Transcript of Pelosi Interview on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer

May 4, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s The Situation Room for an interview to discuss the ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including the need for oversight and 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:

Wolf Blitzer.  Joining us now, the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining us.  We have a lot to discuss.  First, what does it say to you that the White House is now revising the death toll upward despite the weeks of social distancing?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it’s just – it's sad.  What we have to do is, obviously, work together to get the job done for the American people.  This has to be something that is ethically based.  That is to say, everyone should be tested, so that we can find out in all of our communities the extent of the coronavirus. 

We have to have ability when we have a vaccine – God willing soon, but maybe a cure sooner – that it is available to all Americans, and not a fear of this is just for some and we have a limited number of what the crisis is – the amount of people who are affected because we are not testing enough. 

This is about the lives, livelihood and the life of our democracy.  And what it says is that we have not sufficiently acted upon the knowledge that we have had.  We must insist on the truth.  Whatever went in the past is in the past.  We can review that later, but as we go forward, we must insist upon the truth.  And the truth can only be gained by finding out how many people are affected by this.  That’s why you see the disparity in some of the incomes – of color in our country, because the testing isn’t there.  Test, trace, treat, isolate, and then we can start to turn these numbers around. 

The numbers you mentioned are heartbreaking, but people are hurting economically as well.  We want to see what is the key to ending this, and the key is testing, testing, testing.  That was our first bill on March 4th, but it was not executed.  It was our most recent bill of $25 billion for testing.  That was resisted by the other side, but we did get it.  But we still need much more, and we will have it in this legislation, CARES 2, that we are writing right now.   

Wolf Blitzer.  Yeah, 68,000 confirmed deaths in the United States over the last two months.  Even the President says that could go up to 100,000.  Dr. Deborah Birx says the current projections still between 100,000 and 240,000.  So, these numbers are huge.  These numbers could double over the next few months as well.  Let’s get to some of the specific issues affecting you and the House of Representatives.  This new White House memo that now says, among other things, ‘For the month of May, no Task Force members or key deputies of Task Force members may accept hearing invitations from the House of Representatives.’  The new Chief of Staff of the White House may make some exceptions we’re told, but the Administration says this is so the Task Force can focus in on responding to the crisis.  What is your response to that? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I was hoping they would spend more time on the crisis instead of those daily shows that the President put on, but the fact is that we need to allocate resources for this.  In order to do that, any appropriations bill must begin in the House, and we have to have the information to act upon.  So, the fact that they say, ‘We are too busy being on TV to come to the Capitol’ is, well, business as usual for them.  But it is not business that will be helpful to addressing this.  We need to have the information.  We must insist on the truth.  Now, it’s interesting, they said, ‘We are not going to the House, but Dr. Fauci can go to the Senate.’  I guess Mr. Meadows, being until a week or so ago a Member of the House of Representatives knows that we will be business – very, very strictly insisting on the truth, and they might be afraid of truth. 

Wolf Blitzer.  You are talking about Mark Meadows, the new White House Chief of Staff, a former Congressman who is now at the White House.  Let’s talk about what’s coming up next in terms of another coronavirus stimulus package.  I know you’ve been working on them with your Democratic colleagues.  The Republican leadership says there is no appetite for the type of relief bill you are pushing.  The White House says there will be a pause right now before they consider spending any more money.  So, how far away are we from a possible fourth deal? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I think you have to look to the base support that we have for what we are proposing, as I said, testing, testing, testing, tracing, tracing, tracing, treatment, treatment, treatment, isolate.  This is the key to opening the door, crossing the threshold to bring this to an end.  

The other part of it though is about our heroes: our state, local, municipals, our county, our tribal health care providers, first responders, police and fire, transit workers, postal service, all of the rest of that.  This is very – they are essential workers for us to get the job done – medicine to seniors.  Really some of the first responders are in the most dangerous situation because they don't have all of the PPE, the personal protective equipment they need. 

We have the support of Democratic and Republican governors, Chair of the National Governors Association, Governor of Maryland, Governor Hogan.  He and the others have joined together and asked for the amount they have asked.  It is not for one year.  It might be for two or a maybe little but beyond.  And the same thing with the municipalities, League of Cities, the Conference of Mayors, etcetera, Association of Counties and the rest, to get money down to the areas where delivery of service is.  That is all bipartisan.  So, we think that there is tremendous support in the country for our heroes.

