Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today

September 8, 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, and a good morning it is. 

I'm so excited and so grateful to President Biden for the Build Back Better vision that he has put forth.  But what I want people to know is that this bill is for you: if you are a woman with children at home and want to return to the workforce; if you have people with disabilities at home and need home health care; if your children are little and you want universal pre-K, children learning, parents earning; if someone is sick in your family and you need family and medical leave paid.  The list goes on.  If your family needs economic assistance, the Biden [Child] Tax Credit – but it's the child tax cut, really – is a big middle class cut in taxes. 

So, again, it's about the children, and I'm so excited as to how transformative it is.  Our Members, our committees are working feverishly and diligently, some observing, and we respect that and wish them happy new year, others moving forward as others – they take turns, and we will be ready to fulfill the President's vision.

I'm so proud that when the President passed the very important – and the Senate passed the very important infrastructure bill, they recognized that that was not the totality of the President's vision.  In order to – that was important, and we will pass that legislation, but we can only do so as we recognize, as we recognize that if we're going to Build Back Better, we have to do so including many more people, starting with women, who took the biggest hit – the biggest hit in the COVID. 

More than four million women could not go to work.  Their children couldn't go to school.  They couldn't have – they didn't have child care.  They couldn't afford it.  It wasn't readily available.  They may have had a sick parent or a sibling with a disability.  Now we will correct that.  And so, we would hope that this will not only enable women to go back to work, but to reach their fulfillment, to have a path in their own careers that is not hampered by the fact that they have uncertainty about the safety of their children. 

So, again, just for your information, I remember – now, some of you weren't born then, but I – most of you, I guess – I remember that we were on the brink of this when I was having my small, little babies, my five children in six years.  We saw that in the Congress of the United States, when Richard Nixon was President, in a bipartisan way, the Congress passed the child care bill.  Look in the history books.  Everybody thought the President would sign it.  It was cause for great excitement and would make a big difference.  Somebody named Patrick Buchanan intervened, making it a cultural issue – like we're sending our children to a Soviet-style situation by having child care – and the President vetoed the bill.  Fifty years ago, 1971. 

So it's long, long, long overdue that we recognize the importance of our children and our care, the value of women in the workplace.  And the only way that we can truly Build Back Better is with women in the workplace. 

So that's why this is my theme, all along with our Members: it's been Build Back Better with women.  Remarkable, remarkable, transformational initiatives in this legislation.  All of them long overdue, many of them standard fare in other developed countries, sorely lacking in our country. 

And so it would be – again, again, to thank the President for his vision.  As important as infrastructure is, and we support that, it is not the totality of his vision.  It's a vision that does not just restore it to where we were before, but takes us into the future.  It will take – cut taxes, again, deliver one of the largest tax cuts for families ever with the Biden [Child] Tax Credit.  I call it the Biden child tax cut.  It will lower costs, especially for essentials and, of course, for prescription drugs, which is a very – it's a health issue and an economic and financial issue for families, lowering the cost of health care.  Home health care, child care and the rest.  And it will create jobs, millions of jobs, good-paying jobs, while tackling the climate crisis and advancing economic justice. 

For the children – that's my ‘why’ to be in Congress or in the public service is for the children.  And we owe it to our children to pass on a planet in a very responsible way.  The reconciliation bill goes well beyond – well, it's hardly addressed in the infrastructure bill, for reasons that you're well aware. 

But in this reconciliation bill, we recognize – we recognize that saving the planet, addressing the climate crisis is a health issue.  The air our children breathe, the water they drink, safety in the environment in which they can thrive.  It's a jobs issue: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, to be preeminent in the world, in the green – new green technologies.  Our initiatives are in furtherance of that, having America be in the lead.  Departure from the previous Administration in terms of our public role in all of that.  Health care, jobs, security.  National security experts will tell you that the competition for habitat and resources causing migrations and conflicts are a national security issue. 

Health care, jobs, security and morality.  If you do believe that this, as I do – that this planet is God's creation, then we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of it.  But, even if you don't share that religious belief, everybody knows that we have – I hope everybody accepts the fact that we have a moral responsibility to our children to pass on this planet in the most responsible way possible.  And the President has laid out serious goals in terms of emissions and the rest, and we plan to honor that in the reconciliation bill as we go forward.  So it's about the future.  It's about Building Back Better, not reinforcing the past, but taking us into the future for the children. 

