Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC's Live with Stephanie Ruhle
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Stephanie Ruhle of MSNBC’s Live with Stephanie Ruhle for an interview to discuss the ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including the recently passed interim emergency funding package transformed by Congressional Democrats to provide critical support for small businesses, hospitals, health care workers and a national testing strategy. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Stephanie Ruhle. Right now, I’d like to bring in the Speaker of the House, Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.
Speaker, thank you so much for joining us and, I want to say thank you. You set aside $322 billion in emergency loans for small businesses. People across this country need it.
But, already today, the head of the Consumer Bankers Association said that we would need a trillion dollars to meet small business demand. Is this $322 billion going to be enough?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, this is $322 billion on top of the $350 [billion] that we had done a couple of weeks before. I think it's all in the execution. As the Secretary of the Treasury says, let us see how this works and where our needs are.
But first, let me just say, watching your report and the rest, how much we pray for everyone in our country, those who have lost their lives. When businesses are opening, I think that's unfortunate because we're not protecting the investment that we have made, but that's a choice. And I pray for those people, too, that they do not get sick. So this is always very, very sad. And we have the lives at stake and we have the livelihoods at stake.
And, in terms of livelihood, we're all big believers in small business: the entrepreneurship of America, the optimism of it all, the courage to start a small business. And we really need to help them. So, we're all committed to that.
We were very pleased in our last bill that we expanded that opportunity. The so-called underbanked, those who would have less possibility of being first in line with some of the banks.
And so, in any event, let's see how this goes. The other – it's all going to be happening very soon. We'll see how long it lasts. But, we have to do other things. It's about jobs, jobs, jobs.
And the issue is that we have to have state and local. We have to protect our heroes: the health care workers, the first responders, police, fire, emergency services, people transportation, food, the postal service and the rest. Those are jobs, too, and when you open up your business, you want to have customers. You can have the rent paid and employees paid and electricity – the utility bill paid, but you still have to have customers.
So, we want to, again, make sure that these people who are risking their lives to save other people's lives are not risking their jobs as well because the state and localities cannot pay them. It's not about bureaucracy. It's about delivery of service to the American people. So, we want to have a vitality throughout our economy.
And then we'll see what the needs are. We may have to think in terms of some different ways to put money in people's pockets.
Stephanie Ruhle. But we know that the needs are massive in terms of economically. From a health perspective, we're preparing people to live without a vaccine for a year, but from an economic perspective, look at PPP. Even with all this money, we're only creating solutions for two months. Two months from now, when the majority of these businesses don't open back up, then what?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think we should extend the time. I really do. I always thought that was too short a time. I think we should extend the time.
I think what you suggest makes all the sense in the world. And then, again, as we go forward, let's see what works: what is operational and what needs other attention.
Others have suggested a minimum income for – a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so, because there are many more people than just in small business and hired by small business, as important as that is to the vitality of our economy. And other people who are not in the public sector, you know, meeting our needs in so many ways, that may need some assistance as well.
But we're talking about the lives of the American people. And, again, the pull and push of should we open up or not, if it jeopardizes the lives of the American people, we have to handle it with care.
But, again, recognize the realities of it all. What is the execution of it? What is working? And what is – what are we getting our money’s worth on? I think we have to look at that, too. How is the money being spent? With all the best intentions in the world, but nonetheless, we want the money to go where it needs.
If I just may, Stephanie, say this: there are three things that I hear from the American people, from – by way of my constituents, but also the constituents of hundreds of Members of Congress. They want our first responders, our heroes, to be protected. They know they're risking their lives to save other lives and, now, they're risking their jobs, as I mentioned.
Secondly, they want their check. They want their direct payment check, their unemployment check or they want their small business – their PPP check. They want their check.
And, third, they don't want any of this hundreds of billions of dollars that we're injecting into the economy, that some of which goes to major corporations, any of that money to be use for anything other than keeping people in their jobs. They don't want any buybacks, corporate whatever, dividends, bonuses, CEO pay, the rest of that. That really angers the American people. It's sort of a hangover from the Great Recession.
So, it is important that we have oversight to see exactly how all of this is spent. Not in a pointing a blame – point the fingers, but just to make sure everybody knows that there will be transparency and there will be accountability.
Stephanie Ruhle. I agree with you wholeheartedly, but then I have to impress upon you, it's the government's responsibility to do that. As it relates to PPP, it's the media who has outed all of these companies who took the money. It was the media who talked about hedge funds and private equity firms and law firms taking the money. The government sets the rules, ma'am.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes indeed. And we passed the law, but the Executive branch puts forth the advisories and the regulation.
