Transcript of Pelosi Interview on PBS's NewsHour with Judy Woodruff

April 21, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Judy Woodruff on PBS's NewsHour for an interview to discuss the ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including the agreement on the interim emergency funding package transformed by Congressional Democrats to provide real support for small businesses, hospitals, health care workers and all Americans.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Judy Woodruff.  Madam Speaker, thank you very much for talking with us.  We just heard Lisa lay out the main elements of this legislation.  Tell us what you think the main difference this bill is going to make for people.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, as usual, Lisa did a very good job of putting forth the particulars of the legislation.  Thank you, Lisa. 

What's important here, though, and let me begin – I always use temporal markers.  Two weeks ago from today, this Tuesday, two weeks ago, the 7th of April, the Secretary of the Treasury called me and said, ‘I need $250 billion,’  that would be a quarter of a trillion dollars, ‘and it will be on the Senate Floor in 48 hours.’  A quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours.  I said, I don't think so. 

The very next day, on April 8th, House and Senate Democrats proposed an alternative that would reach the underbanked, so many of the small businesses, as well as expanding opportunities for those involved with the PPP, also with the recognition that we're only going to open up our economy if we can address the testing, testing, testing, contact tracing and other issues that relate to science and health in addition to the economy.  They are so connected. 

So that was two days later, on the 9th of April, Leader McConnell brought to the Floor legislation that said this is it, $250 [billion] for PPP, which we fully support, but nonetheless, we needed to do more, and adjust for those who were underserved by it.  ‘This is it.  This is all we're going to do and the Democrats are holding this up.’ 

The fact is, he was holding up what came to the Floor and they just passed, under his leadership with Chuck Schumer, the legislation that was proposed on the Floor that day.  But he rejected, our legislation that is much fairer and much surer in recognition in the use of science and how we go forward.  So, we consider this very positive and a good use of the time that it took.  It could have been saved if they accepted then what they’re accepting now.

What remains, though, is for us to go forward with another bill.  And we can talk about that if you wish.

Judy Woodruff.  I do want to ask you about that, but very quickly, what we're learning is that there was smaller-than-expected percentage of small businesses who got money from this last piece of legislation.  And many of the businesses who got it were bigger businesses in great shape.  How do you know that's not going to happen again?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, because we have a $60 billion set aside for these, shall we say, underbanked, businesswomen and minority-owned businesses, Native American, rural, veterans, just all kinds of businesses that would not be, shall we say, on a first come, first serve basis getting these loans.  That, now, is different. 

And that's thanks to Maxine Waters and Nydia Velázquez – who, one as the Chair of the [Financial Services] Committee, the other, Chair of the Small Business Committee – who put together this proposal which was, today, voted unanimously on the Floor of the Senate. 

And so that is our attempt.  Now, we want to see the data to see how this is working, both what has happened already and what we're transpiring, as we go forward.  To make sure that we are reaching those who are the lifeblood of our economy.  Small business, all of it.  Very small, too, for creation of jobs and wealth in our country. 

Judy Woodruff.  So much to ask you about, Madam Speaker.  I'm going to move quickly here.  We know Democrats wanted money for state and local governments.  Today, the President tweeted that that's a priority for him in the next legislation.  Does this mean you're now to be same page?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, we have always had that assurance.  They didn't want to do it in this bill, but they would do it in the next bill, and his announcement of course is no surprise to us because that's what we have discussed.  We could relent on some of that because we know this next bill is going to happen very soon. 

But we're not going to call it state and local.  We call it our heroes bill.  This is about our health care providers, our police and fire, our EMS, those transportation workers, those essential workers who are in many ways risking their own lives to save other lives, but are at risk of losing their jobs.  And so we want this to be about them, our teachers and others who are so essential to our society and our economy. 

So we're glad to hear that the President said that, but it's no surprise to us because part of moving on from this was to go to the next bill.  In the previous – the CARES bill, we had $200 billion.  They had $150 [billion].  We went with the $150 [billion], and then we didn't know about the interim bill until they called a couple weeks ago, because we were prepared to move on with a bigger allocation in the next CARES bill. 

Judy Woodruff.  And just confirming, the House vote, we expect that on Thursday.  Anything to say at this point about proxy voting or virtual voting in the House?

Speaker Pelosi.  Not on that day.  On that day we will have a vote by Members present and voting.  As we go forward, though, any change in that would require a rules change.  That would have to be voted on by the House of Representatives, and so we can consider that.  But for now, we don't have that rule change, but we do have the urgency of passing this legislation, which we will do in a very strong, bipartisan way. 

