Transcript of Pelosi Virtual Weekly Press Conference Today
Mar 25, 2021
Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today via video conference call. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Hello, everyone.
This has been a pretty eventful week for all of us. We started by observing the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. And at the same time, talking about how the rescue package enhances that. We're very proud of the work of Congresswoman Underwood of Illinois and the work that she did to make the Affordable Care Act benefits available – affordable – for more families. And again, there are other aspects of the rescue package that are positive and make affordability and accessibility available. The Rescue Plan has many virtues to it. But we have more to do as we go forward with the recovery plan and what we intend to do in terms of, again, affordability, accessibility, and the price of prescription drugs and the rest. So, that's the discussion on that.
At the same time, this week we observe what was called Equal Pay [Day], but it's really Unequal Pay Day because this is a – as of yesterday, was the day that women were working free all year, in order to be now making per hour what their wages – what men would be making for the same job.
We had a big celebration – I say ‘celebration’ – celebration of ideas, by observance of the injustice of it all. And we're very excited because the [Education and Labor] Committee will be marking up and Congress will be passing Rosa DeLauro’s legislation, the equal pay legislation – Paycheck Fairness Act, we call it – when we come back after Easter and Passover.
Again, this is so necessary for women when you think that during the COVID crisis, 2.3 million women lost their jobs – a million of them moms, a million of them moms. So, moving forward, we have initiatives that help women that we passed just before we left, whether it's the Violence Against Women Act or lifting the date requirement on the ERA. Again, in the COVID package, on the rescue package of $40 billion, largely $39 billion of it for child care, $1 billion for Head Start, all of it enabling women working, children learning – parents earning, children learning.
As you know, before we left, we passed legislation that was quite precious in terms of its need of the legislation – H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446, which were about the background check legislation, Mr. Mike Thompson's legislation and Mr. Clyburn’s legislation. Since we passed those bills, we had the tragedy in Georgia and now the tragedy in Colorado. So, we hope, we hope that this – I was disappointed when – I was shocked when the little children were shot in Connecticut and then the school-aged children – the high schoolers in Florida. We thought that that would be so compelling that there would be a change in attitude in the Congress to match the change in attitude in the country, where high 80 percent of the American people support responsible background check legislation. So, we're hoping, we're hoping that we can get something done in the Senate, and I commend Mr. Thompson and Mr. Clyburn for their leadership.
As I said, it's an eventful week. This is a committee work week for us. And again, we talked about some of the – earlier in the week, the Chairman of the Fed spoke to the Financial Services Committee, as is required by the law – [the CARES Act] that said the Fed Chairman comes at regular basis to talk about inflation and to talk about unemployment – and that testimony was very compelling. And they're reassuring that inflation is not a challenge to what we want to do as we go forward with the recovery act, that more needs to be done.
Right now, as we speak here, the Committee is meeting – the Energy and Commerce Committee is hearing from CEOs of social media companies. And it's – I do believe there's a bipartisan coming-together about really getting to the bottom of the misinformation for some of these companies, especially Facebook. Their business model is to make money on misinformation and to do so in a way that is dangerous to our democracy. Again, I believe the meeting is still going on. It was when we began this, so I'm pleased with how that is going.
So, here we are in a place where we just passed the 30 million mark of people infected by the coronavirus. But on the positive side of it, the President has announced not only would there be 100 million [vaccinations] by his first 100 days, but now 200 million [vaccinations] by then. Well, well, well over 100 million people already receiving checks, and that number keeps growing by the day. So, we're very proud of what our Members are doing to make sure their constituents know how to avail themselves of the benefits in the package and how we crush the virus, how we put money in the pockets of the American people, how we put our children safely in school, how we put people safely back to work. We're very proud of that legislation. But we know more needs to be done in terms of jobs and we're eager to be going forward on the recovery package. The Administration will be making some announcements about that in the days and weeks ahead. Both Mr. Schumer and I have been briefed on where they're going on it and it is very consistent with the values that we share in the Congress and that the American people need us to act upon those values.
I'm very proud of the President's press conference this morning, speaking about values and weighing the equities and decisions that we have to make For The People, For The Children.
