Transcript of Pelosi Interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe

September 16, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Mika Brzezinski, Joe Scarborough and Willie Geist on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the more than 100 days since the House passed the Heroes Act, Senate Republicans’ empty COVID relief proposal and other news of the day.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks: 

Mika Brzezinski.  Joining us now for some response to what we heard at this incredible Presidential Town Hall last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.  I guess we'll start there with this apparent plan that the President says he has that would replace Obamacare.  Have you heard anything about it?

Speaker Pelosi.  No, as you know, the Republicans have always said repeal and replace.  All they want to do was repeal because they really do not have a commitment to governance, a public role in health care.  So many of their supporters say, ‘government, keep your hands off my Medicare.’  Well, what do you think that is?  But anyway, I thank you for presenting that this morning because this is a very important health issue.  It's not just about the pre-existing condition benefit.  That is essential. 

But accompanying that in the Affordable Care Act is the removal of the caps — on lifetime or annual limits.  So, if you take – if you keep the cap on that, then people are protected from extravagant costs.  On the other hand, if you let that cap go, you're at the mercy of the insurance companies, and I think that's what the President has in mind.  Well, has in mind is sort of a casual phrase.  I don't know what he has in mind.

Let me just say, we're supposed to be crushing the virus right now.  Crushing the virus so we can open up our economy, open up our schools safely.  Instead, the President is crushing the Affordable Care Act.  He's crushing it in his misrepresentation, in the court of public opinion, in the Supreme Court of the United States as George Stephanopoulos so aptly pointed out.  

This is very dangerous not only to the health of the American people, but the financial security of America's families.  Their kitchen table issues center around health care, health care, health care.  Its costs have a direct relationship to their economic well-being. 

Willie Geist.  That was a stunning lie from the President right to the face of that voter.  In fact, the Trump Administration filed at the U.S.  Supreme Court three months ago to completely dismantle Obamacare, quite opposite of what he said.  

Speaker Pelosi, good morning.  It’s good to have you on.  

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning.

Willie Geist.  I want to ask you about some legislation that’s sitting in Congress right now.  I know there are frontline Members of your own Caucus who are now saying, ‘Speaker Pelosi, we have to get something done here.  We understand that you don't want to give into Mitch McConnell.  You don't want to give into Republicans and come down from your number of $2.2 trillion, but for the sake of the voters in our district, for the sake of our citizens, we have to get some relief in their pockets.’  So, what do you say to that balance between not giving into Republicans but also having to get something done for the people you represent?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I appreciate your question, and welcome to my world.  I have a beautifully diverse Caucus.  There are some who want me to put the Heroes Act, $3.4 trillion, back on the Floor, because it is very well developed.  It is science-based, academically based, institutionally based about, as to why we need that money. 

We did come down.  We came down $1 trillion, asked them to come up $1 trillion, so we could come closer in a negotiation.  They didn't do that.  Then we said, ‘We'll come further.’  Senator – I mean Leader Schumer and I said, ‘We’ll come closer.  We'll meet you halfway.’  So, we have come down. 

But the needs of the American people, we can only go so far.  We cannot have a Sophie's Choice of feeding some children and not others, housing some people and not others, meeting – addressing the disparity and the assault that the virus is making on communities of color.  So, we have come down. 

We have a number of schools of thought.  Those who want us to put $3.4 [trillion] back on the Floor, then come down in negotiation from there, those who just say just put something on the Floor.  But what we want is to put something on the Floor that will become law.  So, that requires a negotiation. 

And until they come to the table, serious about – 14 million children are food insecure in our country.  They don't have one penny for that in their bill.  Their family, millions of their families are on the verge of eviction.  They don't have one penny of that in their bill.  

These are all corona-centric expenses we have, but the most – again, the Heroes Act is about our state and local, and they are coming at that with a vengeance, with a vengeance.  They're coming at it with a vengeance.  ‘We don't want to help these blue states.’  Really?  This is the United States of America. 