And, all of our bills have been bipartisan, starting with our first one.  This will be the fourth now and then the fifth, the next bill will be the fifth.  But the first bill that we passed on March 4th was testing, testing, testing.  Here we are a month and a half later, and finally in this bill we're having to insist that the Administration focus on testing.  They have ignored this over the past weeks, and that has been loss of life and opportunity in our country.  Testing, testing, contact tracing, quarantining, let’s get it done.  Science, science, science.

Judy Woodruff.  So, can you put a number right now – I'm sorry to interrupt, but can you put a number now on how much more you expect Congress will spend on testing in the next round?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, in this round, we have $25 billion.

Judy Woodruff.  Right.

Speaker Pelosi.  We will need more.  And there are scientists who are coming up with estimates as to what it will really take for us to be able to test the number of people in any given day, far more than the Republicans, excuse me, the Administration has plans for right now, by their own scientists saying, we have – can do this many in a day.

The other scientific – rest of the scientific world said, that doesn't even come close.  It's about one-third of what we need to do.  So, hopefully, with this bill, which will call for a national strategy on testing, and to not only test, but to report on the demographics of it, the – how it is impacting different communities, is going to be very important. 

You cannot solve a problem unless you can define it.  And we cannot define it until we test, test, test, and then do the contact tracing and, of course, the incubation – the isolation, in order to stop the spread of it, and to keep it out of the homes of those who are infected.  We know what to do.  Science tells us. 

Judy Woodruff.  Madam Speaker, we know that you and President Trump have had, I think it's fair to say, a difficult relationship with one another in recent months.  Is it – how much is this impeding the ability of the federal government to address this COVID-19 crisis?

Speaker Pelosi.  What is impeding the federal government from addressing the COVID-19 crisis is the President's denial, delay in all of this.  And that has been deadly.  Science, science, science.  He has refused.  We are insisting on the truth.  And the President is engaged in a series of misrepresentations to the American people.  And that is the impediment. 

I have tried to act in a bipartisan way, as I said, three bills in March, bipartisan.  Easter, I had sort of an epiphany, an epiphany on Easter, that said, ‘We must call out the truth on this.’  Because we cannot – It's one thing to overlook what happened in the past and be sad about that.  It's another thing to let the misrepresentations continue. 

And so that's why I am saying that he's a poor leader.  He ignores his own responsibility and assigns blame, instead of taking responsibility, paying attention to science, recognizing the word – the role of governance in all of this to get the job done for the American people. 

And so he's engaged in distractions like immigration, distractions like supporting people in the street.  They are all distractions away from the fact, the known fact, that he's a total failure when it comes to testing. 

Judy Woodruff.  Something else I want to ask you about.  That is the money, the billions of dollars that you wanted states to be able to spend on making sure their elections this fall, this November, are safe.  This is something Democrats are pushing.  Leader McConnell has said this is – he is – this is not a priority for him.  He's not going to let it happen.  He does hold the upper hand on this, doesn't he?

Speaker Pelosi   No, he doesn't.  This is the same Mitch McConnell who came to the Floor on April 9th and said: This is as far as we're going to go. The Republicans – the Democrats are holding this up.  We're not going beyond this.  And, today, he voted unanimously for the proposal that the Democrats put forward. 

No, this is about the lives, the livelihood of the American people, and the life of our democracy.  And we do – as we did in Wisconsin, it was like saying to the people, you go to the polls, and that's – it's just the same as if we invited you all to go to the Mardi Gras. 

This is dangerous. 

And so, at this time in particular, we want people to be able to vote by mail and to be able to get an application – a ballot in the mail, to have same-day registration.  We had some very positive initiatives there.  We got $400 million in the previous bill, in CARES 1.  And now we expect and need to get more. 

And there are Republicans who – I mean, I was a state party chair years ago.  We would win on Election Day, and lose when the Republican votes would come in by mail, because they were always so much better than we were at voting by mail.   So, I don't know why the President says, if the – ‘If we have vote by mail, Republicans will never win any more elections.’  Maybe it's for other reasons, but it's certainly not by their ability and facility to vote by mail.   

But it's about our Constitution, to remove all obstacles to participation, so that our democracy can thrive with the fullest participation of the American people.  And then let the chips fall where they may. 

Judy Woodruff   Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we thank you very much. 

Speaker Pelosi.   Thank you.  Thank you so much.  My pleasure.