House Republican Leaders Hold News Conference on Coronavirus Legislation ... CSPAN April 22, 2020 5:20pm-5:52pm EDT
to the small business loan program, hospitaling, and irus testing -- hospitals, and virus testing. the house returns at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. so until we hear from the briefing here's a from earlier today from the mccarthy.eader kevin ms. cheney: i know we have members of the press joining us on the phone as well. just say ll, let me hat we all are praying for the families who've lost people virus. of the we thank all americans for all of the sacrifices that you're we're all making willhe sacrifices that you make. we would like to be in a position to say that the road out of this is going to be easy to be fast but it won't be. it won't be over tomorrow. and going to be difficult it's going to be hard but we will make it through because we americans. we are a great nation.
greatest nation ever existed and great nations are not paralyzed by sickness. do.ther, we have a job to and it's a job to make sure this never happens again and it's a ob that congress must be convened to do. after 9/11, we had to make major policy changes in this country. a similar challenge. we must make the kinds of that we know are necessary because of the vulnerabilities that this has exposed. e cannot be reliant on the chinese communist party for our pharmaceuticals. we cannot be in position where blackmail us. this is an issue that we discussed for a long time. but the moment that the chinese suggested they would withhold medications that the united states might need in fight o counter and covid-19, the world changed.
we must take action and we must take action now to ensure that we are not held hostage and to ensure that we are not blackmailed. taking action as a government requires that the people's house functions. for us as the representatives of the people in our government, the most direct representatives of the people, not to have been here, not to have been functioning, not to have been called into session for weeks and weeks now is simply unacceptable. so we call on the speaker of the house to work in a bipartisan fashion and a bipartisan fashion, i would just point out, doesn't mean just consulting with our leader, kevin mccarthy. it means getting the concurrence of the minority leader. getting the concurrence of the republicans for any changes they want to make. but we must make changes. we must recognize that we have to be able to function, we have to be able to deliberate. we have to recognize the new environment in which we are operating. and i am confident that we will be able to do that.
i am confident that we will finally be able to pass this p.p.p. program. the program that's been delayed now unnecessarily for so long, a program on which there's no disagreement about the importance of this program. but we've watched the blocks by the democrats and we've watched the delays and it's now time to stop. it's time to pass this program that's going to provide the kinds of support and assistance the people of this country need. so with that, i'm going turn things over to our whip, steve scalise. mr. scalise: thank you, liz. it's really important that we are back here in congress, back doing the people's work. as millions of americans at home are sheltering, they're homeschooling, as my wife is doing with our two kids right now, as they're wondering whether or not their job is going to be around when this is over, millions of americans, over 20 million americans, don't have a job right now because they're unemployed.
it's important that congress is here working to get through these issues, to work with the president, to confront this virus, this hidden enemy that we're all facing, but also looking with an eye towards the future. how we're going to reopen this economy in a safer, smarter way. nobody suggests there's a false choice between economic health and personal health. we have to do both. we absolutely can do both. when we start opening the economy up again, i'm proud that my governor, i worked with him, we met last week and talked about reopening issues. and next week in louisiana, elective surgeries will start again. and just think about this. while people have been home, while people have been trying to bend the curve down and clearly we're starting to see the curve down -- come down in so many areas, we also know that people have been foregoing those critical tests, the life-saving tests. mammograms, colonoscopies.
