Transcript of Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Today
May 20, 2020
Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
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. Thank you for being here. We have some visitors virtually, and all of you. Thank you.
Here we are, a week later. Not quite a week, but in the next week since we passed The Heroes Act. I'm so very, very proud of the substance of it. I have said that our chairs of the committees of jurisdiction were dazzling in how they put together initiatives to meet the needs of the American people.
There are three main – and I'm proud of the courage of my Members to support the legislation. I couldn't have been more proud than to hear the debate on the Floor when they talked about meeting the needs of the American people while the other side was talking about, ‘We should take a pause.’ Well, we don't agree with that. We don't take a pause, because, again, hunger doesn't take a pause, losing your job doesn't take a pause, paying your rent doesn't take a pause. The list goes on.
Our legislation had three main pillars, all of which have been supported in a bipartisan way in one or the other of the previous COVID bipartisan legislation. First, honor our heroes. Our heroes, our heroes, our heroes. Our health care providers, our first responders, police, fire, emergency services, our sanitation workers, food providers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, transit workers, did I say? The list goes on.
In many cases, these people are risking their lives to save other people's lives and, now, they may lose their jobs. So, this support for state and local, tribal and territorial governments is about honoring our heroes by enabling them to keep their jobs, to help save lives and, very importantly, to meet the needs of the American people.
Secondly, we have: open our economy. Everybody wants to do that. There's no question about that. And to do so, we have to have testing, tracing, treatment and isolation, if necessary. And that is the science of it all. Let us go forth in a very healthy way in order to open our economy, which we all want to do.
Until we do, the third pillar addresses putting money in the pockets of the American people, whether it's Unemployment Insurance, direct payments, helping with rental and mortgage issues. The issue I want to focus on this morning: hunger, the SNAP issue, food stamps and food security issues that Republicans seem not to want to support, and the like – putting money in the pockets of the American people.
There are a few issues that we could not resolve in previous legislation, but they will be addressed as we go forward. One is, again, the SNAP issue. Hunger in America, in the best of times, is a challenge. In the worst of times, which, hopefully there's nothing that gets worse than this, we really need to feed the American people. The lines are long in communities to get to food banks. People who never thought they'd ever go to a food bank are now at the mercy of the food bank running out of food. In addition to which, the food issue, the SNAP issue, the food stamps are a stimulus to the economy. More on that in a moment.
So, we have the Post Office, we have food stamps, we have election assistance and we have OSHA. All of the issues that I talked about relate to the good health and well being of the American people. If there's one word that is a common denominator, one aspect that is a common denominator of everything we've talked about, it's about health. Our health care workers and all who are there to save the lives and keep the American people healthy. Our testing to open the economy is about health, the good health of the American people.
When we talk about the issues about putting money in the pockets of the American people, and some of that is about their housing and the food that they need access to and further Medicaid assistance, that is a part of all that. It all comes back down to one basic thing: if you ain't got your health, you ain't got nothing. My mother used to say that, but not in those words. Much more lovely, more religiously, shall we say.
So, in any event, when they say, ‘Oh the bill isn’t bipartisan,’ let me ask you this: as the Speaker of the House, a woman, when I put forth a bill, people say, ‘Oh, it's not bipartisan,’ but when the Leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, puts forth a bill, ‘Good first start.’ And then we negotiate and we make it bipartisan.
We did that with CARES 1. He had a corporate, trickle down. We turned it into a workers, bubble up – workers first, bubble up. We did that with his proposal on the interim PPP bill. We didn't like it. It didn't go far enough to lower income, underbanked communities. We came up with a bipartisan bill. But all of those were initiated by the Leader in the Senate, Republican, putting forth his proposal. I put mine forth. Oh, my gosh. Well, no, that's the way it is in the negotiation.
And, by the way, as I've said, all of the main issues in our bill, the three pillars, are pillars who have strains in previous – their provenance is into previous bipartisan legislation. There's nothing new there.
Some of the areas, we've had difficulty, though. They have a resistance to feeding the hungry in our country, and that's a fight that we will make. And we do believe that, with the further public awareness of the need, that we will be successful.
