Transcript of Pelosi Interview on Bloomberg News' Balance of Power with David Westin

October 20, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined David Westin on Bloomberg News' Balance of Power to discuss COVID relief talks and other news of the day.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks: 

David Westin.  We welcome now the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to our radio and TV listeners in the United States and in the United Kingdom on cable.  Thank you so much for being with us, Madam Speaker. 

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.

David Westin.  So, today is the deadline.  You spoke to George Stephanopoulos over the weekend, said 48 hours.  That’s up today.  I understand you have a call scheduled with Secretary Mnuchin at three o’clock today, Eastern Time.  What are the prospects?  What do you need to hear on that call to move forward?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, first, let me welcome you to the Speaker's office.  I have behind me the great founder of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, who said, ‘Public sentiment is everything.  With it you can accomplish almost anything.  Without it, practically nothing.’

And I think the public sentiment is there for us to crush the virus.  That is our main goal in this legislation, so that we can open up our schools, open our economy safely.  There is no reason why our schools should not be the safest place for our children to be, and that our workplace should be a place where workers can feel safe to come without fear of catching something they bring home. 

So, I am optimistic because I do think we have a shared value, not many, but a shared value that, finally, they want to crush the virus.  And that has been a change from even over the weekend when they put forth language that wasn’t respectful of what we needed to do from the standpoint of science to crush the virus. 

We had to recognize the disproportionate spread of the virus in communities of color, where a child who is African American would be five times more likely to go to the hospital for COVID as a white child, or child who is Hispanic, eight times more likely.  So, now they have come back and returned that language that addresses the disparity issues, that is more scientific about testing, tracing, treatment, wearing your masks, separation, sanitation and the rest.  Because we can stop the spread.  As we – hopefully soon, the vaccine, we want it as soon as it is safe and efficacious.  Not one day later, but not one day sooner either.

David Westin.  So, Madam Speaker, from the beginning, you’ve said that is your number one priority, of crushing, as you say, this virus.  You’ve been steadfast in that.  Do you have language in front of you right now that is close enough that you think you can get to a deal, at least in principle, in one more phone call with the Secretary of the Treasury?

Speaker Pelosi.  On that score.  And they’ve come a long way on that, I have to admit.  So, this morning, today – let me just say what the Tuesday, the 48 hours was designed to do, for us to exchange all of the unresolved issues.  What is your best language, what is our best language and let’s see where we are.  Now, let’s weigh the equities.  We all want to get an agreement because people need it and it’s urgent, and our economy needs it. 

So, that’s what – hopefully by the end of the day today, we will know where we are.  We have one bump in the road with the Appropriations Committee, that – I’m not sure they’re going to be ready.  Let's hope that they are.  We are starting to write the bill, and then we can have that negotiation.  I am optimistic. 

It is – you know, legislation is tough because you are coming from two different perspectives on it.  But as long as we know that we want to keep the American people safe – that means that we have to support our state and local, our first responders, our health care providers, our teachers, et cetera; that we have to depend on science to crush the virus; and we want to put money into the pockets of the American people so that they can have some confidence and spend in our consumer economy to inject demand and create jobs. 

David Westin.  So, take us through the process, if you would.  You are in the room, we are not.  What sort of language do you need to be able to say, ‘Yes, we think this will work.’  I assume you don't need the entire bill to be written, that takes some time, but what do you need to have reduced to writing so you know that you have a meeting of the minds enough to say, ‘Yes, make this work?’

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we are – again, things have different weight.  But, as I said: honor our heroes, crush the virus, money in the pockets of.  And within those, we have to have more money for state and local, because those are the people who meet our needs.  They are getting fired, going on unemployment.  That doesn’t seem to make sense, so that is one place where we need more work. 

We have, still, some language that we have to deal with in terms of help, beyond the testing, tracing, treatment, masks, all of that, we have to have better language, improve the language on health care providers, as well as the vaccine.  And it is within range. 