so many other procedures that people would normally be doing to protect their own health that aren't happening right now. we're unfortunately seeing suicides up, mental health problems that are starting to overwhelm mental health officials. so there is another cost to this virus. because people are losing so much. losing their jobs. losing their businesses. losing their old way of life. there's a cost to that too. and so we need to weigh all of that as we look toward opening the economy up again in a safer, smarter way. while we also confront how the health community is catching up with this disease. i'm encouraged every day when i hear breakthroughs. drugs that were used effectively for things like lupus or malaria that are now proving effective for some people, not all, but some people, with covid-19. there are more breakthroughs like that in the pipeline that we hear about every day. testing that's being done that shows real encouragement. to see the brilliance of our
medical community in the united states that shows you just the power and the magnitude of what we are capable of doing when we put the resources of the united states government behind an initiative. i think you've seen the country come together like no time we've seen in generations, to confront this hidden enemy. i applaud president trump in what he's been doing, to lead this effort, to give guidance through c.d.c. to the states so that the states can make the best decisions. where ultimately those decisions are being made. but every day the president goes to work in the white house, the president has cabinet secretaries coming through. the president has had people who have survived covid-19, who have tested positive, had covid-19, have now recovered, that have been over to the white house. and yet you see the house of representatives, the people's house, shut down. you saw an effort yesterday by nancy pelosi in secret at 2:30 in the morning to drop a document to literally change the way congress has voted for over 200 years. to go to some proxy system that
had never been vetted, was not a bipartisan effort, she didn't even work through with our leader, kevin mccarthy, to try to come up with a way to allow members to talk about changing the way we vote, to have some remote process. none of that was done. they literally dropped a bill at dark of night to try to allow one person, theoretically, to have the proxy of dozens of members of congress. that's not who we are. we strongly urged against it. we whipped against it yesterday. and i'm glad that speaker pelosi pulled that bad idea today. we've got to work together through these challenges. i think it's so important that congress renew the p.p.p. program. this paycheck protection program has been a life line to small businesses all across this country. treasury secretary mnuchin just said that we've saved over 30 million jobs with that first tranche of p.p.p. funding. it was so successful it ran out of money last week. we predicted that it would and
we were calling on speaker pelosi for weeks, not to wait until the midnight hour, but to renew that program before it expired. so that those small businesses would still have the life line. and more importantly, the tens of millions of workers that are represented by those small businesses. because at least 75% of the money has to be spent on workers. the men and women doing these important jobs to make our with what was the hottest economy in the world and what will again be the hottest economy in the world. we will get back to a strong, healthy economy. president trump will lead that effort but this program needed to be renewed. have expired. for whatever reason, i know speaker pelosi and some of her allies were using this as leverage. they used that term. they said it's leverage to try to get other things. this isn't the time to be playing political games. this should have been done weeks ago. these millions of families who are wondering whether or not they're going to have a job to go back to, should not be left in limbo. we'd set up a portal
republicanwhip.gov/ppp where over 400 small businesses across the country have now signed up and told us, shared their stories with us, just what the p.p.p. would mean to them that were denied the ability to get that funding. they talked about, in many case, family-owned businesses that were about to go under and some that are unfortunately going bankrupt today. that are laying off millions of people this week that wouldn't have laid them off if that funding was in place today. so while it's so good that we're going to be renewing this program tomorrow and putting that additional injection of hundreds of billions of dollars into the program, the week long that we went without it happening because the speaker decided to play games cost millions of people their jobs. let's not let that happen again. let's continue to work together to achieve what is so important for so many families. and that is economic security with health security at the same time. i've talked to health experts from all around the country, i've talked to some of the biggest hospitals in new orleans
who are doing such an heroic job with those men and women in the hospitals, the doctors and nurses and all the other professionals that are taking care of people in new orleans and so many other cities. as they're confronting this challenge. they said there are smarter ways that we can go back to our economy that we had before, where businesses can open up again. recognizing that there's still going to be social distancing. recognizing that we're going to take bigger precautions. maybe they're going to have a thermometer where they check your temperature before you go into a building. before you go into a work establishment. and make sure that if somebody's got a high temperature, over 100 degrees, you go and test them. there are a lot of other things that you can do to get this economy going again. but we need to get it done soon and i applaud what the president has done to confront this and i'll just finish up on this. we see great stories every day of what people are doing heroically. getting creative to try to find cures, getting creative to try to bring some of that supply chain that liz talked about back from china so that we don't have
to rely on china for our p.p.e. we can focus on holding china accountable for what they did to hide from the entire world. what was going on with covid-19 when it started in wuhan. at the pete ime, maravich center on the campus of l.s.u., literal ly right across the street from tiger stadium where i lived in tiger stadium, the assembly center where shaquille o'neal played basketball when i was a student, is now a manufacturing facility where they're making p.p.e. they're making gowns and masks for hospital workers in that same building, the pete maravich assembly center, where shaquille o'neal played basketball when i was a student. so everybody's pulling together. everybody's getting creative. and doing more things to allow us to rebound from this hidden enemy. but in the meantime, the house ought to be doing the people's work as well. speaker pelosi shouldn't be trying to push people away or try to be holding everybody's vote as a proxy so she can run everything as a dictatorship. that's not what this great
democracy is all about. and leading this effort, who has been at the forefront of pulling our members together, coming up with creative ideas to confront all of these challenges we face, is our leader, kevin mccarthy. mr. mccarthy: thank you for joining us. for every american on the front line, for those in the hospital, from the doctors, to the nurses, from those who are making the gowns, the masks, those who are restocking our shelves, from the truck drivers to the farmers, we want to say thank you. a sincere thank you. for being for our country as we go through this. when we combat the virus from a distant land that we did not invite and we did not want, we will defeat it together and united. for the family members who have fought and for those who lost a loved one when you couldn't be near them, you're in our prayers. but this is a commitment we make to you.
