Dec 21, 2020
Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript December 21: COVID-19 Relief Stimulus
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on December 21 to discuss the bipartisan $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that is expected to pass on Monday. Read the transcript of the briefing with updates on economic relief here.
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Speaker Pelosi: (00:06)
[inaudible 00:00:06] the vote on? No, they have this space.
Speaker Pelosi: (00:15)
Good evening, everyone. I’m very honored, as well as tonight happy, to welcome the distinguished leader of the Democrats in the Senate. I want to salute him for the masterful work he did last evening to find a solution, to give us a path, to bring the legislation forward that will help America’s working families. Our purpose has always been to crush the virus, to put money in the pockets of the American people, which we do in this legislation. Sadly our third purpose, to honor our heroes, was not fully appreciated by our Republican colleagues, and so our support for state and local government, while significant in this legislation, requires more to be done. So we consider this a first step, and that again, more needs to be done. And we’re so excited that that will be happening under the Biden-Harris administration about 700 hours from now. What I’m excited about in this bill, and it is really the democratic difference, is what it does for America’s working families.
Speaker Pelosi: (01:37)
As we see food lines all over the country, it was our legislation that had the initiative for food, for nutrition, for our children in school, and our seniors as well as America’s working families. There are rental assistance when so many… Let me just say about food, maybe 15 million children in America are food insecure. Many adults, food insecure people. Highest percentage of them, I believe, is in the state of Kentucky. Nonetheless, the food, the nutrition piece of it has always been central to our Democratic proposals. With the millions of people on the verge of eviction, we have rental assistance and a moratorium until the Biden administration. Food, rental assistance, earned income tax credit and child tax credit for America’s working poor families, the democratic difference. CDFI’s assistance, Community Development Financial Institutions, to help small business, minority-owned businesses, women, veterans, rural Native American-earned businesses to participate in a way. Because they’re not big, and they don’t have financial relationships.
Speaker Pelosi: (03:06)
Sometimes they are overlooked, but that is central to what our legislation has done. Childcare, childcare, children learning, parents earning. Very important, especially in a time of a pandemic when children can not actually, in many cases, go to school, therefore their parents can’t go to work. Childcare. Again, these and so many other issues that are so central to the kitchen table needs of America’s working families, that has always been my focus, and that is the democratic difference between what we have succeeded in doing and what was not even present in any way in any bills that the other side put forward in the Senate. In addition, we’re very pleased that investments in our transportation system and what that means to our economy, jobs, et cetera. [WRDA 00:04:04] is in this legislation. We’re very pleased at bipartisan, bicameral support for WRDA. That is a job creator as well.
Speaker Pelosi: (04:14)
The Employment Retention Tax Credit, some of these things just made it in late this evening. That’s why it’s taking us longer to write the bill to bring it to the floor, but these are some of the later development. Of course, we’re very proud that surprise billing is a part of this. And again, one thing that we didn’t achieve with the money that was left over from the CARES Act, we wanted to have flexibility so it could be used for revenue loss as well as coronavirus expenses by our communities and our states. Republican and Democratic governors alike supported that. We did get an extension of one year, so perhaps unfortunately with the spread of the virus, they will have those kinds of expenses. So in any case, whether it’s education, transportation… Let me just say this one thing, because I from time to time hear a question here, Mr. Leader.
Speaker Pelosi: (05:18)
What took so long, what took so long is because we could not get our Republican colleagues to crush the virus. I couldn’t understand it. Why would they not want to invest in the science that has told us so importantly that it required testing, tracing, treatment, separation, sanitation, and the rest? And when we had the bill and the Heroes Act, and even the smaller Heroes Act because we reduced the time, they said, “We just met a light touch on your language on testing.” No, 53% of it to take out everything that referred to minority communities. Communities of color were so hard hit in all of this, and now we see why. They didn’t believe in the science. We knew that, but they did believe in herd immunity. And that’s why we never could come to that first pillar, crush the virus. So for these and other reasons, we’re on a new path now.
Speaker Pelosi: (06:25)
I’m proud of the legislation. It’s a first step. We need to do more, but what gives us hope is a vaccine, and we have to make that available free and fairly, equitably distributed in our country, and I encourage everyone to be vaccinated. And again, what gives me hope is that in about 700 hours, Joe Biden will be president of the United States to bring his values, his commitment to America’s working families to the fore as we prepare for additional legislation. With that, I’m very pleased to, again, welcome our distinguished Democratic leader of the Senate. Praised him for his masterful work last evening to take us from a place where America working families were shortchanged and left out to dry except for his brilliance and getting the job done for us. In that spirit, I welcome Leader Schumer to the podium.
