Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

September 10, 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. 

Just came from the beautiful – excuse me – the beautiful service we had, never forget.  Tomorrow, as you know, is 9/11.  Can you believe it's nineteen years since that terrible tragedy befell our country? 

This morning at 10:03 we had a remembrance for those who died in the plane crash, when a plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Actually, the date is tomorrow, but so many people wanted to be on site on the day of. 

So, we had a few of us there at the invitation of the flight attendants where they read the list of people who had died on all of the flights.  At 8:46, American Airlines Flight 11.  At 9:03, United Airlines Flight 175.  First was the World – the North Tower; second, the South Tower.  9:37, the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.  10:03, United Airlines crashes into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  That crash is memorialized right off the rotunda of the Capitol with the testimonial that the courage of those people was so remarkable and that, most likely, the destination of that flight was the U.S. Capitol.  If any of you have a moment in the next few days, the flowers, the tributes are all there. 

And tomorrow morning we'll be on the steps of the Capitol, of course, at 8:46.  Never forget.  Never forget.  Never forget the tragedy it was, of course, to our nation, that blow, but never forget what it meant to each and every family to lose a loved one.  They're in our prayers forever and in our hearts as well.  Again, tomorrow we'll be on the steps of the Capitol. 

At the same time, this moment, a terrible moment for us in California.  Over three – excuse me, over two million acres are burning.  Possibly three million homes are evacuated – thousands of homes destroyed, millions more in the path of the blaze.  Wildfire ash is blanketing all of the areas beyond where the fire is in the Bay Area, turning the skies to orange. 

I've been getting calls from my family and from constituents about: it's dark.  It's – it's dark there.  It's in the morning.  They're waiting for the sun to come up, and it's dark all day.  They need lights, to drive with their headlights on. 

Our thoughts and prayers, of course, are with our firefighters, who are so courageous.  We've already lost one in this fight, and we also lost a one‑year‑old boy among the fifteen dead in these fires. 

The same time as we're having these horrible fires in California, when I left over the weekend to come back here for work, the guidance – that the conditions were unhealthy, smoky and unhealthy, smoky and unhealthy.  Now, it's even gotten worse than that. 

I salute our mayor, Mayor Breed, and our governor, Governor Gavin Newsom, as they fight the COVID virus, fighting these forest fires and all that goes with that.  Very sad time. 

But again, our heroes.  Honoring our heroes of 9/11.  Honoring our heroes, these firefighters fighting these fights.  It's – it's humbling. 

At the same time as having these forest fires, I had a really sad conversation with the governor of Louisiana last week.  He was talking about the hurricane that hit there, the strongest hurricane in the history of Louisiana, the fifth‑strongest to ever hit the United States in any location.  I mention these in the same context, because climate change, the climate crisis, is directly related to both of them. 

And this weekend, I have the honor of hosting a G7, the G7.  As you probably know, every year the G7 heads of state meet.  About a week – a month or two after that, the heads of Parliament meet.  Of course, this year, the actual events have been prevented from happening.  I don't know when President Trump is going to resume the plans for a G7 meeting, but we have our G7 heads of Parliament, and that will be this weekend. 

I'm very proud of the participation.  It will be all of the speakers, some are called presidents of parliament, of the G7 Nations, as well as the President of the European Union.  We'll all be together, virtually. 

Our heroes committed to protecting the environment and our planet will be participating.  We’ll be welcomed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, opening one our sessions, Bono another.  One of my personal heroes, Jane Goodall, will be participating.  And the person who is called the Father of Environmental Justice, Dr. Robert Bullard, from [Texas Southern] University, will be one of our all‑stars. 

But we have – well, you have the – rather than my reading off the names, you should have our press release on that, two Secretaries of State, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Albright, one Secretary of Energy, a brilliant list that goes on and on, to discuss with the speakers what our theme is. 

When we transferred from France – the last meeting was in – the most recent meeting was in France, one year ago, and then it was passed on to me to be host for this year – we announced last year our theme would be Addressing the Climate Crisis [with] Economic and Environmental Justice [For All], and that's what our theme will be. 

Of course, justice also is involved in how the COVID virus is spreading, so we will focus on the climate crisis and the COVID crisis and the economic and environmental justice involved in both.  So, I'm very, very proud of that.  It will be streamed.  You have the information as to how to participate.  So, there we are. 

Now, speaking of COVID, I want to share some numbers with you.  Eight senior FDA career executives declared to USA Today, this is the heads of their centers, ‘We're following the science to protect public health in the pandemic.’  Look to USA Today to see their fuller statement.  Very important statement.  These are serious scientists. 