On another note, and I'll be – as we see the wildfires in the west, we see them at home.  The smoke, it's so devastating.  As you see the floods of Ida, the storms of Ida in the south and in the northeast.  Mother Nature is not happy with us in terms of how we recognize what challenges face us.  Climate crisis is real.  Human behavior has an impact on it.

We have public policy proposals that I hope would be bipartisan.  However, the fossil fuel industry weighs in very heavily.  Some of the people on the other side of the aisle, you would think they would have taken the initiative on this knowing what they do about energy.  You would think they would realize that it's going to be a fiduciary responsibility for them, to their shareholders, for them to grasp the future.  Let's hope that that will become the case as more public awareness exists as to what our possibilities are. 

So, I just wanted to – as you know, when I was Speaker before – maybe you don't know – that was my flagship issue: climate.  We passed the biggest energy bill in the history of our country, working with President George Bush.  The other part of – it was two-pronged.  The economy part of it we passed in the House, couldn't pass in the Senate.  But now we want to move forward with very significant legislation.

I just want to say, in terms of this weekend, we will all be sadly continuing our grief over what happened on 9/11.  We are coming up on the 20th anniversary.  Our hearts and thoughts and prayers are with those families forever, always, but on those occasions we show special deference.  I want to salute the President for his calling for the declassification of certain of the documents that – review of the documents related to September 11th terrorist attacks, including those previously classified documents regarding to Saudi Arabia's possible involvement.  So, thank you, Mr. President, for that. 

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by the wildfires, by Ida, north and south.  It's so tragic that so many people lost their lives.  We have to face the reality that there are many reasons why that happened.  We need better infrastructure, but we need better recognition of the impact that climate crisis places on that.

***

 I'd be pleased to take any questions you may have. 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, ma'am. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, we got just got a letter – we saw the letter that Secretary Yellen had sent to you –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  About the debt ceiling.  And she wrote in there that she expects those extraordinary measures to expire sometime in October.  What is your plan to deal with the debt ceiling?  And does that letter impact your thinking about it?  Because she said irreparable damage could be done if that's not addressed. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I appreciate your question.  I do have her letter.  I just got it this morning, as you know.  And she does say that we have just until mid-October with any of the unusual – hopefully by mid-October – unusual measures that the Secretary of the Treasury has at her disposal. 

We will – let me just say, the Constitution says that full faith and credit of the United States is not to be in doubt.  It shouldn't be.  I don't know how we got this custom of having to deal with it each year because it is controversial.  During the Trump Administration, which amassed over $7 trillion in debt – and that's what this debt ceiling lift is paying for.  People say, ‘Oh, you just want to spend money.’  No, this is – we're paying the credit card, the Trump credit card, with what we would do to lift the debt ceiling. 

And when President Trump was President, we, Democrats, supported lifting the debt ceiling because it's the responsible thing to do.  I would hope that the Republicans would act in a similarly responsible way. 

Now, when – go back when President Obama was President and the Republicans were insisting on not lifting the debt ceiling.  Eventually we did, but when they were saying they weren't going to, even the threat of not lifting it lowered our credit rating.  Totally irresponsible. 

So, hopefully we don't get in a situation like that.  We'll have several options.  We'll make them well known to you as we narrow and as we go forward, but we – it has to happen.  Again, three times during the Trump Administration we all cooperated to get past this, and hopefully they will be responsible. 

Q:  Just a follow-up.  Are Democrats willing to act alone if they have to? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I'm sorry? 

Q:  Are the Democrats willing to act alone to raise the debt ceiling if they have to?  Would you put it in reconciliation or something like that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We won't be putting it in reconciliation, no. 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, Chad. 

Q:  Good morning.  Thank you.  On Afghanistan –

Speaker Pelosi.  Chad gets in because he's a regular, and we give deference to regulars. 

Q:  I saw you Monday and Tuesday. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, Monday and Tuesday. 

Q:  In the hallway. 

Speaker Pelosi.  In the hall. 

Q:  So, thank you.  On Afghanistan –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  We've seen some videos of women being beaten by the Taliban.  I know you are very concerned about the women there, but I know that you are also not a fan of how some of these tech companies have handled social media – and specifically whether or not some of these videos should be allowed to stay on their platforms and as this speaks to Section 230.  Are you concerned that these social media firms have not taken action to take down that sort of offensive content as it pertains to Afghanistan? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I'm concerned about offensive content on the social media platforms even beyond Afghanistan.  But this is highly dangerous, immediate in its impact, and I would hope that they would act in a responsible way.  And we have to call them out on it. 

