Feb 26, 2021
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Press Conference Transcript February 26
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy held his weekly press conference on February 26, 2021. He discussed the COVID-19 relief bill. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Kevin McCarthy: (00:00)
Next month, it will mark one year, since three million students last step foot in a classroom. A year without quality education. A year without being able to socialize with their friends. For many, it has been a year of spiraling into depression. According to Virginia Pediatrics Association, pediatricians have seen a 90% plus increase involving depression, anxiety, and academic struggles. Through most of 2020, pediatric emergency admission for the mental problems like panic and anxiety was up by 24% for young children and 31% for adolescents. In my own district, current behavioral health says since the pandemic started, they have seen an increase in calls for suicidal students.
Kevin McCarthy: (01:00)
These numbers should strike all of us at our core. It should compel every elected official to take action and say enough is enough. But Democrats have been conveniently avoiding the issue. Republicans will no longer ignore the mental health of our children.
Kevin McCarthy: (01:20)
I’d like to announce today, House Republicans will be introducing a motion to recommit that will bolster the resources families can access to help their children cope with the emotional effects of school closures. To do that, our proposal would shift the first 100 million and now the extra 40 million that was added overnight that was allocated to Nancy Pelosi’s subway to grants that would be used for mental health for children.
Kevin McCarthy: (01:50)
What the motion to commit will do, in the earlier bill Nancy Pelosi put 100 million dollars into building a subway just outside her district for Silicon Valley. Last night, she added another 40 million to that in the rules committee. We think the mental health of the children, because of school closures, are more important and should be in this bill.
Kevin McCarthy: (02:18)
Today, Democrats will have to go on the record. Do they support this money going to Nancy Pelosi’s subway, or will they do the right thing and spend the money on resources for kids who are suffering from school closures because of COVID? Now I imagine the Speaker would agree with our request, considering students in the Bay area, right in her own backyard, are suffering from failing grades and rising depression.
Kevin McCarthy: (02:46)
Let me set the record straight, today’s Pelosi’s payoff bill still won’t provide assurances to parents and students that their schools will even reopen. None of the funding has been tied to opening. Some House have republicans tried to pass on three separate occasions to move the more than $60 billion directly to open up the schools. Three different times the Democrats have defeated it. 95% of the funding in this bill isn’t even scheduled to be spent for another year, creating more uncertainty for families. In fact, less than 9% of the bill will be used to fund public health. Less than 9%.
Kevin McCarthy: (03:29)
I want to put up a chart so you can get a good idea of how little the Democrat bill is actually going to fight the virus. Here’s what 91% of the bill, trillions of hardworking taxpayers’ money is funding. Nancy Pelosi’s subway, which was increased by another $40 million, but kids are marking the one-year anniversary of not being in school, for a subway just outside her district. That money won’t be held up. Blue state bailouts so they can keep their economy shut down, changing the funding mechanism to reward states that were shut down, Planned Parenthood, universities with massive endowments, Harvard, Harvard with billions of dollars in endowment will get money in this. But to help the children for depression and anxiety, there’s an opportunity to do that. This isn’t a relief bill. It takes care of Democrats’ political allies while it fails to deliver for American families. That is why I’ll be voting no on the Pelosi payoff bill.
Kevin McCarthy: (04:42)
We already know what is the best stimulus plan out there. It is to fully reopen our economy. To do that, we need our economy to go back to work, back to school, and back to health. But when you spend 91% on paying off your allies, it doesn’t do that. We need blue state governors to lift their non-science based lockdowns. We need to [inaudible 00:05:09] up [inaudible 00:05:11] distribution so we [inaudible 00:05:12] this [inaudible 00:05:13] won’t do any of [inaudible 00:05:16]. The [inaudible 00:05:17] this, we have a history of producing bipartisan bills in a time of crisis. We had a history of working together, but that all changed. Now it’s decided something much different.
Kevin McCarthy: (05:34)
With that, let’s open it up for question.
Speaker 2: (05:35)
Kevin McCarthy: (05:38)
Speaker 2: (05:39)
Have you gotten a commitment from the former president not to a primary sitting members of Congress? If not, do you want one?
