Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s Live with Peter Alexander
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Peter Alexander on MSNBC’s Live to discuss today’s unveiling of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Peter Alexander. I want to join this conversation with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is joining us right now. Madam Speaker, we appreciate your time. Thanks for being with us.
I want to pick up with where we left off with the doctor there. And, specifically on the topic of coronavirus, as we watch the cases rise, surging in many states. California, parts of your state witnessing the same.
The President holding another rally just yesterday, no social distancing, no masks. Dr. Fauci and other health leaders saying there's a disturbing trend we're seeing right now. The President even using a racist term to describe this virus in recent days. What's the potential impact about this and what can Democrats do about it?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we have done it. We have it in The Heroes Act, which is our second pillar, which is open our economy. Testing, tracing, treating, isolating. We don't have a vaccine yet or a good cure in a quantity available to all. Perhaps we will. We pray that science will give us those answers.
But, we do have the tools to stop the spread of this disease. And we have, as Dr. Wen said, a moral imperative to act upon that, to wear the mask, to self-isolate.
But, you know, yesterday, when they had the hearing they said, ‘Did the President ever hold you back from testing?’ The question I would have had for them would have been, ‘Did the President ever encourage you to do everything in our power to test as many people as possible?’ And that is what we have to do. And that's what our legislation does.
Our very first bill on the coronavirus was March 4th: testing, testing, testing. In a recent bill of the PPP, we had more money for testing, hospitals, etcetera, to get the job done. Now – and, now, with this bill, because the Administration did not act upon the opportunities they had before, we have the whole strategic plan: money to go to the states for testing, tracing, treating, isolating, to stop it.
Peter Alexander. And Madam Speaker if I can, let me ask you very quickly, the President repeatedly, again, yesterday using this racist term for the virus. Your reaction to that?
Speaker Pelosi. It's really hard to comment on whatever he is saying because it is so – it's not constructive. Let's talk about what we should be doing. Why are not the scientists who advising him demanding that we have the testing that we need? All the scientists tell us we need far more than what we are doing.
And, you know what, it would address some of the grievance that we have about the disparity of the deaths in communities of color. If you don't test, you don't know; you can't identify the challenge and, therefore, to trace and treat and limit the number of deaths. So, this is a justice issue in addition to a health issue. The predisposition that people have because of their lack of access to health care exacerbates the situation.
So, let's not pay attention to what the President said. Let's just stipulate that it's very – it's not constructive. It's dangerous. His original delay, his denial and his statements now are causing people to die.
Peter Alexander. Let me ask you about health care then, if I can, introducing today the Affordable Care Enhancement Act. This is to try to fortify Obamacare right now, that the Administration has been trying to get rid of to this point. Costs obviously going up for a lot of Americans. A lot of Americans are without jobs right now.
Why, just several months out from election, should Americans have any faith that Congress can get anything done on this issue?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we should because the American people are speaking out. In the 2018 election, the top issue was health care. We introduced pieces of this bill in 2019. We are reintroducing it to lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and many other provisions in there.
And the Administration is insisting on fighting us in court. Tomorrow, they will file their brief to undo the Affordable Care Act. Pre-existing condition benefit? Forget about it. All the things that help people have access.
There are over 125 million families in America that are affected by pre-existing medical condition. The Affordable Care Act made all the difference in the world to them, in terms of having access, but also no lifetime limits on the insurance that you could get and the rest.
So, there's so many reasons that people will be drastically impacted by – and, you know what? They don't tell the truth about it. They say – yesterday, I heard one of them, on TV, saying, ‘We're all for the pre-existing condition.’ Well, stop fighting it in the courts and accept our legislation, which will reinstate it in a stronger way since you have been making an assault on it.
So, we just had a press conference unfolding with many of our Freshmen Members who have intricate pieces of the legislation –
Peter Alexander. Yeah.
Speaker Pelosi. – our three Chairs, Mr. Neal, Mr. Pallone and Mr. Scott will bring the bill to the Floor on Monday. We're very excited about the Patient Protection Affordable Care Enhancement Act.
Peter Alexander. Madam Speaker, let me ask you, if I can right now, about police reform. Obviously a major issue, as we see this wave of protests continuing across the country right now. You've echoed your Democratic colleagues who have said that the Republican bill is, in their words and in your words, ‘Unsalvageable.’
When you were speaking yesterday, you said Republicans are, ‘Trying to get away with murder, actually, the murder of George Floyd.’ Senate Republicans are demanding an apology for that statement. Will you apologize?
