Aug 13, 2020
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Press Conference Transcript August 13
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference on August 13. She discussed coronavirus relief, the federal election, Kamala Harris, and the DNC. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (00:02)
Good morning. How are you all? Stay well. I’ll begin and end that way. 90 days ago, Congress passed the HEROES Act. 90 days. When we passed that legislation which was designed to meet the needs of the American people in relationship to the coronavirus crisis, it was based on science, economics, and institutional expertise as what was needed to address the needs of the American people. At that time, Mitch McConnell said we need to pause. He hit the pause button and since that time, since that 90 days, 3,750,000 Americans have become sick, have been added to the infected list. 3.75 million people added to the list. 77,000 people have died. Tens of millions more people are out of work. Clearly, the virus did not take a pause.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (01:20)
When sometimes some of you reporters ask why can’t we resolve our differences, I want you to see how vast those differences are. It’s no wonder we have a vast difference because this administration and the Republicans in Congress have never understood the gravity of the situation. For months, and even until now, they have ignored the science. They called it a hoax, by miracle it would go away, I’m a deeply religious person, I believe in miracles and I believe the miracle of science will help us through this. Magically it would go away, it was a hoax. No, they are the hoax, and so the virus has picked up steam and like a freight train, it’s coming down the tracks, and they, like a convoy, going as slow as the slowest ship are going so slowly that at that rate they’ll never overtake the irus. We cannot let that stand.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (02:36)
Again, let’s just talk about it from the standpoint of the children. As you know, as a mother of five, grandmother of nine, advisor to people with children whether they want my advice or not, I want to just talk about the children. Millions of children in our country are food insecure. That has existed before the virus. It is completely exacerbated because of the virus, and so in the bill, we have over $60 billion to meet the hunger needs of the American people. Food stamps, WIC, women, infant and children initiative, food banks, other food nutrition initiatives. In the GOP that came out a couple weeks ago, $250,000. 00. $60 billion, $250,000.00. Does that say anything about a values system? Millions of families on the verge of eviction in our country. We tried to get this legislation earlier in early COVID bills, they rejected it. Now the moratorium has come to an end, we need a moratorium, yes, they said the president was going to do a moratorium, that would have been great, but a moratorium without money is not that great. The Princeton Eviction Lab, the Low Income Housing Coalition, all of these authorities have told us it will take about $90 billion in the current situation, we have $100 billion in the HEROES Act, they have zero, nothing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (04:39)
Testing and tracing. If we do not defeat the virus, we’re never going to be able to open our economy and open our schools safely to send our children to school. $75 billion. They had 15, they went up … Oh we’ll go up to 16. 16 [inaudible 00:04:59]. Since the bill 90 days ago and the fact that we were hopeful that if we could pass it then we could stop the spread of the virus, but since we didn’t, the virus has taken its additional toll. It has made matters worse in terms of opening the schools. So we’ve increased our number because the Association of School Superintendents say we need at least $200 billion in order to safely open the schools and that does not include $4 billion, they were very precise, for technologies for kids for virtual learning, remote learning. They have 105.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (05:47)
What’s interesting about their 105 is the bulk of what they have in the bill goes to only schools that are opening actually. Only schools that are opening actually. Of the 100 largest, see we learn every day from those on the frontlines instead of those who are on the sidelines, from the 100 biggest, largest school districts in the country, the 100 largest, 62 of those largest districts have declared that they will open virtually, completely virtually. Remote learning. Another 15 or so, hybrid. A small number actual, but the president’s money he says will go to the schools that open actually. When it is a small percentage of those 100 top schools.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (06:57)
So again, for the children to go to school, it relates to the rate of infection in the community in which they live and there are formulas for this that the scientists have put forth. It also is about money, about if you’re going to have children in school, you must have more spacing. If you have more spacing you need more rooms and if you need more rooms you need more teachers, you need better ventilation, the number of schools … Nearly half the schools do not have the appropriate ventilation system as it is, much less to contain a pandemic. For the teachers, for the support staff and all that go into opening up a school, it takes money, and we have shown them well-documented by all sorts of experts in the field that to do virtual, to do actual and to do hybrid cost about the same amount of money. So for the president to say he’s going to put the bulk of his money into schools that open actually ignores the needs of our children and their safely being able to go back to school. We all want our kids to go back to … Well my grandkids [inaudible 00:08:20] back to school have every version of the story. Public school, Catholic school, private school. People who teach as well as my grandchildren who go there. It’s a problem.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (08:33)
Again, we keep coming back to the virus. The virus and the children. As you know they have said testing is overrated. They’ve said tracing doesn’t really work. They’ve mocked the masks, the distancing and the rest but it has to be done until we have a vaccine which God willing and science creating, we will have a vaccine