In terms of Afghanistan, I've been there maybe nine times, I think, to Afghanistan, every term since 9/11, and mostly we went to thank our troops as a national security issue. 

That is the purpose of a CODEL, first and foremost: U.S. security and to thank our troops and to get a measure of what is happening there.

But we always, always, always had as another priority what was happening with women and girls in Afghanistan.  That was bipartisan.  It was bicameral, House and Senate.  It was White House as well as Congress.  So – and it was the American people.  A large part of the support for our presence in Afghanistan stemmed from the fact that we were concerned about opportunities for, or not for, girls and women. 

And I've visited children all over the country, women and girls, all over, not just in Kabul, but to see the new lives that they had, and it's 20 years.  So you see that some of these girls, these young women have not known another life except that they could go to school and the rest, and so we will shine a very bright light of transparency on what's happening there for girls.

It is – I think the President made the right decision to leave Afghanistan.  I think we should have left a long time ago.  We should have stayed longer in the beginning to get the job done.  We only routed the Taliban.  We did not defeat them.  And then we left to go to Iraq. 

But having said that, over time, I think we should have left sooner.  I do think that the historic evacuation of 120,000 people was remarkable, and I commend the Administration for that.  This is never easy.  It's not always complete right from the start, but it was remarkable even though it got off to a hazy start.  And now we go forward. 

But the platforms that these – you know, social media is a double-edged sword.  It has great things in terms of communication and the rest, and it has enabled people like the QAnon to find each other and grow to two million people.  Thank you, Facebook.  And so they have to – they should know better now that they've been through that experience when it comes to what's happening in Afghanistan. 

Q:  Madam Speaker?

Speaker Pelosi.  Who, who, who?  Let me see.  Let me see.  Who are our regulars?  How about a woman.  Okay. 

Q:  Hi.  Thank you.  There's currently a debate going on behind the scenes about how to divvy up the health care funds in the reconciliation bill –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah. 

Q:  Between the Medicare expansion being made permanent and making some of these ACA programs permanent.  Do you worry that the ACA is going to be impacted and receive short shrift at the expense of making this Medicare expansion permanent? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, but I thank you for your question because you phrased it exactly right.  H.R. 3, which we passed last year, called for using savings from the negotiation for prescription drug prices – the savings from that to be used for expanding dental, visual and hearing benefits for seniors.  So, we're all for that.  There is no conflict. 

I do – I'm glad that we will have an extension of the very important Affordable Care Act subsidies in the Rescue package that will enable – that have enabled many more people to participate at a lower cost in the Affordable Care Act.  I think both will be present.  That's not a problem. 

Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  Do you expect the debt limit extension to go on to CR?  And on Build Back Better, is there enough support in the House of Representatives to pass a Build Back Better bill that spends less than $3.5 trillion on these programs? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Okay.  So, did you hear three questions?  Did you hear three?  Are you allowing –

Q:  Two.  Two. 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, you said, ‘Is it going to be on CR?’ – I think – and, ‘Is it going to be on reconciliation?’  And what was the third one? 

Q:  One was about the CR and the debt limit, if they're going to be paired; and the second was if reconciliation under $3.5 trillion can pass the House.

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, that's a different question.  Okay.  Well, let me just say this: I'm very excited about what the prospects are – I'll start with the second or third question, the final one – that we will have a great bill that honors the values of the President and his vision, the Biden vision for better future, to Build Back Better for women.  And we will have our negotiations.  This is a sort of a compressed challenge because people need help right away, and we will get the job done. 

So, I'm not – I don't know what the number will be.  We are marking at $3.5 trillion.  We're not going above that.  I think rather than talking about the cost – because we will pay for more than half, maybe all of the legislation.  So unlike the Republicans when they did their tax scam in 2017 and added $2 trillion to the national debt, we will be taking some responsibility to pay for what is in there.  So the cost for the future will be much lower than any 3.5. 

But we have to talk about, what does it take?  Where would you cut?  Child care?  Family medical leave, paid for?  Universal pre-K?  Home health care?  So important.  Home health care gives the people with disabilities more leverage in any negotiation at a higher dollar amount than ever before, in the hundreds of billions of dollars.  That is very, very important, not only to the persons with disability, but to their caregivers and who are now able to go to work and the caregivers who come in to take care of them.  They're professional.  I'd like to see them unionized. 

