Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
It’s with great sadness that I begin this coming together with the tribute to Richard Trumka, a great hero for America's working families. Suddenly, we got the news yesterday that, as he was with his family camping – what a sad occasion, but also a beautiful way to pass on for this version, from this version of life.
Richard Trumka was always thinking about the workers, always thinking about the workers: what can we do to give some certainty to their lives, good-paying jobs, benefits, working conditions and the rest? He also carried his values into other areas of public policy, recognizing the respect and dignity – the dignity and worth of every person was what guides us. We always used to say that he was a patriot. The middle class is the backbone of our democracy. We always have to work to strengthen it, to enable people who aspire to it to become part of the middle class. And the middle class has a union label on it.
Many of our Members have right away called me about naming the PRO Act in honor of Richard Trumka. That would be very, very appropriate, because it's about the rights of America's workers. So sadly, I remember Richard in this – at this time, but also, his legacy is something that will continue to inspire us for a very long time. And I know that he would be pleased that yesterday – in the Congress and in the country were, that we were heartbroken about his leaving us.
Today, we have a big number. 943,000 jobs created is decisive proof that the Biden Administration and the Democrats’ Build Back Better Economy is working. Under President Biden and the Biden-Harris Administration [and] the Democratic Majorities in Congress, we've seen millions of good-paying jobs reported by 5.4 percent: the lowest COVID unemployment rate. The lowest unemployment rate. Unemployment at a pandemic low, as I said. The economy growing at [the] fastest rate in over 40 years. And the share of Americans living in poverty set to reach the lowest level on record. And now we must retain this growth. And we have other things to do. As you know, we are – the Senate is acting on some legislation. We will continue that work when they are finished with theirs.
Again, when we talk about America's working families, we really want to commend the President of the United States for his courageous action and informed action in extending the eviction moratorium for a time so that the funds can come through, renters can be saved and landlords can be paid. Tuesday was a great day of relief for families facing imminent eviction. Could you just imagine: families on the streets, baby cribs, personal belongings on the street, while people have to find another place to live, and children might have to find another school. So, thank you, Mr. President, but – for the courage and the initiative that you took to extend the moratorium.
I also want to commend my Members: Maxine Waters, who actually initiated this early on in legislation, eviction moratorium as well as the funding for tenants and landlords. She and our colleague Cori Bush were urging the Congress to take action, and their giving visibility to the issue was very, very important. You know, I'm a grassroots organizer, and the – I always say to the groups: ‘Thank you for what you're doing.’ Thank you, Cori. Thank you, Maxine, because the – we can only do so much from a maneuvering standpoint in the Congress. The outside mobilization and expansion of the message – very essential. But it was very clear the Senate was not going to take any action. We needed the presidential moratorium. Thank you, Mr. President.
Now, our Members are in the districts, shining a bright light of transparency on whatever entities there are to release the funds, and also to help people know how to reach out for the funds. Because what we're hearing is, some people just don't know that they're eligible. As with most benefits, you have to do outreach. And I'd also – excuse me – that we would have $46 billion allocated to this and only $3 billion of it spent. Now, some of it has picked up the pace in the last week. But that's what we have prepared Members for [what] they are tasked to do. And they're having some levels of success, just because of the public visibility of what's going on there. So, Help Is Here. And our Members are there to get the money out.
Then again, as I say, the Senate will – Members will be back as we have legislation to act upon coming over from the Senate. We watch, as you do, carefully, the timing and the actions taken there and look forward to acting upon it. But what we're also doing as the Senate is acting upon that – our Members have been working. And today, we'll be releasing a report on the Voting Rights Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Today, August 6th, is the anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act. So, in North Carolina, where Mr. Butterfield is from – and other Members will join him, technologically – they will be [producing] their report on the necessary hearings that were there to make sure that this legislation will be Constitutionally ironclad when we go forward. They'll be doing the report with the message that the committees of jurisdiction will be preparing a bill for us to vote on very soon, honoring John Lewis.
So again, this is all about passing the For The People Act. We call it H.R. 1. They call it S. 1 in the Senate. And we hope that that will all be done as soon as is legislatively possible. But we had to do that in a way that could withstand a court challenge. And that took a little more time on the John Lewis bill. Although John Lewis wrote the first 300 pages of the For The People Act, H.R. 1. But his, his wisdom, his guidance, his commitment is in much of our legislation.