And then, in terms of money in the pockets, we are still fighting for an Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, refundability for low-income families, working families in our country.  As you have seen the statistics over the weekend, 6-8 million more people will be – fall into poverty because of COVID.  And we need, we think we should be investing in them.  Economists tell us, ‘Help the neediest, they will spend first.’  So, it is the right thing to do from a compassion standpoint, but also from the economic standpoint.  And then, we just have some differences within there.

Now, one big – the two bookends of our differences right now, since you asked, one is state and local, and the other is liability.  And right now, by the time I speak to the Secretary at three o’clock, I think that we will have language countering what they have in the bill.  Because safety in the workplace for us is not an issue, it is not a provision in a bill, it is a value.  These families, many of them, essential workers, go to work.  If they don't, they don't get Unemployment Insurance, if they are concerned about going to work because they might catch the virus because the provisions haven’t taken place.  So, again, safety in the workplace, very important.  I’m hoping that we can come to terms on that.  So, there’s the two bookends.

In between, we have some differences.  Of course, they don't want to do anything for elections.  I’m very concerned about what they are doing on the Census.  It is so unconstitutional.  But, again, we may have to live to fight another day on that.  I don't know.  They have said they have no movement on the Census, which is in defiance of the Constitution of the United States, that every person should be counted.  The Supreme Court just ruled in favor of the President that he could stop counting people.  But the Congress could change that and that’s what we hope to do.

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, I would love it if you would want to negotiate this with me, but you’re not going to do that.  I recognize that.  But can you give me this sort of sense, when it comes to the liability, one of the bookends you described, is it binary?  That’s to say, is it all or nothing or can there be some wiggle room in between so there is some language the Republicans can accept, but it goes farther than what the current law is?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the – to understand the issue in this legislation, what Senator McConnell has in there is something that is not coronavirus centric.  It is for four years, it applies to all kinds of other things and it is not to the point.  So, that language should easily be changed.  You know, he is doing tort reform when we are trying to do safety in the workplace. 

Now, they have come to good language on OSHA, our safety provisions in the bill, but their overarching McConnell language negates those OSHA regulations.  So, we’re saying, if you believe that it does not negate it, write that into the language: nothing in this bill shall undermine the ability of OSHA.  That is a traditional thing that we do.  So, that’s one place.  Now, I do believe that if someone is honoring the OSHA provisions, having good working standards and the rest, that could be an admissible defense, should someone bring a case against them.  

You know, I think that there is a balance that can be struck, but it isn’t the McConnell language.  But we will have our language to them.  We’re working very hard to protect the workers but also be able to come to an agreement.

David Westin.  That is very helpful actually.  Thank you so much, Madam Speaker.  Give us some sense, at the end of the day, whenever that is, tonight or whenever it is, how will we learn whether we may have a deal or not?  I mean, I don't want to be sacrilegious; it’s not choosing a pope.  But what’s going to be the puff of smoke?  Will you tell us?  Will you announce to the world, ‘Yes, I think we may have a deal,’ or, ‘You know what, the deal is off?’

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say, it isn't that this was a day that we would have a deal.  It was a day where we would have our terms on the table to be able to go to the next step.  And, again, legislation takes a long time.  You have to have every provision.  You have to have the Congressional Budget Office score it, the legislative counsel to review it.  So these things take time.  It is not just sending a note.  It is legislation.  It is what I love to do.  I am a legislator.  They’re not necessarily legislators, so I am trying to impress upon them, if we want this by election day, and I think we can, we have to engineer back from there to this week.  

Now, if we have our terms on the table, they may not be in agreement, but at least there’s a decision to be made as to what is more or less important in light of weighing the equities to have an agreement.  And then, in the next day or so, I'm not sure they will be ready with their appropriations language.  I hope so, but so far it is a little bit behind for what we have heard from there. 

Now, I am an appropriator, and I think, left to their own devices, the appropriators, Democrats and Republicans, working together, can bring us to agreement.  I think the Secretary believes that.  I’m hoping that they are left to their own devices.  And so, again, as I say to everyone, you will not love everything in here; it is a negotiation.

