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Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer spoke to members of the press on the path forward in responding to the coronavirus epidemic. Below is a full transcript:
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, I thought you would have all gone home by now, thought we’d wait you out.
Leader Schumer. We have a few more things we have to discuss – no.
Speaker Pelosi. Good evening. Good evening. I am very honored to have a visit from our former colleague on the House side, Democratic Leader of the Senate, to talk about something that is an emergency in our country.
Unfortunately, at the President’s press conference today, he really did not address the coronavirus issue. He addressed other aspects about the economy and how it related to that.
What we put out Sunday, the Democratic – the Senate Democratic Leader and I, were priorities for America’s families. For the families, we want to be sure from the standpoint of being tested if need be that there be no cost to the families. For the families, if they are affected by school closings and parents have to stay home who are – have to have medical leave because they are affected that they will have coronavirus-related paid sick and family. But, it has to be affected to the coronavirus.
And then – and, the food issue that relates to our children when they are not able to go to school. Many food-insecure families depend on being able to go to school for their – for food, for sustenance – that we will have initiative to cover that in what we put forth. So, it’s about the – no cost to the families, addressing the paid family and medical leave, as well as unemployment insurance for those regions that are affected and those people who are affected.
So this is about the families. I will yield to the distinguished Leader at this time.
Leader Schumer. Yeah. I mean what was missing from the President’s talk is how he is actually going to deal with the spread of the coronavirus. That’s the bottom line. That’s number one. That’s what’s causing all the economic hardship. That’s what’s causing the trouble.
Well, what’s he going to do? So far we’ve seen statements belittling the problem, contradictory statements, statements that don’t address the problem.
We need focus on this issue and if there’s going to be relief, it ought to be aimed at the families that are most affected: the child – the parent who has to stay home because their kids are not going to school or because they might have been exposed to somebody. How are they going to support themselves?
We want to address that. We want to address the costs of the testing and whatever other treatment is needed. If people don’t go for that – go for testing – if they can’t go to get tested and can’t go to get the treatment because they are afraid they can’t afford the bill, this will get worse.
So, instead of directly addressing the problem, the President’s busy talking about aid to this group and aid to that group that’s not directly affected. And that’s the problem we face. We’ve got to first solve this problem, mitigate this problem, focus on this problem, and then we can deal with some of the economic problems that coronavirus has created.
But, if you don’t solve the actual problem, if you don’t get your [sleeves] rolled up and say, ‘Here’s the real issue,’ then it’s going to get worse.
Q: Larry Kudlow and Steve Mnuchin are coming to talk to the Senate Republicans at lunch tomorrow. Is there any engagement with those two or Administration officials with Democrats to work out –
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Leader Schumer. They haven’t checked us. They haven’t called us.
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just say this since you mentioned them, when we were doing the American Reinvestment and Recovery legislation in you know when –
Speaker Pelosi. 2007 – nine, you’re right.
Q: February of ’09 –
Speaker Pelosi. Then we had the economists come in and tell us what would stimulate the economy: unemployment insurance, food stamps, they also said raising the minimum wage and refundable tax credits.
But two things that we could do right here that help the families and help the economy. Making sure people have food, so they can then go – then spend that ability – that opportunity. And have unemployment insurance, and of course we want to add family leave in that.
And again, on the money side of things, as the Leader said, we don’t want people to think they have any cost entailed in getting back a test – any kind of cost involved, so that they will be tested so we can stop the spread. And, again, this is about how we help people, helping out families. As I said years ago, they’re all worried – more worried about Dow Jones, than the Jones family. We are about the families here, in the here and now.
Leader Schumer. The President seemed to be focused more on the stock market than the pandemic, but unless you deal with the pandemic, the stock market’s going to keep getting worse and worse and worse. Deal with the pandemic first and foremost. The thing we’ve talked about: deal with the pandemic.
Speaker Pelosi. And then give confidence that there is a government-wide, science- and evidence-based approach to this: listening to the health care experts in the area, the epidemiologists who know about the spread of such a thing, taking that guidance, acting upon that and in the meantime, putting opportunity in the pockets of families to be able to meet their family’s needs and that confidence is what would be important.
Q: Madam Speaker, when do you hope that the House could take action on this new package?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we are putting it together. It’s not like we just woke up and started thinking about this. Our committees of jurisdiction have been working on it and we have worked all weekend on it, and, we should have something. And again, we’ll be ready, but then we have to go through – as you know – the CBO, the whole process.
Q: Is your goal having the House pass it this week?
Speaker Pelosi. I don’t know that we can be ready this week, but we can introduce this week, we can introduce it and we may be ready this week, depending on CBO, depending on Leg. Counsel and how quickly they can get something back to us.
