Apr 29, 2020
Nancy Pelosi & Jim Clyburn Coronavirus Press Conference April 29
Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn held a briefing on April 29 for coronavirus. Pelosi announced Democratic members for a panel to oversee the pandemic response. Read the full transcript here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (03:41)
Good afternoon. Here we are in our new arrangement of social distancing. Thank you for being here. It’s a very important day for us for a number of reasons. It’s heartbreaking that we have passed a milestone of one million people and our country who are sick and nearly 60,000 who have died from the coronavirus. The American people expect Congress to do all that we can to protect the lives, the livelihood, and the life of our democracy and what we do here. And they expect us to ensure that the nearly $2 trillion, that historic relief that we have passed in a number of bills, is widely and effectively used, that it goes to those who need it the most. And so today, just to put this in a historical perspective, at the dawn of World War II, then Senator Harry Truman, Senator, with a democratic administration, but he was the Senator, and he basically said, I knew that after World War II there had been 116 investigating committees after the fact.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:04)
And I felt that our committee before the fact would prevent a lot of waste and maybe even save some lives. And that’s the way it turned out. It was a committee that cost around a million dollars, saved about $15 billion, in those dollars of those years. And so it’s about waste, fraud and abuse, as I said, and making sure the money goes where it’s supposed to go. What I loved about what Harry Truman said though is that as they looked at spending the rest, later when he was president, he said every 25 cents that was spent for those work relief projects, the WPA and the PWA and those, every dime that was looked into, and somebody was always against spending a nickel that would help poor people and give jobs to the men who didn’t have any. But the minute they started spending money on the defense money, the sky was the limit and the economy boys, no questions asked.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:05)
Now we want to have all the resources needed to bring our economy back, but we don’t want all of this excessive attention to, well, we’ll wait and see how the states do before we do more for the states and the rest of that, as Harry Truman said. But that’s not about what today is. Today, for the purpose that was captured by then senator, soon to be president of United States, we formed a special bi-partisan oversight panel, the house select committee on the coronavirus. This committee again will prevent waste, fraud and abuse, make sure the money goes where it’s needed most. It will ensure and it will be focused on making sure that the federal response is based on the best science and guided by health experts. I’m proud to appoint distinguished and accomplished leaders to the committee who will assure that our coronavirus response puts working families first.
Nancy Pelosi: (07:04)
I’m very delighted that the distinguished whip of the house, Mr. Clyburn, will chair the committee. He brings to it his credentials in so many ways, including as a long time member of the appropriations committee. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, the chair of the financial services committee and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, chair of the small business committee. Their two committees have the heart of so much of the matter when we’re talking about small businesses, which are such an important part of our economy. So Nydia is also a member of financial services, but the combination of financial services and small business, very important. And Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, the chair of the oversight committee, she is on this committee, also a member of the financial services committee. Congressman Bill Foster, a scientist, he brings his eyeshade mentality as well as his big picture of the economy of our country as a scientist and as a small business person.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:12)
Then Congressman Jamie Raskin, an attorney long recognized as a professor of constitutional law, brings his historic perspective and his entrepreneurial approach to taking a country in a new direction as we review the disparities that we’re seeing now. And then Congressman Andy Kim. Congressman Kim is a freshman member of Congress. He brings his national security credentials in a very important way and that judgment to this. He’s part of our defense members in the freshmen class, and we’re very proud. He’s also a member of the small business committee, actually a subcommittee chair of that committee.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:59)
So again, it is with great excitement that we established this. It’s bipartisan. We’re hoping that the Republican leader will name his members soon. We’ve been in communication. I’ve told him a couple of days ago who I was going to be appointing, so he can make his own judgements about the committee, but we wanted it to be as nonpartisan as possible and very much a part of doing the right thing for the American people. Nobody does that better than our distinguished chair of the select committee on the coronavirus, Mr. Whip, the distinguished gentlemen from South Carolina, Mr. Clyburn.
