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Pelosi Remarks at Press Event on Testing Funds Needed to Crush COVID in Heroes Act, As U.S. Nears 200,000 Deaths

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Congressional Democrats held a press event today on the desperate need for the $75 billion in testing and tracing funding in the Heroes Act in order to crush the virus to safely reopen schools and the economy.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning, everyone. 

We gather at a very sad time for our country.  In another day or so, we will go past the 200,000 mark of those who have died from the coronavirus, millions of people infected.  It didn’t have to be that way, this way.  

We extend our sympathy and our condolences to the families who have lost their loved ones, to the families who have suffered the infection and are still dealing with that.

This virus has also had an impact on the economy of our country.  It is very clear that until – and this was said by the Chairman of the Fed yesterday, the economy will come back when we have a solution to the coronavirus.  We can’t fully come back until then.

The solution is as plain as the nose on your face and the mask you use to cover it.  Science, science, science has provided us with a path for a long time now.  Those recommendations are contained in legislation that passed overwhelmingly, in a bipartisan way in the Congress.  Our first bill, March 4th, was about testing, testing, testing.  And yet, the Administration has failed to embrace that.

But I’m not here to talk about then.  We’re talking about now and how we go forward.  And how we go forward has been explained very clearly in our Heroes Act.  The provisions that were provided by the Energy and Commerce Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Frank Pallone, are a clear path to how we can help crush this virus, how we can help stop its spread, how we can better open up our economy and our schools so that everyone can return to work and school safely.  And I thank him for his leadership on that and you will be hearing from him.

First, we’ll hear, though, from Jim Clyburn, the Democratic Whip of the House of Representatives, also the Chair of our Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis.  And I salute him for the bright light that he is shining on how the path that we are on is being conducted and how the resources we have allocated are meeting their – the test of what they set out to do.  The work of the committee has been exemplary.  All of the committee members have made very valuable contribution to the debate one way or another.

We’re also joined by two Members of the Freshman Class.  Both of them came to Congress, bringing credentials that made them good judges of how we go forward with legislation that relates to the health and well-being of the American people. 

Lauren Underwood brings her experience as a health care professional and her professional – she will talk about this – her professional work as part of the Obama Administration and her connection to the Affordable Care Act. 

And Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Congresswoman, is a powerful voice for the urgent need for sufficient testing.  I first met her on her campaign as we visited health care providing institutions, this was before the coronavirus.  So her leadership on this is about the good health of the American people broadly and, specifically, in terms of this virus.  And I salute her and thank her for her relentless leadership on this issue here.  Her leadership and that of Lauren Underwood have been, really, a force in the Freshman class.  

We will later be joined by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.  I salute the Senate Democrats for their strong voices in calling for what is necessary to crush the virus, what is necessary to crush the virus so that we can go forward in a very, very positive way. 

With that, I am pleased to yield to the distinguished Democratic Whip of the House of Representatives, the Chair of the committee – the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, gentleman from South Carolina, Jim Clyburn.

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, my colleagues, for your very informed statements and idealistic approach to how we protect all Americans. 

When you talk about the Administration ignoring facts and the Senate, that means the Republicans in the Senate.  We’re very proud of Leader Schumer, as I mentioned earlier, proud of all the Senate Democrats for recognizing the need for us to base our decisions on science, science, science.  And that means testing, testing, testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, separation, ventilation, you name it.  The scientists have made it very clear what we need to do to crush the virus.  And a real champion in doing that is our distinguished Democratic Leader from the Senate.  It’s always a pleasure to welcome him back to the House side, for many of us had the privilege of serving with him for many years.  Mr. Schumer.

***

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, for honoring us with your presence.  I know you have a busy schedule on the Senate side, so thank you so much for making the point so clearly that we have a plan.  And that’s what is really important for America’s families to know. 

There is a plan.  There has been a plan.  It has been rejected, but we will further assert it.  It doesn’t happen without resources.  We had $75 billion dollars in the plan Mr. Pallone put forth and supported by House and Senate Democrats. 

The Republicans said, ‘We have $15 [billion].  You have $75 [billion].  Let’s compromise.  We’ll go to $16 [billion].’  Oh really?  Do you not understand the gravity of the situation?  Either you do not understand the gravity of the situation or you don’t care. 

But the fact is that 200,000 people in another day or so will have lost their lives to this disregard for science.  Could we have saved everyone?  No.  But many people, yes.  

