Transcript of Pelosi Virtual Weekly Press Conference Today
Apr 8, 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. Good afternoon or good morning, wherever you are in the country.
We’ve just come through a time, a holy period in our country – Passover, Easter, Ramadan. It should be a time of joy. Instead, we’ve had some terrible sadness. On Good Friday, one of our Capitol Police officers, William ‘Billy’ Evans, gave his life to defend the Capitol, becoming a martyr for our democracy. The Congress and the country are united in grief and gratitude for the heroism of Billy Evans and of our Capitol Police Force. Next Tuesday, Congress will honor Officer Evans with a lying-in-honor ceremony in the Capitol. We hope it is a comfort to his family, his mother Janice and beautiful children, Logan and Abigail, and the Capitol Police Force that so many people mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.
Just as we were in mourning and losing Billy, we got news that Congressman Alcee Hastings had made his passing. Congressman Hastings is an icon in the Congress, in the Black Caucus and in the country for fighting for America's working families, which he always did in the most dignified way. He was a strong force in politics in America, and the legacy that he left is one that we're all very proud to be associated with. And working with his family and the Congressional Black Caucus, we will be celebrating his life in the Capitol soon as well.
As we mourn the passing of Officer Evans, Congressman Alcee Hastings – it's so sad – we have to also remember that over 550 million people – excuse me — 550,000 people who have died from the coronavirus in our country. We want their families to know that they will always be in our prayers and in our hearts. And that was really important for us to pass legislation to stop the spread of this deadly virus, a virus that could be deadly.
I salute President Biden and Vice President Harris for their leadership in the passing of the rescue bill. And yesterday, around the country, we had some Teach-Ins, so that the public would know, the public would know what is in the bill and how they can benefit from it directly. We had 70 events around the country just that day. Some had their events sooner. Others will continue today. Later in the day, I will meet with MomsRising to talk about family-friendly legislation and on Saturday, with Care Can't Wait and with Ai-jen Poo, a heroine for caregivers and meeting their needs in our country, especially at a time of this virus.
Yesterday, I was in Chinatown to visit NEMS – it's Northeast Medical Services Center there – where they are vaccinating, vaccinating, vaccinating in a culturally appropriate, linguistically comfortable way and reaching out to the community – especially poignant at this time of AAPI violence, of hate crimes that are happening in our country. It was wonderful to be with them and to see what a model they are to the country in reaching out to previously underserved communities. When it comes to this virus, and administering this vaccine, they will be beneficiaries. They are beneficiaries of the package, the rescue package, and it was my honor to compliment them on the work that they are doing.
But again, all over the country, Members are reaching out to community groups who have the confidence of the members of their communities in order to make sure that they avail themselves of the benefits of the rescue package.
In terms of saving lives, I'm so proud of what President Biden presented this morning, addressing the epidemic of gun violence in our country. More than 41,000 Americans died from gun violence last year, the highest year on record so far, with the most vulnerable — women, children, and communities of color —cruelly and disproportionately affected. The steps that the President was announcing today will save lives by stopping the spread of ‘ghost guns,‘ helping ensure that dangerous people cannot access firearms and leading an evidence-based, whole-of-government initiative to reduce community violence.
Again, we are proud in the House that we have already passed H.R. 8 with the leadership of Mike Thompson and his co-Chair, Robin Kelly, and so many others who had been working on these issues for a long time, as well as Mr. Clyburn and H.R. 1441, closing the South Carolina loophole – so necessary, as we see another act of violence in South Carolina today. These bills are commonsense, but they are bipartisan. And again, over 90 percent of the American people support what we are doing there.
We are getting ready now, of course for the American Jobs Plan, a plan that clearly this country needs. You've heard me say again and again: when we talk about building infrastructure and creating jobs in our country, we had to think as big and transformatively as Thomas Jefferson did with his first initiative in this regard, as Teddy Roosevelt did with the National Park Service that he created on the 100 year anniversary of what Thomas Jefferson did, what President Eisenhower did in the interstate highway system that he established in the interest of our nation's security. And now, what President Biden is presenting is all-American, transformative, thinking big to Build Back Better, and, as we say in the House, in every zip code in America so that everyone has the full advantage of what the infrastructure does. It creates jobs in the building. It creates commerce in the moving of product from farm to – produce from farm to market or other products from production to the marketplace, of people to school and work and the rest, clean air for our children, clean water for them to drink – get the lead out. Again and again, to talk about how we do this in a way that involves everyone in our country, all across our country.