And as we have all said, we want the science to dominate the timing of a vaccine.  We don't want it one day later than it is ready, nor one day sooner, and we have to depend on the science and not the politics of the timing. 

A couple days ago – that's eight.  A couple days ago, nine pharmaceutical companies, the heads, released an extraordinary joint statement that they would not put forward a vaccine until it had been thoroughly vetted for safety and efficacy.  That means going through the FDA process of approvals.  These are the companies that are doing research on the vaccines.  We hope and pray for a vaccine, again, as soon as it is ready, safe and efficacious. 

And then this week as well, eleven – so we have eight senior FDA saying, ‘we're following the science;’ nine pharmaceutical companies, ‘we're not going forward unless it's scientifically approved;’ eleven directors of institutes at the National Institutes of Health stated that testing as many people as possible is the key to slowing down the spread of the virus.  Testing, testing, testing.  We've been singing that song for a long time and we do have it in the Heroes Act in a very robust way. 

I'm very proud of the strategic plan that the Energy and Commerce Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Frank Pallone, put forth based on science, $75 billion for testing, tracing, treating, sanitation, separation, mask wearing and the rest, to crush the virus.  Instead, the Administration has chosen to crush the Affordable Care Act in front of the Supreme Court, pre-existing condition benefit and all. 

But we have a very strong strategic plan that's been there in the works since May 15th.  But even before that, our very first bill, March 4th, was testing, testing, testing.  Scientists tell us we need to test up to 3 million people a day in order to stop the spread of the [virus].  Test, trace, treat.  We're well, well, well behind all of that. 

In the negotiation, and in the McConnell bill, they've said, ‘You want $75 billion.  We want $15 billion.  We'll compromise at $16 billion.’  Oh, really?  Oh, really?  Let's not have tokenism when we have a major disaster.  Let's not have a skinny bill when we have a massive problem. 

I ask Mr. Pallone, ‘Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman, how much flexibility do we have?’  I ask him this on a regular basis.  We need every penny in order to stop this.  And that's the way we're going to open up our economy, and that's the way we're going to open up our schools safely, is by crushing the virus. 

I won't even go into what happened yesterday, the fact that the President knew.  He'd been saying for a long time the whole thing was a hoax.  His delay, denial and distortion of what was happening has caused many deaths.  Even since May 15th, when we passed our bill and Mitch McConnell pushed the pause button, 5 million more people have become infected and over 100,000 people have died. 

Columbia University put out statistics months ago about how many people would still be alive if the – if the science was followed, if the science had been followed.  So, this is a tragedy beyond words. 

What the President did showed – yes, in those comments, showed his contempt, contempt for the American people and their health, contempt for science, contempt for any real effort to crush the virus, contempt for his supporters, their children, their parents.  He hid the facts and refused to take the threat seriously, leaving the entire country exposed and unprepared.  He didn't want to cause a panic.  Why?  Because of the stock market? 

Nobody wants to cause a panic.  You want to show leadership, show a strategic plan, following the science, allocating the resources in order to get the job done.  Even now, he refuses to listen to science, which is just a tragedy. 

And again, the Republican McConnell bill is pathetically – as Chuck Schumer and I called it, it's not only a skinny bill; it's emaciated.  It doesn't help state and local workers at all.  Our heroes, hence the name Heroes Act, health care workers, first responders, police and fire, transportation, sanitation, teachers, teachers, teachers, food workers, who meet the needs of people, will be fired.  They risked their lives to save lives, and now they may lose their jobs. 

And you know what?  They'll go on Unemployment Insurance.  So, what are we saving?  Harming their lives and the needs – meeting – not meeting the needs of people.  It doesn't feed hungry families.  Millions, millions, maybe 14 million children are food insecure in our country.  Our legislation makes a major commitment to feeding the American people. 

Renters: major commitment to keep people from being evicted and made homeless.  A plan that sprang from the – what happened when we had the – the Great Recession in 2008‑9.  We had emergency assistance for renters, and we need to have it now.  The President may have a moratorium, maybe so, maybe not, but a moratorium without money is just heaping debt on these same people who may evade eviction for the moment but are not able to pay the rent, and that causes a problem for the landlords as well. 

Of course, they don't want enough money for us to – for people to cast their ballot safely.  We know that. 

And, again, let's just come right back to the point: crush the virus.  Have the resources in order to do it.  Open your mind to what science is proposing. 