Kevin McCarthy: (05:50)
I don’t have a commitment with that. I worked closely with the president on working on endorsements to win seats in the House. We did quite well. Everybody said we’d lose 20 seats. The Speaker said she was going to win the majority, not just for this term, but for the next terms going forward. The Majority Leader guaranteed that, at least 15 seats.
Kevin McCarthy: (06:11)
Do you realize this is the first time since 1994, no Republican incumbent lost? Do you realize it’s only the third time in history that the party that had the White House and lost actually picked up seats? 1992 and 1892 were the only other times. Do you realize this is the smallest Democrat majority in more than 100 years?
Kevin McCarthy: (06:36)
What I have found is we’ve worked very well together. I think the election’s a little further away. I’m focused more on what the American people need. Really my focus right now is not on politics. My focus is getting people back to work, back to school, and back to health. That’s what we’re focused upon.
Speaker 2: (06:52)
But that’s the general election that you’re talking about. I’m talking about primaries. Do you think that the former president-
Kevin McCarthy: (06:56)
I know, and what I’m talking about is the need of what the American people are most focused on. They’re not focused on a primary. They are focused on an election. They’re focused to put their kids back in school. They’re focused on getting back to work. They’re focused on getting a vaccine for everybody who wants it. That is what I’m focused on. Elections will come.
Speaker 2: (07:14)
Kevin McCarthy: (07:14)
But I think we just had an election, and I think the responsible thing to do is focus on the American public, not to build some subway, but get kids back in school, deal with the mental health that they just had for the last year. Those are my priorities. I’ll deal with politics later. This is why we were elected, and this is what we’ll do, we will govern.
Kevin McCarthy: (07:36)
Speaker 3: (07:36)
Some of the members in your caucus are again calling on Congresswoman Cheney to step down from her leadership position after her comments about former President Trump’s future in the GOP party, is that conversation about Congresswoman Cheney’s role in leadership still ongoing? Is that an open question? What’s your message to those members who are calling on her to step down from leadership?
Kevin McCarthy: (08:00)
Look, we continue to work. There’s more that unites us and that divides us. We dealt with that issue and we’ll continue to govern just as I said, to get people back to work, back to school, and back to health.
Speaker 4: (08:10)
Kevin McCarthy: (08:10)
Speaker 4: (08:10)
Mr. Leader, would you support Congressional hearings into the Texas energy blackouts?
Kevin McCarthy: (08:16)
Yeah, I want to know what transpired there. Yes.
Speaker 5: (08:20)
I wanted to ask you a security question about the Capitol. We’ve heard all week and hearings from the Capitol Police and sergeant-at-arms about intelligence being missed, about a plot to blow up the Capitol in the coming weeks. How concerned are you about the security situation, the fencing, and what is your level of confidence in the people charged with protecting this building and your members?
Kevin McCarthy: (08:46)
Well, I can’t thank the Capitol Police enough for the work they do. I watch it every day. I watch it in my own life. I watched the number of threats rise. Different points of time in elected office, we get them personally sent to us, to our families and others. What I think we have to do is look at what is out there today and what’s best to serve.
Kevin McCarthy: (09:10)
I do not think a mechanism of a department that only reports to a political person, meaning just to the Speaker. Was there information given to the Capitol Police? Is there decisions being made that the Speaker’s making with not taking into consultation whoever the Minority Leader would be or not? It’s not that you want to protect one party or the other, you want to protect the body itself. I think a restructuring is probably, should happen, because it seems to me, decisions are being made maybe not based upon security or using what those who this is their job of keeping people secure, but allowing a political person to decide at the end what’s best. I think that’s why a thorough investigation of that’s important.
Speaker 5: (10:00)
Do you feel there is any progress in that 1/6 Commission and getting to the place. The Speaker says she’s waiting on notes from you. I’ve heard you say you’re waiting to hear from the Speaker.
Kevin McCarthy: (10:08)
Oh, no, no, no. Let me be very clear. No, I’ve been very clear about this, if the Speaker wants to do a commission, which I said at the very beginning, and if you listen to those who had run the 9/11 Commission, they think they should take politics out of it. The only reason anything’s not happening is because the politics of Pelosi. From this bill to even looking at January sixth, she wants it one sided. She wants one side to have subpoena. Even when you listen to Hamilton and Kaine say, “No, don’t do it then.”
