Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber

May 5, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Ari Melber on MSNBC’s The Beat for an interview to discuss the ongoing response 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:

Ari Melber.  Welcome back.  Joining me now is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  I know you're busy.  Thanks for making time tonight.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.  My pleasure.  I wish it were under different circumstances.  I say that every night.  Thank you for what you're doing to spread the word about the challenges we face. 

Ari Melber.  Sure, and I hear you on the circumstances.  I'm sure a lot of Americans watching at home feel similarly, no matter what they're going through.  As you know, Madam Speaker, Dr. Bright making waves today – this new whistleblower.  Let me play a little bit of what he's saying.  Take a listen. 

Dr. Rick Bright.  Time after time, I was pressured to ignore or dismiss expert and scientific recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections.  In other words, I was pressured to let politics and cronyism drive decisions over the opinions of the best scientists we have in government. 

Ari Melber.  Madam Speaker, what is your response to his allegations, and what do you hope your party in the oversight process will get out of his looming testimony? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I'm very saddened by the testimony of Dr. Bright.  We will have hearings under the leadership of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, the Chair of the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Frank Pallone of New Jersey, the chair of the full committee.  That will happen – I believe – next week to bring before Congress the testimony of Dr. Bright.  It's very damaging. 

But – you know – the thing is this points to the larger issue.  Where are the ethics in all of this?  That's why we're so, so excited about the bill that we're going to put forth, because it's about ethics.  It's ethical for us to have the tests that we need so that everyone is tested and certain communities are not left behind, because we didn't have enough or didn't have the right thing.  And when we have a vaccine or a drug, as Dr. Bright is referencing, an innovation or invention or discovery, that it be available to everyone.  But it can't be available to anyone unless we have the supply chain, that we have the ingredients and we have the delivery system of syringes and vials and the rest to deliver it to everybody so that no one is left behind and everyone in our country knows that they will be treated fairly and freely. 

But this is not a market opportunity for business.  It is a moral imperative for public health in our country.  So, we'll be eager to hear the testimony that is presented, but the last thing we need is political interference into science.  Because science is our key – is our exit.  Testing, science is the way to end – unlock the lockout.

Ari Melber.  All of that makes sense the way you put it.  I'm curious as you negotiate on this next bill, your view of Mitch McConnell talking about maybe, potentially, state bankruptcies.  He also wants liabilities protections in the next bill.  Your response to that and what should Americans expect on what would now be the fifth bill? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say this.  I hope that that was a moment in the life of Mitch McConnell, because it certainly is not a reflection of what people are thinking in our country.  And when I say people, I mean Republican and Democratic governors, Republican and Democratic mayors, county executives throughout the country want us to go forward with state and local.  We don't call it that, though.  We call it our Heroes bill. 

This is about protecting those, those who are – those who are risking their lives to save lives and now at the risk of losing their jobs – our health care providers, our first responders, our teachers, our police, fire, as I said, emergency services, our transit workers, all the people who are part of delivering service to us, again, at this time of coronavirus at some risk to their own health.  And so, this is very popular.  And all it is – is about the money goes to replace the money that has been spent by states and local governments on the coronavirus, specifically, and the revenue loss because of the coronavirus, specifically –

Ari Melber.  Well, let me ask you a follow-up, Madam Speaker. 


Speaker Pelosi.  So, when the President –

Ari Melber.  Let me ask a follow-up, Madam Speaker, and I apologize.  I know we're in a little bit of a delay.  On that point – let's put up a map, because the President and Mitch McConnell have talked about the funding.  When you look at the states that rely most, though, on federal aid traditionally, many of them are red states, and many of these ‘blue states,’ to quote Mitch McConnell, since I guess he wanted to make it political, many of the blue states actually give more into the federal government than they take.  Do you think that is a relevant part of this?  Because President Trump is making it sound like, well, even your state of California or New York would be taking more than they deserve. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Please let me not have to act upon anything the President has said, but I will refer to McConnell because he has said that – and the President has endorsed that – that we're not bailing out states for what they did.  No.  He referenced Illinois.  Illinois is a state that was taken down – I'm trying to find a euphemism for the word I want to use – a bad path by a Republican governor, now rescued by a Democratic governor, Pitzker.  We're very proud of him. 

So, when he says, ‘Oh, we're not bailing out for past mistakes,’ listen, what we're saying is, this is about the coronavirus.  What did they spend, what are their outlays, what is their revenue loss because of the coronavirus?  They know that.  They'll come around on this.  You know why?  Democratic and Republican, Republican and Democratic governors need this.  They're united in that – same thing with mayors and county executives and the rest.  So, when they say that, it's not a reason, it's an excuse.  And it might play some places.  We want those red states, even though they may be giving in less than they receive, we want them to have what they need.  This isn't about pitting states against each other. 

