Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

August 6, 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. 

We gather here today in the midst of our negotiations on how we can defeat the virus, how we can keep people employed, how we can put money in the pockets of the American people, to do so in a way that is values‑based and can be done with the most, shall we say, what would be the word, bipartisanship possible.  That is our goal.  It's what we have done four times already with COVID bills; four times, all bipartisan.  Of course, we need that, because we have to have a signature from the President and a vote in the United States Senate. 

But we stand by our Heroes Act, the Heroes Act, which does just that, keeps people working, our heroes: health care workers, first responders, sanitation, transportation, et cetera, teachers, teachers, teachers.  Next is to end the virus, contain the virus by testing, tracing, treatment and masks, separation, et cetera.  And, third, putting money in the pockets of the American people.  Those are the pillars of the Heroes Act. 

We have a few other pillars.  That is – it's about protecting the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy.  And on that score, we have some issues in terms of the Census, in terms of the Post Office, Postal Service and in terms of voting at home, we say, but if you want to say vote-by-mail, whatever the terminology, voting in a way that does not make people have to choose between their health and their vote.  It's, again, the health of our democracy in more than one way. 

We have been making some progress, proceeding in a positive way.  We're not there yet.  I have said I see a light at the end of the tunnel; we just don't know how long the tunnel is.  But we have to move quickly, more quickly, because the light at that end of the tunnel may be the freight train of the virus coming at us if we do not act to contain it. 

We're concerned because we think that this Administration and the Republicans do not understand the gravity of the situation and, hence, have not taken the actions to stop the spread of the virus to, again, open the economy, have our schools open safely and have us return to some normalcy.

I am very honored to be here with the distinguished Democratic Leader of the Senate.  We've worked in sync on this with shared values, but with shared understanding that we want to come to agreement. 

And, with that, I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished Leader of the United States Senate, welcome him back to the House side, where he served with distinction.  I can speak firsthand on that, because I served on the Banking Committee where he was like in the top row and I was in the bottom row, and now he's the Leader in the Senate. I yield to Mr. Schumer.   

Leader Schumer.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  And it's great to be here.

Now, it's 83 days since the House passed the Heroes Act.  At that point, Speaker Pelosi and I called on the Leader, McConnell, to start negotiations on COVID, and we called on him three weeks before all these July deadlines.  But for two months, Leader McConnell has said, ‘Pause, wait and see, let's assess the situation.’ 

So, what is keeping us apart?  Why haven't we come to an agreement?  It's because our Republican friends don't seem to see the gravity of the situation, the great crisis that we're in, the greatest economic crisis for 100 years – for 75 years, since the Great Depression, the greatest economic – health care crisis for 100 years. 

The bottom line is this: The Trump Administration and Senate Republicans have badly mauled the body politic, the American economy and American health care and we believe the patient needs a major operation while Republicans want to apply just a Band‑Aid.  We won't let them just pass the Band‑Aid, go home and leave America bleeding.  It's that simple.

That's the difference.  That's the difference.  There are huge problems out there, but so many of the Republicans don't want to do anything, ‘Let's not spend any government money, when people are hurting so badly.’

The President just dithers.  This is the greatest crisis we've probably had in so many, so many years, and one of the five or six greatest crises America has ever had, and there is no leadership from the President.  He says one thing one day and another thing another day and another thing another day.  He's not focused on this.  No leadership.  History will regard this as one of the most appalling performances by any chief executive anywhere in the world in all of history.  It's true.  It's that serious. 

So, the reason our negotiations with the White House have been so arduous is they just don't see the needs out there and they don't want to do anything about them.  They want to get away with as little as possible so their right wing ideologues, who don't want to spend any government money, will not be angry with them.  They don't understand the crisis in the country.  They don't understand its depth.  They don't understand its breadth.  They don't understand the suffering. 

Our Republican counterparts refuse to acknowledge that Americans, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs, might need some help, some money to help pay the rent.  The Republican Leader thinks the biggest threat to our country is an epidemic of lawsuits that hasn't materialized.  What will materialize soon is an epidemic of evictions unless we extend the moratorium and pass rental assistance.  You can't extend the moratorium without giving people some help.  Between nineteen and 23 million households – that's one in five rental households – will be at risk of eviction by September.  And when the moratorium ends and they owe three months', four months', five months', six months' rent and they don't have money, there will be massive evictions.

Our Republican colleagues refuse to acknowledge that state, local, tribal governments, who the Trump Administration abandoned in the early days of this crisis for ideological reasons, might need federal support to prevent teachers and firefighters and bus drivers from being laid off.  Over a million have already been laid off and the number, from all they tell us, will greatly increase. 

Our Republican counterparts refuse to acknowledge running an election in the middle of a pandemic is difficult when so many more people will vote by mail and voting, excuse me, in person is also more difficult. 

