Mar 26, 2020
Nancy Pelosi Press Conference Transcript March 26: House Voting on Stimulus Bill Friday
Nancy Pelosi held a news conference today with updates on coronavirus and the $2.2 trillion stimulus plan recently passed by the Senate. The House of Representatives will be voting on the bill on Friday, and she was confident that it would pass but that Congress is “not doing enough.” Full transcript here.
Nancy Pelosi: (00:00)
Thank you. Last night, as you know, the Senate passed important legislation. We’re very proud of the product. We did you Jiu-Jitsu on it that it went from a corporate first proposal that the Republicans put forth in the Senate to a Democratic workers first legislation. But let’s first back up. As I was coming here, I saw that nearly a thousand deaths in the United States, 900 yesterday. So I don’t know what the number is today, but they’re saying nearly a thousand deaths in our country. We have tens of thousands of cases. This is a pandemic that we haven’t even seen since for over a hundred years in our country. It’s really such a tragedy. So we had to take important action. We had to take action though that puts families first and workers first, and that’s what we did when we did our first legislation.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:01)
The first two bills were about addressing the emergency directly. $8.3 billion for research, for vaccine, for a cure, and that’s of course the light at the end of the tunnel. But funding for testing, testing, testing, very important, so that we know, we can take inventory of the challenge that we face, and more importantly that we can address each family’s concerns about this. The next bill was about masks, masks, masks so that we can test, test, test among other things, emergency. The bill that was passed in the Senate last night and that we will take up tomorrow is about mitigation, mitigation for the all the loss that we have in our economy while still addressing the emergency health needs that we have in our country. And next we’ll go from emergency mitigation to recovery in terms of where we go to grow the economy, to create more jobs in light of the reality that we’ve just been through.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:10)
So right now we have the legislation that will come to the floor tomorrow. I’ve can anticipate and feel certain that we will have a strong bipartisan vote. And we take some pride in the fact that as I said earlier, congressional Democrats in the Senate and in the House were able to flip this over from corporate trickled down Republican version to bubble up worker first families first legislation. So again, we have some other things we want to do, but first we want to take pride in what happens there. For workers, we were able to get of course extended and expanded, extended from what the Republicans wanted, and expanded unemployment insurance. So very, very important. Of course in terms of funds that go to major corporations or companies or anyone, the direct condition is that, for example, with the airlines that the money that is given to the airlines is given to the workers directly.
Nancy Pelosi: (03:18)
Just a pass through. It goes directly to the workers and have some conditions on for other money that goes to any of these companies that they have no buy backs, no dividends, no bonuses. All of those kinds of concerns are so offensive that happened before with federal funds infused into their entities. So, we’re very happy about all of that. One of the differences, as I said, their corporate down were bubble up from workers, I think was demonstrated last night. Can you believe that almost, I think it was every Republican, I think 40, 49 Republicans last night, voted in the Senate to deprive those on unemployment insurance of the additional $600 a week. How could it be that in this time of stress and strain and uncertainty about health and life and livelihood, that they would vote that way? But I think it does demonstrate the point that I made that not about workers first, but the bill got to be there, and I thank the Senate Democrats for using the leverage they have with the 60 votes.
