Transcript of Pelosi Interview on Bloomberg News’ Balance of Power with David Westin

May 7, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined David Westin on Bloomberg News’ Balance of Power 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:

David Westin.  The House of Representatives is back in town, although not quite yet not back in Session.  The Democrats are undertaking an effort to have another round of support for the economy in the middle of this coronavirus epidemic.  We now will talk with a person who is leading the plan to put that together, and that is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.  Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining us.  Appreciate it.  We just talked to Senator Durbin, the Minority Whip, who said the lead on this really has to be Speaker Pelosi.  Why is it so important that this originate with you in the House of Representatives?

­Speaker Pelosi.  Well, the Constitution calls for that.  The Constitution says that all appropriations bills must originate in the House.  In the bill that the Senate did, they used a House bill to do that.  But that was the interim bill.  The bill of consequence will begin in the House of Representatives, and it is imminent.  We’ll be having something soon. 

David Westin.  What is essential from your point of view as you go into this, because you said you want it to be bipartisan if possible?  What is essential for you to have included in this bill?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say that I am very proud that our first four bills on this subject have been all bipartisan, overwhelmingly bipartisan.  As we take up this fifth bill, we are following the path of what was in the other bills.  For example, we had state and local in the first CARES bill, CARES 1, and that is what we have in this bill.  Honor our heroes: police and fire, health care providers, transit workers, teachers, postal workers, all the people who make our system work, and in many cases, risk their lives to save other peoples’ lives.  Now, they may lose their job because of revenue loss as well as coronavirus cost that states and municipalities are suffering – A.

B – if we were to open up, the key to opening up, to unlocking the lockdown is testing, testing, testing, tracing, tracing, treatment, treatment, treatment.  We have to do that.  Science requires it.  Everyone agrees that we have to – it is a health issue that is going to solve the fiscal – the financial issue as well.  

And then third, want to put money in people's pockets.  Honor our heroes, state and local, testing, testing, testing. Let’s make sure that we address the disparities and all the rest by identifying really where this cruel virus is creeping out there.  It’s so scary.  And then third, putting money in people's pockets, whether we do Unemployment Insurance, whether we do issues that relate to direct payments and the rest of that, that is what we have to do now. 

Now, we had all three of those in the previous bills, so this is not plowing any new territory.  It is digging deeper with more money.  For example, state and local – it has the support of Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country, also state – the municipalities and counties, bipartisan support throughout the country.  It is a big ticket, because we are – it is a big challenge.  It is only for coronavirus.  That is outlays and revenue loss.  

David Westin.  As you say –

Speaker Pelosi.  Now there are some issues we just don’t – that are philosophical, that we have not been able to crack, and that is food stamps, SNAP, the SNAP program.  For some reason, that is not something we can get the other side to agree on, but we have to do it.  And the American people know that we have to do that. 

Brookings Institute just put out a report that moms say one in four children do not have any – they are food insecure – one in four children in our country.  That – it has always been a problem – one in five, one in six.  Now, it is exacerbated by all of this.  

So, again, there are some issues that are traditional debates that we have, but there should not be any question that we would have now.  Food stamps, Unemployment Insurance, direct payments, so many of these things serve as a stimulus to the economy as well.  The Secretary – the Chairman of the Fed said, ‘Think big.  Interest rates are so low, think big.’  We are taking his guidance on that. 

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, you said that for some reason you cannot get the Republican side to move on food stamps.  Can they get you to move on some of the things they want?  Such as payroll tax, that’s something President Trump keeps talking about.  Even capital gains tax.  Are you willing to put on the table at least some adjustments in taxation? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, let me just say this, if you want to compare the need for us to change the capital gains tax, which, once again, once again, ignores the fact that there are people in our country that are hungry and that there is some equivalent to that, I respectfully disagree.  There are certain things are urgent.  They are urgent. 

Having a discussion of tax policy?  Save that for another day and do it in a bipartisan way.  But don’t draw any lines in the sand.  We’re not.  He shouldn’t.

David Westin.  Do you have a sense of this point – I understand the plan that you’ve put together.  Do you have a sense of how this, how big this might be?  How big is this bread box do we think?

Speaker Pelosi.  Big.  It will be big.  See, when we went from state and local, that was how we embraced it before.  Now, it is state and local, separate.  And so it practically doubles what we would be doing and it is a big-ticket item. 

We are doing the testing in a way that has a strategic plan.  That is what we asked them to do in the last bill.  We had testing, testing, testing in our March 4th bill, that passed the House that day.  We had testing in the most recent bill.  We still do not have what the scientists tell us is necessary to reach out into the community with a band of people to do the tracing, so we can rid ourselves of this plague.  And that costs money. 

And then the direct payments.  That is a big-ticket item and that is what we are working on now.  Where do we get the most return for the best help to our people who are desperate?  People are desperate.  They are heartbroken because of loss of life, threat to life.  But so many aspirations professionally, businesses, community involvement and the rest are so stifled by what is happening and we really have to address that.  And if we don't, it will cost us a lot more money. 

