Mar 11, 2021
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Weekly Press Conference Transcript March 11
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference on March 11, 2021. She discussed the American Rescue Plan, increasing the minimum wage to $15, gun violence, and more. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (00:03)
Hello, everyone. They just had a nice victory on the floor of the House for H.R.8. Now we’re moving on to H.R.1446. So here we are. One year ago today, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. On that day, by then, 1000 Americans had been infected, about 38 had died from the pandemic. Here we are a year later as we observed that sad moment and everything that has ensued from them with over 500,000 Americans who have died, around 30 million had become infected. And again, our hearts are broken for them, for their families, and for all of those who are affected by the coronavirus. But we also, today, are celebrating legislation that will make a tremendous difference. President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is a plan to crush the virus and to save lives and livelihood of the American people.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:28)
It is historic. It is monumental. It is consequential. And I said, it’s probably the most consequential legislation many of us will ever vote for in the Congress. I put it on the par with the Affordable Care Act as having serious consequences for the wellbeing of the American people. The Biden plan will make an immediate difference in people’s lives, injecting vaccine into their arms, money into their pockets, children going back into school safely, and people going to work safely. So it’s just remarkable. It’s remarkable legislation. Unfortunately, Republicans, as I say, vote no and take the dough. You see already, some of them claiming, oh, this is a good thing, or that’s a good thing, but they couldn’t give it a vote. Anyway, enough of them. I talked about children in school. When I talked about this legislation yesterday, I talked about it in terms of America’s children.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:35)
Children are my why, why I went from housewife to House speaker because of the children. That one in five children in America lives in poverty. As a mother of five, I couldn’t abide to that and wanted to make a difference in public policy. One in five goes to sleep hungry at night, hungry at night. And that was even before the coronavirus. And I’ve always said the three most important issues facing the Congress are our children, our children, our children. Their health, their education, the economic security of their families, including the pension security for their grandparents and a environment in which they can thrive safely, world at peace in which they can reach their fulfillment. Well, the first three of those, their health, their education and the economic security of their families was very much affected by the Biden American Rescue Plan. I’m very proud of what it does for children, their health, their education, and the economic security of their families. Today on the floor, we go to that fourth place, a safe environment in which our children can thrive by passing the background check legislation.
Nancy Pelosi: (03:50)
It’s hard to imagine legislation being more popular than the Rescue Plan, 75%, whatever. This legislation, background checks’ closer to 90% bipartisan support across the country. Receiving a support of gun owners, hunters, and the rest. They’ve all had to do a background check, why shouldn’t others? Our chairman of the task force, Mike Thompson is a hunter, is a veteran and is a gun owner. And he has had, again, protective of the first amendment rights of gun owners, but also protective of the survival of our children. So I see this issue through the eyes of our children. I tell my colleagues the stories when I go to a childcare center in my district several years ago. We’re playing on the floor with the stuff, and all of a sudden a balloon burst and the kids yell, “Drop.” Four year old children yelling drop. And that is not unusual in certain communities.
Nancy Pelosi: (04:57)
What are we doing to them? Our children, as Senator Murphy this morning in our press conference talked about what it does to the wellbeing of children, to live in a dangerous atmosphere. And so we all know about the children in New Town. And I thought, for sure, we would get gun violence prevention legislation passed then, but they said no time and time again. Florida, Nevada, you name it. All over the country. So here we are with this legislation, and we’re very optimistic that with 90% support in the public and with a public awareness, again, the drum beat created by the people out there, the survivors of gun violence. We told them we’re not resting until we get this job done and today we’re taking a giant step in that direction for the children. And as I say about these members of Congress, if you are afraid to vote for gun violence prevention because of your political survival, understand this, the political survival of none of us is more important than the survival of our children and the fear that they have of this.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:17)
So as I’ve said to them about the rescue package, how great it was, we sent it over to the Senate and a package that had been negotiated. There were some changes, not much so that we could receive it back in terms of the essence of the bill. But one important part of it that did not survive the bird rule or the bird lady or whatever it is over there was the minimum wage. And we will persist with the minimum wage. Now, what I want you to understand is because so many times you hear people say, well, I’m for a $10 minimum wage or I’m for an $11 minimum wage, but understand what the fight for 15 has been all about. It’s about a fight for 15, whereby 2025 people would arrive at $15. So if you were for a $10 rise in the minimum wage, now it’s only 9.50.
