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Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Freshmen House Democrats for a press availability ahead of the House vote on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. Good evening, everyone.
Thank you for being around, this hour of the night. I am very proud of the success we have had, the work of our Committee Chairs and the staff to put together this legislation.
As you may recall, last Sunday Chuck Schumer and I put forth the priorities that we wanted to see in what we call the ‘Families First’ response to this coronavirus crisis. This followed our bill last week, last Wednesday, that was about the appropriations bill. $8.3 billion, putting families first.
Between these two bills, we have an effective stimulus to the economy – injecting those resources as well as, with this bill, putting funds in the pockets of people who may be affected by the crisis.
So, here we are. We did what we said we were going to do. We put ‘Families First’ with paid sick leave – paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment insurance. For the children: over twenty million children get their meals at school. They have food insecurity and this bill addresses that, as well as food for our seniors and others who depend on that. And, again, feeding – filling food banks as well. We won an important court decision on all of that today.
And then, on other issues that relate to three things: testing, testing and testing. This is so important. And, again, between the appropriations bill and this legislation, we should see – we’ve legislated – we should see the executive branch execute this legislation.
So we’re really very proud of that work. We could have passed our bill yesterday, just our own bill, which was a great bill. It is still a great bill because that’s what we’re passing today. But, we thought it would be important to show the American, to assure the American people that we are willing and able to work together to get a job done for them.
So we thank our Republicans, those who will be supporting the bill. We appreciate the President joining us with his tweet. But we are very excited about the prospect.
For the input in all of that, what we did last week and in this bill and the rest, our Freshmen Class is very instrumental. They brought, from home, the suggestions about how to meet the needs of people. You will hear from them directly this evening. But some of them are with us, all of them, of our Freshmen, were a valuable resource.
I wish Chuck Schumer could be here because he is the one who started with $8.5 billion – and, again, was so much a part of the ingredients in this legislation. But, I’m awfully glad that our distinguished Democratic Leader, Steny Hoyer, is. And he worked very hard on all of this. I yield to him.
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Speaker Pelosi. Thank you very much. I wanted to thank Congresswoman Susie Lee, Congressman Gil Cisneros, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, for their leadership in this effort that we have.
Just let me say today, since this morning really, we learned of the 42nd death from the virus in our country. This is – we have to deal with this prayerfully and sadly, but forcefully. And that was really what was part of our incentive to make sure that we could assure the public that we were willing to work in a bipartisan way, even though we could have gone much sooner much faster, to reassure them about the policy that we were advocating that we want to be the law of the land.
Q: What was the final hurdle that you had to clear to get the President to sign off on this and express his support for the bill?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say, it was more like moguls, it wasn’t any hill.
It was a situation where we really had to have clarification for language, which is what I told some of you last night: ‘We are very close to an agreement, but we are exchanging paper.’ And that exchange of paper is what took long in terms of – it is hard to pass law, especially when negotiating with the executive branch because they have to pass it through different departments of government to sign off, and the rest. It is not just an internal matter in the House or in the Congress.
So it was just really a clarification of language, largely. I can’t think of any one thing that was the hurdle because, if we had some things that we just couldn’t resolve because it took more time, we can do those in another bill.
But we – it was really negotiating with the Secretary of the Treasury. But I have to give high praise to Richie Neal, the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee; Nita Lowey, the Appropriations Committee, remarkable Chair of the Appropriations Committee, remarkable; Bobby Scott, the Chair of the Education and Labor Committee; Collin Peterson, the food – the Ag Committee, the food issues; Rosa DeLauro who worked with him on all of that as an appropriator; our Chair of our Rules Committee, Jim McGovern. They were up until way late last night, early this morning and, now, we come to the Floor without a rule because we’re doing it under suspension. And, there is one more Committee: Energy and Commerce Committee. Frank Pallone had a very big role in the testing, testing, testing.
And there was no question about the testing. There were some challenges about language. But that’s what took so long.
Q: Madam Speaker, what is something in this bill that is not there that you think should have been there that you will have to pick up next time?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it isn’t that it should have been there. We have legislation that I think will be the first order of business we go to the next time. But, again, it was – all these other things we have lived with for a long time.
