Transcript of Pelosi Interview on PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff

August 4, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour to discuss the House-passed Heroes Act, the latest on the negotiations on the COVID-19 response package and other news of the day.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks: 

Judy Woodruff.  To give us a sense of where things stand, I'm joined by the Democrats’ top negotiator.  She is the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  Madam Speaker, welcome back to the Newshour.  In brief, where do things stand?  We just heard Secretary Mnuchin is saying you're aiming for a deal this week.  What does it look like from your perspective?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, Leader Schumer and I said it earlier at our availability with the press, we all have agreed that we need to have an agreement.  We have to have an agreement, though, that faces the reality of the situation.  We do believe that the White House has not really accepted the gravity of the situation, and that's why they're thinking in smaller ways than they need to. 

We have a situation where we're trying to save the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy.  We are making some progress.  We are understanding each other better, exchanging paper to see in writing.  Chuck Schumer and I – Leader Schumer and I are legislators for many years.  We understand when we have a challenge to face, and we want to have a legislative solution.  We have to know what we're talking about; that's why we have to be precise about what we say and the impact it has.  And really we have a different point of view than the Republicans on this. 

Judy Woodruff.  So, are you coming closer together on that all-important federal unemployment benefits number?  Democrats were asking for $600 a week to continue, Republicans were saying $200.  Are you somewhere in between?  We were told maybe you’re –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, there's no in between.  The fact is that since we passed our bill, which was eleven weeks ago tomorrow, 3.3 million more people have gone on to the infected list.  Of those infected, 70,000 more people have died, and the Republicans said they were going to push the pause button, and they did.  And then last week they came up with some piecemeal thing. 

So, we are not saying to the American people, ‘More people are infected.  More people are dying.  More people are uninsured.  More children are hunger insecure – are food insecure, and guess what?  We're going to cut your benefit.’ 

Judy Woodruff.  Well, Madam Speaker, I mean, with all due respect, you called it piecemeal, and, yet, what the Republicans were offering was a short-term extension that would have allowed these extra unemployment benefits to keep flowing.  Democrats said no. 

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, it would have been finished by now.  They're talking about a few – actually, the fact is they didn't have anything that they could pass in the Senate on their own side.  So, if the press wants to say, ‘Well, they offered this, they offered that,’ you can't offer something you don't have. 

We have a bill.  It's called the Heroes Act.  It passed eleven weeks ago tomorrow.  It would have saved lives.  They have nothing.  They can’t even pass – they've said, ‘We have 20 members who won't vote for anything.’  So what, we're talking rhetoric or are we talking reality about what one side or the other is offering? 

And if they wanted to offer a piecemeal thing for one week, that does not – you only do that when you're on the verge of closing, of passing a bill and having it signed into law.  Otherwise, it's just showbiz. 

Judy Woodruff.  So, I'm trying to understand where the two sides are coming together.  For example, the Republican argument is that if the $1,200 they would give to millions of Americans who need help right now would make up for some of that lesser amount in unemployment.  Is that –

Speaker Pelosi.  That's exactly what we had in the CARES Act.  We had the $1,200 in the CARES Act, and we had the $600 in the CARES Act.  So, how does that make up for subtracting something?  That doesn't even make sense on their part. 

Judy Woodruff.  And then, Madam Speaker –

Speaker Pelosi.  We have to get something done, but it doesn't help – we have to get something done.  This is the gravity of the situation.  We want to honor our heroes by supporting state and local government.  We want to end this virus by having testing, tracing, treating.  They said testing is overrated.  Tracing they don't even believe in.  And we want to put money in the pockets of the American people. 

We also have some other things we want to do to protect our democracy with voting, to protect the Post Office and what that means to our country, a strong OSHA law and to feed our children.  So, these are largely our priorities. 

And what they are saying is, ‘Well, we can't afford to do that.’  Well, let's find out what we can afford.  What is a figure that we can agree to?  Let's get it done as soon as we can so that we can get it out there, but let's not be misrepresenting about what we're presenting. 

Judy Woodruff.  Excuse me for interrupting.  What about with regard to food aid?  Democrats do have money in the Heroes Act proposal for good – for food.  Republicans don't.  But when I talked to Leader McConnell last week, he said the money they have in there that goes to schools would provide at least school meals for children, so that would make up a significant portion of the food assistance that Democrats are talking about.  

Speaker Pelosi.  Let me just tell you this: in our bill, we have $67 billion for food, and then a small percentage of that is called food and utilities, food, utilities, water, like that.  $67 billion, over $60 billion of it is for food. 

In their bill, they have $250,000 for food. 

Judy Woodruff.  And his point was that the money that they have for schools would pay for school meals for many children, and in his words this might be the most –

Speaker Pelosi.  We have to do that anyway.  We have to do that anyway.  We have to do that anyway.  So, we're far apart in terms of our values, quite frankly.  We're far apart in understanding the gravity of the situation.  Are we determined to find an agreement?  Yes.  We will find our common ground, but we won't find it on the slim read of a piecemeal bill that says to our workers, ‘You used to get $600.  You're now going to get $200 because the virus has intensified in its spread.’ 