James Clyburn: (09:41)
Thank you very much, madame speaker. I want to thank you for the faith and confidence. I think I better do this a little different. For the faith and confidence that you have demonstrated in appointing me to chair this committee and also for your thoughtfulness and your thoroughness in-
Jim Clyburn: (10:03)
Also for your thoughtfulness and your thoroughness in appointing the other members of this committee. I want to also say that these members, I know all of them, have worked very closely with all of them, and they know these issues very well and I think they will do the country proud as we go about the business of trying to make sure that the trillions of taxpayer dollars that are intended to mitigate the effects of this crisis are dispersed in a way that is efficient, effective, and equitable. Speaker Pelosi envisions, as she just said, that this committee will operate as the 1941 Truman Committee did, and hopefully we will not just model that committee, but hopefully we will meet with similar successes. I feel very confident that we will.
Jim Clyburn: (11:17)
In this moment of crisis, the American people expect for Congress to lead. We have no higher priority than the health and wellbeing of the American people. And as they go about the business of struggling to maintain good health, to find ways to pay the rent, the mortgage, and hopefully take care of their families by keeping food on the table, that we will do our part to make sure that they are treated with dignity and respect, and I said, fairly. Congress has a constitutional duty and a moral responsibility to ensure that these 2 trillion plus dollars in taxpayer money be spent wisely and properly to address the needs of the American people. The American people deserve it and they expect it. I look forward to Republican leader Kevin McCarthy making his appointments to this committee so that we can go about our business of carrying out our responsibilities in a bi partisan manner. And in that regard, please allow me to cite an adage that I often refer to. An adage that says, “The best way to predict future performance is to look at past behavior.”
Jim Clyburn: (13:13)
Now, I don’t know whether or not the Speaker is aware of this or not, but for the 18 years immediately before coming to Congress, it was my duty and responsibility to conduct oversight and supervise investigations into state agencies. I did so for four governors, two Democrats and two Republicans. And in those nearly 18 years, I was never creditably accused of carrying out my responsibilities in a politically partisan manner, and I don’t plan to do so in this instance.
Jim Clyburn: (14:03)
If one were to refer to a little bit of history, you will see that the most contentious event that ever occurred on the campuses of a college in South Carolina, at least in modern times, took place on the campus of the Citadel. And I was asked by then governor Riley, to go in to investigate that incident and to make recommendations to the state of South Carolina as to how to overcome it and how to prepare for the future. A second very contentious event took place in a little town of Conway, where we had virtually the martial law in that town. I was asked to investigate that by then Governor Caroll Campbell, and we did so in a way that all people in South Carolina felt that we did it fairly and we did not do it politically. We will not do that in this instance.
Jim Clyburn: (15:06)
So I’m looking forward to Leader McCarthy making his appointments to this committee because it’s important to the American people that we do what is necessary for them to maintain confidence in their government and do it in a way that’s transparent. Thank you Madam Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi: (15:31)
Thank you Mr. Chairman Carver, Mr. Whip Clyburn. That is, I knew, I was aware of your reputation in that regard, but I know firsthand your work in working on post-Katrina as chair of the taskforce where it was clear you were there for the people, not for any other agenda than that. And then also later on we had the post-2008 downturn in our economy, how you worked to help build us back in a bipartisan way, almost agnostic. It doesn’t matter where the ideas are coming from. What matters is what works for the American people. So thank you for your nonpartisan, patriotic leadership.
Nancy Pelosi: (16:14)
I do want to say that this committee already has a measure of success. As you know, two of the members of the committee, Chairwoman Maxine Waters and Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez, were very instrumental in putting in the bill the issues about lower, under-banked businesses being able to access the loans. We had some concerns with the reports that were coming out after the first tranche was spent almost immediately, and so in the new bill, we put forth a specific carve-out for those under-banked communities. Waiting to hear from the secretary today, the names of some of those small businesses that received loans.
Nancy Pelosi: (16:58)
But when I say we’ve already had a victory, earlier today, the Small Business Administration put out an advisory that between 4:00 PM today and midnight tonight, Eastern Daylight Time, the window for loans would only be for those financial institutions below $1 billion. Which just gives them so much opportunity, and that’s a very big step forward. That was the spirit of the legislation and we’re glad that it’s giving this opportunity. Because if it’s always first come first serve, it’s very hard no matter how you construct it to ensure that among those even under-banked, that the smallest businesses are getting the opportunity that they have.