Kevin McCarthy: (10:41)
Then when I watched who she selects, even as a general to do research, this individual is political, making tweets even pretty recently into this year. That is never going to solve the problem. That’s just more politics. I’m more interested in putting politics aside and let’s find what you have to solve to just put security and make it right. I don’t think the fencing around is doing that. It’s costing a lot of money. It’s causing a lot of national guard people to be here that I don’t think is the best use of their time.
Kevin McCarthy: (11:13)
Speaker 6: (11:14)
Mitch McConnell said that he would get involved in Liz Cheney’s re-election campaign if she’s primaried, to help her. Would you do the same?
Kevin McCarthy: (11:21)
Liz hasn’t asked me.
Kevin McCarthy: (11:22)
Speaker 7: (11:24)
You said on the floor of the House that, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” Then a few days later, you said-
Kevin McCarthy: (11:33)
Finish the statement. If you’re going to read my statement, finish the whole statement when you read it.
Speaker 7: (11:35)
Just let me finish the question.
Kevin McCarthy: (11:36)
Speaker 7: (11:37)
You said a few days later, “I don’t believe he provoked it, if you listened to what he said at the rallies.”
Kevin McCarthy: (11:42)
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:11:43]
Speaker 7: (11:42)
Does he bear responsibility or not?
Kevin McCarthy: (11:46)
Well, you didn’t read my whole statement and I always wait to the end because you act different than everybody else. Nobody else yells out. You yell out. Every question is the same. We should have our one-on-one press conference, but-
Speaker 7: (11:58)
[crosstalk 00:11:58] why your answer was inconsistent?
Kevin McCarthy: (12:00)
Well, see that’s the point. It’s not inconsistent because what you’re trying to do here is only read part of my statement on the floor. If you want to read my whole part of the statement on the floor, you see no inconsistency. And that’s not me saying it, that’s based upon, I believe at another time when I said it, that they had, what is the little group that goes out there and looks as whether it’s right or wrong or [inaudible 00:12:20]? They said I was consistent. I think you’re wrong on that basis.
Kevin McCarthy: (12:23)
Speaker 7: (12:24)
Does the president bear responsibility for the attack?
Speaker 8: (12:24)
Yeah. The House bill still contains the $15 minimum wage hike, though there’s obviously reconciliation problems in the Senate.
Kevin McCarthy: (12:32)
It’s amazing. Welcome to the press conference.
Speaker 8: (12:35)
I know that you said that it will cost 3.7 million jobs. Has your conference discussed any level of minimum wage hike? Do you think that there should not be one at all? Should it stay where it was since 2009?
Kevin McCarthy: (12:44)
There are some Republicans in the Senate that I know from Cotton and Romney went out with something. I personally have a different opinion. Look, I come from Bakersfield, California, but I think local should be able to determine that. It’s different than New York and San Francisco.
Speaker 8: (13:03)
You don’t [crosstalk 00:13:03]
Kevin McCarthy: (13:04)
We haven’t had that internal debate yet. I think there’s a place that we can solve this problem. Unfortunately, the Democrats seem, the only reason they’re keeping it in, for politics.
Kevin McCarthy: (13:14)
I mean, the true question would be to Nancy Pelosi. She knows it will not survive in the Senate because the parliamentarian already told her that. Is she keeping it in the bill to keep her payoffs? Exactly what I named the bill. This is for a Progressive wing of the party who says they will not vote for the bill unless they have that in there. Now is that to deal with COVID? How many small businesses have already closed? How much more pain will you put on? All the studies show you’re actually going to lose more jobs. Look what happened in Seattle when they did. It actually costs people their jobs who need it the most, those who are just lower entry level. To me, it’s just more politics and it’s wrong because you know in the Senate it’s not going to survive.
Speaker 8: (13:56)
You mean that she’s keeping it in the bill to force Republicans to vote against it and [crosstalk 00:13:59]
Kevin McCarthy: (13:59)
No, no, no. She’s keeping it in the bill to try to get the Progressive of the Democrats to pass the bill. Otherwise, the bill will fail.
