Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer held a media availability after meeting with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on further coronavirus relief legislation. Below is a full transcript:
Leader Schumer. Well, we are somewhat frustrated. We had hoped that there’d be a bill and, instead, in the Senate, they have put together little pieces here and there and everywhere. It’s pretty clear they don’t have 51 votes in the Senate among Republicans for a proposal.
And it’s frustrating, because they dithered for three months when now there are very serious cliffs that hurt lots of people: unemployment, rental, state and local. And they’re still trying to get their act together, which is very frustrating because of the needs of people.
We also have to read the bills carefully. That’s what we told them we’d do overnight. Just one thing: they managed to have enough money for two billion dollars for the FBI headquarters that benefits Trump Hotel, and they say they have no money for food assistance. What the heck is going on?
So, we have to read the bill really carefully. We hope they can get their act together. We very much want to get something done for the needs of the people and the needs of the country. But sometimes it’s hard to negotiate when you’re sort of negotiating with a ghost because one person says one thing and one person says another, one person says a third. The problems in the Republican Senate are legion.
Speaker Pelosi. So, in light of – taking up where the Leader was close to ending – was about the – they didn’t have money for food stamps but they had money for an FBI building just so that they can diminish competition for the President’s hotel.
In any event, I don’t even think Mitch McConnell knew that was in the bill. But in any event –
Leader Schumer. Who knows?
Speaker Pelosi. Who knows is right. In any event, they have something in there like a tax credit for expensive dinners and lunches, but no money for food stamps or nutrition assistance and the rest.
Here’s the thing, right now, we’re at a time when children are food insecure in our country. People are hungry who never thought they’d ever go to a food bank. People are on the verge of eviction because they can’t pay the rent. They’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own. And again, families can’t pay the rent and they are resenting the fact that people are getting $600, which was helping to keep them out of poverty and make ends meet.
With all of that happening to people in our country – these are the American people – they just waited, what, ten weeks, almost two and a half months. They put it all on pause, as if hunger could be paused and rent could be paused and needing money in their pockets, so that people can make ends meet would be paused. But it wasn’t.
Now they come back piecemeal. The PPs, pause and piecemeal. But piecemeal just isn’t what this has to be.
Leader Schumer. Pause, piecemeal and pathetic sometimes.
Speaker Pelosi. It really is pathetic. It isn’t serious. Whatever it is, it isn’t serious.
However, we will continue to see, as we look forward. But the fact is, this is wrong. We have to do what’s right for the American people. You know the stock market is being bolstered by big dollars making sure that the market doesn’t go down, and maybe that’s a good idea. But why can’t we spend trillions of dollars to bolster the middle class in our country? ‘Oh, we did. We had this bill. We had that bill.’
We think we have to support our heroes, our state and local workers, our health care workers, teachers, teachers, teachers, transit, sanitation, food supply, people who meet the needs of the American people. They are our heroes. They risk their lives to save other lives, and yet they may lose their jobs.
And when they lose their jobs, they go on unemployment, so what are we saving by not helping state and local government?
Secondly, we want to open our economy, open our schools, testing, testing, testing, tracing, tracking, testing, tracking, treating, separation and the rest. It takes money and it takes equipment, which we don’t have and they have not made a commitment to. Denial, delay, distortion. That’s their game up until now.
So, we have this bill. We have to put, again, honor our heroes, open our economy by treating, tracing – testing, tracing, treating and put money in the pockets of the American people. We have some other priorities that we want to see in the bill, but they’re not even getting to the fundamentals of food and rent and economic survival. They’re not really ready to have a serious negotiation.
However, we’ll continue. We’ll read what they put forth. I’m going to read all about it tonight. I’ll have my staff read some of it too, the staff of the committees of jurisdiction to make judgement about it, but it doesn’t address what we just talked about. It addresses other things, but it doesn’t address this.
So, are there any things in their bill that might be acceptable? I don’t know. We haven’t seen it.
Leader Schumer. Well, there’s a couple of things left out. Rental assistance, the cliff expired Thursday. Not only do they have no rental assistance for people who need help, but they didn’t even put, evidently, a moratorium. So hundreds of thousands of people could be kicked out of their houses next week because they didn’t want a moratorium.
And on unemployment, their proposal is fraught with all kinds of problems. First, you don’t tell someone who’s lost his or her job through no fault of their own that you’re getting a 30 percent pay cut. That is just not fair and not right. There are so many people unemployed. They need the help.
