Aug 25, 2021
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Transcript August 25
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference on August 25, 2021. She addressed infrastructure plans, the Voting Rights Act, and the situation in Afghanistan. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Nancy Pelosi : (00:00)
Again, it was a team effort for us to win the vote. I want to salute Steny Hoyer, a distinguished majority leader. Mr. Cliburn, our distinguished whip. Katherine Clark, assistant speaker. And all of the members of the leadership who worked so hard on this because it wasn’t just about that vote. It’s about how we proceed and make it the law within the next couple of months, six weeks, whatever. Really the vision of the president, he had said, “I want to do what I can in a bipartisan way on infrastructure, but it is not the totality of my vision. My vision is to build back better, not only with physical infrastructure, but with the personal infrastructure.” I’m paraphrasing now, that wasn’t a direct quote. And so in our legislation, we deal with the climate crisis and in a more important way, we will deal with the Building Back Better for women. They were talking about childcare and child tax credit. Universal pre-K, home healthcare and workforce development.
Nancy Pelosi : (01:11)
These are not just about women, but women will predominantly benefit because women predominantly bear the responsibility for many of those important priorities in our society. So I’m really very, very excited. I always had confidence. I never doubted that the president’s budget would prevail because of the commitment that our caucus has to America’s working families. That is what unifies us, whatever our differences at the end of the day, our commitment to America’s working families is the unifier. So people say to us, “Well, you keep them together.” No. Our values keep the House Democrats together. So I’m excited and I’m very much excited about that.
Nancy Pelosi : (01:57)
What also happened yesterday was historic. We passed the Voting Rights Act on the floor of the House. Now it will go on to the Senate and hopefully it will see a success there. This is called the John Lewis Voter Advancement Act. It is historic. When we were in the minority, last time I put this in perspective, when we were in the minority in 2006, we wrote a bill in a bipartisan way, the Black caucus taking the lead to present the Voting Rights Act that passed at that time signed by President Bush. And it came on 2007. I think it was unanimous in the Senate, but it was almost unanimous in the House. We had nearly 400 votes for it. Not even a question of any partisanship. And yesterday, you did not see that bipartisanship. And it was really sad. This is fundamental to our democracy that we respect the sanctity of the vote. That was what John Lewis, his life and risk of death was about.
Nancy Pelosi : (03:14)
So in any event, all the more necessary because of the assault on the Voting Rights Act that was made by the Supreme Court and the Shelby County versus Holder. Holder, the then attorney general. And again, the more recent decision earlier this summer by the Supreme Court on Section 2 of Voting Rights Act. What could they be thinking? Thinking, caring, I don’t know. But whatever it is, if they’re just saying that the constitutional basis for the legislation, it was not ironclad enough. Then we made sure that it was.
Nancy Pelosi : (03:55)
Congresswoman Terri Sewell has been working on this issue. As you know, she represents Selma in the Congress. So her connection to John Lewis to voting rights and sacrifices made is a great one. And I was so proud that she prevailed. The John Lewis bill also had the great support of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Nadler of the House Administration Committee, which does elections, et cetera. [Zoloft gun 00:04:29], the good work of Mr. Butterfield and collecting the data for the constitutional basis. As well as now, Secretary Marcia Fudge. But she did that before. That was her basis last year.
Nancy Pelosi : (04:44)
Now, even with the election in 2020, we see even more need because of the actions taken during the election in 2020 and since. All the more need, not just for H.R.4, but for H.R.1, now S.1 in the Senate. Not only the suppression of the vote, the nullification of elections that they are putting forth, there probably 20 bills that had become law that had been enacted. Hundreds that had been introduced to suppress the vote. Why? I mean, you just have to wonder why would they not want to make it easier for people to vote. Just because they want to suppress the vote among people of color. They are also suppressing the vote for everyone else by their, again, suppression of number of polling places, hours that are there, the list goes on and on.
Nancy Pelosi : (05:46)
So we’re very optimistic about what we said in our preamble. We, the people. It has to be the people doing this. And over time, there are efforts to expand freedom. And now the Republicans want to contract freedom. This is the week. This week, we are observing Women’s Equality Week when 101 years ago, women won the right to vote. At the time, they said women given the right to vote, not given, no, not given. Fought for. Starved for. Marched for. Worked so hard over decades to achieve the 19th Amendment. So last week was the day in Tennessee when the vote was taken in Tennessee to take us to the number of states needed to ratify. This week is the enactment. So for one week we celebrate. But as we celebrate, we have to protect, not the vote, not only in terms of ending suppression, but ending nullification.
