Dec 24, 2020
Rep. Steny Hoyer Press Conference Transcript: Pushback on Increasing Stimulus Checks
Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) held a press conference after House Republicans pushed back on $2,000 stimulus checks as a part of the COVID-19 relief bill. Donald Trump advocated for increased stimulus checks on Tuesday. Read the press conference transcript here.
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Steny Hoyer: (00:00)
2020 has been a challenging year for America. A challenging year for our people. A sad, sad year as we lost over 330,000 of our fellow citizens to a pandemic caused by COVID-19. Since March, we have been attempting to respond appropriately and timely to the challenge, not only to the health of the American people, but also to the health of our economy and the extraordinary economic pain inflicted by COVID-19 in addition to the health challenge that it posed. We have passed a number of pieces of legislation. The first piece of legislation that we pass was on March 14th. That legislation passed 363-40. Shortly thereafter, less than two weeks thereafter, we passed the CARES Act, passed in the House on voice vote. That was March 27th.
Steny Hoyer: (01:18)
On April 23rd, we passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act 388-5. On May 15th, because of the continuing challenge to health and safety and to the economy and jobs and welfare of the American people, we passed the Heroes act. Unfortunately, by that time, the Republicans had decided that they’d done enough, that they should wait to see what would happen. When we pass the Heroes Act, and we passed it through the House of Representatives on a partisan basis, 214-207, the majority leader of the United States Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said, “Let the states go bankrupt.”
Steny Hoyer: (02:14)
The leader of the Republican party in the House of Representatives, “Let’s wait and see.” Of course, what we saw from March on was continuing death of our people, continuing challenge to our hospitals and our workers, and continuing devastation to our families from an economic perspective. We urged the Republicans to come to the table with us. Speaker Pelosi talked to Secretary Mnuchin numerous times, but we could get no movement as the country continued to lose citizens as a result of COVID-19, and continued to have economic challenge. So when we came back in September, we passed another bill, reducing the resources we have dedicated to fighting the pandemic and uplifting the economy by 35% as an effort to reach compromise.
Steny Hoyer: (03:27)
That was unsuccessful. Now at an hour far too late, but never too late to do the right thing, we passed a very substantial piece of legislation just a few days ago in the House of Representatives. It passed the House of Represents 359-53 in a bi-partisan basis after very tough negotiations, prolonged negotiations in which we add substantially more investment in America’s health and America’s economy, but that was opposed. The deal that we made was a deal that we thought was appropriate in the sense that it had the votes to pass. According to Republican leaders that I’ve talked to, had the representation from both the Secretary Mnuchin and the president of the United States that he would sign the bill. He is still said he won’t sign the bill, and I urge him and hope that he will sign the bill.
Steny Hoyer: (04:36)
Republicans had rejected proposals for higher stimulus checks in the bill that we passed and previous bills. Last week, as I said, we reached a bipartisan agreement. We sent the bill to President Trump to sign, and only then after we agreed on a figure, we thought was too low for direct payments to families and children $600, but the Republicans would not take a higher figure. Only then did the president of the United States indicates that 600 was not enough. As a matter of fact, Mr. Mnuchin had indicated that a lower figure might’ve been appropriate. Believe it or not, Democrats agree with the president, at least to the extent that we need to sign this bill now. 600 is certainly not enough for individuals who have been struggling these past seven months, and it isn’t enough to provide the boost our economy needs.
Steny Hoyer: (05:40)
President Trump, as I said on the floor, on behalf of the speaker and myself, I asked for unanimous consent to pass a bill, which would have responded to the president’s request. But because we did not have the agreement of the minority leader again, I offered there three people who can stop a unanimous consent by any one of them disagreeing. I offered it on behalf of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and myself, but it was not agreed to. This morning I asked, as I said, unanimous consent. Under the rules, all three of us had to agree. Two of us did. The minority leader did not. House Republicans rejected the unanimous consent requests blocking that increase sort by Democrats, and now also by President Trump. The American people need to know with certainty, that Democrats are trying to get them higher stimulus payments. This is Christmas Eve.
Steny Hoyer: (06:50)
Surely, the president of the United States, whether it’s in Mar-a-Lago or any place else, ought to empathize with the pain and suffering an apprehension and deep angst that the American people are feeling this Christmas Eve, and sign this bill. As we saw today, Republicans in Congress and the White House can’t agree on what they want. Again, this bill passed overwhelmingly through the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Entire COVID-19 relief package. So desperately needed by our people and our businesses remains on the president’s desk and he can sign it today. I urge the president signed the bill. We sent him so we can resume critical aid to small businesses, provide peace of mind to renters, resume expanded unemployment benefits, give food to those who are hungry, to assist our healthcare workers to make sure the vaccine is not just in vials, but in arms.
