Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Mike Barnicle on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the legacy of Congressman John Lewis as well as the urgent need for the Senate to take up the House-passed Heroes Act, the Trump Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Mika Brzezinski. The financial help that Congress afforded millions of Americans because of the coronavirus could end this month if Congress fails to pass a second round of stimulus. The former Chairs of the Federal Reserve saying not extending the supplemental unemployment benefits of $600 a week ‘would be a catastrophe for the economy.’ The White House says President Trump is expected to start stimulus talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later today.
Joining us now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Great to have you on the show with us.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you for having me.
Joe Scarborough. And Speaker Pelosi, we're going to talk about that in a moment. But let's begin by talking about your dear friend, John Lewis, his passing and, I think John would say more importantly, the Voting Rights Act that you all passed last year, that continues to languish in the United States Senate.
Speaker Pelosi. That would be the appropriate way to honor John Lewis, is for the Senate to take up the Voting Rights Act and name it for John Lewis.
When we passed it before, we were in the Minority, but we were able to write the bill and John Lewis was very much a part of that. And I remind that, at that time, unanimous I think it was in the Senate. We had, perhaps, around 400 votes in the House, very bipartisan. We had – all walked down the steps of the Capitol together.
That it should be so difficult for them to take up the Voting Rights Act is really hard to comprehend, but maybe now they see a path. I certainly hope so.
Joe Scarborough. Can you explain to Americans why something that was so easy to do for Republicans and Democrats alike not so long ago, now is met with such resistance by Mitch McConnell's United States Senate?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let's hope that it won't be. But let's just say, there's no way I can explain the behavior of the Republicans in enabling the current occupant of the White House to behave in the manner that he has behaved. It is very disconcerting to me, as a mom and grandmother, because they are endangering our children now by their cavalier attitude about sending kids to school and, then, saying at the same time – somebody saying out of the White House: we're not doing anything more for testing and the rest.
So, we're under a kind of – don't ask me why the Republicans do what they do. But I do know they can't continue in that way. We have to end this virus, that's what concerns me. I know people pay attention to his behavior and his whatever, but the fact is, his behavior toward our children, his behavior to the health crisis in this country, his behavior to what it means in terms of people's lives, livelihood and the life of our democracy is what is very bewildering.
I have said that what he has done is going to be doggy doo stuck to the shoe of Republicans for a very long time to come because they enabled him to do these bad things.
Joe Scarborough. So, the Washington Post’s Phillip Rucker and Felicia Sonmez wrote this morning in the Washington Post that ‘The Trump Administration has further up-ended talks over the latest coronavirus relief bill by trying to block billions of dollars for states to conduct testing and contact tracing, angering even Republican Senators.’
Do you believe there's a possibility that with more Republican governors speaking out, with more Republican Senators behind the scenes getting angry, and some of them starting to speak out, that there could be a bipartisan compromise that would actually help business owners, help small and large businesses, help schools, help others know whether they can open safely or not with expanded testing and tracing that Donald Trump wants to block?
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, we absolutely have to have that. Actually, Republicans outside of the Congress, across the country, governors, mayors, county executives, elect persons and the rest in a bipartisan way, support what we want to do to help state and local governments, to honor our heroes: our health care workers, our transit workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, our sanitation workers, all of those who are delivering service to people. And that is to help them – the states and localities – with their cost of the coronavirus, both their outlays of money and also their lost revenue.
So, in a bipartisan way, across the country, I have advocacy galore coming our way and, hopefully, to the Republican Senators as well. In addition to which – that's number one: honoring our heroes. Secondly, open our economy: testing, tracing, treating, isolating, mask wearing, sanitation. We know what to do.
We don't have – we don’t have a vaccine yet. God-willing we will. I pray that that is the case, but science is an answer to our prayers, and that's going to be a little while off. In the meantime, lives can be saved. So, when we heard over the weekend that the White House was thinking about no more testing, that defied – that goes beyond ignorance. It’s just beyond the pale. Hopefully, it was a mistake and they'll back off it because it is so very wrong.
But don't listen to me, listen to the scientists, scientists, scientists, who have said all along, if we had been doing this, we wouldn't be in the fix we're in now and we must be doing it so matters don't get worse, both in terms of the health and well-being of the American people, the ability of children to go to school and the opportunity for our economy to open up.