Nancy Pelosi : (06:55)
Martin Luther king, Reverend king, he talks about nullification in the I Had A Dream speech. So this is something that had been there in their Jim Crow world that they want to resurrect. So again, I salute Terri Sewell. I salute all who have worked on the legislation, Steve Cohen, whose subcommittee put forth the legislation last week. The list goes on. While we were presenting our press conference on it yesterday, we had the honor of the presence of the legislators from Texas there who are seeing firsthand the brutal attempts to suppress the vote in their states. We were honored by their presence, inspired by their courage and determined to get this to become the law of the land.
Nancy Pelosi : (07:44)
I talked about how proud I was of my caucus and their commitment to America’s working families. And I just wanted to talk about where we go next. We have been for a while, but now coming to closure on some of the particulars within the bill. The president and the Senate sent us a legislation about a budget resolution of $3.5 trillion. Within it, or some of the things I talked about before that relate to workforce development, Building Back Better with women in the workplace, addressing the climate crisis in a way that was not addressed at all in the Infrastructure Bill. Very minor, just electrification. Electrification is important, but it is not the totality of what we have to do. And we may want to do more.
Nancy Pelosi : (08:42)
So we had at our caucus, a couple of days ago… What’s today? Wednesday. Yeah. Monday. The chairman, once again, presenting what the debate will be in the committees, what the priorities are. Our goal is by September 15th that we will have every committee reporting. Now, what was important about yesterday is we could do all of that. We could mark up bills, but we could not report to the budget committee, without passing a budget bill. And a budget bill that retains the privilege of 51 votes in the Senate. That’s why yesterday was fraught with so much meaning to protect the privilege of 51 votes, enabling in a timely fashion, the committee’s report. So the members have now have only ongoing, but continue to be alerted to make their voices heard in terms of the substance in the bills and the pay force, because we want to pay for this bill.
Nancy Pelosi : (09:50)
I’d like to have it totally paid for. We’ll see what is possible. The Ways and Means Committee under Richie Neal has been working with the Senate and others. I won’t go into his contacts, but so members are making their views known on what the pay force can be and that some are new, some are pretty standard, fair, but it’s a question of how much. So that’s what will be happening and some committees will be marking up before September 15th. But everyone by September 15th, we write a bill with the Senate because it’s no use are doing a bill that is not going to pass the Senate in the interest of getting results. So we don’t want to go as slow as the slower ship, but we also don’t want to under utilize any resource. And that resource would be what the Senate rules were allowed to proceed.
Nancy Pelosi : (10:51)
It’s pretty exciting. It’s pretty exciting. And again, it goes back to the vision of the president. A vision that he discussed in his campaign that he made known in his State of the Union. You know, people ask me, I bring this up because it’s Women’s Equality Week, at the State of the Union, there were two of us, very distinguished, Vice President Kamala Harris, whom we’re very, very proud. Especially as Californians, but nonetheless, the country very proud. And people asked me afterward, “How did it feel to be up there with two women standing behind the president and the State of the Union?” And I said, “Well, it was wonderful.” Yeah. But what was even more wonderful is that the president’s speech was about advancing women in the workplace. Childcare. Family, medical leave. Child tax credit. All of those things. Workforce development. Universal pre-K.
Nancy Pelosi : (11:51)
It was a speech that not only had the fact that two women were there, but that all women would be served in a very positive way as go forward. It’s transformational. The priorities, the amounts and the rest is transformational. So we want to get that done. Again, I want to salute the caucus because they always make me proud. And once again they did yesterday. I always have confidence in what they’re going to do. We talked about the full recap and the rest. The Build Back Better. Okay. So right now we continue to have the challenge of COVID. As you know, the Delta variant is threatening. I salute the FDA. Janet Woodcock did a wonderful job bringing this full approval forward in a timely fashion, respecting all of the scientific requirements that are there.