Steny Hoyer: (08:04)
In sum, to make sure that the relief that American people need and that the economy needs is adopted. He needs to sign this bill to ensure that the government remains open and serving the American people as well. How ironic it would be to shut down the government at a time of pandemic crisis. The very time when government services are needed the most. No partisan politics, put the people first. This bill is for the people, for the country. Sign this bill, Mr. President. Now I yield to the gentle lady from Michigan, who was the president pro tempore presiding today, and who has been such a fighter on behalf of all the bills talked about and getting assistance to the American people. Not only in Michigan, but throughout this country, Debbie Dingell.
Debbie Dingell: (09:05)
I want to thank my friend, Mr. Hoyer, who’s been an incredible leader of trying to get something done over the last few months. It is Christmas Eve, but it is not a silent night. All is not calm. For too many, nothing is bright, and for too many, they are not sleeping peacefully. I did a town hall last night that had people crying. People terrified of what is going to happen. I have for months been talking to 10 restaurant owners a day, who are desperately trying to survive. I’ve been talking to people who are scared they’re going to be kicked out from their homes during the Christmas holidays. It still might be if we don’t sign this bill.
Debbie Dingell: (10:01)
A father who called me two weeks ago, and he said to me, he had told his child that Santa Claus couldn’t come this year, but he wanted to be able to feed her for Christmas. People don’t know what the hard is like there. Was this bill perfect? No, but it was a down payment and getting COVID relief to the people of this country. Then the president, when we finally thought that we’d be able to give people hope, that’s what people need, hope, and be able to begin to continue to work on this in January, he doesn’t give about people. He threw for fear. He threw kerosene on a terror fire. It is now threatening to veto this bill.
Debbie Dingell: (10:46)
Today, Mr. Hoyer, on behalf of he and the speaker brought a resolution that would have immediately given that $2,000 payment that the president said he wanted, and Republicans blocked it, not Democrats. I’m merely here to say on Christmas Eve, we will come back in on Monday. I beg the president to know how many people in this country are scared, fearful, terror, hungry, and that we must get a bill done so that we are helping Americans. Compassion, empathy, those, kindness are the words we should remember this holiday season. Thank you.
Steny Hoyer: (11:32)
Thank you very much, Ms. Dingell. Now, I want to… Recognized for a few words, the gentleman from Texas, Filemon Vela.
Filemon Vela: (11:45)
Thank you Majority Leader Hoyer. I’m proud to be with my colleagues here today on Christmas Eve, and with all you. All I can say is, I don’t know what we’re waiting for. I mean, this country has endured a physical, emotional and economic devastation for nine months. Here on the Eve of Christmas, we finally have a point that we can agree with the president on that is $2,000 stimulus payments for the people of this country. By all measures it appears that from a health standpoint, for the next three months, we are going to be going through America’s darkest days. More people getting sick, more and more people dying, and if we’re fortunate enough to get past that. Given the fact that the vaccination programs have just began, we can at least be hopeful that by the summer, we can begin to recover from an economic standpoint, and $600 for most of the people receiving it won’t last through January. So there is no reason to wait. Thank you.
Steny Hoyer: (12:59)
Thank you very much, Mr. Vela. Lastly, someone who knows not only the pain of people who are losing their lives and getting sick and can’t give kids gifts to their children or put food on their table. Someone who knows firsthand the economic consequences of the failure to act. Don Beyer, the chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.
Don Beyer: (13:25)
Thank you, Majority Leader Hoyer, for all of your leadership. It’s Christmas Eve, but it is not a wonderful life. This should be a time of healing. A family of celebrating all that we have here in the richest country, in the history of mankind, but our census Bureau with its household pulse survey just reported that 27 million adults. That’s 13% of the country reported that their households sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the last seven days, and if you include households with children, that number jumps to 17%. So one in six American families are going hungry.
Don Beyer: (14:04)
How do we sleep at night in a 21st Century grapes of wrath, when so many Americans don’t have food for Christmas? Interest rates are near zero. There is little or no inflationary pressure. We have the strongest currency in the world. I’ve had very few opportunities to agree with Donald Trump the last four years, but I agree that we need to send bigger checks to the people most devastated by COVID-19, and as economic effects. It’s terribly sad that on Christmas Eve, House Republicans just objected to sending hungry American children and their parents more money, checks demanded by President Trump.
