Pelosi hammers Ross for ‘let them eat cake’ moment

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Republican proposes constitutional amendment to prevent Supreme Court expansion Business groups oppose Paycheck Fairness Act, citing concerns it could threaten bonuses and negotiating New US sanctions further chill Biden-Putin relations MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday went after Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossFormer Trump officials find tough job market On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE for questioning why some federal workers, thousands of whom have gone without pay during the partial government shutdown, were seeking help at food pantries.
“Is this the ‘Let them eat cake,’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money?’ Or ’This is character-building for you; it’s all going to end up very well — just as long as you don’t get your paychecks?’” Pelosi asked mockingly during a press briefing in the Capitol.
Earlier in the day, Ross challenged why some unpaid federal workers are pursuing charitable donations to feed their families during the spending impasse, now in its 34th day. Ross, who is reportedly worth roughly $700 million, suggested those workers take out loans — to be settled when they receive their guaranteed back pay after the government reopens — to weather any financial hardships in the meantime.
"I know they are [going to food pantries] and I don’t really quite understand why," Ross said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box.”
"So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it,” he added, referring to the second consecutive paycheck that affected federal workers are set to miss on Friday. “And we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that."
Around 800,000 federal workers have gone without pay during the shutdown, which began Dec. 22.
Pelosi’s “let them eat cake” comment was a reference to remarks attributed — possibly erroneously — to the French Queen Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. In the legendary telling, the queen made the dismissive response after hearing that starving peasants had no bread — and has since evolved as a catchphrase alluding to the inability of the wealthy to empathize with the working classes.
To drive the point home, Pelosi cited recent comments from the head of the Coast Guard, Adm. Karl Schultz, who said it’s “unacceptable” that service members “have to rely on food pantries and donations to get through day-to-day life.”
“That should be a call of action for this administration, to open up government,” Pelosi said. “Instead, what do they have? They have Wilbur Ross saying he doesn’t understand why … they have to do that.”