Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's Live with Craig Melvin
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Craig Melvin on MSNBC's Live to discuss the the resumption of COVID relief talks after the President’s decision to walk away and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Craig Melvin. Right now, in the middle of tense COVID relief negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is putting the presidential transfer of power process front and center on Capitol Hill. Just a few moments ago, the Speaker announced that she is reintroducing legislation that would create what's called a Commission on Presidential Capacity. That Congressional Commission would be involved in triggering presidential transfer of power procedures under the 25th Amendment.
I want to bring in the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, California, represents the area of San Francisco. Madam Speaker, thanks for your time, as always.
You said flat out, this legislation is not about President Trump. So why introduce it now?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it isn't about President Trump. It's about the Constitution of the United States, the continuity of government. And, again, if it were about Trump, we wouldn't do it. The fact is, this would protect President Trump because it says it isn't about anybody's opinion of his behavior, it has a formula of health care professionals and statespersons chosen equally by Democrats and Republicans with a strong role for the Vice President and what would happen should the President become incapacitated.
Why now? Because this is part of our agenda For The People. For The People, we're going to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and that bill has been passed by the House. For The People, we're going to increase their paychecks by building the infrastructure of America, and that bill – Moving Forward – has passed the House. This is our For The People agenda, clarity in government, H.R. 1, which has passed the House, but without this.
The Constitution in article – in amendment, the 25th Amendment gives Congress the power to establish how this transfer of power would take place. Just envision a situation where the President might become incapacitated, bumping of head, a stroke, whatever it happens to be, even temporarily, this says how the process could go forward. There are other ways to do it within the article, excuse me, the Amendment, but this one was left blank, the fourth provision of the bill and we're putting that forth.
And we're so pleased to have Jamie Raskin, who is a constitutional scholar, who has introduced this legislation – actually he introduced it a while ago, and now reintroducing it because of so many questions about what happens, what happens. Well, we have a path by way of the Constitution as to what happens.
Craig Melvin. So, to be clear, a lot of folks are wondering, the Speaker of the House does not think at this point that the President of the United States should transfer power?
Speaker Pelosi. No. I do think the President should. That is what President Reagan did. That's what President Bush did – H.W., George Herbert Walker Bush. That is what President George W. Bush did. So, this is a path on how that can happen further if the President is incapacitated or cannot make a judgment about his own transfer of power. It could be – he could be unconscious or whatever –
Craig Melvin. But you don't think President Trump needs to transfer – you don't think he needs to transfer power right now just because he’s, he’s tested positive for coronavirus?
Speaker Pelosi. That's not my judgment. That's not my judgment. That's why we're establishing this. Specifically to have a bipartisan commission to make that kind of judgment. Not – this removes from the discussion any biases that people may have about not liking behavior or comments or this, that or the other thing. That's not what this is about. This is about the Constitution of the United States.
I’ll go more into it if you wish about how we got here. When President Kennedy was assassinated and President Lyndon Johnson became President, there was no Vice President. There was none for the remainder of that term. The Speaker of the House would have become President of the United States if President Johnson had become ill.
So, in a very strong bipartisan way, the Constitution was amended, passing the House and Senate largely bipartisan, I mean, overwhelmingly and then going out to the states to become part of the Constitution, which then established how you choose a Vice President, and that the Vice President is the successor to the President, and then – because that wasn't even clear then. And then it went further as to how that Vice President is chosen, named by the President but approved by a majority vote of the House and Senate. Witness the wonderful President Gerald Ford, Minority Leader in the House, became Vice President and then eventually President of the United States. Then this takes it to the next step as to – see, at that time, President Nixon appointed Gerald Ford. But if a President is incapacitated, incapacitated, this has a path to have a continuity of government. It's a civics lesson for America and we can do a couple of things at once.
The verdict on President Trump is going to happen 25 days from now at the polls. This is not to take anybody's attention away from the fact that we will have an election and we will have a new President. And this will apply to the new President. If it's Trump in the next term or if it's Joe Biden in the next term.