So, our purpose here today is to say to the families of America, we have a plan.  We have had a plan.  It’s a plan that takes responsibility for testing, tracing, treatment, separation, ventilation, mask wearing and the rest.

We know that that will save lives.  That will curb the virus.  That will crush the virus.  And it can enable us to open our economy and our schools more safely.

A number of months will go by until we get a vaccine, and we all pray, as Mr. Pallone said, we pray for a vaccine.  We hope that it will be soon and that it will be available, as Mr. Clyburn said, equitably – I will add ethically – to everyone in our country. 

But we can’t have it one day before it is ready.  We don’t want it one day later or one day sooner than it is ready.  And that means we cannot have political interference into the production ­– the discovery of that vaccine.  We thank our scientists who are working so hard on it.  Great minds in our country are working 24/7 to produce that, and when we get that, we have to have an ethical distribution that makes it available to everyone because everyone has to have that access.

Right now, the disparity of the assault of this virus on the American people is appalling.  A Hispanic child may be five times – a Hispanic person five times more likely to go to the hospital because of coronavirus than a white child, even greater numbers for the African American community.  That’s just not right. 

So, when it comes to COVID and the rest of it, we have to have scientific and fair treatment of all Americans.  Testing, tracing, treatment, separation, mask wearing and the rest, relying on science. 

With that, if there are any questions on this subject?

Q:  Madam Speaker, within the context of this subject –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah, just on this subject.  I’ll take questions after, but I don’t want to hold up my folks on anything other than this right now.

Q:  Given the scale of what you’re describing, given the magnitude of it, do you view $2.2 trillion as the absolute floor, redline in your negotiations?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we have come down.  You know, I know some of you say, ‘Well, why can’t you compromise?’  We have compromised.  We came down a trillion dollars.  We asked them to go up a trillion dollars.  Instead, they went down, not recognizing the need.  We went further, Mr. Schumer and I, further went down and said, ‘We’ll meet you halfway.’  And that’s where we are. 

Since that time, though my Members will attest, the needs have only grown since May 15, four months ago now and two days – two days ago.  The needs have only grown, needs for small businesses, needs for restaurants, needs for transportation and the rest.  So, we’re going to have to allocate – reallocate some of that money, so that we can meet the needs as we see them. 

The fact is, we shouldn’t be going down because we have these needs, so that we can open up our economy as we crush the virus.  But again, what they – we have a massive problem in our country, we have a massive problem and they put forth not only a skinny bill, as Mr. Schumer says, an emaciated bill.  That’s why I’m so proud that all of the Senate Democrats voted against that.

But it takes money.  We spent trillions of dollars sureing up the credit – credit in or country.  Look at the statement of the Chairman of the Fed yesterday.  He attests to that.  And that’s important to the stock market, and we do not object to the stock market doing well.  That’s for sure. 

But why can’t we spend what it takes to sure up the middle class in our country?  So, again, when we go into a negotiation, it’s about the allocation of the resources, but it’s hard to see how we can go any lower when you only have greater needs.

Yes, sir.

Q:  Madam Speaker, we’ve heard a lot from moderate Democrats saying, well why not do some sort of more narrow bill or something.  What do you say to these Members on your side of the aisle who represent swing districts other than the two here today, who come to you and say, ‘Madam Speaker, we realize what the value of the $3 trillion bill that we did in May, but let’s do something new.’  What’s your response to that?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, they don’t say that actually. 

Q:  Well, what do they say?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, they don’t say that actually.   

[Crosstalk]

Well, they don’t say it to me.  What they say is, ‘We need to have a solution.  And we want the best possible agreement that we can for America’s working families.’  

You may have anecdotally someone who may say, ‘I don’t care how small it is; I want it just to go.’  I have not heard that.  I’m very proud of our Members.

We have three kinds of arenas.  One, we want to bring the $3.4 trillion to the Floor again.  Others who say we cannot bring anything to the Floor unless we have an agreement, because we want it to work for the American people and that is what we’re striving for.  Others will say let’s just put our own proposal on the Floor.  So, you hear different things. 

But the fact is, we want to have an agreement, and we will stay until we have an agreement.  And why don’t you go ask the Republicans why they don’t want to feed the 14 million hungry children in America who are food insecure?  Or maybe address the needs of the millions of American families who are on the verge of eviction?  Or why they have a disdain for state and local government, which are our heroes, heath care workers, teachers, first responders, police and fire, transportation, sanitation, food workers?  