Nancy Pelosi: (17:48)
So congratulations to our two Chairwoman and I’m very excited that what we go from here in terms of legislation, which we’ll talk about tomorrow, but just as that we’re saluting our heroes. And our heroes were well served in our previous bill by the leadership of Frank Pallone, who was largely responsible for our important language for 100 billion dollars for hospitals and testing, as well as the PPE and the rest for our heroes.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:18)
So that takes me to the point of all of this. Of course, we’re going to act in a nonpartisan way in this. We owe it to our heroes, our healthcare providers, our police and fire emergency services people, our transit workers, our food folks. Very important, our postal workers, our teachers. All of those people are out there on the frontline meeting the needs of the American people. And we are there not to spend time away from meeting their needs, but to make sure that their needs are met, and that will be part of what we do in CARES 2, which I’ll talk about tomorrow.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:59)
But for today, again, we think it is, we want to be worthy of those people, those heroes. They’re the ones who are leading the way. The American people are leading the way saying, “We don’t want to go back in before it is the right time to go back in.” So let us listen to the people, let us heed the leadership of our heroes as we go forward, and as we do so to have oversight to ensure that there is nobody ripping us off by saying they’re selling masks when they don’t even have any and that they’re trying to get the checks of people who are getting the advanced payments, depriving them of that. There are plenty of things that we want to look into and I have every confidence that this distinguished committee with the balance that it has, the humanity of it all, but the experience and wisdom of these members will guide us very well. With that we’re pleased to take any questions you may have. Yes, ma’am?
Speaker 1: (20:00)
Hi Speaker Pelosi. [inaudible 00:20:02] McConnell suggested yesterday afternoon…
Speaker 2: (20:03)
Hey, Speaker Pelosi. Leader McConnell suggested yesterday afternoon that he may want to marry liability protections in a CARES 2 Act or when you all do more funding moving forward, that that may be tied to state and local funding. What’s your response to that?
Nancy Pelosi: (20:17)
Well, Leader Schumer and I both, with many of your colleagues who were present on the phone and maybe they’re present here but they can’t ask a question as they could on the phone, said that at the time of this coronavirus challenge, especially now, we have every reason to protect our workers and our patience in all of this. So we would not be inclined to be supporting any immunity from liability. Yes, sir. Mr. Clyburn, did you want to speak to that?
Representative Clyburn: (20:52)
Nancy Pelosi: (20:53)
Okay. Chime in anytime.
Speaker 3: (20:55)
I’m wondering if after action review is going to be at all in the purview of this committee specifically?
Nancy Pelosi: (21:02)
I’m sorry. No, after action review is after action. We’re still in the action. This is about the here and now and as we go forward. Now again, our focus is on our heroes. We want to make sure that they have what they need to do their jobs. They’re risking their lives to save lives. In the meantime, they may lose their jobs. So we want to make sure that how this is all implemented is in furtherance of being worthy of them. We praise them, we pray for them, we say all those things, but we’re unworthy to do it unless we’re there to protect them and support them. So after action review is after action. We’re in the battle right now. And I would hope that … when I say the battle with the coronavirus, that this, shall we say, anticipate or perhaps stave off any waste fraud and abuse because they’ll know that this is about transparency and accountability. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 4: (22:08)
Getting back to state and local aid. One of the issues that some members had about the state and local aid was the population caps, the 500,000. Going forward, in CARES 2, do you see yourself removing that cap and having aid distributed across other nations?
Nancy Pelosi: (22:23)
Well, nobody’s been a bigger champion of that in the Congress than Mr. Clyburn. over the years long before any of this … Do you want to speak to that, Mr. Clyburn?
Representative Clyburn: (22:33)
Well I think it’s very, very important for us when we talk about state and local, remember it is state and local. And the fact that we’ve had so often is that we get hung up at the state level and forget that the cities, the counties, even local public service districts or local governments and we ought to pay close attention to whether or not there are getting what they need in order to carry out their responsibilities as well. And so state and local, I have been pressing my caucus for years to remember. It didn’t say all local, it is and local. And I’m going to be very, very conscious of that as we have these discussions.
