Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

September 18, 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.  There are four things I want to talk about with you this morning.  Two of them are related to science. 

First, I'll begin with the wildfires in the west.  Millions of acres are burning, historically high numbers, and that's horrible.  But worse than that, at least 35 people have died in the wildfires, many people are missing, so we don't know the total number.  Hopefully, it's just a – not so many more.  A firefighter lost his life from the fire and just a recent report on another one.

The western states, a number of acres – millions of acres are twenty times the amount this time last year, twenty times.  The wildfire haze is now even, you saw some of it reaching Washington, D.C.  Of course, it has covered the country. 

America can no longer afford to deny the connection between the climate crisis and the wildfires, no longer be in contempt of the science that tells us why these storms battering the Gulf Coast are so severe, severest in history in the one that had hit Louisiana and one – and, now, they have a Sally coming back.  They told me that they're running out of names.  They may have to go to the Greek alphabet to name the storms.  So, this is – this wildfire, the assault on nature, Mother Nature's statement: Do something about this. 

And one of the things we're going to do this week, we have some legislation on the Floor, an energy package.  And it has many bills in it.  I'm very proud of the work of the committees of jurisdiction, the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Science, Space and Technology Committee led by Eddie Bernice Johnson, Frank Pallone on the other committee, Energy and Commerce, and other important work that is done.

And among the pieces of legislation are some bills by Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, which establishes research institutes to study the impact on this smoke on public health.  There is a direct connection.  It also has, as a priority, to have the grid upgraded in a way that it can detect these sparks, because these sparks are what just take off in such a vicious way, as those of you who may have followed the fires have seen.

So, again, this is honoring science.  I told you last week about my meeting with the G7 Heads of Parliaments, and it was a great meeting this weekend, this past weekend.  And what was very interesting to see is that in all those countries, the G7, plus the EU, there is no difference in opinion among the parties about whether the climate crisis exists and that human behavior has an impact on it.  Only the United States is in denial that we are, in the Executive branch and the Republicans in Congress.  I don't know how much further evidence that they need or what could cause them to accept the science. 

The contempt for science must stop, and it must stop when it comes to the coronavirus.  That's the second item that I wanted to talk to you about, of the highest priority.  This weekend, sadly, we will see 200,000 people have died because of the coronavirus, approaching seven million people infected.  This didn't have to happen. 

And yesterday, some of you were there when Mr. Pallone and Mr. Clyburn and two of our Freshmen, Congresswoman Mucarsel‑Powell and Congresswoman Underwood, spoke about our plan, our plan that has been out there for months and months.  Our plan for testing, tracing, treating.  Our plan for sanitation, separation, wearing masks to crush the virus, to crush the virus.  Instead, our Republican colleagues want to crush the Affordable Care Act and its pre-existing condition benefit, which affects probably nearly half the families in our country. 

But we have a plan.  It's based on science.  The amounts of resources needed are substantiated by science, by institutions of higher learning, by academic, the academic world that especially focuses on the epidemiology of a pandemic.

Why, why is it so hard for the Republicans to accept the science, crush the virus, so that we can open our economy and open our schools more safely? 

In our Heroes Act, in which this proposal is, and, again, Mr. Pallone, the Chair of Energy and Commerce, has presented this plan.  It's not just money.  It's a plan.  It’s been there for months, and even in previous legislation we had pieces of it, but this has a comprehensive plan.  We have $75 billion.  That is what it will take to crush the virus.  The Republicans have $15 billion, and they said, “We'll compromise and make it $16 [billion].”  Now, that doesn't even come close to meeting the need or recognizing the loss in terms of health, but also in terms of our economy. 

So, again, contempt for science, because science tells us what we need to do to test, to trace, to treat, to separate, to ventilate, to wear masks, so we can get started.

Now, we all hope and pray for a vaccine, and that will make a tremendous difference.  I salute the distinguished scientists and professionals at the FDA – that does not include the commissioner.  I'm talking about the long‑term scientists who work there – for the work that they have done on the Warp Speed initiative that they've been involved in for a while, that they initiated, frankly. 

And when we have a vaccine that has been tested, that is to say, has gone through the clinical trials that science says are necessary to prove efficacy and safety, hopefully that will be soon.  We don't want it one day sooner than it is ready, from a safety and efficacy standpoint.  We don't want it one day later.  And so we want to make sure that there is no political interference in the timing and decisions that are made.  And when we have that vaccine – and, hopefully that will be soon, we all hope and pray – that it will be distributed in an ethically, ethically designed way to reach everyone, not just those with an in or with money and the rest, because in our country, unless everyone is protected, none of us is safe unless we're all safe.