Again, our work to protect our democracy continues with the Select Committee to Investigate January 6th. This week, we learned now it's up to five officers who defended democracy on January 6th have died. This week, the Congress honored their service. It was wonderful that bill that we sent over to the Senate was passed by the Senate so that the President of the United States could sign it. He and the Vice President spoke so beautifully and powerfully about the debt we owe our Capitol Police. They are heroes to us. And we’re very sad about those who have lost their lives, those who have – all who risked their lives, those who still have ongoing effects of both trauma-wise and and physically as well. So again, we're very pleased. Just to never forget Brian Sicknick – his mother was there. Howie Liebengood. His family was there, and the President acknowledged that his father had been the Sergeant-at-Arms in the Senate years ago. Jeffrey Smith. Gunther Hashida. Kyle DeFreytag. I mean, these are martyrs of democracy.
Okay, so now, as we – they are heroes. I just want to acknowledge the heroism of the firefighters in the fires in the West and all over. I've always said of our firefighters, ‘They are our nobility.’ They know they're going to be in danger when they go into trying to contain and put out these fires. And it's just, again, a very strong manifestation of the climate crisis that we are engaged in. And hopefully – fortunately, right now, in terms of the fire in California, there hasn't – the fires in California, there hasn't been any deaths. And we hope that that will obviously prevail. That's for sure. And we not only hope, we pray that that is the case.
But again, we really have to face the reality of science. Science tells us – whether science is telling us to take a vaccine, which I'll come to in a moment, or science is telling us to change the behavior that is intensifying the climate crisis.
It's a public health issue: the air our children breathe, water they drink, in every way. It's an economic issue for us: to be preeminent, first in the world in all the green technologies. It's a defense issue: security leaders and national security experts tell us that this – the migration and other impacts of drought, famine and the rest, rising sea level, encroachment of deserts, all of it, melt, drying up of rivers, all of it has – does have a security element to it.
Health, jobs, security, morality. If you do believe, as I, that this is God's creation, we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it. But even if you don't believe that, we do understand our responsibilities to the next generation to keep the planet safe as we pass it on to them.
But time is running out. And we have to have action taken, which has been resisted by some in the Congress, and the former, most recent President of the United States.
You know, we, we have an enemy in our midst. It's called COVID. It's called COVID and all of its variant friends. I would really hope, but don't let me hope. I think the most eloquent voices on this subject are the ones we're seeing in the public arena who are saying, ‘I resisted. I'm sorry. I urge you to get take the virus – the vaccination.’ We've seen these people on TV. They're in hospitals and on ventilators. They’re saying, ‘I resisted. I regret it. I'm sorry. I urge you to get vaccinated.’
Again, most eloquent voices, but we all have to be a strong voice in heeding the science, whether it's about mask wearing or vaccination, other public health recommendations.
So, with that, then I want to just say that, again, I come back to Richard Trumka, a dear friend of many of us, a friend of all working people in our country. And our sympathies go out to his family, and thank them for sharing him with us and sharing him with America's workers.
With that, any questions? Yes, ma'am.
Q: Speaker Pelosi, what is your reaction to Representative Bush's strategy of not leaving the House steps? And would you encourage Members of Congress to use such tactics moving forward?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, as I said earlier, mobilization on the outside is very important. My concern – and I called her, [I] said, ‘Hydrate’ – you know, being the mom that I am – ‘hydrate.’
And our disagreement was on – we're not calling the Members back. The Senate was not going to do it. We wanted our energies focused on the President, the Administration extending the moratorium. But the value of what she did, and I, again, I say, as a grassroots organizer myself, the public awareness is very important. You've heard me say a million times – President Lincoln said, ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything. Without it practically nothing.’
But in order for public sentiment to prevail, people have to know. And that was a way for people to know.
I was glad that toward the end, she came around to saying we need the extension of the moratorium, as did Maxine. You know, there was a school of thought that said, ‘Let's just go to the Floor and lose.’ I’m not – I don't go to the Floor and lose. Okay? And especially hard if you know that there's nothing on the other side – the Republicans on the other side will resist.
But I was very proud of the President because he had the confidence in what he needed to – he knew what he had to do, and he had the courtesy of listening to other voices to find a way. And that's what Joe Biden is all about. So this is really a tribute to his confidence and humility, if that's the word to use, to listen to every view, bringing the judgment that he has.
But I'm not – people will do what they do, and I'm – I, about one time a week, I have a call with the grassroots organizers, just telling them, ‘Thank you. Thank you for your mobilizing, for your making the issue better known.’ So, that's part of our system. So, I thank her and, but I’ll thank the President of the United States.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, Ma’am.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Should the House be prepared to come back from recess to take up infrastructure? And can you explain the reasoning of wanting to hold on to the bipartisan bill until the reconciliation package is passed to the American people who look at this and say, ‘If this bipartisan bill does get through the Senate, it would be a win for Democrats and Republicans. Why not just pass it right away?’
