Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe

May 13, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist on MSNBC’s Morning Joe from Capitol Hill to discuss the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the recently introduced Heroes Act, House Democrats’ urgently-needed legislation to address the COVID-19 health and economic crisis.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Mika Brzezinski.  House Democrats unveiled a sprawling $3 trillion coronavirus rescue bill and the Senate and the White House continue to clash over how to deal with the sputtering economy, when to reopen.  If passed, the new bill would be the biggest emergency spending measure in U.S. history, sending aid to state and local governments, health systems and a range of other initiatives.  The relief package would also send a second round of stimulus checks to millions of Americans and include more funding for the Postal Service.  Some parts aim to address the coronavirus pandemic in other ways, such as requiring passengers to wear masks on airplanes and other transit. 

However according to the Washington Post, Republicans have already rejected the bill before even seeing it, describing it as a liberal wish list that would go nowhere in the Republican-led Senate.

Joining us is the Speaker of the House and one of the co-authors of the bill, Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of California.  Madam Speaker, thank you very much for being on this morning.

First of all, what is your reaction to the Republican response so far to the bill?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just talk about our enthusiastic approach to opening up our economy, and that is testing, tracing, treating and isolation if necessary.  That is what is essential.  It's scientific and it's fair.  That's number one in our bill, is how do we open up the economy?  How do we get rid of this virus, this villain?  And that is testing, tracing, treatment and isolation.  

Second to that is the honoring our heroes.  That's why it's called The Heroes Act.  In no particular order, the provisions call for honoring our heroes: our first responders, our health care workers, for sure, our teachers, our sanitation workers, food service, transit, you name it.  Those who are on the frontline.  And we help them by sending the money to state and local governments because that's where they get paid, and it is, in large measure.  And we have important assistance for hospitals as well.

So, it's about testing.  It's about honoring our heroes and, third, it's about putting money in the pockets of the American people by some of the measures that you mentioned: Unemployment Insurance, direct payments, employment retention tax credit, child tax credit and the rest.  

So, this is, whether they know it or not, the country needs to have this testing.  And we have to have it so that we know the size of this challenge.  And we have to do it in a fair way so that we can end the disparities.  When you see people of color, minority communities have a high rate of death, it's going to say they haven't been tested or diagnosed or treated.  

So, this is, we think, it's an answer.  And it's scientific in its basis and fair to the American people.  As well as honoring our first responders, not only with the money to the states, but with hazard pay as well.  It has other items that you mentioned but everything that I just mentioned has a provenance in the former bills that we passed.  We passed four bipartisan bills and testing and direct payments, aid to states, all those things were contained in those bills as well.  

So these are no strange issues to them.  I don’t call it a wish list, a liberal wish list, I call it an American wish list so that we can defeat, defeat this virus and help people in the meantime and, again, honor our heroes.

Joe Scarborough.  So, Madam Speaker – Joe Scarborough here – so Republicans are saying this is a liberal wish list and also saying you didn't talk to them, didn't talk to the White House, didn't talk to the Senate.  And some are even saying this isn't an opening bid by the House Democrats, that the House Democrats are just trying to make a statement.  What do you say to them and what is the possibility of striking a compromise with this bill with the United States Senate and the White House?

Speaker Pelosi.  Yeah.  Well, of course.  There’s always – that’s why we put down what we think this country needs.  And this is not any wish list that is not related to the coronavirus and to this timeframe.  We made that a criteria, a criterion for consideration.  This is all about the here and now.  It isn't about politics. It's about humanity.  

When the Republicans say, ‘Oh we need a pause.’  Well, are they going to pause the hunger, the evictions?  Are they going to pause the out of work anger and pain that people are feeling?  This isn’t a time for a pause.  This is a time for us to really have a strategic plan to test, trace, treat and isolate, a strategic plan.  And, doing so, to do so that will open our economy scientifically and instead of helter skelter.  

And this is something we have to do.  We're long overdue.  Our first bill in the House, bipartisan, March 4th, testing, testing, testing.  They really didn't do it.  Our most recent bill, [$25] billion for testing, we still don't see the strategic plan that is called for there.

This isn't about, again, this isn't partisanship.  This is science.  This is humanity.  This is about the family of America caring for each other, sensitive to everyone’s concerns but, also, determined to get rid of this very resourceful virus, is taking, as you have shown this morning, some ugly, even uglier terms – turns.

But it's a big ticket.  It's a lot of money.  The American people are worth it.  We see the Administration bolstering the stock market with some of its policies, with the low interest rates.  The Chairman of the Fed says to us, ‘Think big.  The interest rates will never be lower.’  And, so, we're thinking big.  But we are thinking appropriately, focused, discipline.  We have a plan.  We have a goal.  We have a timetable.  We have benchmarks and we just want to join together with everyone else to say, ‘Let's open up the economy.’  