Then we have money in the pockets of our American people as our third big pillar. And, as you know, Chairs of the Fed – everybody understands that the economy will only get worse if we do not, if we do not continue to support working families in our country as we have done.
Now, everything I mentioned, Republicans have voted for before. Not as much, but, nonetheless, it is not asking to go against their principles. And the President has signed it.
Mika Brzezinski. Madame Speaker, the stimulus discussion is one we can have, but I also wanted to continue to coronavirus and end up at the elections. Given the fix we are in with this virus and given that there are still hot spots across the country and resurgences of it, surges – frightening situations, people still dying, 12,000 cases a day on average in Florida, for example – and the fix that we're in for reopening schools. So many problems. There's also going to be potentially a lot of people voting by mail, too frightened to leave their homes if we are still in the fix that we are in with this virus.
How secure is mail-in balloting? The President continues to undermine it with his words, saying that it's, you know, not accurate –
Joe Scarborough. ‘Rigged.’
Mika Brzezinski. – that it's easily faulted by people and, you know, can be corrupted in some way, even though most of the people in his Administration have voted by mail, including him. And, in the interview with Chris Wallace, he did not confirm whether he would leave – whether he would accept the results of the election if he lost. What do you make of that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that's a loaded question there about coronavirus, what we do about it. But the fact is, whether he knows it yet or not, he will be leaving. Just because he might not want to move out of the White House doesn't mean we won't have an inauguration ceremony to inaugurate a duly-elected President of the United States and the – I just – you know, I'm second in line to the Presidency. Just last week I had my regular continuation of government briefing. This might interest you because I say to them, ‘This is never going to happen. God-willing it never will.’ But there is a process. It has nothing to do with the certain occupant of the White House doesn't feel like moving and has to be fumigated out of there because the presidency is the presidency. It's not geography or location.
So, so much for him. I wouldn't spend so much time on it. That's a victory for him because then we're not talking about your first, more important subject which is what are we going to do to stop this vicious virus that is making an assault on our health, again, our lives, our livelihood and life of our democracy.
In The Heroes Act, we have $3.6 billion for vote-by-mail. This is very, very important. That's what is needed in our country and has bipartisan support throughout the country. Secretaries of state and other auspices under which elections take place are calling for the resources.
They don't want any barriers to it. We have some additions we’d like, which is every registered voter gets to vote by mail with return postage paid; that those who don't want to can go and vote but in a safe way with a lot of time leading up and a lot of locations so that people are not crowded into it. This is simple. It’s – when I say simple, we know what we need to do. Again, ignore what the President has to say. He doesn't know what he's talking about, once again, when he talks about any problems with vote-by-mail.
I was State Party Chair 30 years, more than 30 years ago, before I was a Member of Congress, and we would win on – Joe knows well, this was before his time too – but we would win on election day and the Republicans would come raging in with absentee ballots. So, they know how to do this and they've done it for a long time. But this is no longer a democracy issue, this is a health issue. And if they can't face that reality, then all the more reason for us to get that money so we can make it happen in a healthy way for our country. The way our soldiers will, our overseas voters.
Joe Scarborough. Yeah. You know, Madam Speaker, it's so funny you say that because this whole debate about absentee votes, mail-in votes has been so surreal because in every – just like you, in every time I'm walking around a room and a candidate's worried, as a Republican, I would always have one question: have you got the absentee votes in? No. I would say, ‘Just relax. Just relax.’ And I would ask throughout the night, have the absentee votes come in? And when they finally came in, you knew whether Republicans or Democrats won or lost because the Republicans always did better with absentee votes. We always did better with military votes mailed in. We always did better with people who voted early.
Isn't it just bizarre that Donald Trump has taken a Republican institution that Donald Trump practices, his press secretary practices, his family practices and somehow suggested that everybody else – if everybody else does what the Trumps do in record number that it will be a rigged election?
Speaker Pelosi. You used the word bizarre. That's appropriate, probably mild.
Joe Scarborough. It is bizarre.