Nancy Pelosi: (04:33)
I take pride in what we had in our house bill that is in the Senate bill now. So for workers and for families with all three of our bills, we have put families and workers first. Right now we want people to take advantage of all of this quickly. The UI will depend on how the states do it and they’re not all uniform, but we want people to know exactly how they can benefit from that, and we’re putting that all together, so all of our members, on both sides of the aisle, can [inaudible 00:05:10] how they can facilitate enabling their constituents to take advantage of the opportunities there. So again, the bill last night and and tomorrow will be a large infusion of funds for hospitals, health systems and state and local governments. We want more, and this was a big strong step, but need more. Small businesses, I’m so proud of the work of all of our chairmen.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:36)
They were just dazzling in their knowledge, their strategy, just their experience in getting the right kind of bill passed even though again, compromising, not getting everything we want, but recognizing that we won the day. Small business want fast relief. Small business, they have met for rent, mortgage, utility costs, eligible for SBA loan forgiveness. I salute Congresswoman, Madam Chair, Nydia Velazquez for what she was able to accomplish. They are students. We secured billions emergency education funding. Thank you, Bobby Scott on our team, and our appropriators, Rosa DeLauro and Nita Lowey, etc. Doing so much work there. Don’t get me started on naming my members. I’ll be talking about all of them. I will and you’ll see how they present tomorrow on the floor. And we have oversight. You know, there was this idea that they put forth that there would be a $500 billion slush fund for the Secretary of the Treasury with no accountability whatsoever.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:43)
Are you kidding? With all respect in the world for this Secretary, that was a complete nonstarter, so I’m pleased that language that was in the House bill in this and in the Senate bill has an inspector general specifically for that account, and also a congressional panel of five people appointed by the leaders to oversee how that funding is dispersed. Comes back down though to the fact or that people are at risk. As I say, tens of thousand cases, nearly a thousand deaths in the United States. I said from the start, we must have a proposal that is government wide, science-based, so that we can really address the challenge that we face in a scientific evidence based way. That is not necessarily the course that has been advocated by some, but it’s where we must be if we’re going to end this. From a scientific standpoint, we have some of the best minds working 24/7, all hands on deck to find a cure, which is of course the light at the end of the tunnel. But if we do not heed the advice of the-
Nancy Pelosi: (08:03)
… at the tunnel, but if we do not heed the advice of the scientific community about isolation and avoiding as much communal contact as possible and that none, then the light at the end of the tunnel may be a train coming at us, the proverbial train, and we cannot… Every day, every week that is wasted on not taking that warning seriously is a problem. It’s a problem. So let us thank our men and women who are healthcare providers, our first responders, our emergency service people, firefighters and the rest who are not only responding to this, but initiating their own efforts, sometimes risking their lives to save others lives. We need to get them more personal protective equipment as absolutely essential and it is a shortfall right now, or we would hope that the government defense production office agency would be called upon to call upon industry to convert to making ventilators and the rest… Testing, testing, testing, mask, mask, mask, ventilators, ventilators, ventilators. What’s the mystery? We need many more. And ventilators, just for your information is not about making you breathe easier. It’s making you breathe period.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:32)
It is vital to life and death in many, many, many cases. So we need an unlimited number. Let’s think of it that way, endless number of ventilators and just to name one thing. But everyone, the farmers, the producers, the grocers, everyone who’s keeping America fed, our truck drivers, postal workers, delivery people, everyone who is making this survival possible, we thank, and again, we think our scientists are striving to find a cure. So tomorrow, we will go out to the floor for this legislation, but as I have said, there’s so many things we didn’t get in any of these bills yet in a way that we need to. The next step would be, well, among other things, we want to have a more better definition of who qualifies for family and medical leave, I can give you some examples if you wish, a stronger OSHA protection, OSHA protections for our workers, essential, essential to life, pensions, we had a proposal on pensions in the legislation that my understanding was and I trusted is true that the president supported, but Senator McConnell wouldn’t do it, but said, “We’ll do it in the next bill.”
Nancy Pelosi: (10:56)
So we’re ready for that, increased SNAP. One disappointment in the bill was they would not increase… We were asking for a 15% increase in food stamps at this very fragile time for many families. They wouldn’t do that in this bill. More money for state and local governments. That could be, I spoke with the secretary this morning about how we’re just not doing enough for state and local government. That’s just the way it is. We had $200 billion in our bill that we ended up with $150, but neither of those figures is really enough. But we’re hoping, and I mentioned to him that the fed and to talk to chairman Powell about this, that they would expand the opportunity for, shall we say, helping out state and local government municipalities and the rest. In the bill, we call for that, but really permissively enabling the secretary to do it but not requiring him to do it and the administration did not want the requirement, but they say that that is what they intend to do.
Nancy Pelosi: (11:59)
We’ll see and hopefully that is the case, but we’re still going to need to have more money for state and local government municipalities and the rest. Then one of the important things that just we have to insist upon, we said free testing, free testing, free testing, but with retesting is the visit to the doctor’s office, the treatment that goes with it, and that has to be free, as well so that we encourage people to be tested and if they are and they need treatment, they’re not fearing the test because they can’t afford the treatment. This is all a public health issue. It’s in everyone’s issue that everyone be tested who needs to be tested, not everyone, but who qualifies to be tested but that they do not incur a huge deductible or whatever, a copayment, whatever, for being tested and have the followup treatment.
