Transcript of Pelosi Interview on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper
San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Jake Tapper on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper for an interview discussing the latest in the ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Jake Tapper. Speaker Pelosi sent a scathing letter to her Democratic colleagues tearing apart President Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis and calling him incompetent. We’re joined now by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Speaker Pelosi, thanks so much for joining us. We're glad that you're well and safe.
Let me start with some of the breaking news here: the White House is working on suggesting that some parts of the country can begin relaxing guidelines so people can get back to work on May 1st. Politico is reporting that in a phone call with Democrats, you called that, ‘Almost sinful.’ Is that true? And why?
Speaker Pelosi. I do believe that any return to opening up everything has to be based on health care, the good health of the American people. Let me first say, though, what a sad time for all of us just to hear the story of the NYPD officer who helped save people or responded to 9/11, losing his life to the coronavirus. Just drives home every single story.
The numbers are staggering but each individual story is heartbreaking to hear. So, as we have discussions about how we open up our economy, this or that, we understand that this is an assault on the lives and the livelihoods of the American people, and that any decision to open up would be one that should be science-based and health care-based, and what it means.
That's why it's so important to come back to those three big words: testing, testing, testing. On March 4th, we passed a bill that we prepared in February, brought to the Floor and passed on March 4th. It was called ‘testing, testing, testing.’ Here we are, nearly a month and a half later and we still do not have the appropriate, adequate testing for us to identify and take inventory of the challenge that we face, to have the racial data to show how this is happening and where.
So, really, we have been delinquent. We have to have a change in that. It's one thing to say it wasn't done right. But there's no excuse for us to not do it right as we go forward. It's so obvious. Almost sinful.
Jake Tapper. What's your take on President Trump's name appearing on these stimulus checks?
Speaker Pelosi. Shameful. Just as – in other words, people are really desperate to get a check. Let me put it in perspective. The three things that really anger the American people, there are others, but three of them are, one, that our first responders, our health care workers, our police and fire, our EMS, all the people in food and other essential workers, do not have the equipment that they need to keep themselves safe as they manage to attend to the needs of others, that they do not have the ventilators and other equipment to save lives that are in their charge. That's one.
The second is, they want their checks. They want their unemployment check. They want their direct payment check that you’re talking about here. They want their PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program, checks to come forward, and they're not seeing that.
And the third thing they want is for us not to have any of the billions of dollars that have gone to big business to help keep people employed, they don't want any of that to be used to enrich shareholders, buybacks, bonuses, dividends, CEO pay and the rest of that.
So, if you put those three things there, that's what we do in the CARES Act, is to make all of this something that would happen. But, again, the entree, the door opening, the threshold to cross into opening up our economy, is through testing, testing, testing.
Jake Tapper. Speaker Pelosi, let me ask you about the PPP, the paycheck protection plan. Specifically, the Small Business Administration is saying they're going to run out of money for these emergency loans to small businesses. Democrats in the Senate have been holding up an infusion of $250 billion into the program, they want more guarantees that the money will go to smaller businesses, not just bigger businesses. They also want more funding going to states and hospitals and the like. What do you make of this? If the SBA is really going to run out of money today, it sounds pretty dire. What's your response?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the response is that last Tuesday, a week ago from yesterday, the Secretary of the Treasury called me, said, ‘I need a quarter trillion dollars in 48 hours for the PPP.’ We support the PPP, it was part of our putting together CARES 1. We were successful, the Democrats in House and Senate, in flipping it from a corporate, trickle-down bill into a workers-first, bubble-up bill. And part of that was that Paycheck Protection Program. But, we want it to work for everyone. What we were finding out, in just even the first hours of it, was that it was not working for the, shall we say, underbanked.
And so we said, ‘Just give us ten percent of the money for those who may not have a sophisticated banking relationship, who are getting cut out of this “first come, first served,” usually to the friends of the bank.’ We don't want to make the banks the villains. They're doing a job. It's covered. They have no exposure. It's covered by the Small Business Administration, it had no – anything to do with their balance sheet because these loans are often off the books. And, if people comply with what the criteria are, these loans can be forgiven. Very good.
However, they must reach those – everyone. And we had a plan, $60 billion. We still have it. It's still something we want to negotiate with them. $60 billion for what is called community development financial institutions. And those are those like even credit unions, community banks, this or that, that know the neighborhood, know the businesses, know the people, know the culture and can make these loans – facilitate, expedite these loans going to people, the local barbershop or some businesses that, again, don't have a banking relationship.
Why would they want to cut that whole layer of people, mostly women, minority-owned businesses, Native American, rural America, veterans, all participating in those initiatives? And so we're just saying we can't allow the billions, hundreds of billions of dollars, being spent to fight the horror of the coronavirus and the impact on our economy, to further harden the disparity, the lack of access to credit for so many in the small business community. So let's have that discussion.
State and local governments are desperate for resources. Hospitals, desperate for resources. That's what we're saying we need. Small businesses, state and local governments and hospitals, that is what the Senate [Democrats] put on the Floor last week. We're very proud of them for doing that. And that is something that needs to be done.
Instead, the Republicans: ‘We want to see how the money we're spending on state and local hospitals works before we do any more.’ But they're not putting the PPP to any test that they have of that. And, frankly, we're getting complaints that people aren't getting the response that they should get. Let's have that scientific. Let’s document that so that it works as intended.
We all want it to work. We all want to facilitate that. But we cannot do it by ossifying the lack of access to credit for smaller businesses in our country.
Jake Tapper. And we're back. We had a little technical issue at my end at the end of that interview. I didn't get a chance to properly bid adieu to the Speaker of the House, so I want to bring her back now that my camera is functioning and ask her another question as long as I have her. Speaker Pelosi, thank you for bearing with us.
I know you’re going to challenge President Trump and his desire to pause funding for the World Health Organization. I have to say, I have followed your career enough to know that you're actually a pretty strong China hawk. You've been very critical of the Chinese government since I've been covering you now, for decades. Do you not see the point that President Trump has to make, which is that the Chinese government was not transparent, covered up a lot of what was going on in Wuhan, and that the World Health Organization, at the very least, seemed to enable it?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, first, let me thank you for the opportunity to talk about small business, because there's nothing more entrepreneurial, nothing more optimistic that anyone can do than start a small business, other than get married. But, anyway, weigh the equities.
And so we want to support the small businesses, all of them. And support the PPP and hope that we can work together to do that. Having said that, what the Republicans are proposing will not get unanimous consent in the House of Representatives.
In terms of the World Health Organization, the position that the President is taking, you asked, does it make sense? I say, it's senseless. The World Health Organization is there to fight disease, pandemics and all of this throughout the world. And for us, as the United States of America, to undermine that just doesn't make sense. And that's why you'll see even some Republicans – I don’t know that the Republicans will speak out, but many of them have supported the World Health Organization in the past.
Whatever the situation is as far as China is concerned, and that's a matter of science to tell us what the story is there. But the fact is that the scientists, the technology, the convergence of all of these resources in a global way, because this is a global pandemic as you know, it's something that for us to say we're not a part of, again, is senseless.
Jake Tapper. Alright, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much. Continue to stay safe and healthy. We appreciate your time today.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. It's a sad time.
Thank you so much.