There was one provision that President Obama put forth, an OSHA regulation to protect workers in sort of infectious disease type atmospheres. And that was a rule that wasn’t employed by the Trump Administration. But, nonetheless, we thought we’ll resurrect that, but we’ll need to add others because firefighters and first responders were now being injected into those type of circumstances. It was a bigger, shall we say, rule than we started with. And we thought, let’s just do it right: work with our friends in labor, work with our friends in the health community, work in a bipartisan way.
And I am very – I am proud of the work that we’ve done. We have taken it down the road and we will have it on the next bill.
Staff. Last question.
Q: You spoke with Steven Mnuchin more than 20 times or so the last day or so. Did you speak to the President at all?
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: Why not?
Speaker Pelosi. Why not?
Q: Yeah, he’s the one who signs it into law.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, there is no need for that. We had our bill, which is basically intact in what we are passing, without – we would have liked to have the OSHA rule. And there are some things that they wanted that we have to put off until the next time because, just, they came in late.
You know, when we are doing things, you want to say, you know, at a certain place, no moving of the goal post. And then it happens. And for us, you move the goal post, it is like moving an ocean liner. You have to go to leg counsel, CBO. You have to do all these things. It is not an easy thing to change a word or so. So, some of it just took – would take more time. And we thought it was important to have a bill that would go there.
So, what I was told – Mitch McConnell and I spoke. He said, ‘Steve Mnuchin carries the ball.’ So, I negotiated with him. And he communicated what were doing to others, by and large. Then he had his own communication with the Republicans in the House, if I may say.
And we are talking about specific proposals based on legislation and precedent and operations – the agencies of government’s traditions. We had to speak shorthand with each other about these things.
Q: Madam Speaker, the next bill promises to be, perhaps, the most challenging one yet. What is a realistic timetable to do that and does this give you confidence that you can grease something really big for in the economy?
It was really important to have a bill right now because of the challenges there. It was important for us to say: no longer can we be in denial about the numbers and what is happening in our country. We have to get this testing bill passed. We did the resources last time and now the ability to test. And so that was absolutely urgent, and therefore, unfortunately, our Members are here till all hours each night anticipating what we may do.
When we do the next bill, it is more in terms of the regular order, right, Steny? The regular order of committees will take their time to take us to this point, which they did, but then the negotiation can take longer. Because it is about the language. And the language in their case had to be passed around different agencies of government and that we can do. I mean – we – I don’t think any of us went to sleep all week, so we don’t have to do it all night. We can take more time, a couple of weeks maybe. That would be a short time for a bill, but it is – that will be a challenge.
Because what we wanted to do was to say we understand the hospitality industry and the energy industry, the airline industry and this or that – that there are big losses. But we put families first because who loses are the people who lose their job. So many people are at the entry level in all of those fields to name a few fields, but others too – the whole entertainment industry, which is part of the hospitality industry. This is a bite of a big apple as we go forward. And we’re listening. Members are going to go home, come back and bring us their proposal as they see things on the grounds there that can really be helpful.
I want to point out, again, in closing, that we are very proud of the fact our bill is a stimulus package. It is a stimulus package. When we were doing – some of you were around when we were doing ARRA – the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. And we asked the economists, how do – what is the best way to stimulate the economy? They say Unemployment Insurance, which is there; food stamps, which are there; all of these assistance for families, so that they have confidence to be part of a consumer economy, which is how you build – strengthen the economy. But then we will have to go larger into the source of their job, so we’ll be talking to the private sector, the public sector, of course, and the nonprofit sector, which has a lot to contribute to this conversation.
Leader Hoyer. Nancy, could I get that? Let me just – if I can add.
Speaker Pelosi. Please, go ahead.
Leader Hoyer. The committees are going to be working this coming week. Now, we are going to ask them to take a day off to sleep, because they have been literally working around-the-clock. Kudos to the staff. We would not be here.
Speaker Pelosi. Staff have been fabulous.
Leader Hoyer. Yeah, they’ve really been working hard. But next week, we know there is going to be a necessity, as we did in ’09, make sure the economy is supported. They’re going to be working on that. We are going to be discussing it with leaders of the economy, leaders of business.
Speaker Pelosi. Leaders in the labor movement, have already been having conversations with them.
Leader Hoyer. So, we will be working on it this coming week. We are going to follow and do a good bill, a bill that will work.
Speaker Pelosi. Now, Steny has to go ring the bell, so we can go to the Floor.
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