Nancy Pelosi: (12:55)
Then there’s just one other, this came as kind of a, I don’t want to say a surprise, because nothing surprises me around here, but it was curious that in this bill, they decided to treat the District of Columbia in a very discriminatory way. It really makes no sense unless you have some other motivation. The District of Columbia has always been treated like a state in terms of distribution of funds and under that formulation, they would have gotten well over a million dollars, maybe a million and a quarter or so. Under the formula, they just decided to treat them like a territory now and they get maybe half a million less. I don’t know exact figures, but it’s very significant. Say it’s a third less than what they are getting when they’re fighting this challenge here in the District of Columbia. It doesn’t make any sense and we have to have legislation. I don’t know if you saw [inaudible 00:13:56] last night during the debate spelling this out.
Nancy Pelosi: (14:02)
I know it’s of concern to Stanley and to Mr. Connolly and Mr. Byer our colleagues from this region, Mr. Raskin, well the list goes on, but it doesn’t face the realities of a public health crisis that we have in our country and goes out of its way to do something so out of the ordinary. Let’s just hope it was… Well, it was a decision. It wasn’t an accident. It was a decision. So let’s make a decision to correct that, but again, let us all be very prayerful about how we go forward. We want the American people not only to wash their hands regularly and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate all the time, but to understand that we view them as our bosses. They are our bosses. We are responsible to them. On Sunday morning when we met with the Ms, McConnell, Minutian, McCarthy, Chuck and I were there and I said, “Since it’s Sunday morning, why don’t we begin with a prayer?” My part of it, not their part, my part and I’ll begin with a prayer.
Nancy Pelosi: (15:15)
His Holy Pope Francis called for a world prayer. I won’t do it justice, but what he did was to pray that those who have the responsibility to care for others would be enlightened to take that responsibility and act upon it. When I finished my prayer, the secretary said, “Well, you’ve quoted Pope Francis, I’ll quote the markets.” So that’s kind of how we… God knows, we want the markets to succeed. That’s very important. Markets are not going to succeed unless we take care of people and we restore their health, whether there’s a cure or whether there’s a behavior that reduces this tragedy in our…
Nancy Pelosi: (16:03)
… Behavior that reduces this tragedy in our country, but let us work together in the most bipartisan way possible to get the job done as soon as possible. It won’t happen unless we respect science, science, science. And for those who say we choose prayer over science, I say science is an answer to our prayers. Any questions?
Speaker 1: (16:26)
[inaudible 00:16:26] Americans have heard a lot about the direct payments that they’re getting as part of this bill and the biggest question they have is when are we going to see these checks? Why not approve this bill by unanimous consent so that American families don’t have to wait even a moment longer to get this money in their bank accounts?
Nancy Pelosi: (16:45)
Thank you for your question. The two are completely unrelated, and it has nothing to do with unanimous consent. Tomorrow we’ll bring the bill to the floor. It will pass. It will pass with a strong bipartisan support. I spoke to secretary about this today. I said, “Why don’t we do the direct payments technologically so that they can be received more immediately?” I don’t know if that’s their plan, but I hope that it would be, but the people are eager for them. We had bigger direct payments in our bill. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of direct payments, but with all respect to your question, it has nothing to do with unanimous consent.
Nancy Pelosi: (17:26)
I don’t think we will get unanimous consent. I think there’s some people on the other side of the aisle who are coming here to … Would object to that, but we’re not worried about that. Our members want to come back in order to have the debate and we expect to have a voice vote on it. But if we don’t, we’ll be prepared for whatever it is. But one way or another, with losing no time with the UC or anything else, we will be passing the bill tomorrow, so thank you.
Speaker 2: (17:56)
What would you say to Americans that have concerns about these loans given to corporations? Why couldn’t these corporations seek private loans and isn’t it a moral hazard to bail them out? Shouldn’t they have been more conservative with their cash flow to be able to weather the storm?