Nancy Pelosi : (12:53)
And now that we have the full approval for those who were reluctant, because it didn’t have full approval. And those organizations who did not feel that they could require the vaccine until there was full approval, hopefully that will give us some more momentum. As children go back to school, this is really important that adults, people of 12 and over, I’ve got a [inaudible 00:13:17], my grandchildren, that they will be vaccinated so that they don’t put younger children at risk until there can be approval for vaccine for them. But anyway, in the meantime, let’s just crush this virus. And people have to know that as it spreads, that’s a way for it to mutate and we don’t need another variant, but we always have to be prepared. So I congratulated the president yesterday on the fact that the vaccine had now received full approval.
Nancy Pelosi : (13:53)
And again, very important for some of what we have in the Rescue Package in the beginning of the year to take effect in the schools for distancing and ventilation and other safety precautions for the children. Again, when we talk about challenges that we have in our country, we have fought these fires in the west. Floods in Tennessee. President approved a major disaster declaration for Tennessee. Middle Tennessee region has had flooding and deaths. In California, in the west, we had the river and Dixie Fires, which the president has declared major disaster for as well. And so we have to understand, again, many of us think if we can address the climate crisis, we can deal in a better way to prevent some of this. But in any event, in the immediate here and now, our sympathy goes out to those in Tennessee, who’d lost their loved ones.
Nancy Pelosi : (14:56)
It’s very sad. 18 people had lost their lives so far. And there are families and those who’ve lost some of their livelihood and homes. We sympathize with it similarly. And we’re fortunate so far. And in California, in terms of… It’s not fortunate to lose your home and your job and everything else. But containing any loss of life. Takes me down now to Afghanistan, hopes and prayers and thoughts are with the people there. We salute our men and women in uniform, our diplomats, our intelligence, people who have worked so hard in the Afghanistan arena for a number of years. And especially right now. Again, I salute my members. Jason Crow, taking the lead on our legislation allies and hope to help those who helped us. And hopefully as many of those people will be evacuated as possible. Hopefully all, but this is a tragic situation.
Nancy Pelosi : (16:07)
I’ve been there eight or nine times in Afghan… And most of the time we visited women in the hinterlands. We’d go on Mother’s Day in the leadership of Susan Davis, our former colleague. With all the respect in the world for all the women who advance, it’s judges and doctors and heads of universities and leaving figures, we also were visiting the poorest of the poor women and seeing what their aspirations were for their daughters to be able to go to school and the rest. So we’ve changed Afghanistan in that respect and that women have seen the light of day, but now that is under threat. And we want to make sure that there’s a big, bright, light shining on Afghanistan if they wish to participate globally in any way. Respect for women and people in general is a factor in all of that. So with that I’ll take any question.
Madam Speaker? Madam Speaker?
Speaker 3: (17:08)
When did you learn that Congressman Moulton and Congressman Meijer traveled to Afghanistan and is that what prompted your letter instructing members not to travel to the region?
Nancy Pelosi : (17:17)
When did I learn? A little bit forward within the public domain. I’ll tell you why. We didn’t make it known because it would be dangerous for them. So a matter of hours, but still until they were airborne, it would not been safe for them. The Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, there is a real concern about members being in the region. And so with the, shall we say, knowledge of the Secretary of the Defense as to what the risk would be to these members, there are resources necessary to facilitate their visit and to protect them was an opportunity cost of what we needed to do to be evacuating as many people as possible. So it’s not just about them going to Afghanistan. We aren’t even going to the region because there’s a cull on our resources diplomatically, militarily and the rest in the region as well. So this is deadly serious. We do not want members to go.
Speaker 3: (18:29)
So you’re disappointed in them specifically? Would they hadn’t gone with-
Nancy Pelosi : (18:32)
In other words, let me just say, I think my letter speaks for itself in terms of people shouldn’t be going there.
Madam Speaker? Madam Speaker?
Nancy Pelosi : (18:40)
Speaker 4: (18:40)
Well, just on that front of me, have you spoken to them since the visit?
Nancy Pelosi : (18:44)
No, I haven’t. I don’t know. I guess they’re back now, are they? I haven’t spoken to them since. No.
Speaker 4: (18:48)
Did you see their trip as a distraction?
Nancy Pelosi : (18:52)
I don’t think it as much of a [inaudible 00:18:54]. The point is, is that we didn’t want anybody to think this was a good idea and that they should try to follow suit. Again, I haven’t… I’ve been busy. It’s an important thing. We wanted to make sure they were safe for themselves, but also for what consequences could flow and ramification, if something happened to them while they were there. So they have to make their own case as to why they went and this or that. But it was not in my view a good idea.