Q: If not this week, what happens with recess next week? Will you wait until you come back, or –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. We would wait until we come back, because there is no reason that we have had from our CAO, from our Sergeant at Arms, our Attending Physician or any of that, that there is any reason to do –
Q: Would you come back early to do it?
Speaker Pelosi. Hm?
Q: Would you come back early, if need be to do it? In other words, condense the recess?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, yes, if there’s a necessity – if we think we’re going to get some action in the Senate to do it. But we want to do it right and we want to have clarity for the families.
For the families, no costs to be tested. For the families, parental, and family and medical leave, if needed.
Leader Schumer. The best way to solve the problem is deal with the people who are affected. So they can get tested, so they don’t spread the illness with be – without being treated, without staying home when they have to stay home because they’re worried about financial hardship. Deal with the people who are affected. And the President has said very little about that, unfortunately. We want him to do it the right way which – we want to solve this problem.
Q: What about the President’s idea of a payroll tax cut?
Speaker Pelosi. Related to the coronavirus? See, everything that we are talking about here is related to the coronavirus, if you’re –
Q: I think that’s what he –
Leader Schumer. He didn’t say that.
Speaker Pelosi. He didn’t say that. If it’s related to the coronavirus – that is to say: people who are affected by the coronavirus would have that opportunity because we’re not talking about massively saying we’re going to have family medical leave, we’re saying if you are affected by the coronavirus. We’re saying about the testing about the coronavirus. We’re saying about food security about the coronavirus. This is what we’re focused on.
Leader Schumer. You need to solve the people affected, not so much looking at the long-run macroeconomic picture, which will be important, but if you don’t solve this problem, the macroeconomics will get worse and worse.
Q: So, does that mean you would not support the tax cut?
Leader Schumer. We told you what we would support. That’s what we’re focused on.
Q: Would you be willing to discuss with the President some of his ideas as part of a bipartisan package to get it through?
Speaker Pelosi. We’re always willing to discuss something that is evidence and science-based, that addresses the needs of families first as we go forward, because that is what needs to be done. This is very serious, and I don’t know how seriously it was taken at first by the Administration in terms of decisions that were made about tests and about turning down tests that were proven to be worthy. The list is a long one about not filling the positions that they vacated at the National Security Council that addressed this kind of a challenge in terms of epidemics and the rest. So, again, we have to see what it is.
Leader Schumer. We want the focus to be on competently handling the problem. So far we haven’t see enough of that. Hopefully, the ideas that we have will get them to focus on solving the problem, not on extraneous things.
Q: Do you have any estimate on what a package like this might cost?
Speaker Pelosi. We’ll see. We, again, imagine what we’re doing, hopefully, will add a level of redundancy to it, because we hope it won’t be that bad. But we do have to be ready, and that’s what we will be putting together.
Q: And, again, what’s the likelihood on the vote? Chairman Lowey did indicate she was trying to hurry to get this together for this week.
Speaker Pelosi. I’m sorry?
Q: Is there a – you already talked about the likelihood of a vote, but how possible is it to do it this week?
Speaker Pelosi. I don’t know. As I said, we have been preparing for this. Now we listen to the Members, because we build consensus in our Caucus about the priorities and hearing other ideas that they have. For example, one thing that we haven’t put in here yet but we’re hopefully after the meetings we have tonight is about water. They’re turning off the water supply if people can’t pay their bill. You can’t shut off the water. We’re telling people to wash their hands for 30 seconds. We’re telling them to hydrate, and yet, they don’t even have access to water. So that might be another thing that we find a way to add now, or if not, to move with some of this and expand what we are doing after that.
But we’re pleased that in the original package of last week that we did get the SBA loans for businesses who are threatened because of the coronavirus –
Leader Schumer. Small businesses.
Speaker Pelosi. Small businesses because their markets were gone and their supply chain is gone. One way or another, they were up the creek, and so we want them to survive so that people can stay employed in addition that if they can’t they would have unemployment insurance if certain regions are affected very directly by it.
But it is – you know – we’re not even talking about something that isn’t, as I said, evidence-based and the needs of the American people. This is about the kitchen table of America’s working families. This is now – we don’t want to frighten people. We want to be prepared. We want to prevent. We don’t want people to panic, but we do have to be prepared. And we think that listening to the concerns over the past period of time and putting together what some possibilities are based on what we did from Katrina, based on what we did in the depression time following the 2008 downturn in our economy. We have some examples that were useful then that we can apply now.
Thank you all.
Leader Schumer. Thanks, everybody.
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