Transcript of Pelosi Interview on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week to discuss Build Back Better agenda and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
George Stephanopoulos. Good morning and welcome to This Week, a week that may be make or break for President Biden's ambitious agenda, more than a trillion dollars for infrastructure investments, another $3 trillion-plus to address climate change, child care, education and more, all of this as a government shutdown looms on Friday, plus the prospect of America defaulting for the first time in history if Congress does not soon authorize government borrowing to pay past debts.
At the center of it all, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who joins us this week from the Capitol.
Good morning, Madam Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Good morning, George. Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.
George Stephanopoulos. So, I just laid out a pretty daunting list right there. You have called the next few days a time of intensity for Congress.
Have you ever faced a challenge with so much at stake?
Speaker Pelosi. Every time we face a challenge, you say it's an historic challenge, whether it's passing the Affordable Care Act or other legislation that we passed in the previous Administration.
It's all the wonderful legislative process that we have. But I thank you for calling this President Biden's agenda, because that's exactly what it is. This is the vision of the President. And he has said that while he wants to pass the infrastructure bill – and we will – that he will not confine his vision for the future to just that bill, that it had to be about Building Back Better.
And Building Back Better has the support over 95 percent of our Caucus. So, when you say Democrats divided — no, overwhelmingly, I have never seen, actually, over 95 percent of a Caucus just about for anything. There are some who disagree, and I respect that, about the size of the package, and some in the Senate – a couple in the Senate as well. And we have to find our common ground, respectful of each other's views.
But this isn't about moderates versus progressives. Overwhelmingly, the entirety of our Caucus, except for a few whose judgment I respect, support the vision of Joe Biden. And we will pass – make progress on it this week.
George Stephanopoulos. So, make progress, not necessarily pass.
You said you have support of 95 percent of Democrats.
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
George Stephanopoulos. The problem is, you need 98 or 99 percent –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
George Stephanopoulos. To pass – to pass the bills.
And I know you said the infrastructure bill is going to pass, but the leader of the Progressive Caucus in the House, Pramila Jayapal, is balking. She said on Friday that – that voting on this bill tomorrow is an arbitrary date, adding that more than 50 members will vote no if you first don't have agreement on the broader social investment bill.
So, are you confident these progressive Members are going to vote yes, even though she says no?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me just say we're going to pass the bill this week.
I promised that we would bring the bill to the Floor. That was according to the language that those who wanted this brought to the Floor tomorrow wrote into the rule. We will bring the bill to the Floor tomorrow for consideration.
But you know I'm never bringing a bill to the Floor that doesn't have the votes. And I think, any time you put an arbitrary date, well, remember when the Republicans said they were going to overturn the Affordable Care Act on the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act?
I knew, right then and there, they were doomed. You cannot choose the date. You have to go when you have the votes in a reasonable time. And we will. And I do believe that we will do – first of all, let me just say, it's an eventful week.
First of all, we have to make sure – just chronologically, we have to make sure we keep government open, and we will.
Second of all, we have to honor the vision of President Biden, and we thank him for his leadership and his courage putting forth such a bold package.
In order to move forward, we have to build consensus. It's not winners, losers. It's bring people together, and that's what we always do in the Democratic Party.
What the President has put forth will create many, many more good-paying jobs, especially in terms of addressing the climate crisis which has not been fully addressed in the infrastructure bill. It will lower cost for families by lowering the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, and health care costs across the board. It will give a big – one of the largest tax cuts for the middle class with the Biden Child Tax Credit, and it will be paid for by making everyone pay their fair share. Lower costs, tax cuts, paid for, more jobs for the American people.
George Stephanopoulos. But the question is – the question is, can you get everybody to agree to that? If I heard you correctly, you're saying –
Speaker Pelosi. Yes.
George Stephanopoulos. The vote will not necessarily be tomorrow on the infrastructure bill. You're going to put it up when you have the votes to pass it. Are we –
Speaker Pelosi. It may be tomorrow. If –
George Stephanopoulos. It may be tomorrow, but – right. But let me just say, in order to get the votes to pass it, it sounds like you're going to need agreement on the broader social investment bill, the bill –
Speaker Pelosi. Absolutely. You're right.
George Stephanopoulos. And so that is going to happen this week as well?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that’s – we – we’re – let me just say we're prepared. We're ready.
Yesterday the Budget Committee passed out the Build Back Better legislation at the full $3.5 trillion. That was the number that was sent to us by the Senate and by the President. Obviously with negotiations there will have to be some changes in that, the sooner the better, so that we can build our consensus to go forward. And we will do that. The American people need that to happen, and that's the overwhelming –
George Stephanopoulos. The hold –
Speaker Pelosi. For The People agenda.