The governors tell me two things that they are united on in terms of Democrats and Republicans.  One is to protect our workers.  They are our heroes.  They are on the frontline.  They risk their lives to save other lives, and now they may lose their jobs.  The other thing they’re united on is – another thing, maybe not the only – is that this amount of money is what they need.  The money would be used for two things.  One is to offset the money that is already spent to address the coronavirus outlays of money and the other for revenue loss related to the coronavirus.  So, when the Republicans say, ‘Oh, we don't want this and that and their budget,’ it has nothing to do with anything other than the coronavirus.  So, I think we have a strong case, and I think they will come around to that.  

Wolf Blitzer.  Well, let me play for you what the President said about all of your plans on Sunday.  Listen to this.

President Trump.  You know, they want bailout for the states, the Democrats.  And really, it’s a number of states that have not been managed well by Democrats over a long period of time.  So, we have to be very careful about that, very careful.

But we will be doing infrastructure.  And I told Steve, just today, we are not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut.

Wolf Blitzer.  So, is a payroll tax cut okay from your point of view or is it a non-starter –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, it is not.

Wolf Blitzer.  – and, if it is a non-starter, Madam Speaker, why is a payroll tax cut a non-starter?

Speaker Pelosi.  First of all, this is all to be related to the coronavirus.  We have enormous, enormous costs, much of it incurred because the President was in denial early on, delayed a reaction to it, caused deaths. 

And so, now, we want to say, that was then.  Alright, let's start now and do things in a positive way.  Nobody is putting things on the table saying, ‘Unless we have this, we are not doing that.’  He shouldn't either. 

But apart from that, look at him saying these states want to be bailed out.  The state that he used as an example is Illinois, which got into financial problems because of a Republican governor who was governor there until Governor Pritzker has come to pull them out.  

So, what is it – we are talking about life and death.  We’re talking about people dying.  We’re talking about people risking their lives to save people’s lives.  We’re not talking about red state, blue state.  We’re talking about all of America.

Wolf Blitzer.  But what is wrong with the payroll tax?

Speaker Pelosi.  What’s right with – we have $500 billion for states, $250 [billion], maybe $300 billion for local.  This is a way for us – this is a way for us to address the situation.  There are other things: direct payments, Unemployment Insurance, issues like PPP.  There’s a great deal of money being put out there in a way that helps businesses stay open.  But, let them have customers when they are open.

So, this is something that has been – we didn't just start this bill yesterday.  This bill is what we were in the works with with CARES 1.  They did $150 [billion] for state and local.  It wasn't enough.  We are continuing that.  And we did testing in our first bill, March 4th, and then testing last week.  But we need more, so all of these things are things that we can agree –

Wolf Blitzer.  So, if the President said – Madam Speaker, excuse me for interrupting you, but if the President says you could get most of what you want, but he wants a payroll cut, otherwise he is not signing it into law, what are you going do?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I am not negotiating with the President on television right here. 

And he didn’t say that.  He started denigrating governors who are fighting the fight in their states to save lives and save livelihoods for their people there. 

This is, again – let me say this.  Let me tell you about the enthusiasm of our Democrats and the knowledge that our brilliant chairs have about how to meet the need of the American people instead of answering the thing of the day that spews forth from the White House.

This is about saving lives.  This is not about a political, economic philosophy.  

Wolf Blitzer.  I understand what you are saying, and I want to move on to some other issues –

Speaker Pelosi.  Okay.  Well, I hope so.

Wolf Blitzer.  – but he did say, as I told Steve Mnuchin yesterday, he said, ‘We are not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut.’  So he’s putting that down. 

Let's move on.  I understand you don't want to discuss it.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well it’s not a question of discuss it.  There is no need for drawing any kind of red line in the sand.  You posed, ‘If you got everything you wanted.’  Well, did he say that?

Wolf Blitzer.  I’m saying that.

Speaker Pelosi.  I know.