We do have a fight over funding for elections, vote by mail, which is a health issue. Vote by mail is a health issue, just as food is a health issue. We cannot have people going to places that are predictably dangerous to their health. And, again, I think 49 of the 50, and we are waiting for the 50th state, have asked for the funds that was in the previous bill to help with the vote by mail initiative.
OSHA, a standard for protection of workers and employers and customers, very important. And we hope that, in light of everything that is happening now, the Republicans will see the light of the importance of having worker protection. Safety in the workplace, again, in the best of times, is essential. In these times, absolutely a matter of life and death.
And then the Post Office. Do you know that last year, over a billion, more like a billion and a quarter, packages of medicine were mailed out to the American people; that 90 percent of veterans get their medicine through the mail? So much else as well, to keep people in their homes and packages delivered at this very difficult time. So, that is a health issue as well.
So, with all of that, we are very pleased at where we are. It's lean. It's disciplined. It's focused on the health and well being of the American people. It is a way to open up our economy based on science, a real path with a plan, a vision, goals, timetable, milestones, benchmarks to get the job done. And all of this excellently done by our chairs of the committees. So, I couldn't be prouder.
And we're here to make the discussion, and we invite – we have no lines drawn in the sand. Let us just proceed, as we proceeded when they put their Republican only plans forward. We didn't even make a comment about that. We just – then it was open for debate. And I hope that that will be the case. Not because of anything here; this is the least important of it all. But because of the needs of the American people: their lives, their livelihood and, indeed, the life of our democracy.
With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions.
Speaker Pelosi. And I understand that Sarah Ferris of Politico is the first up, remotely, virtually.
Shall we go to – okay, we'll go to the room first.
Q: Madam Speaker, you talked about this being a negotiation. Has there been any movement from the other side to the negotiating table? Have you –
Speaker Pelosi. Well, there will be.
Q: – heard anything from the Treasury Secretary or the Leader or anybody actually reaching out to you to have these discussions?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we'll see. I think public opinion will be very much our friend in all of this.
You've heard me say over and over again, as Abraham Lincoln said, President Lincoln, ‘Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost everything; without it, practically nothing.’ And the public sentiment that is out there. The last few days, I've been on the phone with the Conference of Mayors, the League of Cities, the National Association of Counties and their leadership and the rest.
And if you go to [speaker.gov/heroesact], you will see how so many cities, townships, counties and states across the country are saved by this. And they're saved from not only the cost of the coronavirus to them, of outlays of funds to fight the virus, but the loss of revenue that universally, regardless of the amount of infection you may have in your community, everyone is suffering from loss of revenue.
So, whether it's that or the scientific support for testing, tracing, treating, et cetera, or those who care about people having enough to eat, or being able to pay their rent, or to have money in the pockets of the American people, which is a stimulus.
Q: May I ask a follow up to that?
Speaker Pelosi. Please.
Q: You're putting a PPP fix on the Floor –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Q: – next week, as I understand it. Are you worried – that seems to be the only part of any of the rescue plans that the Republicans in the Senate really like.
Do you worry that, by putting that out on the Floor separately, you might undermine your ability to negotiate on these other priorities that you have, essentially, if that's the only thing that they really want to do anyway?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I hope that that's not the only thing they want to do. They represent states. They represent counties. They represent communities, townships and the rest. And a good part of this legislation helps those in smaller towns across the country.
So, I would hope that they would not be ignoring the hunger needs of the American people, the medical needs of the American people and, of course, the public service that the states and localities provide. No, I'm not worried about that. But this has an urgency about it.
And I'm so proud of our Chair of the Small Business Committee. She is a genius in terms of small business, Nydia Velázquez, Chairwoman from New York, Chair of the Committee. Longtime either Chair or Ranking on the Committee. And she gave us her say that we can proceed with this.
And what it does is extend the time in which you can re-hire people, extend the time in which you pay back and also undo the 75/25, which was debilitating. And we're concerned about the lack of transparency in how the Administration is carrying some of this out, and we saw a quick fix on how we could make this work better. We couldn't ignore that.