Nancy Pelosi: (18:18)
Well, everything that we do in this bill is about the workers. And so where there is any transfer of funds to any entity, it is for them to keep their workers employed or pay benefits to their employees. So nothing is going to anybody without conditions.
Speaker 2: (18:40)
Nancy Pelosi: (18:41)
But that’s another issue that we can’t deal with that now, but we did prohibit … And thank you for your question. So I can say again, the conditions include preventing any buy backs, all the things that they did in previous times when had resources, just use that money to enrich themselves in terms of dividends, bonuses and the rest. And there are some considerations about CEO pay in all of this, but this is an opportunity for us to have the leverage switch from the top, from trickle down, from corporate headquarters, to bubble up from the assembly room for this. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (19:27)
You’ve already started talking about the next phase.
Nancy Pelosi: (19:30)
Speaker 2: (19:31)
How quickly do you think that bill needs to come together? How big do you anticipate it will be? And do you intend to work on it from Washington or from California? And finally, who should take the lead on it? The house or the Senate?
Nancy Pelosi: (19:44)
Well, we’ll be taking the lead on that, I think. Well, right now what we’re advocating is we took the lead on some, they took one. We really should be operating four corners, the four, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans as we go along to find as much common ground as we can. But we will be … I’ll be working on most of it from here, but also with my committees. And of course of this whole thing, my committees were outstanding. The committee chairs were, as I said, dazzling in their knowledge and brilliance about how to get the job done. And they made a tremendous difference. Of course we didn’t get everything we want it, but it’s a compromise. We did very well. And that’s why I’ve got a call yesterday from some of the … On the other Senate side, not on the democratic side saying these members think that it’s too much of a democratic bill.
Nancy Pelosi: (20:33)
What can I say? So in any case, we’ll go through the committees, Bobby Scott on of the education labor committee, which oversees family medical leave will be working on that as will be the appropriators, Rosa DeLauro and that will work. House and Senate, we have the legislation with Patty Murray that they rejected, but we’ll bring it back. The OSHA is also from that committee, the OSHA, the occupational safety and health issues are very important. More important at this time than any time anybody can remember because people are going into an infectious situation. So we’ll be having our technological [inaudible 00:21:17] by phone and perhaps even beyond that, have our meetings to bring that together. But in this case, and it’s going to be public sentiment, we can just say, “Well, why do we need another bill?” We need it because the health workers working in those settings need it. We need it because of the family. For example, if your mom, bless her heart, I don’t know if she’s …
Speaker 2: (21:43)
Nancy Pelosi: (21:45)
Wonderful, so she’s healthy. Okay. So if your mom, for example, if your mom were in a day seniors health center, they take them in day and they get the health needs and all that and then come home or was at home and had a healthcare provider in the home and because of the coronavirus, those two entities, one would close and the other could not come. You would be able to take family and medical leave to care for your mom. If your mom’s well and she gets the coronavirus, you can’t take off work to care for her and get family and medical leave, because those two conditions were not met. We strove to have them say, “Those who cannot take care of themselves.” But they wouldn’t accept that language, but it doesn’t make sense, does it?
Nancy Pelosi: (22:42)
So anyway, we want to improve on that and improve how many other people would avail themselves of it. So again, it’s … These are needs that people have. This is not … This is all … Understand this about this. It’s really important to know this. This is all about the coronavirus. It’s not about anything else. It’s about the coronavirus. So this is temporary for this period of time. And it’s important to know that because people said, “Well, why should we …” Because as a coronavirus. It’s a public health issue and we have to keep people as healthy as we can. And family medical leave is one way to do that.
Nancy Pelosi: (23:24)
Then some of the other issues that I meant, when they’re getting tested then they should have not to pay a high copay for the other services that go with that test at this time, when we’re talking about of course the direct payments are directly related to this. But just to that point, we want to engage the public in that discussion. The timing is interesting because I see the Senate said they were leaving until the 20th of April. I guess that’s after Easter and Passover. I think everybody has to be on a call for-
Nancy Pelosi: (24:03)
I think everybody has to be on a call for what we need when we need it, and we don’t know what that might be, but whatever it is, we’ll be ready.