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (09:03)
… and science creating, we will have a vaccine sometime soon, hopefully legitimately not skipping any steps in terms of its safety and its efficacy. But right now we don’t have it. We do have testing, tracing, and the rest. And I am optimistic that science has given us a path where we can do much more testing, come closer to our goal, what we must have, should have had from the start, 300 tests a day, 300 tests a day, and the testing science has, the innovation has taken us so far down the road in this period of time, but we need that Defense Production Act to be called into play and able to take us to the number of tests that could be just you take the test here, and before this press conference is over, 15 minutes, you would have the results, making a tremendous, just a game changer all together, but it would require the Defense Production Act because the firms that are excelling in this do not have the production capacity to take us to 3 million a day.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (10:25)
This is important because so much of the disparity that we see in the spread of the virus is into communities of color, which have been not properly served in all of this. The amount of deaths is disproportionate to the demographics of the number of people in our population. But think about the children, think about the children, think about this.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (10:58)
If you are an Hispanic child, you are eight times more likely to go to the hospital because of the Coronavirus than other children. If you’re an African American child, you’re five times more likely to go to the hospital for the Coronavirus than other children. That challenges the conscience of our country. It’s indicative of the disparity in the communities at large, but the impact on our children. So we have to do this and we have to do it a more significant way than going from 15 to 16. And I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that at long last they may pay attention to science and say, “If that is what is there for us, then we have to act upon it and have the Defense Production act to produce the tests.” And with that rate of return, that is to say, you can find out in a matter of minutes, that makes all the difference in the world in terms of tracing, because you can get a test and you can get tested more frequently because it’s much less expensive to do.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (12:15)
And so we’ve talked about the schools and that, in terms of the housing. Housing has a big impact on the psychological wellbeing of children. This is a very, very important issue for us. And so when they said the President by executive order was going to do a moratorium on evictions, good, not good enough because we need money so that they don’t have to be collecting more months of back rent and then the end of the year have to pay eight months or whatever it is, nine months of back rent. So we need to assist that. And we have a model for it that we implemented during the 2008, 2009, during that great recession. So we’re just using that model for this here, nothing.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (13:09)
Okay. So there we are on that. If we’re going to educate our children, it’s not just the federal dollars that matter. It’s the state and local money that goes into it. Over 90% of the funds for the education of our public education come from state and local government. To withhold money from that is, well, it’s ideological. What did Mitch say? “Let them go bankrupt. Let them go bankrupt.” Economists tell us that our economy depends on the fiscal soundness of state and local government. State and local government employ, what, about 15% of our population? When they don’t have the resources, because they had spent money on the Coronavirus, or they have revenue loss because of Coronavirus, without an infusion of cash, they will be furloughing or firing people. Already a million and a half, it could go up 4 million more people laid off.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (14:22)
They will go on unemployment insurance. So what are we saving there? Diminishing meeting the needs of healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, teachers, teachers, transportation, sanitation, food workers, and the rest to meet the needs of people. So the needs won’t be met. The people will be out of work and they will go on unemployment insurance.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (14:49)
Much is being said, and this is about the lives and the livelihood of the American people, the lives and the livelihood of the American people. It is also about the life of our democracy. So I see much in the news about the Postal Service and what they’re trying to do to the Postal Service, which is, they’ve always had an idea of privatizing it because that’s who they are. But this coming at this time, Postal Service is the most popular agency of government. It’s a quasi government agency. Nonetheless, the US Postal Service, memorialized in the constitution of the United States. Perhaps you saw my letter to the members in the letter our members sent to the Postmaster General. “Empowers Congress to establish post offices and post roads.” So we have a role in this. In the HEROES act, we put $25 billion. That figure is the figure that was recommended by the Board of Governors of the US Postal Service. Bipartisan board of Governors of the US Postal Service. 100% appointed by Donald Trump. 100% appointed by Donald Trump. $ 25 billion. They also asked for $25 billion for some infrastructure, trucks, and all that. We didn’t put that in this bill. We put that in our Moving Forward Infrastructure Bill in the hopes the President would come around to that. So what was immediately needed now was this money.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (16:55)