Speaker 8: (14:05)
Relating to a school closure is, do you think schools never should have closed? Or if they should have closed when do [crosstalk 00:14:14]
Kevin McCarthy: (14:13)
No, I think all schools are different. But I think I would have followed the science, and the science said you could’ve gotten back to school already. There’s precautions you’d have to do, that’s why we put money in the other bills. I mean, what did we put? 68 billion. Only four billion of that’s spent. We proposed three times Ashley Henson to use that money to go to schools to reopen. Three times the Democrats said no.
Kevin McCarthy: (14:41)
Schools are different, just like small business. In rural areas, there’s a lot of people that don’t have the internet. Their ability that these schools are actually smaller, but could they put the plexiglass up? Could they be able to deal with it? They dealt with it with a science because the kids are younger than others that they could have school.
Kevin McCarthy: (14:56)
Now what we’re finding is what all the things that have happened. If you look in my own school district, the D’s and F’s are increased this year, and then the anxiety, the suicides. All those bad things are happening when we have passed four trillion dollars. A lot of that in there is to help schools reopen. Money’s not even being spent. Three times we tried to do that, being denied by the Democrats.
Kevin McCarthy: (15:22)
No, I think as we’ve learned more about this virus, the disease it affects schools could be reopened and schools should be reopened.
Speaker 8: (15:28)
Since you brought up your district, when do you think your district should have reopened?
Kevin McCarthy: (15:32)
Well, my district, large, some of the schools are smaller. They could have opened earlier. My district happens to be in California, so we have a governor that did a one-size-fits-all that shut down a great deal. Then I look at Florida, even though our populations larger, even proportionally their population in Florida is older and seems to me our governor made a wrong decision. Now he politically may be punished for that because of a recall now, but it seems to me that he didn’t follow the science, even when the science, his own, that he went to say, that could open up, he wouldn’t give us his formula to the constituents because he said we’re not smart enough to understand it. I think it should have opened up months ago. It’d be district by district that’s prepared for it. There is funding there to help them.
Kevin McCarthy: (16:21)
Speaker 9: (16:21)
Sir, I’ve spoken to probably a dozen of your colleagues and everybody supports taking the fence down around the Capitol, and yet it’s still up. I’m just wondering, who actually makes that decision and when might we expect to see that come down?
Kevin McCarthy: (16:37)
Well, your question kind of goes to the question we had earlier about security. Should security be political or should security be dealt with those who are professionals and can make those decisions? Right now, the sergeant-of-arms only works for the Speaker of the House. When questions rise about January sixth, when was the National Guard requested to come in? What were the actions taken when they found an IED by the RNC and the DNC earlier in the morning? Who denied or why was it? If it was a situation like that, why wouldn’t the sergeant-of-arms have a communication with the Speaker and the Leader?
Kevin McCarthy: (17:20)
I mean, this to me means the structure is wrong. That they put politics even into this. No one’s ever asked me or laid out why the fencing should be there, or why it should continue to be there. This is being a call mainly by the Speaker herself. I have Democrats coming to me telling me they want it down as well.
Speaker 2: (17:41)
Are you blaming the Speaker for …
Kevin McCarthy: (17:44)
No. I’m not blaming the Speaker-
Speaker 2: (17:48)
… for strategic decisions based on Capitol Police on January sixth?
Kevin McCarthy: (17:50)
No, no. No. How’d you take that from that? I simply laid out a structure of questions that should be answered, because what’s real concerning to mean not just today, but tomorrow, that we had a briefing from the new sergeant-of-arms and others. How long has he been in office? Right? He’s been in his position more than a month. Right? I’ve never met the man until he sat in that room there. Coming, giving a briefing to our conference, he says everything’s bipartisan. But when we asked him questions, would the report come through based upon a general who’s tweeting about Republicans looking at what transpired, would that be non-biased?
Kevin McCarthy: (18:35)
The question would be, we all walk into a conference to have a meeting, we don’t walk through any magnetometers, but we have magnetometers just in front of the chambers. Is that the best use? If you sat down with a security expert, would they say that’s the best use of using the man and woman power of the police force there? Is that giving us the best security when people could all walk into that conference never walking through magnetometers, but only with inside the chambers. I don’t think these decisions are being made just looking at security of this establishment. I think decisions are being made politically, probably, based upon the structure. Structure dictates behavior.
