Mar 12, 2020
Nancy Pelosi Press Conference Transcript: Pelosi Talks Coronavirus
Nancy Pelosi held her weekly news conference today, with a big portion of the briefing centering around the coronavirus. Read the full transcript of her press conference here.
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Nancy Pelosi: (00:01)
We’re having some discussion about that with the administration of maybe some people, they want to pay, but by and large, free corona testing so that everyone will be tested and no one will say, “I can’t afford it, so I can’t.” That’s not a good idea when it comes to public health. Paid emergency leave with 14 paid sick days. Very essential as we deal with this public health challenge that we have. Enhanced unemployment insurance, a first step that will extend protections to furloughed workers.
Nancy Pelosi: (00:38)
Strengthen food security initiatives. Very important. Many kids just get their food security from being in school. If schools are closed, we have to make sure that the food gets to the children. This food is already paid for and appropriated for; it’s just a question of getting the food to the children, and that has some costs to it. We also have to get… That’s the school lunch program, etc., but in terms of SNAP and food assistance for seniors, people with disabilities, helping the nonprofits who are on the forefront of helping people have access to food at this difficult time.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:22)
And then clear protections for our frontline workers who are working in infectious environments or possible infectious environments so that the OSHA regulations are a protection for them. And then increased funding for Medicaid. The FMAP, that’s the initiative that gets money to the states for Medicaid that is used, hopefully, through the counties and the rest which deal with many of these health issues as we go forward.
Nancy Pelosi: (01:57)
It’s about putting families first. We did the major investment last week. We were very proud of that, strongly bipartisan, already signed into law, families first. And there will be other initiatives that we want to work with the administration on that may be necessary as we go forward, some that that need more discussion, more impact in terms of what is the collateral benefit or collateral damage to stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
Nancy Pelosi: (02:32)
Now, let me just get back to testing, testing, testing. So very important to take inventory, to understand the spread of the virus, and also to meet the needs of the people affected. I’m very pleased also this week that we were able to pass a bipartisan FISA bill in the House. That’s a hard thing to do. I know that from my intelligence experience. And that we were able to pass Representative Slotkin’s War Power Resolution, Rep. Lee’s legislation to repeal the AUMI, it’s the predicate for how we go forward, and Rep. Khanna’s legislation to prevent funding for military action. As we go forward, I want to thank the members for the bipartisan legislation that was successful this week on the floor.
Nancy Pelosi: (03:32)
In case you were going to ask, no, I don’t think Bernie Sanders should get out of the race. I’m a grassroots person, a grassroots chair of the California Democratic Party. I know the enthusiasm of supporters for candidates, and they want to see it play out for the ideas, the causes that the candidate advances for the opportunity for people to show their support. I congratulate both of the candidates as they go into the debate on Sunday, wish them both well. I’m very pleased that we’re getting a chance now in a narrower field to be able to come close to having a standard-bearer for the party. But either one of them, whoever is the one who emerges, the other one is a standard-bearer for a point of view in our party that is very important. With that, pleased to take any questions.
Nancy Pelosi: (04:30)
Let me see, who? Who? Okay, you.
Speaker 2: (04:32)
In your opening statement, it sounded like you’re open still to changing this bill, or at least tweaking it for some of the Republican and White House concerns. When you guys vote this afternoon, are you planning to release your members to go home or will you keep Congress in session until there’s a bill on the president’s desk?
Nancy Pelosi: (04:50)
Well, whether we go home or not is more related to what the House physician, the Capitol physician says, and what the Sergeant at Arms and the police chief and the rest say about what could come next that we have to deal with, because they make statements every day based on the current state of affairs in the community in which we exist here in Washington, D.C.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:23)
I do think that some of the suggestions… What happened, we moved quickly, because who knew that we would be in this situation? We passed the bill last week. Immediately, we knew we had to do more. We had to get it onto paper.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:41)
When we had it, then we shared it with the Republicans. They made some changes to it. We’re negotiating with them. Secretary Mnuchin, he had some suggestions, all very reasonable. I think that none of them would prevent us from moving forward with the bill. We just have to, though, in the world that we live in, have language so that we can go to Rules so that it can go to the floor. I don’t think we would wait until there’s a signed bill. We will do our work, as I said, sensitive to changes that have been suggested. I don’t think they’re unreasonable. They’re options that we considered in our own caucus, some of them, and we went one route, they wanted to go the other route. That’s fine. But we’ve all done our work, and we would hope that that would be an incentive for the Senate to move quickly because Leader McConnell asked me to work with Secretary Mnuchin. We are. He had his concerns. We’re addressing them. I hope they don’t move the goalpost.
Speaker 3: (06:50)
Can I have a sweep at the mic?