There has been some word that the negotiators might be willing to do some money, but we have trouble with the language, and that has to be taken care of. But the President has said today or yesterday, it was reported today, that he wasn’t putting any money in the Postal Service. Again, for those of you old enough, I don’t even know if she’s old enough to remember it. Motherhood Apple pie, the Postal Service, an All-American institution. Did I tell you that 1.2 billion prescriptions were delivered in 2019 by the Postal Service? Did I mention that nearly 100% of veterans prescriptions come through the Postal Service? You probably know of people writing to Santa or birthday cards being exchanged, and the rest. I know much of it is electronic these days.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (18:03)
… and the rest. I know much of it is electronic these days, but not all of it. And actually in rural America, the postal service is highly depended on. They’ve not really ever liked the postal service because they always want to find a way to make money off of something and they want to privatize it. But now at a time of a pandemic, you would think they’d have a little sensitivity. But so obsessed are they to undermine absentee voting that this is their connection there.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (18:33)
So the president says he’s not putting up any money for absentee voting and he’s not putting up any money for the postal service, undermining the health of our democracy. The money for the elections that is in the bill is not just about absentee ballot, it’s a health reason to vote by mail because you don’t have to go stand in line for hours and maybe have more proximity than even you wanted or go to a polling place that might not be spaced properly.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (19:10)
So what’s a health issue. You shouldn’t have to choose between your health and your ability to cast your vote. But the money in the bill is about making sure that if you want to go to the polling places, that they are spaced, that there are enough polling places, that they are open sufficiently early. That they are open in terms of days, in terms of hours in the day, that they are sufficiently available for people to vote without jeopardizing their health. That they would have just boxes to receive if someone wanted to bring his or her ballot to a box. Did you see in Ohio, they announced they’re just having one box per County. I guess that’s as a discourtesy to the people of Ohio who may want to vote that way. But there are people who think that the post office is election central in this election.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (20:18)
Maybe the president thinks that too, and that’s why he wants to shut it down. So again, the post office is a pillar of our democracy, sending medicine to seniors, paychecks to workers, tax refunds to millions, and absentee ballots. Now the president is making a big distinction between … nothing wrong with absentee ballots. I just don’t like vote by mail. So I said to my folks, “Don’t call it vote by mail anymore. Just call it absentee ballot.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (20:44)
They’re exactly the same thing. And his family, as I’ve said to you before, has been active in recent election in spring and California robocalls, urging people to get in their absentee ballot. So there’s some inconsistency, not surprising, but nonetheless, there on that. So in any event, it’s really important. We have said to them, we’re ready to compromise. We know a first offer is not something they would necessarily accept because we frankly do not share values, but as a practical matter, where can we find our common ground?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (21:24)
So leader Schumer, and I said, “We’ll come down a trillion. If you go up a trillion. We’ll meet you halfway.” And when we do that, we can negotiate how those resources are spent. But we do not subscribe to saying to the American people, the virus is intensifying and for you, we have a benefit cut. Let’s see how we can work together to get this done. They called yesterday, the secretary and said, “Would you like to sit down?” And we said, what we have said all along, you come down a trillion, we’ll go up a trillion, but we’re not sitting at a table to validate what you have proposed because it does not meet the needs of the American people. And we will not contribute to your using waving a partial benefit to the public at the expense of everything else we want to do and to the benefit of the high end, which you are there to serve.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (22:28)
Just think of it this way. We go to the table, we’re sitting at America’s kitchen table. There for America’s working families. How are they going to pay the rent? How are they going to put food on the table? How are they going to safely send their children to school? How are they going to have sources to meet their needs? Across the kitchen table are people sitting at the boardroom table of corporate America. We have different perspectives. Any questions?
Speaker 1: (22:59)
Madam Speaker, to what do you attribute the president’s hostility to the post office and mail in ballots? The Republican ballots go through the mail the exact same way democratic ones do.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (23:10)
Well, I can tell you as long time former chair of the California Democratic Party, we could win any election on getting out the vote on election day, but when the mail ballots came in, the Republicans would rage. They’ve always known how to do it and do it very well. And now that Democrats are saying, in terms of this pandemic, that it’s necessary, health wise, as well as health of our democracy to do this.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (23:40)
And I don’t why. You’d have to ask them, except that the president is afraid of the American people. He’s been afraid for a while. He knows that on the legit, it’d be hard for him to win. So he wants to put obstacles of participation. But we do not agonize, we organize. And whatever the reality is that we have to deal with, if he refuses to honor the sacred right of the vote, removing obstacles of participation. If he wants to undermine the post office for the moment, we’ll be here in January, that’s most unfortunate. But we will have the volunteer power to make sure that our vote gets out early and that it gets out in a way that has it a clear decision on election day.