So, when I suggested to the Secretary of the Treasury some of the concerns we have about what you have just described, he said, ‘Well, I’m the one who put out the list. They would not have known that had I not put out the list.’ So, I guess that was his way of saying, ‘Let's all take a look at this as we go forth.’
But we really – I mean, these dollars are precious dollars. They make a world of difference, life and death to the survival of a company, for some companies, and others really don't need it that much.
And we have to take a look at how banks are compensated. They get a higher percentage for a small loan. But if you get five percent on a $50,000 loan, that's a lot less than getting one percent on a $5 million loan, and again, is that right? Shouldn't it just be a flat fee? And others – just to subject everything to the scrutiny that needs to be done for the taxpayer dollars and how they are spent. That's what our job is all the time. But at this time, where there is such need and such desperation, even more so.
So, again, we'll have to keep examining. I think we have to do what we need to do. Others are talking about the deficit – ‘Oh, the national debt.’ Well, they never talked about the national debt when they spent nearly $2 trillion for a tax bill to get 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent in our country.
And I'm a – I'm pay as you go. I don't like building the national debt, but a lot of what we're doing is stimulus. Unemployment Insurance is stimulus. Food stamps are stimulus, even though we can't get them to agree with us on that.
Stephanie Ruhle. Then let’s break down all of these issues because the idea last week that angered so many people was that bigger companies with other access to capital were using PPP. But the idea of PPP is the Paycheck Protection Program, and if you no longer want some of these larger businesses in there, what are you going to do, A, to help them? And, B, you know they're going to lay off thousands and thousands of workers, especially restaurant chains. So, should there be a solution for them?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, look, I come from a city of San Francisco. Hospitality – we have a diversity in our economy in San Francisco, hospitality being a very important part of it. But it's important in many places throughout the country, actually throughout the whole country as I'm finding out.
And we really do have to address that, as if they are not being able to get the same kind of small business loan, perhaps in some cases, again, as you said, we have to extend the time. But in some cases, we have to also perhaps expand it to 1,000 people rather than just 500. That would help some non-profits, which we hope would be able to participate in all of this. But they are larger in number and lower in pay that they pay people. There's some limitations on what can be done in that regard. I’ve spoken to the Chairman of the Fed about that and, of course, to the Secretary of the Treasury.
So, let's just put it all down there, subject it to the harshest scrutiny: where are these dollars are going and what is it in there that is, in a sense of decency, that the banks and the bigger businesses who really don't need it have deeper pockets, a longer survival capacity than some of the small businesses which will be gone, as you said, longer than two months. Many of them will disappear, never to return from what they are telling me.
So again, we all join together for PPP. We believe in that, but, again, we want to make sure it works.
Stephanie Ruhle. Without a doubt. If we scrutinize it after the fact when time is so essential, we could lose businesses, and right now we're arguing over which businesses need it most. With the exception of just very few businesses, most industries across the country are in desperate need.
Do we have to start to focus and say, does the federal government need to just take over payroll, create mortgage deferment or just say we need to create a national economic holiday until it's safe? Because right now, we're bickering over who is suffering more.
Speaker Pelosi. I don't think it's bickering. I think it's a legitimate discussion of, again, when we passed – I saw you had the leader of their Floor debate on our bill we passed the other day, on there saying, ‘We could have done this two weeks ago.’ No, we couldn't have.
They could have agreed to the additional – they had $250 [billion]. We brought it up to $480 [billion]. And when we brought it up to $480 [billion], it had $100 billion for hospitals and testing in there, which is essential to our opening up. Testing, testing, testing. But we also had $120 billion for smaller businesses, which are getting left in the shade, and that just wasn't right.
So, it isn't a question of bickering. It's about establishing priorities, and we have a differences between our parties.
The gentleman that you interviewed, Mr. Brady, he said on the Floor of the House, ‘We could have done this two weeks ago, except they had extracurricular stuff.’ Extracurricular stuff? $100 billion for hospitals and testing. $120 billion for small businesses, more in terms of the EIDL loans, which are flying out the door because they're easier to get for businesses. They have a longer – a long-term and a low interest rate, so they're very appealing. And the grants and aid that never do have to be paid back, in addition to $250 billion more for PPP.
So, we have to be smart about this. They could have agreed. What they rejected two weeks before, they passed unanimously in the Senate and overwhelmingly, in a bipartisan way, in the House.
Every bill we have passed has been bipartisan, but we've had to make the case about lower-income, smaller businesses, again, women, minority – we don't want to put any – prioritize anybody over anybody else because it's about jobs. You know it's about jobs. No matter where you work, it's about jobs.
So, if that business needs the infusion to keep people on the job, then that's what this is about. But it also has to not ossify any disparity of access to credit in our country, which does exist. So, we want everybody to enjoy the vitality of it all.