Again, let's stick with the science.  Let's skip the politics when it comes to having clinical trials and the timing of it all.

The next subject I want to take up is this – we talked about the lives and the livelihood of the American people that are affected by the coronavirus and by these fires and storms that are affecting our country, instead of paying attention to science, science, science. 

The next point I want to make is one that I get questions constantly all over the country, virtually, but I'm all over the country virtually from morning until late at night, and that is about the security and the integrity of our elections.  Again, our bill, our Heroes Act is about protecting the lives and the livelihood as well as the life of our democracy.  And the assaults that have been made on the election, the discrediting of certain forms of voting and the rest, are not to be ignored, but they're not to be – to scare people from voting. 

As you may know, there was a decision last night, a decision by a Federal judge, issued a nationwide injunction against Trump's sabotage of the Postal Service.  The judge found that Trump and the Postmaster General DeJoy are involved in a politically motivated attack on the Postal Service in order to manipulate the 2020 election.  It goes on to say this assault will, ‘likely will slow down delivery of ballots this fall,’ creating a, ‘substantial possibility that many voters will be disenfranchised and that the states may not be able to effectively, timely, accurately determine election outcomes.’

Again, the sabotage also is an assault on our health.  As I've said to you before, 1.2 billion prescriptions were delivered by the Postal Service in 2019.  That was before the coronavirus hit us.  Million – over 80 – some people  think, over 90 percent of prescriptions delivered sent from the VA to veterans are delivered by the Postal Service.  Social Security benefits, paychecks, including those to our seniors and our veterans. 

So, this is a – this issue has – it's just something that everybody talks about.  I told you, I think, that we instituted our Sojourner Truth Women's Vote Project last Tuesday, and then had it again this Tuesday and we're ready for next Tuesday.  Next Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day.  So, we hope that everybody will be attuned to that.  The ultimate Sojourner Truth Tuesday will be election day in November. 

In the meantime, we don't agonize over some of the measures the Administration is trying to do.  We don't agonize, we organize, and that's what we are doing.  But we do have to shine a bright light – and I hope that you all will too – on what is being done to jeopardize the integrity of our elections, whether it is dismantling of the postal system, whether it is discrediting what it means to vote by mail and saying that really doesn't count, so why do it, whether it's welcoming and enjoying the involvement of the Russians once again, 24/7, in our election system, especially through the social media, and other interventions that may occur. 

This is who we are as a nation, a democracy.  We want to have the biggest vote possible and respect the outcome, as soon as possible.  But this is a fight for our country, for the oath we take to protect and defend the Constitution and our democracy.  And I'm so pleased that the court has been a counter to what is happening at the Justice Department, comments by the Attorney General, as well as the President of the United States.

My fourth point this morning is about China.  As you know – well, maybe you don't know but some of you know – that for a long time, over 30 years, I have been a critic of China when it comes to their unfair trade practices.  They're sending out components of weapons of mass destruction to rogue nations and delivery systems as well and their human rights violations. 

Next week, I'm so pleased that we'll have two bills on the Floor, one of them led by Jim McGovern, who's the Chair of the China Commission, Executive Commission, and he is – this is a bill, a bicameral – bipartisan, bicameral legislation by McGovern to ensure that goods made in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were not made with forced labor, those that are imported into the United States. 

As you know, the Chinese Government has arrested, put into camps, a minimum of one million, it could be two or more million, Uyghurs in so‑called ‘education camps.’  And we want to be sure that the goods made in those camps and imported to the United States are not – made with forced labor.  Actually, it doesn't even have to be in the camps.  They can have forced labor outside the camps as well.  And that's Jim McGovern. 

And Representative Wexton's bill will require U.S.‑listed companies to disclose information about supply chains and the use of goods from forced labor or internment camps. 

We continue to wait for the Senate to take up the Tibet Policy and Support Act, which passed in January.  We’ve had a number of successes on the Floor, House and Senate, in a bipartisan way, speaking out against what's happening in China, in Hong Kong, in Tibet, in the Uyghur territories and just across the country.

I’ve said it over and over.  If we refuse to speak out about human rights in China because of commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak about human rights anyplace in the world.  Again, 30 years, at least one hour a day on China, whether it's from a security standpoint, whether it's an economic standpoint or a values standpoint.  It's a big country.  So are we.  We must have engagement.  But we must also recognize, when there are acts of violence and almost crimes against humanity, we must speak out against them.

