Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

September 23, 2021
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 welcome some of our newcomers here – us regulars, right?  Thank you all for being here.  I will answer some questions that you may have after, but first I want to acknowledge a special guest we have with us. 

As you know, we are moving in a – closing some of the discussions that we've had on the legislation to honor the President of the United States' vision for our country: to Build Back Better.  And you probably have an announcement, or shortly will, that the Budget Committee is going to be marking up the bill in a timely fashion, in time for us to send it to the Rules Committee for consideration. 

To that end, a very important part of all of this is the – are the pay‑fors, how we want to Build Back Better in a way that is fiscally sound. 

This morning, we met with the Chairs of the Committee, Chairman Wyden and Chairman Neal, along with representatives of the White House.  It was a great honor for me to welcome the Secretary of the Treasury, a person I have long admired, and to have the benefit of her wisdom and judgment in the discussions that we had.  And Leader Schumer and I were a part of the discussion that he will report on.  Mr. Schumer. 

Leader Schumer.  Thank you.  First, I would note, before just telling you exactly what happened, that Brooklyn is two‑thirds of this podium.

[Laughter]

Secretary Yellen.  Exactly.

Leader Schumer.  Okay.  So just –

Speaker Pelosi.  But the Secretary has a connection to California: the University of California, Berkeley.

Secretary Yellen.  Indeed, I do.

Leader Schumer.  Uh‑huh.  Fort Hamilton High School, James Madison High School.

Okay.  Just I have a brief, a brief sentence, and that is that the White House, the House and the Senate have reached agreement on a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement.  So, the revenue side of this, we have an agreement on. 

Okay?  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  A framework.

Leader Schumer.  A framework, an agreement of a framework.  Okay?  Thanks. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.  Thank you, Madam Secretary.

Q:  Senator Schumer, can you explain what that meant, or what that means, a framework?  What does that mean exactly?

Speaker Pelosi.  That means that we're proceeding, that we've made great progress and we're proceeding. 

Q:  That's what you said at the podium. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.  And – no, but we now went further because there were some specifics.  We are in a situation of ‘lamb eat lamb.’  There are so many good provisions – what is affordable and what is effective and what gets the best results as soon as possible. 

So, we made great progress this morning because it's in the writing.  You know, you hear everybody coming out and talking about one thing or another, but we are writing legislation.  And when you're writing legislation, you have to be specific, and this took us a long way to a framework.  Now, again, yeah, we socialize what we're doing and see among some things what works better and what our actual needs will be.  We'll get more estimates as to how much money comes in on certain things. 

But we know that we can cover the proposals that the President has put forth to Build Back Better, his vision for the country well beyond the BIF, the Budget – what are we calling it?  Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.  I'm very excited about this.  And, again, it's all good.  We had in Appropriations – a saying in Appropriations – it's ‘lamb eat lamb.’ 

But let me just tell you that, as you know, this week we passed legislation to keep the government open and lift the debt ceiling, to remove all doubt that the full faith and credit of the United States of America is not in question, as the Constitution of the United States says. 

The House, the Congress has taken up a tradition of having to vote on that.  There's some doubt as to whether that should be the case, but in the here and now, we put forth a proposal. 

The Senate – House Republicans voted against keeping government open, which we need to do by September 30th, and voted against honoring the full faith and credit of the United States of America.  It's quite appalling, because when Republican Presidents were there, we always had bipartisan support for that. 

We sent that bill over to the Senate.  Depending on what happens there, we will keep government open by September 30th, which is our date, and continue the conversation about the debt ceiling.  Even any – but not for long, because any discussion even casts doubt.  And when that happened before, when the Republicans threatened not to support the full faith and credit when President Obama was President, even the doubt that they cast lowered our credit rating.  It's not good for our country, for our families, and it has an impact on the global economy.  So whatever it is, we will have a CR that passes both Houses by September 30th. 

The – and that is, we're very pleased that in that same legislation, which the Republicans rejected, we had our assistance for the natural disasters affecting some of their own regions, which they voted against, but, again, necessary to immediately meet the needs of the American people in time of disaster; as well as the legislation, the appropriations for Afghan evacuees, to further welcome them to our country, meet their needs, and to do so in a timely fashion. 

We've gotten such a tremendous response from areas affected by Hurricane Ida, which is the focus of this legislation, to say: ‘Ida struck, and you already are putting forth funding to make our communities come as close to whole as possible.  Very grateful.’