Speaker 2: (24:30)
Speaker, hello. We are sitting here in the middle of a stalemate that’s now lasted for days, and there are suggestions that Congress doesn’t have another big deadline until September 30th. Can Americans wait that long for something? And how do you expect to get Republicans back to the table before that if nothing changes?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (24:51)
Well, first of all, let me just say we passed our bill 90 days ago. It took them until two weeks ago to come back with a meager piecemeal, subset bill that they put forth. They said, “Oh, we all work better up against the deadline.” No, the virus doesn’t have a deadline and nor does it take a pause. American people don’t want this uncertainty.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (25:17)
You’re always there to give certainty to the markets. Let’s give some certain teacher America’s working families. So we can’t wait until September 30th. I know some have said … but people will die. 77,000 died since this bill. But we’ve said to them, we’re here come to 2 trillion, let’s sit down and divide how we would spend that. And let’s have, based on science and evidence and data and truth and fact, how we can make the biggest difference to send our children to school safely, to open our economy based on science, as well as put money in the pockets of the American people, while we honor our heroes by supporting state and local government. And they called yesterday, I said, “Do you have more money? The needs of the American people are not changing. They’re only getting more so, they’re not lessening.” Yes, Jake?
Madame Speaker. So on the postal service issue, the president’s remarks yesterday about his concerns about fraud and mail. That seems to be from his vantage point, one of the biggest sticking points in these negotiations. When you speak with the Secretary Mnuchin and Meadows, and you talk about what the postal service board of governors extended. Did they tell you that that’s why he’s balking on that bill?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (26:46)
They didn’t say he was balking. We just found out yesterday that he was balking, but he balked before when we tried to do it in previous COVID bills. But what he’s talking about has no basis in fact. Has no basis in fact. So let’s not validate a false claim of the president, another-
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (27:03)
Validate a false claim of the President, another false claim of the President.
Speaker 3: (27:05)
Do you view that has the biggest sticking point in these negotionas?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (27:08)
No, no, no, no. We’re trying to meet the needs of the American people.
Speaker 3: (27:13)
[crosstalk 00:27:13] say that’s A number one?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (27:13)
Well, they are deciding what our A number one is?
Speaker 3: (27:17)
No, they say, “This is our must have, we can’t have 25 million [crosstalk 00:27:21].”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (27:22)
Okay. So they’re going to prevent children from having food, safety in the schools, of people from being evicted, all of that, stopping the spread of the virus because of the. Postal Service? That’s what they’re saying?
Speaker 3: (27:38)
I’m asking what they tell you.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (27:40)
You just claimed it. They’ve not told me that. No, no, but what they’re saying see is different from what the President is saying. If they came in the room and said, “The President’s never doing this.” That’s something we take to the American people. And the American people want the Postal Service protected and preserved. It’s a really sad situation, but you know what? Let’s all just remain calm. I’ve said this to you before, take a deep breath. What’s going on here? How could it be 90 days since we passed a bill? How could it be months since this virus has assaulted our health, our economy, our education, everything? And we still do not have an acceptance of the science necessary to deal with it. Ignoring what could help 1.2 billion prescriptions mailed in 2019. Yes, sir.
Speaker 4: (28:44)
Speaker, I want to talk to you about your conversation that you had with Mnuchin yesterday. He actually came out and said, “That the big thing is not accurate, an accurate reflection of that conversation.” And then he also said, “Democrats have no interest in negotiating.” Your reactions.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (29:00)
You know what? I think something was wrong with his statement because Chuck and I said, well, I speaking for Chuck and for me, that until they came down a trillion, we said we go up a trillion. And that we could meet in the middle when they’re ready to do that, we’ll sit down. But we’re not inching away from their meager piecemeal proposal with the idea that the press says, “Why can’t you come to agreement?” Because we are miles apart in our values. And so what he said was strange because what he said was exactly what Chuck and I said in our statement, we said $2 trillion. And then we can sit down at the table. Then he said, “That’s not what you said. She said $2 trillion or we can’t sit down at the table.” Didn’t you think that that was strange?
