Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s Live with Kristen Welker
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Kristen Welker on MSNBC’s Live 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:
Kristen Welker. With that, I do want to bring in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Madam Speaker, thank you so much for joining me on a very busy day for you –
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning.
Kristen Welker. And all across the country.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, indeed.
Kristen Welker. Good morning to you. Before we get to the critical negotiations, I do want to start with the latest figures when it comes to COVID-19. We've passed that grim milestone, more than 165,000 deaths, the estimates, it could reach as high as 300,000. So, Speaker Pelosi, what responsibility does Congress have to try to turn this around and make sure we don't go even higher?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, one of the responsibilities we all have is to convince the White House that they should base their decisions on science. Let me just – let’s talk numbers, because it's very sad, and I appreciate how you have framed this. One-hundred and sixty-thousand people have died.
We passed the Heroes Act twelve weeks ago today. Since that time, 3.5 million people have been added to the list of those infected by the virus, 3.5 million since we passed our bill. Seventy-thousand people have died since we passed our bill. The Republicans pushed the pause button. The President still ignores all the guidance from science.
So, we have to make a scientific decision to govern in a way that has the allocation of resources. We have to defeat the virus, if we're going to open the economy and safely return our children to school. So, what we should do is to commit to testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, isolation, sanitation and the rest. That's what the scientists have been telling us all along, which has been mocked at certain times, now, hopefully, will be embraced. That's what we have to do. Everything else flows from that.
Kristen Welker. Speaker Pelosi, let's get to those negotiations. We just got that new jobs picture, the unemployment rate still in the double digits. I can imagine it's only adding urgency to the talks. Will you be meeting with White House negotiators today, Speaker Pelosi?
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, we are calling upon them to meet today. We haven't gotten a response back from them, but I always put things in terms of the children. For the children, we must come to an agreement. Children and families are preparing for school, and we have major disagreement between us on the schooling, in terms of the dollar amount, but also how the money would be spent. The President is insisting that most of the money that they are allocating will go to schools that are opening actually, when the evidence is that, across the country, school districts are saying, largely, overwhelmingly, that they will be opening virtually or in a hybrid fashion, some actually. That can't happen unless you reduce, actually can't happen unless you reduce the infection rate in those communities. That's one big stumbling block.
The other is honor our heroes, is the purpose of our bill. Our health care providers, our first responders, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers, our sanitation, transportation, food workers, they're on the verge of being fired, 1.5 million already because we have not adequately compensated them for their outlay for the coronavirus and the rest. So, that's another place where we are far part. We’re at 915 [billion dollars]; they're the 150 [billion dollars]. Those are two places that we have to come to terms.
Kristen Welker. Speaker Pelosi, I understand that, and big picture, you did pass the Heroes Act twelve weeks ago.
Speaker Pelosi. Twelve weeks ago.
Kristen Welker. That is a package that’s north of $3 trillion.
Speaker Pelosi. It is, because that's where the needs are.
Kristen Welker. Republicans are saying they want something more pared back, but where is the middle ground, and do you have a responsibility to find it?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the middle ground – this is not Sophie's Choice. How many children will be fed, how we're going to deal with evictions and how many people will remain – will be relegated to eviction and homelessness? So, when we're talk – this is a different kind of a negotiation. This isn't just about dollars. It's about values, and our bill was very precise in terms of what the needs were and meeting those needs. Now, we can come down in terms of the length of time for our food. For example, in the food we have $67 billion for food and utilities and water. They have $250,000. $67 billion, $250,000. So, where do you –
Kristen Welker. Speaker Pelosi, I understand, but you have had hours of negotiation, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. That's right.
Kristen Welker. And still no deal.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we don't have shared values.
Kristen Welker. Did you overplay your hand?
Speaker Pelosi. No, we didn’t. No, we haven't overplayed our hand. We're not overplaying our hand when we are factually presenting what the needs are for our families, for our teachers, for our schools, for ending the virus. Now, if they want to say, ‘We want to do it with less money,’ let's find out where we can do that without undermining the purpose. This is life and death. This is life – lives of the American people, livelihood, in terms of their economic success, and life of our democracy. We have very seriously differences.