Leader Schumer: (07:30)
Well thank you, Speaker Pelosi, and thank you for your steadfastness in focusing on the working families of America and their needs. Now, while this bill is far from perfect, nor is it the bill that we would pass if Democrats had a majority in the Senate, it is a strong shot in the arm to help American families weather the storm. For the 20 million people who would lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, help is on the way. To the millions of small business owners who are worried their businesses would go under, help is on the way. To families struggling with less money, direct payments mean help is on the way. To people who might’ve been evicted from their homes because they didn’t have a job and couldn’t afford it, help is on the way. To those who need food because they have no money because of the pandemic, help is on the way. And to all of America who wants to make sure that the vaccine is distributed free and fairly and quickly, help is on the way.
Leader Schumer: (08:46)
So this bill is certainly not everything we wanted. Our Republican friends stood in the way of so much, but it is a strong, strong shot in the arm to get things going. We all know that President Trump has made the economy a mess by how he treated the pandemic. We all know that President Biden is entering his presidency in an economic deep hole caused by President Trump. This bill helps him begin to get out of that hole. It is $900 billion. That is the second largest stimulus amount of dollars that has ever gone into the economy, the first being the CARES bill, which we negotiated with Secretary Mnuchin. So it is a lot of money. Unfortunately, the troubles are so deep, the abyss is so long, that we need more. And this is just a first step. This is an emergency. We need a second bill to continue dealing with the emergency and to start stimulating our economy so we get back to where we were, and that will be job number one in the new Biden administration.
Leader Schumer: (10:04)
And whether we have the majority in the Senate or the minority, we Democrats that are going to push like anything to get a bigger, stronger bill. This bill is a good bill. Tonight is a good night, but it is not the end of the story. It is not the end of the job. Anyone who thinks this bill is enough does not know what’s going on in America, does not look into the eyes of a small business owner who’s losing his business. There are a lot of things in this bill that helped New York. I’m very proud of the mass transit provision. I’m very proud of the Save Our Stages provisions. And when it comes to state and local, even though the Republicans were relentless against it, we found other ways to aid the states, so the states will get at least some of the aid they need.
Leader Schumer: (10:55)
The localities and the tribes will get some of the aid they need. But the Republican relentlessness against state aid is just befuddling. Why is it any different when someone who works for the local government loses his or her job and can’t feed their kids, or someone from a small business loses it? They’re all for helping the small businesses. So are we, because they employ people. But what’s the difference between that and state and local governments where people are also losing their jobs and can’t feed their families? Ideology gets in the way. Ideology gets in the way, but this bill gives us hope and confidence that we can do more, and we will do more. We must do more. And when we come back in January, that will be job number one, to fill in the gaps, the many gaps left by this bill, and to make sure that this bill, a strong measure, does the job by making sure it gets the money to the people as it was intended.
Speaker Pelosi: (12:03)
Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, and thank you for your leadership and ensuring that as we go forward, the important role that our state and local government plays in the lives of the American people is recognized. And the states in particular, when it comes to the vaccine and how it is distributed and how it goes from the vaccine to vaccination from the lab to the arm, important legislation there, recognizing the role of the states in that. And then so many other things, whether it’s education, transportation, so many initiatives that do help the states. But I associate myself with your comments. We have $325 billion in this legislation for small business. That’s bipartisan. We support that. However, if we had $325 billion for state and local government, our heroes, our healthcare workers who risked their lives to save lives, and now they might lose their jobs, our police and fire first responders, some of the first on the scene when they have to minister to the needs of a victim of the coronavirus, our sanitation, transportation…
Speaker Pelosi: (13:13)
We said food workers. Our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, the custodians of our children, we are not forgetting them. We’re going to go forward and help them, and recognize and honor them for how important they are to enable us to live the lives that we live. And so again, right now we’ve had a readout of the release package, and now we’re going through the omnibus in a few short moments. We’ll have a time for a couple of questions. Yes, sir.
Quick question. Given how hard it was to get to this deal… From May, you were fighting. Are you under any illusion that it’s going to be easy to get to part two next year?
Speaker Pelosi: (13:59)
I believe in public sentiment, you know that. And we have a great leader who has the confidence of the people that he is there for them, Joe Biden is. And I think the soapbox, the bully pulpit that he has to say, “We’re here for you. We know what you need, and we are going to fight the fight for you,” I think that it’s… I think we’re going to have a much easier time than we’ve had with a Republican Senate and a Republican president. Yes, sir.