So, in any event, as I mentioned, we're very pleased that the FDA career executives have come forward about trusting the science as we develop a vaccine, the pharmaceutical companies saying they're not moving forward unless it meets the standards, and are not – and not my view.  That was an important message because of the apparent politicization of the – of the process by the Oval Office.  And the directors at the National Institute: testing, testing, testing, testing.  Why would they not do that? 

There are so many other issues about us.  Going back to school.  I'm very proud of my – my Members who – who had – who participated in our Day of Action on going back to school.  A week or so before that, they did a Day of Action to protect the Postal Service. 

Members and their constituents, although it's all virtual, it can't be actual, are very engaged in matters that directly – practically every household in our country, directly or indirectly, certainly the Postal Service, and then the education of America's children, important to each and every one of us. 

Any questions? 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir? 

Q:  Hi, I wanted to start, go back to the California wildfires and the wildfires in the west.  If Joe Biden and the Democrats take control of the government in November as you've predicted, do you think that major climate change legislation will be one of the first pieces of legislation out of the gate for the Democrats in the new Congress? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we will have – we'll have – obviously, hopefully, the COVID pandemic will have subsided if there's any thought that the Republicans in Congress will pay attention to science.  Right now, they're in a place where they don't believe in science, and they don't like governance, so they don't want any reason to have to govern, to call for standards to defeat the virus.  But the virus, of course, has to, in other words, to open up our schools and our – and our economy, has to be first and foremost. 

But, yes, it will be an early part of the agenda. 

As you probably know – or maybe you don't, when I was first Speaker a number of years ago, climate – the climate crisis was my flagship issue.  President Bush was President.  Together, we passed the most significant energy bill in the history of our country, the equivalent of taking millions of cars off the road by raising the emission standards and other provisions there.  We came together.  He wanted nuclear; I wanted renewables.  We came together. 

Then, this time – and we had a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.  This time, I do – again, under the leadership of Kathy Castor, they have put forth their report, which has received so many accolades from scientific judges of such reports that it is objective, strong and the formula that we need to go forward. 

Some of it is already in our Moving Forward legislation that we passed in the end of June, beginning of July, a number of weeks ago, and – the end of June.  And that will be, obviously – I wish that the – the President says he's for infrastructure.  We could pass a bill having some of those green, resilient – we call it resilient because green is a word that is scary to some people around here. 

So, when Joe Biden says Build Back Better, that ‘better;’ includes building back in a way that is resilient, that is green, that protects the planet.  So, it will be a part.  I don't know if it's one bill or if it permeates a number of bills, but it is absolutely a priority. 

In our priorities, the – one of ours, our Climate Action Now legislation that we passed, is going to be early legislation for us to have to return to the Paris Accords, but to do better, to do better than that. 

This is a priority.  This is a challenge.  You know, a pandemic descends upon you and eclipses everything.  Preserving the planet for future generations is the challenge to this generation.  We are late.  America is not a leader in this under Republican presidents.  President Obama did a great job in Paris with the Paris Accords.  Of course, President Trump, defying science, contempt for science, walked away from that. 

But this is a very big issue.  It's a health issue: clean air, clean water.  It's a jobs issue: green technologies to keep America preeminent and make America even more preeminent in the world in promoting green technologies.  It's a national security issue.  National security experts, whether they're in the military, in the diplomatic corps, in the scientific corps, whatever, have said to us, ‘This is a security issue.’  The rising sea levels, the encroachment of deserts, the drying up of the great rivers, especially in Asia, so many of the consequences of the climate crisis, the melting of the polar cap, so many of the aspects of the climate crisis eat away at habitat and resources and can cause conflict, even in terms of migration issues. 

I was in Central America on the immigration issue within the last year, and we were trying to say why are – what is it we can do to keep people at home?  What about the economy and the rest?  And one of the things that was so evident in Central America was the drought had prevented farmers from farming; hence, seeking other opportunity. 

So, it has an impact on migration, on security, on health, on jobs. 

It's also a moral issue.  If you believe, as do I, that this planet is God's creation and we have a moral obligation to be good stewards of it, then it's a moral obligation.  If you don't share that religious view, but you do understand that we have an obligation to hand the planet over to our children and grandchildren in a responsible way, then we all can agree on that. 

And so that's why I'm so excited about what we're doing this weekend with the G7, again, focusing on addressing the climate crisis, addressing economic and environmental justice as we do so. 

Yes, sir? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, what's your outlook for getting a stimulus deal at this point?  Yesterday, Mr. Schumer said there's some indication Mnuchin might move off of his $1 trillion line.  Do you share that kind of optimism?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  And then part two on the CR, are you pushing for a CR into next year or into the lame duck? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We – two questions.  Let me start with the CR. 

