Jul 12, 2021
Nancy Pelosi National Association of Counties Conference Transcript
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke at the National Association of Counties Conference on July 12, 2021. Read the transcript of her remarks here.
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Larry Johnson: (00:00)
Thank you Madam Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi : (00:02)
Thank you very much. Thank you.
Larry Johnson: (00:05)
Thank you so much. Please have a seat. It is just awesome to have you here at NACo and be a part of what we’re doing Madam Speaker. And you know this has been a long year for all of us. And we’ve seen you grace under fire as a leader and you have all of these leaders out here in front of us. Can you tell us in a few words on how were you able to cope and deal in some of these tough situations?
Nancy Pelosi : (00:34)
Well, thank you. Thank you for the invitation to be here, to give me an opportunity on the behalf of the Congress to say thank you. Thank you to all of you for how you brought your counties through. Thank you for your advocacy, for shall we say our rescue package that focused on the role that counties play. I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to recognize the role that you play on the ongoing basis. The extraordinary role that you are playing during this pandemic and recognize that you have made a tremendous difference. And we wanted the rescue package to reflect that and direct assistance to counties. Not shall we say through the grace of others, but through the direct. And I want to thank you and congratulate you on your new… Okay, you can applaud yourselves. Okay. That’s an applause line. I want to congratulate you very… what do I call you? Mr. President? Mr. Chairman?
Larry Johnson: (01:42)
Nancy Pelosi : (01:45)
LJ on rising to this status now. It’s a joy to behold. I know that in your family, you have had a tradition of public service and how proud your family must be.
Larry Johnson: (01:59)
Yeah, this is the best day of my life.
Nancy Pelosi : (02:02)
Isn’t that lovely?
Larry Johnson: (02:08)
We’re going to go right into it, Madam Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi : (02:10)
But before I do, I want to congratulate Judge Gary Moore for his leadership for decades of service in Boone County. And more than a decade of service in one capacity or another to NACo. And what a beautiful family he has personally and how effective his working family. They are already on my case, on the Asian carp and you know, one thing and another. I haven’t stopped, but congratulations to Judge Moore.
Larry Johnson: (02:45)
Yes. Give him another great hand President Moore.
Nancy Pelosi : (02:49)
Ah. So it’s president. I call you Mr. President.
Larry Johnson: (02:53)
Nancy Pelosi : (02:53)
So how do we all get through this? With a lot of prayer, I’m a big believer in prayer. There was so much uncertainty in it all, but the prayer, trust in each other, recognition of the role that everyone had to play. And that’s why we called our legislation, The HEROES Act, The HEROES Act. So we could reward those entities and those people who got us through it all, who made our life possible on a regular basis, but even more so at the time of the pandemic. And much of that work comes through our counties, whether it’s our healthcare workers, whether it’s education, transportation, whether it is issues that relate to just sanitation and the rest, some cities, but some in towns, some counties. So we recognize that while the states have their role to play, and we want it to recognize that we could not do the job unless we went directly where you know the challenges best, where there are no buffers. So people say to me, how come you were so on this subject, of local government, of state and local government in this bill.
Nancy Pelosi : (04:12)
And I was raised in a mayor’s house. My father was mayor from when I was first grade. When I went away to college, he was still the mayor of Baltimore, Thomas D’Alesandro. When I was born, he was in Congress, that’s one of the reasons I feel very protective of the Capitol. But I know you have no buffers. People know who you are. They know who the President of the United States is, and they know who you are because of their sense of community and the rest. So I love to talk about some aspects beyond the funding that was in the rescue package. But some of the initiatives we hope to do next, whether it’s rural broadband or just broadband writ large. But we got through it with trust, with prayer, and with good public policy. And for the most part last year, mostly everything we did was bipartisan. And I was very proud of that. I was very, very proud of that. From our first bill signed at the end of March to our last bill signed the end of December, all of the legislation.
Larry Johnson: (05:23)
And that leads me to one of my questions is that NACo is bipartisan and you have been a champion for us from the CARES Act, from The HEROES Act, and now the American Rescue Plan. And you talked about your father and your brother was local elected official.
Nancy Pelosi : (05:38)
My brother was mayor too.
