Feb 26, 2021
Nancy Pelosi House Democrats Press Conference on COVID-19 Relief Bill Transcript February 26
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leaders held a press conference on February 26, 2021 to discuss the impending passage of the COVID-19 relief bill. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (00:00)
… think back to how we began when our country crossed a very sad number. And that was that over 500,000 people had died of the coronavirus and so many millions more have been effected. Tonight, we are in rules committee awaiting their product so that we can bring to the floor legislation that saves lives and saves the livelihoods of the American people. It’s a great day for us. When we take this vote, we will take a vote to reduce the spread of this virus, to put, as we keep saying, vaccinations in the arms of the American people, money into the pockets, children into the schools, workers back into their jobs so that we can go forward. I salute President Biden for his American Rescue Plan, which will do just that, rescue the American people, the loss of jobs, the loss of income, loss of life first and foremost.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:20)
I want to salute the the committee chairs, who did such excellent work putting together this legislation with great precision so that it would honor the 51 vote privilege. It took time, it took the knowledge, it took values and it took strategic thinking to get the job done. And then it was handed over to the chairman of the Budget Committee. We could not be better, serves a budget, should be a statement of our national values. What is important to us as a nation should be reflected in the priorities that we have in our budget. And indeed, that is how Chairman Yarmuth has always… That is the narrative of his leadership as chair of the Budget Committee.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:12)
It is my honor to now yield to him so that he can give us a report as to where we are on this very, very important reconciliation bill, a budget which is a statement of our values to save the lives and livelihood of the American people. Mr. Yarmuth
Chairman Yarmuth: (02:32)
Thank you Madam Speaker.
Chairman Yarmuth: (02:33)
This process began 25 days ago when we introduced the reconciliation resolution. We’ve made remarkable progress in those 25 days and I want to echo the speaker in complementing all the committee chairs.
Chairman Yarmuth: (02:48)
When you think about the committees that have been involved in this process, everybody from the Agriculture Committee, to energy, and commerce, to education, to veterans affairs, across the board, you realize three things. One is the breadth of the impact of the pandemic in both personal and economic terms, the many ways in which the pandemic as affected this country in virtually every corner of society, and finally third, the magnitude of the response that’s required. And I think that’s what you see reflected in this legislation, an incredible piece of work that deals with a pandemic in all of its manifestations and in a way that will truly be effective in not only stopping the virus, stopping the pandemic, helping our citizens get through the economic challenges that they’ve had, and also then helping our state and local governments in rebuilding the economy, getting set to rebuild the economy.
Chairman Yarmuth: (03:54)
I think you also realize why this piece of legislation has such broad support. Just this week, a poll, 76% of the American people support the bill. 60% of Republicans. You see everyone from the Chairman of The Fed, to major business groups, 150 CEOs, to education groups, to labor groups, you can’t name really one aspect of society that has not gotten behind this piece of legislation. So we believe that this is something that is, it meets the moment. This bill meets the moment, meets the challenge, and we think it’s a great victory for the American people and will get us finally out of this terrible crisis that we’ve been facing.
Speaker 1: (04:40)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I know you guys have done a lot of work and I hate to disagree with the chairman. He says this started 28 days ago, Ms. Chairman, you mean literally in terms of your work on the budget committee, I get that, but it’s important for us to remember, this started almost a year ago. And a year ago, we saw a crisis confronting the American people. Individually children, families, grandmas, grandfathers, businesses, our economy generally. And so we have responded five successful times, two on our own that unfortunately died in the Senate, which if they had passed in the Senate, we may not have needed this bill. And five times we passed legislation to respond to this crisis, overwhelmingly in a bipartisan fashion. And we will see shortly whether some are going to stay the course in responding to the crisis confronting our people in our economy.
