Feb 24, 2021
House GOP Leadership Press Conference on COVID-19 Relief, Donald Trump & CPAC Transcript February 24
Kevin McCarthy, Liz Cheney, and other House GOP leaders held a press conference on February 24, 2021 to discuss the COVID-19 relief plan. They also addressed Donald Trump’s role at CPAC. Read the transcript of the full news briefing here.
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Liz Cheney: (00:00)
.. Republican leader of the Budget Committee, who’s going to talk in just a minute about the $1.9 trillion package that is going to be on the floor in detail, the real difficulties and the real problems with that package. We also are today recognizing that although we have seen from President Biden some, I think, effective demonstration of compassion and, I think, real caring about what’s happening across the country with respect to COVID, unfortunately, that compassion and that caring, which I say again we honor and recognize… And many of us have family members that we’ve lost to COVID, and we appreciate that very much. But that compassion that the president has shown in his remarks, unfortunately, there’s no consistency between that and between the policies that we’re seeing so far. And so when you look at things like the executive orders and in particular the cancellation of the Keystone Pipeline, the executive orders banning oil and gas drilling on federal lands, those executive orders are nothing short of heartless.
Liz Cheney: (01:13)
And it is really important… We want to make sure, particularly for a state like mine, that the administration understands the impact of those kinds of orders. The extent to which when you ban new permits for fossil fuel exploration on public lands, it kills economies, it kills jobs. It means that we don’t have funding for our schools. And it is important for the American people to understand and recognize that no matter what you’re hearing from this administration, what they are doing is a war on the West, and it is a war on the American worker. People are losing their jobs, they’re losing their livelihoods, and we as Republicans are committed to turning that around. We are committed to standing against those policies, to making sure that we are able to get access to our fossil fuels, and making sure that we’re able to bring jobs back and get our economy growing as we come back from the devastation of COVID.
Liz Cheney: (02:06)
I want to say just one more thing before I turn things over to Mr. Smith. Today is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the ground war in Desert Storm, began on February 24th, 1991. And I want everybody today to take a minute to remember those brave Americans who fought in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the brave Americans who led us then, and just commemorate the fact that it was 30 years ago today. It was a hundred-hour ground war. And my colleague, Ms. Stefanik, has got a resolution. I hope we will have bipartisan support for that resolution to commemorate the victory and the sacrifice of those people who fought in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. With that, I will turn things over to my colleague from the Budget Committee, Mr. Smith.
Jason Smith: (03:02)
Thank you, Liz. It’s very simple. We’re here today because Pelosi, Schumer, and Biden decided to use a pandemic to push forward a progressive wishlist items to reward political allies, friends, and donors at the expense of the American working class. If this package was clearly about crushing the virus, then why is less than 9% of all total spending actually used to put shots in people’s arms. If this package was clearly about making sure that schools opened, why is it that less than 5% of all spending for schools will only be spent this year? If this package was about creating more jobs, why is it that this package spins more than 25%, according to the Congressional Budget Office, on items that kills millions of jobs?
Jason Smith: (04:15)
If this package was not a progressive wishlist, why does it spend hundreds of millions of dollars on pet projects in New York City and in San Francisco, like bridges and trailways? If this package was truly about helping all Americans, why did they change the bipartisan budget formula used in all the other COVID packages to reward the blue state governors, one governor that’s being recalled, and another governor that hid disclosure of how many deaths that were in nursing homes? They’re clearly rewarding their friends, their donors, and their partisan agenda. This is the wrong plan at the wrong time for all the wrong reasons. I yield back.
Liz Cheney: (05:09)
Now I’d like to yield to our whip, Mr. Scalise.
Steve Scalise: (05:16)
House Republicans have consistently fought to help those hard working families that are struggling, whether they’re trying to get back to work, trying to have their businesses reopened, or whether they’re demanding that their kids be taught in the classroom. Those are the things that we’ve been fighting for, as well as to fight to get more vaccines in the arms of people. Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re going to be voting on this week. That’s not what this $1.9 trillion liberal wishlist giveaway bill does, and that’s why we’re strongly opposing it. And we’re also pushing to expose just what is really in this bill. Back during Obamacare, Speaker Pelosi famously said, “You’ve got to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” People are starting to find out what’s in this bill, and they’re also finding out what’s not in this bill. They know that this bill does not dedicate real money to reopen schools.
Steve Scalise: (06:11)
In fact, the press secretary for President Biden admitted that over the weekend, that the $130 plus billion going to schools doesn’t even have to be used to safely reopen schools. Even the CBO pointed out more than 95% of that money won’t even be spent this year. Parents don’t want to wait another year to have their kids safely in the classroom. In fact, the science strongly says that schools need to be reopened, can safely be reopened, and points out the damage, long-term damage being done to our nation’s children if they’re not in the classroom. Estimates are that only about 40% of America’s students are learning in the classroom every day. That means tens of millions of students are not getting the same educational opportunities. That’s not something that’s just going to last within these next few weeks. That’s something that could last and hold them back the rest of their lives.