Again, when we talk about the debt ceiling, we're not talking about future spending, it's important to note.  This is to pay the incurred cost.  Last year, Democrats and Republicans together incurred costs for COVID that need to be paid for.  This is a credit card bill that we owe under President Trump.  Only three percent of the debts – of the cost that we're dealing, only three percent have occurred under the Biden Administration.

This is largely under the Trump Administration.  And, again, Democrat or Republican President, we have to lift the debt ceiling.  So, Trump – when Trump was President, he increased the debt by $7.8 trillion.  Now, we take participation in the COVID expenses, but not the tax scam that added at least $2 trillion to the national debt. 

So, again, we've done it before.  We've worked in a bipartisan way.  It's always been bipartisan, and that's how we want to keep it.  Again, it could – it would cost six million jobs, wipe out $15 trillion dollars in household wealth, nearly doubling the unemployment rate to nine percent and increase borrowing costs for all Americans.  It would be a catastrophe, and that's – don't take it from me. 

But let me just quote Mitch McConnell when this came up during the Trump years.  Mitch McConnell said the following – he said, Mitch McConnell stated that not supporting a debt limit suspension – okay, and this is what he said – ‘ensures that Congress will not throw this kind of unnecessary wrench into the gear of our job growth and  thriving economy.’ 

When Trump was President, they didn't want to throw a wrench – a wrench, unnecessary wrench – into the gear of our job growth.  Today, he is threatening to do just that.  We urge him to stop holding the debt and the economy hostage. 

Again, also on the Floor today we'll be doing – so on the Floor we're doing NDAA: strengthening our security, honoring our Servicemembers, upholding our values. 

And today, we will have legislation on the security interests that we have in the Middle East by putting additional funding for the Iron Dome.  It's a defensive system.  It's part of the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated in 2016, and it will strengthen that support.  So, again, we stand united on a bipartisan, bicameral basis for Israel's security, which is vital for American security.  Again, we pray for every innocent life that is lost in the conflict on any side of these arguments. 

Tomorrow, led by Congresswoman Chu, we're passing the Women's Health Protection Act.  This is a very exciting day for some of us in the Congress of the United States.  We've long been supporters of Roe v. Wade.  We haven't been able to codify it because we never had a Democratic pro‑choice Majority with a Democratic President, and now we do, and now we do. 

Every woman, everywhere has a constitutional right to basic reproductive health, yet for years that has been questioned by some.  And so, you know about the Texas law and the rest of that.  I don't have to go into the reason why we have to do this.  But the Texas law goes beyond the discussion of a woman's right to choose.  It's about vigilantes and bounty hunters and something that is so un‑American, and it has evoked a response.  Okay.  It's unconstitutional and unjust.  Okay.

And then, yesterday – this is probably why you're all here today – Leader Schumer and I met with the President about Build Back Better legislation, and it is – it is such – so exciting.  It's going to do so much for our country.  One of the biggest middle class tax cuts for families ever, creating millions of good‑paying jobs, unleashing the full power of women in the workplace.  Again, when women succeed, America succeeds, that's our – that's what we say.

And that's with – now, if you're a woman in the workplace, this bill is for you – even for some dads.  Child care, Child Tax Credit to help pay the bills, universal pre‑K, home health care – not necessarily for a child, could be for a person with disabilities or a senior in the home who needs personal attention.  Family and medical leave, paid family and medical leave. 

It is, it's just, again, unleashing the power of women in the workplace in a way that has never been done before in our country.  It's historic.  It's transformative. 

And when COVID struck, over four – more than four million women had to withdraw from the workplace because they didn't have child care or they couldn't afford child care or the schools were not open.  So, they had to stay home.  And some dads too.  So, it's not just about women.  But, overwhelmingly, it is. 

So, it is – it is addressing some of that.  We knew this problem existed, but COVID made it even more apparent.  Hence, we will be going down a path that enables women to do what they're doing.  ‘Age quod agis,’ you've heard me say it before, it's Latin.  ‘Do what you're doing,’ that work they can give their full attention without worrying.  We always think of our families and our children, but worrying minute by minute as to whether their children are safely cared for. 

What I'm excited about in the bill that is coming up too is what it does for the environment.  This is transformational.  I use that word about women in the workplace.  It's transformational.  The President has established some goals for protecting the environment and saving the planet, and this legislation does just that in a way, as we were honored by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Leader of the Senate earlier, that is paid for. 

