Apr 22, 2021
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Transcript April 22
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference on April 22, 2021. She addressed Biden’s infrastructure plan, D.C. statehood, and more. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (00:00)
Good morning, everyone. Good morning on Earth Day. Here we are. As you know, today is Earth Day. To this day, Americans celebrate our glorious natural heritage and renew our pledge to care for God’s creation.
Nancy Pelosi: (00:17)
On this day, the President is having a virtual meeting with leaders of 40 countries to address the climate crisis. Today, the President has taken historic transformative action by announcing the bold pledge that America will cut our carbon pollution in half by 2030. To put this in perspective, President Obama committed to a 25% pollution reduction by 2025 in the Paris Agreement, and it is anticipated that we’ll reach that goal, and now President Biden is doubling that cut in five more years to 3030.
Nancy Pelosi: (00:59)
I think I’ve got a lot of stuff here. Excuse me.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:02)
In order to do that, we need the American Jobs Plan. When any of us, starting with President Biden, talk about climate, and you hear the President say this all the time, “When I think about the climate crisis, I think of one word, jobs.” Jobs. Well, our [inaudible 00:01:21] are advancing American jobs, which we hope will be bi-partisan. Millions of workers are in need of a good paying job, while our infrastructure is crumbling. Despite being the wealthiest country, we ranked 13th globally in the quality of our infrastructure. You know the figures, the poor grades that the American Society of Civil Engineers gives us on the condition of our infrastructure.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:49)
Now is the time for a once in the century investment to create millions of good paying jobs, ensure Americans can compete with any country in the world, and pave the way for economic growth for years to come. I say once in a century. It’s early in the century. I’m sure others will have maybe something even bigger down the road, way down the room.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:11)
To build back better, today is important. As a part of the for the people agenda, we re-introduced the powerful Drug Price Reduction Act, the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now in honor of our dear Elijah. This is about families. You’ve heard me say again and again that when we’re out on the campaign trail or in Zooms and the rest, the cost of healthcare, especially prescription drugs, is debilitating for families. I’ve seen grown men cry because they just cannot meet the obligations that they have toward their families if they have someone in drastic need of drugs on an ongoing basis.
Nancy Pelosi: (03:01)
When we did the Affordable Care Act, it was essential because we could not sustain the cost of health care. It was unsustainable to individuals, to families, to small businesses, to corporate America, to the taxpayer. And one of the successes of the Affordable Care Act was to decrease the rate of increase of healthcare costs, which we succeeded in doing, except for one thing, the cost of prescription drugs. And that’s why we have been trying again and again to have legislation passed that enables the secretary to negotiate for lower drug prices.
Nancy Pelosi: (03:41)
In the beginning, when we started, it was about Medicare drug prices, but then in this legislation, it’s about all drug prices. It is unacceptable that Americans have to pay three times more for prescription drugs for the very same drugs that are sold one third of the cost overseas. Millions of Americans [inaudible 00:04:03] cannot afford their medicines, particularly during the pandemic, where profits have soared for the pharmaceutical companies.
Nancy Pelosi: (04:13)
Also this week in the for the people agenda, we have legislation on the floor this morning. We are passing H.R. 51, some of you were with us yesterday when we talked about that with Eleanor Holmes Norton, to secure statehood for the District of Columbia, for Washington, D.C., whose residents pay taxes fighting our wars, power our economy, yet do not have a full voice in our democracy. Yesterday, we passed two bills, a No Ban Act, a real cause for celebration to get rid of that act of discrimination, and the Access to Counsel Act, rejecting xenophobia and discrimination on the basis of religion and reaffirming that all people, including immigrants, are entitled to civil rights, civil liberty, and dignity access to counsel.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:08)
Finally, before I go on about the District of Columbia, let me just talk about this. I said yesterday when I was here, [inaudible 00:05:18] was talking about his history of how long he was going back, and this one, this side, how far they went back on this issue, and I said this District of Columbia statehood is in my DNA. And I bring you this picture. I mentioned it yesterday. I said come to my office and see it, but until COVID enables you to do that, I brought it here.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:39)
This is a picture of my father and the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. It was the first time he had a hearing as the Chair of the District of Columbia Appropriations Subcommittee. As Chair of that committee, he was known the unofficial mayor of Washington, because sadly, the Congress had so much say over what happened in the District of Columbia. He did not support that. He was all for home rule and what would come after that.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:15)
But this was an invitation he extended to Eleanor Roosevelt. And she, as I said, was the first First Lady to ever testify in Congress, and she testified about the conditions in St. Elizabeth welfare institutions in the District of Columbia, and this is the picture that was taken. We’re so proud of it, and again, proud to help, but help meant letting the District of Columbia decide for itself.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:50)
So as everybody talks about how long they’ve been working on it, DNA, District of Columbia statehood.
