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

October 8, 2020
Press Release

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

David Westin.  We welcome now from Capitol Hill our special guest, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining us.  A lot is going on this morning, at least, according to the news. 

First of all, start with the most basic thing.  Is it true, in fact, that the Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, has now raised for you the possibility of a broader stimulus deal once again?

Speaker Pelosi.  I would not speak for him on what he may have suggested, but I will say I think we have a clear understanding that if we’re going to try to help the airlines, and we certainly want to do that, that it has to be in the context of a fuller bill.  They don’t have to happen at the same moment, but it has to be happening with the assurance that we will go beyond this assistance to the airlines. 

They have to crush the virus.  So, let's just be calm and try to normalize things.  Unless we crush the virus with testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, sanitation, ventilation, separation, we are not going to get a handle on this to be able to fully open our economy and our schools in our society.  That is what has been ignored by the Administration.  That is what we must insist upon in this package.  It has been in other bills, but they haven’t, they haven’t acted upon the resources in a way that science would demand, require.  So, that’s that.  

On the subject of the airlines, I have made the case to my colleagues that this is a special case because in order for airline employees to return to the workforce, there are national security concerns, there are concerns about certification and all the rest of that, not just somebody leaving a job and coming back to a job, but having to requalify could take a couple years for a pilot, six months for a flight attendant.  So, I do think that we should pay special attention to that. 

But they – we cannot do that and then lose all leverage to do everything else that we have to do in the bill, which is to crush the virus, honor our heroes, put money in the pockets of the American people.  And I do, you know, I have confidence that when we are having the conversations with the Secretary and we are exchanging paper, it is for a purpose. 

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, are you speaking to the Secretary directly?  Because there are reports that he raised with you the possibility of a broader stimulus deal even at this late stage.  Are you speaking with him directly?  Has he not said that to you?

Speaker Pelosi.  I had that inference to be drawn from our conversation, yes, and most recently, last evening – I don’t know what time in the day it was, late in the day yesterday.  We’re always hopeful that – I  never – when we’re at the table, I’ve said, ‘We are at the table.  We are not leaving the table.  This has to happen.’ 

But, again, it can’t happen unless – we are legislating.  That means we are writing words and we need to have their acceptance of the fact that we must crush the virus.  Now, if they have amendments to the words, well, show us what that is, but they have recognized they have not responded to that very important part of how we go forward. 

There is a national plan.  It is strategic, it is funded and it is what we must do according to what the scientists tell us is necessary to crush the virus.  It also has funding for vaccines, as well, which will be very important.  We hope and pray that we have one as soon as possible, not one day sooner than it is safe and efficacious, not one day later.  And hopefully that will be soon because that is an answer, but for that to happen people have to have trust it was done scientifically, not politically. 

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, in the past you said you don’t think that President Trump himself has to be in on the negotiations because you can work with Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin.  At this point, President Trump has changed his position quite a bit with tweeting out, ‘Let’s call off all the talks,’ then, ‘Maybe we should do some of it.’  Do you still have confidence, not in him as a person, the Secretary, but does he have the ability to speak for the President?  Because it is awfully hard, as you know, full well, to do a deal if the person you are dealing with does not have the authority to close it. 

Speaker Pelosi.  I believe he has the authority to do so.  The President is, shall we say, in an altered state right now, so I don’t know how to answer for his behavior.  It does not mean that we would not try to narrow the differences.  A lot of work has gone into it.  We would not have committed all of that time – well, time is everything.  It is life.  It is life.  We are trying to save lives.  We are not going to be enablers of more people dying because we walk away from the table.  We are there and I hope that they will be there.  And we have no alternative but to work with the Secretary.  He understands the challenges.  We have a difference in money, but the difference in language is also something that we can, I believe, we can resolve.  It will take compromise, but that is what a negotiation is about.  So, I have confidence in the Secretary.  I think the – I have confidence that the President does, too.  And I can’t answer for the President's behavior. 

David Westin.  You talked about the altered state of the President, as you call it, and you said, just a short time ago, that the public needs to know the health condition of the President.  Do you have questions about his capability to really serve in his office at this point?

Speaker Pelosi.  What I want to know is the trust that we have to place in the Executive branch at this time, the trust we have to place in a vaccine that may become available, that is if it is scientifically approved, the clinical trials as well as the advisory committee that must pass on all of this, and that it is not political.  So, I do not know the motivation of the White House is strictly based on science, I think they’ve demonstrated in this coronavirus, as well as climate change and any other issue, that they have contempt for science. 

