Nov 19, 2020
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Press Conference Transcript November 19
House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy held his weekly press conference on November 19. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Kevin McCarthy: (00:01)
Good morning. You’ve heard me talk quite a bit about this historic Republican freshmen class we’ll have in the next Congress, but I want to give you a few facts. Half of the freshmen are either women or minorities. Young Kim and Michelle Steele will be the first Korean-American women to serve in Congress. Nancy Mace will be the first female graduate of the Citadel, and now be the first Republican woman from South Carolina to serve in Congress. Yvette Harold is the first Republican native American woman elected to Congress. And Stephanie Bice is the first Iranian-American woman elected to Congress. This makes me very proud as a Republican and as an American. It shows that the party of Lincoln is also continuing the legacy of the first black American to serve Congress, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina.
Kevin McCarthy: (00:55)
Rainey was born into slavery and even after gaining his freedom, he received little education as a child. He was drafted by the Confederacy, but he escaped and went to Bermuda and started a business. After the war, he moved back to Georgetown, South Carolina, with his family. And in 1867, he became the chairman of the county’s Republican party. Just a few years later, he was elected in 1870 and became the first black American in Congress where he worked tirelessly, fought for civil rights, education, and economic opportunity for all. Now, next month, we are going to celebrate 150 years for Joseph Rainey’s election. I’m going to have a party and then an anniversary celebration, and I hope you will all attend this ceremony.
Kevin McCarthy: (01:47)
Now back in May, NBC News said that President Trump would need a miracle to deliver a vaccine by the end of the year. Not only did Democrats echo the same pessimistic view, they even cast doubt on whether the Americans should trust the safe and effective vaccine. Yesterday, Pfizer announced a 95% effective rate in the late stage trial and showed it was effective in older adults as well. Earlier this week, Moderna also announced their vaccine had a 94.5% effective rate. This is the most important news in probably a generation and it’s because of American innovation and this administration’s plan to effectively distribute the vaccine to the American people. Dr. Slowey says 20 million American could receive the vaccine next month.
Kevin McCarthy: (02:41)
We know that a vaccine is how we ultimately defeat this virus. So we need to help reinforce the work of Operation Warp Speed. That is why House Republicans introduced or included $47 billion in HR14, the commitment to defeat the virus and keep America healthy, which we introduced just last month. Now, when it comes to small business, as we promised, vaccines would lift our spirits, small businesses across this country might not be able to wait that long. They have been asked to do the impossible and now are facing further lock downs with no help from Washington. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that hundreds of companies that receive PPP loans have filed for bankruptcy, citing the lack of additional stimulus payments as the pandemic wears on. But that number of businesses in America going under is without question much higher after you see that the Journal only reviewed large firms that received loan forgiveness, which amounts to only 13.5% of the total participants in the program.
Kevin McCarthy: (03:44)
The Washington Post reported that nearly 100,000 businesses nationwide have already shut their doors permanently. There’s no more time to delay. We must act now. We are in session. I call on every member in this chamber, especially the Democrat moderates who complained about Nancy Pelosi’s failure in delivering a COVID deal to sign Jamie Herrera Butler’s paycheck protection program discharge petition. There was already $138 billion in relief just sitting there. It’s already appropriated. All we have to do is vote to free it up. Now, back in September, 23 so-called moderate Democrats wrote to their house leadership urging for bipartisan negotiations with Republican colleagues, every one of them signed this letter. They admitted that if Pelosi failed, that a discharge petition would be the only resort. Well, this was back in September. These were 23 Democrats. I take them at their word and at their signature. They’re in session today, they can sign the discharge petition and this could be done today. Help could be on the way.
Kevin McCarthy: (05:03)
Speaker Pelosi’s approach that nothing is better than something is wrong, and everybody knows it. And the American people have paid the price for it. And now Democrats are clamoring to go home for the rest of the year. That’s a disgrace. You signed a letter, you put your name to it and you stated that if something did not happen, a discharge petition, you would go to. Well, you know what, nothing happened your leadership and Speaker Pelosi said nothing is better than something. And we watched hundreds of thousands of businesses shut down, to lose their dream. We have $138 billion already appropriated, already sitting there. All it takes is your signature and follow through on what you said you would do. Now is the day, now is the time and let’s stop playing games and let’s work for the American public. With that, let’s go to questions. Yes, sir. Welcome back.