Speaker 4: (19:25)
Do you intend to speak with them then?
Nancy Pelosi : (19:27)
We’ll see. We’ll see. I mean, they had their committees. See, when you go on a trip, this is not just like, “I think I’m going to go to Afghanistan.” You need the approval of your committee chair in order to do that. And we’ve put out the word to committee chairs. There ain’t going to be no planes or this or that for people going to the region or any facilitation. See, the Defense Department has to protect, but the State Department has to facilitate. Really, we’re trying to get people out. So again, without having a fuller knowledge of… I don’t think they had any committee approval. I don’t know that. I don’t know what happened on the Republican side. But my understanding is they didn’t have committed approval on the Democratic side. But in any event, interesting, I don’t think a major distraction because we put an end to any thought that anybody was going there right away.
Speaker 5: (20:35)
Thank you. Thank you. And to that end on Afghanistan, with this Herculean effort to try to withdraw the folks and get people out safely and evacuating them, what does it say about the fact that the two members, a Democrat and Republican and I’ve talked to a number of offices who are working the phones constantly to get people out that they feel so desperate that people need to be evacuated that they need to freelance on their own. Does that speak to this problem about the evacuation?
Nancy Pelosi : (20:59)
No. I think it speaks to that they want to freelance on their own. I would not make anything bigger of this. We have a big challenge to get people out safely and to get them… I talked to Malala last week. You know Malala, she’s the heroine of the world. Personal sacrifice, great leadership. And we talked about women and girls, which is part of what her foundation does. But she basically, in our conversation and follow up letter said, “Most important thing right now is for U.S to have a strong military presence at the airport. And the opportunity for people to get to the airport.” Is not in furtherance of that strength for us to have members going over there.
Madam Speaker? Madam Speaker?
Nancy Pelosi : (21:47)
Speaker 6: (21:49)
Mr. Crow, who you mentioned, is leading the effort on the caucus on those. He said yesterday he’s against withdrawing our troops by the 31st. He said, “But if we aren’t willing to use the military to protect U.S. citizens and our partners and our friends, then what do we use it for?” Do you think that this is the wrong decision to stick by this deadline if there are potentially tens of thousands of Afghans, partners, their families that are left behind?
Nancy Pelosi : (22:13)
Well, obviously we’ve made a promise and we want to honor it. And I have the enormous respect for Mr. Crow. He’s been a leader, just visionary. He saw what happened early on and was a leader in passing the legislation in a way to facilitate. The judgment about leaving is about judgment that the president has made. And he has to balance the equities of what is the threat to our military and the people at the airport versus the advantage of staying. And that’s kind of what he said yesterday, but I think more will unfold in that regard. So I can’t go into what happened as a caucus yesterday, but one impression that one might take of people coming out, which I was there for, but people coming out had said people really wanted to encourage the president to stay longer. But he has to, as I say, weigh the equities of the danger versus the advantage, and I trust his judgment.
Madam Speaker? Do you know-
Nancy Pelosi : (23:25)
Speaker 7: (23:25)
I’m curious about your reaction to your reflection on this week with the Gottheimer crew. You’ve been through a lot of these in the last 15 years. I’m curious what your reflection is on what they frame is a deal, you say is not much of a deal.
Nancy Pelosi : (23:41)
Well, no, it’s not. It’s a clarification. It’s a clarification. Look, we have a vision about how we go forward. It is in grasp because of the reconciliation. There are those who would like to see the reconciliation be smaller and some of that from the outside had an impact on some of the debate. But I have tremendous respect for all of our members and what their views are and what they bring to the table. And at the end of the day, what had to prevail was the president’s vision and the needs of America’s working families. And they saw that. We would have had to pass Infrastructure Bill by September 30th anyway, because the authorizations expire and for highway and some of the things in the bill. And so we’re talking about a couple of days earlier. But again, their participation was constructive. I welcome it. And I was pleased that we were able to get a hundred percent of the Democrats to vote.
[crosstalk 00:24:49]. Madam Speaker-
Nancy Pelosi : (24:50)
And again, let me take it back to our colleagues. The steam that was in our caucus was to get this done for the president, for the American people, for America’s working families. And our unit is, I always say, our diversity is our strength. Our unity is our power. We had our diversity. We had our discussions. We’re respectful all around. And our unity was our power. [Isaiah 00:25:20], that’s it? That’s it. Thank you all very much. Thank you.