Speaker 3: (24:12)
[crosstalk 00:24:12] A question and a half. Do you anticipate…
Nancy Pelosi: (24:14)
Is that allowed a questions and half.
Speaker 3: (24:15)
You just been having unanimous support from your Democrats tomorrow on this bill?
Nancy Pelosi: (24:19)
Yes. Well, let me say this. We will have a victory tomorrow for America’s workers if, if somebody has a different point of view, they can put it in the record, but we’re not worried about that.
Speaker 3: (24:37)
The other question was, Governor Cuomo yesterday expressed a lot of concern that-
Nancy Pelosi: (24:41)
Which one was the hat?
Speaker 3: (24:42)
That was the hat. Governor Cuomo yesterday said he’s really worried about his state budget that got money in this bill isn’t going to go nearly far enough to fill the hole. Other States will likely have that problem. Do you think the next bill, you’re going to have to dedicate significantly more essentially to bail out state governments who cannot do this on their own and can’t run a deficit?
Nancy Pelosi: (25:02)
Well, thank you for your question. I did have the occasion to have the benefit of the governor’s thinking yesterday. And I have enormous respect for him. I think he’s doing a spectacular job at what he is doing. And it’s a, it’s something we’ve never seen before, but I also see that with my own governor, Gavin Newsom in California. They are, they remind me of each other in terms of they’re so values based and they’re determined to do the right thing and respecting the dignity and worth of every person. But it takes money and we have thanks to Jerry Brown had a big budget, a surplus in California, which is going to be eaten away by this. So it’s not a question of bailing out states. It’s a question of meeting the needs of the people and that’s our responsibility to do. He called a drop in the bucket was, it’s several billion dollars and it isn’t anywhere near enough, but it’s still 7 billion, several billion, I think like 5.6 billion or something for New York.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:04)
We have to do more. And if we don’t face that reality and now we’re encouraging the states then to give money to localities as well because they… In our situation, California for example, San Francisco provides a lot of the cities and counties provide a lot of the care throughout the country and meeting the needs, whatever they are on a public health issue. So there’s no question that more money will be needed.
Nancy Pelosi: (26:33)
Now can we do it through the fed and some low to no interest lending to the states? Let’s see what they can do. And that was my conversation with the secretary this morning about, I wish it were more required rather than [inaudible 00:26:49] for the fed to do that. They preferred this route, which I respect now let’s get it, get it done. But let me make no mistake the all the states around the country, we talked about New York, California, look at Louisiana, which is now ground zero for the world in terms of the explosion of this challenge in the world.
Nancy Pelosi: (27:12)
And they referenced some of that to Mardi Gras and the rest. But we’ll see. I mean, I have grandchildren all over the country. As you probably know, one who goes to school in New Orleans, so I watch that pretty carefully. Well, watch the whole country. So in any event, the challenges there, the interest rates are low. The Chairman of the Feds, Mr. Powell said to me, “Interest rates are as low as they’ll ever be. Think big because whatever you borrow to do with this is going to be at the lowest interest.”
Nancy Pelosi: (27:48)
What we did last night and what we would do tomorrow, $2 trillion is about the cost of the tax scam that the Republicans foisted on the nation to give 83% of the benefits to the top 1% whatever it was, plus the interest on the loan, on the debt. And debting our kids and their future paying the bill for tax breaks for the high end said it was going to pay for itself. It never does. Said it was going to create jobs. It didn’t.
Nancy Pelosi: (28:21)
However, this is an emergency, a challenge to the conscience as well as the budget of our country and every dollar that we spend is an investment in the lives and the livelihood of the American people. We can go bigger, especially now the interest rates are even lower than at the time of the tax scam.
Nancy Pelosi: (28:43)
So it isn’t even, it’s like I gave you a dime for a cup of coffee. It doesn’t cost a dime anymore. There’s a cost much more. Let’s recognize that reality. But again, let’s do it in a way that stays focused on the kitchen tables of America’s families, their needs, their concerns, and how we can again, meet those needs as Pope Francis told us to take responsibility for. Thank you all very much. Thank you.