Yesterday, the Republican Leader scoffed at the idea of extending enhanced unemployment benefits because he said it would mean that Americans without work would be paid more than essential workers.  Well, in our bill we say pay the essential workers more.  They reject it.  If our friends are worried about how little essential workers are making, join us in supporting our frontline pay provisions. 

When it comes to our schools, food assistance for the hungry, hungry children, for the Post Office, for the Census, and mind‑bogglingly, when it comes to health care, testing, the great shortage of testing and tracing, they want to pinch pennies.  Again, they'd like to get away with passing the skinniest, most minimal bill possible and go home and wash their hands of it.  We can't do that, because it will make, it will leave Americans hurting and not get us out of the crisis, which is our job. 

We've had huge problems brought on by a failed President who tries to sweep the problems under the rug and deny they exist.  We Democrats will not give up on America.  We're not walking away.  Speaker Pelosi – yesterday, evidently, Mr. Meadows said at the Republican lunch he's going to quit as of Friday.  He got such heat for that, he backed off.  Well, we're not quitting.  We're ready to work.  We will keep working.  And as long as it takes, as the Speaker said in her tunnel analogy, as long as it takes to reach an agreement, we will keep working and working and working until we get it done. 

Democrats have been ready to work.  Republicans have stalled for four months.  If Republicans in the White House want to throw up their hands, walk away from the table, that's on them, but we don't want them to do it.  The American people are going to remember who was ready to meet their needs and who was ready to continue negotiating in good faith. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Mr. Leader.

As you can see, the Democrats in the Congress are unified in our commitment, values‑based commitment to America's working families.  At the same time, the Republicans are in disarray.  Probably half of them won't vote for anything, not one dollar. 

I always see everything, as you know, through the eyes of the children.  And through the eyes of the children, this is what we see and say to the Republicans: Don't nickel and dime our children.  Don't say, ‘We want to give a tax break to a business lunch and not give more money for children to have food stamps and the rest.’  Don't talk about saying that if they go to school – only if school is open will we put federal dollars there.  No, we have on authority and documented that doing virtual, actual and hybrid for education is approximately the same – it's within range of the same cost.  So, why should you demand that our children take a risk in a community of high incidents of the infection that they have to go to school in order to get federal dollars? 

Families, millions of children are food insecure.  That's why we make such an issue of how can they possibly – what did we have, over $60 billion for food in one way or another, whether it was women, infants and children, whether it's one form of food nutrition or another, including food stamps?  They had $250,000.  $60 billion, $250,000.  I don't know how many people they think live in America, but that doesn't even begin.  They're nickel‑and‑diming us. 

And then when you talk about children and families who are in fear of eviction.  This means a great deal to children to be insecure about their housing.  Some of them will become homeless because the Republicans are nickel‑and‑diming our children.  These families are crying out for the $600.  They're nickel‑and‑diming the economic security of children's families.  The list goes on and on. 

We are saying in our bill: children learning, parents earning.  If we want parents to be able to go back to work, we need children to be going to school safely.  And if they can't and parents have to work, we want them to have child care in a significant way.  Don't nickel and dime us, our children, on the child care issue either. 

So this, again, if you look at it and hear how people are affected by this, the families of our heroes, as I said earlier, health care – you know who they are, health care workers, first responders, transportation, sanitation, teachers, teachers, teachers.  Probably five million of them will lose their jobs if we do not – it's already a million and a half, projected to be 3.6 million.  More people will lose their jobs if we do not honor our responsibilities to state and local governments. 

These are people with children, with families.  And what happens?  They go on Unemployment Insurance.  So what is saved there?  What is saved there?  What is lost is the dignity of work that these people have.  Many of them risk their lives to save lives in this pandemic and now they've lost their jobs.  Why?  Why?  Because Mitch McConnell calls this a, what, progressive wish list. 

Well, I do wish that we can protect our workers, we can feed our children, we can house our people, that we can have elections that enable people not to make a choice between voting and their health. 

With that, any questions you may have. 

***

Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  Two questions.  Are you – Mark Meadows says that you are trillions of dollars apart.  Is that an accurate assessment on the status in negotiations?  And also, did you guys reject their offer of $400 a week of Unemployment Insurance? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We have said that we're going to have the $600.  We have documented by Yale University, UCLA and other authorities that this is necessary.  Today, the University of Chicago put out what the cost would be to our economy if we don't have that $600, in terms of purchasing power and the rest. 

So, it's not a question of – we, again, want to see a whole package, and they know that we want the $600. 

Do you want to speak to that, Mr. Leader? 

Leader Schumer.  Yeah.  I mean, there are a couple of points here.  Number one, yeah, the $600 has kept, by economic estimates, at least a million and probably many more people out of poverty, out of poverty.  We're trying to lift people out of poverty.  It's done it. 