Nancy Pelosi: (07:00)
So that was then, this is now. Next week we celebrate 100 days of the Biden-Harris administration. At that time, with the American Rescue Plan and President Biden’s actions, we had made extraordinary progress in crushing the virus and recovering from the economic crisis.
Nancy Pelosi: (07:19)
Yesterday, we reached the milestone, our country reached the milestone of administering 200 million shots in under 100 days. As we said in the rescue package, vaccines in the arms, money in the pockets, children in school, people at work. Now, 100, President… First he said a hundred shots in a hundred days, and then the success was so great that he’s succeeded 200 shots in less than 100 days.
Nancy Pelosi: (07:53)
Half of the adults have at least one dose, over 80% of seniors have had their first dose, up to 8% when President… It went from 8% when he took office of seniors having their first shot, to 80% of seniors having their first shot now. In the first month of the administration, also 80% of educators and school staff have received their first dose. Many are now fully vaccinated.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:27)
This was quite an eventful week in many ways. In terms of the verdict and the Derek Chauvin murder trial, I want to salute our colleague, Representative Karen Bass, Madam Chair, for her tremendous work on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:45)
Last year, May 25th was a horrible day that we saw George Floyd murdered before our very eyes. By June 8th, the House introduced the Justice in Policing Act under Karen Bass’ leadership. Soon after in a hearing that would come up before it could come to the floor, we had a hearing. The family was here. They asked me, they said, “Madam Speaker, can this bill be named for our brother and for his daughter to know that his life mattered?” And I said, “If you think the bill is worthy of George Ford, we will name it for him.”
Nancy Pelosi: (09:26)
The bill survived the committee process, passed on the floor on June 25th, one month from the day of the assassination. And on March 3rd of this year, we passed the bill again. We know that this bill must be done. It must be enacted into law. And again, I want to salute Karen Bass for her ongoing efforts from the start to write a bill, working with all of the interested parties or stakeholders in all of this, and then, again, now trying to reach consensus with the Senate.
Nancy Pelosi: (10:07)
She is optimistic. She is fair-minded. She is open and hopefully she will be successful in having a meaningful George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. I’m just so proud of the work that she has done. She’s been working on these issues for years, as has our Black Caucus. That’s why they were so ready. They were so ready when this happened to have a bill ready by just the second week in June and on the floor and passed by one month since the most unfortunate tragedy. Any questions?
Speaker 2: (10:51)
Nancy Pelosi: (10:51)
Speaker 2: (10:51)
Madam Speaker, if we could get an update on the 1/6 commission. We know that you’ve said that you’re willing to an equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats and equal subpoena power, but your Republican counterparts have said that they have not received your proposal yet. Have you extended that offer to them? And what are the parts of the proposal do you hope to change? And just in general, what is the state of the negotiations?
Nancy Pelosi: (11:12)
Well, there are three things in terms of the legislation, the makeup of the commission, the process within the commission, and the scope of the commission. Two objections that the Republicans had was that they wanted to have it even instead of the President having an appointment, just to have the House, the Democrats and Republicans, and we yielded on that. I think the President should have it, but nonetheless, the scope is what is important. If that’s where their discomfort is, I yield, not I, we yield on that.