But in any event, we will have a great bill, and I hope that as people are looking at numbers, that they're weighing the values and what we can accomplish with that legislation.  And you are going to be our messengers on it because you are going to tell them: if you're a mom who's working, if you're a dad who's working but have responsibility to an elderly parent, a disabled sibling or a child, this bill's for you.  This bill's for you. 

I don't – I'm not here to talk about where we would put the debt limit, but it won't be on reconciliation, as I mentioned. 

Staff.  Last question.

 Q:  Madam Speaker? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, sir. 

Q:  On the Capitol security, have you been briefed at all on the ‘Justice for J6’ rally that's planned for September 18th?  And if so, are you concerned that this could be a replication of January 6th? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, there are some briefings going on at the appropriate level to the committee of jurisdiction in our House, which is House Administration, and then we will be briefed after that.  I'll have an announcement about that, but I don't want to say it right here because it involves other people in terms of briefing and knowledge of what is going on.  But I thank you for your question. 

Q:  Madam Speaker, can you say, are you planning to re-erect the fence, reinstall the fence? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Not necessarily, no. 

Q:  Do you have a view on that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact.  I'm not going into any specifics in that regard.  Let me just say, and I appreciate your question, because what happened on January 6th was such an assault on this beautiful Capitol, a Capitol under the dome that Lincoln built during the Civil War. 

President Lincoln, when they told him, ‘You shouldn't spend the steel and the whatever else, the materials on a dome when we're fighting a war.’  And he said, ‘No, we must show our strength, and we must show that we can move forward at the same time as we protect our Union.’  That is the story of the dome built by Abraham Lincoln, to demonstrate who we are as Americans: resilient and strong.

So, when they made the assault on the building, that was one thing.  But the fact is they also made an assault on the Constitution of the United States.  January 6th is not just any random day.  It is the day prescribed in the Constitution of the United States for the Congress of the United States to accept the results of the election as put forth by who won the Electoral College. 

So sad that even with the horror, the [desecration], the physical violence, the crudeness of it all – of that assault on the Capitol.  And I was insistent, and Senator McConnell, we all agreed in the leadership that we would come back.  We were not going to resume someplace else.  We were going to come back, not in an undisclosed location, but in the Capitol of the United States.  That even after all of that, a majority of the Republicans in the House voted not to accept the certification of the Electoral College.  And now these people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill, out to kill Members of Congress, successfully causing the deaths – ‘successfully’ is not the word, but that's the word, because it's what they set out to do – of our law enforcement. 

So, this is – whatever your questions are, understand how strongly we think about this.  I don't want to say ‘feel.’  I'm saying, think about this and what we need to do on the ongoing, because we want to return the Capitol to a place where people can come, children can learn, families can celebrate together the greatness of our country.  The children can see, as we honor leaders of our past, that we are focused on the future for them, as our leaders of the past would insist upon.  So, it is – we will be giving up some further information, but not right now. 

So, thank you, all.  Don't forget, if you have a child at home, a person with disabilities, a senior who needs care, if you're a man or a woman – it's not just about women, but largely women have borne the responsibility of being caregivers at home – if you're a caregiver, understand that your profession will be respected, that it is needed, that it is compensated for and that you are trained for.  So, this is, again, transformational, For The Children, Build Back Better with women.  Because when women succeed, America succeeds.

Thank you all very much. 

Do you want to know about this mask?  This mask is a mask that was made by the woman who sewed the AIDS quilt.  Her name is Gert, and she is a fabulous person.  You know, we all made our patches for the quilt, and continue to do so, and it's enormous.  It's now returned to San Francisco from Atlanta where it had been domiciled for a while with John Lewis.  About a year – almost two years ago, we made the transfer back. 

But this has on it scissors, spools, buttons, all kinds of things, pins, pin cushions, and the rest of that.  I like to have it close because the AIDS issue is one – if you had told me 30 years ago, when I first came to Congress, more than 30, that we would not have a cure by now, I would not possibly have believed you.  But we have [improved] the quality of life.  It is a very big priority for me.  And as we see COVID and the rest, we want to make sure that we make sure that as we address it, that we're not – that we are learning from it for other pandemics as well. 

Thank you all very much.