We hope to do this in the most bipartisan way possible. Infrastructure has not been a partisan issue in the past. We'd hoped that it would not be now. And so, again, we don't want to do this in a way that is ancient, we wanted to do it as the future. So many times you've heard people say we want to be on the right side of history. No, we want to be on the right side of history, but we want to be on the right side of the future as well. So, the building of infrastructure is a safety measure as well – the safety of our bridges or roads, safety of the water our children drink. The list goes on.
And then we – when we return, we have a legislative-filled week from when we broke for the Holy Season. We did have time for committee work that has prepared us to bring legislation to the Floor when we come back in this next week.
With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions.
Staff. If you'd like to be added to the queue to ask a question, please select the “Raise Hand” option under the reactions tab at the bottom of your screen. One moment while we wait for reporters to join the queue.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you, Drew. While we’re waiting for reporters, I’m excited about Saturday. I'll be joining the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Ai-jen Poo is the director. In case you don't know her, she's an iconic leader for caregivers in our country – really a heroine – and I'm so honored to be invited to join their initiative on Saturday.
Staff. First question comes from Erik Wasson with Bloomberg News.
Q: Hi, Speaker. Thanks so much for doing this. If you could tell us a little bit about what are the next steps on this American Jobs Plan, getting it together, what decisions you're going to be making and some confusion about this American Families Plan. Is it possible that gets wrapped into the jobs plan? And how do you see approaching that issue? Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Well, it's pretty exciting, when we're talking about this, this next bill. A few weeks ago, I suggested or tasked or called upon my Committee Chairs to reach across the aisle on the, the infrastructure aspects of this bill and to see where we can find bipartisanship because, as I said, this has never been partisan.
But when we go forward with this legislation, we have to involve everyone and that means women who are in the workplace, who should be participating in how we build the future of our country as well. And for that to happen – what was in our previous bill, in the rescue package and what will be in the family bill are very important when we talk about child care, elder care and the rest that everyone can participate.
So, these things are related. If you, if you're going to build the infrastructure, you have to have workforce development. Education is very, very important in that when we talk about investing in education, we recognize that nothing brings more money to the Treasury, nothing, than the education of the American people, early childhood, K through 12, higher education, post-grad, lifetime learning, training for our – lifetime training for our workers, so that they can build for the future.
So, all of these things are related. And I don't – I think we will have two bills. We will have this bill, but we're hoping that we can do an especially — infrastructure bill with, as I said now for the third time, it's always been bipartisan or nonpartisan — that we will do so in a bipartisan way. If we have to go to reconciliation, that's a lever, but I hope it's not something that we need to do.
And timewise, Mr. – Mr. DeFazio thinks that we can do our part in the House probably in the month of May, at least his committee would be ready at that time. I would hope that our part in that House would be largely done before the Fourth of July. Whether the whole package can be done then, we just don't know. But as some had suggested, we want to do it before the August break.
Now our plan does have not only infrastructure, roads, mass transit, water, broadband, education, housing, it has a number of the definition of infrastructure in a broader sense, but also how, how we do – what we do and how we do it in a way that involves jobs. Think of this as the American Jobs Plan, as we just finished the American Rescue Plan.
Staff. And our next question comes from Lindsey McPherson with Roll Call.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi Lindsey.
Q: Hi Madam Speaker. Related to what you said about wanting the bills to be bipartisan, how do you judge that? Is it when the bills go to markup whether they get any bipartisan support? Is it before markup? When do you expect to make the determination on whether it's possible to do it in a bipartisan way?
Speaker Pelosi. Lindsey, thank you. I, we want bipartisanship every step of the way. And again, we want to build consensus within our own party, as we go forward. And again, many of the projects that we're talking about have regional significance, and they are bipartisan in their region. So, we are hoping that we can translate the needs of the communities across the country, which are nonpartisan, into legislation that works for everyone.
So, every step of the way, yeah. Whether it's in, like, for example, they had a committee hearing on electrification before the break for Holy Week, et cetera. And Mr. DeFazio presided as Chair of the Committee. Mr. Graves there also and others, a bipartisan hearing. One of the people who testified, and I said this I think last week in our meeting, the head of FedEx, he said, ‘We're going electric. We’re going electric.’
We think, now I'm saying separate from that, we think that the postal system will go electric. Many fleets will be going electric, so we need to have the infrastructure for recharging around the country. The distribution of those charging stations is absolutely essential to what we want to do to be competitive in the world with our cars.