Don Beyer: (14:41)
I call for direct payments to the American people on March 10th and the House passed the hero’s bill in may with direct payments, PPP support to small businesses, strong unemployment aid and nutrition and rental assistance. The House, as Majority Leader Hoyer said has acted again and again and again and again, and yet, despite the yeoman labors of Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin, Senator McConnell blocked everything for eight months, but we will not give up. I hope on Monday we will send stronger necessary relief check legislation to the Senate, hoping and praying that Mitch McConnell and Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will open their hearts and minds of the sufferings of so many American families. Thanks, Majority Leader Hoyer.
Steny Hoyer: (15:25)
We’ll take a couple of questions. Mike,
[inaudible 00:15:30] was blocked, you come in Monday, you can pass the $2,000 bill, but there’s no indication that Mitch McConnell will pick it up in the Senate, let alone that it could pass if he did. How do you prevent a shutdown at this point? What is going to happen next?
Steny Hoyer: (15:45)
We can only do in the House, what we can do. We will have a new president in less than 30 days, of course, and that president will give leadership. This president again, told Republican leaders that he was going to sign this bill, and then he gave his five minute press conference. We can do what we can do. So we, on Monday, I will be talking to the speaker and to the members of the Democratic Caucus to determine exactly how we want to move forward, but we’re not going to let the government shut down nor are we going to let the American people down from our perspective.
Steny Hoyer: (16:23)
Let us hope that we joined together. As I mentioned, so many of these bills were overwhelmingly bipartisan just days ago, just days ago, both the House and the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill that we sent to the president of the United States, who has demurred so far. He has not said he’s going to veto the bill. I hope he doesn’t veto the bill. I hope he signs this bill, and then as President-elect Biden has said, “We will have more work to do,” which is what all of my colleagues have said.
So then the next CR would have to be beyond January 20th. Is that what you’re saying? You have no faith.
Steny Hoyer: (16:58)
No. I didn’t say that. I said we are considering options and what steps we will take, and I will tell you that there are continuing discussions going on between the speaker and the secretary of treasury and the administration.
Speaker 6: (17:16)
Basically, I got that one. So I’m wondering in hindsight, if it was a mistake to tie the omnibus to the COVID relief. Apparently, President Trump doesn’t know, even though his administration requested it, that foreign aid is in the omnibus. So in hindsight, was that a mistake? The COVID relief was so desperately needed for American people. Why not separate it out? Why not have two separate bills?
Steny Hoyer: (17:45)
Well, let me say, perhaps the only mistake was believing the president and Secretary Mnuchin, when we were told that the bill we passed would be signed by the president of the United States. We signed it on that premise with that expectation and with that representation. So in that context, no, it was not a mistake because we thought as the previous bills. Understand, we’ve had four bills that passed overwhelmingly after negotiations with the participation of Secretary Mnuchin on behalf of the administration, and the president signed those bill. So this is an anomaly in this process.
Speaker 7: (18:22)
You said the speaker’s talking to Mnuchin, but I mean, do you have any sense that Mnuchin actually has the president’s proxy after you’ve gone through this exercise?
Steny Hoyer: (18:31)
He is the person with whom we have to talk. So we’re talking to him. We hope that the answer to that question is yes. It was yes in previous occasions, not just on the COVID legislation, but you’ll remember he and Ms. Pelosi reached a budget accommodation two years ago, which set the spending levels for two years, and that was agreed to as well. So we’ve had an experience where the president has, in fact acted consistently with the representations made by Secretary Mnuchin. So we’ll see. Again, the president, I want to make it clear if you listen to the president’s five minute, whatever adjective one wants to apply to it, he did not say, “I’m going to veto the bill.” He said that it was insufficient, and wanted more, which is why we responded this morning to try to con consistent with the presence request to accommodate his perspective.
Speaker 6: (19:33)
One question. But doesn’t that just put you at an impasse when you tried to do what he wanted, the Republicans don’t want it. They ask for something, you don’t get it. I mean, honestly, following, where do you go from here? That doesn’t shut down the government. I know you don’t want to set it down, but like…
Steny Hoyer: (19:47)
I understand. Today is what we call a proforma session. At a proforma session, nothing can be done of legislative subs unless it is by unanimous consent. So the only thing we could do today was asked for a unanimous consent. That will not apply this coming Monday. Thank you all very much. Have a wonderful holiday. We look forward to see you back after your long break.
Merry Christmas. Here we are. We should have a Christmas dinner here. Put a table and just… Hey, listen I’m good. So I’ll just stay here for all of them. (Silent).