Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

September 24, 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.  It's the first time we've all been together since losing the notorious Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Such a sad passing for our country.  My understanding from the Jewish faith is that when you leave on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, you are in a special category of the righteous.  May she rest in peace. 

People ask me some stories about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the rest, and what I want to tell you this morning is something that is quite remarkable.  Tomorrow, we will be gathering in Statuary Hall, when she will be the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol of the United States.  Actually, our prayer will be led by a rabbi.  The first Jewish person to lie in state in the Capitol of the United States. 

So, we have a lot of cause for, I don't want to say celebration, but observance of an historic time for an historic woman – did more for the equality of women than anybody in our history.  And a couple years ago, we honored, in the Capitol in Women's History Month, the women members of the Supreme Court.  Being the senior member, Justice Ginsburg spoke for the group to receive the honor.  And she told the story of a woman named Belva Lockwood. 

Belva Lockwood is a New Yorker.  Chuck Schumer keeps reminding me – Leader Schumer keeps reminding me.  Belva Lockwood, in 1876, long time ago, she applied to practice law in the Supreme Court.  The vote against her was six to three.  There were nine Justices then, as now.  Six to three.  Because she was a woman, they turned her down. 

So, she didn't take no for an answer.  She campaigned with – advocated for change with the Congress of the United States, and she won.  Congress passed a law that says – it passed a bill saying that women with the qualifications must be admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court. 

And Ginsburg then goes on to say, ‘It is my favorite example of how sometimes the Congress is more in touch with changing times and expansion of the idea of equality than the Court is.’

I remind you that when the Court in now current history, rules against women in the workplace by ruling against – in the Lilly Ledbetter case, the dissent was written by Justice Ginsburg.  Her dissent became the basis for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was passed in the Congress and the first bill to be signed by President Barack Obama, his very first bill to sign. 

Once again, the Congress, more in touch with the changing times and the expansion of equality in our country.  First time was – I think it ended up at 1879 by the time it was finished. 

In any event, her passing is like a death in so many families in our country, because so many people pinned their hopes, heeded her guidance, admired her stamina, her love of the arts, bringing civility to her relationships in the Court and in the country. 

At the same time as we observe her passing, we observe the deaths in the family of 200,000 Americans from the coronavirus.  We mourn every one of them.  I had the opportunity to be invited the other day, a couple days ago, when the number was – exceeded, actually  – where there were 20,000 flags on the Mall in front of the Washington Monument.  20,000 flags.  Just if you saw the optic of it, the visuals of that many flags representing, each one of them, ten people who had died, ten families.  200,000 families suffering this loss, and some of them not even able to give a hug good‑bye or be close to their loved ones as they passed on from this. 

It did not have to be this way, but Trump's contempt of science and the health of the American people, including the cover‑up of the catastrophic nature of the virus and his resistance to mask wearing, distancing and other science‑based steps to slow the virus, has led to an historic national tragedy.  A terrible, immoral failure on the part of this President. 

We advanced a science‑based proposal to crush the virus in the Heroes Act.  That was four months ago, but our insistence on testing began March 4th.  That was our first bill that we passed on the coronavirus in the Congress, March 4th.  Testing, testing, testing.  Now, it was in other bills along the way, bipartisan bills, but not implemented. 

The Heroes Act had not only the resources, but the strategic plan set forth by the Energy and Commerce Committee and its Chairman, Frank Pallone.  They ignored science, science, testing, tracing, treatment, isolation, sanitation, mask wearing.  That could have saved many lives, not all, but many.  Either the GOP does not understand the gravity of the situation or do not care about meeting America's families' needs. 

Again, sadly within hours of Justice Ginsburg's passing – well, they had it planned in advance, you know, because we barely heard that she had passed when McConnell said that they were going to approve a Justice soon.  May she rest in peace?  Any sense of decency?  I guess not. 

But you know why?  You know why?  And this is really important.  People talk about this and do that.  It's important to the American people to know, with that statement and the President's statement as well, what they're saying is, ‘We have to put somebody there.’  They'll never replace Justice Ginsburg.  ‘We have to fill that seat so that we can overturn the Affordable Care Act.’ 

People have to know why this matters to them in their lives.  If you have a pre-existing condition, of which 150 million families in America do, say good‑bye to the benefit.  Overturn the benefit of the pre-existing condition.  If your children, and millions of children are, on their parents' policy, that's over.  Medicaid, Medicare, all of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act to strengthen those initiatives, and in terms of Medicaid, if you have a senior member of your family who needs long‑term care and benefits from Medicaid, pretty soon they'll be living in your house with you because that benefit will be gone.  And if you're a woman, the Affordable Care Act said if you're a woman, no longer will being a woman be a pre-existing medical condition, something not many of us can speak of firsthand where women paid more, if they could even get the coverage. 

