Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer held a media availability before a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to discuss further coronavirus relief legislation. Below is a full transcript:
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, everyone.
As I know you are keeping track, today marks twelve weeks since we passed the Heroes Act in the House of Representatives. A bill to open up our economy by testing, tracing, treating, masks, sanitation, distancing and the rest.
It honored our heroes, so-called because they are risking their lives to save lives and now they may be losing their jobs, in fact a million and a half had – have already. That would be our health care workers, our first responders, our teachers, our sanitation, transportation, food workers who are all employees of state and local government to meet the needs of the American people. One and a half million already, at least, have been laid off, going on to unemployment. That’s not a savings. And it is a disservice to their constituents. Also, there are projected to be 3.6 million more laid off in the weeks ahead unless we do something to protect our heroes. We lose all moral authority to praise them, to thank them and then say, but we don’t want to spend money to have you keep your job.
Then third, to put money in the pockets of the American people. It’s about the lives, the livelihoods and the life of our democracy, so we have some concerns about Census, Postal Service, protection of our elections, safety in the workplace with OSHA and the rest.
So, in that time, in that twelve weeks that – you remember, right then and there, when we passed the bill, the Republican Leader in the Senate said he was going to – ‘We needed a pause,’ so he pushed the ‘pause’ button. He pushed the ‘pause’ button. In that period of time, in these twelve weeks, about 3.5 million people have been infected, added to the rolls of those infected. Seventy thousand have died; 70,000 in these twelve weeks. Three and a half million infected. Then, last week he comes back, finally, from the pause with a piecemeal proposal that does not meet the needs of the American people.
As you know, we have been mightily trying to find common ground with our colleagues, it’s hard when your values are so different in terms of bubble-up from the working class families instead of trickle-down from above. Yesterday, I offered to them, we’ll take down $1 trillion if you add $1 trillion in. They said absolutely not. If we could do that, if we take down $1 trillion and they add $1 trillion we’ll be within range. We’ll be within range, but we must meet the needs of the American people. We could come down some because we can change the dates of expiration and the rest of that but not undermine our priorities to meet the needs of the American people.
And it is – we’re in a different place. Again, we believe in science and governance in terms of addressing the virus that we need to do and that’s how we’re going to open our economy. In terms of livelihoods, we’re honoring our heroes. It doesn’t do anything for our economy to add more people on unemployment, especially when they are our heroes.
Safe schools, we’re in a different place because we are listening to what is happening in communities where they’re telling us, largely, they want to have virtual, out of 100 top, largest school districts, over 60 said they’re going to have all virtual, some a hybrid, very few actually in person schooling. We want as many kids as possible to go to school, but we have to make it safe for them to do so. And then we have housing insecurity, we have food insecurity, the list goes on and on. I wrote to my colleagues about this today. You’ve probably seen that.
So, this is about, I see everything through the eyes of the children: their food insecurity, their housing insecurity. We can’t have our children be hungry, we can’t have them be homeless and we cannot have them be afraid to go to school. And if we are going to be able to have more people go to work, we need child care this fall. Always about the children for me.
So, again, we’ll be meeting this afternoon and I will once again make the offer, we’ll come down a trillion if you go up a trillion, and then we can – we’ll be within range of each other. But again, this is a very different set of values across the table. Trickle down, bubble up.
The distinguished leader from the Senate, Mr. Schumer.
Leader Schumer. Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Speaker, once again, for your strong, passionate and eloquent leadership.
Let me just say, we saw the jobs report and it’s clear the economy is losing steam. That means we need big, bold investments in America to help average folks. And when the economy starts losing ground, the only choice is for a strong package.
And yet, at times yesterday, our Republican friends seemed willing to walk away from the negotiating table to do an unworkable, weak, narrow Executive Orders, which are not going to do the job for the American people.