Speaker Pelosi. Absolutely, positively not.
The fact is people say – I think, frankly, you, in the press, have given them far too much credit for a bill that does nothing. They’re saying, ‘Well, you have your bill. They have theirs.’ Yeah, our bill does something. Theirs does nothing.
With all due respect – I’m sorry?
Well, we would hope they –
Peter Alexander. Is Tim Scott working in good faith? Is this a good starting point?
Speaker Pelosi. I'm talking about Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell could open this up again and have an open Judiciary Committee consideration of a bill where they could come together and get something done.
The reason we have overwhelming support across the country, young people, sports figures, big-time names in the people of color communities and the rest, is that the bill gets something done.
So, when you all in the press say, ‘Can't you compromise?’ No, we can't compromise if you say no chokeholds and they say some chokeholds. What's the compromise, fewer chokeholds? No. No chokeholds. But we have to have some fundamental stipulation of fact that certain things are wrong.
Their bill is a non-starter. I had hoped and kept the door open to the thought that maybe they'll come up with something that could be malleable or reconcilable. But they haven’t.
And it's most unfortunate to see the United States Senate, Republicans, can ignore hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of America, across the country, day in, week in, now month – for a long period of time, speaking out for justice in policing, respecting those who do their jobs correctly, but also recognizing there are those who do not.
So, the legislation we have put forth is one piece. There's more that we should all be doing. But this is one piece that we thought would have consensus. But what the President put forth and what the Republicans are putting forth is to hijack words, but take no action, so make no difference.
But it's not too late. Mitch McConnell can take the good faith of Tim Scott or other Members who may want to cooperate and write a bill in a bipartisan way in their Judiciary Committee and see where they come out.
Peter Alexander. So, we wait and see.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah, but it is and this is important.
Peter Alexander. Madam Speaker, let me ask you about Democratic politics, if I can quickly. One of your loyal teammates on the Democratic side has been Eliot Engel, for many years, your Chair at the Foreign Affairs Committee. It appears clear he is going to lose in his district to a younger Democratic candidate. Why do you think he'll have lost?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, again, we don't know what the end results are of it. But, again, every race is an individual one, about a person's connection to their constituents and the rest.
And, you know, it's a Democratic primary. We'll have a Democrat in the Congress, that's what is important to us. And I wish whoever wins the nomination well.
He has been a valued Member of the Congress both as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and as a Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is doing this health bill this week, Monday in the Congress.
But, again, I haven't evaluated how the elections have turned out because they really haven't. But, you know, it's elections, and you never know what's going to happen.
Peter Alexander. Of course we’ll wait and see.
Speaker Pelosi. I'm really focused, frankly, on the 132 days from now when we have the election for President of the United States, because I believe that our democracy is at stake with the presidential election that exists.
We will win the House and keep our numbers. We hope to win the Senate. And we must elect Joe Biden President of the United States. That's really where my focus is.
Peter Alexander. Let me ask you quickly about that, then. It was October of 2019 that Americans became familiar with this picture: a picture of you at the White House, standing up, pointing at the President. Eight months have now passed since you met face-to-face with President Trump, the President of the United States.
For the sake of the country, given these protests, given COVID-19, is this the right time to sit back down with the President to try to hash out some deals on some of these crucial issues?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, first of all, you're forgetting we were face-to-face at the State of the Union address. That was in January of this year. And, since that time –
Peter Alexander. The two of you were together, sure.
Speaker Pelosi. Since that time, we have had negotiations with the Trump Administration. We produced the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Free Trade Agreement, working together. We passed the legislation to keep government open since that time, at the end of the year and then into the next year. We passed four bills on the coronavirus, all bipartisan.
So, bipartisanship and working with the Administration does not necessarily mean enduring whatever the President may be saying at the moment. But, it does mean working together, trying to find your common ground. All four bills have been bipartisan. We're very proud of that. We think our Heroes Act will be bipartisan, too, because just about everything in it is something Republicans have supported in the past. And that’s why we went down – we went down that path.
We've had many pieces of legislation that have been bipartisan. We'll have another one in the weeks ahead with the Land and Water Conservation Act. That is very important to all of us. It will be very bipartisan when we pass it and send it on to the President.
Peter Alexander. Madam Speaker, we appreciate your time. We know you have a lot going on. Thanks for spending some time with us today.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Thank you so much.