Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's Live with Stephanie Ruhle
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC Live to discuss the passage of House Democrats’ updated Heroes Act and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Stephanie Ruhle. We need to take a turn and bring in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Madam Speaker, I can only imagine what a busy morning you're having. Thank you for joining us. I want to start with your reaction to the news that the President and the First Lady have tested positive for coronavirus.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, of course as with everyone, we all received that news with great sadness. I always pray for the President’s family that they're safe. I continue to do so more intensified, and I know that he’ll have the best of care, and that’s what we want for everyone in our country.
I hope this will be a moment where people understand that what we have in our Heroes bill and have had in our conversations over and over is we must have testing, tracing, treatment. We must have spatial distancing. We must be wearing our masks. We must have sanitation because it can help crush the virus and stop the spread. So, maybe now that people who see the President of the United States with all the protection that he has and the First Lady still having this exposure, it might be, as you say, a learning experience. But more than learning it has to be something that is acted upon.
This is tragic. It’s very sad, but it also is something that, again, going into crowds unmasked and all the rest was sort of a brazen invitation for something like this to happen. Sad that it did, but nonetheless, hopeful that it will be a transition to a saner approach to what this virus is all about.
Stephanie Ruhle. I want to talk about the Heroes bill in the moment, but this is a very serious health threat. You are second in line for the presidency. Has the White House contacted you about the continuity of government?
Speaker Pelosi. No, they haven’t, but that is an ongoing – not with the White House but with the military quite frankly in terms of the – or some officials in the government. But that – no, let us just all pray for the President’s health. Thank God the Vice President has tested negatively and the Second Lady as well.
So, again, that continuity of government is always in place. I always say it’s a relic of the past, but nonetheless they say we have our job we have to do and this is what we’ll do. So, I wouldn't go so much to that, but I do – I do think that it’s really important for people to know that every infection is a sad one. The President of the United States, of course, but every single one. Now, we’ve gone over such a high number in our country of infections. Every one of them a sad occasion.
Over 200 and what, 209,000 deaths. A tragedy beyond even comprehension one year ago and still more to come, but maybe this will be the moment where people will say okay, mask, distance, sanitation, tracing, treatment, and also recognizing that many people in the minority community, people of color disproportionately affected by this. People in the Native American community very, very disproportionately affected by this. So, let’s understand the diagnosis that our country has had at the highest level and recognize that every life, every diagnosis is important to us and the health needs –
Stephanie Ruhle. Dr. Zeke Emanuel –
Speaker Pelosi. – you know, having the treatment is very important. We’re glad the President has it. We want it for everyone. That’s in our bill.
Stephanie Ruhle. Dr. Zeke Emanuel just said one of his concerns is that it could have been a super-spreader event given the amount of people who were in contact with one another this week. Have you been tested this morning, and is there a contact tracing plan for other Members of Congress?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, out of abundance of caution I was tested this morning. My only communication with the White House has been with Secretary Mnuchin and he tested negative this morning. I think that’s in – I know it’s in the public domain. I wouldn’t be saying it if it weren’t, but he informed me earlier this morning that he was. And prior to his meetings he has said, ‘I have been tested because I am in touch with the President. We’re all tested.’
So, that – you know, that was good for me as well. However, out of abundance of caution I was tested. I don’t have the result yet, but hopefully soon. I have concern about the test, because obviously the tests that are happening at the White House are not as accurate as they should be. And that’s a discussion that we have to have especially when it has led to exposure of the President of the United States that should have been – that should have been avoided. And yes, the Office of the Capitol Physician does have a follow up tracing plan in the Capitol of the United States. It’s in touch with the District of Columbia – in touch with the District of Columbia because we fall under their auspices.
Stephanie Ruhle. I want to go back and talk about how you're looking to help the American people. In the House, you passed a $2 trillion COVID relief bill last night.
Speaker Pelosi. Right, right.
Stephanie Ruhle. But eighteen Democrats still voted against it. One of the biggest sticking points has been state and local funding. You’ve got $436 billion in there for state and local. Can you help us understand where that money would go, and is that a place where you could compromise? We know they need the money, but for a lot of people that’s a huge number.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that’s half of what we did. We had $915 billion based on the needs, and it’s called the Heroes Act because that’s what it’s about, our heroes, our healthcare workers, our first responders, police and fire. It is about our food workers, transportation, sanitation, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, many of whom are losing their jobs now in terms of our teachers. So, it is there so that they – without them we could not even function.