They have a vengeance against the state and local.  They have contempt for science by not doing the testing, tracing, treatment, mask wearing, isolation, sanitation, that science tells us, the scientists on your program, academics over and over again.  This is what we need to contain this virus.

So, I’m used to building consensus in my own Caucus.  I’m proud of every statement that Members are making, and I’m especially proud of our chairs, who have been solid in terms of what we need, where we could perhaps change the timing so it's less money now.   That’s how we were able to come down.  We didn't cut things out.  We just brought it down. 

But it's important to note this.  That was four months ago, May 15th.  Many – this has accelerated since then.  We have additional needs for restaurants, airlines and the rest, and those things have to be taken into consideration as well.  So, in order to stay with meeting them halfway, we'll have to make further cuts, but that's about negotiation.  We can put a bill on the Floor, but we want to put a bill on the Floor that will become law. 

Willie Geist.  So, as you know from your own district, Speaker Pelosi, most people, particularly who are desperate right now and need the money, they're not interested in the machinations of Capitol Hill and negotiations in Congress.  They just need to see some money in their bank account to help them weather this storm. 

Speaker Pelosi.  That's right.  And that’s food –

Willie Geist.  So, without the blame game part of it, what do you say to those voters?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, again, we represent you.  We're the closest to the people, Members of the House, in terms of the federal government.  We know full well.  We don't need anybody to tell us the concerns that our constituents have.   

Their concerns go beyond one check with the President's name on it.  Their concerns go to their financial security.  Mr. Woodward used a term: a moral choice.  This is a moral choice.  The Republicans, as usual, are in there ignoring the needs of the American people.  ‘Let's just do this one thing and get them off our back.’ 

That's not what this is about.  This is about crushing a virus that they refuse to accept the science on.  That is what is going to make the biggest difference.  Some people say, well, ‘Well, we'll do this bill, and then we'll do another bill.’  You think the Administration is going to do another bill?  All they want is to have the President's name on a check, going out, $300, and that's all he really cares about.  But again, this is a moment.  This is big.  They have a skinny bill, as Chuck calls it ‘emaciated’ bill, for a massive problem.  

And I don't know why you all are not saying to the Republicans, ‘Why don't you give in?’  You say it to us and we came down $1.2 trillion.  And we think we can negotiate within that because we have prospects for what will happen in January and we can go beyond that.  But right now, we are not just going to – we think they should come to the table.  

Why would they not want to honor our first – first responders, our health care workers, our sanitation, transportation, teachers, teachers, teachers?  Why would they not want us to do our best job by putting resources into the schools to make them safe for our children, whether they're going actually, virtually or in some hybrid way?  When you start flirting with endangering our children, them's fighting words, them's fighting words.  Why?  Are the American people not worth it?  I say to them, ‘Is it the price?  Are you saying it's too much?  Or is it the money?  You’d rather spend it to give tax cuts to the top one percent, 83 percent of what was in your tax cut.’  

We just think that is a values debate.  So, it isn't about finger pointing and it isn't about machinations.  It's about meeting the needs of the American people, and they know that and that's not a priority for them.  And that's why we have this impasse at this time.  But, fortunately, we'll be able to correct some of it in January.  But right now, we have to do more than just have the Republicans check a box. 

Joe Scarborough.  Speaker Pelosi, we’ve heard concerns from a lot of Americans, I’m sure you have as well, everywhere you go.  We've heard a lot of concerns about the President trying to undermine the credibility of the elections, about the institutions not holding up, about the President not leaving – it's a debate that's going on for some time.  

I have always said America's institutions are strong enough to stand up to a reality TV host.  I am shocked, still shocked by how far that reality TV host will go, even undermining American elections and defending Russian dictators.  I still, though, I still have confidence in those American institutions to hold up.  I’m curious, though, what do you say to those who fear we can't have a fair election and even if Donald Trump loses, he may not leave office?  