Nancy Pelosi: (07:27)
And this year 2021, $11 in 2022, 12.50 in 2023, $14 in 2024, and finally $15 in 2025. I’ve been fighting for the fight for 15 for a number of years. Quite frankly, I think it should be higher. But this is the fight that we are in. So if you think it’s okay to have a $10 minimum wage, we don’t even get there this year. We don’t even get there this year. When we passed the bill in 2007, it was one of the first bills we passed the first 100 hours of the new Democratic majority. It was one of our six for six, the six row six that we had on the six bills. We passed it, we sent it to the Senate. It didn’t make it there, but we put it in an appropriations bill and it passed. First we passed it and President Bush vetoed it, but then we put it in appropriations bill, and then it was passed and signed by the president.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:36)
So it was a fight then for $7 and 25 cents. Really. And I tell the story that when we went outside to celebrate Senator Kennedy was the leader of it. Is the chairman of the health committee in the Senate. He came to the podium and he said, “You know what we have to do now? We have to raise the minimum,” because he knew that 7.25 wasn’t even enough then. But here it is, 9.50. Can you live on 9.50? Family of four, both parents making the minimum wage, 7.25, still under the poverty line. And by the way, a low substandard minimum wage is corporate welfare. It is subsidizing the private sector not to reward work. And how do we subsidize it? Medicaid, food assistance, housing assistance, and the rest. So the taxpayer is subsidizing the low minimum wage for the private sector. Fortunately, not everybody in the private sector thinks that way and they respect the dignity of work.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:49)
And many of them have come closer to a not even living wage, but at least a higher minimum wage. So this is just… We’re not giving up on that. We’re not giving up on gun violence prevention. We’ve told the survivors again and again, we’re not going away. We will persist until the law is changed and we have safety for our children. So again, this is a hopeful time and I want to praise, of course, Senator Schumer, leader Schumer for his leadership and sending us back a bill that we did not have to amend or go to conference on because it resembled enough what we had sent over there is that minimum wage and we’ll find a path on that. So again, one year ago, declared a pandemic. And of course at that time, declared a hoax, all the rest of that avoiding science and the rest, and now truly an attempt to crush the virus. Any questions? Yes. Okay. [crosstalk 00:11:08]
Speaker 2: (11:09)
Sure. So when you have been focused on COVID, the Republicans have been talking about immigration. When you were focused on the Voting Rights Act, they were talking about immigration. Today, you’re talking about the fight for 15, today, they’re talking about immigration. I’m wondering how Democrats, why are we not seeing the same thing? Is this a distraction on their part? Is it a mistake, perhaps Democrats to not include immigration elements earlier in the agenda? I’m just trying to square how these two parties are talking about such different things [inaudible 00:11:40] issue right now?
Nancy Pelosi: (11:40)
Well, I guess their Dr. Seuss approach didn’t work for them so now they’ve had to change the subject. But we do not prioritize our values and how we can make a difference in the lives of the American people to be attuned to the bankruptcy of ideas that the Republicans have. Now, there was no mistake. The bill is, except for the minimum wage, again, certain tweaks here and there, which were not consequential. The bill is what we all agree to as the priorities to save lives and livelihoods, shots in the arm, money in the pockets, kids in the school safely and workers back in their jobs. Yes, sir.
Speaker 3: (12:26)
Madam Speaker, I just wanted to ask you about the surge of unaccompanied minors at the Southern border. The Biden administration has acknowledged that the humanitarian effort that they have maybe an incentive for them to come. What would you like to see done out there?
