Mar 9, 2021
Liz Cheney, House GOP Press Conference on COVID-19 Relief, Reopening Schools Transcript March 9
Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. Liz Cheney, and other House Republicans held a press conference on March 9, 2021. They discussed COVID relief and reopening schools. Read the transcript of the briefing speech here.
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Liz Cheney: (00:00)
Thanks for joining us today. We’ve got a number of pieces of legislation that we continued to be very concerned about. Obviously, the COVID package, which is coming to the floor we don’t know, either today or tomorrow. It’s a real tragedy. When you look at that package, we know that the result of that package is going to be middle-class tax increases. We know for sure that it includes provisions that are not targeted. They’re not temporary. They’re not related to COVID, and it didn’t have to be this way. We could have had a bill that was a fraction of the class of this one that could have gotten bipartisan approval and support, but the Speaker decided to go in another direction, and so we are going to be saddled with a burden, a spending burden and a tax burden that is really indefensible from the perspective of what it actually accomplishes.
Liz Cheney: (01:01)
The other thing that we’re focused on is what’s going on at the border, and I watched this morning. I saw the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, say that she was heartbroken by what’s happening at the border. And to that, I would say policy has consequences. When you say that you’re not going to enforce our immigration laws, when you say that you’re not going to build a border wall, it has consequences, and we’re seeing the tragic consequences of that right now at the border. So we are going to be very focused as a conference on what’s happening at the border, on working to make sure that as the Biden administration refuses to open schools, they have instead decided to open the border and to let in thousands of people potentially who have got COVID. You’ve got children at the border that have been separated again from their parents, and being heartbroken isn’t a policy, so we expect to see action and the American people expect to see action.
Liz Cheney: (02:06)
Now, with that, I’m going to turn things over to the gentlemen from North Carolina, Mr. Hudson, who’s going to talk about second amendment issues and some of the gun control bills that are on the floor this week.
Richard Hudson: (02:16)
Thank you very much. I’m Richard Hudson, North Carolina’s eighth congressional district. I’m also the conference secretary. Listen, I’m a father of a five-year-old who’s in school. I cared deeply about gun violence, and I’m proud that the Republicans in Congress are very serious about ending gun violence. Unfortunately, the Democrats in Congress are not serious about gun violence, and it’s obvious by the bills they’re bringing it for this week, which would do nothing to have stopped a single mass shooting in this country, yet they threaten the rights of law abiding citizens. The Republicans, when we were in the majority, passed meaningful legislation including the Fix NICS Act, which would have the church shooting in Texas, like the 21st Century Cures Act, Which had the most meaningful mental health reform in a generation and dealt with communicating with parents of children in crisis. We also passed the Stop School Violence Act, which put a billion dollars into hardening schools, into getting mental health resources to schools, and also into training of law enforcement. I actually have legislation I’ve introduced that will double the funding for the Stop School Violence Act.
Richard Hudson: (03:27)
The Democrats have rushed two bills to the floor. No regular order, no hearing time. They have to allow no meaningful input from Republicans, and these bills, again, would have not stopped a single mass shooting. Not Newtown, not Charleston, not Parkland, not Las Vegas, not Sutherland Springs, would not have stopped the shooting of our former colleague Gabrielle Giffords, because her shooter passed a background check. HR-8 fails to recognize the fact that every commercial gun sale in America requires a background check today, and HR-1446 creates delays for law-abiding citizens, could be indefinite to acquire a weapon and would not have closed the Charleston loophole. If you want to close the Charleston loophole, I’d direct you to Tom Rice’s bill, HR-1518, because the problem with the Charleston shooting was information sharing by law enforcement, and this bill allows that information sharing.
Richard Hudson: (04:25)
Republicans have meaningful alternatives, and we have six bills that have been introduced last week and this week. We will be pushing to end gun violence. Our legislation will actually address this problem. The Democrats are concerned about taking away our second amendment rights, and the two bills this week will simply erode those rights, and so we’re urging a no vote. Thank you.
