March 10, 2020


WASHINGTON – This week, Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Vice Chair Katherine Clark (D-MA) held the House Democratic leadership’s weekly press conference, where they provided updates on the coronavirus and steps House Democrats are taking to keep Americans safe and the economy on the right track. They were joined by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), the Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), who worked as an emergency physician and on several public health emergencies, including the H1N1 outbreak.

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: We had an extensive caucus meeting earlier today that included presentations from the chief administrative officer, as well as the sergeant-at-arms, the chief doctor for the Capitol, as well as the chief of police. We also have discussed the outlines of the type of economic relief that we may need to provide to the American people as the coronavirus epidemic continues to take hold.  

One thing is clear, that the American people are the ones who will need the relief if Congress acts, not the millionaires, not the billionaires, not the multinational corporations, first and foremost, the American people. We need to put families first.  


VICE CHAIR CLARK: This week, House Democrats are focused on ensuring that American families have the information and the resources they need as they face this coronavirus public health crisis. Just last week, we invested $8.3 billion to ensure that our federal, state and local responses are coordinated and fully funded.

Thus far, however, the president has mounted a chaotic response to this outbreak and dangerously continues to contradict public health experts. We don't need tweets filled with misinformation. American families need the facts and basic resources to ensure they can protect and support their families. This includes paid sick leave, enhanced unemployment insurance, food security and affordable testing and treatment. This is what is at top of mind for Democrats in the House as we work to continue to understand the scope and impact of this crisis.

All of our policies work together, whether that is expanding health care, making sure there's paid family sick leave or working on making sure we are not treating our immigrant communities with bias and cruelty. This creates the infrastructure and stability that we need in times of upheaval. We cannot threaten our immigrant community and expect them to report a virus or seek medical care without being fearful.

We can't champion policies that only work for the wealthy and corporations, and not expect our economy to be bruised when moms and dads are unable to work.House Democrats understand this. That's why we're continuing to fight for policies that create opportunity and security for all Americans.


REP. BEYER: Thank you, Katherine, very much. The outbreak of the coronavirus is a public health crisis that has infected tens of thousands of people in the U.S. and abroad. […] These people, their families and everyone else that has been affected by the virus are very much in our thoughts. Our overwhelming concern is about public health.


Let's be clear. The most important thing President Trump can do to protect the economy would be to lead an effective response to the coronavirus outbreak. His performance on public health and what happens to the economy are deeply intertwined. That's why I'm so concerned. The White House has been discussing emergency measures, but so far, the president's economic efforts are considered a bluff, bluster and confusing the public health message. In a crisis as serious as this one, we need competent leadership.


Bottom line, if we want to protect public health, we want to protect the economy from the coronavirus and future outbreaks, we need to make sure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable health care and paid sick leave. We've been talking about this basically for years, and it's really unfortunate that it takes a crisis like this to finally get the attention of the White House.


REP. RUIZ: I'm Dr. Raul Ruiz. I represent California's 36th Congressional district. […] I'm trained in emergency medicine, public health and disaster aid. I worked in emergency departments during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. […] So I know what the health care workers, local, state agencies, patients and the American public need to know and how to prepare and respond to this crisis, which has touched every major continent and already cost thousands of lives. In order to meet their needs, our commitment needs resources. That's why last week, House Democrats took early and decisive action to protect the health of the American people by passing the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. The bipartisan, bicameral aid package provides $8.3 billion to address the coronavirus outbreak, including more than $3 billion for research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, $2.2 billion in public health funding for prevention, preparedness and response efforts. 


These funds will equip our communities and health care infrastructure with resources to help combat and prevent the spread of COVID-19. But in addition to the funding, America needs clear and consistent communication that educates and empowers people to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy. That's why we need to focus. We need to focus. And we need to act rapidly and aggressively to educate the American people. Working in post-earthquake Haiti and in other disaster situations, the most cost-effective way of saving lives in disasters is educating the people with public health education, because that empowers people to make better decisions that will help protect themselves and their families from getting and spreading the illness.


CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: So, let me get this straight. We have a coronavirus that has killed thousands of people throughout the world already. We have a stock market that is in complete free fall. We may be heading into a recession and Donald Trump wants to lecture us when he spent the weekend at his Florida golf resort? With everything happening in this country? He wasn’t in the situation room. He wasn’t in the White House. He wasn’t even in Washington, D.C. Donald Trump was at a Florida golf resort hanging out with the billionaire boys club in the midst of a global epidemic. So, we’re not going to be lectured by Donald Trump about leadership when he’s failed to show a scintilla of it in the midst of this whole crisis.


Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.