We could not function as a country without the work that they do.  And yet, they say, ‘Oh they’re blue states, we’re not sending any money there.’  Disdain for state and local government, which the Fed says is very important to our economy contempt for science.

But we’re not here to go there.  We are here to say we can stop this and we have a plan to do it.  So, let’s just do the plan.  It’s exactly the plan that scientists and academics are putting forth.  Testing, tracing, treatment, separation, ventilation, mask wearing, washing your hands – well, that’s the sanitation part.

Let’s just do what we know needs to be done without contempt for science and with respect for every person in our country.  I’m very excited about the dynamism in my Caucus, so that you know.  It’s a vitality that I thrive on.  So again, we’re in a good place, don’t you think Mr. Clyburn?

Whip Clyburn.  Absolutely.

Speaker Pelosi.  Any of you want to respond to that?

Congresswoman Mucarsel-Powell.  You know, I think that we politicize every issue here in Washington, D.C.  And I can tell you something, that this plan is based, like the Speaker said, on science, and don’t underestimate the unity of our Caucus.  We know what we need to do.  That’s why we passed Heroes in May.

We’re having discussions on what other bills, if any, in addition to Heroes need to be addressed or studied.  But don’t underestimate the fact that we all want the same thing, which is to support parents that are trying to send their kids back to school. 

We need to reopen small businesses that have yet to reopen because they don’t have the assistance.  I have local cities that are running out of money to pay for their first responders.  Those are our priorities, and they’re not political.  They make sense. 

We’re in the middle of a pandemic.  The virus is still out there.  That has not changed.  We can’t ignore the fact.  We have to be safe.  We have to make sure that we have the resources so that we can get our economy back on track.  That’s our priority.

Whip Clyburn.  You know, in order to get food on our tables, we rely on farm workers.  We rely on people who work in grocery stores.  This plan of ours, the Heroes Act takes care of these people, not the plan from the Senate.  

If we want to get to and from to our jobs and our homes, we have transit workers.  We’ve had them before our Committee testify as to how little regard is given to their safety.  One of the most nationally acclaimed stories came from a transit worker who yelled at someone for coughing without a mask on, and he was dead three days later from the virus.  This plan takes care of him. 

We have small town mayors calling us every day about having to lay off their two or three person police force, because they have not gotten the assistance they need.  Our plan takes care of them, not the Senate plan.    

You know, the President keeps talking about liking to play it down.  That’s good in a golf game.  When it comes to the American people we need to play it clean.  We need to come clean.  Picking clean is the best application.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Chairman.  Thank you again, Mr. Pallone for his extraordinary leadership on this subject.  He brings so much history and knowledge and again respect for science to the proposal that he put forth.  And we cannot do anything less if we expect to crush the virus.

We call upon our Republican colleagues to stop crushing the Affordable Care Act instead in court and elsewhere and taking away the pre-existing condition benefit, which is even now more important when we see what is happening with the coronavirus.

So, I thank our distinguished Whip for the leadership he has in making sure we as we go forward that we understand what has worked and what hasn’t as we go forward.

I thank Mr. Pallone for the plan.  There is a plan, taking responsibility to open up our economy and our schools safely.  

I’m very proud of our Freshman Members who bring their knowledge of health issues in their communities and in their professions.  Lauren Underwood, thank you for your leadership and your strong statement.  Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, thank you for yours. 

Two states, Florida and Illinois.  California, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York – the Leader who just left.  We all bring our experience to all of this.  And as we mourn the loss of 200,000 we will have appropriate remembrances in the Capitol. 

We are leaving for the Jewish holiday, Holy Day this weekend, but as we return, we will return to pay our respects and offer our sympathy to the families who are so affected by that.   Of course, I will be here.

But I also want to say that in our communities, in the west we have these wildfires which have destroyed many acres, taken many lives, and in the south, on the coast, the Gulf Coast, we have the storms that are – now the rain is spreading.  All of this, again, has a scientific answer in terms of climate.  Again, science, in contempt of the Administration, when he was in California saying ‘Science doesn’t know.’  No, science knows and science knows better.