Staff. All right, if you'd like to be placed into the queue to ask a question, please raise your hand under the reactions tab at the bottom of your screen. When called upon, you'll receive a prompt to unmute. One moment while reporters join the queue.
Our first question will be from Trish Turner with ABC News.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi, Trish.
Q: Hi, Madam Speaker. I hope you can hear me.
Speaker Pelosi. I can.
Q: Great. Thank you for doing this. On the issue of immigration, quite a lot was said at the news conference today, as I'm sure you've heard. And I just wonder, in your mind, there are so many of your Members who are concerned about the situation, whether you call it a crisis or not. It's escalating and getting worse. And I just wonder, do you have a timeline in your head by which you need to see notable improvement at the border? It seemed like the President is also frustrated with the situation there and was, you know, indicating that potentially even jobs might be on the line if he doesn't see a lot of improvement. And then just also, do you plan to travel there?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say in terms of timeline and definition of what the challenge is. This is the time of the year when there are more people coming, traditionally. But it's important to note that what we have seen is more people now because COVID prevented some people from coming in a previous season comparable to this. So, we have some doubling down on the number of people who are going. On this subject, on this subject, we have to deconstruct the harm that was done in the last four years and to construct what we need to do to go forward. Before COVID, a few months ago, about half a year before COVID, I did take a delegation to the Northern Triangle – speaking of travel – to see what the causes of migration were.
And of course, it's corruption. It's violence. It's also, as was new to me, as one who is a follower of the climate issue, that climate played a role as well. The drought and the rest impacting agriculture in those countries contributed to people leaving and coming to our country. Again, for economic reasons. That's not necessarily the opportunity to come into our country, but a motivation for people to try. So, I am so pleased that the President has tasked the Vice President to look to the causes of migration and how we can contain it. And that means we have to pay a great deal of attention – as President Biden did when he was vice president – to this hemisphere, the relationships in the hemisphere.
Now, when we went there in 2019, the president – the then president – had withdrawn the money that was allocated for the Northern Triangle – Northern Triangle being El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which were the source of many migrants coming to United States. And that money was really important. It was important to fight the drug trafficking and the adjudication of it in the courts. It was important to helping organizations who had the capacity to help with children there. We visited some of the places where children – that includes teenagers – were being accommodated away from the violence in the neighborhoods or the places where they had lived. And then we had to withdraw our money and the Administration then used it for other foreign policy initiatives, but took it out of there.
That was a mistake. And we have to restore that again with a bigger look at our own hemisphere and vis-a-vis our relationship with Mexico, which is a central point for this. They withdrew the money to punish those countries because they weren't doing exactly what the Administration wanted them to do in terms of – well, it's a long story. But nonetheless, as I say, deconstruct, so that we can construct better, and that the resources that will go there will be to address the corruption, to address the violence. Because many of the stories that you hear about families facing violence from gangs in their countries are – it's stunning. And why else would a family or a mom and a child cross a desert to come to the United States?
Now, in addition to that, because this is an issue that many of us have followed for a long time and being in California, a border state of interest in our our state as well in terms of how we can accommodate people coming in. In addition to that, this is an array. Some people have – are coming for economic reasons. It’s not – they will be turned away by and large and go back. Some people have a well-founded fear of persecution in their country. And that is a responsibility that we have to hear out, to hear out. When we had testimony taken on this subject during the – whatever administration, the evangelicals testified that the United States’ refugee resettlement program is the ‘crown jewel’ of American humanitarianism. How many times have you heard me say that to you? But understand, that is part of some of the people coming here, too.
And so, again, the children are – that's heartbreaking when children were being taken out of the arms of their mothers. You can just imagine me, who – my whole thing in Congress is about the children. To see that under the Trump Administration that that is totally outside the circle of civilized behavior in my view. So, this is a change. The President's been in office two months, that he's tasked the Vice President to talk to the root causes of the migration. He is focused on the fact that the children should not stay in the – with the Border Patrol people, but should be a matter of 72 hours or more into the hands of HHS, the Office of Refugee Resettlement. And then again, if 70-some percent of the children have a relative in United States, 48 percent of the children – my understanding is – have a parent in the United States.