Speaker Pelosi. No, I said very clearly: this is Build Back Better. The President has said he has a vision, and we share that vision. And it's about Building Back Better. So whatever you can achieve in a bipartisan way, bravo. We salute it. We applaud it. We hope that it will pass soon. But, at the same time, we're not going forward with leaving people behind. And that's why – the human – the physical infrastructure of our country gets a ‘D’ from the – a ‘D’ in some places, a ‘C minus’ in others, from the [American Society of Civil Engineers]. So, we have to – it's a safety issue, as well as an economic issue, to create jobs.
But we cannot be in the past. We have to go into the future: Build Back Better, to build not only the physical infrastructure, but the personal infrastructure so that you Build Back Better with women. You have child care, you have – and men, dads need the child care, too, but, overwhelmingly, women more in the workplace. With home health care workers respected so that people can leave home because their family member, whether person with a disability child or older person, is cared for. Whether it's early universal pre-K, which I love, which is, which is family and medical leave. We have to cross a threshold of understanding, how we all can participate in the economic success of our country.
All of these things are urgent, and we're going to get them done together. Now, if the – if the others on the other side do not support the Child Tax Credit, child care, family and medical leave and the rest, then we'll do that. And we'll have a full package at the end.
Q: But could the House come back early? The House could come back early to take up infrastructure, Members could be called back?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm sorry?
Q: Could the House be called back early from recess to take up infrastructure?
Speaker Pelosi. Did you not hear what I just said?
Q: I was just, I – just a firm answer, so that Members could be prepared to come back early.
Q: If they pass both.
Q: If they pass both, is what I was saying.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. Oh, you just asked me if they're going to be called back to pass infrastructure.
Q: If both are passed in the Senate.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let's see what happens. Let's see what happens. But, right now – again, I usually, I don't know if I ever comment on what the Senate is doing, except when they say ‘no.’ And they said ‘no’ to the – they were going to say ‘no’ to the moratorium.
But I did say that we're going to do this one. We can do it all.
Q: Madam Speaker, several House Democrats have called for the Capitol Physician to institute a vaccine or test mandate for Members and staff. You have previously said that Members can't be compelled to get vaccinated because it's a matter of privacy, we can't know who is and isn't vaccinated. Do you still hold that belief? And do you see some merit in a vaccine or test mandate?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, you only gave part of my statement. What I said was that we are guided and have to be guided by the guidance of the Capitol Physician. He has made those contentions. And when the weighing the equities takes us to a different place, I'm sure he will tell us. Now, in a matter of maybe days or weeks, the full approval will be given to the vaccines, and that, I think, will make a difference in terms of what we can do.
Sadly, one of our colleagues who is suing me for making people wear masks, which of course the District of Columbia says you have to do inside, but nonetheless, he, sadly, has been diagnosed. Yeah.
Q: Madam Speaker?
Speaker Pelosi. Garrett?
Q: The head of the DCCC apparently presented some polling last week that said if the election for the midterms were right now, Democrats would lose the House. I wonder how concerning that is to you and whether that’s a question of politics or messaging or you’re not concerned about it at all?
Speaker Pelosi. I always run from behind. You always run from behind. So I have no, no comment about my colleague, except to say he’s a great Chair of the DCCC, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of the State of New York. And the – again, you never run from the best case scenario. There are several scenarios here, that was one of them, and I think that’s a safe place to run from.
One last one.
Q: Was there anything in what he presented that will change your approach or change perhaps how you want your Members to talk about the work that their doing in the next year?
Speaker Pelosi. Our Members are individuals. They run in their own districts, with the – but we do have, as we, when we won in 2018, we had a message developed by the Members: For The People. We would lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, we will increase paychecks by building the infrastructure of America in a green way, cleaner government by making clear that it’s an end to big, dark special interest money and empowering the grassroots. That was our message.
Simply said, it was: For The People, we would lower health care costs, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. We – the Members will develop that as our message and, on the other hand, they have their own connections to their own districts. So, it is just a – well, and we always want to be cautious.
And I spent a good deal of time on the political side of things, being a former Chair of the California Democratic Party, understanding the grassroots, understanding how that mobilization is fueled by message, by inspiration, and it has to have the resources. But, nothing is as important as the candidate, his self or herself, himself, putting their own authenticity out there.
I’m very confident that we will win the House, but in terms of the specific – what he was zeroing in on, always run scared.
That’s it. I have to go.