Transcript of Pelosi Interview on GRAY TV’s Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Greta Van Susteren of GRAY TV’s Full Court Press to discuss the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest on efforts to increase aid to essential workers and state, local and tribal governments in the upcoming CARES 2 package. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Greta Van Susteren. A member of Vice President Pence's staff has tested positive for coronavirus, and also a valet of the President of the United States. There's also a huge debate around the country over whether someone should be compelled or required to wear a mask or not. And also, people want to get outside and assemble, and they say they have a First Amendment right in the Constitution. So, tell me, where do you stand on the masks and the assembly and the opening of the government?
Speaker Pelosi. In terms of the masks, that's really a courtesy. It's not to protect ourselves; it's to protect others. You know, whatever, you know, there are people who have no symptoms or are asymptomatic, and yet – so, just to be on the safe side, people should wear a mask. Actually, when people don't, it's really, in some ways, maybe it was inconvenient for them, but as a decision not to wear a mask is really an act of selfishness, ‘I don't care what I might spew on you because I'm invincible myself.’
Secondly, in terms of going outside, I think there are reasonable practices that say, if you go outside with a family member, you should keep your distance a bit, but you're together. But groups gathering together who are not of the same family or living together situation, they can contribute to the further spread of the coronavirus. So, I do think that as a courtesy to each other, we should wear masks, and certainly come if you go outside for a walk and the rest, to do so with social distancing and masks.
And not to just – I mean, I think it is so beyond ridiculous to see people going into the Michigan legislature with guns and swastikas and the rest, and again, violating the space. I feel sad for them, because the fear we all have is what are we doing that we could bring home to our children? And that's just unfair to those children.
And opening up government, well, we think the key to that is testing, testing, testing, testing, treating, testing, tracing, treating, so we have the full measure of what this is and also have a study of the demographics of who is getting hit hardest in all of this to prepare us for the cure and the vaccine, which we pray is on the horizon.
Greta Van Susteren. Can you tell me what you envision for this new care package?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, we are very excited about it. It continues on the work that we've done in a bipartisan way in the first four packages that have passed the House. That is investing in state and local government, which is carrying a big brunt of the coronavirus crisis. It also invests in testing, testing, testing, which is the key to opening up our economy, and it talks about money in the pockets of the American people, whether that's direct payments, Unemployment Insurance, PPP loans, any initiatives that puts money in circulation, which we believe not only helps those people but are stimulus to the economy.
Greta Van Susteren. I'm in favor of helping people, and I have been from the very beginning. But all of this stuff costs money. And I realize that in a bipartisan way everyone has been willing to spend this money, but where are we going to get it? Where does it come from? Who is going to end up paying this?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, as I said, much of this is stimulus, and I will just say this, that not doing it is going to have an even bigger cost. The sooner we can identify the scale of this problem with the testing, testing, testing, tracing, treatment the sooner we'll be able to open up our economy. Not to do that is to prolong this. The sooner we are able to address the challenges of state and local government, tribes and territories and the rest, because they have outlays that are substantial for the coronavirus, as well as lost revenue. This isn't about anything other than the coronavirus. And again, we are talking about food stamps – we are talking about – that’d be SNAP. We’re talking about Medicaid. We are talking about initiatives that are worthy investments.
Nobody around here was complaining when the other side of the aisle, when they did nearly $2 trillion where 83 percent of the benefits going to the top one percent and our part – adding nearly $2 trillion to the national debt. We consider this a necessary investment to stop the pandemic and open our economy, and in doing so, to put money in the pockets of the American people, who will of necessity spend immediately.
Greta Van Susteren. Will this mean raise taxes down the road? Or can you give me some idea if we will ever get out of this? You know, it's such a tremendous amount of money. I'm just trying to get the expectation for the American people.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the fact is that we exist for a reason, governance to meet the needs of the American people. Now, I myself, I'm a pay-as-you-go person. Sometimes I get criticized in my own party for that. If we want to add something to the budget, whether we offset it with or how do we get revenue to pay for it. Republicans like that, but they don't want to hold their tax cuts to that, so that's how we get this big debt that they incurred with their tax scam of 2017. But in terms of what we're doing now, as I say, the price we will have to pay to ignore the needs of the American people at this time is first of all in lives, but in livelihood, and our budget deficit will be beyond measure unless we stop this, so that we can unlock our economy.