So, these are just some of the benefits that affect America's families.  Kitchen‑table issues about how they maintain their health and their financial health, because health care is expensive. 

So, it just goes on and on about what will be gone, but that's the method to their madness.  ‘Let's just get in there and overturn the Affordable Care Act.  And at the same time, we can mess with the elections.’  But the thing that matters in peoples' personal lives is the Affordable Care Act. 

And if I just had to say it in one sentence, the pre-existing condition benefit.  The President's been in office nearly four years.  He keeps talking about supporting the pre-existing condition [benefit].  He hasn't done anything about it.  We would very much have been willing to work with him to remove all doubt that if your pre-existing condition, or if your baby is born with some physical needs that are a pre-existing condition for a lifetime, and in the Affordable Care Act, there is no lifetime limit on what you can receive in terms of benefits. 

So, this – I'm a little proprietary about the Affordable Care Act, and we have defended it to 10,000 events with people telling their stories.  That's how we saved it.  That's how we passed it.  And that's how we saved it.  And that's what is at risk right now.  And that's why they were in such a hurry. 

Yesterday, we had the heartbreaking report, the news breaking that justice was denied for Breonna Taylor and her family.  Just think if it were your daughter or your sister, your cousin, your relative, your friend, who was murdered by the police and there was no – the charging decision held no one accountable for her death. 

In June, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to bring accountability to our justice system.  I call upon the Senate to vote upon it immediately.  We owe it to Breonna Taylor, to George Floyd, Philando Castile and so many others, to so many others.  Provisions in the bill would have prevented this from happening.  With all the respect in the world for our men and women in blue, there has to be respect for our police but respect for doing the job in a way that has justice for all.  I was told by one of your cameramen the other day that in the Black community there is a saying, ‘justice, not just us.’  And so we don't want there to be two systems of justice.

This week, we had a big bipartisan vote on the CR.  I was very pleased that we'll avert a shutdown, enable us to continue the work of passing elements of the Heroes Act so that we can save lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy. 

For the children, nearly $8 billion in direly needed nutrition assistance.  For seniors, prevented what would have happened if we didn't act, up to $50 per month expense for Part B premium hike, and it's now like $4 or $5 versus the $50.  We saved the Republicans from themselves because we know what we're doing. 

And for our communities, includes a one‑year surface transportation authorization.  And for our farmers, boost accountability to the Commodity Credit Corporation, which now prevents – and also prevents – imagine that they were going to use money saying this is for the farmers.  Well, we want it to be for family farmers, not necessarily corporate farmers.  So. we wanted to have clarity and accountability and transparency in all of that.  But imagine that they had announced that they were going to spend $300 million from the CCC, which is for farmers, to give a bailout to big oil.  The bill prevents that from happening. 

And now that the CR's done, we hope that the Administration will come forward with the resources to meet the needs of the American people.  We came down a trillion dollars in our $3.4 trillion bill, then we offered to meet the Republicans halfway.  We still haven't heard back about that.  But you know what?  Since then, the needs have not decreased, because the President is, again, disdainful, if not contemptible, of science.  We have not reduced – in fact, some of the needs in terms of the coronavirus are increasing. 

We need more related to that, more money for education, and we need more money for small businesses, restaurants, airlines and many other key priorities.  So, we're going to even need more money or else we're going to have to cut some more things down further to stay.  But I'm eager to hear what they have to say when they come, but we'll be hopefully soon to the table with them, but very soon showing you what our – where our money would be spent. 

Again, the airline industry, September 30th is fraught with meaning for them.  Children in school right now, need more money for children to be there safely in terms of spacing or, if it's virtual, to have the technologies so that they can learn. 

I was very proud yesterday, a few of you were here, when we unveiled our Protecting Our Democracy Act, a robust reform package to address the President's staggering litany of abuses and ensure that they can never happen again by anyone and any President.  Our chairs, very proud of their work, have crafted robust reforms that can stand up to and prevent, for example, an assault on our democracy, including the abuse of pardon power, soliciting a foreign interference in our elections, retaliatory attacks on whistleblowers, politicization of tools of justice, abuse of office for personal enrichment and contempt of Congress' oversight powers, including our subpoena power. 