And so, what we’re saying is we do not want them to risk their lives to save other lives and risk losing their jobs in the meantime and then have to go on Unemployment Insurance. What is the good of that? So, we’re in our negotiations. Most of the people who voted against the bill voted against the original Heroes Act, and then on top of that said we want to vote for a bipartisan bill. Well, we will have a bipartisan bill. That’s our goal to have, but I thought it was really important, and I thank you for your question for the American people to know it’s about honoring our heroes. Not honoring them by having a cutout of them at a football game and saying, ‘We’re honoring our heroes by having a cutout.’ That’s a good thing, a recognition, but the honor is to help them keep their jobs, and then – which help keep us functioning.
Secondly, it is to crush the virus. Now, I think we’re coming to terms in terms of the money on crushing the virus finally, but it’s the language that is important. And that’s, as I said before, some of our – we’re continuing to make sure that they agreed to the language for a strategic plan, which they have – we’ve had money for testing all along but they haven’t implemented it. And you can see they haven’t even given a good example of what should be done. Frank Pallone, the Chair of Energy and Commerce, has a strategic plan in there that we have to do. And now, I think on that we are coming to terms and then putting money in people’s pockets.
Some of these people were supporting legislation, and I love the vitality of my Caucus and I support every idea that people bring forward. I welcome it, but the fact is very important to the overwhelming majority of our Caucus is how we meet the needs of a family of four making $20,000 a year. It’s about –
Stephanie Ruhle. Ma’am –
Speaker Pelosi. But – and that is – that is not in the –
Stephanie Ruhle. There’s also –
Speaker Pelosi. – that is not in the Republican plan or any of the bipartisan plans, and that is very important to us whether it’s Earned Income Tax Credit, whether it’s a Child Tax Credit, refundable. We can – we don’t have to take – people said, ‘Take a half a loaf.’ Well, we don’t have to take a heel of the bread for our children, and I think that we can get there, and the state and local is very important. We’ll see what other assistance we have within the bill for our workers, and that will – that’s what a negotiation is.
Stephanie Ruhle. Absolutely, and certainly our heroes, our American families don’t deserve a heel, but you tried to get the Heroes Act passed months ago and it didn’t happen. If Republicans in the Senate don’t sign off on this, they won’t be getting anything. Is there a specific area where you can give a little?
Speaker Pelosi. I’m not going to negotiate, with all the respect in the world for you, I’m not going to be negotiating that here. I’m very concerned about the jobs report. That has an impact on many of these same families. I’m very concerned that these families in some of those bills didn’t have very much for rental assistance, food assistance.
There are many ways to help people and there are many ways to ignore their needs. And the Republicans on the Senate side have found a way to ignore their needs. They’ve pressed the pause button. They said the states should go bankrupt.
The President has said, ‘I’m not doing state and local, because it’s mostly blue states that had the bigger needs.’ So, we don’t want them to politicize this. We want it to be where we address the outlay of funds for the coronavirus and their loss of revenue, and this is stimulus. All that I mentioned is stimulus, and as you know, the CARES bill was helpful the way we negotiated it to be a worker – more worker-oriented than trickle-down than the Republicans originally proposed. A very important part of the strength of our economy, this bill will be too.
But again, we're not just taking the path of least resistance because everybody says, ‘Just take something, something is better than nothing.’ No, something could be a missed opportunity. And again, I’m very unhappy it took them four and a half months to finally say, ‘Okay, we have to do something.’ Now, let's have our negotiation. We'll get something done. And I, again, some of our Members, they are never going to vote for any of it, and I respect that.
Stephanie Ruhle. But could this be a moment where maybe Republicans take a different position? The President testing positive is a very scary wake-up call, especially for those who thought that COVID was behind us. Have you heard from any Republicans this morning who are now more willing to come to the negotiating table, realizing that maybe they need to do more in their home states in order to protect people? As you said earlier, if the President that has the best protections out there can contract this, what does it mean for the rest of the country?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the Republicans – I’m negotiating with the Administration and if we come to terms, I believe that the Republicans – and they communicate with the Republicans in the House and in the Senate. But, no, I haven't heard from any of them. They basically, in most cases, mimic what the President says about masks, about distancing and the rest, which is most unfortunate.
That's why we had to institute rules in the Chamber in terms of mask wearing being required. If you don't have a mask, you can't come in. You don't have a mask, we have one for you. And then the distancing. That's hard, the distancing, because people are trying to communicate about legislation and the rest. But I do think that the President – the situation with the President then makes it clearer that everybody has to keep their distance on both sides. On both sides of the aisle.
But it is – let us, you know, forgetting disagreements. Let's be thinking in a positive way about how we go forward because people – this is a serious, can be a serious diagnosis. Hopefully, this won't be so serious for the President, but by dint of age – he's younger than I am, so I can say that – and, shall we say, other considerations, I’m glad that he will have the best possible care.
And I hope that we can, in our legislation, make sure that that's available for everyone in our country because none of us is safe until we are sure that everybody is safe. So we're not going to –
Stephanie Ruhle. As it relates to this –
Stephanie Ruhle. As it relates to this legislation, you're not saying it's my way or the highway.