Kevin McCarthy: (19:19)
If a person is a sergeant-of-arms, but only reports to the Speaker of the House, I think that’s a problem. If a person’s going to be a sergeant-of-arms and their job is the security of all members and if the idea, and not knowing this to be the case, but just my own personal experience, the threats that are happening are a lot to members. Right? That’s the people of why some of this Capitol Police is around to protect the security of members. We’ve had members who’ve been shot, the threats and everything else. But is that where you’re utilizing the appropriate resources, or are you utilizing them in a different manner? I think those are questions that have to be answered.
Speaker 10: (20:08)
Would you urge your members not to come to the floor armed with guns?
Kevin McCarthy: (20:12)
I don’t think that’s the place you need to bring your gun. No. I think we can do our business without it. I think we have the Capitol Police around to protect us. We’re okay.
Speaker 11: (20:22)
Can I ask you a question about earmarks?
Kevin McCarthy: (20:22)
Speaker 11: (20:26)
Kevin McCarthy: (20:26)
Do I have to answer? No, just joking.
Speaker 12: (20:27)
Speaker 11: (20:28)
Hoyer has said he’s had multiple conversations with you about your earmarks. I mean, can you tell us anything about the nature of those conversations and have you taken a temperature check in your conference about where they might be leaning on the issue?
Kevin McCarthy: (20:41)
Steny has talked to me. He talked to me last Congress. He’s talked to me this Congress. The one thing I’ve always said is if he wants to propose something, I will look at it. But the idea it can’t be what was around here before. There’s got to be accountability. I don’t know what they’re looking at. I haven’t taken any position yet, but I’m more than willing to look at something if they were provided to make sure it meets any type of threshold.
Kevin McCarthy: (21:07)
Now, when it comes in our conference, we have a rule against them. If they propose something, it’s not a rule against in the House, it would be a discussion we’d have to have internally. Now, they said they were going to do something last year, last Congress. They didn’t do that. I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything.
Speaker 11: (21:26)
But you’re open to it, depending on what [crosstalk 00:21:26].
Kevin McCarthy: (21:29)
Look, the number one thing I believe is these are hard working taxpayers’ money. You want accountability. I think there’s a responsibility, the constitutional responsibility of House members, because we appropriate, that we could have say in the process, that he wouldn’t use it all with the administration. But it’s got to meet a high bar to be able to deal with any of that. They can talk all they want, but until I see something, nothing’s going to change.
Kevin McCarthy: (21:57)
Speaker 13: (21:57)
What is your view of the [inaudible 00:22:00] Sanders idea of raising taxes on corporations, companies that don’t pay the minimum wage, $15 an hour?
Kevin McCarthy: (22:06)
It’s stupid. I think it’s a tax increase. I wouldn’t expect anything else from the Progressive Democrats of what they’re proposing.
Kevin McCarthy: (22:15)
Explain one thing to me. I’m glad you brought that up, because that’s the proposal and that’s being debated and this is what happens when the Democrats win the majority. What does it happen to do with COVID? Does that put anybody back to work, the kids back in school or to better health and provide a vaccine for any American who wants it? No. But that’s the whole debate of this bill. It just goes to show, not just that a subway for Nancy Pelosi. She just increased it by $40 million last night in rules committee. Did anybody have a hearing on that? What was the need? Why did you need 40 million more for that? Did that go 40 million more for schools? Did it go for the mental health?
Kevin McCarthy: (22:58)
The great thing about this though, we’re going to have a motion to recommit. That is an amendment to a bill that could take that $140 million. If that subway is worthy, it will pass in an infrastructure bill or a transportation bill, rightfully where it should. But let’s take that 140 million that if this is about COVID, let’s put that into the mental health that what COVID has done to our children in America. Let’s provide those resources to the family so they can get the help for the anxiety, the depression, the children who are suicidal. That’s COVID. That’s dealing with relief. That’s what the American public wants to see.
Kevin McCarthy: (23:42)
Thank you all very much. Have a good weekend.