Second, the number one, probably, mode of engine that the economy isn't doing worse is consumer spending.  One of the biggest incentives for consumer spending, additives to consumer spending is the unemployment. 

But third, you change the rules, it will take weeks in some states and months in most states before new unemployment can be added.  And that will hurt the economy dramatically. 

They say all these people are staying home because they get more money than if they go to work.  That is not the American people I know.  They want to work.  And if they have a job or are offered a job and with the benefits and with the dignity of work, they take it. 

But there's eleven – you know, it's eleven percent unemployment.  Not everyone who wants to work can get to work.  So, it's not that they're staying home because they're lazy.  I mean, that's a very harsh view of American workers.  They're staying home because they don't have a job.  We're with the $600.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, here's the thing.  When they come to the table and are like, $600, how could it be?  They're just demonstrating their condescension to America's working families.  There are all kinds of reasons that weigh in on this pandemic. 

People have to stay home if their children are not able to go to school or if they don't have child care.  There are a number of reasons, but none of them is, I want to stay home because I make more money this way than other.  Maybe some of these employers can pay their workers more, but let's not – not to go to that place, just because I wouldn't paint all of them with that brush, we shouldn't be worrying about how much it's going to cost.

So, I said to the Secretary, the plural of anecdote is not data.  You have some examples.  Write them down and let's add it up.  And I'll show you my list of money that has been squandered, given to businesses who should not have gotten PPP and the rest. 

Why are we holding America's working families, who are struggling, who have children to care for or elders to care for and the rest, and make it as if, my goodness, they're not worthy of this.  And I want to say to the American people, just take pride in who you are and don't let them think that you're not worth what we're talking about here.

Leader Schumer.  Why dismantle a program that almost all economists say is working and put something new in its place that will take months to go into effect? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Three months at least in California, which has a relatively efficient system.  Some places say they don't even know how they would get it to work.  It's either this or the greater or lesser of 70 percent of that.  Come on.  Come on. 

Leader Schumer.  By the way, I don't even know if the $400 has the support of most Republican Senators.  You should ask them. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Did they even have the votes?  They didn't even have the votes for $200.

Leader Schumer.  They didn't even have it for $200.

Speaker Pelosi.  They didn't have it for $200.

Leader Schumer.  So, it's a game. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.  Next? 

Q:  The White House says that the President is going to sign an Executive Order today requiring the U.S. Government to only purchase essential medicines and medical supplies from U.S. companies.  Do you have any reaction to that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't even know what you're talking about.  I mean, I know that he has all these schemes that he wants to make it look like he's trying to lower the cost of prescription drugs.  The way to do that is to negotiate for lower prices, and that is in the H.R. 3 that we have passed and then our ACA Enhancement. 

So, I think that what – I don't know what the President – I can't speak to it.

Leader Schumer.  Is this about in general drug prices or just needed drugs for COVID? 

Q:  Essential drugs and also medical supplies, so things like masks and gloves.

Leader Schumer.  So, in other words, if we don't have an adequate supply right now – I mean, we're all for Buy America, and he should have been doing that by invoking the DPA four months ago and he wouldn't have had to do this when I asked him on, I think it was March 6th. 

But to say if there's an essential, essential supply that's going to keep Americans alive and not get sick and we're not going to buy it because it's overseas and we don't have it made in America, that is harsh, callous and wrong and I'll bet he'll have to back off it. 

Q:  Thank you.  Good morning.  The President and the Administration has threatened to act, possibly doing some sort of executive action here if there's not a deal in the next few days. 

Speaker Pelosi.  And what is he going to act upon?  

Q:  Well, that's what I'm asking about.  I have been told that they might try to – and this is what they did with the border wall – move some money around, money that's been unallocated –

Speaker Pelosi.  To do what?

Q:  Coronavirus bill, something from the disaster relief bill.  What would you think if they started to try, like they did with the wall, to move sums of money around without the blessing of the Congress?

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't think they know what they're talking about.  The one thing the President can do is to extend the moratorium, and that would be a good thing, if there's money to go with it, and that's what we keep telling them.  A moratorium – as the Leader fully explained, what's the use of a moratorium if you're going to have eight months of rent to pay at the end of the moratorium, A; and B, what does that mean to the landlord? 

Leader Schumer.  No money.

Speaker Pelosi.  No money.  Mr. Schumer grew up in a triplex, did you? 

Leader Schumer.  Triple‑decker.

Speaker Pelosi.  You want to tell your story? 

Leader Schumer.  Okay.  We tell each other a lot of stories.  You should have heard us singing before.

Q:  We heard.

Leader Schumer.  You did? 

Q:  We could hear something out here.

Leader Schumer.  Oh, golly.  It was a song – because she was putting on lipstick, and it was a song.  I want to ask how many of you have ever heard of this song.