It's really sad, because that is central to the genius of the Constitution, the system of checks and balances, three separate branches of government, a check and balance on the other.  It is sad that the President's actions have made this necessary for us to do.  We had no choice but to repair and strengthen our democracy.  We cannot look the other way and enable its erosions. 

Our Founders, they figured there could be a rogue president someday, so they built guardrails into the Constitution, but they didn't figure we'd have a rogue President and a rogue Senate that would let him get away with all of that.  Hence, this is necessary. 

In closing, I'll just say this: 40 days until the election.  Forty days.  For some of us in our faiths, 40 is a number that is fraught with meaning, 40 days.  Forty days of contemplation, 40 days of prayer, 40 days of resolve.  Forty days for the American people to give voice to their concerns and to have an election that is about the peaceful transfer of power, which is such a beacon of democracy and hope to the rest of the world, 40 days. 

Thank you. 

Any questions? 

***

Q:  Madam Speaker, do you have absolute confidence in the institutions of this country to ensure peaceful transition to the next presidential term?  And then, if in some extraordinarily unlikely circumstance, the elections were still being contested when President Trump's term ends in January, that he would have to leave office and that whomever is Speaker would become President? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, that's an outcome we don't want.  We want the peaceful transfer of power.  And, again, this is about – some of you have heard me say again and again, we don't agonize, we organize.  And we want to make sure that the American people know how important their vote is and how they can vote safely without risking their health. 

And it is – it's very sad that you even have to ask that question, a real testimony to the need for Protecting our Democracy that we put forth yesterday.  But that a President of the United States would place in doubt the idea of the peaceful transfer of power is – well, it's no surprise, again, because the President has been contemptible of science and governance.  And so you see 200,000 people have died.

But I have confidence in the American people, and I have confidence that he won't get away with saying, for example, I won with the vote on the ground, the vote in the mail doesn't count and the rest of that.  What am I missing here about people just not saying, hold it, calm down, Mr. President? 

Now, we do know who he admires.  He admires Putin, he admires Kim Jong‑un, he admires Erdogan in Turkey.  He admires people who are perpetuating their role in government.  But I remind him, you are not in North Korea, you are not in Turkey, you are not in Russia, Mr. President.  And by the way, you are not in Saudi Arabia.  You are in the United States of America.  It is a democracy.  So, why don't you just try for a moment to honor your oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. 

But, yes, I have confidence.  It would not be a good thing for our country for our election to be ignored by the President so that a solution, as you – as the Constitution provides for, but nonetheless, one that does not, in my view, constitute a peaceful transfer of power.

Yes?

Q:  Along those same lines, President Trump has made past provocative statements and you guys have been up here at the podiums and said they're horrible things to say and then gone about the business.  Is there anything more formal that you want to do to make your opposition to what he said yesterday known, since your resolution – you took up a resolution after Charlottesville? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't think he's worth the trouble at this point.  We have 40 days until the election.  He is trying to discredit mail‑in voting, which is hurting as you've heard some of the Republicans say, ‘This has been an important part of our electoral success, mail‑in voting.’  He's discrediting that vote-by-mail.  And so, the answer to it all, the antidote to almost every ailment that I have named, is the vote. 

And so, right now, our point is, it's no use our orchestrating one thing or another when what really matters in terms of the peaceful transfer of power is that people vote and that their vote is counted as cast.  Whoever they vote for, whatever the outcome.  If he gets the – if he gets, honestly, gets the majority of the Electoral College and is the next President, that's the peaceful transfer, continuation of power. 

So, this isn't we just want it if it's going to be Joe Biden on January 20th.  I feel quite certain that it will be.  I don't know if I'm allowed to say, IWillVote.com, go there, you can find out how to vote by mail, in person, if you're registered, how to register, tell a friend. 

So, it is – we have something called the Sojourner Truth Women's Vote Project.  Sojourner Truth was a suffragist, she was a slave and she was an abolitionist.  And she was very much a part of women getting the right to vote.  We have a – I dedicated a statue to her as Speaker, last time, in Emancipation Hall.  Very proud of that.  So, we have this project named for her.  And every Tuesday, we have Truth Tuesday, Sojourner Truth, but Truth Tuesday, to talk about how people can vote.  And sometimes people say, I'm not going to vote, because they just haven't voted or they don't know how to vote.  We have to remove all those barriers.  Instead, we have a President of the United States who wants to discredit peoples' vote.  Really?  Really? 