So, how do we, again, in a humanitarian way, effectively do that? Again, undo, deconstruct so that you construct. And I think the President brings all of the humanitarian values and pragmatic solutions to it. And I call to your attention my colleague, Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso in the Congress, has an Op-Ed in the New York Times today to think past what you see there as to what we – the path that we are on to go into the future. Can I give you a timeline? No, but I know that we will be making progress constantly.
Staff. Our next question will come from Tal Kopan, the San Francisco Chronicle.
Speaker Pelosi. Hello.
Q: Hi Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Hello.
Q: And Drew, thanks for taking my question. You know, as it looks fairly likely that we're headed for a recall election in California – you know, you've been through these before – there's a question of whether any other Democrat should run, if this makes the ballot as sort of an insurance policy. Do you think that would be a good or a bad idea or Democrats in California?
Speaker Pelosi. I think it's an unnecessary notion. I don't even think it rises to the level of an idea. I think that it's clear when we look at where this money is coming from, and this initiative is coming from by and large, it's a Trump – and it's not Trump himself, but his Trumpites.
But let's just say, putting that aside, people are suffering. The COVID virus has taken a terrible toll. In our own city of San Francisco, $8 billion lost from the hospitality industry and what that means for jobs, and many jobs in the hospitality industry are entry level, are women, people of color, young people. So, we have we have challenges here that people feel the pain of and so does our Governor. And we have initiatives in our recovery – rescue package that will help some of that.
So, I think it's really important not to just judge us as a political thing, but to have empathy for the challenges that people face because of COVID and the crisis, the economic crises that accompany it. And I think that the Governor will do that quite well. I do think that we will defeat the initiative, not because of who started it, the Trumpites, but because of the Governor's leadership to help and meet the needs of the people of California.
Yes, we've been through it before. I don't think it's a good idea, no, the notion to have a Democrat on the ticket. The Governor will defeat this initiative. He will continue to be Governor. And he'll go on to another victory in the election following – the regularly scheduled election following.
Now, I'm in – a political organizer, a community organizer for a very long time. Long before I was in Congress or even thought about – I never even thought about going to Congress. And I would stand on street corners with my little children surrounding me, getting signatures of people to put on the ballot for one thing and another. And people would sign up and they’d say, ‘I don't even intend to vote for this, but I do want to have the chance to vote against it on the ballot.’ So, I think that the Governor will defeat this quite decisively. And we'll all help them do that.
Staff. Our next question will come from Marianna Sotomayor with the Washington Post.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi, Marianna.
Q: Hi, Speaker Pelosi. Thank you for doing this. A question on infrastructure and the pathway forward. It seems like Senate Democrats are trying to split any infrastructure bill into two parts: one that has a more realistic infrastructure-as-we-know-it approach, the other one with more of a Democratic wish list items that could fall under infrastructure and the economy. I wanted to get your take on that. Is it best for Democrats, including House Democrats to take a more realistic approach? Or is it best now that Democrats control all levers of power to be able to put as much as possible into a big bill that could come with a hefty price tag?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, thank you for your question. We're very excited about the infrastructure bill. And infrastructure has, by and large, been bipartisan. So, we're hopeful that we could have a strong bipartisan bill on this. I will have to make a judgement about it, though, when we see.
For example, last week, the Chairman of our Transportation Committee, Mr. DeFazio, had a hearing on electrification – you know, with electric cars, wave of the future and the rest – but to have that you have to have distribution of electric plug-in stations. And it actually went, I think, pretty well. He had Fred Smith from FedEx saying, ‘We're going all electric.’ We want to put money in the infrastructure bill for the postal system to go all electric, again to protect our environment and, and again, the air our children breath. So, let's see what we can get done working together.
I tasked my committee chairs of jurisdiction a couple of weeks ago, to reach across the – no, I didn’t task them, I called upon them, because I know that this is how they’d like to proceed anyway, to reach across the aisle to see what they could get accomplished. Whether it was in the Transportation Committee, and you know what that entails: roads, bridges, the rest. Whether it was in Energy and Commerce Committee: water projects, broadband into rural America and the rest and other initiatives. Whether it was the Ways and Means Committee on how, how we have bonding and the rest to help pay for all of this. Whether it was Education and Labor Committee where we have workforce development, which is very important on how we proceed and shouldn't be partisan anyway. Whether it's – and that would be Bobby Scott. And whether it was Maxine Waters in the Housing Committee, because housing is a piece of this. Whether Mr. Grijalva on Natural Resources Committee on water issues, which are divided into some different committees, but his committee as well. What can we accomplish in a bipartisan way? And that's really important.