Speaker 2: (06:04)
Thank you. Appreciate it. Why is it appropriate for the president, as he did yesterday to call local election officials who’s involved in the certification of the election? And more generally, what is the end game here for the president? When these states certify their results, do you accept that this election will be over?
Kevin McCarthy: (06:22)
I don’t know who the president called, but the president is an American citizen, he could find out any facts that are going on. I know a number of members who call their election officials, ask how many votes are left. When’s the count going to take place? Are they provisional ballots? How many are within my district? We’re still counting a number of congressional districts that still are out there that are not been called yet. Yes, at the end of the day, when every legal vote is counted, when every recount is finished and every legal challenge is heard, yeah, people will accept what the results are. Yes, sir.
Speaker 3: (06:56)
Would you support any effort to delay certification by the states so that Republican legislatures could name their own electors to the electoral college regardless of how the popular vote turns out?
Kevin McCarthy: (07:09)
I think I’m clear on all of that. I think every legal vote should be counted. Every recount should be finished and every legal challenge should be heard and the states should finish their work.
Speaker 4: (07:27)
Have you had a single conversation about COVID relief in any substantive manner in the last couple of days?
Kevin McCarthy: (07:32)
Speaker 4: (07:32)
With anybody, anybody who is empowered to make a deal?
Kevin McCarthy: (07:37)
Well in the House, I serve in the House, it’d be the Speaker of the House. No.
Speaker 4: (07:40)
Have you talked to McConnell? Have you talked to the White House?
Kevin McCarthy: (07:42)
I’ve talked to McConnell, yes. And I’ve talked to the White House, yes.
Speaker 4: (07:45)
And could you give us a sense of where things are going?
Kevin McCarthy: (07:49)
Well, the things are still at the same place. There’s one roadblock. There’s one big wall that has stopped this the entire time and it’s Speaker Pelosi. I would think after the politics that she played and the election being over that she’d now put the American public first. She still seems to be in the same position. But the good news is you have 23 Democrats who put their name to a letter back in September who said, if you did not do your job, Speaker Pelosi, we would sign the discharge petition. So now if they keep their word, if their word is true and the letter is right, we could get at least PPP relief going. Yes.
Speaker 5: (08:25)
All of this while cases are spiking across the country and in Congress. There are still a number of your conference members that are not wearing masks around the Capitol. Are you concerned about that? And are you concerned that this virus might spread to your colleagues, keeping you all from getting things like the NDAA government funding and a COVID relief bill done before the end of the year?
Kevin McCarthy: (08:46)
Well, I can continue to get concerned about the rise and the spike. I will tell you, I just went through two days of a conference where every single person wore their mask, except for when they were speaking. I think they’ve been, people have been very clear and understand the seriousness to this. I think that is why when we introduced our bill, HR14, we added $47 billion more to help in any need that we can to make sure the vaccine moves further. It is a miracle that we would have a vaccine this year, just as everybody said, it would be impossible. but Operation Warp Speed worked. Not just one vaccine, but now we’re on the cusp of maybe having three vaccines with a 95% effective. No one dreamed or thought that that would be possible. Now, how do we get this safe and secure vaccine out to the country?
Kevin McCarthy: (09:35)
The President has done a lot of work ahead of time, especially with that. And that’s why we provided more money, utilizing the material, the military that does this so well. And Dr. Slowey says that there could be 20 million Americans that could have the vaccine next month. I think that is really the future of how we turn the corner on all of this and we need to continue to work towards that. It would be very helpful though, if we could have Speaker Pelosi to stop the political games. I mean, how could she send people home? I mean, I don’t know what to trust on her because she said back before summer, we would not leave unless we had a COVID relief bill, but she sent us home. Then when we came back, she said we would not leave again, but then she sent us home. You now have 23 Democrats, either they’ll be like the Speaker, give a word and not keep it, or they’ll keep the word of what they sign their name to a letter on.
Speaker 5: (10:27)
You’re advising your conference members to all wear masks?
Kevin McCarthy: (10:29)
Speaker 6: (10:31)
Leader, you talked about in the beginning of the press conference about the record number of GOP women who had been added. Of course, Democrats still have the majority and they say that they want to overturn the [inaudible 00:10:40]. As our Catholic viewers want to know, what can your party do to prevent this from happening?