I have said publicly that I'm for a clean CR.  Mr. Mnuchin – Mr. Secretary has said he's for a clean CR.  So, we're down that – we're down that path.  We are now looking at anomalies and the rest, and we'll figure out the timing when we do. 

In terms of the – I'm optimistic that – that the need for state and local government to be met, the needs must be met, and that will, I think, insist that the number be bigger than what the Republicans are talking about now. 

The fiscal stability of state and local government is very important to the fiscal stability of our country, the economic security of our country.  So to say, ‘Well, let them get fired and go on unemployment and cut the needs of the – meeting the needs of people and raising taxes,’ I don't think that sounds like a very popular, or effective more importantly, approach to it. 

So, I do – I do hope, though, the most important element of all of it is to stop the virus.  And maybe this exposé or whatever you want to call it – who didn't know what the President's attitude was?  But nonetheless, this reinforcement of it will insist.

Because I want to tell you something about this.  The disparity – when I talk about our weekend of economic, environmental justice, and when we talk about COVID, there's COVID injustice as well.  The disparity among populations of color, people of color, is shameful, that we have not done the outreach, that we have not done the testing, tracing, treatment in a way that has – would stop the spread and save the lives. 

Yes, ma'am? 

Q:  I'm wondering, could we get your view on Brexit?  There's been developments this week in London, and the British government has introduced new legislation that appears to be overriding some of its commitment to the EU.  I know you put out a statement last night. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  But I was just wondering, could I get your views on that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, thank you for that question. 

Over one year ago, for the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Accords, I took a delegation.  We went to – we went – we visited our troops.  We always on a visit, on a CODEL, it's always about security and it's about economy. 

And then we went to the U.K., where I met with all elements, whether it was the government or the members of the government's party who were opposed to the government position of leaving the EU and met with the Labour Party and those who were opposed to the Labour Party's positions on a number of things. 

So, four elements to make sure they all understood in the U.K.: don't mess with the Good Friday Accords.  This is something that, as Americans, we're very proud of our participation in, recognition of Nobel status given to what happened there, President Clinton being so much a part of it, George Mitchell and others on both sides of the – of the Atlantic and within the movement in – in Northern and in Ireland. 

I then went to – we then went to Dublin, and I spoke to the Dáil.  That is the Parliament of Ireland.  I had a beautiful invitation to speak to their Parliament.  And I said to them that we still – that the Good Friday Accords were a very high priority for us, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate.  So that if the U.K. did anything to undermine the Good Friday Accords, they should not.  As I told them in the U.K., four different elements of participation there, they should not even think about having a U.S.‑U.K. bilateral trade agreement. 

The British and the Irish worked together.  They came to terms.  It was part of the international treaty going forward with the departure of the Brits from the EU.  And then this news comes to us practically in the middle of the night, over the weekend, Monday, later in the day there, early in the morning here, that the U.K. had decided to undermine the Good Friday Accords. 

What were they thinking?  Whatever it is, I hope they're not thinking of a U.K.‑U.S. bilateral trade agreement to make up for what they might lose in losing – it's up to the people of the U.K., for them to decide if they want to belong to the EU and the rest.  That's their judgment.  That's their decision.  That's to be respected.  But don't think you're going to get a reward if you undermine. 

Now, I've been to Ireland many times.  I have a son‑in‑law whose family lives there, so we have funerals.  We have baptisms.  We have a lot going on in Ireland.  And on one of those occasions, I took the train from Dublin to Belfast to meet up with a CODEL that was up there following one of our christenings.  And at that time, tanks and guns and soldiers at the border.  It was frightening.  Frightening.

When we went for the 21st anniversary, the only way you could tell you were in Ireland or Northern Ireland was the color of the stripe on the ground, the free flow of goods, the free flow of people, the commerce, the rest of it.  And they hosted us in the – in Belfast.  The Speaker there hosted us with a big, I would guess you would – reception, but it's more like a rally of children.  And two of them spoke, a Protestant and a Catholic, seniors in high school, saying they've lived their whole lives in peace and they weren't going back. 

These Good Friday Accords were just so beautiful, and we are not going to have them tampered with or reward any messing with them with a bilateral U.K.‑U.S. trade agreement.

Q:  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Excuse me? 

Q:  Have you spoken to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, not since the other day, but I will be speaking to the Ambassador, I believe the Foreign Minister that's coming in another few days.  Our Members – no.  Understand this: I'm speaking for our Chair of – this is in a bipartisan way.  We've always gone there in a bipartisan way. 