The – just if you promise not to tell anybody I said this. One of the challenges that we face, and you've heard me say this is, we cannot just settle for what we can agree on without recognizing that this has to be a bill for the future, that we have to recognize the climate crisis and what we can do in terms of green – the greening. Now, green is a word that sometimes the Republicans repel, so what we call it, what, resilience or sustainability or whatever it is. But in some people's mind, the more sustainable it is, climate-wise, the less bipartisan it is, and the more bipartisan it is, the less green it is.
So, we have to strike the balance, because we would be wasting our time to build, to create legislation that is of the past century, instead of going forward into the future. So, that's really – because under normal circumstances, you'd say, let's get what we can, in a bipartisan way, then let's go to reconciliation for what we can't get in a bipartisan way. But when you go to reconciliation, you have certain restrictions on policy, like Davis-Bacon for the prevailing wage or green initiatives and the rest. So, that's what the challenge is.
But we will have, we will have the big jobs bill. And it will be one that has – addresses the inequities that have existed when we've built, when we had passed infrastructure bills in the past. Many – much more opportunity for women, people of color, Native American communities, so central to what we do in that regard for, for not only jobs, but equity and ownership of businesses, contract and whether it’s veterans or rural, big emphasis on rural America. So, we have a lot of territory where we can find common, bipartisan ground. But we cannot abandon our responsibility to making this a bill for the future, that saves the planet. If you believe as I, that this is God's creation and we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards, or if you don't believe that, but you understand that we have a moral responsibility to our children and our grandchildren, in my case, to pass the planet on in a in a responsible way.
So, it – but it's exciting, and we will have legislation and we'll hear from both – as I mentioned earlier, the Leader and I had been briefed separately by the Administration as to the priorities which we share, the process which we will develop and that will be soon.
Staff. Our next question will be from Jason Donner with Fox News.
Speaker Pelosi. What happened – what's happened to Chad?
Q: Chad – Chad sends his regards. He has a hit at 3:20. He had a hit at 3:20. He couldn’t join, so I’m like Chad Jr.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we usually – we usually talk sports, so that's why I just wonder, but anyway – right in the middle of March Madness. Anyway, Jason, please.
Q: Well, my USC Trojans are in the Sweet 16. But I am a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, so sorry, sorry, but not sorry about the Giants.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I have two grandchildren that are graduates – who will be graduates of USC. One is, one pending, in May. So we’re cheering for USC, as well. The Dodgers – that's another story.
Q: World Series Champs. No, but –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, indeed.
Q: Well, I'll get to my question. Thank you for doing this, Drew, and thank you, Speaker Pelosi. My question is the investigation into the IA-2 race is causing some, maybe like heartburn, for Democrats, because some of these moderates in your party have come out opposed to unseating Rep. Miller-Meeks and I wondered what your thoughts were on that, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don't know that they’ve come out opposed to that. The fact is – let me, let me – I appreciate your question. Yesterday, the Chair of the House Administration Committee, Zoe Lofgren, issued a statement on the contested election, Iowa’s Second Congressional District. In it, she talks about the process that is involved there.
Now, if we wanted – and this is a very clear process. It can only begin when – come, a person is certified in the state. So, people say, ‘Well, the person certified. Why are you doing this?’ Well, we couldn't do it unless they were certified. If you read it – let me, let me just tell you that this is, this is more than 100 contested elections, filed by Democrats and Republicans, pretty evenly, and under the law, state certification is a prerequisite for establishing a contested case. Four hundred thousand votes cast. Six vote difference. If you had lost a race by six votes, wouldn’t you like to say there must be some way that we can count this.