Nancy Pelosi: (11:48)
The second part was on process, where they had a concern about subpoena, the subpoena power. We have said that we would agree to the subpoena power that I think they would agree to, that is that the chair and the ranking, not the ranking member, the chair and the vice chair would have to agree on a subpoena or a majority of the committee, of the commission agree. That seems to address the subpoena. We’ll see. We still don’t know where they will be on scope, but some of this is, shall we say, interaction among members on committees, et cetera. And if we can come to agreement on the first two, why would they object to the scope, which is to find the truth of what happened on January 6th when an insurrection descended upon the Capitol, just… Well, I don’t need to describe it to you, but our purpose is defined the truth for that. It’s not about investigating one thing or another that they may want to draw into this.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:09)
But I’m optimistic. Again, there are other options which I would not want to use because I want this to be bi-partisan. And again, if the price of the confidence that the public would have in this is to make it a little harder to get some things done, so be it, but we have to agree on the scope.
Speaker 2: (13:36)
But Republicans say they haven’t heard from you yet. Have you forwarded [crosstalk 00:13:37]
Nancy Pelosi: (13:36)
Well, some Republicans have. Don’t you worry about that. Don’t you worry about that. One step at a time in terms of you’re okay with the subpoena, you’re okay with the [inaudible 00:13:50], then we will have…
Nancy Pelosi: (13:51)
Now, we put out our proposal a few weeks ago. I didn’t see anybody write it up at all. I mean, it was like, “Oh, nothing’s happening.” No, things were happening. It’s a process. It’s a process. What is your objection? How can we find common ground? Because at the end of the day, you weigh the equities. It’s not about specific things. You weigh the equities. Is this a path to the truth? And that’s what we’ll find out.
Nancy Pelosi: (14:19)
And I’m optimistic that we can. As I’ve said, the scope means so much that it was important to yield. And I listen to my members too, that is to say our Chairman, Bennie Thompson, of the Homeland Security Committee, he has been focused for a long time on domestic terrorism, a long time. All through the previous administration, this has been a focus of his, and even longer in his role as Chair of Homeland Security Committee. So I take some of my lead from him and other members about what the weighing of equities will get us in seeking the truth.
Nancy Pelosi: (15:03)
But I think it’s very important. And you know the provenance. I had the bill in 2001 as author of the legislation for the commission then. So we all have a great deal of experience in terms of the makeup, the process, the who, and who and how is that defined. The numbers, yeah, but also who are these people? The process, timetable, resources for it, but most important, the purpose, the scope.
Speaker 3: (15:38)
Nancy Pelosi: (15:39)
Speaker 3: (15:39)
Yeah, good morning, thank you.
Nancy Pelosi: (15:40)
What do you got?
Speaker 3: (15:42)
Obviously the D.C. Bill will face a challenge in the Senate because of the filibuster and all. You guys have passed a lot of bills here, including later today, this new [inaudible 00:15:50] bill, that are piling up in the Senate. You and many of your fellow Democrats were critical of Mitch McConnell being unable to move bills, being unwilling frankly to move bills there, but isn’t the same phenomenon happening there, and therefore should they get rid of the filibuster?
Nancy Pelosi: (16:05)
Well, you realize that Mitch McConnell is still the problem. It’s not as if it was Mitch McConnell, now it’s somebody else. No, Mitch McConnell is still the problem. And I don’t get involved in any discussion with Senate rules, you know that, and I don’t welcome any discussion from them on House rules. However, I do think we have discussion on issues and how the needs of the American people are met.
Nancy Pelosi: (16:32)
We think our for the people agenda with the H.R.1 for cleaner government and cleaner politics in our country is very important. We think H.R.3 to lower the cost of prescription drugs, we think that H.R.4, the Voting Rights Act is something that shouldn’t be blocked because of process. The list goes on. H.R.5, the Equality Act, H.R.6, Dreamers and the Promise Act that goes with that, H.R.7, Fair Pay Act, equal pay for equal work, H.R.8, background check legislation, as well as 1446 that goes with that, the South Carolina loophole, then H.R.9, protect the planet now, and of course we’re back to H.R.2, which was our moving America forward, the jobs bill that we are hopefully working on, which we may… I hope we can do the bills without reconciliation, that we’ll have bipartisanship, but should we not have any progress on all of these fronts because of that, well, that’s a debate for the Senate.