Yes, sir? Oh, wait a minute. I've got to see if my friend – and then I'll come back to you, okay.
Sarah, are we around? Sarah Ferris? Politico? Or should we go to – I see her. I see her there.
Okay. The room? Is Susan ready?
Okay. Excuse me. Susan Cornwell from Reuters? Oh, here. We see her there.
This is a new system that the press gallery has said that we should be using. So this is your people, with this. And –
Q: Don't put this on us.
Speaker Pelosi. – usually, I thought the Speaker had some say. You know, when there's a problem there, they will say, ‘It's up to you.’ But when they want to do something new, it's up to them.
Shall we go? Please.
Q: Thank you.
The Secretary of State said that he fired the Inspector General of the State Department, and it should've been done – well, he recommended the firing, and it should've been done a long time ago, he said.
Do you think he needs to testify before the House to explain the rationale behind the decision?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I do think that – my understanding is, of course, this is all unfolding now – is that he would not – testify isn't the word – sit with the IG, which is standard fare when an IG is looking into something, that the person being investigated or in charge of the whole operation would be subject to that questioning, friendly or otherwise, depending on the situation. So, he didn't do that.
So, I think it's a reflection of the complete disregard for the truth of the Trump Administration. As you know, there are four, at least four, IGs that the President has dismissed. Late on – the Friday night special, you know, in the dark of night, here it comes. And now some questioning about what he's doing with the Secretary of Transportation, who's been asked to do some investigation. And it's questionable, in terms of how they're shuffling that over there.
Inspectors General play an important part of the integrity of our country. It was passed after Watergate to make sure that there was a truth finder in terms of waste, fraud, abuse and any other violations of the law in agencies of government. That has been respected until now. And what this President is doing is, by undermining truth and the system for truth in our system, undermining our democracy. This is scandalous.
Now, I don’t – again, this is unfolding with the Secretary, one thing and another – the parties, the public expense at his home, you know, all that stuff. But I'm very concerned about the public policy aspect. Congress passed a law about sales to Saudi Arabia, arms sales to Saudi Arabia. And, in that department, they declared a fake emergency in order to initiate the sales, and that may have been part of the investigation.
That's what I'm very concerned about. Because not only did they do something wrong in declaring an emergency that was a fake emergency, but they undermined the will of Congress. I am – and bipartisan. We had a bipartisan agreement on all that.
So, this remains to be seen. I guess it's unfolding before our very eyes.
Q: Why shouldn't he come up here and testify then?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, he should come up and testify. But he should be coming up here to testify in general, and it's very hard to get the Administration to honor its responsibilities to the American people by testifying before Congress. As you see, they've sort of cut out the House altogether, which is where all Appropriations begin under the Constitution of the United States.
So, again, let's see how this unfolds. It's just, like, in the last 24 hours or 36 hours that we're seeing what this is. But what it is, that we know so far, is scandalous.
Any of our friends yet?
Staff. The room.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, sir.
Q: On a different topic, and because he brought it up on Twitter again today, is it appropriate for the President to accuse a TV host of murder on Twitter?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm sorry. To do what?
Q: Accuse a TV host of murder on Twitter.
Speaker Pelosi. I'm sorry. I'm not understanding.
Q: This is the Joe Scarborough –
Speaker Pelosi. What did he do?
Q: This is the Joe Scarborough issue. He tweeted last Tuesday that he wondered if he'd gotten away with murder. He retweeted this morning about ‘psycho,’ as he calls him, ‘Psycho Joe.’
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, you're talking about Joe Scarborough?
Q: Yes. Is it appropriate for the President to do that on Twitter, or to do that in general?
Speaker Pelosi. You're asking me about the appropriateness of the actions of this President of the United States? So completely inappropriate in so many ways that it's almost a given.
It's like a child that comes in with mud on their pants or something. That's the way it is. They're outside playing, that's the way – he comes in with doggy doo on his shoes, and everybody who works with him has that on their shoes too, for a very long time to come.