It's about serving the needs of the American people, saving their lives, their livelihood and, actually, the life of our democracy. 

Ari Melber.  Let me ask you a policy question, because on health care – this is a health care crisis, obviously, for so many Americans.  You and President Obama have advocated for trying to support health care funding through Obamacare and Medicaid and other initiatives, even if people are without a job or between jobs. 

Here, I'm going play a little bit – although I think folks remember – here is the President, and you were up there with him, as he made that argument about why you need health care, even if you lose a job.  Take a listen.

President Obama.  More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too.  More and more Americans pay their premiums only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick or won't pay the full cost of care.  It happens every day. 

Ari Melber.  Does this crisis underscore why a strictly employer-based health care model with no safety net is actually a public health danger?  And what is your response to new reports that Attorney General Barr is even telling President Trump they should back off after efforts to weaken Obamacare in the courts given this pandemic? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say, first of all, I do not think Obamacare is a danger to health with a strong part of it being employer-based.  150, say, million families get their health insurance that way.  We wanted, in the House, a public option, and I hope we will get one in just six months from today when we have an election.  But not to get into the political side.  You said this is a policy issue. 

We have asked the President to have a special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act for people who do not have insurance now so that they can sign up.  Overwhelmingly, the American people support that.  

I do wish the President would back off his case in the court because what he is doing is saying to the American people, if they paid attention when he says something like this, that he no longer supports the pre-existing condition benefit and he is in court to remove it.  This and other benefits that are contained therein. 

I'm a big supporter of the Affordable Care Act.  I want health care for all Americans.  There are many proposals on the table.  But we can't take the Affordable Care Act table off until we have something else. 

Ari Melber.  Right. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Whenever that may be.  Or the Affordable Care Act can be the path. 

Ari Melber.  Right, or the path. 

Well, it is interesting to hear you say that because, as you say, there is what Obamacare does, a public option and further support adds to it.  As a non-ideological observation, it seems like having things that can support Americans even when they don't have a job for health coverage is needed right now, and you've obviously done a lot of work on that. 

Before I lose you, and I know you're busy, I did want to play Joe Biden's response.  As viewers now know, he has now publicly addressed this allegation.  Let's take a listen.

Joe Biden.  It is not true.  I'm saying unequivocally it never, never happened, and it didn't.  It never happened. 

I'm asking the Secretary of the Senate today to identify whether any such document exists.  If it does, make it public. 

Ari Melber.  Joe Biden speaking out just days ago on that allegation of a sexual assault.  Now that he has given that answer, do you view this as a closed issue or what is your response? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it is for me.  I have said I am proud to support Joe Biden for President.  I believe him when he says it didn't happen.  But I also believe him when he says let them look into the records, and that's what they should do. 

But I'm not going to answer this question again.  I will just say I have every confidence that Joe Biden will be a great President of the United States, not only because of the person of integrity that he is, but the person of vision that he is for just some of the things you talked about, about health care for all Americans, about job security, about the kitchen table issues that he is so familiar with in his own family when his father lost his own job.  Joe Biden is Joe.  And again, he brings those values and his personal experience to a vision for America that is about fairness and not trickle-down economics, but bubble-up from that kitchen table, from working families in our country. 

And now we hope to have him as still a reflection of meeting the needs of everyone in our country and not trickle-down, or have science and research and science that's dominated by anything other than by the best possible science.  And I salute our scientists for what they are doing to free us from this. 

Ari Melber.  Well, Speaker Pelosi, we've covered a lot of ground, and that's the last thing I wanted to button up on the virus bill, just on you making some news on that. 

It sounds like in conclusion, your view is you're going to get this bill through the Congress, and you expect to do that without Mitch McConnell's talk of states going bankrupt? 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, but we want it to be bipartisan.  We've had four bills and all of them have been bipartisan.  And we're very proud of that.  And we hope that this fifth bill will as well.  And we look forward to working together to find our common ground.  

I never took seriously any thought that they wanted states to go bankrupt, but, you know, we're in an arena – you gave it a lot of attention, you’ve been talking about it for a couple of weeks.  We've been talking about great things we want to do for the American people.  Maybe if we phrased it that way, you would be talking about it for weeks. 

We'll see when we put forth our bill.  I'll look forward to sharing more with you in our next conversation.  Thank you.

Ari Melber.  Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you very much for making the time.  We appreciate it.