Steve Scalise: (07:02)
We owe it to those children to open schools, and this bill ought to be focused on opening schools. And unfortunately, Democrats have pushed against those measures to do it. We had amendments in committee to do things like ensure that we can reopen schools. By the way, we had an amendment to say let’s go not to 100 million vaccinations in the first hundred days of Biden’s presidency, but to go to 200 million vaccinations. Every Democrat voted against that amendment. How can you call it COVID relief when you oppose the measures to actually increase vaccinations against COVID? Just the other day, President Biden challenged Republicans to show him the waste. “What would you do cut?” President Biden said.
Steve Scalise: (07:46)
My response to President Biden would be, “How much time do you have, Mr. President, to go through the litany of things in this bill that have nothing to do with COVID? Who said a subway to Silicon Valley has anything to do with COVID? Who said a $15 minimum wage that estimates show would kill over $50 billion in economic activity and jobs in America has anything to do with COVID? Who says a state bailout of $350 billion to blue states like California… California in this bill would get over $40 billion in bailout money, when they just announced they have a $10 billion surplus. So why, Mr. President, would you want to borrow money from our children and grandchildren to bail out failed states, and to keep schools closed for another year when the science says open schools today?”
Steve Scalise: (08:35)
So my challenge to President Biden would be work with Republicans to actually help families who are struggling to reopen small businesses, to get kids back in the classroom, not one day a week in six months, but today. The science says they can do it. The will is there. And by the way, there are tens of billions of dollars already passed in previous bipartisan bills to safely reopen schools. That’s where the focus should be. Unfortunately, this bill falls far flat of those objectives, and that’s why we strongly oppose it. Let’s fight for those families. Let’s help those kids get back in school, and let’s defeat this virus working together. And with that, now I’ll bring up our leader, Kevin McCarthy.
Kevin McCarthy: (09:16)
Thank you, Steve. I want to thank the Republican leader of the budget, Jason Smith, for his work and his committee’s work on this. You’ve watched us in the last year five times come together in a bipartisan way for the American public. It has now all changed. There’s now a partisan route. I think all Americans agree exactly what Republicans wanted to have happen. We want to go back to work, back to school, back to health. Unfortunately, this bill is too costly, too corrupt, and too liberal. Only 9% goes to COVID.
Kevin McCarthy: (10:02)
We watched the swamp come back to Washington. $100 million for a tunnel in Silicon Valley, just outside of Speaker Pelosi’s district, or a bridge for Schumer. Our money for schools, the two thirds of it cannot be spent until 2023. This is the wrong path, and this is not what President Biden said he would do at the inaugural. Republicans want to work together as we have before, but unfortunately, the times have changed here. We believe in accountability. We believe in spending money when it comes to COVID. I’ve watched what they do here. This seems like a payout for those who agree with them politically. That’s a corrupt system, and that’s wrong. The American public deserve better, and that’s exactly what Republicans will propose. With that, let’s take questions. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 6: (11:01)
[crosstalk 00:11:01] are your concerns with Speaker Pelosi’s setup of the January 6th commission as it’s been proposed to you?
Kevin McCarthy: (11:08)
Well, it’d be the same concerns that those who were on the 9/11 Commission, who led it with Hamilton and Kean. If you listen to their own words, Speaker Pelosi is doing it all wrong. First, it’s not bipartisan, 7-4. Secondly, they don’t allow subpoena power for the minority and the majority to work together. I mean, I would take those two leaders who I hold in high esteem, a Democrat and Republican who carried out a 9/11 Commission, who did it in a manner that people trusted coming out. I mean, when I look at the first actions the speaker has taken with their own general to look at what has went on, and you look at his tweets and others, it seems most of this is politically-driven, and it seems like she’s setting up a system to fail. And that’s not from my words, those are from those who had headed up the 9/11 Commission. Mine was very clear, three simple things. Has to be equal, 50-50, Republican Democrat appointed. Has to be equal, just like on 9/11, the power of subpoenas of which way we go.
Speaker 7: (12:10)
Congresswoman Cheney said yesterday that she believed that the 9/11 Commission [inaudible 00:12:15] to investigate the extent to which the president and others [inaudible 00:12:18] that the election was stolen. Do you agree with her on that?
Kevin McCarthy: (12:21)
I wasn’t predetermined what to do. I’ve very clear about after January 6th, that we came out first with the 9/11 Commission, just as Hamilton and Kean have said. In a clear way, it’s only Speaker Pelosi was trying to make this thing partisan and others.
Speaker 8: (12:34)
House Democrats want to bring back earmarks. I wonder your thoughts on that. And can you get your conference to support it, since House Republicans right now don’t?
Kevin McCarthy: (12:43)
I know the Democrats have said that the last Congress as well. I haven’t seen anything new. Anytime someone would approach that, they’d have to bring new accountability to it. We’d look at that nature, but until that time, it wouldn’t take anything up till we see what they’re proposing. Yes?