With that, I'll be pleased to take any questions that you have. 

***

Q:  Madam Speaker.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma'am.

Q:  What specific issues do you have with the Problem Solvers proposal?

Speaker Pelosi.  About the what? 

Q:  The Problem Solvers proposal. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh.  Well, I've made my statement.  Just go read my statement.  I respect what they're doing.  I made a statement about it.  As have our, as have our chairs. 

Q:  In holding out for $2.2 trillion, though, are you making perfect the enemy of the good –

Speaker Pelosi.  It's not perfect.  Perfect is $3.4 trillion.  Remember, we've come down $1 trillion and we met in the – said we'd meet them in the middle.  So, this is not about perfect being an enemy of the good. 

Any other questions? 

Q:  Madam Speaker, yesterday, a woman who served on the Vice President Mike Pence's – on the task force, Olivia Troye, came out and sharply criticized the President's conduct.  This comes after John Bolton also did the same thing of the President.  The White House, in turn, has questioned their credibility.  Why hasn't the House – why shouldn't the House call them to have them testify under oath to tell their stories to the America public? 

Speaker Pelosi.  The House has been trying to do that for a while.  As you know, the Administration has resisted that, and we are in the courts on that very subject.  But that's just one larger question for a second.  The President, we all know what the President is.  Okay.  No need to go into that. 

The President's enablers have a responsibility to our country.  For months, the President was calling, early on, the virus a hoax.  It was going to disappear magically.  It was going to be a miracle.  We're all going to be in church together on Easter Sunday, by the way, the holiest day of the year.  The day Christ is risen means a lot to many of us.  So him to deal frivolously with that, I found offensive, as I did his offense to science in saying what he did. 

But where were his people coming out and saying, that's not right, Mr. President?  We're going to leave if you continue to speak that way.  And that applies to so many other things.  But what he's saying about new – immigrants to our country, what he's saying about the economy, he has – again, he is what he is and he has – he's the President of the United States. 

But these enablers, they're going to have to tell their children and their grandchildren the responsibility they have for the fact that we are 200,000 people dead and that didn't have to happen.  Would they have all been saved?  No.  But many would have.  And there are metrics on this.  Don't take it from me.  There's scientific metrics of how many people could have been saved. 

So, our Members, our committees have an array of appeals and, when necessary, subpoena and court actions to have the Executive Branch speak to the Congress, the first – Article I, the first branch of government with oversight responsibility of the other branches of government as they have to us.  So, I think your idea is a great one. 

Now, there's a letter being put together by the chairs of the committees of jurisdiction questioning the actions of the Attorney General of the United States and whether the comments that he and others, that he may have encouraged, are making statements that have an impact on the adjudication of justice prevailing in certain cases and what ‑‑ and also what impact that could have on the election. 

But this, it goes beyond the pale when you think in terms of what responsibility goes to – some have left.  Some are speaking out.  But the simple fact is tens of millions of people are on Unemployment Insurance.  Two hundred thousand people have died.  Nearly seven million people have been infected.  And what – now, good for her, the young woman who came forward and with her statement.  Of course, they're attacking her now.  But, something is very wrong with this picture. 

Q:  Will you ask her to testify?  Will the House ask her to testify?

Speaker Pelosi.  You know, again, I leave it up to the committees as to how they proceed.  Because, quite frankly, when you're asking to testify or issuing a subpoena, you have to be careful about hitting them with your best shot because, you know, they have friendly courts along the way who are not necessarily, in my view, committed to the separation of power. 

Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  Yes.  You mentioned potential politicizing of the vaccine.  Now, it's possible that Mr. Biden will be President when a vaccine is approved or when it's going out.  What advice would you give to him to – in the steps that he should take to make sure that he can have confidence that a coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I appreciate your question.  It's so important because whatever anybody might think of this President or this vaccine, it's really important for us to have confidence in the vaccine, because what we need to do is to crush the virus.  We have to do many things, the vaccine, one of them, hopefully not so far away into the future. 

But unless there is confidence that this has gone – that the vaccine has gone through the clinical trials and then is approved by the Independent Scientific Advisory Committee that is established to do just this, there will be doubts that people will have. 

So, I think that the Vice President's statements have been good, that he supports the science of it all.  And, again, we want it to work.  We want it to be safe.  We want it to be efficacious.  Those are the tests: safety and efficacy.  And we want it to be available in a widespread, ethical way.  And the best – it's not even an argument, but the best case for the vaccine is to have it as closely identified with the scientists who will be putting it forth.