George Stephanopoulos. The holdouts in the Senate, of course, everyone knows Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema – at least those two. Joe Manchin says $3.5 trillion is way too much and it doesn’t necessarily have to pass this year. Kyrsten Sinema says she’s not going to support any increases in income taxes or corporate taxes.
Have you made progress on those issues? It doesn't sound like it.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, Chuck Schumer and I and Secretary Yellen the other day came forward at a press event and said that we had reached a framework of agreement. People said, ‘Well, what are the specifics?’ Well, we'll see what we need. We’ll see how the number comes down and what we need in that regard, but we have agreed on an array of pay-fors in the legislation.
This will be paid for, so when some say, ‘Oh well, what about inflation?’ It will be paid for, and that's the beauty of it, by having those in our economy and society who have not paid their fair share paying their fair share. So, again, the Senate and the House, those who are not in full agreement with the president, let's see what our values – let's not talk about numbers and dollars. Let's talk about values. The values are about –
Speaker Pelosi. I’m sorry?
George Stephanopoulos. Is the solution to paying forward a carbon tax?
Speaker Pelosi. There's an array of issues that are there, I’m not – let's see what we need to have, and there are those who have suggested that. So, every – when I say we're ready, we've investigated or shall we say, documented everything that we need to be ready with legislative language to go forward.
And I’m very excited about the hard work that everybody did. We stayed on schedule. They said you couldn't do it by September 15th. We did. We had our Budget Committee yesterday taking the work of the committees and putting it forward. We have been carefully trying to see what could be Byrd-able. You know we – in the House, I’m used to negotiating with the White House or among ourselves and with the Senate, but to negotiate with – but we don’t negotiate with the parliamentarian. She will make judgments about something that might violate the Byrd rule, provisions of privilege, whatever that is, and that's a bath that legislation has to take.
So, all of these things are in place. We're trying to get them to be as ready as possible. We are ready on our side. We just have to see how quickly the parliamentarian can operate.
George Stephanopoulos. I know the Budget Committee passed a resolution calling for $3.5 trillion, but it sounds like you acknowledge that the final number is going to be somewhat smaller than that.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah. I mean, that seems self-evident. That seems self-evident, and so, it's not just – we have some, shall we say, Byrd-bath kind of things. It's legislation. So, the fact is that this is the excitement of it all. It's just in real time, and exploitation of the few people not in agreement being called a division in the Democratic Party. Everybody overwhelmingly, and I think even those who want a smaller number, support the vision of the President, and this is really transformative. It's transformative for women when you think about child care and Child Tax Credit and family medical leave and universal pre-K and home health care. How much in agreement are we all on that?
When you talk about the climate crisis, which we have a responsibility, again, to the children, but to our faith to protect God's creation, this planet, how much can we – do we want to spend on that?
So, that – adding up, what our priorities are, should take us to a number where we find common ground. Can we shorten the time or some other things to make these numbers smaller? That's our discussion now, but we're ready for it.
George Stephanopoulos. You said the government is going to stay open.
Speaker Pelosi. Yeah.
George Stephanopoulos. Are you as confident that the government is going to avoid default? Because Republicans made it very clear they're not going to provide any votes.
Speaker Pelosi. Isn’t that irresponsible beyond words? The full faith and credit of the United States should not be questioned. That's in the Constitution of the United States, the 14th Amendment. Go look at that. It's in the Constitution of the United States.
There's a school of thought that says we don't have to have these votes, but we do. We – as of now, we still do have to have it. And we cooperated on three occasions when President Trump was president in order to lift the debt ceiling. Even to have the discussion that it could possibly be in default, it lowers our – it did the last time lower our credit rating.
Who said it more articulately than Mitch McConnell at the time? You cannot play Russian roulette with the debt ceiling and wellbeing of our economy. So –
George Stephanopoulos. He's willing to eat that right now. Are you confident Democrats can pass it on their own?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we want this to be bipartisan. If we didn't want it to be bipartisan, we would have put it in the reconciliation bill. That would have been a decision we had to make when we wrote the budget act. But nonetheless, the decision was made that it would always be bipartisan, whether on our part as we have cooperated in the past with Republican presidents or on their part.
It is totally irresponsible, and it just – I would think that the business community would – would speak out on this because it has a devastating impact on our credit rating as well as global economy. This is a big – beyond a big deal.
So, let's hope that the Republicans will find some – enough of them find some level of responsibility to our country to honor what's in the Constitution, that we not question the full faith and credit of the United States of America. They know full well what the consequences are. They preached it when the former president was in office, and we always cooperated.
It's always been bipartisan, and it should be again.
George Stephanopoulos. Madam Speaker, thanks for your time this morning.
Speaker Pelosi. My pleasure. Thank you, George. Bye-bye.