Transcript of Pelosi Interview on NPR’s All Things Considered with Ari Shapiro and Susan Davis

June 26, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined join Ari Shapiro and Susan Davis on NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss the House passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, the latest on the Congressional response to the coronavirus pandemic and other news of the day.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:  

Sarah McCammon.  The House of Representatives has passed a sweeping police reform bill.  It includes many of the things civil rights groups have called for: changing policies on chokeholds, limited immunity for police officers and no-knock warrants.  Democrats blocked a police reform bill in the Senate this week, saying it did not go far enough.  This means police reform is likely to go nowhere before the election.

Ari Shapiro.  At the same time, the U.S. is seeing record numbers of coronavirus infections and this alarming rise comes just weeks before additional unemployment benefits are set to run out.  If Congress doesn’t act, millions of unemployed Americans will lose an extra $600 a week.  All of this is on the plate of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who joins us from Capitol Hill.  NPR Congressional Correspondent Susan Davis is also here to join me in the interview, as well.  Madam Speaker, welcome.

Speaker Pelosi.  Hi.  Thank you, Ari.  It’s wonderful to be with you.  Hi, Susan.  How are you?

Susan Davis.  Thank you, Madam Speaker.  We’re going to ask about the next phase of coronavirus response in a minute, but let’s start with police reform.  The Senate, this week, could not pass a Republican bill.  House Democrats did pass a bill last night.  But the Senate’s not going to take it up.  There’s no negotiation going on.  Does there need to be an election first before Congress will try again?

Speaker Pelosi.  I certainly hope not because if that were the case, more people would be in danger.  It behooves the Senate to pass a bill.  In order to do that, they have to negotiate with the Democrats about what that bill would look like. 

The bill that the Senate put forth was bare leads.  It was nothing.  It did nothing.  It would make no difference.  So, it’s not a question that it didn’t go far enough, it didn’t go anywhere. 

So, they’ll – what will happen next, in my view, Senate Democrats and Republicans are going to have to sit down together and negotiate a bill.  When a bill passes the Senate, then we can sit down and have a negotiation with the House bill.  

Ari Shapiro.  Let's shift to COVID-19.  Yesterday was the second straight day the U.S. saw a record number of infections and it's especially bad in the South and the West, including your home state of California.  Does the federal government need to take a more direct role in managing this crisis or do you think states should continue to take the lead?

Speaker Pelosi.  I think the federal government should take a more direct role in enabling states to execute.  Just in terms of justice, as we've been talking about, Reverend Martin Luther King said: Of all forms of injustice, the inequality in health care is the most inhumane, inhuman because people can die.  And so in this coronavirus, unless we get the data on how this effects everyone, including people of color, we will have many more deaths among people of color in this regard. 

We have in our Heroes Act, resources, a strategic plan for testing, tracing and treatment, as well as isolation.  And in order to destroy this virus.  We don't have a vaccine, we don't have a cure yet, but right now we have the tools and this Administration has failed to execute them.  Their denial and their delay in all of this has caused death.

Ari Shapiro.  Joe Biden said today that if he were elected President, he would make wearing a face mask in public mandatory.  Do you agree with that?  

Speaker Pelosi.  Absolutely.  In fact, the reason the CDC hasn’t made it mandatory is because they don’t want to embarrass the President or insult the President, or whatever it is, offend the President.  They said they'd recommend it, but they hadn't required it.  And we’re like, why aren’t you requiring it?  The inference to be drawn from their response is that it’s because of the President.  And that, again, is another, President saying, ‘this is a hoax,’ that ‘it’s magically going to disappear,’ and not wearing a mask himself is an example to the country.  How cowardly is that?  

So, yes.  I totally agree with Joe Biden.  As long as we are dealing with this crisis, masks should be mandatory.  It’s not about protecting yourself.  It’s about protecting others. 

Susan Davis.  In just a few weeks, at the end of July, an additional $600 in unemployment benefits that Congress approved in response to the pandemic is going to expire.  As you know, the employment rate is sitting around thirteen percent.  Are you committed to extending those additional benefits?

Speaker Pelosi.  This week, we had the fourteenth straight week of over one million people applying for unemployment benefits, the fourteenth straight week.  This is horrible for the lives of those people, terrible in terms of our economy.  People have to have the Unemployment Insurance.  That’s a stabilization factor in our economy.

Susan Davis.  On that question of additional benefits, is that a deal breaker or no?

Speaker Pelosi.  I’m not going to negotiate that on this call.  Depends what we have in the bill and how much we get in direct payments and are they going to supply food for people and are we – you know there are many factors in the bill.  But you don’t negotiate by drawing red lines in the sand, in the public media.  

But it is something that we have to weigh the effectiveness of, and it is a big boost in many families.  And so, we’ll have that negotiation, but it depends on what else we do with direct payments and other assistance.

Ari Shapiro.  That’s Speaker Pelosi on this question of negotiation.  You told the Washington Post that you are not talking with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin right now.  You and he negotiated many of the provisions of the previous relief bills.  How will anything pass if you're not negotiating with the leaders in the Administration?

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me just say that they know what they have to do.  They have said that they know they have to do a package.  The Chairman of the Fed has said if we don't make a major investment from Congress, we are going to have a bigger recession than we even have now.  He has said he has –

Ari Shapiro.  But you said there will be negotiation. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Of course there will be a negotiation, but that doesn't mean that I have to talk to Steve Mnuchin.  It means that there are different levels of the negotiation.  We always start with our appropriators, and when they get to a place where they – it has to be kicked up to a different level then we go to the leadership.  And we negotiate, and then when it goes has to go to another level. 

So, it isn’t a person-to-person negotiation from day one.  It’s a process.

Ari Shapiro.  Finally, Madam Speaker, before we let you go, the surprise wins in the Democratic party have been coming from people who are younger, farther to the left, not white.  What responsibility does the generation of people currently in power, such as yourself, have to elevate these voices and allow them to define the shape of the Democratic party? 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, as I say, in a district like mine and a district like those in New York those voices are very important, and they are an important part of our Caucus.  We have a big tent.  We have a very big tent in our Caucus, and a range of exuberance is there.  And they're all welcome, and they’re all respected.

We have changed so much about how we welcome newcomers here.  When they – the biggest class that ever came before – or one of the biggest classes – was of Watergate babies.  They came right after Watergate in the late 70’s.  In the first year they were here, not one of them was the chair of a subcommittee, had a gavel.

With this new class that came this last time, eighteen members of the Freshman class were chairs of [subcommittees].  

Ari Shapiro.  Are you saying they should be grateful for the opportunities to lead that you've given them, rather than demand more?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, I’m not talking about grateful.  Nothing is about grateful.  Everything is about what you can do for the future.

What I am saying is there is a recognition that the majority of our Caucus is women and people of color, LGBTQ, and we want them not only to have a seat at the table but a seat at the head of the table, because then the policy will be better.  And we will all benefit from that.

So, it's not a question of we want them to be – no, we’re grateful that they’re here.  We are the grateful ones.  

Ari Shapiro.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, thank you for joining us again.

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.  Thank you, Ari.  Thank you.