This isn't about bickering. This is very major differences as to science, the role of governance in all of this, and what you think – I mean, in other words, I think that some of the policies the Republicans had put forth have been very disdainful. The stock market's doing fine. They don't mind if the Fed is shoring up the stock market and the credit markets and that, and we said, let's shore up America's working families.
And so, it's a values debate that we're proud to have, but understanding we must come to agreement. So, how do we make those reductions? My view, one way is we have food going on for a longer time. We could go for a shorter time and revisit the issue after the first of the year.
Kristen Welker. Madam Speaker, to follow up on your point, you say this is life and death, and while you are –
Speaker Pelosi. It is.
Kristen Welker. – holding these critical negotiations. And no one is disputing there are serious values at play here, but the American people do not have the relief that they need. Those $600 unemployment checks have expired in july.
Speaker Pelosi. That's right.
Kristen Welker. So, they're left without that critical aid.
Speaker Pelosi. That's right.
Kristen Welker. What is the message to Americans who need that money, that they're just not going to get it in the fall, while these negotiations continue?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, the fact is is that there are many things the American people need and the fact is that that is disdain, disdainful to say – and all of the evidence, the economists at Yale, universities around the country, are saying this $600 is not a deterrent to our economy. In fact, it has kept at least one million people out of poverty, and it has been injecting demand into the economy. When the injection of demand slows down, you see the numbers losing steam. So, I really thank you and appreciate your honing in on these questions, because it is – all of these people need housing. It's food. It's really child care, very essential to families going back to work. It's about OSHA. It's about worker protections.
They're saying to people, ‘You're essential; go to work.’ And if somebody says, ‘I can't because it's a health situation. I don't want to take that home to my family,’ they say, ‘Well, you have to go. If you don't go, you lose your unemployment insurance, and by the way, if you go and you get sick, you have no recourse because we want to protect the employer, who may not have taken the necessary precautions.’
So, people have a lot more at stake than the $600, although we have insisted that we get the biggest number possible for that enhancement and reject the notion that the Republicans are putting forth is that people are staying home because of that. They're staying home because of concern about health. They're staying home to take care of their children, who may not be able to go to actual school. This is a comprehensive – it’s an opportunity for to us work together to do something really good for the children.
Kristen Welker. Given the stalemate on the big issues, though, would you be open to a short-term extension of those unemployment benefits to start getting that critical aid to millions of Americans who say they need it right now?
Speaker Pelosi. No, no, no, no.
Kristen Welker. Not open to a short term deal?
Speaker Pelosi. No, not open to a short term deal. That's an excuse. That's someplace the Republicans want to go and say, ‘We've done what we're going to do. We wash our hands.’ We've been there. We know what that's about, and why would we have to do that?
Kristen Welker. I guess –
Speaker Pelosi. All they have to do is say –
Kristen Welker. The big picture, though –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes, ma'am? Did I lose you?
Kristen Welker. The big picture, though, Madam Speaker, when there is so much at stake, don't you all have a responsibility to compromise and to come off of your two sides, so that you can get something done for the American people, which just has not happened yet?
Speaker Pelosi. I'd like you to take a good look at the Republican proposal. We have $67 billion for food, energy, utilities, etcetera, water. They have $250,000. Now, we'll have to find some common ground there, won't we? They have zero for helping renters who are on the verge of eviction. They may do a moratorium, which would be a good thing, the President may do that by Executive Order, but it's not good without – moratorium without money is a hardship for the renters and the landlords.
So again, understand, look at their bill, because it is so lacking in so many ways. And the money – just thinking of schools, just think of schools, the President is saying unless you go actual, you're not getting these federal dollars. Really? Really? Shouldn't the school districts make a decision based on the incidence, of the rate of infection in their communities and what they can really do?
And by the way, I think it's important to note that if you go actual, if you go virtual or if you go hybrid, it's almost the same cost, because there are different costs that weigh in, all of it involving much more in terms of health care precautions and the rest that relate to the virus, but all of it necessary to protect the children.