But, what I said about the President was that we don’t know if somebody – I have not said this, I’ve quoted others to say there are those who say when you are on steroids and, or if you have COVID-19 or both, that there may be some impairment of judgment.  But, again, that is for the doctors and the scientists to determine. 

But it was very strange, very surprising – and I am rarely surprised – when the President took to a tweet and saying that he wants the Senate to have full focus on the confirmation of the Justice and turned attention away, and so we are stopping the negotiation.  He will do anything in his power to overturn the Affordable Care Act, to take away the pre-existing condition benefit and all the other benefits contained in the Affordable Care Act.  We know that.  But for him to stop the negotiations in order to make the confirmation as fast as possible, for someone to be there for the November 10th oral arguments in the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act at a time of a pandemic. 

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, I want to come back to something you mentioned, which is the special situation with the airline industry.  And as I understand, what you’re saying is: you do agree – it might be handled a little bit separately, but it has to be part of an overall deal.  That is to say, it doesn’t have to be one statute.  It doesn’t have to be one bill.  Is that what you’re saying?  So, it is possible to do something maybe a little more quickly for the airlines as long as you have agreement on the rest?

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me be clear, we want to help the airline workers.  The workers.  We want to help the airline workers.  There is legislation that we had in the CARES Act, which we hoped we could continue for another six months or so.  That expired the end of September.  We can do that separately, but we cannot do it unless there’s a big bill.  So, it can be part of a big bill or it could be separate from a big bill from a timing standpoint, but there won’t be anything unless we have: crush the virus, put money in the pockets of the American people. 

Our view, and this is what we are told over and over again, the fiscal soundness of the state and local government is important to the fiscal soundness of our economy.  We are a consumer economy.  Putting money in the pockets of the American workers, especially those unemployed, immediately is spent, it injects demand into the economy and creates jobs.  It is a stimulus. 

So, we have a big, tall order to do here.  But none of it can really thrive unless we crush the virus.  The President seems to be thinking, ‘Well, the vaccine will come along.’  That is still months away.  People will die, nearly 1,000 yesterday, 50,000 more infected.  We have a plan.  We have a plan.  Let's get it done. 

So, it’s not just about more money into the Oval Office for the President to have at his discretion with no commitment to the science.  I am always optimistic.  I see everything as an opportunity.  Maybe the President seeing the reaction to his walking away from the table is the opportunity that we have for them to come back to the table for us to get an agreement and the sooner the better. 

The President says he wants to wait until after he wins the election, from here to eternity.  Even if he were to win the election, it is still another month of people being infected, people dying.  Let’s get the job done now.  People's lives depend on it.  Our economy’s success depends on it.  Our children’s flourishing in schools depends upon it.  This is a tall order for us, and people say to me, ‘You’re not going to solve all of the world’s problems in one bill.’  I know that.  This is corona-centric.  That’s what it is.   

But we are not going to solidify disparities in communities of color, whether it’s at the education level, the outreach for the coronavirus or the services rendered by the state and local governments.  We are going to solidify those disparities.

We are going to do so in a way that is fair, and when we do the vaccine, which I hope is soon, we will do so with ethics and equity in how it is distributed so that nobody feels it was just there for those who are wealthy or live in a red state, but it’s there for all Americans.  And as I say that, again, prayerfully hoping that it will be soon, but also, based on science for its safety and its efficacy.  And I salute our scientists at F.D.A for what they are doing in that regard. 

David Westin.  Madam Secretary, you have been very clear, abundantly clear that the priority is to crush the virus, as you put it, and you need the broad stimulus to get that done.  Is it your impression or understanding that right now the priorities of the White House, of President of the United States and the White House are different from that, that he is more concerned right now with confirming Judge Barrett to be Justice Barrett then he is with crushing the virus?

Speaker Pelosi.  That is what he said yesterday.  That is what he said yesterday.  Not only that, that is what he has been saying for the past – this is not a priority for him, starting from the beginning when he said it was a hoax, it was magically going to disappear.  It was going to be a miracle.  

I think a miracle is science.  As a person of faith, I think that science is an answer to our prayers.  But there is nothing in the President's past behavior that indicates he has the respect for the recommendations that scientists have universally proposed to end the spread of the virus. 

David Westin.  Okay, thank you so much, Madam Speaker.  Appreciate your time as always. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you. 

David Westin.  That is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.