We are committed to negotiate and as we said, we are willing to make compromises. We – our bill, the Heroes bill is at 3.4 [trillion dollars]. Theirs is at one [trillion dollars]. So, the Speaker made a very fair offer, let’s narrow them each. And you should have seen the vehemence, they said no. I said, you mean after she said, ‘We’ll go down a trillion, if you go up a trillion.’ It’s mainly in terms of dates, but that’s okay. And you should have seen their faces, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said you mean you want it to go almost all in your direction or you won’t negotiate? And they said, ‘Yeah.’ So, we are trying to compromise.
The spin they’re putting it on that we haven’t moved off is belied by what happened. They’re the ones stuck and they say, basically, what’s happening is, Mr. Meadows is from the Tea Party. You have 20 Republicans in the Senate greatly influenced by them. And they don’t want to spend the necessary dollars to help get America out of this mess. Ideology sort of blinds them.
So, we need a bill. There are only really two choices for our Republican negotiating friends. They can do a strong bill, with Democrats, and they have to realize they’re going to need a majority – they’re going to need all the Democrats to vote for it in the House and a majority of Democrats to vote for it in the Senate. They don’t have the votes in the Senate. So, that means they got to meet us in terms of moving, they can’t just say no and do it our way.
Or their other choice is to do some weak, insufficient Executive Orders that just won’t do the job for the people we all want to help. It’s not that the Executive Orders might be negative, but they’re totally insufficient.
They’re insufficient in two ways. What they do is difficult because it seems, and no one knows what they’re going to do, but they can’t spend money, they can only forward money. So, if you do a payroll tax cut, then after whatever, after it expires both businesses and workers have a huge payment to make. You do unemployment and you lend the states money. They’re stuck, they don’t have the money. They may not want to do it. In terms of tenants, yeah, delaying evictions is necessary but not sufficient. Because once those – once the delay is over, the tenant owes a tremendous amount of money. And by the way, the landlord, many of whom are small little landlords, haven’t gotten paid and they can’t pay their mortgages and their bills. And there’s a fourth one. And the college loans, again, is deferral. So, you don’t pay for a few months and then you have more to pay.
It is much better – and our colleagues admitted that yesterday – to do a strong, robust bill, but they seem unable. But the biggest problem with Executive Orders is not what they do, but who they leave out. They leave out testing, tracing, treatment. We know we’re not going to solve this problem economically until we solve the health problem and the Speaker has been like a – lioness, I guess I should say, or lion?
Speaker Pelosi. Lioness, Lioness.
Leader Schumer. Is Lioness OK? Has been like a lioness in pursuing this at every meeting we have been at. And you’re not going to cure that, you’re not going to solve the problem. They still seem unwilling to do what is necessary for a strong, testing, tracing, and treatment regime.
What is one of the biggest problems facing us in the next month as the Speaker mentioned? Schools, opening up schools safely. If you don’t open up the schools, you’re going to hurt the economy significantly because lots of people can’t go to work. Executive Orders leave out schools altogether.
State and local services. They came a tiny little bit in our direction on that, but very little, not in the middle or close to it. You can’t do that by Executive Order, it’s spending. And you’ll have firefighters – this is not abstract, this is not government – it is firefighters, sanitation workers, bus drivers, health care workers who need to get paid.
Elections. I got very excited or firm at the meeting yesterday. This is the wellspring of our democracy. It’s not much money. We need the money to help the states in COVID conduct elections when so much more is going to be by mail and even when you vote in person you need more polling places. Why are they resisting? It’s a small amount, we’ve asked for $3.6 billion in the Heroes Act. It’s not the money. They almost seem they don’t want elections to be conducted in as full a way as possible. It seems they want certain people not to – almost discouraging them if being able to vote.
The Post Office. There was a lot of discussion on that. And frankly, we have little faith that they’re not trying to politicize the Post Office, and we need language and legislation to prevent that from happening because again, it’s not the abstract. They don’t like having a government Post Office, I guess, some of them. But it’s people getting their medicines, during COVID, a greater reliance on it. And it’s election, if the ballots are not sent quickly enough, if both the absentee ballots, the application for mail ballots and the ballots themselves are delayed too much, we won’t have a fair election.
