Dec 10, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Transcript December 10
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference on December 10. She discussed coronavirus relief negotiations and addressed recent rumors about Rep. Eric Swalwell. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (00:01)
As you can see, and as I indicated earlier in the week, when we observed the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, the 79th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I said on that day that our president said, “This is the day that will live in infamy,” and united the country to fight for freedom. In that war, in World War II, 291,557 people, Americans, died in combat in World War II. Today, we have an assault by a virus on our society, our economy, our schools, our children, our people. We do not have a unifying president of the United States. In fact, we have a president, for a long time, in denial, delaying and distorting, calling it a hoax. Many thousands more people have died because of that. Now we’re up to 290,000 today. We will probably surpass, sadly, the World War II number.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:26)
In another few days we’ll observe once again, sadly, 300,000. We observed 100,000 as if it was an impossible number to accept. 200,000, how could it be true? 300,000 by the time we get through the weekend. Let us hope that this vaccine will inspire people to follow a regimen of masks, separation, sanitation, and the rest so that they can be prepared for a vaccine to hopefully reverse this tide in terms of these numbers. To that end, I have great respect for the bi-partisan group of folks, mostly senators, but some of our folks [inaudible 00:02:22] who are engaged in conversations about this bill. It is smaller bills than we think is needed for our country, but in light of two completely changed dynamics, in less than 1000 hours Joe Biden will be inaugurated president of the United States, and we have a vaccine, which hopefully will be approved by the committee today to go forward.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:59)
That change in dynamic enables our president to be, to say, “This is a first step, but that much more needs to be done.” So while this has our values, which some of the other bills did not, it has a shorter timeframe, but in light of a new president, gives us time to inaugurate a president, have discussions about how we truly meet the needs of the American people. We should all be so saddened by the fact of these loss of lives and these families across America approaching the holidays with this sadness in their hearts. And we have to make sure they know that we carry them in our hearts, in our prayers, in our thoughts, and that hopefully whatever we do can present the rate of more deaths from occurring. More deaths, pretty soon, sad to say, than men that lost their lives in World War II.
Nancy Pelosi: (04:17)
This public package, which I’m hoping will come to be shortly, then has to go on to the omnibus bill. And that’s another set of discussions that is going on. I salute our chairman, especially Nita Lowey, the chair of the Appropriations Committee, that’s carrying much of the negotiation, but also Richie Neal, in terms of what’s happening from the ways of Frank Palone, energy and commerce, Nydia Velázquez in terms of small business, Maxine Water, renters, et cetera, and all of our chairs and Bobby Scott in labor in terms of issues that protect American workers. On the PPP, we all know that we need more money for small business, and we all support that. We want it to be done, though, in a way that I think is possible, that honors what has been said before about small businesses with women, minority, veterans, rural Native American owned businesses, small businesses being able to participate in the CDFIs, the Community Development Financial Institutions, to meet their needs.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:34)
Nydia Velázquez is working in a bipartisan way on that issue. So whether it’s in the omnibus or in the probate or some combination thereof, that is work that is being done right now. I’m very excited about the fact that in a very strong bipartisan way, about 80% of the House voting for the National Defense Authorization Act. I commend, as I have before, and again and again, chairman Adam Smith, our chair of the Appropriations Committee, Mr. Thornberry, for whom the bill is named, and a ranking number on the committee for their leadership in presenting a bi-partisan bill. The president has threatened to veto the bill, largely because it has a provision in there championed by Anthony Brown of Maryland, a veteran on the Armed Services Committee, who has a thought to have the renaming of these bases as an important priority.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:44)
The bill received a rousing vote on the floor. It was 337. I don’t have the number right here, but it’s 80% of the house voted for the legislation, which the president threatens to veto. It will be coming up in the Senate. I don’t know what their schedule is until they announce it. But nonetheless, it is interesting to see, because the Senate Republican chairman there said, “We’re bringing the bill to the floor, even though the president is opposed to it,” because of renaming, also because he wants section 230 to be included, the repeal of it in the bill. I don’t like section 230. I think it needs to be revised, but you cannot repeal it or else you will destroy protections for small businesses and entrepreneurs working their way up, as we also recognize that some of the organizations that did not even exist when this section 230 of the Telecommunications Bill in the nineties, no Facebook, no Google, none of it really were on the scene, and certainly not of the size and consequences that they are now.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:02)
So again, it needs to be revised. I think there’s bipartisan support to do that. I know there is, but nonetheless, should not be repealed in this legislation. We’ll see what the president does and what the others do. As we proudly pass that bill in such a big way, to … again, these bases were named purposefully for right supremacists, people who had fought in the Confederacy, Confederates, traitors to our country, purposely these bases were named for them. It wasn’t as if they named it about something and upon final research, other research, it would emerge that they said this, that, or the other. No, it was intentional, so we must properly … and there’s a process spelled out in the bill to change that.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:02)
And in light of that respect for our country and the people of our country, I’m so pleased with what we did under the leadership of Mr. Cliburn, of reflecting the beautiful diversity of America. This week, we will mark the 150th anniversary of the first African-American being an elected to the Congress of the United States, Congressman Joseph Rainey. It will come as no surprise to any of you that he’s from South Carolina, because that was very much a part of the pride that Mr. Cliburn took in advancing that. Just the first African-American Congressman was reason enough. The first African-American, and he presided over the House of Representatives, the first African-American to preside over the House of Representatives. And he was the longest serving black law maker during the reconstruction. So we’re proud to celebrate that with the largest ever congressional black caucus. And yesterday, Cliburn and I introduced a resolution to name a room in the Capitol after Rainey, ensuring that he can take his rightful place in the Capitol and in the history books as a source of great pride to all of us.