So, I don't know. I hear doctors talk to me about – saying, you know, ‘What's the matter with him? The things he says are so inappropriate for a President of the United States.’ The comments he makes about women – the comments he makes about women – so inappropriate.
So, no, I don't think it's appropriate. But, again, there's a market for it, obviously, and that's what he plays to.
What it is – there's a word somebody used to me. They said, you would understand it better if you knew what a confabulator is. Confabulator?
Speaker Pelosi. – confabulator is. Look up the word ‘confabulator.’ Somebody who just really doesn't even know what the truth is and just says anything. And because he says it, then he believes it.
But you know what? Forget about him. This is about how we go forward to help save lives, save the livelihood of our people by saving our economy and how we prepare ourselves to go into the future in a very positive way.
It's just something that is in our midst that we have to deal with. And we would hope that the American people would see very clearly – whatever they think of him, love him or not – love yourself. Vote for your interests.
Because if you're a person who's lost your job through no fault of your own, this Heroes bill, this Heroes Act, this bill is for you. If you're somebody who is uncertain as to whether you're going to be able to feed your family, this bill's for you. If you have uncertainty about the fear that you might contract or be infected by this virus or that you could carry it home to your children or to your parents, older parents, this bill's for you.
And if you are a public employee working to save lives: a police officer, firefighter, transit worker, teacher, anybody in the public sector who meets the needs of the American people, your job is in doubt unless this bill passes. This bill's – this bill is for you.
So, again, with all due respect to your question and all due respect to the Office of the President, what's important is where we can come together as we go forward, setting aside for a moment how we got here, but, nonetheless, diligent about how we humbly find our common ground to get the job done, as we have done in the past four bipartisan bills.
Anybody? No? No? Okay.
Q: Given what you just said about the President and his Administration, how are you confident that you are going to be able to come together? The two of you have been exchanging pretty strong criticism in the last few days. How does that help negotiating another deal?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I didn't say anything about the President. I gave him a dose of his own medicine. He's called women one thing or another over time, and I thought he thinks that passes off as humor in certain cultures, and I thought that was what that was. And I was only quoting what doctors had said about him, so I was being factual in a very sympathetic way.
I said, he's our President. We don't want our President taking something that could be dangerous, as the scientists have said it could be. If he takes offense at that, well, I could take offense at a lot of things, but they don't really mean that much to me. But, again, a dose of his own medicine.
Q: What is the status of you and Leader McConnell choosing a Chairman for the Congressional Oversight Commission? Some Members say they can't properly do their work without the chairman and resources that –
Speaker Pelosi. Some Members are saying it? That's not the impression I have from them. I got a very confident impression from them that they have done their first report, the four of them, working together. And it's in the public domain already, as you probably have seen.
But we are exchanging names, and I'm optimistic and hopeful that we should be able to find someone that meets the test, who's not, shall we say, on the board of one thing or another, as we go forward.
Q: I was just going to ask about that. But, separately, more broadly, on the oversight issue, you brought up the number of IGs. It sounds like –
Speaker Pelosi. Right.
Q: The Acting IG at Transportation was also relieved of his job. I just wonder, as the Administration continues to stonewall your oversight efforts on the House side, how – what is your appetite for a subpoena fight or to get into a fight to compel the appearance of some officials, like Secretary Pompeo?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think the case is very clear that this President is afraid of the truth. He and his Administration are afraid of the truth. We must insist upon the truth.
And there's the Congress, there's the courts and there's the court of public opinion. And I think that, from what I'm hearing from people all over the country, it's amazing, the legal experts, the jurists, the academics, the former law enforcement and the rest, they think that this is so a bridge too far, almost unlike some of what has gone before, in terms of undermining our democracy.
We are in court on subpoenas now and awaiting court decisions. But when the court is a court that is appointed by the person that you are seeking a subpoena on, you don't know what the outcome may be. Prayerfully, that it would be to honor the beautiful genius of our Constitution, a system of checks and balances, where we have separate but equal; separation of power, one branch of government a check on the other.