Wolf Blitzer.  I’m saying, if you got most of everything you wanted, but he says he wants a payroll tax cut would that be okay?

Speaker Pelosi.  He didn’t say that.  He said – ‘I’ll give them anything they wanted for a payroll tax cut.’  He didn’t say that. 

Wolf Blitzer.  No, he didn’t say that.  I said that.

Speaker Pelosi.  You’re doing a hypothetical.

Well, let me just say this.  I can't spend a lot of time on the quote of the day from the President of the United States.  

We have worked in a bipartisan way.  We have had four bills pass the Congress of the United States, each and every one of them bipartisan.  And we are very, very proud of that.  We have worked together with our differences.  We all didn't get everything we wanted.  We had negotiations.

We were proud to turn the CARES 1 from corporate, trickle-down to a workers-first, bubble-up legislation.  We were pleased in this last interim bill to have it not just be about PPP, which we are all supportive of and part of creating, but also to go to the underbanked, smaller businesses who did not have connections with banks.   And, not only that, $100 billion for hospitals and for testing, testing, testing.   

So, again, we went from $250 [billion] to $484 [billion] and all of that additional was for lower-income, underbanked, smaller businesses, minority, women, Native Americans, veterans, rural, smaller businesses that couldn't compete in the larger banking arena.  And it was a big improvement. 

We are going to see what the results are, but whatever it is, we made progress.  Maybe not enough, and we will just have to see where we go from here.

Wolf Blitzer.  All right –

Speaker Pelosi.  But we had bipartisanship every step of the way and we didn't do it by threatening each other, but by sharing values of saving lives, of saving livelihoods of the American people.

Wolf Blitzer.  Speaking of bipartisanship, you and the Senate Majority Leader, Leader Mitch McConnell, you rejected an offer from the Trump Administration of 1,000 coronavirus tests for Members of Congress.  If your work is going to help pass relief, more relief for a lot of American workers, frontline workers and others, why not accept those tests?

Speaker Pelosi.  Because they don't have them.  The fact is, we have said that the tests should go to those on the front line who’ve had direct communication with contending with this.

Our Capitol Physician has said that we don't need to have them, in terms of the exposure that we have.  We are not – the testing organization said to us, ‘You are not next.  We can bump you in line and push other people out of the way, but you are not next in terms of essential workers for this.’  So, if any individual Member – I am not going into the privacy of their lives – has a need for a test, then that's up to the doctor to determine.

But we are not going to say – we have custodians in the Capitol.  We have people we work with.  We have thousands of people who make the Congress function making this happen.  Again, protecting us, as well as keeping it safe in terms of this virus.  But, outside, our first responders and the rest, they should be getting this before we do.

And I don't know that there is one Member of Congress who says, ‘I want to have a test before my constituent gets one because I should be more important than that.’  I was pleased we were able to do that in a bipartisan way, House and Senate.

Wolf Blitzer.  That was certainly bipartisan, indeed.  I know you’ve got a lot going on.  Thanks so much for joining us. 

And thanks also for that facemask you have around your neck.  I know you just flew back from California.  And you were telling me you wore that the whole flight, is that right?  

Speaker Pelosi.  The whole flight.  I had to sip water underneath, but, yeah, the whole flight.  Everybody on the plane had on facemasks, including the crew.  And I highly recommend it.

But the thing is, it breaks your heart to hear the stories.  The matter of life and death, so sad.  And, again, the heartbreak of people with a dream for a small business, an idea and the rest, and then to see it fade.  We want to make sure what we do is for those we truly need it and that we will get through this in a way that has ended some of the disparities.

We have frozen access to credit for some people.   And now, with this bill, we can open some of that up.  Whether it is access to credit or access to care, we want to be sure, as sad as this all is, that we make progress in terms – I will end where I began, with the ethics of it all: that it is available to all Americans.

Wolf Blitzer.  Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining us.  I know you are incredibly busy.  We’re grateful to you for spending a few moments here in the situation room.  Thank you very much.

Speaker Pelosi.  Take care.  Thank you to CNN for doing all you do to spread the word.

Wolf Blitzer.  Oh, thank you very much.  And good luck to you guys up on Capitol Hill.  Appreciate it very much.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.