Craig Melvin. Let's talk about the COVID relief talks here, Madam Speaker. A senior Trump Administration official tells NBC news that the door is back open to a bigger stimulus relief bill. Our White House unit reports this is the Administration's third position on this in four days. Do you plan to talk to Secretary Mnuchin again today, and do you think we'll get a deal of any sort before Election Day?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes to your first question. We have time set aside to speak today. We're anticipating some answers to some questions that we have and we respond to some of the questions they have. That's all in the language. You know the devil and the angels are in the details. So, part of it is about money and part of it is about policy. So, we'll continue our conversation today. Because it is so necessary to meet the needs of the American people, I do hope we will have an agreement soon.
But, as you say, they keep changing. We thought we were on a path, and then the President, with no notice to Congress, completely just – I think even bewildering some of his own people – then made his tweet saying the talks are over because I want the focus to strictly to be on confirming my Supreme Court nominee. And that was his purpose, is to overturn the Affordable Care Act, take away your pre-existing condition benefit and other benefits, as well. He made that the priority. He got a terrible backlash from it, including in the stock market which is what he cares about. And so then he started to come back little by little and now a bigger package.
So, we'll see what they have to offer today, because 17 million children in America are food insecure. You don't see any of that in the President's proposals. Their families, millions of their families are on the verge of eviction. So, we need to honor our heroes, state and local workers: health care, transportation, sanitation, first responders, police and fire, as well as teachers, teachers, teachers, food suppliers who make our lives function. We need to crush the virus and that's some of the language we're waiting to hear from them. I wrote a letter to my colleagues about that today. Third is to put money in the pockets of the American people, and to do so in a way that, again, addresses the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy.
So, again, we are operating in good faith, working very hard to answer concerns both ways until the President intervened in that most unfortunate way. Hopefully they're back on track today. We had a long session yesterday, too.
Craig Melvin. Madam Speaker, I want to ask – I want to ask about an interesting point from Republican Senator Mitt Romney about these negotiations and what appears to be one of the key sticking points. The Senator from Utah says that instead of bailing out states with federal money, quote, ‘Let states borrow money themselves, perhaps with a federal guarantee to secure favorable terms and seniority.’ Is that something you would consider?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say that's not a bad idea in normal times. And it is something that we have entertained. And, in fact, the Fed, the Federal Reserve Board is equipped to have lending to state and localities. We've had that conversation with the Chairman of the Fed as to how favorable those terms would be.
But for now, for now we are in an emergency situation to compensate for the outlays that these states have made for the coronavirus, meeting the health needs of their people and also for the revenue lost, and we have a formula on this to go across the country. And it's going to make a big difference and the fiscal soundness is important to our states is important to the fiscal soundness of our economy.
These people will be fired, will be fired and they are meeting our needs. They're risking their lives to save our lives, and now they may lose their jobs. Millions more have already been fired, some of them teachers. If we do not compensate for the loss that they have suffered whether by outlays or revenue lost because of the virus. This is very coronavirus-centric.
I don't have any objection to having a discussion about how states can loan and if there is a federal guarantee. What I do object to – I didn't hear anybody on the Republican side object – when Mitch McConnell said the states should go bankrupt, and the President said, ‘Well, I’m not doing blue states, I’m not doing blue states.’ Really? So, again, that's interesting, but, again, it's a little late. And, again, not a bad idea as we go forward. Because states are not allowed – they must balance their budget, they must balance their budget. So, if they can't – If they don't have the money, they have to fire people, reduce services. Those people will go on Unemployment Insurance. Not a very good idea.
Craig Melvin. Madam Speaker, before I let you go, I did notice yesterday you did your entire briefing I think for the first time with your mask on. Today, during our interview, we've chatted a number of times, and you usually remove the mask before we start talking. Is there a reason that you're now keeping your face mask on all the time?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the leadership of the Congress press corps, House, Senate – let me speak for the House side, whether it's print, TV or whatever, have asked in a letter to us that all of us use our face masks on when we're engaged in an interview or a press conference. So, we got that yesterday right before I went into that press conference. So, I honored their request.
Craig Melvin. Well, thank you. Thank you for helping to keep my friends and colleagues safe there in Washington. I appreciate the update on the bill, Madam Speaker. Thank you for your time.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Thank you very much, Craig. Nice to be with you always. Stay safe.
Craig Melvin. Yes, ma'am.