America's workers, America's environment, America's health without Richie's strong hand at the helm and how he involved Members into – involved Members to be part of the discussion in a Task Force that he formed to make sure that this would be a template for future. 

Now, we didn't get everything we want because we have you‑know‑what in the White House, but it was completely turned upside-down [from] what the White House had sent us originally.

So, I think Richie Neal is an absolute leader in the Congress, a progressive leader in the Congress, a person who, again, is here, as our Caucus is, we're here for America's working families.  And as such, we will use, whether it's the appropriations process, the tax code or our policy initiatives, to benefit America's working families, and Richie has been a champion in that regard. 

So I'm – I couldn't be prouder than to speak in terms of the things that he has specifically done that I have seen on a day‑to‑day basis to get things done.  People will say what they will say, but I know what he has done, and it would be a tremendous loss to that district to lose the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. 

And may I say as an aside, if you promise not to tell anybody, every time I turn around with any bill that we're doing, there's some, shall we say, project of national significance in his district that seems to have made the cut.  So, he's proud of his district, he's proud of its ingenuity, and he's made sure that it is recognized in legislation in the Congress. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, you're going to speak with Mark Meadows today.  Did he agree to come up a trillion dollars in order to have this conversation? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, it's not a – let me be really clear.  If you watch this convention and you hear people say, ‘Oh, they don't have this, we have to have truth, monitor, we have to do this or that, because they're not telling the truth,’ that's the atmosphere in which he springs from.  So when he comes to all of you and says, ‘Well, we're trying this, and we're trying that,’ they're not trying anything. 

We have said to them, ‘We're willing to meet you in the middle.’  That — we think what we have in our bill — and our Chairmen, and I speak to them regularly, are committed to what we have in the bill to meet the public's needs.  That's not what they are about.  Understand that. 

So, this is a conversation only to respect the fact that the President's representative – not even the lead negotiator, that would be Mnuchin, we consider, whatever his name is – what's his name?  Meadows there is staffing Mr. Mnuchin.  And they – if they are willing to meet us in the middle, then we can sit down and talk. 

So this is: ‘You called me?  I'm returning your call.  Are you ready to bring much more money to the table to honor our heroes, our state and local workers, our health care workers, our first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our sanitation, transportation, health care workers?’  That could be a very short conversation if they're not ready to meet in the middle, if they're not. 

And so it isn't – that should be very short.  Hopefully it isn't.  Hopefully they understand, they understand that if we're going to destroy this virus we have to have sufficient funds to do so in terms of testing, tracing and treating; that unless we support state and local governments millions more people will be unemployed.  Millions.  Over one and a half, close to two million have lost their jobs already because of the cost that they have – the outlays they've had to make because of the coronavirus as well as revenue that they have lost.  And now people are losing their jobs, and many more will unless we address the state and local.  And again, in terms of so many other aspects of the legislation, as I said earlier.

The most important thing right now, kids are going back to school one way or another.  We must keep them safe.  We must not say, as the Secretary of [Education] has said, ‘Children should take risks.  People do.  Astronauts do.  When you learn to ride a bike, you do.’  No, this is risking – taking a risk with your life, your good health and what you could bring home to others who may be more susceptible. 

We do not have shared values.  That's why it's very hard to come to an agreement on this. 

I check in with my Chairmen.  They say, ‘You know, I know you have to come down, but understand our number is a defensible, scientific, institutionally based justification for what the public needs, whether it's about schools and the rest or people being evicted or millions of children hungry in our country and the rest.’

So, no, just to answer your question.  ‘Are you willing to meet in the middle?  If so, we can have a conversation.  If not, I've returned your call.’

Yes, sir? 

Q:  To follow up on that quickly, it's been three weeks since you made that offer.  And if you haven't budged and he hasn't budged –

Speaker Pelosi.  We're not budging.  Understand this. 

Q:  Then how do you break the impasse?

Speaker Pelosi.  They have to move.  They have to move.  Why should there be a bill that has far less [than] what the public needs?  We have that responsibility.  And they're just going to have to come up with more money. 

They didn't mind having – coming up with more money when they gave their tax cut to the highest, to the top 1 percent, 83 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent, a tax bill that will cost – add about $2 trillion to the national debt, a burden on our children, so the top 1 percent could get 83 percent of the benefits. 

We need a flood of money for this.  We have a pandemic, we have a pandemic, and the economic consequences of again and again bad numbers in terms of unemployment today, and they're coming in with an eye dropper.  No. 

Any other questions?  Yes?

Q:  Madam Speaker, one of the items that Republicans are saying about The Heroes Act is it contains erroneous funds for, such as money to illegal immigrants here in the United States.  What's your reaction to that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  They're not telling the truth.  Let me just – let's just be clear.  Let's not waste each other's time.  They're not telling truth. 

Any other questions? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, as the candidates begin campaigning, there seems to be a little bit of a difference in the approach this year.  It's an election year like none other. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  Some are doing in‑person, virtual events, others are not.  It seems Democrats are leaning towards more virtual events.  Do you have any concerns that there is a risk of not being out there, you know, in person meeting people?  And what do you say to the Republicans who are door knocking and taking this approach? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say that everything – people have to make their judgment in their region.  If the incidence of infection is low they may have more capability of reaching out to people.

But the fact is this is a matter of life and death.  And the ability to – we all would much – we all draw strength from our contact with our constituents.  They're our inspiration.  They show us the ramifications of public policy and the rest.  They give us initiatives of national significance to share with others. 

So, we all miss that.  There's no question.  But the fact is, we have to protect them.  We have to protect them. 

And so I would say – again, I don't know what the Republicans are doing.  I have no advice for them, except when they come here they have to wear a mask.  But the fact is listen to the scientists.  The scientists give you the best guidance on how to interact with others, and social distancing is a very important part of it. 

If the scientists say in a particular area that there is well, well, well below one percent incidence over a period of time, then there may be a judgment made for that region.

But yeah, we all – we all miss the enthusiasm of people with their challenges and their questions and the rest. 

Since you asked about that, I, myself – just don't tell anybody I told you this, especially don't tell Joe Biden.  I don't think that there should be any debates.  I do not think that the President of the United States has comported himself in a way that anybody that has any association with truth, evidence, data and facts.  I wouldn't – I wouldn't legitimize a conversation with him nor a debate in terms of the Presidency of the United States. 

Now, I know that the Biden campaign thinks in a different way about this, but I just – I thought what he did in 2016 was disgraceful, stalking Hillary Clinton like that.  I was disappointed that the press didn't say, ‘Go back to your station.  You're not here.  You don't own this stage.  You have your own podium; she has hers.’

So, I think that he'll probably act in a way that is beneath the dignity of the Presidency.  He does that every day.  But I think he will also belittle what the debates are supposed to be about.  They're not to be about skullduggery on the part of somebody who has no respect for the office he holds, much less the democratic process.  Why else would he try to undermine the elections in the manner in which he is doing? 

So if Joe Biden asks you what I thought about it, I don't think that he should dignify that conversation with Donald Trump.  You could have you asking any questions to both of them.  Just take their own stage for any number of conversations about any subjects.  Hold them accountable.  What are they proposing?  What is their vision?  What is their knowledge?  How are they going to get it done?  How do they connect with the American people?  Let that be a conversation with the American people, not an exercise in skullduggery. 

Thank you all very much.