Larry Johnson: (05:39)
So he was mayor of Baltimore. We’ve had a tradition at NACo, how we try to work together. Talk to us because you’ve been a champion. I mean, we can give you 65 billion ways to smile at you from what you did for counties. Particularly DeKalb County was 143 million ways, we can talk about it. But tell us, how does this touches, how did the legislation go, and how did you work to make sure that American counties were home?
Nancy Pelosi : (06:09)
Well, let me just say with all due respect, let us praise the fact that Joe Biden was with us all the way. He was with us all the way. And while our bills last year we’re bipartisan, one of the challenges that we have, we did not have a shared, shall we say agreement on how we would go forward with the state and local funding. And we thought that was very important that it would be not just state funding, but the counties and localities as well. And well, don’t tell anybody I said this too, but a lot of senators have been governors. You know what I mean? Many members of Congress have been county executives, and mayors, and city councilman, and all the rest of that. So from the House, we had a little bit of a different view of where some of this money should go. And the senators they cooperated, but sometimes we had some explaining to do. And then we got through it.
Nancy Pelosi : (07:21)
Basically, the rescue package was The HEROES Act plus vaccines, plus vaccines. But we couldn’t get The HEROES Act because of some of the factors that I mentioned passed per se, as it was in the previous administration. But in the new administration we could, and that was essential to us in the House. We were not going down any path without each and every one of you. And everybody knew that.
Larry Johnson: (07:58)
Thank you. Yes.
Nancy Pelosi : (08:03)
And then, we were very proud because it reached our goals. Vaccinations in the arms, money in the pockets, people back to work, children in school safely, safely. And that’s what the purpose of it was. In the same time, we’re getting ready for what comes next.
Larry Johnson: (08:23)
Wow. And let’s talk about what come next. Beside the health and economic impact of the pandemic, we had in our rural communities and we talked about, and in urban, information technology, broadband, virtual learning, all those things were impacted. And you are a champion for us, but our President Moore has focused on this specifically as one of his initiatives. Talk about broadband and how it’s so critical to the infrastructure of our nation.
Nancy Pelosi : (08:52)
Yes. Well, I thank President Moore for his leadership on this subject and all of you, because you’ve made your voices heard on this. We have always known that obviously the digital divide was not a good thing for our country. The pandemic made it very clear, whether it was telemedicine, whether it was distance learning, whether it was communicating with family, and the rest because of being remote and the rest. Just access to business and the rest, it became very clear that something very significant needed to be done, not incremental, but transformative. And so again, it’s not just about the money, it’s about how the money is spent. So in the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, well, it’s not written yet, but it will be before the Senate. It is proposed, it is agreed to, and the rest. They have $65 billion for broadband, $65 billion.
Larry Johnson: (09:56)
Wow. That’s good. Let’s give it up. Thanks.
Nancy Pelosi : (09:58)
Well, It’s not good enough, but $40 billion for rural broadband. $40 billion for rural broadband, but that’s not enough, we still need more. We need to gauge and you’ll help us do this. What do we need? Now, how do we allocate it and pay for it? But we have to get rid of that divide. We have to get rid of that. And it’s so important to rural America. It’s so important in so many ways. But it’s important, we have urban deserts. We have kids who do not have, can’t have that. Even if they had the iPad or the equipment themselves, if they don’t have the hookup, then it’s a challenge. So we will salute the $65 million. That’s a lot of money, more than we’ve had before. But we know that in order to solve the challenge, we really do need more. But again, how is it spent? And your input on that is very, very important.
Nancy Pelosi : (11:06)
Some of it is for reaching out into rural America. Yeah. But we also have to address people who can’t afford it. Affordability and the rest of that. So let’s stay in touch on that because this is very, very transformative for our democracy, for our country, for our country.
Larry Johnson: (11:26)
Good. Well, one of the ways is I’ll tell you up front, rural counties knew how to spend it. So keep it coming direct to us. Right? Because counties is where the rubber meets the road, and you talked about that. We deal with potholes, stray dogs, sidewalks, green space, grocery store issues, whatever. They see us every day. And like I said earlier, you had been the champion for us as American counties. The focus really, as we talk about broadband and move us forward, talk to us about what we can do to help you to get the message to Congress on how we can do it.