So, it's pretty exciting.  We just – we have plans that are not punitive to those, we don't resent anyone their success or their achievement.  But we do want everyone to pay their fair share, and in doing so, help build our economy better with women in the workplace.  So that's pretty exciting for us. 

Yesterday, I had the privilege of welcoming two heads of state, Boris Johnson – maybe some of you were at that presentation with Boris Johnson, Prime Minister Johnson – and then later in the day, in the morning, same morning, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.  Why I bring it up in association with climate is that they were so exuberant about the urgency of addressing the climate issues. 

Of course, we thanked the Prime Minister of U.K. for hosting COP26.  I just had the privilege of doing that at 10 Downing over the weekend when I was at the G7 Heads of Parliament and to see what was happening there in preparation for COP26.  But then he made a presentation to our bipartisan leadership of his priorities and strongly, strongly, strongly talking about what the U.K. was doing in terms of climate. 

And the Prime Minister of Australia, Morrison, he was saying we're not only addressing the Paris Accords, we are – our slogan is ‘We Meet It and We Beat It.’ 

So, they're leading the way, and that's what we all have to do, is meet our emissions responsibility and our financial responsibility to other countries so that when we leave COP26, having fulfilled our obligations to the Paris Accords, and then to go further. 

It's a health issue for our children: clean air, clean water.  It's a jobs issue for our country: green technologies, being preeminent in the world on those.  It's a security issue, because security experts tell us that migrations and the rest, rising sea levels, thermal management of the planet, drying up of rivers, encroachment of deserts, the list goes on, you know what they are, I think that is cause for competition and conflict over habitat and resources. 

So it's a security issue – health, jobs, security – and, of course, a moral issue, if you believe, as I do, that this is God's creation, and we have a moral obligation to be good stewards.  But, even if you don't share that view, we all agree that we have a responsibility to our children, grandchildren, future generations, to hand off the planet in a very responsible way. 

So a lot going on, from a woman's right to choose to preserving the planet, and a central focus now on getting the job done that we're on the path to do. 

The President has given us a path for a better future for our country – a fairness and a justice, whether it's economic or environmental justice or whatever.  We have – I'm so proud of our Members working this, working it, working it, writing the bills, having their own discussions about it all now.  But, the President put us on a course.  We intend to stay the course and pass both of these bills as soon as possible. 

***

Any questions?

[Laughter] 

Speaker Pelosi.  I probably should reward people that come here most, and then we'll go to others.

Q:  Would you please elaborate on what Senator Schumer just said?  He said that you have reached an agreement on a framework. 

Speaker Pelosi.  A framework, uh‑huh.

Q:  Does that mean House Democrats and moderate – the progressives and moderates have agreed on tax rates, how much this bill will cost and a price tag? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No.  What we said was the House, the Senate and the White House came to an agreement on how we can go forward in a way to pay for this. 

I don't know how you define some of the terms you use loosely there, but, overwhelmingly, our New Dem Coalition, which are the long segment of our moderates and represented us at the meeting yesterday, have been very strong on Child Tax Credit, extending the Affordable Care Act subsidies, and the rest, the list goes on. 

So, we have consensus, and overwhelmingly, maybe ten to one, twenty to one, in our Caucus as to these priorities, a higher percentage in the Senate, but we wanted to make sure that it was paid for. 

And I've always – I'm a PAYGO person, pay-as-you-go.  Sometimes I have a little disagreement in my Caucus with some who just don't necessarily think we should do that, but I do.  And we came to terms as to a framework of an array of agreements that we have, depending on what the need is. 

Now, at the same time we're finalizing on the outlay side, so if we need more, we need less, that will impact the choices we make there.  But, this was great progress, not in terms of – it's just that it's writing bills, and it takes time, and you have to make decisions, and that's what we did. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, did you talk about the price tag? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, no, we didn't talk about that.  This is not about price tag.  This is about what's in the bill, what's in the bill. 

For children, what's in the bill: universal pre‑K, child care, Child Tax Credit, family and medical leave for their families, protecting the planet for them. 

It's about specific legislation.  How much does that cost?  How do we pay for it? 

It's about the climate issues, as I ended on that, on the climate issues in terms of using the tax code to stimulate the business aspects of this to meet the emissions goals, and that's part of how we make some decisions there.  Does this use of the tax code help meet the President's emission goals that we have as a nation? 