Now, the House of Representatives has the authority to do that, under Article One, Section Five of the Constitution to determine, to determine that. So, it – but it's a process and this, again, we're not – we didn't seek out these contests or – two, two actually. Two, one brought by the Republicans, one brought by the Democrat – the Republican candidate, Democratic candidate. We didn't seek them out, but we were obligated under federal law to follow the process and the facts. So, I want to call to your attention to Zoe Lofgren’s statement, because clearly, you and our Members need to see that. And I would say to them: if you lost by six votes, would you like to have – would you like to bring your case before that?
This was – in the beginning of our country, when President Washington was president was when this first started. The first standing committee was called the Committee on Elections. It was – the first contest was brought in April of 1789. Over the past 90 years, as I said, that Congress has adjudicate in a bipartisan manner. More than 100 cases, bipartisan. Two cases are pending. One is Republican. One is Democrat.
And by the way, Leader McCarthy previously served with Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren on the task force that reviewed contested elections. In that matter, the Committee brought in the GAO to look at voting machines and examine votes. Because, as Leader McCarthy said on the House Floor at that time, we wanted to make sure we were going through this, and we looked at every single one.
He had also said – he also – he served on this task force to investigate the last substantive contested election before the House, and had said at the outcome of the investigation, he said that the outcome of the investigation, the Americans, ‘The American people can be very proud to know that every vote in Florida's 13th District was counted. The outcome was correct.’ Why? And again, why would we not want that for the Second District of Iowa?
So, we have, again, when the courts have ever looked at any of this, Scalia even confirmed this is the House’s right to do this. So, I think it's Monday, they'll [receive written briefings] as to if these challenges meet certain criteria [that could inform a path] forward, next Monday. And I'm very proud of the work of Zoe Lofgren. She knows election law so very, very well. And we want to be fair.
Now, if I want to be unfair, I wouldn't have seated the Republican from Iowa, because that was my right on the opening day. I would have just said, ‘They're not seated.’ And that would have been my right as Speaker to do. But we didn't want to do that. We just said, ‘Let's just go through this process.’ Many Members were saying, ‘Don't seat the person.’ You know, you're naming a few who are saying, ‘Let's move on.’ But I'm saying, then people said, ‘Why should we seat somebody to have votes for all this time when their election is being contested?’ And we said, ‘No, we will seat the Member, and then we'll go through the normal process.’ But it would have been under the rules allowable for me to say, ‘We're not seating the Member from Iowa.’ We did not do that. So, I want credit for that. Okay.
Staff. Alright, our final question will be from Ryan Nobles of CNN.
Q: Hi, Madam Speaker. Thank you for the time and thank you, thank you for the question. I'm wondering if you could give us an update on the status of the 1/6 Commission? It seemed as though you hit a roadblock in negotiations with the Minority Leader. Are you still committed to making this happen? And if so, what is it going to take to get it over the hump? And are you open to the idea of it being equally represented with both Republicans and Democrats?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say I am committed to finding the truth. Now, you're making a fuss about the numbers and this, that. That's all negotiable. That's incidental. What is important is that the Republicans have said they didn't want any findings. You know, we had the findings of the FBI, previous to January 6, as to what was happening in our country with domestic terrorist, with domestic terrorism in America, saying that domestic terrorism was more of a threat to our security than global terrorism. That was the end of September. I refer the FBI Director’s testimony that we had that as the finding. They didn’t want any finding and didn't want any pre – any conclusion.
What does that mean? Well, we said is that this happened on January 6. The whole world could see. So, if there is no, there are three areas that you would look into this: what is the scope? What is the scope, and if they're saying we can't even stipulate to anything in terms of scope, ‘We would like if you're going to look at January 6, we want to look at Black Lives Matter,’ you know, that kind of thing. What is the scope? What is the timing? What is the timing? And then what is the makeup of the committee?
I call your attention more than you may want to know and answer that I had the legislation in 2001. In the time of 9/11, I had that legislation in the – in the Intelligence Committee. I won in committee. When we went to the Floor the next day, the Republicans said, ‘She's playing a blame game,’ and they rejected. It wasn't until the outside families, shortly thereafter, came forth, the families of 9/11, and said, ‘We must have a commission,’ that the Commission was voted on. And the author was our colleague, Tim Roemer, who was masterful in how he got it done, working with Republicans, narrowing the amount of money they would need. You know, just to get them on board because they were not on board. And then he later retired from Congress in time for him to be appointed a member of the 9/11 Commission. But they resisted even that, saying I was playing a blame game, if you look at the debate the next day on the Floor.