Nancy Pelosi: (10:28)
So that is where we are on that. And in addition to that, I just want to, once again, commend all who are working so hard to save lives by coming up with a reasonable compromise that we can all accept, in light of the fact that in fewer than a thousand hours, we will have inaugurated Joe Biden, a person who has said from day one, a hundred million people will be vaccinated, understanding that that has to be done in a culturally linguistic, appropriate way for people to be able to respond to the vaccine. So with that, I’d be pleased to take any questions you have. Yes, sir?
Speaker 2: (11:18)
Madam speaker, you’ve thrown your lot in with this bipartisan group that’s talking about the stimulus package. They are having a hard time coming to a final product. How long do they have to produce a product? And if they can’t do that, do you then have to look at what Peter McConnell has suggested, which allows some of these other things to fall away and do a smaller package?
Nancy Pelosi: (11:39)
Well this is a smaller package. And as I had said, this is not a stimulus package. It’s an emergency supplemental to deal with what we have. I think they’ve made great progress. I think some certain things remain, and that’s up to them. I don’t know the inner workings, but I think they’ve made great progress. And I salute him for that. Of course, as always, we have to see the text, but I think the values and the priorities that they have established are what we need to do right away. So I don’t share your view. Again, who knows. We’ll see how it goes, but we cannot leave here without having a piece of legislation. And I can say this unequivocally, what Mr. McConnell is putting forth in terms of liability is such an assault on American workers, that I hope that the group goes nowhere near what he is presenting.
Speaker 2: (12:44)
When you have to start negotiating directly with leader McConnell –
Nancy Pelosi: (12:44)
Well, the normal course of … thank you for the question. The normal course of events is the committees do their negotiation, and again, I’m an appropriator. As you’ve heard me say again and again, left to their own devices, the appropriators can come to the solution. I’ve spoken with the chairman of the committee and the Senate, Senator Shelby, and I think he’s committed to keeping government open and having a bipartisan bill. Nita Lowey on our side, those are the two main negotiators in all of this. Also, again, they want to find common ground, and I think they’re close to that. And then when the committees cannot find their common ground, what is left is what is kicked up to the principals in terms of leadership. We don’t negotiate the bill all along. So when that comes, if they have not resolved, which I hope they will and they can, then that’s what the normal regular order would be. Yes?
Speaker 3: (13:53)
This week Congresswoman [inaudible 00:13:56], the incoming chair of the Appropriations Committee held a hearing on repealing the Hyde Amendment.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:59)
Speaker 3: (14:00)
Will a bill repealing the Hyde Amendment come up for a vote for the whole house in 2021?
Nancy Pelosi: (14:02)
Well, I don’t know if there will be a bill to do that, but it’ll be part of legislation, yes. I think that is … I mean, I, myself have been an opponent of the Hyde Amendment long before I came to Congress. So I would be receptive to that happening, yes.
Speaker 3: (14:02)
And the outcome, will that control what the House does or will the House [inaudible 00:14:27]?
Nancy Pelosi: (14:28)
Again, our biggest partner in all of this are the American people, and the American people know that we have to have fairness in what we do. And this is not an issue of the Hyde Amendment, it is an issue as to the impact that it has in terms of unfairness to women in our country. So this’ll be an interesting debate, again, respectful of all views. But nonetheless, again, way before I was in Congress, as soon as the Hyde Amendment was there, I was thinking, “How can we get rid of that?” So it’s long overdue, getting rid of it, in my view.
