SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — With $3 trillion in potential pandemic aid in limbo despite record unemployment across much of the United States, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped Republicans on Wednesday for months of inaction and failing American workers.
“They’re begrudging people $600 while they’re giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country, burdening future generations with enormous debt,” said Pelosi. “That’s kind of the difference between the parties.”
Pelosi’s jabs come one day after she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer met with the Trump administration over the stalemate.
In a virtual talk with the Public Policy Institute of California on Wednesday, Pelosi said the Republican-led Senate has over the last three months casually “pressed pause” on federal relief intended for states and struggling essential workers. She claimed clearing the impasse with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t be more pressing, as over 70,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus since the Senate received the House’s deal.
“This is different from any negotiation ever; people are dying,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat. “So you see a difference in urgency here.”
To the applause of governors including California’s Gavin Newsom, the House approved the $3 trillion Heroes Act in May, which included $875 billion for state and local governments. The package also included relief for renters and homeowners as well as hazard pay for essential workers.
As many predicted, the Heroes Act has bogged down in the Senate with Republican leaders finally responding with a $1 trillion counterbid last week. A sticking point in negotiations has been the extension of a $600 weekly boost for unemployed workers.
Pelosi, who called the Republicans’ offer “piecemeal,” said talks would continue Wednesday afternoon and that she remains optimistic a deal will be made.
For nearly an hour, Pelosi and moderator Mark Baldassare ping-ponged between the pandemic, the November election and the House’s top remaining priorities.
Nearly six months since the coronavirus officially arrived in the U.S., Pelosi says the federal government’s response continues to fall short in terms of providing states with testing and medical equipment. She called the federal stockpile “lacking” and urged President Donald Trump to enact the Defense Production Act to speed up the production of personal protective equipment.
While California has confirmed the most cases of any state, she said the total is due to its large population. Unlike the federal government and other red states, Pelosi argued the state of 40 million has “managed [the pandemic] well” by adhering to scientists and public health experts.
“It’s two things that some of my colleagues have some difficulty with; science and governance will be our path,” said the House speaker.
The Maryland native comes from a prominent political family, as her father Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. served five terms in Congress and then as mayor of Baltimore from 1947 to 1959. Pelosi’s older brother Thomas D’Alesandro III followed the family model and served one term as Baltimore mayor in 1967.
After graduating from Trinity College in Washington, Pelosi left for the West Coast and was elected to Congress in 1987. Over the last 30 years, Pelosi has cemented a role as one of the most influential and dominating figures in the Democratic Party. Now 80, Pelosi is the highest-ranking female elected politician in U.S. history, currently serving her third term as the House’s leader.
With Election Day under three months away, Pelosi and other Democrats have begun pressuring the Trump administration to release what they claim is evidence of foreign election meddling. Pelosi, Schumer, California Representative. Adam Schiff and Virginia Senator Mark Warner have sent the intelligence agencies a letter requesting to “unleash” the info to voters.
“The American people should be deciding who our president is, not Vladimir Putin,” said Pelosi. “24-7 the Russians are active in our election, as they were in 2016; they really never stopped.”
Pelosi acknowledged social media remains a popular interference tool but hopes tech companies will be more vigilant this time around. She was adamant the election will go forward on Nov. 3 and called Trump’s tweet about a possible delay a “diversionary tactic.”
Though pandemic relief remains the House’s main focus, Pelosi said Democrats will continue their efforts in the coming months to bolster the Affordable Care Act, infrastructure funding and police reform.
Pelosi also commented on the death of 17-term Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who spent over 30 years in Congress. She last visited with Lewis on July 4 and said he lived a “saintly and remarkable” life.
As the chaos-filled year stretches into the fall, Pelosi capped the talk by saying the nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism inspire her and haven’t gone unnoticed by congressional leaders.
“Inside we can maneuver all we can, but the outside mobilization makes everything better. And that’s what gives me hope,” Pelosi said.