Stephanie Ruhle. And every single dollar passed is desperately needed, but I do want to ask: you had said on Friday that you were disappointed that the banks didn't act as better stewards. My question is twofold. Banks are going to protect themselves because that's what they have to do, and they asked the government to release them of some of their risk review requirements because, if what the banks did was give loans very quickly to borrowers who they didn't know, if those weren't good loans, those banks could be on the hook months from now. If the government wanted it done differently, why wouldn't the government do it itself? The IRS, they know how to collect our money. They could give the money out.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it was a decision that Secretary of the Treasury made to go through the banks for facilitation, that perhaps it would be faster to do than to go through a SBA – a Small Business Administration process.
In my – I don't want banks to be made villains in this. They are facilitators, and this should be something we go forward with in a very positive way. It is interesting, though, that they make a lot of money off of it and, therefore, it could affect their behavior in all of it.
But what I had said is, with the fact the SBA has kissed this loan, there is no risk. There is no risk. And as well as the Fed enabling them to not have this count.
Stephanie Ruhle. Pardon me, but there is.
Speaker Pelosi. I’m sorry?
Stephanie Ruhle. If I may, the reason for the delay, if I may, the reason for the delay, the banks need to do a risk review process. After they do that, they then go to the SBA. One of the main reasons for the hold-up, banks didn't have to do a very long risk review for clients that they already knew. That's one of the reasons it went so quickly. For new borrowers, it took some more time. So they are on the hook before they go to the SBA.
These banks lived through this in 2008. They didn't make good decisions and they paid for it after. If they did that again, they'd get annihilated.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I would say that in 2008, they were part of the problem. I don't see that this time.
But let me say that that's why it was hard to understand why our Republican colleagues were not embracing our initiative of $60 billion that would go to community development financial institutions. So those institutions who know the neighborhood, who know the community, know the customers, know the businesses, know the culture would be able to make loans, smaller loans, into the community. And take – alleviate some of that from the banks.
I thought it was really something that they would welcome because, therefore, those who know that community better would be meeting their needs.
Stephanie Ruhle. Without a doubt.
Speaker Pelosi. So, that's why I'm so pleased we got –
Stephanie Ruhle. Me too. Will that $60 billion, will they get to go first when the portal opens up again? Will they get to go before the big banks to make sure the money goes to the small borrowers?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, this is – it’s like two different funds. And the Secretary has been very – working very hard in my view, when I talked to him about it, he said, ‘We’re working it, we’re working it.’ So that these portals, or whatever, are for that community.
So, it's not a question of going fast. The $250 [billion] is already going to the PPP. This is additional and specific to that community. But also, $50 billion in EIDL loans, the Emergency Injury [Disaster] Loans, and that is $50 billion leveraged to over $300 billion in loans. And that is a very popular program. No matter how big you are or how small you are, people like the long-term, low interest and the immediacy of getting that. So, that was a very important part of this as well. And that's an SBA loan, so that goes fast. And then we have the grants that every small business can apply for.
But you have said it very clearly. Whether it's the restaurants, the hospitality industry, there's some that just aren't a fit and we have to see why. Is it number of employees? Is it length of time? Is it in terms of non-profits, the 501(c)(3), (4), (6)?
Let’s see how we can expand this. Because we could actually, with the combination of all of these things, be reaching maybe 90-something percent of all the small businesses in America. And that would be a wonderful thing because, again, the entrepreneurship, the vitality, the courage, the optimism to start a small business. And then people have them for a number of years and then you see their hopes just fade because of something so beyond their control.
So, make no mistake, this is central. That's why we made it the centerpiece of the first – of the first distribution of funds into the business community.
We also had a big program for those aerospace industry, airline industry, which, again, in order to keep people on the job, they received – the Secretary has the discretion to spend a great deal of money there, but we don't want to see any of that money squandered on anything other than job retention because that is what the point of all of this is. And that's how people are going to be able to spend in the economy, have consumer confidence, be able to meet the needs of their families, as we deal with the suffering that is going with this.
The lives, the livelihood – economic livelihood, so important – as well as the life of our democracy. So, in this next bill, we will be supporting vote by mail in a very important way. We think it's a health issue, at this point. And I didn't want to leave this conversation without mentioning the importance of the life, the livelihood – the life of our people, the livelihood of themselves and our economy and the life of our democracy.
Stephanie Ruhle. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Thank you for this additional $320 billion. American business needs it. I appreciate all that everyone in our government is doing right now to help us in this trying time.
Thanks for your time this morning.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, thank you for your objective view of it all because that's all very helpful. It's all very helpful. Thank you so much for your attention to this important issue.
Stephanie Ruhle. Thanks. Have a great morning.