We talked about food assistance. They do not want to do what’s needed to make sure kids and others don’t go hungry. We talked about utility shutoffs. If you’re going to have a moratorium on rent, but people can’t pay their electric bills or their water bill, their homes aren’t that good. So – and we talked about targeted aid for our communities of color. So, many things are left out.
So, the bottom line is, this is a flood, economically and health-wise, of biblical proportion. And our Republican friends are looking like they just want to fix a leaky faucet. That’s what’s the difference here. There are real needs. America knows they have real needs. The public is on our side. But they seem not to be willing to go in a direction that would meet those needs and instead do Executive Orders that won’t come close to doing the job that is needed.
Speaker Pelosi. As the Leader was speaking, I was thinking of the Chairman of the Fed and the admonition he has given us to think big. And they’re doing a lot to shore up the stock market and that’s probably a good thing for the economy. Why can’t they do more to shore up America’s working families?
This is – the numbers this morning should be a real cautionary call to them to say, the momentum is – the momentum, which sprang from government investment, from what we did in the previous bills that kept the economy going. That people would have money in their pockets, would have consumer confidence, would spend, inject demand into the economy, create jobs. We see that slowing down. Everybody who talks to us in the economic world and all the rest are saying, pay now or pay later. This is – you’re going to pay more later. You’re going to pay more later. You absolutely must, have to think in a big way.
As we go through all this and you know sometimes I quote St. Augustine or saint – Pope Paul VI or somebody, Pope Paul VI. One thing that I was thinking of as you were speaking, Mr. Leader, Arnold Toynbee. Arnold Toynbee, in his histories of civilization, as you are aware of, he said that when societies are formed, there are two ways they can go: the elite minority that will be ruling, could be there called the flowering elite, there for the flowering of everybody in that society. Or they could be the exploitive elites, the exploitive minorities and they are there for power and money. Power and money. And when these two exist in the same society, there can be a schism of the soul of the society. Because they’re so different. That’s kind of what we’re at that table about.
We’re there representing the kitchen table needs, kitchen table needs of the American people. They’re there representing the board conference room table. And that is a different perspective. And that’s why it takes longer.
Now, it takes a great deal, and I salute my colleagues because they have been very courageous. Because the other side is going out there and making it like they’re there for children and people in need, working families, which couldn’t be further from the truth. And nothing gives more evidence to it than how they are conducting this.
So, again, we’ll – we believe we have a responsibility to try to find common ground. We’ll come down $1 trillion, you go up $1 trillion, and we can figure out how to do that without hurting America’s working families. It’s mostly about how long the initiative lasts. It’s not about different priority, it’s just about shorter periods of time. We have a moral responsibility to find common ground. But where we can’t, for the children, we must stand our ground.
Yes, ma’am. Oh, you were first yesterday too.
Q: Fantastic. I like it. Republicans are saying that Democrats are not willing to give anything. So, now you’re saying you’re willing to come down.
Speaker Pelosi. No, we said that yesterday.
Leader Schumer. She said it last night. They didn’t bring it up, but they heard and rejected it.
Speaker Pelosi. And they weren’t telling the truth when they said that.
Leader Schumer. Right.
Q: So, you’re willing to come down to $2.4 trillion or less –
Leader Schumer. We didn’t say –
Q: And also Congressman Meadows, when he was a Congressman, he was always Tea Party, Freedom Caucus, someone who was there to block deals. Do you think he is negotiating in good faith?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I certainly hope so. We just have to assume that. He represents the President.
Leader Schumer. His positions are quite hardened and non-compromising. More so than Mnuchin.
Q: And $2.4 trillion, you’re willing to –
Leader Schumer. We didn’t. We said we’d go – Nancy said we’ll go down $1 trillion from our top number, which we – and they’ll go up $1 trillion and they rejected it totally. We didn’t go over specific numbers, where it’s from, but their original was at one, our original, you could say is at 3.4 or 3.7, depending on how you treat the tax stuff.