Speaker 4: (29:56)
When’s your next conversation with him?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (29:58)
I don’t know. When they come in with $2 trillion. Yes. Ma’am
Speaker 5: (30:02)
Madam Speaker, thank you. Can you just say you’ve outlined the differences here?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (30:08)
Well, these are just some, part because it shows the difference in values.
Speaker 5: (30:13)
You’ve outlined the differences, some of the differences you’ve talked about, how you believe you are on just different pages in terms of your values. What do you gain at this point? Is there anything that you gained by waiting? And do you feel that even a half a loaf in this situation, something to stem the crisis would be better than-
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (30:38)
Perhaps you don’t understand nothing, 250. This is not half a loaf. This is not even being in the same room. Board room table, kitchen table. So I appreciate the goodness that you asked that question, but perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gave a damn. That isn’t the case. So this is very far apart. And unless they see the reality of what it means in the lives of the American people, what good is it for us to agree to something that has no relationship to meeting the needs of the American people?
Speaker 6: (31:21)
Next week is the democratic convention.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (31:23)
Speaker 6: (31:23)
You’ll be speaking Wednesday night.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (31:24)
Yes, I am.
Speaker 6: (31:25)
You’ve talked before that you thought you would go home to California to be there with whatever delegation. Is that what you’re doing next week? Or will you be here?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (31:35)
That’s what I’m doing that day.
Speaker 6: (31:38)
Are you staying here?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (31:39)
Well, you know what? You’re starting to sound like my husband.
Speaker 6: (31:45)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (31:47)
And my children and my grandchildren. I am so excited to be able to be speaking at the convention. Originally, we thought we were going to Wisconsin, to Milwaukee. And that was something we’re all looking forward to. Milwaukee is a wonderful, wonderful place. And Wisconsin is a wonderful state and they were laying out such beautiful hospitality for the convention to showcase their city. I was a chair of a convention, 1984 in San Francisco. And that’s a nonpartisan role to play. When you chair the convention, it’s about your community and how you showcase it to the world. Leave it up to others to do the politics of the convention. So that’s too unfortunate, but I hope that we can all go to Milwaukee sometime soon to celebrate the election of Joe Biden. But so no, then they said, you could do it virtually, or you could do it, how can I say you could do it live to tape or you could do it live. So I’ll be doing it live from California.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (32:49)
And we’re so excited. We’re so excited to have, decisions are very liberating things, wherever you are on whatever side of any discussion, when there’s a decision, it just takes you forward. And we were so proud of soon to be the nominee, I guess officially Joe Biden is, but officially at the convention next week. And that will be great. And then his nomination of Kamala Harris. Now let me just say this about Kamala Harris, people say, “Oh, great. The first woman of color, this or that to be nominated.” Actually the first woman who will be Vice President of the United States. And she is a woman of color. But I don’t want anybody to get the impression that she was, everybody in that field was great.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (33:45)
Any one of them would have been a great President, but she, even if she were in a competition that was all men, she would have emerged because she is really the best person to be the Vice President because of the confidence that Joe Biden has in her. You have to be able to be President, you have to cause no harm in the campaign, and you have to have the confidence of the nominee for governance. And she would exceed any demographic in that regard. So we’re very proud of that. And you can just see his confidence. It was a beautiful role. I’ll do one last question.
Speaker 7: (34:24)
Thank you. You said yesterday that Republicans seem to be comfortable with a QAnon supporter in their ranks, but I’m curious what you think about Marjorie Taylor Greene being elected to Congress most likely. And what was your reaction when she called you the B word?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: (34:39)
You know what? Do you know how little attention I pay when the President of the United States calls me horrible things? I don’t pay attention to that. It’s a judgment to be made about them as to who they welcome into their ranks. And again, we all have diversity of opinion and that’s the beauty of the mix and Congress. But to have a behavior that is beneath the dignity of the Congress, that’s a judgment about them. Anyway, upward and onward is, I probably won’t see you next week, unless you’re going to be in California or wherever in any event. Thank you for what you do. I think the freedom of the press is such an important freedom in our constitution and the first amendment, because you’re the guardians of the gate of our democracy. Which I think has some real risk at this time. So thank you all for what you do. Stay safe.