Kevin McCarthy: (10:46)
Well, I think that’s the law of the land. I mean, despite where you stand on the issue, should you spend taxpayer money for this? I mean, that’s been clear for a number of years. That’s something that even Joe Biden had voted for in the past, but now wants to change his mind to appease a different wing within his own party. I think now that we have a stronger number inside the House, it would be hard to shift, but I know what the Democrats have done, even defeating a Democrat in their own party, in a primary based upon this belief, because they will not tolerate different views. The one thing you look at the Republican party, our greatest strength is our diversity of how many places we come and that’s why we were successful winning two seats in Miami, winning in New York, defeating a committee chair in Minnesota. Think about California, prior to the special election last year, the last time a Republican switched a Democrat seat in California was 22 years. We’re on the cusp of doing it four times in this election. That’s the home state of the Speaker. It’s also my home state too. Yes.
Speaker 7: (11:53)
Joe Biden and other Democrats have stated that some portion of student debt should be canceled. Do you think student debt or some portion thereof should be canceled?
Kevin McCarthy: (12:02)
Well, I think if you’ve watched President Trump, he did do part of that already in the process. I think what really needs to happen is people need to get in a room and work on a COVID relief package. I think getting the economy back working again is the best way of moving forward on how to deal with anyone’s debt. Yes.
Speaker 8: (12:21)
The NDAA was sent to conference yesterday. When that comes back, the president has threatened to veto over the Confederate provision that’s in there. Would you support a congressional override to get that NDAA passed?
Kevin McCarthy: (12:33)
I’m not quite sure what the president said there. I think when the NDAA comes out, we’ll have it passed. And I think the president will sign it. Yes.
Speaker 9: (12:41)
The Biden team wants to be, said they need to be briefed on the vaccine distribution. Biden himself said that if they don’t coordinate with the Trump administration, people may die when it comes time to distribute-
Kevin McCarthy: (12:55)
Why would he say that if he doesn’t know about it? Your first premise-
Speaker 9: (12:58)
No. My question is, should there be coordination with the Trump administration and the Biden transition team about distributing the vaccines?
Kevin McCarthy: (13:09)
The first thing I think the Biden team should do is take back the words that they said earlier, especially Kamala Harris. To scare the American public about a vaccine that’s 95% effective. I think Governor Cuomo should do the exact same thing. And then when I listened to my own governor, I think they should allow this administration that did an Operation Warp Speed and stop playing politics with it. We have a safe and secure, not one vaccine, but on the cusp of having three in the short time period. Dr. Slowey is not playing political games. He’s been planning this and has done 14 vaccines before this. He’s put the American public first. The president, you have one president at a time. We have the military putting through and planning this ahead of time. So I want to follow through and if we can get people the vaccine next month, let’s do it.
Kevin McCarthy: (14:00)
That is what’s going to save lives. Playing politics with this as wrong. And if Joe Biden wants to make a claim, first in your question was, he doesn’t know about it, but he claims people are going to die. Well, how can he make that claim, if he doesn’t know anything about it? I think we have our doctors, our scientists, our researchers, they are the experts. Let’s let them work and push this through and let’s stop playing politics with it. That would be the number one thing I would do. [inaudible 00:14:27] He can know what’s happening. Rightfully so, but the one thing he shouldn’t do is stop saying the things that he’s doing for only political reasons. That is what’s hurting the American public. That is what’s going to have people to die if they’re fearful of taking a vaccine, that’s 95% effective. And to play political games, to delay it in a time that it’s spiking, I think he knows better than that. Yes. You’re done?
Speaker 10: (14:55)
I have a question now. What’s your reaction to Gavin Newsom being at this restaurant without a mask and all this stuff?
Kevin McCarthy: (15:01)
Well, I hope the Democrats who signed this letter are not like Gavin Newsom, say one thing and do another. If the 23 of them that signed a letter and said, if action didn’t take, they’d sign a discharge petition. I wish they would do it. What’s concerning to me is who was around the table too, from the medical association. And then to say at the very beginning that they were outside, they weren’t even wearing a mask. I mean, I know what Gavin Newsom has said before. He’s told us in California, even if we’re out to eat in the last month, we’d have to wear a mask, take a bite and put the mask back on. I think he lost a lot of credibility with Californians.
Speaker 11: (15:37)
Are you having a small Thanksgiving or a large Thanksgiving?
Kevin McCarthy: (15:39)
Well, it’s my wife and daughter. I’d call that small.
Speaker 11: (15:43)
Kevin McCarthy: (15:44)
Well, I got my dogs too. Teddy and Cash will be there and they’ll get all the extra food. So I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving and I hope we do not leave until we get this discharge petition and get it done and we could actually get it done today. Thank you very much.