that we will not stop working. until we defeat this virus. and to do so, congress needs to act. i did not think it would take this long to continue to put more money in for small business. a program that in 14 short days was able to get out the equivalent of what the small business association -- administration was able to do in 14 years. but it's a critical time and that's why we have to work together. for every american that sacrifices, thank you. for the companies and the small businesses, more than 1.6 million were able to get resources. to pay the workers even if they're not there, their rent and utilities. to keep your doors able to be open, even though that you cannot work right now. for those 700,000 applications that are sitting in, i'm sorry that congress could not act as we wanted to two weeks before. so we never would have had a shutdown.
for those who got laid off last week because congress would not act, that's unbecoming. that is not the action. we are better than that as a congress. we asked for this money two weeks ago. it never should have stopped. we shouldn't have to be where we are today. i had a long conversation with the speaker today. she's postponed the proxy vote. anything we do inside dealing covid i think should be bipartisan. i've had many conversations with our majority leader, steny hoyer, on our ideas and ways we can open back up looking at committees and others. i sent a letter to the speaker yesterday with some of those ideas. in our conversation, i felt it was very productive. that we could start looking at that. congress is essential. the american public needs to see that we're working. the american public has to understand that we can do it in a safe manner, so states and others could begin to open as well.
we will defeat this virus. but we will only do it together. congress on both sides of the aisle should make a pledge to stop any more political games at holding up resources that are needed for small business and others. when we look at the money that had already gone out, more than 74% of it went to small businesses that had less than $60,000 in payroll a month. more than 60% of it was given out by small banks with less than $10 billion in assets. in my own home, i got a call and a text. we have a private ambulance company. she called because she was almost in tears saying that she was about to lay off individuals. this is a family business that's for years never had to do that. she was so fearful that she was afraid that a 911 call would come in and there would not be a paramedic to go. but she said because of this program, they will not.
i had other calls from small businesses who said those they laid off, they're making a phone call right now to call them back in. that they will get paid. that's what the program's used for. if there's anybody out there that misuses this program, that takes advantage of a situation, that quickly we want to get money in and it was not intended for you, we will find you. give the money back. i don't even care if it's less than 1%. that's 1% too much. you will not want the reputation that you will soon get if you take advantage. now is the time for all americans to come together. for those who do not need it, do not take it. for those who do, we want it to be there for you. because we want to work together to solve this problem. with that, let me take questions and then we have a phone here as well. i think you hit star 1 and you can -- question. yes. reporter: i have two questions.
[indiscernible] mr. mccarthy: i had a conversation with the speaker uk today. i told her, i think this is very redundant. for this reason. inside the cares act we wanted to make sure about accountability. so we created three new entities to oversee the money going out. one that is done with inspectors general. they will pick among themselves to look after it. another is a presidential appointment confirmed by the senate for five years, provided more than $25 million for that. then a third one on top of that is a congressional oversight. where i appointed french hill, she appointed congresswoman donna shalala, both of them are, i believe, very good appointments. ongresswoman shalala was a former h.h.s. secretary.