But if one or the other is appointed by – the third branch is appointed by the second branch, then we'll just have to see how that turns out.
So it is – I don't think – you know, one thing I do think that we should be able to do in a future Congress, and this would apply to Democratic or Republican Presidents, that's not the point, is that I don't believe that a President should be able to fire a public official who's investigating him or her.
You know, if the Inspector General is on a path, then how on Earth – and same thing with an Attorney General or others as well, a U.S. attorney. If the focus is on the President, where is any justice in the system if that person can fire the person looking into it?
And so that's why it's curious about the IG of Intel, the IG at Defense, the IG at HHS for saying – questioning how we were proceeding in fighting – the American people, some of this may be academic to them, but – how we are fighting COVID 19, and that IG relieved of responsibility. That hits home directly. And then, of course, now the, perhaps, you know, the State Department and maybe the Transportation Department. The list goes on.
But, anyway, we've got to just keep a clear path. What is our oath of office? What are we here to do? I do think that there is bipartisan commitment to our democracy, to our oath of office, and to our protecting the American people and meeting their needs. And so that's what gives me confidence about how we go forward.
And I don't take offense at anything. The President says things about me all the time. I say one thing about him, and it's like, ‘Oh, some equivalence here.’ It just doesn't matter. It's so unimportant.
Any other question? Or else, anybody on the electronic?
Staff. Last question.
Speaker Pelosi. Okay. We have done everybody. Yeah. Thank you.
Q: Thank you, Madam Speaker. You just said that vote by mail is a health issue.
Speaker Pelosi. It is.
Q: It's also a post office issue.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am.
Q: So how is that front going?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. Yesterday – today, I'm focusing on SNAP, on hunger. And when I write to my colleagues, it's going to be about the urgency – the urgency – of our getting food to people.
Yesterday, I talked about the post office, because that is really in jeopardy. As I mentioned, it's a health issue. Over a billion packages of medicine last year. And that was before COVID. Ninety percent of veterans get their medicine through the mail. Twenty percent of the workforce in the post office are veterans. But for these and other reasons, it's of interest to veterans, their health and their livelihood.
So, it is essential, if we're going to have vote by mail, that we have a thriving post office.
I think it's important to note, since you asked, that the board of governors that governs the U.S. postal system, 100 percent of it appointed by President Trump – 100 percent appointed by – unanimously voted for three things as we go forward:
One, a $25 billion infusion of appropriated funds, largely related to COVID because of the challenges there; loans, loan guarantees with the Treasury Department, without strings. See, there was loan in one of the previous bills, but they had all these strings, which was the path to what the Administration wants, privatization of the post office.
But without going into that, this Bush appointed, bipartisan committee: $25 billion; no strings on the loan; and, third, they wanted $25 billion for modernization of the post office, because some things are really ancient there in terms of infrastructure as well as transportation.
That third one we're going to save for our infrastructure bill, which will be coming soon. But the first two we do have. The first two recommendations of the Trump appointed board of governors of the U.S. postal system are in our legislation and are directly related to the health of the American people, the health of our voting system, the Census, so many of the things that are happening now, as well as, again, to keep people out of voting lines and people out of voting places, but voting in a more healthy way, from home.
But the postal system, they do better than anybody. They have an over 90, 92, 94, depending on the rating, approval rating in the country.
So, what we're getting is a big support for the postal system. A small price to pay in a $3 trillion bill to facilitate all kinds of things: people buying things by mail now on the internet and receiving them by mail; the health issues, first and foremost; voting; Census; the stimulus, the checks that are coming from the bill, some of them checks in the mail, all of it stimulus to the economy.
So, viva the postal system. I can't get over the fact that they're over a 90 percent positive rating. I believe it because I'm a big – almost any Saturday you'll find me at the post office trying to mail something to my grandchildren.
So, thank you all very much. I'll see you tomorrow. We'll be here around this same time tomorrow? Yes. We have some other things to share with you tomorrow.
Thank you so much.
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