Speaker 3: (17:52)
And isn’t that a political problem that you face then? If you’re moving these bills and they’re stalled in the Senate for whatever reason, isn’t the outcome basically the same as what you had when the Republicans were the majority [inaudible 00:18:02]?
Nancy Pelosi: (18:03)
Well, let’s see what the Senate does. Go ask them. Go ask them. Yes, ma’am?
Speaker 4: (18:08)
Are you supportive of Congresswoman Bass formally negotiating with Republicans-
Nancy Pelosi: (18:12)
Speaker 4: (18:12)
To try to come to a compromise?
Nancy Pelosi: (18:14)
Yes. Yes. I am briefed by her. I mean, again, the Black Caucus has been on this case for a long time. And so the provisions in the bill about choke holds, about no knock mandate, all of the provisions have been issues they have discussed for a long time. And they were ready. They were ready. And again, we cannot not improve the situation.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:44)
And so we couldn’t be better served. She knows what our purpose is for all of us. She knows the particulars. When she wrote this bill, she was at that time still the Chair of the Crime Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee. She had a waiver to do two, one foreign affairs, one judiciary. And so she wrote it under that auspices, inspired by a tradition in the Black Caucus of having justice in policing, hence the name. And then yes, so she has our full support.
Nancy Pelosi: (19:21)
And I wish that y’all would use her name more because it is synonymous with justice. She is fair. She wants to get it done. It’s the responsible and the prioritizing for accountability and justice. Yes, sir?
Speaker 5: (19:43)
On the police issue, Tim Scott said yesterday qualified immunity, he’s looking to change that. Obviously it’s a big piece of the police reform puzzle for Republicans and some Democrats. And he’s suggesting to change the standard to have people sue departments instead of police officers. I wonder how you view that. He said Democrats that he’s talked to have been receptive to that.
Nancy Pelosi: (20:05)
Well, let me just say what I said earlier about other things. It’s about weighing the equities, just to take one thing and say, “Would you do this or would you do that?” Qualified immunity is very important. The public list, listing very important. If you agree that there should be a list, then why would it not be public. Choke holds is at a hundred percent. Again, no knock warrants and that kind of thing.
Nancy Pelosi: (20:36)
So I trust Karen Bass’ knowledge of the subject, but also her knowledge of the ramifications it would have on the people that we’re trying to protect, which is everybody in our country, including our law enforcement officers. So I trust her to keep on the table what can be accomplished. And I think everybody knows this has to be a serious bill that will make a difference. So that’s why I trust whenever they decide. Yeah.
Nancy Pelosi: (21:12)
Okay? All right. What do you got?
Speaker 6: (21:15)
Madam Speaker, two hear two quick questions. Do you support the self-determination or statehood bills for Puerto Rico? And two, Senator Ossoff says that he will be looking into allegations of sexual misconduct by members of Congress against night shift custodians who clean the Capitol complex. What is Congress’ responsibility to protect the custodians who clean these buildings?
Nancy Pelosi: (21:34)
Well, on the statehood issue, that’s up to the people of Puerto Rico. That’s up to them to decide whether they want to be a state, and then we’ll see what happens after that. I love Puerto Rico. I felt embarrassed by how President Trump withheld resources for them after natural disasters and the rest.
Speaker 6: (21:55)
Do you prefer bill or the other, the self-determination or statehood?
Nancy Pelosi: (21:59)
No, I’m not for one bill or another. It’s up to the people of Puerto Rico to make a decision about their status.
Nancy Pelosi: (22:05)
In terms of your second question, the Chair of the House Administration Committee will be meeting with both the Architect and the Inspector General, and look forward to seeing the report on any progress in this area. We don’t have any place here for any question in terms of the safety in every sense of the word for our workers in the Capitol.
Nancy Pelosi: (22:29)
Thank you all very much. Don’t forget, 51st state, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that something to be so proud of? The first First Lady to come to testify before Congress. Thank you all. Bye now.