So, it's about jobs in every way, and it's also about having the infrastructure to support the new automobiles that we want to be competitive in selling in the rest of the world. So, that was a positive meeting. I didn't hear too much complaint from the Republicans coming out of that. And much of what we want to do is going to be based on data, which hearings will provide for us.
So, again, based on information, facts, data science, science, science, I think that in the communities, we'll see more common ground than we have seen in the Congress. That was true in the rescue package. I hope that is more bipartisan, as we go into the infrastructure, but every, every step of the way. And again, as we were, we were receiving a briefing from Secretary of the Treasury, the other day, ‘Listen, we're here to listen,’ she said, ‘we're here to listen to people's ideas.’ And that's across the aisle as well within our own party.
Staff. Our next question comes from Kris Van Cleave with CBS News.
Q: Madam Speaker, thanks for your time. I’m curious, given what happened last Friday at the Capitol in terms of security, do you feel that there needs to be a rethinking of the fencing around the Capitol? Does there need to be an increase in security, or, or the footprint around the Capitol, given some of the intelligence that law enforcement continues to see?
Speaker Pelosi. Well the, there has to be a discussion of it. I thank you for your question. We will be prepare – we have been preparing a supplemental to meet the security needs of the Capitol, both in terms of what needs to be done to harden the windows, the doors, et cetera, of the Capitol, what is needed needed in terms of increasing the size of the Capitol Police Force, filling some of the vacancies that are there, now over 200.
The training that we need to do the intelligence gathering, that is so important, as well as the infrastructure. There are differences of opinion on it. Some people want no outside structure. We have a report from General Honoré, which I respect, the report that can talk about some fencing available when needed, but that's all a discussion,
But the fact is, is that very soon we're going to have to pass the supplemental to have the funds to harden the Capitol, to increase the personnel, to make judgments about the fencing. And people have very definite opinions one way or another. Sadly, Friday, it's just so shocking to us. Here it was Good Friday. We were just about ready to enter in – as a person who is Catholic – into – and in California enter into a period of the most holy time. And then the sadness of it all, and the psychological impact that it has for people who work there.
And that's why we're so appreciative of Capitol Police for how they have protected us. But when we have the supplemental put forth which will be soon, then we'll have the discussion as to what happens with the fencing and the rest. And people are listening and respectful, but also we have to be careful. And none of us, I mean maybe some of us are security experts, but most of us would have to pay attention to those who are security and law enforcement leaders who had made proposals to us. It'll be soon.
Staff. Our next question comes from Manu Raju with CNN.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi.
Q: Can you hear me?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Okay, thanks for taking my question. Given the resistance from Senator Joe Manchin for using budget reconciliation and this infrastructure package and just generally in the future, I'm wondering, in – with calls for Republicans to pare back the price tag on the infrastructure package, are you willing at all to pull down the price tag significantly, in order to win over Republican support?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let’s – the President has spoken very eloquently to this point, that he's there to listen to what suggestions people may have. But it can't be too small, because what we're talking about now needs to be transformative and it has to be big.
I, myself, think we have to start with what this country needs. This country needs a major infrastructure plan – jobs bill that enables everyone to participate in how we Build Back Better. And then, at that point, then we'll find out what, how much money we need. I think what the President has proposed is probably appropriate, as we have some in our party who are saying it's not big enough. And we have others – I don't, I don't know – I'm not, I'm not familiar with Senator Manchin saying that it was too big. I mean I'm not up to date on his latest statement there, Manu. But I do know that what President put forth is what is needed. We need to have – we need roads and bridges. The American Society of Civil Engineers says we're trillions of dollars behind. And I say that the most expensive maintenance is no maintenance, and that can cause danger to bridges and the rest.
So, so, we need to we need to do what we need to do, but we also have to define infrastructure more broadly than roads and mass transit. We've got broadband now. We have water systems that are 100 years old or more. Wood and brick, lead in the water. We've got to fix that. And we've got to fix our school systems. We tell children that education is so important to them, to their own personal aspirations, to their community, to their families, to the competitiveness of America. And yet, we send them to schools that are not even wired for the future, that are very substandard. That's a mixed message. Just if it's important, then make it important. Housing, we need much more in terms of, of housing stock in our country. And, again, to have it be housing that is respectful of the needs of the people who would live there, especially, as I always say, For The Children.
So we have big needs. I, myself, would rather just talk about what the needs are. Where do we find our common ground to go forward. Hopefully we can do so in a very strong bipartisan way. And then we'll talk about how we pay for it. But I don't think we start with the money and say, our needs only are related to how little we're willing to spend. No, our need’s relate to the needs of our country.