Speaker 1: (06:02)
More than half a million of our fellow Americans have now died from this disease. Hard to contemplate anybody thinking that somebody would attack us and kill 500,000 of our people. But that’s what COVID-19 has done. 10 million more Americans are out of work than at this point last year. Today’s vote is a crucial step in our fight to defeat COVID-19 and build our economy back better. I hope what we’ll see the Senate passed version returned to the House for the final action within the next two weeks. We need to pass this bill prior to March 14th, so that some millions of people are not falling through the cracks. We are determined to send the American Rescue Plan to president Biden’s desk before March 14th, so we can begin providing American workers, businesses, schools, communities, men, women, children, with the assistance they so crucially need.
Speaker 1: (07:09)
Economists agree that we need a bold plan, not just another temporary measure. Mark Zandi, the Chief Economist of Moody’s Analytics said that another relief package is needed to get the other side of the package. A joint analysis of the American Rescue Plan by the Hamilton Project and Brookings estimated that it would boost economic activity by 4% this year. That’s the kind of shot in the arm the economy needs Madam speaker. Real GDP would remain below the pre pandemic level for the next several years, however, so delay is not an option. Failure is not an option. Retreating from the support of the American people, that the five bills we passed in a bipartisan fashion reflected is not an option.
Speaker 1: (08:02)
In a poll of economists conducted by…
Speaker 1: (08:03)
… is not an option. In a poll of economists conducted by Reuters, over 90% said the American Rescue Plan would boost the economy significantly. We must enact a bill, that reflects the urgent needs of our country and meets the crisis we confront. That is a moral imperative as well as a legislative imperative. And I now yield to Mr. Clyburn.
Mr. Clyburn: (08:35)
Thank you Mr. Leader for [inaudible 00:08:38]. Thank you Madam Speaker and Mr. Chairman, thank you so much. And to my colleagues, thank you for the tremendous work you have given to this effort. As you just heard, over 70% of the American people are in favor of this plan. In fact, earlier this week, 170 CEOs written a letter to the Congress asking that we pass this plan. The vast majority, I think 56% of small businesses have asked us to please pass this plan.
Mr. Clyburn: (09:21)
The American Rescue Plan builds a foundation for coordinated public private partnerships and a compassionate response to the needs of families and communities for us to get beyond this pandemic. I feel certain that we are going to pass this bill tonight. I mean the solid way. And I’m hopeful that the Senate will also respond to this with a solid response, so that the American people can begin to feel better about themselves and their future. And with that, I think I’ll give it back to you Madam Speaker. I’ll gladly entertain your questions and the speaker will answer them.
Nancy Pelosi: (10:25)
Thank you very much, Mr. Clyburn. I thank the distinguished whip and the distinguished majority leader, as well as our chair of the budget committee. Other members of the leadership are here as intellectual resources to answer any questions that you may have. We all though, gather with great pride in the legislation that members will be receiving when it comes from the Rules Committee, where it is still under consideration. But it is, it’s a great, we’re going to make a giant step forward tonight. Any questions? Yes, sir.
Speaker 2: (11:04)
Do you agree with some of the members of democratic caucus, that believe that the Senate should either overrule the parliamentarian position on minimum wage or break up the filibuster in order to keep minimum wage as part of this package?
Nancy Pelosi: (11:18)
Well, I invite any of my colleagues who wish to answer that question to join me. As a matter of a practice, I don’t get involved in the rules of the United States Senate, but as a matter of values, I can just say, we will not rest until we pass the $15 minimum wage. We have been engaged in the fight for 15, for a long time. This is legislation that affects overwhelmingly majority of women. So, over 60% of the people making minimum wage are women. Many are moms, and it is so essential for us to do this. And whether it happens when we send this over there, we are sending it as a symbol of a difference it’ll make in the lives of the American people, but not just a symbol, but as a solid proposal. If it doesn’t prevail because of Senate rules, we will persist, but we will not stop until we very soon pass the $15 minimum wage. Any other comments that folks want to make on that subject on minimum wage?