So, this is a prevention in many ways.  It is preventing a greater loss.  You know, it is an opportunity.  It is an opportunity to do something working together that people, ordinary people, day-to-day people, I don't think anybody is ordinary, but you know – they can say they are doing something that really affects me, instead of some trickle-down attitude that they seem to be used to, and it does not feel nice to get trickled on.

David Westin.   Madam Speaker, it is clear you find this urgent.  You’ve said why you think it is urgent.  On the other hand, we hear from the Republicans, some of them, saying, ‘Let's wait and see how the first bills work out.’  Can you give us a sense of timing?  I know you are going to chairs, talking about what should be included.  Can we expect a plan by, for example, next week? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We could.  We could, because I disagree with our colleagues.  I totally disagree.  It is urgent.  People are dying.  People are suffering.  We want to open up our economy.  People want out.  But the key to getting out is testing.  These are all related, and they are related, in every way, to data.  To data. 

They did not mind coming back with more money for this or that without any data as to what was working best but when it comes to feeding people, they can wait for that.  And that is a matter of health and well-being of the American people.  So, I completely disagree with that.  While I think it is important to learn from legislation we passed in every case, but that should not deter us or block us from meeting the urgent needs of the American people. 

And I think that there are people in the American public – when you ask these questions in the country, the bipartisan support for them is overwhelming for honoring our heroes, state and local, testing and the rest, the postal service, all these things have very broad support, among Republicans as well. 

We are talking about public sentiment coming to the rescue of our country, of our democracy, really.  Because, so much of what – the middle class is the backbone of our democracy, and those who aspire to it.  And, if we are undermining that, that undermines our democracy. 

And we do have money in for voting, by the way.  We have money in there for voting, for vote by mail, which we think is a health imperative now.  Democrats and Republicans support vote by mail.  But, right now, it is imperative.  That is a small item in the scheme of things.

David Westin.  I was going to ask you about that, is that essential from your point of view?  You have talked before about vote by mail this coming November.  

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, vote by mail is something – again, everything we are talking about has bipartisan support.  And vote by mail does, as well.  The National Association of Secretaries of State, which is headed by a Republican president or chairman or whatever they call him, has written to us to say, ‘Remove some of the obstacles to voting by mail that were in CARES 1.’ 

So, there is a recognition that to conduct elections in – consistent with trends in our country, but, also, recognizing the danger to health that so many people showing up on Election Day is something that is not partisan anyplace except in the Congress of the U.S.  But hopefully not.  They will hear from their constituents, I hope.

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, as I understand it, the House is not actually in session right now, even though people are gathered in Washington.  When can it go back into session, and how concerned are you about the safety of Members?

Speaker Pelosi.  I am very concerned about the safety of the Members, but not only the Members, the custodians of the building, the staffing of the Congress, in terms of the Congress.  I’m not talking individual Members’ staffing, though that too.  There are thousands of people who make Congress work.  And it is not just about us.  It is about them. 

We will come back when – we have come back twice for a voice vote one day and another day for a couple of recorded votes.  And we had a regimen that was established by the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Capitol Physician, and those are the terms under which we will come back again.

We were going to come this week and they informed us that it is better next week because of what is happening in the District of Columbia.  So, that is when we will come back. 

And, again, we want to move voting by proxy, remote voting by proxy, so those people who should not come back, who we don't want to come back, you know, if they have a fever or something in their home, they can be registered in the voting by voting by proxy in a very limited way for a very limited time. 

So, we’ll probably be back next week –

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, one of the things you fought hard for – sorry –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, it's alright. 

David Westin.  – One of the things that you fought hard for in one of the earlier bills was that there be an oversight commission on how some of the money is spent.  We have Democrats on it and Republicans.  There have been Members appointed, but we don't have a Chair yet because, as I understand it, you and Senator McConnell have to agree on that. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Yes.

David Westin.  Where are we in that process? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We’re going back and forth.

David Westin.  When are you going to get that oversight going?

Speaker Pelosi.  We have been talking about it for about three weeks, and I had my proposals there.  I’m waiting to hear from the Senator on his most current appropriate – I hope we can resolve it this week because it is essential to do. 

I think we can come to terms.  I wish we could have done it sooner, but I hope we can do it in the next day or so.  That would be my hope.  I have made my proposal to the Senator –

David Westin.  Okay, Madam Speaker –

Speaker Pelosi.  Anyway, that will be important to do.

In any event, thank you for your attention to the issue.  Remember, it is all an investment.  It’s a prevention for this not getting worse in terms of the toll to our life, our liberty, our livelihoods, the lives of the American people, the livelihood of the American people and, of course, the life of our democracy.

Thank you.

David Westin.  Madam Speaker, thank you so very much for being with us here today.  I really appreciate it.

That’s Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.