Liz Cheney: (04:50)
Thank you, Richard. Now I’d like to introduce another member, the gentlelady from North Carolina, who’s the Republican leader of the Education and Workforce Committee, Ms. Fox.
Virginia Fox: (05:03)
Thank you, Madam Chairman. The Democrats will have you believe that their radical PRO Act protects the right to organize. All it does is protect the $1.6 billion that the labor unions donate to support left-wing organizations. While trying to garner support for this outrageous bill, I’ve heard Democrats argue that it’s the unions that built the middle class. No, the unions didn’t build the middle class. Entrepreneurs and individual workers in this country built the middle class, and what this bill does is take away their freedom, making unions bigger and individual freedom smaller.
Virginia Fox: (05:46)
There are too many harmful provisions to list in this bill, so I’ll highlight some of the more egregious ones. It overturns 27 states’ right to work laws. It eliminates employees rights to a secret ballot, allows unions to boycott and picket nearly every business in America, whether they’re subject to union vote or not. The bill reinstates destructive Obama era regulations, includes California’s controversial AB5 with exemptions, which will deprive millions of Americans the opportunity to work independently and start their own businesses. This provision is particularly ill-advised since many Americans during COVID, like working parents, are taking advantage of the flexibility the independent contracting model offers. At a time when employers of workers are forced to tighten their purse strings, it’s unconscionable that Democrats are pushing a bill that can take millions from workers’ paychecks and employers. It also forces workers to hand over their private personal information to a union.
Virginia Fox: (07:01)
AFL-CIO President Trumka testified last Congress that unions will be able to go after workers “in the grocery store and at their homes.” This is not the way America operates. This personal information could very well be shared with third parties, subjecting workers and their families to even more unwanted attention in harassment. The bill increases the risk of union corruption and wrongdoing. Federal investigators recently finished their investigation of the UAW, where senior union leaders embezzled workers’ hard earn union dues for personal expenses. Don’t forget, federal law already protects employees’ right to organize, and Republicans respect this right. Any reforms to the US labor laws should help workers, not union bosses. Now’s not the time to reward union bosses and liberal activists with political favors. Our focus should be on reopening schools and rebuilding the economy, so all Americans have the opportunity to succeed. Thank you.
Liz Cheney: (08:10)
Thank you, Virginia. And now we have one of our new members from Iowa, Ashley Henson, who’s going to talk about legislation she has to restore our schools, gets the tools back open again.
Speaker 4: (08:22)
Thank you, [inaudible 00:08:23]. Good morning, everybody. Yeah. Ashley Hanson from Iowa’s first district, and I come to you today as a working mom of two school-aged kids. We need to get our schools back open. When I looked at the last year, it’s been quite a year, and the toll we face, especially when it comes to our young people is staggering. The mental health visits for our young people as young as five are increasing at a dramatic pace. They’re ending up in our emergency rooms. When I look at why kids need to be in school, it’s more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s for the social interaction. It’s for the stable environment that they can be at. They need to maybe get out of a violence situation. They might be looking for that next meal. The kids need to be back in school.
Speaker 4: (09:09)
We’re now hearing as well that there are additional challenges where we’re finding students had fallen off the grid. We don’t know who these students are. They’ve gotten missing, simply stopped logging on for virtual school. That’s unacceptable. Teachers don’t know where they are, and the fact that they fallen off the grid is entirely abhorrent as a working mom. School enrollment is also dropping. Now that we’re one year into this pandemic, it’s quickly turning into two for many school districts around the country, and I think it’s really sad that we’re letting our kids fall through the cracks here, which is why we need to make sure that we are getting our schools back reopened. It’s exactly why I introduced the Reopen Schools Act, which basically would set some parameters around the $54 billion in money that’s already been appropriated by Congress before I even got here to make sure that schools have a plan to get reopen. They submit that plan to our governor, and then they actually follow through and reopen their schools.