Richie Neal is the President – the head – the Co‑Chair of the Friends of Ireland.  He's also the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which is the committee of jurisdiction of trade agreements.  He has been speaking to the press.  You probably have heard his statements, BBC and the rest, as have any number of our Members. 

This – my phone was ringing off the hook.  It's been ringing off the hook because of what's happening in California, and all of a sudden it was the U.K. is abandoning what it said it would do on the Good Friday Accords. 

Thank you for your question. 

Q:  What's your message to London – what's your message to London to make clear to the Johnson government it cannot jeopardize peace in Ireland, something which I know you've fought so passionately for over a number of years? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, our message is very clear.  Self‑determination is what the U.K., the people of the U.K. have determined their course of action.  That's up to them.  But it is up – not up to them to think that they will be rewarded if they mess with the Good Friday Accords and think that they're going to be rewarded. 

It's – it's – it's really sad, actually, because when they had the agreement with the previous Prime – the Taoiseach, now it's a new Taoiseach, but previous Taoiseach, it was really good news.  They trusted.  It was really good news.  And that, really, that very same night the Irish from all over were honoring Richie Neal.  And so, we had a double celebration that, okay, this is going to be – this is going to be okay. 

But it's a very simple message.  They know it.  They've heard it.  I've said it to the Dáil.  This is not anything we've hidden under a bush.  There will be no bilateral U.S.‑U.K. agreement if the border – the Good Friday Accords, in regard to the border, are changed. 

And actually how can they walk away from an international agreement?  How do you trust that?  We've made an international agreement.  This is how we'll go forward.  ‘Oh, never mind.  Oh, never mind.’

But anyway, again, their self‑determination is up to them.  Our trade relations are up to us.

Q:  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes? 

Staff.  Last question.

Q:  Madam Speaker, thank you.  So I'm trying to get some clarity –

Speaker Pelosi.  Is that you?  All of a sudden you're sitting in the back of the room? 

Q:  Well, I deferred to Jamie.

Thank you.


Speaker Pelosi.  You deferred, but you put your hand up right in front of her face.  But, okay.


Q:  In any event, can you give us some clarity from your perspective as to what a clean CR is?  You know, sometimes that's in the eye of the beholder, and that could be – that could predicate how long this runs, if it runs to next year, if you have a Democratic Senate or a President Biden, which you might prefer to do business with, obviously.  But also, if they came and said, ‘Okay, here's a little bit of coronavirus relief?’

Speaker Pelosi.  No, that's not going to be on there.

Q:  That's out of the question?

Speaker Pelosi.  That's not going to be there, no. 

One of the things – Continuing Resolutions 101.  A Continuing Resolution is a resolution that continues the appropriations process in the same outlays as the previous year.  We did very well last year in the negotiations.  So, to be able to continue at that rate of pay, shall we say, okay. 

Now, there are some what we call anomalies.  Some things have expired, this or that, that may or may not be continued but still are technically within the definition of clean, ‘clean’ meaning no additional things.  COVID would be clean – would not meet that definition, and those negotiations are separate from this. 

Q:  And do you think if you don't get something – obviously, we're going to have this procedural vote in the Senate this afternoon, it's probably not going to get anywhere here, but that probably puts an end to any effort to do coronavirus until after the election? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  No.  No. 

Q:  Why not? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  I think that – I think that McConnell is being his cynical self by saying, ‘I'll just put something on there.  It'll look like we're trying to do something, while we ignore the needs of the American people, where we shy away from defeating and crushing the virus, while we say to people at their kitchen tables, we don't care if you don't have food or if you're out on the street in another month and the rest of that, but just had to say I put something there.  Check the box.  Check the box.  Push the button: pause.’  Forgot to tell the virus to pause. 

Half a million – no, 5 million more people infected since he pushed the pause button; 100,000 or more dead since he pushed the pause button. 

So, this is sort of a, as Chuck calls it, the emaciated.  And as he also said this morning, I thought, ‘Trump lied, people died.’

We're in a very sad situation here, and this is a big fight because it's about the role of government to protect the American people.  And that protection includes respect for science, science to stop the spread, science and not politics to determine how a vaccine will be formed – be developed, and how ethically it will be distributed to people in our country. 

We pray for a vaccine.  We hope it will be soon, not one day sooner than it is safe and efficacious.  Safety and efficacy are the standard, approved by the scientists at the FDA, approved by an independent advisory group objectively measuring whether it should go forward, and with an ethical plan to distribute it to people in our country so that everyone has access to it. 

So it is a, you know, it's a big challenge, and you should really start by respecting science. 

Thank you all very much.  Thank you.  So, tomorrow, perhaps, we'll see you on steps of the Capitol.