What would our Founders think?  And what are these Republicans going to say to their children and their grandchildren when they ask them, what did you do to strengthen our democracy when it was questioned as to whether an election was a proper way to transfer power in our country? 

So, it's right now 40 days.  We just want to get out that vote.

Q:  You understand there's a lot of people, particularly in your party and the liberal side of it particularly, who found last night to be pretty – a pretty abhorrent remark.

Speaker Pelosi.  Many – I have the privilege of being a leader in the most diverse party in every possible way, including opinion.  A large number of people outside, not in the House, but outside, wanted me to shut down government because of what they're doing on Justice Ginsburg.  Shut down government?  I'm not a big believer in shutting down government, but when the west is on fire and the south is battered with storms and the whole country is suffering from a pandemic and we have a downturn in our economy, and the people we need so that we can do our jobs, public employees, we're going to shut them down?  No, I don't think so. 

So, again, the beautiful diversity of our party is that we are not a rubber stamp.  We have all kinds of opinions in the party.  And the fact is, I was very proud that we were able to achieve what we did the other day and have a big, strong, bipartisan vote to keep government open. 

Yes?

Q:  Clause 3, Article VI, which bans religious tests from being the qualification for office, do you think that that should apply to Supreme Court nominees as well? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm not going to get into anybody's interpretation of one thing or another.  The confirmation is the work of the Senate, and I trust the judgment of our Democrats there to honor the Constitution. 

Yes, ma'am?

Q:  Madam Speaker, do you have a contingency plan for after the election if the President does not, you know, recognize, say, a Biden victory and goes to the court to try to contest the election?  Do you have ‑‑ have you talked about impeachment?  Would you impeach him again?  What can Congress do if he were to do something like that?

Speaker Pelosi.  I have a pretty good idea of the method of his madness and what he might try to do to undermine the Constitution.  It always is stunning to me to see how complicit and enabling the Republicans are of such a thing.  I was pleased that Leader McConnell put out a statement this morning that seemed to go in the direction of protecting the Constitution of the United States.  That was a real change. 

But let me just say that there are three stages to elections.  One, everything that happens before.  And you see what he's trying to do, dismantle the Post Office, discredit mail‑in voting, all the kinds of things that they're doing.  Russian involvement in our elections and the rest, all the things they're trying to do to undermine the integrity of our elections. 

Then there is the vote, and now over 20 – at least 20 states right now are voting.  So, we're in this area where for some it's still pre‑vote time and for others the election is on.  And, again, we want people to be able to vote without jeopardizing their health.  That's why we want to have the money in the bill to do just that.  It doesn't seem the health of the American people, as they exercise the right to vote, does not seem to be of interest or any level of priority to the Republicans, but that discussion goes on. 

So, we have that.  And then we have the election, the actual voting as we get closer.  And to protect the integrity of the vote and to stop the President's – he even said it, you have people there, the intimidation of the voter.  I don't know why the press doesn't make more of this, to be very honest with you.  I mean, if he says to people, swallow Clorox, and we hear about it for the rest of our lives, but he's trying to have the Constitution of the United States swallow Clorox. 

And I appreciate these questions that all of you have this morning, and I guess, provoked by the arrogance and the disregard for the Constitution with the President's statement last night. 

So, I have a pretty good idea of every step of the way the danger that he places our Constitution and our elections in.  And then he'll try to say, well, I won because I won with the votes that turned out that day.  Vote-by-mail doesn't count.  Really?  And there are more elections on the ballot than just his.  I'm sure some of these Republicans who win with absentee ballots have a different view, as they have said. 

And then we'll just have to make sure the integrity of the electoral college is retained – that is to say, if, as the – as our democracy calls for, if the President wins the state, then those votes go to the President, or if the Vice President wins the state, those votes go to the Vice President.  But as with most elections, we have a lot of lawyers at work, because for a little while now, there's been some interest on the other side in undermining the election.  We have more now.  And I won't go into all of them because you cannot ignore it because it's there, but you cannot panic over it.  So, we don't – again, we don't agonize; we organize to protect our Constitution, the integrity of our elections, which he has been after for a while, and that was one of the impetuses for the impeachment of the President. 

But as of now, 40 days to go.  It's up to the people, and we want them to be able to have confidence in their vote.  So, while we acknowledge, you can't ignore his ridiculous statements, but you must ensure that people know you should vote.  It will count.  IWillVote.com. 

I think that’s it.  I'm going to have to go.  I got to go back to my day job.  No, that's it.  Thank you all very much.