Leader Schumer: (14:31)
Let me just say something. The number one reason we didn’t get the bill we needed was the Republican Senate, and Donald Trump just obfuscated the whole issue. A Democratic president, Joe Biden, will be able to focus the American people’s attention on a Senate, the Republican members of the Senate, who are obstructing, getting in the way of what they need. If Joe Biden says we need $1,200 checks instead of the 600… They didn’t have any money for checks in their bill. Well, he’ll focus on the American people. If we feel we need more money for unemployment insurance, he’ll focus on the American people, and I believe the Republicans who have been able to hide under Trump’s circus, almost, will no longer be able to do it. I am very optimistic that we can get a lot more done in a Senate certainly if there’s a Democratic majority, but even if a Republican majority remains, with a new president who’s going to focus the issue. He said he’s making COVID his number one issue. Things will be easier, better, and we’ll produce even more.
Speaker Pelosi: (15:42)
And on that score, so many of you have reported that we have delays because of bickering. It isn’t bickering It’s a big difference in how we meet the needs of the American people. A budget should be a statement of our values. Clearly, we have a different set of values when we’re giving $150 billion to the wealthiest people in America to get the CARES Act passed, and shortchanging those who need the money more, and whose receiving of that money injects demand into the economy. White shirt, white shirt.
Given all the demands still out there that you’ve talked about, how large a package would you like to see President-elect Biden introduce next year as president, and how much money in state and locally do you think should be in that package?
Speaker Pelosi: (16:36)
Well, we’ll make a judgment all the time about what the needs are. I think that when you see the surge in the coronavirus, you know that we cannot just think it’s over or that we can ignore it. The denial, the delay, the distortion, the calling it of a hoax has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Not all of them attributed to President Trump, but most of them. They could have been avoided. So this is a matter of life and death, the lives of the American people, and the livelihood of our economy, and their economic security. So make a judgment as we go forward as to what has changed, and what may be for the better or may be for the worse as we go forward. Mr. Leader, did you want to speak? [crosstalk 00:17:26].
Leader Schumer: (17:26)
I think we’re going to have a more robust bill on state and local and many other issues under President Biden’s administration than we’ve had now.
Speaker Pelosi: (17:38)
Yeah. And again, the difference, people will see the difference. And I do think that there’ll be some Republican senators who will see the light when the American people see what the difference is.
Leader Schumer: (17:54)
And one other thing we left out, what’s not in the bill, is important also. We succeeded in removing a nasty corporate immunity provision, which would have prevented even the most reckless employers from having recourse. And of course, we allowed the Fed to move forward. The Toomey sabotage was undone. So it’s not just what’s in the bill, but what we got out of the bill that’s important as well. So three things about this bill. One, more relief than any bill but the CARES bill, good shot in the arm to the economy. Two, lots of help for people in many different ways, which we’ve outlined, by the way, none of which were in McConnell’s bill. Unemployment insurance, McConnell’s bill, zero. [inaudible 00:18:41]. Direct payments, zero. SNAP, zero. Rental assistance, zero. Transportation, zero. CDFI, zero. SBA grant, zero. SAMHSA, zero. COVID research, NIH, zero. Broadband, zero. His bill had next to nothing in it, and he is saying that this bill is close to his bill. Thank God it isn’t. Thank God it isn’t.
Speaker Pelosi: (19:09)
But to be exact, what he did say, which is amusing, “It falls in the ballpark of what Senate Republicans have proposing since the summer,” I guess it was. It falls in the ballpark. What ballpark is that? But let me just say to the extent that we can work in a bipartisan way, we’re happy to do so. As the distinguished leader said, this is a big bill, second only to the CARES Act which we worked together on changing it from a corporate trickle-down bill to a working people bubble-up bill, except they still got their $150 billion for the wealthiest people in America. But as we go forward on all of this to avoid what they try to do with the liability, a Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Practices Act, OSHA, you name it.
Speaker Pelosi: (20:03)
They were trying to prevent people from having any safety in the courts in many categories that had nothing to do with the coronavirus. And when I asked one of the Republican senators, “Why do you have the Americans With Disabilities Act on your agenda to prevent them from filing a complaint,” he said exactly this, “Let me have the Chamber of Commerce call you and tell you why.” I said, “Well, don’t waste their time or mine.” Right now, I have to go vote, so thank you all very much.
Why is this better than the Mnuchin proposal? He proposed $1.8 trillion.