Kristen Welker. Madam Speaker, I know you've been asked about this, but President Trump – we're running out of time so I do have a couple more points to tick through. President trump said he's going to take executive action, including on those unemployment benefits. You have said you don't think that's entirely feasible. Are you saying you're going to try to take legal action to block any executive action that the President takes?
Speaker Pelosi. We’re trying to use our energy to find common ground. The reason the President is going that route is because they are not – have they done what they should do on testing, tracing, treatment? They said, ‘Testing is overrated. Tracing is not necessary.’ Understand this, you're mistaking them for somebody who gives a damn about a lot of these things. They don't. That's why they haven’t – now, in terms of what the President said, he said he was going to do payroll. The President can't eliminate paying your payroll tax. He can defer it, but the businesses are not crazy about that, neither are many of the Republicans in Congress, about doing a payroll tax, which has an impact on Social Security.
He said he's going to do a moratorium, great. That would be nice, but if you don't have money, and we need about a hundred – say a minimum of $90 billion to help the renters, and there's a way to do this. It's a model after what we did during the time of TARP in 2008, 2009. He says – I don't know what else he says but whatever it is, there's some subject as to whether – where is he going to get the money for this $400. Where is he going to get the money, and how long will that last?
We want to have it in law with respect for the workers and what they do to spend the money, inject demand into the economy. And if we don't, as you referenced, Chairman Powell, they've all said to us, ‘Think big. This is a big economic hit. You're going to pay now or you're going to pay more later.’ So, we didn’t – we weren’t –
Kristen Welker. I have to let you go in just a few minutes. Madam Speaker, let me just ask you a couple more questions on 2020, before I do have to let you go.
Speaker Pelosi. Oh, 2020.
Kristen Welker. President Trump said yesterday of Joe Biden that he was ‘against God.’ As a person of faith yourself, what is your reaction to hearing that?
Speaker Pelosi. Any time the President says something like that, I think he's projecting himself, that's what I think about that. That he should – that's like him holding up a Bible upside down, as if he knows anything about going to church. I don't care about his fidelity, his devotion or whatever it is to any religious belief, but shouldn't you – everyone make some kind of judgment – first of all, he knows how strong Joe Biden's faith is. His faith has given him hope, because he's been through so much. But he comes from a very devout Catholic family, as do I. And we have that in common, and we recognize it, that devotion and that authenticity.
The President may not have that devotion or that authenticity, so he may not recognize it in someone else.
Kristen Welker. We know that we're all waiting and watching to see who Vice President Biden is going to pick to be his running mate. Yesterday, he made some comments he wound up walking them back a bit. He was talking about the diversity in the Latino community, as compared to the African American community. He said look, he didn't mean to suggest that African Americans, of course, are a monolith. He came out very forcefully to say that.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
Kristen Welker. My question for you, big picture, though, Madam Speaker, against the backdrop of the conversation that we're having nationally about race right now, do you think that it would be a strong move for Vice President Biden to pick a running mate of color?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I think that the president – the Vice President – that is his discretion. He has to pick someone that is right – I don't think – let me just back up on it. I don't think it matters who the vice presidential candidate is historically. It has never mattered. Lyndon Johnson for victory, Sarah Palin for defeat, but by and large, it's really all about the two candidates for president.
And I'm so proud of Joe Biden. He's going to make a great president. I always defer to the judgment of the candidate in selecting the vice president, in terms of who he has confidence in, that he can work with, who could serve in case of emergency and also that would do no harm in the presidential. But it's not I think making a difference.
I'm very proud, though that, so many women of color are among those being – well he has a vast array of talented people to choose from. I'm so happy that some House Members are considering – are being considered and some former House Members. So, we'll see what he does, but it's his decision.
This is the most derivative thing, and it isn't about lobbying for it, because other people want you. It's about who the president chooses – President-elect to be soon, 88 days, 88 days and about twelve hours. I can't wait. But whoever he chooses, he is – any one of them would be just great. And I'm so glad that so many women of color are in the running as we get down to the end.
Kristen Welker. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. My pleasure to be with you.
Kristen Welker. Thank you for joining us on such a busy day for you and negotiators there. Our pleasure as well, thank you.