french hill is a former -- worked in the treasury. small bills. owned a bank. you're not going to get anything past french. collaboratively i think that is a very good working arrangement. in talking to the speaker, what this committee was designed to do, i don't see the use. we have an oversight committee. every single committee has oversight. i want them all working and the committees coming back together. the speaker tried to commit to me that this would be a bipartisan committee. i told her, i don't view it that way. i view it more as a political one. i don't see a lot of members voting for it on our side. and told her i would wait before i would appoint anybody to it, to see who she appoints to it. if she is serious about making this a committee that works. but again, we've already put in three oversight committees beyond the oversight committee we have in congress, plus every single committee in congress has an oversight committee and i expect to all work together with that. yes. reporter: [indiscernible]
mr. mccarthy: i think we should have contact tracing. but the problem here with the governor of michigan, she went against all norms. she literally gave it to a political consultant that she buys data from. she quickly pulled it back when sunlight was brought to that. this is what we're talking about. stop playing politics in a time of coronavirus. i tell you, the american families do not expect this, nor do they want this. they are battling with something we have not seen before and for someone to play politics with this and bring politics into it is completely wrong.
that's why when it was brought to the attention of the american public, she had to pull it back. you need to be smarter about this, you need to have guidelines. yeah? reporter: leader mcconnell said [indiscernible] mr. mccarthy: the first place you'd want to do about that -- think about how much we have passed already. this is almost -- this is over a $400 billion bill. the one before was more than $2 trillion. we should have that all implemented and working before we look to pass something else. let's see what the data what we need. in doing so, that was why my letter was to the speaker. that was the conversations that the majority leader and i, steny hoyer, have had for many times. how could we operate the capitol states.ook at the they're not all opening up at once but if phases. we could have committees, and
committees do the critical work. and that's what needs to come back. you could have committees working today and inside -- inside the letter i asked that. committee size, we could put you in the auditorium. we could use the ways and means committee so we have social distancing just as we are in this press conference. we could have social distancing, we can work in public and work through that. while congress is not voting. work the committee process. and then when the bill comes forth, you can bring them in. tomorrow we're going to give you an example of that. it will be nine different sections of members to come vote with a time slot. so you'd come in certain doors and out the others. the ninth section is one if you miss the vote. the others will be alphabetical and you're given a time slot to come. this nation has been through so much, we have overcome every obstacle and we will in this one as well. the last thing we would want is congress to stay home and not act. the nation needs us to and we can do it in a safe manner. and that may mean just bringing
certain committees back and working until we get to the point of a bill. reporter: as a follow-up, this proxy vote, voting bill has been taken kind of off the table. why do you think it's important that proxy voting -- [indiscernible] why did you not it? mr. mccarthy: the part i did not want to see was it change more than 200 years of history. just by one party. what i committed to the speaker was, let's study in this in a -- study this in a bipartisan manner because things are different. after 9/11 they took four years thinking of pandemics as well. we've been through war and others and this body has still been able to meet. whatever we do when it comes to voting and others should be bipartisan. and i made a commitment to her that we would be able to look at that and get to that point. just as the commitment i made to her that let's start planning for the opening. i've had discussions with the majority leader.
let's put a small group together and let's put that formation going so committees can work. i'm not saying what will come out on the other end. but we should look at all ideas. i think you have congressman mcgovern and tom cole on rules. zoe lofgren and rodney davis were my ideas. put those four together. house administration that deals with a lot of this and the rules committee. and let's look at all the options. had that bill passed through, it would be on a simple bipartisan basis. you would have one member of congress that could hold as many proxies as they wanted to. we do a census every 10 years. e divides districts based on population. and then our constituents lend us their voice for two years. they don't lend the voice to another member of congress. would you want one member of congress to have 30 votes or more? that's why it needs to be thought out.
what is the best way to deal with this? and also, there should be a sunset. if this is only about coronavirus, then only make it that time period. hopefully we are over the peak of this and we can get back to performing in a normal manner. it wouldn't be all at once. but we could put stages and you have to plan for that and start acting for that. and i don't think coming back and just politically moving a proxy bill that empowers -- [indiscernible] is right for america. i don't know. is this on speaker? the phone? does somebody have a question? did you clean this phone? can i touch it? is it all right? i've been tested today so i'm fine. is there a question? hello? >> from the phone line we have paul cane. mr. mccarthy: ok, paul, go ahead. reporter: "the washington post" here. hope this is coming through clear.