Speaker Pelosi.  No, they haven't heard of it.

Leader Schumer.  Lipstick on Your Collar.  Anyone hear of it?  Raise your hands.  Now, we are trying to figure out who sang it.  Did you figure that out? 

Q:  Connie Francis. 

Leader Schumer.  Connie Francis. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Have you ever heard of her? 

Leader Schumer.  Where the Boys Are, that was one of her movies, her songs.  Now we're finished with our trivia. 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, he grew up in a triplex.

Leader Schumer.  So, in my neighborhood, where I grew up, there were lots of what they call triple‑deckers, and the landlord was the family, it was a working family that lived on the top floor.  They owned the building.  And then there was a family on the second floor and the first floor that rented. 

Well, if they can't pay the rent, if they have a moratorium on rent, how is that – this is not a big fancy landlord.  This is a working person.  He's not getting or she's not getting money to pay the mortgage, the electricity, the property taxes, et cetera.  If you don't push money into the system, it doesn't work.  But they tie themselves in a knot to act like they want to try to do something without spending any money, and it's impossible when you have such a huge recession and such a huge pandemic. 

Speaker Pelosi.  On that vein, we're talking about when I was hungry, you fed me.  When I needed shelter, you sheltered me.  When I was homeless, you sheltered me.  We're talking about the Gospel of Matthew.  We're talking about fundamental values in our country.  They don't want to spend the money to feed – adequate amounts of money to feed, to alleviate food insecurity in our country.  They don't want to give any money to help with possible evictions, which people are very, very afraid of. 

And instead, what do they want to do?  Well, I always point out their commitment to the high end.  They're a trickle‑down crowd.  Nearly $2 trillion added to the national debt to give a tax cut, 83 percent of the benefits going to the top one percent, heaping mountains of debt onto our children.  And instead of making investments that will stimulate the economy, instead of – let me just say it this way,  we have to think big.  You ask the Chairman of the Fed.  You ask some of the economists.  You ask some of the previous leaders in the Republican Party in the government of our country.  Think big, because this is a big challenge and it will only get worse if we do not make the necessary investment.  Pay now or pay later, much more later. 

Q:  But to be clear, so you don't think that they can move money around without congressional approval? 

Speaker Pelosi.  You can't move that much money.  We're talking about a major investment. 

Leader Schumer.  A better way to do this is come to an agreement that meets the needs of the American people, a much better way. 

Q:  Madam Speaker

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma’am.

Q:  Madam Speaker, thank you.  I want to follow up to Leigh Ann's question, first of all.  Are you trillions of dollars apart?  And then also, understanding that you see a scope problem and you want longer term benefits for more people.  However, unemployed Americans have been without their $600 check for a week.  They will go without it again next week.  Can you talk to them – and schools are getting ready to reopen. 

Do you think there is a possibility for any deal in the next few days that could help them plan for the money they could be getting? 

Leader Schumer.  Well, we'd like to do that and that's what our discussions are about.  But there are many needs.  So, we should choose schoolchildren and leave out starving families who can't feed their kids?  We should choose renters and not choose businesses, small businesses that need help? 

There's a broad scope of problems, and the worry we have is they'll want to do a little Band‑Aid, as I said, vote for one thing, skip out of town, and leave the rest behind.

Speaker Pelosi.  And let me just say, let me just make this point, because you seem to be, with all due respect, using their talking points. 

The fact is, when they showed up last week, it was already too late to save the $600.  Understand that.  It was already too late to save the $600.  And they went to the Floor of the Senate and put $200 on the Floor, which they don't even have the 51 votes on their own side, much less the 60 votes that they would need.  So, it would be over by now in a couple of days anyway. 

The point is that you must be comprehensive.  You have to think big.  And we cannot let them say, well, if you feed the kids, then you can't pay the rent.  We're just not going to do that. 

But understand, this is the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.  They're a trickle‑down crowd.  If it trickles down and there's some benefit, that would be good.  If it doesn't, so be it, that's the free market. 

We're a bubble‑up crowd.  We're investing in America's working families.  And when we go to that table for this conference this afternoon, every time we go to the table, it's as if we are pulling up a chair to America's kitchen tables where people are trying to figure out how they pay the rent, how they can buy food.  And you see food costs are rising, and that's even more expensive for America's working families.  What are they going to do if the children can't go to school, or if they can, will they be safe?  Can we have child care adequately funded so that we get parents earning, children learning. 

Thank you all very much. 

Leader Schumer.  Just one thing I want to add to that.  Don't forget, we wanted them to start working on this months ago, long before the deadlines expired.  They waited to the very moment.  And they don't have any votes, hardly any, for $600.  So, that answers your question. 

Q:  Are you trillions of dollars apart?

Q:  Are you ruling out a short‑term extension if the talks collapse? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We're not having a short‑term extension.