As President Eisenhower did, it was a national security initiative, and the economy was not good at that time. But he courageously put forth the interstate highway system to unify the country for security purposes, as well as being a great job creator. The legislation, by the way, was introduced by – in bipartisan way, by Al Gore’s dad, Senator Gore, then-Senator Gore of Tennessee.
So, no. I mean, again, we're willing to – always, in legislation, you always listen and you will always see where you can find common ground, but you got to think big. You can't think small when we're talking about the greatness of America.
Staff. Our last question will come from Jesse Helman with Modern Healthcare.
Q: Hi. Thanks for doing this, Madam Speaker. So, I know the changes made to the ACA subsidies in the American Rescue Plan were temporary. So what are the plans to make those permanent? Is that a priority for this year in an infrastructure package or not because there are a few more years until those expansions expire? Thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, as you probably would figure, the Affordable Care Act is something I take very special pride in for House Democrats who courageously voted for it. And that, since the – just February, about a half a million people have signed in and been enrolled – have been, in the extended enrollment period, so we're very excited about that. We're also very pleased that, under the leadership of Congresswoman Underwood of Illinois, legislation in the rescue package expanded those who would have access to the subsidies so more people can participate. But many of the people in the enrollment were there, even before our bill became law, so that that was very positive.
Probably in the families bill that would come next would be a time when we would – again, I don't want to clearly define what's in what bill and when they will happen and whether they'd be combined or whatever. But there are vehicles on the horizon, both in the jobs bill and in the families bill that will follow that, where we will address the health care issues, including what we do about prescription drugs because – and prescription drugs, you know, the issue of negotiating for lower prices has been a priority for Democrats for a very long time. In Six For ’06 – forgive me if you've heard this – in Six for ’06, when we ran and won in ’06, in the first 100 hours on the Floor of the House we passed legislation that would that would enable the Secretary of HHS to negotiate for lower prices. Of the six bills, five became law that one did not because we couldn't get the 60 votes in the Senate to do that. So the negotiating for lower prices has been a priority for us. Would save about, a half a trillion dollars to be used for whatever purposes, further expanding access to health care, other shall we say expansions that we may want to have, or it could be used for other purposes. But right now, the taxpayer is paying far too much for prescription drugs, as a matter of public policy and individuals are as well. So when we first started this, it was about negotiating for lower prices for Medicare. Now we're saying those lower prices would apply in the private market as well. Five hundred billion dollars. So I would say some of the health things may come in to the jobs bill, but others in the family legislation that would follow.
But again, bringing funds – as I said about education, nothing brings more money to the Treasury than investing in education. When we make these policy changes which will be opposed by the industry, I'm sure. But, nonetheless, the public has to know that this is about, not only lowering the cost, but also reducing the burden on the U.S. taxpayer for public, for Medicare, et cetera.
So it is a pretty exciting time. I'm so pleased that the President is taking the actions that he is. The one word to describe it, for me, for what the President is doing is integrity. It’s based on our decency to meet the needs of the American people in a way, in a way that is fair to the taxpayer as well. Integrity, using that word meaning oneness. It has a oneness to it, that we're all joining together to Build Back Better For The People, For The People, and to do so in every zip code in the country. And health care benefits from so much of what we want to do in infrastructure, in terms of clean air, clean water, broadband, with – in terms of how we have communicate on medical issues and the rest. So it's – all of this has a broad connection and we have to look at it in a way that has integrity, oneness, decency, in terms of meeting the needs of the American people.
So I hope you will all be safe. Be on the lookout for what we're doing with the Domestic – National Domestic Workers Alliance for caregivers because really, people can't go. If you, if any of you had a child or children, or a sick parent or someone, and you knew that you could go to work with the comfort of knowing that they were well cared for, it makes a big difference. It makes a big difference to people when they're hiring you, that they know that you are where you are. Jerry Brown had this expression in Latin: ‘Age quod agis.’ ‘Do what you're doing.’ So do what you're doing, and not be worrying about other things. Of course, our hearts and our minds are always with our children and the rest, but if we know that they are safely cared for or that our seniors are safely cared for, we can do what we're doing in a more focused way. And that's good for your career. It's good for your family, first and foremost, and it's good, I think, for our country.
Thank you all very much. Stay safe.
Staff. Thank you all.
Speaker Pelosi. And yesterday was Jerry Brown's birthday. Yesterday, April 7th, so that's why I was quoting – Thank you.
Staff. Thank you all. This concludes today's press conference. Thank you.