Nancy Pelosi: (06:50)
Speaker 3: (06:50)
Yes, good morning. To be clear, so you think you can work this bill out today and pass that with potential changes, and then the idea is that the House might go away, with the caveat-
Nancy Pelosi: (07:01)
We’re taking one step at a time. I’m not saying anything yet. We are here to pass a bill. When we pass a bill, we’ll make a judgment about what comes next, and we’ll see the manner in which the bill is passed. I’m not giving any-
Speaker 3: (07:19)
And what are those other things down the-
Nancy Pelosi: (07:20)
… travel arrangements. I know you’re busy-
Speaker 3: (07:20)
No, legislatively, though, what are the-
Nancy Pelosi: (07:20)
… about your weekend and that, but that’s not what we’re about.
Speaker 3: (07:20)
Legislatively, though, what are those other things that you see? Obviously, these are things that you can do immediately, but what are those broader things that you might see doing in a couple of weeks or down the-
Nancy Pelosi: (07:26)
Let us get this bill passed first, and then we’ll see where we go from there, because the fact is it’s like the house is on fire. People are concerned about, of course, their health and the health of their children. If they are losing their jobs because nobody’s coming to the restaurant, or whatever it is, then we have to be there with some help for them. And if their children can’t go to school because of school clothes, how do they afford childcare? Well, this legislation affords them the opportunity to stay home on somewhat of a paid leave for a while. Again, we’re addressing the realities of life, of family life in America, putting families first.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:15)
We’re not planning a schedule or anything else until we get that done. Again, we had in our bill last week the provisions for the Small Business Administration to provide loans to businesses that were under duress, whether they lost their market overseas or their supply chain overseas, whatever it happened to be, and so that we thought was an important initiative to have in the bill. They may want to do more. That’s something we can talk about. But even if you have your small business loan so that you can pay the rent on your store or your restaurant or your facility, if you don’t have customers, you still have a problem.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:54)
That’s why when we do the SNAP, the food stamps, when we do the unemployment insurance, when we do paid sick days, when we have paid family leave, that money will be spent immediately, injects to manage the economy, creates jobs, is a stimulus. This is not without its opportunity to stimulate the economy. In fact, when we did the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, Rosa DeLauro, in particular, asked the economists, “Name some of the things that we could do immediately that would be stimulus to the economy.” Raise the minimum wage. We’re not doing that here, but unemployment insurance, paid leave, food stamps, etc., because, again, they go to people who have the need. They also have earned income tax credit refundable in that, maybe some things that we’ll talk about in the future.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:58)
Speaker 4: (09:59)
One of the issues that the minority leader was talking about has to do with he believes that compromise could take place within the next 24 to 48 hours, but if it doesn’t, the Republicans are willing to stay and work this out.
Nancy Pelosi: (10:13)
What is the question? They have to take it up. Families have needs that I just described. We’ve made the proposal, which we started on Sunday and put out there, listening to governors, mayors, nonprofit organizations, educators, and the rest. This is what families need. They made suggestions to the language. We’re agreeing to most of it because they’re not that different, so we don’t need 48 hours. We need to just make a decision to help families right now-
Speaker 4: (10:50)
But if a decision isn’t made-
Nancy Pelosi: (10:50)
… because we have to operate not as business as usual, but in an emergency status where we have to get the job done.
Speaker 4: (10:57)
But if a decision isn’t made-
Nancy Pelosi: (10:58)
Speaker 4: (10:58)
… will you stick around?
Nancy Pelosi: (11:00)
I’m not sticking around because they don’t want to agree to language. We’re agreeing to much of what they have to… Look, first of all, Mitch McConnell called me and said, “You work with the secretary.” That’s it. Now the House Republicans are saying they’re not in the loop. We sent them the language. It’s not about that. It’s about putting people and families first. Everybody could have a complaint about this or that. Save it for another day. We can have an after-action review about how we got into this situation. Save it for another day. Right now, we have to find our common ground, work together to get this done as soon as possible, because we have other needs.
Nancy Pelosi: (11:46)
We will have to address this issue further. And if there’s some things that they might want in this bill that aren’t there, there could another bill shortly down the road. We didn’t do everything last week with $8.3 billion, but we did a great deal. Now we’re doing more, and then we’re fully prepared to do more. We’re responding to their concerns. We don’t want them moving the goalpost, and that’s it.
Nancy Pelosi: (12:11)
Speaker 5: (12:12)
Was it a wise move to block most travelers in Europe from coming to the U.S. for the next month, and if so, was it wise to leave the UK off of that list?
Nancy Pelosi: (12:24)
I had a conversation with the vice president and Dr. Fauci last night when they called to inform me of this. Dr. Fauci said it was a scientific medical decision. I have great confidence in Dr. Fauci. It’s just strange because they’re saying it’s because it’s easy to travel among these countries, but they’re separate from the UK. Well, you can just get in the Chunnel and you’ll be in the UK. Again, it’s a decision they made. It has its ramifications. We’ll see whether it’s worth the trouble.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:01)
But again, I’m here about what we can do to go forward for putting families first without having a criticism of one or the other things that the president is doing. I do think, as Leader Schumer and I said in our comments last night, testing, testing, testing. That’s the only way you’re going to learn about the… how this is spread.
