Transcript of Pelosi Interview on CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Wolf Blitzer on CNN's The Situation Room to discuss coronavirus relief legislation, the Trump Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Wolf Blitzer. We are following the breaking news on President Trump's first coronavirus media briefing since April.
Let’s get reaction from the top Democrat in Congress. We are joined by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi, thank you so much for joining us. We have lots to discuss.
But let me start with the President's news conference he just had. He encouraged people to go ahead and wear masks, he admitted that things would get worse before they get better, eventually it will disappear. How far do you think all that goes in addressing this crisis that is still killing hundreds of Americans every single day?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think with the President's comments today, he recognized the mistakes he has made by now embracing mask-wearing and the recognition this is not a hoax, it is a pandemic that has gotten worse before it will get better because of his inaction. And, in fact, clearly, it is the Trump virus.
Wolf Blitzer. Well, what do you mean when you say the Trump virus?
Speaker Pelosi. The Trump virus: if he had said months ago, let's wear masks and let’s not – let’s socially distance instead of rallies and whatever they were, then more people would have followed his lead. He's the President of the United States. Instead of being a bad example, like a manhood thing not to wear a mask.
So, in any event, it was weird because a briefing on the coronavirus should be about science, and that is something the President has ignored. It should be about governance and, now, he's finally embracing – saying it is okay to wear a mask. So, I think a good deal of what we have suffered is clearly the Trump virus.
Wolf Blitzer. So what you are saying is that thousands of Americans have died because of what the President has done or not done; is that what you are saying?
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. Yes, that's what I am saying. I think it's clearly evident.
We’re approaching four million – we’re approaching four million people infected – people affected by this – infected by it, and a large number, like 140,000, who have passed away. If it's important to wear a mask now, it would have been important to wear it in March instead of telling us that by April we would all be going to church together. I wish that were the case, but he had no scientific basis for that.
And so, if they don’t return to science and governance – and that’s a way that we can overcome this. We have hope and prayers for a vaccine. God-willing that will be soon. But it is still months away and people will die. So, let's hope that the President comes closer to embracing the reality of this pandemic, this Trump virus.
Wolf Blitzer. Let’s look ahead because I know you had a chance to meet today with the White House Chief of Staff. You met with the Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. You’re discussing the next coronavirus-related stimulus package to help the American people. First of all, what can you tell us about this meeting? Where the negotiations stand now?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I wouldn't call them negotiations. We, two months ago and one week, we passed The Heroes Act, which is a robust but necessary package to do – to honor our heroes by state and local – by funding state and local governments for their cost of the coronavirus; secondly by opening our economy, testing, testing, testing; third, putting money into the pockets of American people, Unemployment Insurance, direct payments, et cetera and, then, some other things.
We worked a while on that legislation. Apparently, Republicans weren't doing much except taking a pause. So, what we said today, Leader Schumer and I, said today, ‘We have our offer on the table, it's called The Heroes Act. We need to see your bill to be put on the table.’
We had – we have a great piece of legislation. They seem to be in disarray. I don't know when they will get their act together, but they have had plenty of time to be thinking about this and this delay is unnecessary because, by the end of July, unemployment benefits will expire – a number – a moratorium on evictions will expire – many things will expire that are addressed in our legislation.
So, let’s see what they have to offer, then we can negotiate.
Wolf Blitzer. I know your bill, the price tag – you wanted another $3 trillion. So, the bill Secretary Mnuchin is starting at $1 trillion. How do you bridge that, that $2 trillion difference, and reach some sort of compromise?
Speaker Pelosi. We will. We will. But it will take about a trillion dollars to do state and local. It will take several hundred billion dollars to open up the economy by testing, testing, testing. And it's over a trillion dollars to do the Unemployment Insurance and the direct payments, which they know that we have to do.
I think that they've been talking more about – not in this meeting; I don't want you to get that impression. But others have said something closer to $2 trillion, so they're getting warmer.
Wolf Blitzer. When it comes to more money for testing, which is so critical, so crucial, the President just said at his news conference, he said he's okay with it if that's what the doctors and professionals feel is needed. Is that what you also heard during your meeting today, that there will be a lot more money for testing?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say this: our first bill, March 4th, was about testing, testing, testing. We've had it in other bills since then. They have not implemented it properly. We're so long overdue. We talk about not wearing masks all spring, but we haven't been testing to the level that we should have been to really address and defeat this virus.
So, it's not just about putting more money there. It's about getting the job done, and to do that, we need equipment. We need equipment to test. People are waiting because there's not enough equipment to get around to everyone who wants a test.
Secondly, you have to have equipment to analyze the test. It's no use taking a test and then find out a week later or longer whether you are positive or negative. It's obsolete already. Let's do it in 24 hours, 48 at the most. You need equipment to do that. And to do all of it, including opening our schools, administering to the needs of people that are sick, we need PPE, personal protective equipment. So, equipment to test, equipment to measure the test and equipment to take care of meeting the needs of people.
This is – we just don't have enough, and that's why – that's one of the reasons why we're so far behind in testing, no matter what the President says. On this subject, he really distorts the number. He either doesn't know, doesn't care or just decides to make up a number.
But we do need the Defense Production Act to be implemented by the President of the United States to say we need the equipment that we need to open our schools, to open our economy, to fight this virus, the Trump virus.
Wolf Blitzer. Madam Speaker, what do you tell the 20 million or 25 million Americans who are about to lose the $600 weekly unemployment benefit? It goes away at the end of this week. The President just said they're thinking of doing 70 percent of that amount? Is 70 percent of that acceptable to you?
Speaker Pelosi. I don't know that the President said that. I mean, I don't know what he said about that. I think they were talking about 70 percent of income to be – I just – I don't – well, when we see – as I said, it's no use having a conversation about something. Seventy percent of what, of the $600 or 70 percent of their income? That's why we have to see – we have to see the bill. We have to see the proposal in writing. What does it mean?
Let me just say this: $600, that $600 means a great deal to the families who are receiving it. To some families, it's really a survival. It's a survival amount of money. Some people say, ‘Oh, $600, people aren't going to go to work if they get $600.’ Well, we have an expression as an appropriator, which I long was, ‘The plural of anecdote is not data.’ You may know somebody who might not do that. But overall this $600 means a lot to the families, America's working families.
And it cracks me up that they make a fuss over $600 when they were willing to spend nearly $2 trillion to add to the deficit to give tax breaks to the richest people in America, 83 percent of the benefits of that going to the top one percent.
So, you know, they're bolstering the stock market. Okay, there's a floor to the stock market. Everybody knows it's not going below a certain place. That's okay. Let's have a floor for America's working families.
Wolf Blitzer. Alright.
Speaker Pelosi. And that's good for the economy.
Wolf Blitzer. Speaker Pelosi, as usual, thank you so much for joining us. I know you've got a lot going on. I appreciate it very much.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. Glad to be with you. Thank you for what you're doing. Reveal the truth.
Wolf Blitzer. Thank you very much.