Greta Van Susteren. There’s no question that state and local governments are hurting. I think your home state of California will have a $54 billion deficit, or anticipates it. But, many state and local governments had trouble before this budget, so, if state and local government relief is in CARES 2, will there be strings attached to change, sort of, the structural way that state and local governments have been handling their finances, the ones that were in trouble before the virus?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me stay a couple of things. First of all, I’m proud of our state of California. Jerry Brown, when he left, left scores of billions of dollars of surplus. That's all gone because of the virus. That's all gone because of the virus.
So, to those who make that charge about, ‘Oh, they had problems before,’ it has nothing to do with that. This is strictly, what are your outlays for the coronavirus? What is your revenue loss for the coronavirus? That's why it has the support of Democratic and Republican governors across the country. It is strictly about this, and it's about nothing else. It has nothing to do with anything else in the budget of the governors.
And we will in our bill, also, have funding for vote by mail, which we think is essential and supported by Republicans across the country. They like voting by mail. They have more of a habit of voting by mail.
Greta Van Susteren. How are vote by mail and absentee voting different?
Speaker Pelosi. This is related to COVID for the reason that we are trying to keep people at home, vote at home and the rest. Vote by mail does one thing.
I was a former chair of the California Democratic party, and our goal was to remove all obstacles to participation. Democratic, Republican, decline to state, as we say in California. And that was our responsibility. And so, this is an opportunity to remove obstacles of participation by calling upon the governing bodies to send a ballot to every registered voter, by having same-day registration, by having adequate polling places for those who want to or need to vote in person, but to reduce the number of people who will be gathering in such places on election day.
We had some elections coming up soon. In the state of Wisconsin, they had a number of COVID cases that were immediately traced to people having to stand in line for a long time to vote. So, this is not only the health of our democracy, it’s the health of our people. And it makes the argument – there are states like Oregon that have had vote by mail for a number of years, and they claim success and it certainly pleases the people there.
Greta Van Susteren. I think the American people are quite happy to see the relief bills so far have been bipartisan. Do you expect that the bill that the House is working on now, when it gets to the Senate, that it's going to be received well, or is there going to be – or is different ideology over there with the Republican-dominated Senate?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we'll see. You recall the last bill, the most recent bill that was passed, that the Republican leadership over there put out a bill that just didn't go any place because it was ill-founded in terms of PPP. We all support PPP.
We believe in our small business people, their hopes, their dreams, their optimism, and the rest, and so we all supported that. But many people were left out because they were underbanked, shall we say, so we insisted on adding that people in smaller businesses and the rest could participate, because they are the lifeblood of our economy, too. And we insisted there would be a $100 billion for hospital and for testing.
They said ‘Never, never, never,’ and that was the bill that unanimously passed the Senate and overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives, signed into law by the President. So, it is all in negotiation, but again, we are looking at meeting the needs of the American people, A. B, doing so in the tradition of the bills that have gone before, and they have contained state and local, they have had testing.
The first bill, March 4th, was testing, testing, testing, and the money in the pockets of the American people. Not to use a pun, but that had currency on both sides of the aisle, and so, those are the major things, and they are not – they are not partisan in any way. It’s what we approved already.
There are other things where we are having some discussions, and one of them is food stamps. People are hungry in America. Brookings Institution had a report yesterday that moms were reporting that one in five children in America does not have enough food to eat. We see what is happening at food banks and the rest across the country, and it's really hard to explain to anyone why the Republicans would not support that.
We did get SNAP, the food stamps, in the first bill, March 4th bill, but we haven't had it since. Three bills they have said, ‘No more, no more, no more.’ So, that is one of the arguments we will have, about food stamps.