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you know what I say all the time.  We don't agonize, we organize.  People have to face the reality that he is attempting to undermine the election in every possible way, welcoming Russian interference into our elections, dismantling the Postal Service to place in doubt whether people's ballots will get to them and be back in time to be counted and the rest. 

So, it’s not that you ignore it completely.  You recognize it and you act upon it, and that's what we're doing.  We're asking everyone to go to as soon as possible to make sure you are – you know how to vote by mail or in person, and if you are registered and the rest.  The more we can do – we have instituted something called Sojourner Truth Tuesdays.  Sojourner Truth Tuesdays – a suffragist, an abolitionist, an African American woman, I was proud to place a statue of her in the Capitol.  And the fact is, every Tuesday, we have Truth Tuesday, we had it again last night, where we reach out to people to say, among other things. 

And it's very important just to get the job done.  I’m an organizer, as you know, former California Democratic Party Chair.  And you and I both know that Republicans do well in the vote-by-mail.  So, for the President to be undermining that is very strange.  On Election Day, we could win on Election Day, those vote-by-mail, absentee votes came in, ‘Oh, my gosh, how are we going to go?’  So, Democrats and Republicans have enjoyed the benefits of that vote-by-mail.  And now, it's a health issue during the coronavirus crisis.  People should not have to go stand in line for hours, or go into polling place if they don't have to.  We want to minimize that.  We want to make it available in a safe way, but minimize it by having vote-by-mail. 

But getting back to the President and his undermining of our elections, it's again his insecurity about knowing that left to the public's decision making, he has a very good chance of not being the President of the United States again.  And on January 20th, no matter where he physically locates himself, not wanting to get out of the White House, we will nominate the President of the United States who has been elected in November.  And, my view, if the election were today, that would be Joe Biden, and that would be great for our country.  But the election isn't today, so we have a great deal of work to do to organize, not agonize, about what he says.  But I have confidence in the American people. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Madam Speaker, so you agree with my concern that if he loses the election, even by a small margin, he might not leave the White House?  And –

Speaker Pelosi.  No, that's what Joe said. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Okay.  Then how much concern do you have about our elections functioning well and not being interfered with by mail or even at the polls by this President?

Speaker Pelosi.  I don't have any confidence that he won't interfere.  I think he will do anything. Because I think he has proven again and again that he's not a patriot, that he has no respect for the Constitution of the United States, which he has no hesitation to violate.  So, I think you suspect the worst there. 

But don't dwell on him.  Let's reach out and look forward to the American people.  Because the more we talk about him, the less we're talking about a positive message to address the health needs of the American people, to make an economy that is fair for the American people and to face the realities of science in terms of the climate crisis, which is causing these – has an impact, has influenced what is happening in California and the whole west, as well as the storms that are battering the Gulf Coast.  This is a reality. 

And when it comes to the coronavirus, they have contempt for science.  That's why we have almost 200,000 people who will lose their lives by the end of this week; 200,000 people.  And that's why, their contempt for science as to what the climate crisis is.  

This past weekend, I had the privilege of hosting the G7 Heads of Parliament.  Every year, as you know, the Head of State holds a G7 Heads of State meeting.  This year, that meeting was to be in the U.S.  What you might not know is that a month or two after that, in each country of hosting, is the Heads of Parliaments.  And we had that this weekend, virtually.  I was so proud, Dali Llama, Bono, Jane Goodall, but scientists and policymakers.  And what was interesting was, we were in – the theme was ‘Addressing the Climate Crisis with Economic and Environmental Justice.’  That was declared a year ago, however because of COVID, that justice leadership was needed too. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Alright. 

Speaker Pelosi.  But just to make this point, there is no conflict in the other countries about whether there is a climate crisis and whether human behavior has an impact on it.  The only place, really, of any significance is Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress, who have always been in denial on this.  That will be another good aspect of the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration come January. 

Mika Brzezinski.  Alright.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Speaker, very much, for being on this morning.

Speaker Pelosi.  My pleasure.