Yeah, it's all a negotiation but, again, states, governors and mayors across the country, Republican and Democrat, desperately need this help.  Testing is so urgent.  You keep showing that day in and day out, and I thank you for that.

And, again, the American people need this help.  But we want to transition from it.  And the path to it, the threshold, the key to opening that door is testing, testing, testing.

Willie Geist.  Speaker Pelosi, it’s Willie Geist.  Thank you for joining us again this morning.  We appreciate it.  

Speaker Pelosi.  Hi Willie.

Willie Geist.  There was a lot of news out of your state yesterday.  The Public Health Director in Los Angeles County announced effectively three more months of stay at home orders although she said it will be phased and then hopefully we can reopen slowly over that time.  The California State University system, the largest four year public university system in the country, already now in May is saying no classes in the fall.  Do you agree with those decisions?  There's a lot of people in Los Angeles County who are saying, ‘Whoa, three more months?  I can't survive;’ this as a small business, ‘I can't survive this as someone that's out of work.'

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, of course I agree with the decisions of the people on the ground and their particular venue and location.  Because, again, as Dr. Fauci said earlier and I wish the President would listen to him or hear him even, that you just cannot think that this is – pretend this went away and go out there.

So, yes, it's inconvenient, but it's even more inconvenient if you're going to be infected or worse or if you’re going out to work and bring something home to your family.  I think that's the biggest fear that all of us, what does it mean to the children and family members?  So, again, if that's the decision that the City of Los Angeles has made and the Cal State system, then I respect that.  I'm very sad about September.  I'm sad about September though, all hoping that kids could be back in school.

Willie Geist.  Yeah, I know, absolutely; that hope is across the country.  With your $3 trillion proposal here comes on the back of four previous bills that amounted to about $3 trillion, are you confident that this $3 trillion will go into the pockets of people who need?  Small business owners, some people struggled with the PPP, the protection program that was supposed to help them.  Are you confident the system is streamlined and that those small business owners will get the money that they need quickly to survive?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, that is not in this bill.  We do have the SBA grants, the EIDL grants, what we call the emergency injury disaster assistance – but – disaster – not loans, but grants.  This is a – you know, I’m not speaking to that.  We're asking for the documentation.  There's been a great deal of success across the country, but not totally.  And so, we just want to see, because we were successful on these bills.  I said they were bipartisan.  

The first one, the President asked for $2.8 [billion] or something like that.  We gave him $8.2 [billion].  We gave him the reverse – sort of the reverse, and he said, ‘I’ll take it.’  We were able to have an impact on that bill.  Next, we did masks, masks, masks – first testing, testing then masks, masks, masks, the PPP and the rest, which really has not been fully addressed.  And then, the third bill we turned from a corporate trickle-down bill to a workers-first, bubble-up.  We're very proud of that.

And so, with that as well as the bill that we just passed, the President recently signed, where we turned it from the underbanked not even having a chance to get one of those loans to a carve out for smaller entities, women, minority, Native American, veterans, rural small businesses to have their opportunity.  But we still haven't seen the data to support what may have been done there.  But in any case, it is an approach.  We were a part of putting it together.  We want it to work, but want it to work for everyone.  

This bill is not addressing the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program.  This is about mitigation for what is happening.  We have to help the states and localities with funds to offset, to help to fray the cost that they have made in terms of the coronavirus.  So, that’s about their outlays and it’s about their lost revenue. 

The testing, why have we not made a decision as a nation to do what we know is an answer by testing?  And I do believe in science, and I believe that there could be some technologies [that] will speed up the test and not only the testing, but the results from it.  I’m hopeful in that regard as we task for this and the rest. 

This was said this morning by some of your guests.  We have to stock pile.  We have to stock pile.  We have to have a supply chain.  We're not ready, and this bill addresses many of those concerns in a very positive way.  It isn’t about partisanship.  Everything, as I say, by and large.  Except, they are against the Post Office and maybe election day vote by mail, a few things they – they’re not supportive – I don’t – I hope that they'll be supportive of strong OSHA provisions that enable people to go back to work safely and protect employers, because they have honored the mandates of OSHA.

So, it is – this is as dry in the eye as it can be.  It's objectively what scientists tell us we need to do, what people who are feeling the pain need in terms of their health and the definite need for state and local to have the assistance they need.  These people are risking their lives to save other peoples’ live, and they may lose their jobs in the meantime.

So, again, it’s a big price, but the American people are worth it.

Mika Brzezinski.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi, always great to have you on the show.  Thank you very much for coming on this morning.

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.  Thank you.