Speaker Pelosi. No.
Stephanie Ruhle. You've been negotiating. You've been meeting with Steve Mnuchin all week long. How confident are you that something will pass and what's the timing, in your opinion?
Speaker Pelosi. You said it very clearly, as you usually do. This kind of changes the dynamic because here they see the reality of what we have been saying all along. This is a vicious virus, and it spreads – as the President has known from the start but, as we have, has been revealed – it's airborne. It's not just about my touching an arm thing on a plane. It's airborne, and that makes it more dangerous.
So, it is – I’m optimistic. I’m always optimistic. We always have to find a path. That is our responsibility to do so. And I believe that we will. But understand that you talk about people suffering, they really are. If you've lost your job and lost your health care and you're food insecure and you’re on the verge of eviction, Mitch McConnell pushing the ‘pause’ button and saying states should go bankrupt and 25 Members, 20 to 25 Members of the Senate saying I’m not spending one more dollar on this. Well, we can't go as slow as the slowest ship in the Senate.
This is a bandwagon. It's not a convoy. We have to get together on it, find our areas of agreement and enforce it. And the language has to be followed. It's not just about the money. It's about this strategic thinking to go into it.
This is a horrible thing that's happened to our country, affecting the health and well-being of the American people: our lives, our livelihood and the life of our democracy, as a matter of fact. And that's part of our differences in this legislation, too, in terms of what it means to our elections and how we support the integrity of our elections and the good health of people to be able to choose to vote without risking their health.
So, there is – again, I don't ever put anything out as a deal breaker, but I do want to weigh the equities involved and not just say, ‘Why don't we just –’ They didn't even have a bill until recently. You know, we’re talking about four and a half months ago and now, ‘Why don't you just do their bill? Why don't you just do that bill?’ Really? Well, we didn't just do – it's a negotiation.
And again, we don't have shared values. Make sure you understand that. We don't have shared values. We have to fight for poor children. We have to fight for food. We have to fight for funding for rental. We have to fight for our heroes, so they don't lose their jobs as they try to save lives. We have to fight to crush the virus. That's why we haven't had a bill so far.
And, again, I came down a trillion dollars and then another $200 billion. Not that we eliminated priorities, but we changed the time table for how long that would last. And then we took some things out and put them in the appropriations bill because that's imminent now, too. It's so late that that's imminent, that we have to come to terms once again to keep government open.
I’m very pleased with their bipartisan legislation to keep government open that passed the Senate on Wednesday night. The President signed it Thursday morning. So then some of the benefits that we got in there for food and the rest could flow as well as the government continue.
But now we have to have the bill that takes us forward, the fuller bill. Not the Continuing Resolution. And Nita Lowey, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, has been a wonderful leader in that regard putting forth priorities. I’m an appropriator. That’s – the places I was forged in the Congress: the Intelligence Committee and Appropriations Committee. In those days, we worked in a bipartisan way and I – left to their own devices, the appropriators can figure out some of what needs.
For example, some of the appropriations priorities, we cut it all the way back to $144 billion. It has like $32 billion for transportation. It has big items in there. We cut it down to $144 billion. They said they wanted to take out $44 billion more.
So, we're saying to them, ‘Where do you – what do you think is not important here? Or can we cut some of the priorities, give them a haircut?’ So, those are the kinds of – it's language, it's items, it's overall, but it is necessary. We want to have an agreement. And that's one of the reasons why I’ve said to people, ‘Don't give me this heel of a loaf of bread.’ We need something that does the job. And that small bill would never have the votes on the Democratic side, mind you. But, nonetheless, what the Republicans were proposing would never have the votes in the House. And that's not what is a negotiation and that's not what bipartisanship is.
We, as Democrats – maybe because I’m a woman, you expect me to, some people expect me to accept whatever they put out, but when I put something out, ‘Oh, it's so – it's so partisan.’ When they put it out, it's, ‘Why don't you take that?’ When we put it out, ‘It's so partisan.’ But, you know what? We'll find our middle ground. We're legislators. We'll get the job done.
And again, let's get back to hoping and praying that the President and the First Lady are well. Hope Hicks, as well, and any others who may have had that exposure.
But, also, understand that every family in America is as valuable as the First Family, and we want them to have the opportunity. And hopefully, hopefully this enlightenment will have them say: wear your mask, do your distancing, wash your hands, testing, tracing, treatment, so that we can crush this vicious virus. Not only in our own country but throughout the world.
Stephanie Ruhle. Absolutely. Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining us today. And as you mentioned the First Family, we just got word, Jared and Ivanka just were re-tested again, and they both tested negative. That is some good news.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, thank God. Thank God
Stephanie Ruhle. Thank you again, Madam Speaker.