Nancy Pelosi: (12:42)
Well, I haven’t heard them say that that would be an incentive. I do think what they are doing is talking to regional governments to say, keep them home as well as if they have a case for refugee status or asylum seekers to have that adjudicated, have those interviews happen in the country of origin. But for those who are coming, they have a humane policy about how they, as quickly as possible and it takes time because you want to do it right, can get them situated with family member or safe place for them to be. And it will be nothing like what we saw in the Trump administration of babies being snatched from the arms of their parents. To me as a mom and a grandmother, that to me, is like the most vile, with stiff competition from the Trump administration, but one of the most vile things they did.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:46)
So I think that the… I trust the Biden administration’s policy to be based on humanitarian and love of children, rather than political points or red meat for the Republican base. Now, let me just say one thing about asylum seekers. Four years ago around now, the then president put a Muslim ban in place. The same women who marched the day after the inauguration saw the power of their presence. And many of them march to the airports and to other venues to protest the Muslim ban. But not only them, they were an example to others. And you saw an outpouring of disapproval of what the president was doing. We then had a session here. It couldn’t be a hearing because we were in the minority, but we had a rump meeting about asylum seekers and opposition to the Muslim ban.
Nancy Pelosi: (14:57)
We had the military come and say, “How could they do this? We promised our interpreters and others who helped us in Iraq and Afghanistan who are Muslim, that they could come to the United States and this is hurting our security.” We had our diplomats, maybe 1000 signed a letter, which was an usual that many, but them to testify about how this was bad for our national security from a diplomatic standpoint. We had economist saying this is bad for our economy in terms of the intellectual resources that we were depriving our country. But why I bring it up is we had a representative of the American Evangelicals Association or the Association of American Evangelicals. And what he said at that meeting that I think everybody should continue to remember, because the evangelicals have been really good on immigration and on asylum seekers and refugee. He said the United States Refugee Resettlement Program is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.
Nancy Pelosi: (16:11)
And that was at a time when the administration was preparing to reduce the number that we received while encouraging other countries to take other asylum seekers. So it’s a value decision that we have to make. And I think the difference between this administration and the one before is great in terms of how we meet the needs of these children, placing them as much as possible with family, but in other safe homes. And in the meantime, to have humanitarian reception for them wherever they are. It’s a big… I’ll just tell you this one more thing. I took a group, before COVID. So it was that last trip that I was able to take to Central America, to the Northern triangle; Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, to see what was happening there in terms of dangerous situations that people were escaping.
Nancy Pelosi: (17:18)
And that was the reason why they would risk crossing a desert because they would die if they stayed home and their children as well. What were the economic situation? What was it that we could help them with to keep people home? Because people really genuinely do like to stay home. One of the things that was interesting on that trip was that a number of the people who were leaving for economic reasons were farmers, because the drought had caused such a severe situation in the Northern triangle they could no longer farm. What was arable before was no longer arable. Again, a climate issue, a climate issue. And so there all kinds of ways that we can help people be successful or comfortable, at least, at home, rather than coming to the United States. But to recognize there are many reasons why they do. Some because of the dangerous situation to their lives. And we could spend all day going on chapter and verse of all the young people we met and how they feared for their lives in the communities they were in. Yes, sir.
Speaker 4: (18:34)
Madam Speaker, since the president has [inaudible 00:18:37] had a meeting with lawmakers from both parties on infrastructure, it seems like that may be the next legislative agenda item for the Biden administration. Curious your thoughts on the size and scope of a deal, considering that the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill got zero Republican votes in Congress.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:54)
Well, I thank you for the question. It’s one of my favorite subjects. The infrastructure, we like to call it jobs legislation, it’s so important because it’s about jobs. It’s about quality of life for people when we have better roads and transit systems and the rest who have them spend less time in their cars, more time at home. A 45 minute ride, which would be a 20 or 15 minute ride, that’s a quality of life issue. What that means in terms of clean air for our children and grandchildren to breathe. So it’s a quality of life issue in many respects in terms of time, but also in times of clean air. Again, a jobs, jobs, jobs issue, not only in the construction of these projects, but also the commerce in enables to happen. And in farm country where time is important in terms of produce from fields or from farm to market and the rest, time, time, time.