So, we've had some good things.  A number of the companies that have received funds, one hasn't – Pfizer hasn't received funds – but the others received funds to develop vaccines, and they have said that they will not promote or support a vaccine that has not gone through the clinical trial and met the standard of approval.  So, that is a very – that's very important. 

So, I think that – I feel confident that if and when we get the vaccine, and it's a matter of time, it would be.  As I say, these scientists, some of the best minds in our country, 24/7, working on the development of the vaccine, as well as the private sector involvement in it.  We want it to be a triumph, a victory, whenever it comes, if it comes in two weeks or if it comes in four months.  But I do think that there has to be a point of acceptance of the science and that will give people confidence to make themselves, avail themselves of the benefits of the vaccine.

Q:  One follow-up on distribution.  Was there anything in the distribution plan put out by the Trump Administration this week?  You said it must be ethical.  Was there anything in that plan that you thought was not ethical? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I – let me just say I'd like to see more about it, because we have had an experience of what they say and what they do may be different things.  I know they're talking about the military putting out things.  I know everybody agrees that first responders and seniors should go first in all of this.  But how are those decisions made?  Hopefully, not the way the President has made decisions about giving PPE, the Personal Protective Equipment, to states by just doing it, shall we say, in a manner not scientific and really not effective in terms of addressing the challenge we face.

So, I think there will be a bright light shown on it so I think they're going to have to do it right, but that doesn't mean it just goes to red states or rich people.  That means that everybody has access to it, and that's ethical, but it's also smart from an epidemiology standpoint because it means, if everybody is protected, we're all protected.

Yes, sir. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, yes, you had mentioned that churches, you are Catholic and the Archbishop of San Francisco recently wrote an op‑ed in The Washington Post where he says that government is denying people the right to worship and it's high time San Francisco let people go back to church again with proper precautions.  He's saying that the sacraments can't be received through Zoom or Skype.  Your opinion about that, and should churches in San Francisco be allowed to reopen with precautions? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I have been to church in San Francisco recently, and I did receive communion.  Just so you know, what it was, though, we had to make an – we had to sign up, and they only had two places left.  So, fortunately, I got in under the wire to go.  And when we got there, the church maybe holds 250 people.  There were probably twelve people there, here, there, very, very, very spaced.  But that was it.  No more would be allowed.

So, again, obeying the social distancing and the – and then we did receive communion.  The priest washed his hands before he gave us communion.  I took it in my hand.  I miss going to church regularly.  Of course, we have virtual mass here, many masses in D.C., but all the other places. 

With all due respect to our, my archbishop, I think we should follow science on this.  Faith and science sometimes are counter to each other.  Around here people say to me, ‘You're a person of faith, why do you believe in science?’  And I say, ‘Well, I believe that science is an answer to our prayers.’  It is a creation of God and one that is an answer to our prayers. 

So, with all due respect to the archbishop, we have some areas of agreement and some areas of disagreement.  So I don't know if he was speaking as our pastor or as a lobbyist, an advocate, but whatever it is, I'm sure that he must have meant if it is scientifically safe, rather than jeopardizing people's health if they want to go to church.  So, I thank you for your question. 

Yes, Chad. 

Q:  Good morning.  So, yesterday, you said you thought you had compromised already on coronavirus, coming down to the lower figure.  What it would take at this stage to pry loose some sort of a deal, just Republicans coming to that number, or what in your mind do you see –

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we have to meet the needs of the American people.  It's not a check‑the‑box or the path of least resistance.  You have to meet the needs of the American people.  And even the Chairman of the Fed has said you're not going to turn the economy around until you get rid of this virus.  He said it more elegantly than that yesterday – two days ago in his statement.  Perhaps you saw it.  Perhaps you saw his connection between how the economy will come back only if we get rid of the virus.

And so we have to do that in a substantial way.  Not in a: ‘Well, we did something.’  No.  We know what the needs are.  We know what science tells us we need to do, and that's where we have to go.  Now, I did say yesterday that there are more needs that have emerged since we passed the bill four months ago, May 15th, and three days is – what's today, the seventeenth? 

Q:  Eighteenth.

Speaker Pelosi.  Eighteenth.  So four months and four days ago.  There are more needs that have emerged.  Again, the anticipation and hope, at that time, was that we would engage in crushing the virus.  We didn't.  More deaths, more cases, more challenges in terms of jobs, and one of them being with the airlines, the bill that was there, the CARES Act did good things until the end of September.  So, now that is – emerges again as a challenge, which we had hoped would have been addressed by crushing the virus.