Judy Woodruff.  The other point Republicans are making is they are now showing flexibility in money for state and local governments.  This is, again, a difference.  Democrats want more money.  Republicans want a lot less.  They are saying they are willing to show flexibility, and they're also saying a lot of the money passed in the spring, Madam Speaker, has not even been spent yet.  Is there some give there?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, if you want to be an advocate for them, Judy –

Judy Woodruff.  No, I'm – 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's not what the facts are. 

Judy Woodruff.  I'm playing devil's advocate.  I'm asking you for your position. 

Speaker Pelosi.  The point is, we have a bill that meets the needs of the American people.  It’s called the Heroes Act.  They have not even – they don't even want to do state and local, and when they do, it's very meager and they want to revert to money from before.  Much of the money that was allocated before has been spent or allocated, a small amount has not because they want to see what we're doing in this bill, but that approach is no reason for us not to recognize.  We have $915 billion for states, localities, counties and the rest, tribal governments and territories.  They have very little money that they're offering, and it is – you know, when we have a chance and when we're allowed to show you what the different numbers are.

But our record is clear, our record is clear, we're there for America's working families, we're concerned that tens of millions of people have gone on – the nineteenth straight [week] of people going on to Unemployment Insurance, nineteenth straight week of over 1 million people going on Unemployment Insurance.  Children are food insecure by the millions and they don't want to spend the money necessary to feed the children.  Families are in fear of eviction and they say, ‘Well, we'll extend the moratorium, but we won't put any money to help with that rent, and in terms of the $600, we're going to cut your benefit, and that's how we're going to observe this.’

Now, again, we'll find our common ground, but I don't think, in any way, as a legislature – legislator, that what they are proposing has any recognition of what is happening to the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy. 

Judy Woodruff.  Yeah, so what I was asking about was money that had already been appropriated that hadn't been spent and whether that could be part of any solution here – 

Speaker Pelosi.  No, that's money from before. 

Judy Woodruff.  You know, another –

Speaker Pelosi.  That's money from before.  And as I said, they’re contention that it hasn’t been spent –

Judy Woodruff.  Another – 

Speaker Pelosi.  It's been allocated and there's a small amount that they're waiting to see what we do here before they release. 

Judy Woodruff.  And, again, trying to understand where the two sides may be coming together, as you know, they argue spending so much money: the Democrats' $3 trillion is going to put the country into greater red ink, that that hurts future generations. 

Speaker Pelosi.  They didn't seem to mind when they gave a big tax cut to add $2 trillion to the national debt, so they could give 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent.  It's amazing how free and clear of the national debt they are when it comes to their rich friends and how exacting they are when a poor person who is out of work gets $600.

Judy Woodruff.  So, is there any conversation about rolling back any of those tax cuts? 

Speaker Pelosi.  We're not doing that in this bill.  Well, there’s one we would like to roll back.  In the CARES Act, they put $150 billion for wealthy people having nothing to do with coronavirus, and it was retroactive for the taxes in the past.  We’d like to get rid of that, I don't think we'll have the chance. 

But when we address the issue of taxation in the country, we will do that in way that is bipartisan, has sustainability, fairness and transparency so the American people can see what is happening.  Rather than in the dark of night and the speed of light, a bill that gives 83 percent of the benefits to the top one percent and adds nearly $2 trillion to the national debt for the children to pay.  And then to come around to us and say, ‘How could we do this money for food stamps?  It's going to add to the national debt.’  So, we have a big difference here. 

So, when they’re, you’re putting forth – with all due respect to you as you respected me – their piecemeal, meager approach that doesn't even recognize the gravity of the situation.  If they had recognized it, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in.  Since our bill passed eleven weeks ago tomorrow, 3.3 million people, again, have gone on to the list of those infected, 70 [thousand more] have died.  That didn't have to happen. 

Judy Woodruff.  But bottom line, are you saying there could be a deal reached this week, legislation passed next week? 

Speaker Pelosi.  I hope so –

Judy Woodruff.  Is that a possibility?   

Speaker Pelosi.  That would be the plan.  Yes.  In other words, our difference is, again, in our value systems, so, in terms of this legislation and Chuck and I are master legislators.  We have been here a long time, we know how to get things done, we know the devil and the angels are in the details.  That's why we're exchanging papers to see what they actually mean and intend to do rather than a conversation.  But we have to have an agreement and we will have an agreement.  But we're not going to do it at the expense of America's working families on the basis that, ‘Oh, it's going to add to the national debt.’

Everybody – the Chairman of the Fed, others, have said, if we don't help now with the economy and stop the spread of this virus, the economic situation is only going to worsen, worsen.  So, not investing and making it safe for our children to go to school, our people to go to work, our – the people we're giving this money to to inject demand into the economy so that the economy thrives, it's only going to make matters worse.

So, again, we feel very proudful of the work that was done by our chairmen to bring us to this place, to help – again, I say it again – save the lives, the livelihood and the life of our democracy. 

Judy Woodruff.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we thank you very much for joining us.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Judy.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.