mr. mccarthy: it is. reporter: can you give us a sense of what type of safety measures, in terms of how many people can you -- can come back and how many -- just bringing all of the members of congress back means you'll have to exponentially increase the number of police that are there guarding the capitol. you know, and also the travel. you're -- how much travel are you talking about back and forth? mario diaz-balart told me the last thing he wants is to have members traveling back and forth [indiscernible] bringing the virus with them. mr. mccarthy: paul, that's a great question. let me restate it so the others could hear it. bringing everybody back, what's the planning? the last thing that could possibly happen is not to plan for this. i do not envision and i am not a scientist, i am not a doctor, but the one thing i do know is congress can still act by -- in a safe manner working with them. i would not envision bringing
all of congress back at once. you can bring committees back. i would not open up congress to the public right now. but if the committees were to act, i would measure it based upon the committee room. they do not need to use the committee room they currently are. we could put you in the auditorium, space you out. so we would be in a safe manner. it would be only those members and they could work in a committee fashion. when the bill was passed, and it needed to be passed on the floor, just as we're going to vote tomorrow, we'll do it in a different manner, you'd only have so many members on t floor to vote during that time period. i would not bring your staff back and when it came time to phase in staff, i would limit it based upon the size of your office. our offices are pretty similar. in cannon, just rayburn, i would do a staging of which staff could be in there at that time. we can get this done. you raise a lot of obstacles but there are a lot of answers for it. the only answer that i believe
is not acceptable is for congress not -- to do nothing. let's plan for, it let's find a way to deal with it and we can. we have a lot of big buildings here that everybody doesn't have to be filled in. but that gives you a lot of space to be able to have committee hearings. yes? [indiscernible] house schedule looks like for the rest year, august, most of october out? mr. mccarthy: i'm not the majority leader so i don't get to do the schedule but i've had many discussions with steny hoyer about. this he called me even before he put out for the may 4. he also raised this issue. it's a right issue. not knowing if that's the date we'd come back. but there are weeks coming up where there were district work periods. one happened to be in july when the democrats were going to do their convention. one of the issues he raised with me, now we're not doing our convention, we have been gone, we may use that to be working back here. there may be time in august that we need to be working back here.
he doesn't have it solidified yet but he raised that issue with me. i told him that i agreed with that. that we should look at it and it would be a modified calendar. i don't get to do the calendar, but those are the discussions i've had with him. is there another question, operator? you better hurry. it's low battery. >> please state your outlet. reporter: "wall street journal"" looking ahead to future legislation, would house republicans be open to more funding for voting by mail if it did not include any policy mandate for states? mr. mccarthy: say that one more time. i'm sorry. reporter: in upcoming bills, would you be open to more funding for voting by mail in november elections if it does not include any policy mandates? states? so just money. mr. mccarthy: the question right now is, would we be open to funding money when it comes to elections in november.
that's something people can look at. by mail. what i am most interested in right now is anything dealing with coronavirus. so i'm dealing with how do we solve this problem, how do we provide more testing, look at the antibodies, making sure we're getting a vaccine. and others. the november election is the november election. that's something we can discuss later. but i'm not interested in holding up money to small businesses for the idea about an election in the future. but i'm not saying that i wouldn't look at anything, but i'm just saying, we need to prioritize and right now there are other crises than a november election. sorry. reporter: the reason this has come up in part is because there are examples of people who contracted the virus when they went to vote in person in wisconsin. so i think there's a safety concern that the existence of the virus could inhibit people's ability to go to the polls. mr. mccarthy: you're right. inside california, each state is
different. states make up how the process they are to vote. in california we have a very liberal view when it comes to absenteeing ballots. i vote by absentee. i would think there have to be safeguards around it, how you register. a e heard others have conversation how they were trying to work how the you'd sign up if here are any test to know that that individual -- accountability -- that that is the individual signing it. there is fraud involved that we have found from the "l.a. times" and others. so you'd want to make sure that you have safeguards in for anything you deal with the election. but in my point, what i think, is this is -- just as we leave it up to the governors of when they're going to open up their state, governors are ones who -- and state legislatures decide on how the election process works. i would hate to federalize any elections. any other questions? the phone is on low battery. if there's no other one, i want to thank you for coming out today and look forward to