Speaker 4: (10:02)
The Democrats, I want to point out, blocked this for the fourth time last night. So four times, they’ve chosen to make our kids political. The Biden administration has no meaningful strategy to move forward getting kids into school. I’m sorry, I have to take this down. That’s better. Sorry. One day a week at this point is just unacceptable, and our kids should not be a political football, and to keep moving the goalposts here, the kids are the ones that are losing this game. So when I look at examples of how we can lead on this issue, look to the state of Iowa. We have prioritized our kids and our teachers and getting back to school safely in the state of Iowa. It can be done. Iowa’s a great model for that, so I would encourage the Biden administration to look to the state of Iowa and how we’ve made sure that we can get kids back in the classroom safely.
Speaker 4: (10:46)
Republicans are going to continue to lead on this issue, so what I would invite is all my Democrat colleagues to join us. Let’s make sure we have a plan to get those schools reopened and get kids back in the classroom. Thank you very much.
Liz Cheney: (11:00)
Now we’re going to hear from [inaudible 00:11:01], Mr. Scalise.
Steve Scalise: (11:01)
Thank you. Good morning. Good to see all of you. If you look at the House schedule this week, you have one more example of Speaker Pelosi pushing a socialist agenda that’s focused on taking away the rights of hard work and families, while also bankrupting the next generation with mountains of debt that are focused not on COVID relief. If you look over 90% of the bill that they’re going to bring back on the spending, $1.9 trillion spending bill is not focused on COVID relief. It’s focused on pushing more of the far left agenda. It’s very concerning. When you look at both what happened in the House and in the Senate. Speaker Pelosi and Chuck Schumer shut Republicans out of the process completely.
Steve Scalise: (11:46)
In fact, President Biden was offered the ability to work with Republicans, and he chose to have a go at loan strategy as well, and that lets Americans down all across this country who wanted to see a package that was focused on helping families, on helping small businesses stay afloat, and on helping reopen schools. We brought amendments, for example, to double the number of vaccines so that we could get more Americans vaccinated quickly, and that was rejected on a party line vote. There was an amendment in the Senate to say that felons in prison shouldn’t be able to get taxpayer checks, and that was voted down on a party line vote. So clearly when you look at the priorities of Speaker Pelosi, it’s to spend as much money as quickly as possible on her socialist agenda and to turn her backs on those of us who want to work together to confront this virus and to safely reopen our economy and our schools.
Steve Scalise: (12:37)
You can just look at the crisis on the border. It’s a major, major national scandal. Jay Johnson of the Obama Homeland Security Secretary once said that if there were a thousand or more illegal crossings, that was a bad day. Today, we’re seeing three or 4,000 illegal crossings a day at our Southern border. It is a national crisis, and it needs to be confronted by President Biden, and he refuses to acknowledge this. There are super spreader caravans coming across our Southern border. I think it’s an interesting misplaced priority that the Biden administration’s agenda is to open America’s borders and close America schools. This is the wrong approach. This is not focusing on the hardworking families that this country. The science says that the schools should be open now. Every school should be open teaching kids in the classroom, and everyday they refuse to do that, it’s setting those kids back even further. Millions of American kids are being denied the ability to learn and to be able to compete, and the science is clear that the schools should be reopened.
Steve Scalise: (13:45)
Again, we put more money. Ashley Henson’s bill was offered up during the process of moving this bill forward to say if schools get more money, it has to be to reopen so that kids could be learning in the classroom, and it was rejected by every Democrat. Which begs the question, what do they need this money for if it’s not to reopen schools during this pandemic? And so, again, we’re going to continue to fight for those hard work and families. We’re going to continue to fight to reopen schools safely, to follow the science, not the union bosses. When you see a union boss fighting to keep the public schools closed while taking the parent’s money, but sending their own kids to private schools, it just shows you they’re not even following the science. There’s a tremendous amount of hypocrisy and double standard involved in the people that want to take a hard earned money, these taxpayers across the country, while not fighting for them, for their families, for their children.
