Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Chris Hayes on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes 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:
Chris Hayes. Joining me now for more on that, what we need to do to safely open the country and what Congress is planning to help Americans get through this, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. Speaker, I really appreciate you taking time tonight.
I wanted to ask you first about the metaphor the President has been using, and his representatives have been using, that American people, whether they're residents in nursing care facilities or they are meatpackers or they are grocery workers, need to think of themselves as soldiers, as warriors who are doing battle against the virus and some might die but that's just the price that has to be paid for liberty. What do you think of that metaphor?
Speaker Pelosi. I don't think much of some of the things that the President says, but have to set some aside and see what we really can do to open up our economy. We can do that through what you have been talking about: testing, testing, testing.
So, what the Democrats are here to do is to put forth a plan, a plan with a goal, a plan with milestones, a timeline, a plan that is unifying, built on some of the initiatives we’ve had in past coronavirus legislation. We passed four bipartisan bills. But this is – we have three pillars.
One, let us open the economy by testing. And that means testing everyone, tracing and having the treatment, as well as the isolation that may be necessary. Or, and God willing we get a virus – excuse me, vaccine or a therapy soon and that would be helpful to opening up. But, in the meantime, we have to know the caliber of the problem. They didn’t even know the caliber of the problem in the White House. We have to know what it is in the nation. And we have to know how it addresses – how it attacks with communities of color in such a bad way.
Secondly, we have to have – we have to honor those who are on the front line. Those who are heroes: our health care workers, our first responders, our transit workers, food, trash pickup, teachers, teachers all of those who have some exposure here. We want to honor them so that we're worthy of their sacrifice, and we’re doing so in a big way by attributing larger resources for state and local government.
And then we have to put money in the pockets of the American people, recognizing the pain, the agony that they are feeling. To those who would suggest a pause, I'll say the hunger doesn't take a pause. The rent doesn't take a pause. The hardship doesn't take a pause, as we see families losing, as you said, over 80,000. That's unimaginable. And then so many infected and then so many on unemployment.
So, we have a big need. It's monumental. And therefore, it's a great opportunity to say: let's work together to get this done. There's a way to open the economy based on science, testing, testing, testing and let's get on with it. That's what we're here to do.
Chris Hayes. So, those bullet points that you just offered, some of the planks of the legislation that is widely reported –
Speaker Pelosi. That’s right. They’re the pillars.
Chris Hayes. Right. So, the pillars are some sort of national program for testing and contact tracing, some kind of national program for both aid to states for their fiscal holes as well as, I understand it, some kind of hazard pay, actually statutorily mandated pay for frontline workers, am I understanding that right? Or is it just funding for states who can then pay those workers?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just say, not – I just want to take issue. They’re not talking points. These are the pillars of our plan to go forward, to make our own environment in a way that is, again, unifying and respectful of those who are sacrificing their lives, as well as those who are feeling so much pain through all of this. This is what they need – this is meeting the needs of the American people.
Among the provisions are, yes, there is state and local government; to address the outlays that they have made in fighting the coronavirus, as well as the revenue that they have lost because of the coronavirus. And it goes all the way down from states to small towns, and it is a result of how our Members have brought back the concerns of their constituents. And I think it will have broad support among governors and mayors, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Yes, there is an interest in doing hazard pay for those who are on the front line. It isn't mandatory, so much as it is an imperative to do so and that's what we're writing down now. So, I'm excited about that. Chuck Schumer is, too. That's sort of his baby.
Chris Hayes. So, hazard pay for people on the front lines, this is an obvious compelling case. Aid to states whose fiscal balance sheets will be destroyed whether they are red states or blue states, or red towns or blue towns, I think that's very clear. Some extended aid in the form of cash payments or unemployment or both?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes. No, both. We have the Unemployment Insurance, but we also have the direct payments. Both of which we've had in previous legislation. The Unemployment Insurance – we are just seeing record-breaking unemployment rates and so many people signing up for it, it breaks your heart. But we have the Unemployment Insurance that will be renewed in this legislation. As well as cash payments, the direct payments, people are craving that.
It's, I guess, what advantage we have, sad as it is, that people see what is happening, even though they are working from home. But, listening to their constituents, there's a lot of pain and heartache. People don't know if they're going to be able to put food on the table. Moms have said, and Brookings Institution put this out last week, that one in five children is food insecure, they don't know where their next meal is coming from. They don't know if they're going to be able to pay the rent.
This is very, very personal. And we want to be addressing the personal concerns in a way that is monumental because it is a big – we've never seen anything like it and we have to be brave, get up there, just make the case: this is the plan. These are the resources. This is how we want to do this and as we do it, we want to be worthy of those who lost their lives, worthy of those who are fighting for other people's lives. And we plan to do that –
Chris Hayes. In the previous –
Speaker Pelosi. In as much a bipartisan way, as possible.
Chris Hayes. That was what I was going to ask you. Because, obviously, in the previous legislation there were tough negotiations in a, sort of, triangular fashion. Steve Mnuchin sort of doing the negotiations for the White House and then Mitch McConnell in the Senate, and you and Chuck Schumer working through that. In this case, my understanding is, the message has been sent from Mitch McConnell and the White House, saying basically, ‘We're done here.’ There was this headline today that gave me a chuckle, from Bloomberg: ‘The GOP rekindles deficit concerns, adding snag to talks on aid.’
Is it your sense there is like – what is your read of the posture of the White House and Senate Republicans towards additional legislative rescue relief like you're proposing?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it's interesting to see what they're saying, becoming now, renewing their fiscal hawk positions that they can barely remember. I have confidence in going big with what we do.