Speaker 5: (13:26)
Nancy Pelosi: (13:27)
I don’t want to use that word because not everybody knows what it means.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:30)
Speaker 6: (13:32)
Nancy Pelosi: (13:33)
Yeah, we have the Taoiseach coming, so I have to get going.
Speaker 7: (13:36)
You said earlier this week that Congress is the last line of defense. Beyond the recess, I’m wondering, if it came to it, how prepared-
Nancy Pelosi: (13:43)
I said it was the last line of defense?
Speaker 7: (13:46)
I heard you say that at some point. I’m wondering-
Nancy Pelosi: (13:49)
A line of defense. I don’t know if it’s the last. But anyway, go ahead.
Speaker 7: (13:51)
I’m just wondering how prepared Congress is to work from home, potentially, if it were to come to that.
Nancy Pelosi: (13:58)
We have been briefed by the Chief Administrative Officer, by the chief of police, by the Sergeant at Arms, by the Capitol attending physician, by our leader on the House Administration Committee, Zoe Lofgren, about what preparations have been made for remote work. That is something that we’re actually encouraging people to be prepared for. They may choose to be coming in, but be prepared to do that. It isn’t a requirement yet, but it is that we want people to be prepared. We’re providing the technology, the training, and all the rest to make sure that everybody is up to par on that.
Nancy Pelosi: (14:50)
Our writing of legislation, our exchange of ideas and all, that won’t stop the work of Congress, because by the time we come to the floor, it’s the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much else work that is going on. With all the respect in the world for our staff, who do much of that, and our members who participate in that, everybody is not universally excellent at the same place in terms of technology. We want to make sure they’re all at their personal best when that sets in.
Nancy Pelosi: (15:24)
I hope that much of what we’re doing is redundant and that we don’t have to engage in some of this, but if we do, we want to be prepared. We want to prevent the spread, so if people have to stay home, they have to stay home. But we also don’t want people to panic. That’s why we have based any decisions about the Capitol, this or that, on what is recommended by the Capitol physician and the Sergeant at Arms and the chief of police.
Nancy Pelosi: (15:57)
I think we have to be very prayerful about this. People are sick and some people are dying in our country and globally, and it is kind of shocking to see the challenges that we have and the decisions that have to be made about people coming together, whether it’s sports or the arts or just political gatherings. Whatever it is, we have to think in a different way about that. Whether it’s about personal hygiene or personal contact with other people, we have to be smart about how we do that, washing our hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. I say that all the time anyway as a mom. Now it’s an imperative, but it’s always been important.
Nancy Pelosi: (16:47)
Again, as I say, what we think about one policy or another, as Nancy asked, what we really have to do is come together and get the job done. Now, we were very clear in our communications about what we heard. And when members go home, they will hear more from their constituents, from their nonprofits, from their local government, from their healthcare providers and the rest, what other ideas have emerged as important in all of this, and that will be a source of knowledge for when we come back, and we could come back anytime. Everybody has to stand ready to be here at all times if we have a legislative solution to put forth.
Nancy Pelosi: (17:39)
But again, it can’t just spring from what we did before, anything like that. It’s about what’s current and the challenge that we face with this coronavirus. It’s not about spending a lot of time saying how we got here. We have to talk about where we go from here, and then we can make changes for the future in how we could prevent or withstand whatever might be happening in other countries that might spread to our own.
Nancy Pelosi: (18:12)
But I do want to salute our healthcare providers, our first responders, all of the nonprofits that are working to inform people about how they should be tested. In our legislation, we enabled millions of masks to go out. That was something very important to the administration. That we would suspend immunity for liability was a very big deal, a big concession to the administration on that, because weighing the equities, it would be important to get those masks out even though it provided that immunity. We have tried to say, okay, we have our… And it’s just specifically for the coronavirus crisis.
Nancy Pelosi: (19:03)
Anyway, I thank you for your interest in all of this. I want you to wash your hands for 20 seconds just all the time, just for no reason at all. One bit of advice they told me… I was talking to somebody from California, and I said my usual thing, that a month ago I might’ve said, “Whoever the nominee is of the party, we will enthusiastically embrace,” and then I changed it to “Whoever the nominee is of the party, we will enthusiastically elbow bump.” But somebody said to me, “No, when you elbow bump, you get close to the person,” so forget any physical contact, greetings. Bow in an Eastern style. Thank you all very much.
Speaker 8: (19:47)
Speaker 9: (19:47)
Speaker 10: (19:47)
Nancy Pelosi: (19:47)
And again, we’re very excited that the Taoiseach is coming. I’m honored that Leader McConnell will be part of our hospitality to him at our lunch later today. Thank you.
Speaker 11: (20:02)
Does the Taoiseach get a handshake?
Nancy Pelosi: (20:04)
I saw him last night. We had the big Irish dinner at which I was honored last night, and I was very excited about that. It was wonderful to see him, but I did not impose upon him with a handshake, nor did he on me. Thank you all.
Speaker 12: (20:24)
Speaker 13: (20:24)
Speaker 12: (20:24)
Speaker 14: (20:24)