Now, some of the Senators, I’ve asked them to see what the market is in the Senate. Senator, Senator, what's his name? McConnell? He said, when I asked him, are you serious about wanting to do this? He said, ‘Yes, it depends on the scope.’ And the next morning, I said, ‘Well, let's discuss that.’ And the next morning, he went to the Floor – that was in the evening, the next morning, went to the Floor, and just dumped all over – forgive my crudeness – all over the fact that we would be investigating June 6 – January 6, without other things as well.
So, we're going to have the truth, I hope it will be a commission. We sent them pretty much how it would work. Similar to what happened with the 9/11 Commission. Most recent commissions have had appointments by the President. And that's where this is different from before. Most recent commissions have had appointments, House, Senate equally divided and then something from the President. You can look at most recent legislation. It will show that the President is – and that makes it an advantage to whoever the President is. But that, again, is not a central issue. It's an excuse. It's not a reason, and I wish you would all pay more attention, if I may suggest, to the fact that it is the scope that is what they are disagreeing on.
So, what – how do we get there? I – before we – last week, I again said to my Chairman, ‘See what you can do in a bipartisan way about a commission. See what they are willing to do.’ Some of them have been receptive, but then they'll say, ‘Well, the leadership doesn't want us to do anything. We won’t do anything.’ They know that within their committees’ jurisdictions, for example, Homeland Security's jurisdiction this is, I think there could be opportunity. On the security side of it, the Capitol is more than House Administration Committee. And we should be able to find common ground on how we go, how this happened and how we go forward there.
But in terms of the, the, the thrust of this, the why, the how did this happen? That's, that's more the domestic terrorism issue. And, in fact, the Director of the FBI said that this domestic violence is – the domestic terrorism that it is, the buckets under it are white supremacy, anti-Semitism, xenophobia. It goes on like that. You should read that because it's very instructive. But they said they didn’t want any findings in there, which would be – show us a path as to how some of this happened. But I'm optimistic. I'm persistent in terms of, we get to the truth.
Now all of the committees are called upon who have any jurisdiction to have their hearings on it. And in fact, when we did the 9/11, commission, we called upon them to use the work of other government initiatives, including Congressional hearings. And I myself was a co-chair of the Joint Committee that we had in the Congress, House and Senate. It was Bob Graham and Shelby in the Senate and Porter Goss and Nancy Pelosi in the House. We had our hearings, and that was part of the intellectual resource that we could – also some of what we did could be of interest to the 9/11 Commission.
So, we have to find the truth. And we will, and we're not walking away from that. Now, we'd love it to be as bipartisan as possible. But we have other, shall we say, paths, should there not come – we can't come to something that would be similar to the 9/11 Commission.
Well, thank you all very much. I know you've had a busy time listening to the President's presentation, the first press conference of Joe Biden as President of the United States, taking place at a time when this rescue package is doing what it can to crush the virus and address the economic crisis that our country is in. We are, again, excited about how we go forward, but in a way that is fair and equitable.
I was just reading this morning about how when so many people suffered so much economically during this crisis, even globally, but just talking about our own country, and how the wealthiest country just got wealthier and wealthier and wealthier.
So, when we look at what we do next, we want everybody to, shall we say, pay their fair share, as to how we go forward. And to do so in a way that is – protects our, the element of fairness in our country, which is a great value, American value, to do so in a way that involves everybody going forth together, not going forth at the expense of any aspect of our society, and to do so in a way that is fiscally sound.
So, with that, I thank you all again for your interest. I hope you're following what's happening in our committees this week as they prepare for our work as we go forward.
And again, in closing, just to say how sad it is, as I listened to my colleagues from Georgia and Colorado and their communication and sympathy for the families who are affected. Let's just hope that enough people in our country will weigh in with their legislators here in Washington so that we can have – we can pass the gun violence prevention, prevention legislation, to keep our children safe.
Thank you all very much. Bye-bye.