When I saw them give a $2 trillion addition to the national debt in order to give 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent, that was so irresponsible in terms of it did nothing for the economy except heap mountains of debt on our children.
So, with this, what we’re saying is these are investments. All of these things are for the good of helping people in their personal lives, but they also are a stimulus to the economy. Ask any – well, almost any – I don't know who they would drum up – economist, they will tell you. Food stamps, imagine that, they’re against SNAP, against expanding the opportunity for people to have access to food stamps at a time where the papers and news is full of families in long lines at food banks, and we have to help those food banks, as well. So, this is personal. It's heartbreaking, really.
So, I have confidence in the American people. America has a big heart, a heart full of love, and people care about each other. And I think when they see what we are doing, and it will be big because the problem is big and needs are big of the American people, that it will be more attention paid to what the Republicans are saying or doing and then a judgment can be made. But I'm optimistic always. I see everything as an opportunity, the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity.
Chris Hayes. Mitch McConnell has seemed to make noise to attempt – he had to walk back his comment about states going bankrupt. But he has seemed to make some attempt, which is really remarkable to me if I can editorialize for a moment, that his – the hill he is going to die on, on the red line for him is some kind of blanket liability waiver for employers, so that they are protected from civil action from employees who may get sick due to the risks they take on working for them. What do you – is that a non-starter for you or something you're willing to talk about?
Speaker Pelosi. Let me just say this, the best protection for those employers is to support what we're doing – want to do in the bill with our OSHA regulation. And it calls for how you can open up and how you space and all the safety. Safety in the workplace is a very big issue in our country, long before coronavirus. And so, if the employer takes those precautions, then he is protected from a suit because he has taken the protections that were necessary to protect the worker. That's how he could protect himself.
It's unlikely that at a time of the coronavirus that we would say, ‘Just be cavalier. We know it’s contagious – the way it spreads, but you're off the hook if anything happens, even if you do not comply with the OSHA regulation.’ So, we want them to accept the expanded OSHA regulation and protect their workers, and I think that most people are good people, that they would want to do that. So, we'll have that discussion, but I think we have a common goal. We want people to go safely to work safely. The OSHA protection is your protection, Mr. or Mrs. Employer.
Chris Hayes. Final question for you, obviously, you and Chuck Schumer and others have worked very hard through a series of legislative packages that have been passed in increasing scale and scope and urgency to deal with this. As you sort of are set to unveil this latest one, I'm curious what you think – how good a job have you done, like particularly when you look at the comparison between PPP and what it's done for small businesses and the rescue package for large corporations, which is being dealt through the Fed, which seems like it's moving more quickly and more efficiently. Like, do you think you have done a good enough job thus far collectively in the legislation that has been passed to address the needs of the American people?
Speaker Pelosi. I do, indeed. I wish we had more cooperation from the White House, but even with that, first, we have passed four bills, which are bipartisan. The first one on March 4th, it was called testing, testing, testing. That's how we identified it. March 14th, the next one for PPE, masks, masks, masks. The 28th [of March] the President signed the first CARES bill, and we were very proud, House and Senate Democrats, to have turned that from a trickle-down, corporate America-first trickle-down bill to putting workers first, bubble-up bill. It was completely different from what the Republicans had proposed in the first place.
And then, the interim bill we started working on the next CARES package. And then all of a sudden, this request came from the Secretary of the Treasury to do more for the PPP, and we took that opportunity under the leadership of Nydia Velázquez, the Chair Small Business Committee, and Maxine Waters, Chair of the Financial Services Committee, to say, ‘So far we haven't seen this reach everyone in our communities.’ So, we put a set aside in there.
Now, we haven't – we're waiting to see the results of that. And that's a concern that we have because we want to make sure that it is going to the community development financial institutions, which have connection into the community, rather than it just going to people who have a bank relationship. This is for the underbanked community and the financial institutions that serve them.
So, we've made a big difference every step of the way, but President said – when they asked the first bill it was like $2.5 [billion], $2.8 [billion], we sent them $8.2 [billion], and the President said, ‘I'll take it.’
So, again, our participation has been very strong, and why it's important for us to put forth our bill now without too much conversation with other people is we're just bringing from the needs of the American people and the capacity of us to stop the virus by testing, testing, testing, praise and honor those who are on the front line and help the people who are suffering. We did that right before CARES 2. We put forth our responsibility bill, Take Responsibility, and that largely is what reshaped CARES 1.
So, yes, I think we've done very well but, you know, we want them to agree on science, and we can't seem to get them to cross that threshold. Science, science, science, answer to so many challenges. But if you don't believe in science, and you don't believe in governance, then you can say, ‘Let's pause. There is no evidence that will convince me, because they don't believe in science, and I don't believe in governance.’ We don't want any more government than we need, but right now we need weighing in in terms of resources and policies that will protect the American people, as they go forward. And rather than think of them as warriors, we think of them as family, and we're all concerned about each one. And when somebody goes out there, they run the risk of taking something home, and that's why I see the great wisdom of the American people to protect their own families as they tried to accommodate the enormous challenge that we're all facing.
Now, let me say one more thing, and that is whatever we're doing may seem big, it's never going to be cheaper. The Chairman of the Fed has said to us, ‘Interest rates are never lower than this. Go big.’ And those interest rates are propping up the stock market. We want them to prop up the American people, as well.
Chris Hayes. That is true. They are propping up the stock market now along with a lot of other things the Fed is doing. Speaker Nancy Pelosi who has been working overtime in the House. Thank you so much for taking some time with us tonight. I really do appreciate it.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. My pleasure. Thank you, Chris.