Speaker Pelosi. But we have the money in the bill. We did $400 million in the CARES Act, we had $400 million, so they have voted for this. Now – but we need much more across the country for it and it's the wave of the future. I mean, for them to talk about this as if it's something so new and that. As you know, it isn't.
But also it's a health issue now. People shouldn't be having to be standing in line for hours. They shouldn't have to be going into polling places that could be, shall we say, not as safe as we might have thought them to be before. So, this is a very, how can I say this, a very high priority for us. Not because we think we'll win on the absentee ballot, but because we think it's safer for the American people.
Joe Scarborough. Mike Barnicle is with us and has a question for you, Madam Speaker. Mike.
Speaker Pelosi. Hi, Mike.
Mike Barnicle. Madam Speaker, you look great, as always. But, you know, I would like to point out that thankfully, many Americans do not have the virus. But most Americans do have anxiety about the virus and its effects on their children. No one more so than the parents of school-age children. You're the mother of five children, what are your thoughts on the reopening of schools in this age of the virus?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the mother of nine – the grandmother of nine grandchildren who go from grade school to college. And this – look, I’m – think of me as sort of a lioness: I'm okay; you come near my cubs, you're dead. Just don't mess with the children. And I consider all of America's children our children. So don't be cavalier about our children to be in a classroom.
These decisions may have to be made locally because of the rate of infection in certain areas, but they have to be made scientifically. Scientifically, and it’s just something the President resists: science and governance. This is what science tells us. This is what – and governing – we should be doing. Both of those are foreign notions to him, but that doesn't mean our children should be subjected to his notion mongering.
And what we have to do is, again, test, trace, treat, isolate. It's going to cost money. We have $100 billion in The Heroes Act of an education stabilization fund, specifically for the coronavirus, so we can – if you're going to be spaced, you need more space and more teachers, you need better ventilation. This has clarity to it if you place a value on it. And that's what we have to do. We cannot take a risk with our children. And the Secretary of Education said, ‘Well, children should be risk-takers. Astronauts take risks, why shouldn't children?’ What can you say?
Mika Brzezinski. Madam Speaker –
Joe Scarborough. That's unbelievable.
Mika Brzezinski. I totally agree. Madam Speaker, President Trump said there would be some sort of announcement or new developments on Tuesday in light of the DACA decision. Do you know anything about that?
Joe Scarborough. Yeah. Regarding a flurry of Executive Orders on immigration, possibly on health care. Anything you've been given the heads up on?
Speaker Pelosi. No. The thing is, if he decides to do something with DACA after the Supreme Court sent his case away, not on substance, but on process, and now he wants to come back with it, it's really a demonstration of his cruelty, his cowardice toward these young people in our country. I certainly hope he does not do that. Even for him, this is a new low. But I always say of him and the White House, they have a limbo contest going. They just have to see how low they can go.
And to do an act of cruelty after the Supreme Court has spoken, announced a decision and we're only 106 days away from the next election. Why? Except that you're cruel, you're cowardly, you're afraid. You're afraid of the future.
So, I don't know what he has – well, I don't say ‘in mind,’ because what’s that? I don't know what they're cooking up in terms of health care. One of the things I think they might try to do is have some kind of a fake lower prescription drug thing. Again, it will be show boat, it will be snake oil salesmen, it won't be really what we need.
We want them to join us in lowering the cost of prescription drugs and we have to inoculate, literally inoculate against what he might have to say about that. But we could have worked together in a bipartisan way. During the campaign he said he was going to ‘negotiate like crazy’ about the cost of prescription drugs. Well, apparently ‘like crazy’ means not at all. But that's the way to lower the cost of prescription drugs. So maybe he'll try to give an illusion of something in that way.
I hope it's a good thing. I hope it's a good thing. However, I don't know what he has in mind.
Mika Brzezinski. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much for coming on.
Speaker Pelosi. I use the term ‘in mind’ – I use the term ‘in mind,’ sort of loosely.
Thank you all very much. Wonderful to be with you when we are observing the loss of our darling John Lewis. In Congress, as Joe knows, he always worked on the side of the angels and now he is with them. May he rest in peace.
Joe Scarborough. He certainly did.
Mika Brzezinski. Thank you so much.