Nancy Pelosi : (12:09)
Well, you already have. And that’s why I start off by thanking you. Because President Lincoln said, “Public sentiment is everything. With it, you can accomplish almost anything without it practically nothing.” But for public sentiment to prevail, people have to know, people have to know. And the bipartisan spreading of the word was so powerful. Know your power in this, you made so much of this happen, especially when you’re talking about big money that we wanted to allocate a certain way. It was necessary for members of Congress to hear from you, to hear from you. So thank you for that. And that’s when it be helpful on the ongoing. Because it’s not just the money that we’ve allocated to the counties, and the cities, and localities, et cetera. It’s the other money coming in, like the education money, and the transportation money, and the healthcare money, and the rest to make sure that it isn’t just at the goodwill of the governor of the state. But that some of it is defined in a way that you can access readily.
Nancy Pelosi : (13:26)
As we say, in a crude way, put your hand in that pocket. Put your hand in that pocket.
Larry Johnson: (13:33)
Great. Let me bring up one more issue. And this impacts all of us as a nation, and this is really critical in our urban communities as well, which we seen in violence prevention. And you’ve been a champion, you’ve talked to us about it, but from an education standpoint, what would you tell our counties on what we can do since it’s at our grassroots level. And how do we connect to make sure our neighbors are safe and moving forward as well?
Nancy Pelosi : (13:58)
In terms of the virus?
Larry Johnson: (13:59)
Nancy Pelosi : (14:00)
Larry Johnson: (14:01)
Nancy Pelosi : (14:02)
Larry Johnson: (14:02)
Nancy Pelosi : (14:04)
You’re on the frontline, all of you. And so it’s really important to listen. When I met with some of my Californian… And how many Californians are here? We have some Californians here? Okay. Do you have any Marylanders here? Here’s the thing, what I know, as I was telling them, years ago I was chair of the California Democratic Party. And we have 58 counties in California, all different from the smallest to the largest counties in the country. So recognizing that of the challenges that are faced are different depending on locality, and size, and democracy, and the rest of that. So again, your role in how we can address this problem, because we take an oath to protect and defend the constitution, and the inference to be drawn from that is the people. And if people aren’t safe, I mean, they have to feel safe.
Nancy Pelosi : (15:14)
So, of course, we want to address the underlying causes of the violence, and the rest. But how we address that? Again, the ideas that spring from your communities are very important for us to hear, because we don’t want to do public policy that has some unforeseen consequences that are really not contributing to the solution. So in any event, and this may be different than it is in California, but I will say it anyway. We do really believe that the numbers are very high in the country, 85% of American people, Democrats, Republicans, independents, gun owners, hunters, collectors, and all the rest, support background check legislation. And we would hope that, that would be a shared value. Because again, it’s not Democratic or Republican. Most people who have guns have registered in the background checks, and many lives have been saved because many guns have not been sold because of it over time.
Nancy Pelosi : (16:27)
I was in Congress when we pass the Brady Bill the first time, which was about background checks among other things, broader than what we’re trying to do now. But we did not foresee because when we passed that bill, there was no Telecommunications Act, which created the internet, so we couldn’t foresee internet sales. We were respectful of gun shows as sort of where collectors go and that, but we didn’t see that it would become a place where background checks could be totally ignored, and dangerous. So I say to you, again, we would hope that the Congress would be as bipartisan as the American people are on this regard. And it is a very important part of stopping violence in our country. But we also have other challenges in terms of drug usage in our country. As I travel the country, I meet with all law enforcement and the rest, many of them shall we say, not of my party, but wanting to come and make sure I understood what was happening in the heartland of America with not just drug usage, but drug production and the rest.
Nancy Pelosi : (17:48)
And how we sentence it? We sentencing the small fish and letting the big fish get away. This is something that we have to be smart about, drug usage, gun violence, and the rest. And of course we want to address the underlying causes in our community of various injustices that exist. But it’s different in different parts of the country, in terms of the use of drugs. It’s also different in terms of how people are sentenced and we have to do it right, so that we get rid of the problem. I used to say to my colleagues, you want to run for president, you run for president on one subject, stopping the use of drugs in our country. Because, there’s not enough money in the world, and it doesn’t work to just say, “We’re going to eradicate the cocoa crop, or we’re going to stop it from coming into the country.” That cost a fortune, both of them, they haven’t worked. Or we’re going to incarcerate, well, how do you do that in a way that would improve the situation? It hasn’t.