Nancy Pelosi: (23:20)
So if I may, again more for tomorrow but since you asked. Our plan now is to have two separate, maybe even three, state, county and municipality and we can take it all the way down we’re thinking to 10,000 and fewer. This is a big issue for all of the members because some … Well, the governors have a big problem. They have a big problem in terms of the coronavirus, many of the states that do, and so they want to meet their budget needs and the communities do as well. So we expect the governors to spend money in their states down to every level. But we also want some money to initiate there. Now let me just say, it’s for two purposes. One is, and I want to make this very clear because you mentioned the Republican leader. He said, “Well, we’re not doing state and local because we want to see how the old money worked first.” Oh, really? But no review of any other money, mind you.
Nancy Pelosi: (24:21)
But anyway, he says, “We’re not taking care of their budget woes.” That’s not what this is about. Everything we’re doing is about the coronavirus. So when states are submitting what their needs are and what their outlays are, it’s about what they did in terms of what they spent on the coronavirus and what their revenue loss is. This is essential to their survival, that their revenue loss is counted as a coronavirus cost as well. And that applies to state, county, municipality, and hospitals as well. So, this is another very important principle is that we will have there. It has nothing to do whatever their past history is. The one state he mentioned, Illinois, had its woes under a Republican governor, but he fails to mention that. But we’re not interested … Well that’s not our issue. Our issue is what have you spent on corona and what is the opportunity revenue lost in coronavirus. But yes, we expect to have some direct assistance. And this again, with every call that we have with our members, this is an overwhelming issue for them.
Nancy Pelosi: (25:31)
Any other? Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 5: (25:33)
Yes. Last week you all had discussions between, I know Leader Hoyer and Leader McCarthy were talking about what potential proxy and remote voting was looking like. That had been taken off the floor. Are those bipartisan conversations still ongoing and what do they look like?
Nancy Pelosi: (25:49)
Yes. Well again, our purpose here is to talk about oversight and the excellence of the committee, the Democrats on the committee that I have named and the totality of their experience, wisdom, humanity that they bring to that. In order for us to meet and also to vote on legislation that the gentle lady was referencing, we have to have a process. So we had, just to put in context, more than a month ago, I asked the chairman of the rules committee, which is one of the committees of jurisdiction, to give us a report on remote voting, every aspect of it. He did so maybe a month ago, and then he asked for comment from members and then he put out a recommendation a little more than two weeks ago, that what was feasible was remote voting by proxy. That we would continue to look at other technologies to see how much more we could do for the whole body, but that there were some possibilities for virtual meetings, a smaller number rather than the 430.
Nancy Pelosi: (27:05)
When we were here to perhaps vote on the proxy, I had the impression, rightfully so I think, from the distinguished Republican leader, Mr. McCarthy, that he wasn’t there, but it might be reviewing what could happen because they, as we all do, want to come in to do the people’s work present. Although we’re doing the people’s work every minute of every day in our districts, but nonetheless present in the Capitol so that he would look at it. He told the Los Angeles Times, “I made a commitment to her that it wasn’t there yet, but it could be, but we do want to have sessions in Washington.” So with the opportunity that this could be bipartisan because that would be better in my view, if you’re changing how Congress votes after 200 and some years that you can do it in a bipartisan way, that would be better.
Nancy Pelosi: (27:59)
With that hope, Mr. Hoyer and Mr. McCarthy, Mr McGovern and Mr. Cole, Congresswoman, Zoe Lofgren and her ranking member, Davis, have been meeting. They’ve had a couple of meetings so far, conversations, and I think that the consensus is that there will be a vote on proxy voting. Whether Republicans join or not is going to be up to them to announce, but on the committee meetings there’s some serious considerations. Some members want to come back. Next week, I think appropriations has announced that they’re going to have a meeting and maybe small business. The chairman may decide to have a meeting next week here. There could be meetings of everyone here depending on the size of the committee or virtual or hybrid leadership of the committee and then other people in by way of other technologies.
Nancy Pelosi: (29:04)
I do want to say though, throughout all of this, we’ve had 30 briefings, because we can’t officially have a hearing because we haven’t voted that we can do hearings by remote yet. But we’ve had 30, is it? 20 meetings.
Speaker 6: (29:20)
At least 20.