Steve Scalise: (14:42)
So we’re going to continue to do that. We’re going to continue to try to fight for an agenda that works for families and not to push the socialist agenda that Nancy Pelosi’s bringing it to the floor. Finally, I want to mention this scandal involving Governor Cuomo, it’s a scandal on multiple fronts. It’s not just the sexual harassment scandal, which is very concerning, but it’s also the scandal of what he did to seniors in nursing homes, starting with his order that went against federal CMS guidelines. Forcing seniors who were COVID positive to go back into nursing homes and prohibiting those nursing homes from testing for COVID led to thousands of deaths that should’ve never happened. The Select Subcommittee on Coronavirus Republicans back in June started asking Governor Cuomo for the data. He refused back then, called us names, seems to have a pattern of bullying, but he never gave those families an answer.
Steve Scalise: (15:36)
We are continuing to fight for those families who deserve an answer. It’s recently come out that not only did he potentially obstruct justice in hiding the data, but he may have actually directed his own employees to manipulate the data, to lie about the number of deaths that could have been used to help prevent more deaths, and so I would call on President Biden to rescind his designation of Governor Cuomo as the gold standard for COVID leadership. That’s not the gold standard. That is an epic failure that led to the deaths of thousands of people, and Governor Cuomo needs to come clean with the American people, with the people of New York, parents, children who lost their grandparents and their parents who demand answers, who deserve answers to that data, and we’re going to continue fighting for those families. With that, why don’t we open up?
Speaker 6: (16:24)
I have a question for you on the suspension votes last night. Democrats pulled 13 bills on the floor because the number of Republicans were threatening to force role call votes amid just the broader frustration around how the House is being run and the majority. Do you agree with that strategy, and are you worried about going down this path? One of the bills is one that you were a sponsor of.
Steve Scalise: (16:42)
Yeah. Look, there’s concern about what’s happening on the floor, but just look at this week. 10 of the 11 bills bringing brought to the floor this week we did not even go through committee, and you’ve see this pattern by Speaker Pelosi, who famously said years ago, “You’ve got to pass the bill to find out what’s in it,” when she rewrote Obamacare in her office after it came out of committee. Now, she’s not even bothering to go through committee with major pieces of legislation, bills that should have gone to Virginia Fox’s committee, for example, but they bypassed the committee process so that she herself can write the bill behind closed doors with no public scrutiny, with no public hearings. I think a lot of Americans are very concerned about that kind of closed process where nobody gets to see the bill until she drops it on the floor, never even went through a public process and committees.
Steve Scalise: (17:29)
Republicans and Democrats alike, we work hard to get on committees of jurisdiction so that they can then go and bring their expertise to make a bill better, and Speaker Pelosi’s shutting her own members out of that process. Frankly, every Democrat ought to be asked are they upset that they were not allowed to offer an amendment on a $1.9 trillion spending bill that Speaker Pelosi wrote in her office and literally shut out every amendment? There was not one idea that could have been brought forward, and Democrats were told in the committees not even to bring a single amendment on a $1.9 trillion spending.
Speaker 6: (18:00)
So should bipartisan suspension bills then be held hostage?
Steve Scalise: (18:04)
I don’t want to see any hostages. I want to see an open process. I want to see Speaker Pelosi open up the House process to amendments by Republicans and Democrats to bring in bill through committee again, something as basic as just having public hearings in committee on bills. And I think a lot of people are getting frustrated, including her own members who don’t like this closed Pelosi process.
Speaker 7: (18:25)
And to follow to that, who is leading this charge for suspension bills, and what is leadership advising this group that is trying to push for suspension and motions to adjourn when it comes to how to proceed with the-
Steve Scalise: (18:39)
Yeah, those are individual members. That’s not a leadership decision, but as Republican leadership, we’ve called on Speaker Pelosi to open up the House process, to not, for example, getting rid of the motion to recommit, a process that’s been around for decades that Speaker Pelosi shut down just to try and deny the ability for people to bring amendments on the House floor. So we’re going to continue to push for that.
Speaker 7: (19:02)
But is leadership’s position to allow these procedures to happen, or [crosstalk 00:19:07].
Steve Scalise: (19:06)
That’s not a formal leadership position, but again, leadership has been very vocal on the Republican side that we want to open congressional process. We want bills to go through committee, and we want members’ voices to be heard.