Speaker 3: (12:35)
Nancy Pelosi: (12:36)
Speaker 3: (12:38)
Do you think that this issue specifically, raising the federal minimum wage, that is an issue that can cost Democrats the house and the Senate in 2022. There’s going to be a level of apathy that developed among people that voted to send Democrats to Congress in hopes to [bull 00:12:57] change. And will argue that Democrats aren’t doing enough to make this happen.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:02)
We are determined to make this happen. So, I don’t want to answer a hypothetical if we don’t have it, but we have come here to get this job done. Mr. Clyburn, did you want to speak to that?
Mr. Clyburn: (13:14)
Do I want to?
Nancy Pelosi: (13:14)
Mr. Clyburn: (13:14)
No, we are going to do this. I think that the Speaker’s correct, that’s why we keeping it in our bill. If we were going to be political about it, I think we will all just take it out of the bill. No, we are doing this because we are responding to the American people. We are that body here in the Congress that’s closest to the American people. We think that $15 an hour ought to be the law of the land. We’ll see what the Senate does, if they don’t agree, we will come back to that independent standalone piece of legislation and we’re going to pass it again and hope that they respond.
Mr. Clyburn: (14:02)
Now, the only thing that’s causing us the problem right now, is that the parliamentarians rule, and they’re going to abide by the rules. And I think the President is not going to advocate that the Vice-president overrule the parliamentarian. And we’ll see what happens with the other alternatives after we pass it again, if we don’t do it this time.
Nancy Pelosi: (14:24)
May I just say that, we have been on this for a long time. When we won the House, in this century, the first time in 2006 and the first 100 hours, not days, the first 100 hours, we passed an increase in the minimum wage. It had not been increased for 11 years and we passed an increase in the minimum wage. It was part of our six for ’06, that would be January 2007. When we went to the Senate, it had the whole hearted support of Senator Byrd of West Virginia, who put out a statement, urging the Senate to take up and pass the legislation because it was so necessary. This is not a provision in a bill that is accepted or not by the Senate. This is again a value, this is a priority, we will get it done. And again, we’ll study what the opportunities are to do that.
Nancy Pelosi: (15:27)
But let’s not be distracted from what is happening in this legislation. We have a family of four getting what? $1,400 times four $5,600, a family of four individuals getting the 1,400 to bring it to $2,000 for this series of direct payments. Half the children, poor children in America will be taken off of poverty with the child tax credit and a-
Nancy Pelosi: (16:03)
Poverty, with the child tax credit and especially addressing younger children in poverty, small, under six year old children in poverty, the earned income tax credit will be a boon to those who are working, and get the earned income tax credit. The unemployment insurance, which expires the middle of March. Will be extended as well as the expanded benefit for that. Not to mention, well, to mention the funding for school so that our children can go back to school safely. The funding for the vaccine, it’s distribution, it’s production, distribution, and ministering it into the arms that funding tens of billions of dollars. So if you’re talking about crushing the virus, this legislation goes way down the road to doing that. If you’re talking about putting money in the pockets of the American people, this is going to be a boon for families in our country, working families. If you’re talking about getting our children back into school safely, billions of dollars to do just that, in a way that is safe, and addresses those schools, which are drastic need for better ventilation and separation and the rest. If you’re talking about helping the food insecure millions of food insecure children in America, their needs are addressed with the food security money that is in the benefit. And those who are insecure with housing, and on verge of eviction, the funding is there. A better way to tend to the small businesses in the rest.
Nancy Pelosi: (17:52)
This is a spectacular piece of legislation. While the Senate has prevented us temporarily from passing one aspect of it, let us not be distracted from what is in here, because it is a great bill. Any other comments?
Chairman Yarmuth: (18:10)
I just have one comment on the electoral implications of this, Eva. I think the more important question is what kind of price are the Republicans, both in Congress and outside who have opposed this help to the American people, opposed raising the minimum wage, what kind of price are they going to pay?