Nancy Pelosi : (19:09)
However, treatment on demand, treatment on demand and of course prevention, first and foremost. Prevention, prevention, prevention. So again, we come back to healthcare, and education, and fairness in our economy where we have a sense of community. And you all are the personification of a sense of a community in our country. And that’s why I’m so happy to be with you today because you have your different… I mean, some of the counties have differences within the counties of some of these challenges. And some are smaller and have a different approach than a neighboring county. All of it, all of it, essential as an intellectual resource for how we address this. But honor, we have to honor that oath to protect. If we don’t have safety for our people, I mean, that’s our first responsibility in every way, globally and locally.
Larry Johnson: (20:10)
Wow. We appreciate that. Give her a hand. You have so many balls to juggle and what’s going on. And then the elephant in the room, and what you’re dealing with, the big Infrastructure Bill. How are negotiations going on?
Nancy Pelosi : (20:26)
Well, the Infrastructure Bill is going well, the bipartisan bill. But let me just say this. What is in this bill is what we could agree to as infrastructure. But frankly, it’s an old view of infrastructure. It’s what we might’ve done 35 years ago, roads, bridges, mass transit, to a certain extent, not as much as I would like, but nonetheless, a good number. But it isn’t about broadband, well, it has broadband in it. So that’s one future issue, a priority that is there. But quite frankly, for our obligation to our children, we have to have a greener Infrastructure Bill. We cannot have something that is of the past. And so that involves tax…. The greening part of it is about a four letter word, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. And we have to think of it that way. And we can’t just say, “Well, we’re beholden to certain industries in our country, so we…” Let’s bring everybody together.
Nancy Pelosi : (21:39)
Let’s bring everybody together. Everybody at the table, whether it’s business, and labor, environmentalist, people of faith, scientists, venture capitalists, farmers, our ag community, so important, so important to protecting our country. Because as you see, we have droughts, we have fires, we have floods, we have natural disasters are of a consequence that are just inconceivable. One of the floods they said was supposed to be 1 in 150,000 years, is like 1 in a 100 years. It’s just changed. So part of the debate, whether you agree or not, but part of the debate is how do we have the greening aspects of it, which are not, shall we say, particularly popular on the other side of the aisle, but very popular in the country. So we have to make the bill greener to be more for this century than last century, which is we have to make it more, President Biden says it’s so well, build back better, build back better.
Nancy Pelosi : (22:55)
And building back better means that we do so in a way that is of the future in certain respects, of course, the greening aspects of it, the broadband aspects of it, but also who is involved in the prosperity of it all. And that’s why we have the jobs piece and the families, the cares piece of it, which says, if we’re going to build back better, we have to have workforce training, workforce development. So many more people can be involved. And we have that in what would be in our next bill. If we’re going to build back better, we build back better with women. And we have to have childcare, and the child tax credit, and family and medical leave and the rest. So that everybody can leave home. We have to have home care assistance for home care workers, so that they’re adequately paid and those who need care at home are cared for well and safely. But also that then mom and dad can leave and go to work, whether it’s for childcare or elders. It’s either children, elders, or people with disabilities that people can go to work.
Nancy Pelosi : (24:11)
And that we have the full benefit of everyone in our economy. So that’s really where we want to go next. We want to have the bipartisan bill, but we want to recognize that we have to have legislation of the future that involves many more people that is greener for our country, more technologically available to everyone. And again, we hope it would be bipartisan, but we cannot stop if it isn’t. So in any event, again, know your power, the ideas that you have are useful to us, the contribution you made in the advocacy for the bill. We can do so much maneuvering internally. The outside mobilization makes all the difference in the world. Thank you NACo for making all the difference in the world. And thank you Mr. President for the opportunity. Thank you.
Larry Johnson: (25:11)
Thank you so much. Let’s give our Speaker a great hand. A leader of counties. Thank you Madam Speaker.
Nancy Pelosi : (25:18)
Thank you so much.
Larry Johnson: (25:18)
Thank you so much.
Nancy Pelosi : (25:18)
Thank you all.