Speaker 9: (12:55)
Equality Act, I just wanted to ask you about. Democrats want it passed. Senate Republicans say that it’s only an attack. It’s not only an attack on girls’ and women’s sports, but also attack on churches, opening them up to possible lawsuits of discrimination.
Kevin McCarthy: (13:09)
Very clear. I mean, if you look at Biden’s appointments to cabinet members, suing nuns and others, this really seems like an onslaught against freedom of religion, girls’ sports as well, and others. Now the Democrats even taking it further. Can you imagine being an elected member of Congress, putting your name on a letter to cable industry, telling them what they should have on their shows, or sending it to Amazon that created a company based upon selling books, telling them not to sell books in America? And that you’re a member of Congress. Interesting to me of how far they have gone, and how much further they want to go.
Speaker 6: (13:50)
Kevin McCarthy: (13:50)
Yes, sir. How are you today?
Speaker 10: (13:52)
I’m wonderful, thank you. Does your state need money?
Kevin McCarthy: (13:54)
Does my state need money? Well, I see California just came out with a $10 billion surplus. I see how California has been shut down. If California needs money, I’d like to see what is actually requested instead of changing the flow of the system here to reward states who stayed shut down, instead of those are working. I think a more surgical way of getting all the data to see what is needed and who needs it is a better way to do it than throwing blankets [inaudible 00:14:22].
Speaker 10: (14:23)
You don’t think so-
Kevin McCarthy: (14:24)
No, I think California could need money, but if we’re dealing with a $10 billion surplus, I would like to sit down with California and actually see where money is needed. I will tell you what California needs. They need to bring in who’s ever doing West Virginia’s vaccination, because Gavin Newsom is not doing it well. In my Central Valley, where we are today, we’re set up where we could provide 5,000 a day.
Kevin McCarthy: (14:47)
He was just in there. He can not provide us the vaccine. So what California needs is probably a new governor. The management is poor. The schools are shut down. I’m glad you brought this point up, because in my home school district, in Kern County, the Ds and Fs for this year have increased by 14%. I just read… Was it in Virginia? The Academy of Pediatricians. The increase for children, anxiety, depression, obesity, all in higher than a 90%. So this governor continues to keep us shut down. So before money would be provided to this governor as we provided before, he withheld the money to go to the rural areas. He used it as a political ploy. So before I would send money to California, I’d rather send money directly to the counties that are needed.
Speaker 8: (15:38)
What do you think about how they’re distributing that money, though?
Speaker 11: (15:40)
You already had a question [crosstalk 00:15:41].
Kevin McCarthy: (15:41)
Oh, good point.
Speaker 8: (15:44)
I’m from California, so I was like [crosstalk 00:15:47]-
Kevin McCarthy: (15:47)
I love the assertiveness, but she is correct.
Speaker 8: (15:49)
But she is correct.
Kevin McCarthy: (15:49)
Did you have a question?
Speaker 11: (15:53)
Yeah, I do have a question. In addition to the 9/11 commission, Democrats have said there’ll be a need for.
Kevin McCarthy: (16:04)
You’re kind of smiling under there, huh?
Speaker 11: (16:04)
Well, you know. I do have to assert myself.
Kevin McCarthy: (16:04)
Speaker 11: (16:04)
In addition to the 9/11 commission, Democrats have said they’ll need a security supplemental. Have they been negotiating with you guys on that, what would need to be in-
Kevin McCarthy: (16:10)
They have done as much negotiation on that as they have done on the COVID or anything else. No, not at all.
Speaker 11: (16:16)
And do you think-
Kevin McCarthy: (16:18)
They’ve done it the same about the President Biden has done as well, nothing. Yes.
Speaker 12: (16:28)
[inaudible 00:16:28] president kind of going after you, saying that the writers cared more about certification [inaudible 00:16:33]. Would you agree with her characterization of that conversation?
Kevin McCarthy: (16:36)
Look, I’ve talked about that phone call on the day of on national news. I’m not talking about it anymore.
Speaker 12: (16:46)
Kevin McCarthy: (16:49)
The whip’s working it. I haven’t seen a Republican yet that found something in there that they agree yet. I think all Republicans believe in three simple things. They want a bill that puts us back to work, back to school, and back to health. This bill is too costly, too corrupt, and too liberal.
Speaker 12: (17:08)
Steve Scalise: (17:08)
And there was a Democrat defection in the Budget Committee, so Democrats are already on record voting against this bill.
Speaker 12: (17:15)
That was an accident.
Steve Scalise: (17:15)
Speaker 12: (17:21)
[inaudible 00:17:21], especially Congresswoman Cheney, do believe former President Trump should be speaking at CPAC this weekend?
Kevin McCarthy: (17:27)
Yes, he should.
Speaker 12: (17:28)
Liz Cheney: (17:30)
That’s up to CPAC. I’ve been clear on my views about President Trump and the extent to which following January 6th, I don’t believe that he should be playing a role in the future of the party or the country.
Kevin McCarthy: (17:43)
On that high note, thank you all very much.