Speaker 4: (15:17)
You’ve long been concerned about China. You have a history of speaking on the Intelligence Committee here. Are we to appoint now, after what happened with Mr. Swalwell, maybe where there should be background checks for all staff and interns before we determine … obviously the number of staff who serve on the Intelligence Committee or the Armed Service Committee have that, but should that be universal? And what are your concerns –
Nancy Pelosi: (15:41)
What should be universal?
Speaker 4: (15:43)
Background checks for [inaudible 00:15:45] or interns across the board for all staff and interns on Capitol Hill after the concerns about Mr. Swalwell?
Nancy Pelosi: (15:52)
Well, I don’t have any concern about Mr. Swalwell. There are those in the Congress who believe, and I am among them, that we should be seeing what influence the Chinese … I’ve been fighting them, as you know, for over 30 years, in terms of their undue influence at universities in our country and the overtures they’ve tried to make to members of Congress. In terms of Mr. Swalwell, in the spring of 2015, the leadership of the House and the committee were informed that overtures from a Chinese person were being made to members of Congress. When that was made known to the members of Congress, it was over. That was the end of any communication with those people. So I think we should make sure that everybody knows what they are being subjected to, but I don’t know that it means that we have to do background checks for every intern who comes into the Capitol. I do think that it’s unfortunate that Mr. McCarthy is trying to make an issue of this when we all found out at the same time, the Republican leadership and the … that several members had been approached.
Speaker 4: (17:15)
Were you briefed on it?
Nancy Pelosi: (17:16)
We were all … at the same moment, the House, Republican and Democratic leader, and the leadership of the committee were briefed at the same moment. Make sure you know that, because he keeps going around saying, “When did they know?” We knew when they knew, and that at that time, that was the end of it. But what he’s trying to do is he’s trying to deflect attention from the fact that he has Q Anon in his delegation over there, and that, I think, is a danger in terms of our debate here about what the possibilities are for undue influence to members of Congress.
Speaker 5: (18:04)
So government funding is going to come up again next Friday –
Nancy Pelosi: (18:08)
Speaker 5: (18:08)
– after the CR. Could you give us a sense about … I mean you know how these packages work. When do they need to come to some sort of agreement on a release or a rescue, whatever you’re calling it, package? I mean it’s Thursday today, so there’s eight days until this is reconsidered.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:25)
Well I’m not one to ever say a date for a bill on the floor. I never was. I’ll give you an example of why that was not a good idea. Remember when the Republicans said they were going to overturn the Affordable Care Act on the anniversary of the day it was enacted? The minute they said that, I knew they were doomed, because you have to bring a bill to the floor when you have the votes and they didn’t and they had to withdraw their bill. Respectful of the fact that December 26, the unemployment insurance benefits expire, so sometime before then, hopefully that December 18th date, we would like to have this done. For us, it’s several days before, because it takes time for the Senate to clear its throat. You know that. So when we have the text and the agreement, then we will make that public, go to the floor, pass the bill, and give the Senate time before the expiration of this. Now if we need more time, then we take more time, but we have to have a bill and we cannot go home without it.
Nancy Pelosi: (19:48)
I have to believe the administration and the Republicans in the Senate when they say they do not want to shut down government, that it is possible to do the omnibus and we’ll close there. I mean there’s still some concerns, but that’s the way it always goes, and then the COVID added to that. In order to have the COVID added to omnibus, you have to have an omnibus. And so we’re working dual tracks on that. But I would hope that it would honor the December 18th deadline, but we can’t go before the package is ready and the votes are there, as well as the fact that people do want to get home for the holidays, such as that is. But what’s more important is that we get the job done for the American people before the holidays.
Nancy Pelosi: (20:41)
But we’ve been here after Christmas. We were here five years on the budget, and I can tell you stories about that if you want. So again, it has to be done before year’s end in order to keep government open. We want it before December 26th, even though it could be retro active so that we remove all doubt. And my view is, as an appropriator myself, and a negotiator, what’s the difference? Just make a decision. Just make a decision so that we can move forward.
Speaker 6: (21:20)
On a related note, how worried should American renters be at this point that the eviction moratorium will be allowed to expire?
Nancy Pelosi: (21:29)
Well I think that we should extend the moratorium, and there is money, funding for rent in this proposal, which is one of its appealing features that the McConnell proposal does not even reference, but it’s one thing to have money to pay the rent, and that’s a big advance. It would be important to expand a moratorium to, but then again, that’s part of their negotiation. Thank you all very much. [crosstalk 00:22:02]