See, in our bill, we repealed the – it’s a $135 billion tax advantage they gave the wealthiest people in our country in the CARES Act, so we repeal that. But not only that, we broadened the repeal of some other things as well. So, we have about 250 in there now. If they don’t want to repeal that, then our bill is like $2.7 [trillion].
Leader Schumer. Three, $3.7.
Speaker Pelosi. Excuse me, $3.7. Chad?
Q: Thank you. So, to be clear here, when you talk about going $3 trillion, $2 trillion, or whatever number it is in the middle here, I mean what are some of the specific things that you have fixed in your Caucus, things that were in that bill that you passed in May, that you say, okay, this is going to have to take a hit, this is going to have to take a hit, this is going to have to take a hit?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, no. It’s only about – some of the things we have in there go to September 30 – September 30th, 2021. We can adjust the date.
Q: So, Republicans in the Senate don’t seem to think that they – they don’t have enough votes, to pass any bill that’s north of $2 trillion dollars. Are you at all ok with going under $2 trillion?
Leader Schumer. The House doesn’t have the votes to go south of $2 trillion. The Senate Democrats can’t go south of $2 trillion. So, that’s what compromise is all about. Because there are 20 Republicans that don’t want to vote for anything, that doesn’t mean the whole thing shifts in their direction, you have to meet in the middle.
Q: So it has to be north of $2 trillion is what you’re saying?
Speaker Pelosi. What I have said is, we have a virus – when we did CARES, the anticipation, the hope was that they would eventually pay attention to science and this would be diminishing. Instead, it’s accelerating. This virus is like a freight train coming so fast and they’re responding like a convoy, going as slow as the slowest ship. It just doesn’t work.
And what we put in our bill is what we saw as necessary, necessary, to save the lives of the American people, the livelihoods of the American people and the life of our democracy. And I’ll say it over and over again.
Leader Schumer. And this is not – this is not just a numerical game. I mean, you’re acting like – oh, you know – this is feeding kids, opening schools, employing people, helping people who need help. This is having fair elections. These are very substantive things to us. And we will meet them somewhere to get something done, but it’s not just, ‘Oh, they want this, you want that,’ and it’s – it’s real. That’s what guides us. What seems to guide them is the government should spend as little money as possible despite the crisis in America.
Speaker Pelosi. And what that means, as I said last night to some of you, it’s about Sophie’s Choice. Who are we going to choose if we’re not going to have enough money to feed everyone, if we’re not going to have money to house everyone, if we’re not going to have enough money for the schools in a way – and by the way, let’s talk about the schools for a moment because when the President said he’s going to have the bulk of his money go to schools that open, that are in person, actual, we say, but not to the others, many of those virtual or hybrid schools are in neighborhoods that don’t have a high tax base.
So, when the President says, ‘We’re cutting you out,’ they’re cutting out kids – Title I kids in economically disadvantaged areas, children of color, in some of those areas. So, that’s why we have to say, ‘Wait a minute. This is for all of America’s children.’ It just isn’t – lucky you, coronavirus came along and you lived in a high property tax area and poor you – just reinforcing, reinforcing the disparity in terms of meeting those children’s needs. Reinforcing the disparity in terms of how we address the coronavirus, where a high percentage of the deaths now are clearly evidence that they are springing from communities of color. So, there’s so many injustices in here and again, in order to just say all the children should be protected, whether it’s from the virus or at home or in school.
Leader Schumer. Anyone else?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah, three, did we do three?
Leader Schumer. Okay, one more.
Q: If he – if President Donald Trump ends up issuing Executive Orders will Democrats want to continue negotiations on other issues? You mentioned that these Executive Orders leave out testing, other issues. Is that an area where you’d be willing to negotiate?
Speaker Pelosi. If and when he does it, we’ll let you know.
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