Speaker 4: (18:29)
Is that your sales pitch to the Progressive’s in your caucus, who two weeks from now may have to vote without having the minimum wage? Is that what you’re-
Nancy Pelosi: (18:38)
It’s not a sales pitch. We have a consensus in our caucus of that. We’re here to get the job done for the American people. This isn’t about any sales pitch; this is about who we are. And so many of the aspects of the bill have been constructed by our members. We think it’s a great opportunity for our country.
Speaker 5: (19:00)
Will you be able to pass it with or without minimum wage
Nancy Pelosi: (19:02)
Absolutely. Yes, sir?
Speaker 6: (19:04)
Question, Madam Speaker, when the bill comes back-
Nancy Pelosi: (19:08)
Who called on you? Did somebody? [crosstalk 00:19:12].
Speaker 6: (19:15)
I’m happy to [inaudible 00:19:16].
Nancy Pelosi: (19:17)
No, okay, go ahead.
Speaker 6: (19:18)
Thank you. When the bill comes back, obviously there will be change, do you fear that some in your caucus will look at this and say, “We want the perfect bill and the perfect could become the enemy of the good.” Is that a concern when it comes that, and representing the vibe of the caucus?
Nancy Pelosi: (19:34)
Speaker 6: (19:34)
Nancy Pelosi: (19:37)
No. You asked a question. I viewed it as a yes or no. No. Does anybody think that there’s any chance that we do not pass it?
Speaker 7: (19:45)
I mean, there is uniform support for this transformational legislation in the House Democratic Caucus. There is no fair to partly cloudy view of the American Rescue Plan. It’s a sunny aspirational, bold view because the $1.9 trillion plan as the Speaker indicated will crush the virus, provide direct relief to the American people, increase the direct payment survival checks to a total of $2,000, provide $25 billion in assistance to renters and homeowners who are struggling, increase the food security EBT program by 15% provide $350 billion in state and local assistance, so we can protect public programming, public safety, public health, public education, public housing, public transportation, and the provision of the public good. And those are just the highlights. That’s not the fine print. Because it’s a once in a century pandemic, and the caucus under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi has recognized with the full support of everyone that it requires a once in a century continuing comprehensive and compassionate congressional response, and that’s exactly what the American Rescue Plan represents.
Speaker 8: (21:19)
I think that a unity around the spill comes from the stories that we’ve heard in our districts. And I just want to use one woman whose story has come to my attention in my district, and how transformative this bill will be for her. She lost her job shortly after the pandemic, lost her apartment, lost her childcare. And didn’t have a way to be able to feed her young child or afford diapers. What this bill, and I’m so grateful to the leadership of my colleagues and the speaker, we’ll say to her, one of the one in four American women, who’ve been forced out of the workforce, one of the people that have the 140,000 jobs that were lost in December, every single one of them was held by a woman, and predominantly women of color. This bill will say to her, there’s a child tax credit that can help lift your child out of poverty. There will be a survival check to help you put a down payment on a new apartment. There will be food available for you. There will be vaccines, and testing, so that you can get back to your job.
Speaker 8: (22:39)
This is what this bill means to Americans; that we see them. And that is why we are so united behind this. And it’s just not the democratic caucus; it is the American people, because we are seeing them and we are meeting their tremendous suffering and loss with tremendous solutions and help. So I am so grateful to this caucus, and to the work that has been done. And we look forward to delivering this for all of those who have struggled through this last year so mightily, and to restore that hope to our communities. That is why this bill is so supported by our caucus.