David Westin.  It’s legislation, exactly.  Let's do exactly what you said.  Let’s go forward to Election Day and back time, as we say in the broadcasting business.  What do we have to do between here and there to get there?  Assuming that you do have the basic terms you’ve worked out and you’re working on, when do you have to have the language of a bill?  When do you have to call back your Members for a vote?  What does the next week or ten days look like?

Speaker Pelosi.  The final piece is the President signing the legislation.  For that to happen, it not only has to pass the House but it has to pass the Senate.  And you know we are getting mixed messages, sensing one thing, the President says he wants to spend more than I do.  As I’ve said before, it is not about the money, it’s how the money is spent.

We want a Child Tax Credit for the poorest kids in America.  They want to retain a tax – a net operating loss benefit for the wealthiest people in our country.  And we are saying, ‘How do we reconcile that?’  So, it’s not the price.

David Westin.  Which was in the CARES Act, right?  That was actually in the CARES Act?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes, it was in the CARES [Act], and we take it out, and they’re insisting on keeping it in.   So, as I say, it is not always just the price.  It’s the money and how it is spent.  So, that’s one that.

So, anyway, engineering back to have it for Election Day, I would think we need to have stimulus by the end of next week.  In order for that to do it, we’d have to have our legislation all written by the end of this week.  Then you have all of your procedural 72 hours review for the world to see and then it would come to the Floor and then the Senate has different procedures.  This is really to have it for Election Day.  Now, I’m not – a you know, we could still continue the negotiation.  It might not be finished by Election Day.  It might be finished by Election Day, but I wanted by next Friday.

See, I want it in time for people to pay their rent, November 1st, rent day.  Let's see if we cannot do that.  If that’s not possible, it doesn't mean that the virus should not still be crushed, that we shouldn't be putting money in the pockets of the American people, that we should not be honoring our heroes.  We should have a responsibility to continue the negotiations should we just not come to enough of an agreement, a reconciliation of our differences.  

But we are on a path.  We’re on a path.  You have to be optimistic.  As the Secretary and I say to each other, if we didn't believe we could get this done, why would we even be talking to each other?

David Westin.  It’s fiendishness, complicated and difficult and important.  And we are all very interested as you can tell. 

There is a third party in this negotiation, which is the Majority Leader, as you have referred to him two or three times now.  Are you confident that you can come to terms with the White House, with the Treasury Secretary and therefore presumably with the President, that the Republicans in the Senate will come along?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the President says they will.  The President has sent Secretary Mnuchin to – for this negotiation.  We have negotiated many packages, keeping government open on more than one occasion, negotiating appropriations and omnibus bills.  We have had four COVID, very bipartisan bills that we have negotiated.  

And people are say to me now, ‘Why would you give the President a victory by getting this done?’  And I say, ‘Well if there is collateral benefit for him, who cares?’  What we are concerned about is working families in our country.  Same as they said when we did, as I’ve said to you before, when we did the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement,

They sent us a terrible bill, disastrous for the environment, for American workers and the rest, but we improved the bill.  We negotiated, and people said, ‘Well, that gives a victory to the President.’  I said, ‘No, it gives a victory to America's workers.’  He is not that important that we would negate any opportunity, avoid an opportunity to help workers just because he would have collateral benefit.  Now he brags about it, but it has no resemblance to the bill that he put forward.

But nonetheless, okay, we negotiated.  And it’s the law.  I think it could be – not everyone is in agreement with me, but I think it could be a template for other trade agreements to be made easier by setting certain standards that we agree to in a bipartisan way.  

The same thing with this.  We cannot make matters worse.  People say, ‘Accept what they are saying.’   Well, that is not an agreement.  Accept what they’re saying?  But, again, we cannot make matters worse for families going into poverty, the raging coronavirus.  I don't know who was advising the President on testing and the rest, but finally, they came around to the fact that we had to do the testing.  So, that was a big improvement over the weekend.

David Westin.  Okay, Madam Speaker, will all be looking at this very carefully.  As you know, we are waiting for every word from your lips.  Thank you so much.  Always great to have you with us.  That’s the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.