Second, this program which we extend until January 31st in the Heroes bill has done more to remove millions of people form poverty, or to prevent millions of people form going into poverty, than any other. We’re always looking for poverty – anti-poverty programs. This does it. They want to cut that.
Third, it’s done more to bolster the economy than virtually anything else. The one bright side in this economy, since the depths of April and May, is that consumer spending is actually up. Well, one of the reasons it is: the generous pandemic Unemployment Insurance.
But the fourth reason may be the worst of all. You call up state governments and state unemployment offices and they say they can’t implement their plan for weeks or months. Well, what, are you going to leave people without money for weeks or months? How are they going to feed their kids? How are they going to pay their rent? How are they going to pay their mortgage? And my office called up about ten or eleven states and not one of them could implement their program immediately.
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Leader Schumer. Most of them said months. So the unemployment has problems. They don’t have enough money to open up the schools safely. You need a lot of money to open up the schools safely because the schools have huge expenses. I had one district in upstate New York, 4,000 students, 500 faculty –
Speaker Pelosi. Teachers.
Leader Schumer. Teachers and staff. And it cost them about $350,000 for masks for a year because you have to have a new mask every year. They have to change their bus routes. Can’t sit the kids on the buses next to each other. Double the bus routes, over time for drivers, more gasoline. A lot of schools want to change their gymnasiums and cafeterias into classrooms; costs money. And their proposal is totally inadequate in these areas.
In fact, we think there’s a punitive provision in there that says, you know, you only get money if you open up your school, almost, as if, whether it’s safe or not. So, there’s loads of problems in their proposal. Plus all the things they left out.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
Leader Schumer. Which Nancy mentioned some of.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, suffice it to say that we hope that we will be able to reach an agreement. We clearly do not have shared values. Having said that, we just want to see if we can find some common ground to go forward, but we’re not at that place yet.
I have nine grandchildren, as you may have heard me say again and again – and how long does it take me to start talking about my grandchildren?
He has one, Noah. And he talks about him all the time.[Laughter]
Almost two years old. But mine are older and they’re from grade school to college. And one of them is in public school in San Francisco and just the disparity in – if you want to go remote learning, do kids have the equipment to do so and the rest? We have to make it – it takes money to do that. I have another son-in-law in another state who is a public school teacher of children with disabilities and the rest, and that takes another special kind of money to get it done.
So, if they want to open up the schools, they have to do it safely. But, if they want to open schools, they need to do it fairly too so that it reaches all of the children. All of this takes money. They don’t like to spend money, except to give tax cuts to their rich friends. Eighty-three percent of their tax scam went to top one percent. Have I said that to you lately? Almost every day, right?
Leader Schumer. But, he’s got to write it every day.[Laughter]
Speaker Pelosi. But nothing – but remember this: nothing brings more money to the treasury than investing in education. And, now, at this time when it’s a health issue as well, as the distinguished Leader has indicated: it’s about space, it’s about personnel, it’s about sanitation, it’s about ventilation, it’s about so many things. So you need money to do it.
I don’t know if they have 51 votes, much less 60 votes, to do any of that in the Senate. But I do know that we haven’t heard anything yet that is even close to what meets the needs of the American people.
They’re a trickle-down group. Money up here, trickle-down. If it does trick-down that would be good. If it doesn’t, so be it. We’re a bubble-up crowd. Let’s invest. And, understand this: that we are a consumer economy, and putting money into the pockets of the American people so that they can spend, eject – inject demand into the economy, create jobs, that that’s what makes an economy strong, not just bolstering of the stock market.
Thank you all.[Crosstalk]
Leader Schumer. One other thing I’m going to say. One other – two other things, quickly.
The Republican mantra is: let the private sector do it. This is a moment when everyone knows the private sector can’t do it, and they have to overcome some of their resistance to letting the government do it because it’s only the government that can help us with the greatest health crisis in 100 years and the greatest economic.
But I just want to repeat what Nancy – we’re going to keep talking. We’re going to roll up our sleeves. We want to get things done. But they have to come a ways to solve the real problems in this country.
Q: Is there a timeframe that’s you’ve agreed to –
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Q: – to try to get a deal?
Speaker Pelosi. No. No. No.
Leader Schumer. No, we’re going to keep talking. That’s all. We’re not –
Q: What about this skinny proposal they’ve talked about, that they’ve pushed – the White House has pushed? The UI extension with the liability –
Speaker Pelosi. It’s good that they’ve called it skinny because that’s what you get when you don’t have any food to eat.