Nancy Pelosi: (29:22)
At least 20 of each of the committees of jurisdiction. And also that the appropriations committee said they’re going to be meeting next week. And that brings me to my final point, which is Mr. Clyburn’s committee is a place that will have all of this, and the select committee will build upon this work, but it has no meaning … Do not have any impression that this is in any way a substitute for what the committees do. They all have an oversight responsibility. 20 briefings already. There’ll be more once we officially say it can be a hearing or a-
Nancy Pelosi: (30:02)
…shall they say, it can be a hearing or a committee meeting and so all of them have their responsibility, whether it’s Mr. Pallone on the health issues, Congressman Essu has her subcommittee on health and has something in the works, whether it’s Bobby Scott for OSHA, Family Medical Leave, pensions, all of those issues, how they are affected by this, whether it’s Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson and how we’re meeting the food needs of the American people. We want SNAP, we want food stamps and other nutrition programs and the legislation, that’s been a struggle, again on ways and means issues that relate to Medicare and in some cases Medicaid, but that’s also energy and commerce issue.
Nancy Pelosi: (30:50)
The banking committee will have its oversight hearings. The small business committee will have it’s, so it isn’t as if this is… And the list goes on. So it isn’t as if this takes the place of that, they will all be happening, but they have other business to deal with too. The purpose, the sole purpose of this select committee is to make sure that we have a bright light shining on the implementation on $2 trillion of taxpayer dollars, to make sure they’re spent in a way that removes all doubt there won’t be waste, fraud, abuse, et cetera. But that instead that will go to meet the needs of the American people in a way that is fair and equitable, that addresses disparities that we have had, but also recognizes our responsibility to do so and as nonpartisan a way as possible. Did you have a final?
Speaker 7: (31:47)
If I could follow up on what you… You just said that this committee does not replace the rule of all the other committees, but even the vote to have this committee did fall along party lines. Republicans are concerned that, that’s exactly their reasoning. They’re saying, “Why do we even need this committee? We have other oversight committees.” How do you reassure them?
Nancy Pelosi: (32:09)
Well, let me just say gentlemen, that you used the word, their reasoning, those two words, their reasoning when they established the committee on Planned Parenthood, to do away with Planned Parenthood. There were committees that dealt with women’s health issues and the rest, but they decided to for a select committee on planned Parenthood. Again, 50 million people… A hundred million people had not been diagnosed, 50,000, 60,000 people had not died, but they thought it was urgent despite all of the oversight of the other committees to have a select committee. Benghazi, how long and how much money did they spend on Benghazi when they had the On Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee and all of those committees looking at all of that and yet select committee. So there so-called reasoning is… Doesn’t seem to apply by their own experience. I myself have a select committee on climate.
Nancy Pelosi: (33:14)
It doesn’t mean that the other committees of jurisdiction, every committee I tasked, do what you can do about climate, whether it’s the Defense Committee or the Energy and Commerce Committee or the Natural Resources Committee or the appropriate whatever, Ways and Means, whatever your committee is, how can you help us address the climate crisis? That was 2007 when I did it before and now too. It is not to say we don’t want the intel of the wisdom and the intellectual resources that can be gathered there, it’s just that a select committee does just that. That is the focus. That is where the public will pay attention to what is going on and have the assurance that their taxpayer dollar is being spent wisely and well. So they were arguing against themselves when they made that case, but you’re asking a question so they may have convinced somebody but nonetheless, I know that didn’t convince you, I guess. In any event, this is again, I end where I began.
Nancy Pelosi: (34:22)
We can only pray for those families who have lost their loved ones. We don’t know what comfort we can be to them except to say that people really are sad for them or praying for them. The many people who are diagnosed, hopefully we can get the resources to them that they need, whether it’s a ventilator or a first responder, or a public health person. And we’ll be talking about that more tomorrow in the Speaker’s weekly press conference. But for today, it’s about our responsibility to do justice to those first responders.
Nancy Pelosi: (35:01)
Many of them, healthcare workers, all of our heroes, risk their lives to save other people’s lives. And now many of them will lose their jobs because of the lack of resources. And in addition to which the lack of PPE for them to do their jobs well. So in sadness, for those who have lost their lives and hope for those who are diagnosed. With respect for our heroes, let us be worthy of them by doing this in the most nonpartisan way as possible. And I couldn’t be… We couldn’t be better served in that regard than a person who takes all of this very seriously and patriotically our distinguished chairman, our distinguished Whip, Mr. Clyburn. Thank you all very much.
Speaker 8: (35:47)
Speaker 9: (35:47)