So, it's not about a price tag or anything.  It's about values, not dollars.  And we come to agreements on what people are for or what they would cut if they want to do less.  What would you cut?

But our goal is to have very specific priorities, clearly presented, with as close as possible results – as possible.  And I'm very, very proud of the work of our Members on that score. 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, Chad. 

Q:  Thank you for taking the question.  You had the Treasury Secretary here.  I suspect you have been talking about the debt ceiling.  You've expressed concern there.  It seems as though every time we get so close to the debt ceiling, we hear all of these horror stories about the Four Men of the Apocalypse, the locusts and everything. 

Speaker Pelosi.  It is that, yeah. 

Q:  But why would we think that that wouldn't happen this time?  I know the position of the Republicans, the public position, but why would we not think that this is going to be different this time? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, because, again, public sentiment is everything.  The Republicans today – yesterday they voted to shut down government and not honor the full faith and credit of the United States of America.  Shutting down government at the same time is rejecting assistance for their own constituents who were affected by Hurricane Ida. 

Again, we'll keep government open.  We'll have the votes to do that, and then – and then we'll go to the Senate again. 

But the full faith and credit is a national debate.  It's a national debate.  And why should it be that we, as Democrats, always come to the rescue when it's a Republican President?  And we're not coming to the rescue of the President.  We're coming to the rescue of our economy, of families and the interest they pay on loans and their job security and the rest of that.  That's the debate that we have to have. 

And we must succeed.  And so, again, hopefully, with your messaging this on Fox News, you will get a lot of people writing into their people and saying, ‘Let's not just – let's not renege on the national debt.’  It's about paying.  You know, the former President was famous for not paying his bills, and they want to do that again.  But we cannot let them do that and jeopardize our economy. 

Yes, ma'am?

Q:  Madam Speaker, how do you guarantee that there won't be a shutdown, especially if Republicans –

Speaker Pelosi.  Excuse me?

Q:  How do you guarantee there won't be a shutdown, especially if Republicans end up blocking this bill in its current form?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we put this bill together in a very bipartisan way.  And then, when we added the debt ceiling, is when they said – you know, because Rosa DeLauro, our Chairwoman, she very respectfully – I'm an appropriator, so we have a certain culture of bipartisanship, of finding solutions there.  And it's a very bipartisan bill underneath the debt ceiling.  So, we don't think it will really be any problem to pass the legislation.

Q:  Thank you.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  With the announcement of this framework, are you confident that you have enough support within your own party to move forward with a vote on Monday? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We take it one day at a time.  I'm confident that we will pass both bills.

Yes, sir?

Q:  I just wanted to ask you about the Women's [Health] Protection Act.  The Archdiocese of San Francisco –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.

Q:  – and the Archbishop of San Francisco warns that the bill is nothing more than a child sacrifice, and he calls on Catholics to fast and pray to defeat this bill.  You're Catholic.  Your reaction?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, I'm Catholic.  I come from a pro‑life family, not active in that regard, different in their view of a woman's right to choose than I am. 

In my right to choose, I have five children in six years and one week.  And I keep saying to people who say things like that, when you have five children in six days – six years and one day, we can talk about what business it is of any of us to tell anyone else to do.  For us, it was a complete and total blessing, which we enjoy every day of our lives, but it's none of our business how other people choose the size and timing of their families. 

My – the – my? – the Archbishop of the city, that area of San Francisco, and I have a disagreement about who should decide this.  I believe that God has given us a free will to honor our responsibilities. 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma'am?

Q:  Are you saying with this new framework that the bill will not be $3.5 trillion? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I'm not saying that at all.  No.  No. 

Q:  Are you guaranteeing that this bill will be done on Monday? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm not saying that.  I'm saying we will bring our legislation forward as it's ready.  We didn't say anything about what the framework was, the price tag.  We're talking about the values contained therein. 

We are for the 3.5 number because that's the number that the President and the Senate sent us.  We marked up to that.  And now we'll go to the next step.  But I think we're in a very good place. 

I've always been very calm about this, because it's like you – it always happens the same way, all this bluster and this and that and who's there and who's there. 

But at the end of the day, we will be unified for the American people.  And we couldn't be better led than by Joe Biden and his vision, his vision for America's working families, so that we have fairness in our economy and justice in our environment, as well as in our economy and every other way, and that we open the door for women, women to succeed in the workplace. 

So, one day at a time. 

Thank you all very much.  Thank you.