The other part are restaurants.  The restaurants have a big ask, a very big ask in terms of they've taken a beating on this.  And I think there's bipartisan interest in helping restaurants.  Mr. Blumenauer has a very substantial bill, $125 billion in terms of assisting restaurants.

And so if some of these additions are to be taken into consideration, that means that in order to stay at halfway between where they are and where we were, that we'd have to come down further in some of our own original priorities in the bill, and that's what a negotiation is about.  We don't negotiate with ourselves.  We negotiate with the other side on this, and they have to see that the science is clear, we need the testing.  They know that.  They should know that.  Why wouldn't they know that? 

They – state and local government is their big hang‑up.  They have contempt for science and disdain for state and local government.  And the Chairman of the Fed referenced state and local government as being an important part of our economy in his – I don't know if it's in the statement or the Q&A, but what came forth.  Once again, he has said that before.

These are our heroes: health care workers, first responders, police and fire, transportation, sanitation, food workers, teachers, teachers, teachers, largely paid for and hired by the state and local governments.  You wouldn't be able, nor would I, be here without these workers.  The health care workers, some of them risking their lives in order to save lives.  They're now losing their jobs.  People who take risks to go to work so that we can have food on the table, dismissed by them.  Transportation workers who enable people to get to work, dismissed by them.

Police and fire.  I had a conversation – it’s always with them but especially recently with fire because of the fires in the west and getting a report on the infections, as well as some deaths in terms of first responders, because they are some of the first people on the scene when there is a report that someone needs to be taken to the hospital or something.  And then, again, the health care workers. 

So, understand how important these heroes are to you, to your family, to our economy, to our society.  And understand why we have to support them and reject the language of the White House that says, ‘Oh, they're in blue States.’  Oh, really?  I thought we were the United States of America. 

I thought that, and I still do.  And I wear my pin.  This is a pin that says, ‘One Country, One Destiny,’ written on this flag, ‘One Country, One Destiny.’  I gave this pin to John Lewis on 4th of July weekend the last time I was able to visit with him, actually, in Atlanta, and we shared the thought that this ‘One Country, One Destiny’ was embroidered in the coat that Abraham Lincoln had on, on that fateful night.  It was a coat he wore often but also that night, one country, one nation. 

So, any thought that, ‘Oh, well, we don't have to help state and local because blue states have more infections than other states, so why should we care?’  Well, we do care.  And we're going to vote care, and we're going to vote health, and we're going vote truth, and we're going to vote starting today.  In four states across the country voting has started.  And, again, we want them to be able to not have to sacrifice their health in order to vote.

So, have the social distancing, have adequate polling places so that distancing can be enabled, as well as for those who want to vote in person, but also making it easy for people to vote by mail and that they do so with the confidence that their vote will be counted as cast and that no skulduggery on the part of the President and the Justice – the Postal Service will impair the Postal Service to get the ballots to people in a timely fashion and get them back to the authorities in time to be counted as cast.  And to do so in a way that – again, I say to everybody, here's what we have to do.  Go to IWillVote.com, IWillVote.com, IWillVote.com.  Put in your state, your ZIP Code.  It will tell you how to vote by mail, how to vote in person.  If you need further information, put in more information.  You'll see if you are registered, as well as to confirm that you are or enable you to register.

This is, you know, eliminating obstacles to participation in our voting process.  It's a very patriotic duty that we all have.  That's what we're doing with Sojourner Truth each Tuesday, Truth Tuesday, a woman, suffragist, abolitionist, slave.  In her honor we will want to make sure we have the best possible, largest number of people having the healthiest access to voting. 

But I'm excited that the voting is starting today.  I would say to people, vote early so that the Post Office – now, let me just say this about the postal workers.  They are great.  They are going to get the mail to and fro.  We just don't want them to be impaired by having sorting machines removed or dismantled and post mailboxes removed and the rest.

But I have every confidence in our postal workers, whether they're postal workers or letter carriers, in the Post Office or coming to your door with the mail.  I have confidence in them because they are truly patriots.  The Postal Service, the most American institution you can name really, most popular, 90 percent – over 90 percent approval of any – bigger than any agency of government.

Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General.  [Harry Truman] was named [Postmaster] and he yielded to a woman, widow, who needed the money.  And so he yielded to her, but that had been one of his titles.  Others have served.  Coming from the war, so many veterans, a large number of people in the Postal Service are our veterans. 

So, in any event, as American as apple pie, used to be.  Is that still popular?  I mean, with all the food, this and that, apple pie, motherhood, baseball, Postal Service. 

Vote safely.  Thank you.