So, as we go forward, let us do so – but, people say to me: as a Catholic, you know, it’s either faith or science.  Choose.  I say, no.  Science is an answer to our prayers and may it bring us a vaccine very soon. 

Thank you all very much.  

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, could I ask you a quick Brexit question?  Just, very briefly.  You met with Dominic Raab last night.  Did he give you any reassurances either way –

Speaker Pelosi.  Oh, another subject.

Q:  And what was your reaction to Joe Biden’s tweet last night?  A very positive tweet voicing support for the Good Friday Agreement?

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m sorry.  You said –

Q:  So the first one was on Dominic Raab, last night.  Did he give you any reassurances?  And then also last night, we saw Joe Biden last night tweeting very strong support, himself, for the Good Friday Accords.

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.  So, I didn’t see the Joe Biden tweet, but we asked – this is the subject about Brexit as it relates to the Good Friday Accords.  We have, in a bipartisan way, bicameral, have valued the Good Friday Accords, not as an issue, but as a value for our country.  We – President Clinton, George Mitchell, on the other side, so many people worked so hard for such a long time to bring peace. 

Last year, I brought a delegation, really led by Richie Neal, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, but also Co-Chair with Peter King of the American-Ireland – Friends of Ireland in the Congress; I point there because they sat there with the Taoiseach in March.

But the meeting that we had yesterday, was with the Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom.  We have been very clear in saying to the United Kingdom, ‘If you do harm to the Good Friday Accords in your Brexit arrangements, do not count on any bilateral U.S.-U.K. trade agreement.’  Bipartisan, bicameral support for the Good Friday Accords.

To your question, the Foreign Minister was very positive about the Good Friday Accords and gave us assurances that there would be no construction or physical barriers at the border.  But there are other issues, as you know.

And we visited last year, and it was the 21st celebration – the 20th was a bigger celebration, the year before, we went last year.  And when we were in Belfast, the Speaker of the Assembly there, he had an enormous reception, when I say – it was like a rally, of all kids, all kids.  And the two speakers were seniors in High School, one Catholic and one Protestant, and both of them said, ‘We’ve lived our whole lives in peace because of the Good Friday Accords.  We’re not going back.’

Q:  Do you feel better after your meeting with Dominic Raab or do you still have your concerns and are you seeking further reassurance?  

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, a meeting is a meeting. It was nice to – you know, we’re good friends of the U.K.  They’re a valued relationship to the United States, but not to the undoing –

Q:  On that note, frankly, last week, you spoke very eloquently about how concerned you were that Britain might, indeed, break the international treaty.  And it does beg the question of whether you, since Dominic Raab made it clear to you yesterday – I expect, to paraphrase, that he didn’t retreat.  Do you still fear that Britain will do that –

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes. 

Q:  And does that raise questions for you about whether Britain’s word is its bond?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I won’t go into whether Britain’s word is its bond, but I would say that the international treaty that was signed was signed with respect for the Good Friday Accords. 

And what happened on Labor Day and, as I told the Foreign Minister, my phone exploded.  It was Labor Day and I’m thinking, ‘What?  Where’s this all coming from?’  Because, hours before, in a different time zone, the U.K. had departed from its commitment in the treaty with the EU on the Good Friday Accords. 

So, in any event, respectful of what the Brits decide for themselves, but having them understand that the Good Friday Accords – any disruption of that in a serious way would be not met with – President Trump was saying: Well, don’t worry about EU you can just have bipartisan – excuse me, bilateral trade agreement with the U.S.  Not so fast.  That’s an act of Congress, the chairman of the committee of jurisdiction is Richie Neal, the Chairman – Co-Chair of the Friends of Ireland and there is bipartisan, bilateral resistance to any such bilateral. 

So, I’m not going into whose word is trusted.  It was just a departure from what was said in the agreement and we’ll see where it goes from here, making sure they understand about the bilateral, but also hopeful that they will reach their agreement.

Last year, the end of the year, we had a big event for Richie Neal, honoring him.  All the Irish groups from all over came to honor him.  And that was the very day, in that evening, they told us the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister have come to agreement on something on the Good Friday Accords.  So, we were thrilled, they were trusting, we were thrilled and it was even an additional cause for celebration.  And that arrangement was what was represented, my understanding is, in the EU treaty which was then rolled back in the statements that were made.

Now, we’ll see where we go from here.  I think we all understand each other.

Thank you so much.

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