Speaker 8: (19:18)
House Democrats say they’re bringing back the earmark process. Do you think that is something Republicans should participate in, and are Republican leaders going to work on guidelines for changing the rules if so?
Steve Scalise: (19:31)
We’ve heard the Democrats talking about bringing this back on their own. They haven’t consulted with us. Clearly, we’ve had a lot of conversations. We had a meeting last night that was widely attended by the Republican conference, and our members have a lot of different views on this, but one thing I think that’s universal is we share a lot of concern about the abuses that happened in the past, and we don’t want to see those abuses brought back. So this is going to be a continuing conversation amongst House Republicans. It would have been helpful if Democrats would have talked to us about what they’re doing and if there’s a better way to do it, so we’re going to have that conversation and it’s ongoing.
Speaker 9: (20:07)
Speaker 10: (20:07)
One of the provisions in the Democrats COVID bill is the creation of this monthly child tax rebate. $300 would go to most families. Do you consider that socialism, and is that something that you could see a conversation happen? There’s a lot of Democrats who want to make that prominent and some Republicans who want to make that permanent. Do you think there’s room for a conversation about doing that, or do you think that that is the definition of social?
Steve Scalise: (20:33)
I think the question is what in the bill is COVID-related and what is a broader policy that should be discussed separately? I think a lot of people have a concern that Speaker Pelosi took advantage of the crisis to fill the bill with primarily that have nothing to do with COVID. It should have been discussed separately, and again, our focus from the very beginning was let’s help families who were struggling with a targeted relief bill, not just sending everybody a check all across America, but to help the families who were struggling, as opposed to saying if somebody is maybe making more money than they worked a year ago, they’re going to also get a check.
Steve Scalise: (21:08)
The other thing is there are millions of small businesses that have already closed, and it is devastating to see what some of these governors did to make it harder for small businesses to stay afloat while there were States like Florida and Texas who kept things open and had different results. It’s a shame that in this bill, they actually penalize the states who had more success keeping their economies going and helping the healthcare needs of their families, while rewarding states like California in New York, who were the biggest winners in this bill, just giving them billions of dollars. California announced over $10 billion surplus, yet they’re going to get more than $40 billion of money that’s borrowed from our children in this bill. So what does any of that have to do with COVID? And I think that’s the biggest frustration is 90% of the spill has nothing to do with COVID. Whether it’s a good idea or not needs to be debated independently. Don’t take advantage of a crisis to try to ram through a socialist agenda.
Speaker 10: (22:01)
And you concerned that Republicans are going to have a hard time rolling that back now that it’s going to be in law probably tomorrow, later this week?
Steve Scalise: (22:06)
Well, what we’re focused on is helping families and helping businesses and getting schools reopened. We were willing to work with Democrats to double the number of vaccines, and they completely turned us away because they wanted to spend money on a whole lot of things that had nothing to do with COVID, and that’s very unfortunate.
Speaker 9: (22:21)
This is the last question.
Steve Scalise: (22:21)
Well, we appreciate it. We’ll take one more. Yeah. What’ve you got?
Speaker 11: (22:25)
Oh. I just wondered if you might be able to weigh in on the former president’s cease and desist letter and what kind of role you see him playing in campaigns, since he doesn’t want his image and likeness used for primary purposes?
Steve Scalise: (22:34)
Yeah. And that was a new policy that he rolled out. Ultimately, President Trump’s going to decide what kind of role he wants to play in elections in the future. I know we’re focused on winning the House back, and if you look, the NRCC outraised the Democrats, the DCCC in January, and it shows you people recognize that Speaker Pelosi’s socialist agenda is bad for America, and it’s way out of touch with the mainstream of this country. And we’re going to keep working to get the House back and raise the money it takes to elect more good candidates like Ashley Henson here, who’s already a leader helping fight to reopen schools. So we’re going to continue fighting for hard working families while they continued to promote a socialist agenda. Thank y’all.
Speaker 9: (23:14)
Thank you, guys.