Pete Aquilar: (23:24)
This is an important bill for, for our caucus and for our country. I want to thank Chairman [Yarmouth 00:23:30] and the budget committee members, who have done the work to get us this far, and the committee chairs, in addition to the members of the leadership behind me. This bill has the support of our caucus because it meets the needs of our communities. That’s our guiding principle. And we know that; we know that it has the public support. As Chairman Yarmouth mentioned, the question is, “Will the other side acknowledge that? Will they acknowledge that-”
Pete Aquilar: (24:03)
… acknowledge that. Will they acknowledge that this bill provides benefits? Because when I… And I’m not the only colleague on this stage who has had conversations with local leaders who enthusiastically support this bill as Chairman Jeffries said because it protects the public good public transportation, public education, local money for our local communities. That’s why this bill is good. In addition to the money for vaccine distribution that meets the needs of our communities. That’s important, and our colleagues recognize that. And that’s why I share the confidence, and the sunny view as the chairman mentioned, that we will pass this bill and then we will pass it again. Because it is good for the American people.
Sean Patrick Maloney: (24:54)
If I can just build on the Vice Chairman’s point, add my thanks to Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer with Clyburn. Chairman Yarmuth, he’s done extraordinary work and all the Chairmen. But I did a press event today, three of the four county executives in my district, which is a very conservative district, are Republicans. All three support this legislation. Two appeared with me today.
Sean Patrick Maloney: (25:13)
So, think it’s important not to miss the broad bipartisan support for this package as soon as you step out of the Republican Caucus room. The fact that of the matter is, is that county executives, town supervisors, people on the front lines who are responsible in many cases for administering the vaccine for being the public health provider in America, they get it. They understand that this is a long dark night, but there is joy in the morning if we can come together around this rescue plan for the American people.
Sean Patrick Maloney: (25:45)
It’s not just the Republican Caucus that matters. It is the millions of Republican voters who have said they support this legislation, 75% of the American public, 75%. That includes large numbers of Republican elected officials who are on the record saying we need it and we need it now. And so I would point not just to the unity of the Democratic Caucus, but the broad bipartisan support for this package. It’s a very strong piece of legislation. Thank you, Madam.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:13)
Thank you. As I thank my members of the leadership for just that, their leadership in all of this and all that that entails. I also want to acknowledge, as I have, the Chairman of the Budget Committee and the money other Chairs who were part of constructing this proposal, this legislation.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:32)
And I want to thank their staffs. Because, we have wanted to stay on schedule and that has meant 24/7 on the part of the members, but especially on the part of the staff. So please convey the gratitude of the leadership to the staffs.
John Yarmuth: (26:49)
Along with a lot of Kentucky Bourbon.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:52)
It’s not about Kentucky Bourbon. You aren’t given that Big Daddy or Big Pappy or whatever his name is, was it?
John Yarmuth: (27:02)
Nancy Pelosi: (27:05)
In any case, I also want to acknowledge the staff of the country. One of the big provisions of this bill is the support for our heroes, honoring our heroes. You’ve heard me say that many times. Honoring our heroes, putting money in the pockets of the American people, crushing the virus, again, and putting our children safely in schools.
Nancy Pelosi: (27:29)
But the schools can’t function and all the other things can’t happen unless we support our heroes, those who work at the state and local level. Our healthcare workers, our transportation, sanitation, food workers our first responders, police, and fire. Our teachers, our teachers, our teachers.
Nancy Pelosi: (27:51)
When we talk about the funding in the bill for education in light of COVID, well, that’s one piece of it. But over 90% of the funding for education comes from state and local government. And that’s why we have to have that support in the legislation as well, because of revenue lost because of shutdowns and because of costs from COVID that were unanticipated.
Nancy Pelosi: (28:20)
And the healthcare workers. People talk about them, “Our heroes how do we thank them?” Well we thank them in letting them keep their jobs. More than a million of local employees have lost their jobs because of the loss of revenue from the shutdowns.
Nancy Pelosi: (28:41)
So in any case, for every way that we come at this challenge that we have, this bill addresses it. And pretty soon it will be passed in the House, sent over to the Senate to be further engrossed to pass and go to the White House, so that it is in time for the March 14th deadline.
Nancy Pelosi: (29:07)
I would like it well before that, the sooner we pass the bill and it is signed the sooner we can make the progress that this legislation is all about. Saving the lives and the livelihood of the American people. Thank you very much. Good evening.