Greta Van Susteren. There are people on both sides of the aisle, and many Americans are angry with China. Should China be punished in some way, or made to pay? What should we do about China?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I take second place to no one in Congress for the past 30 years for being the chief critic of China. When I go to Asia, they tell me I'm the most unpopular person in China, and I consider that a badge of honor because I've criticized them for their human rights violations, which continue and worsen under President Xi. I've criticized them for their trade policies and their proliferation polities.
The fact is, right now, we have to attend to what we need. And that is to open up our own economy, to do so, with the science, the key of science. Testing, testing, testing. Testing, tracing, treating, and that will come again, open our economy, as well as making these other investments.
If there is an after-action review as to China's culpability in all of this, let it not be a distraction – which is what I view it right now – a distraction from the fact that this President is presiding under the worst unemployment numbers that you could ever imagine, so we want to get those people back to work, let's focus on that.
The President made many statements praising China, maybe like thirteen, I’ll have to look at my list, in the January-February period about how they were dealing with this. I think he was a bit schizophrenic about China. ‘One day on, one day off, want a trade deal, done with this.’ So again, it is a distraction, and I'm afraid I took too much time on that distraction.
Greta Van Susteren. What may not be a distraction in your mind, though, is we have an economy that is so dependent on China, so much manufacturing is overseas, a lot of the components more important pharmaceuticals that keep Americans alive, the components come from China. Is there any sort of plan in the House, let's bring this business home, so in the event we have another situation like this, we are not so dependent on another nation?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, in our legislation, we do call for a supply chain initiative, because we are very dependent on China. Whether we're talking about therapy, or we’re talking about a vaccine, a lot of the ingredients come from China. So, it's not about – that's not China's fault, that's our fault.
We have to build on what we were doing in the past but has been neglecting recently, and that is to make sure – because one of the principles of our bill is ethics. We want to have the ethics that everyone is tested so we know where this is more significant than other places, so we can trace, so that we can treat.
Also, ethics when it comes – and so if you have fewer tests, than who's going to get left behind? Same thing with the vaccine. Say we get a vaccine. If you have a narrow amount because we don't have the ingredients, then who's going to get that? We have to have it for all Americans.
At the same time, right now, even without knowing, hopefully soon, but when we will get a cure, a vaccine, it's essential that we stockpile syringes and vials and all of the things that are necessary to deliver such a vaccine. We have to be ready, and we are not. But we must. But as we go forward, we have to make sure that our Defense Production Act is called upon to make sure that we can be as self-sufficient as possible in terms of the biblical power to cure, that some of these therapies or vaccines can provide.
Greta Van Susteren. The House committees are trying to get grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation that they have not yet gotten. It went to court, and recently had a victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The U.S. Court of Appeals said the records had to be turned over to the House committees. It has now gone to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not those materials have to be turned over to a House committee. Chief Justice Roberts has put on hold the turning of them over, they were supposed to be turned over this Monday.
But here's my question to you. Why is the House still looking for that material, especially in light of the fact if it's related to the President? We've got an election coming up in November, if the voters want the President, that would be a good time to make a decision.
Speaker Pelosi. This issue is bigger than Donald Trump. This issue is bigger than Donald. This is the separation of powers. The genius of our Constitution, separation of powers, three co-equal branches of government, each as a check and balance on the other. So, this court is not about what happens to Donald Trump in November.
This is about the ability of Congress to have subpoena power, whatever the subject is, and there are more subjects than just that one in terms of McGahn and should he testify, and the rest. But we will not walk away from our responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in effect, if the court, largely so much appointed by – affected by Trump's appointees, if they have decided that they’re not going to honor their oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution, separation of powers, three co-equal branches of government, than our country is really in a fix, because that's what is at stake here.
It's not – the President hasn't revealed anything, his health, his taxes, anything, and – without going into him. He's become unimportant. What's important is that we turn the page, and that we save the health and lives and livelihood in the American people, as well as the life of our democracy.