Nancy Pelosi: (20:02)
So the list goes on and on. And it’s not just roads and bridges and mass transit and high speed rail [inaudible 00:20:10], it’s also about water system. Some of the water systems that we have now are over 100 years old. I’ve been saying this for 10 years, there are over 110 years old. They’re made of brick and wood. We really need to address the water systems in our country. And one of my colleagues, Congresswoman Tlaib, has been on this case in terms of safe water for our children all over the country, as has Dan Kildee representing Flint, Michigan, and the rest. So it’s about that, but it’s also about infrastructure. We see in all of this telemedicine, distance learning, commerce through the internet, family interactions and the rest. So that piece of infrastructure, which might not have been one we had 20 years ago is important now.
Nancy Pelosi: (21:04)
And for these and other reasons, schools, housing, all that. But remember this, this has always been bi-partisan for us. In the years I’ve been in Congress, three decades, it’s always been bi-partisan. The only time they interfered with that is when President Obama presented his plan and they cut it back, but we still got something, but not as much as was needed by the American Society of Civil Engineers. We’re way behind where we should be in terms of building infrastructure. So I would hope it would… Because it’ll be in their districts. Again, they’ll vote, no, and take the dough, show up at the ribbon cutting and the rest. So hopefully they will be an intellectual resource as well as to what are the priorities in their region, what has the support of the communities and the rest, and whether it’s a water project or whatever infrastructure it is.
Nancy Pelosi: (22:03)
It’s very popular with the American people. And the problem we had President Trump always said during the campaign, his ’16 campaign and since he, for a long time, he always talked about infrastructure. I didn’t have a conversation with him for the first year and a half, say, that he was in office. That infrastructure was not a part of the conversation. It’s just when it came time to pay for it, that he stormed out the door. But we’ll have to pay for some of it and we’ll have to find ways to cover with fees, et cetera. That’s all a discussion that has to take place now. But there’s no question, the most expensive maintenance of our infrastructure is no maintenance. It only just gets worse. And so we see this as a tremendous opportunity all across America, creating jobs, promoting commerce, cleaning the air, improving quality of life. And we hope that it will be bi-partisan.
Speaker 5: (23:08)
Madam Speaker, International Women’s Week. Call on a woman.
Nancy Pelosi: (23:18)
What have you got?
Speaker 5: (23:18)
Or the other woman.
Speaker 6: (23:19)
[crosstalk 00:23:19] I wanted to ask you, in January after they infringed on the Capitol, you said that future security for us, that was something that was something that in the House for the security guards who are now in the House. I’m wondering what happened to-
Nancy Pelosi: (23:33)
I’ve said that that has been alleged. I have never made any characterization of that. That remains for the FBI and others to investigate. What do you got, Chad.
[inaudible 00:23:43] Thank you so much. So yesterday the House administration voted to continue it’s inquiry into the Iowa second Congressional District [crosstalk 00:23:51]. Could you see a scenario depending on what they found in their probe of unseating the current number and seating Rita Hard if it came to that?
Nancy Pelosi: (24:01)
Chad is always the hypothetical. Could you see a scenario? We don’t do press conferences on can you see a scenario. And of course-
But that would be a pretty bold move if you do that.
Nancy Pelosi: (24:16)
Well, I respect the work of the committee. I did see, as you saw in the press, what they decided to… And they were following my, as I read it, the requirements of the law as to how you go forward. And how you go forward is the path you’re on and we’ll see where that takes us. But there could be a scenario to that extent. Yes.
Speaker 5: (24:41)
On the minimum wage.
Will the Giants win the World Series this year?
Nancy Pelosi: (24:46)
9.50, $11, 12.50, 14. It takes all this time to get to $15 an hour. Carry this around in your head and think of how you could live on this, put food on the table and have the dignity of your work. Thank you all.