Transcript of Pelosi Interview on C-SPAN’s Prime Time WASHINGTON Journal with Steve Scully
May 9, 2020
Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Steve Scully on C-SPAN’s Prime Time WASHINGTON Journal to discuss the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest on efforts to increase aid to essential workers and state, local and tribal governments in the upcoming CARES 2 package. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Steve Scully. Up next our conversation with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Madam Speaker, we have seen the short-term changes to Congress during the pandemic but I'm wondering if you think this will result in any fundamental, long-term changes to the House of Representatives?
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you for focusing on how we do our Congressional work to represent the people of our country and bring their views to Washington, D.C.
We have had quite a challenge. We had the great guidance of our Capitol Physician and the Sergeant-at-Arms. So, we had two occasions, one with the voice votes and one with the recorded votes when we had a large number of Members here to make the decisions necessary to pass legislation. In both cases, bipartisan legislation to address the coronavirus situation.
So, there has been a call for remote voting by proxy and that is our plan. We would've done it before but we were striving to have bipartisanship on how we moved forward there. Hopefully we can have that, but the fact is that some people cannot be here because of their own vulnerability or the vulnerability of someone in their family and we want them to be recorded by proxy.
In terms of longer range, this is strictly for this period of time that we are affected by this coronavirus. This is not, ‘Now have proxy voting.’ It is for this purpose. And possibly if triggered, if something similar to this, any kind of disaster, whatever happens, we would have a precedent on how we can return to it. But our main purpose is to get the policy done and so we are having conversations about how we do the committee work in addition to work on the Floor in the House.
Steve Scully. And, of course, you lived and worked through 9/11 nearly 20 years ago. I’m wondering what the sentiment is among your colleagues having gone through that in 9/11 and now what you’re dealing with today in this pandemic.
Speaker Pelosi. Well, that was a long time ago, and many of these Members are new on both sides of the aisle, but for those of us that were here, as you were, at that time, what happened then was a bit of a different situation. What happened then, and the discussions that followed, were: that was an episode, an assault on the United States of America, and what impact would it have on the continuation of operations? The continuation of government?
For three years, there were meetings about that and the rest. And they concluded, they didn’t talk about absentee voting, but they talked about if there were to be an assault on our Capitol or something, that certain people became incapacitated, then there would be an adjustment in what is a quorum. If they died, sadly, if they would've died, the quorum goes down automatically but if they are incapacitated in a way that they are not able to participate, what happens to the quorum? It took them a long time to discuss all of that and come up with a formula.
So, if it is an episode come that is one thing. If it is an ongoing, and ongoing challenge as this is, it is a bit of a different approach. Most Members are intact and – but they want to be registered in voting. It is challenging if there is someone – we don't want them to come if they have a compromised situation. And I think most Members take it very seriously to come if they could, but thanks for not sharing if they should not.
And, again, we had hope that would be bipartisan. We will see. I know that there are Republican Members who would like to have remote voting by proxy.
Steve Scully. As you well know, one of the great traditions in American politics is the party conventions every four years. What do you expect to happen this summer in Milwaukee? Will there be a convention? Will it be a virtual convention? What is your recommendation?
Speaker Pelosi. It is not my decision and I sympathize with those that have to make it. I, as a Party Chair myself, had big conventions in California and chaired a National Convention, as a matter of fact, when I was Speaker the first time. So, I have some idea of the amount of work and planning and investment, really, that is necessary to put on such a convention. But I have confidence in the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Chairman Perez, that he will make the right decision based on health and science. But also, with the opportunity to do something new.
You asked my suggestion. My suggestion was, when I was a girl, I went with my parents to a convention in Los Angeles and that convention, John F. Kennedy was nominated, and he gave his acceptance speech in the coliseum, this enormous auditorium, excuse me, stadium, enormous stadium. So, when Obama did that in Denver, everyone said, ‘Oh, it’s the first time.’ No, it wasn’t the first time. John F. Kennedy was the first time.
So, my suggestion to Mr. Perez was get a gigantic stadium and put people six feet apart. So maybe you, instead of having 80,000 people there you would have 16,000 people there and just do it all in one day. The Platform, I’ve served as the Platform Committee so, I know what that entails – in ‘92. Have your platform and then nominate your Vice President, nominate your President and have your speeches and everyone goes home.
The problem though is the logistics. You have to have many more buses to get people there. That was my suggestion to him with absolutely no support for how it could be done. But just going on how exciting it was to be in the stadium with John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama made their speeches, but never with the idea that they would fill it up in the case of the coronavirus. They will make an informed decision about it.
I feel sad about it because it is such an exciting thing and really important. The people of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin had been so gracious with their hospitality and enthusiasm. And I'm sure it is the same in North Carolina for the Republicans. Because it is disappointing when you have a historic event like a national convention, which brings so many people together when you cannot be together.
Steve Scully. Let me turn to some of the news this morning. When you saw the unemployment report – the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, what was your reaction?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it was one of complete sorrow. We have heartbreak over the loss of lives we've experienced in our country and so many people affected by the virus, more than a quarter million people. And over 70,000, I guess it is now, that have died. But the livelihood issue is something that is, just, so depressing really. Depressing. And I do believe that this President has presided over the worst economic disaster / health disaster in our country’s history.
I think the road back is to turn a page on it all. Let us start fresh. Testing, treating, and tracing and get the magnitude of the challenge we have in terms of the number of people infected and have treatment for them. Then make sure we have the ability to produce the therapies and the vaccines and the capability to inject with vials and syringes and the rest so we are not left just standing there when, if we have a cure or a vaccine. ‘Oh, we weren’t ready because we didn’t have the’ – Let’s be ready.
So, what we want to do is what we’ll do with our bill, in the CARES 2 package, which is to honor our heroes: our health care providers, our first responders, our teachers, transit workers, garbage collectors – all those people who are making our lives function, many of them risking their own lives to save lives. And now, because of what is happening, they may lose their job. So, we want to help state and local governments to be able to retain these workers. They are our heroes. So, honor our heroes.
Secondly, testing, testing, testing to open the door to our economy.
And third, money in the pockets of the American people. Whether it is Unemployment Insurance, direct payments, PPP, the loan program and other initiatives. Did I say direct payments, too? Did I say it twice? That is really important.
We built on other bills that we have passed, which all had bipartisan support, state and local, testing, direct payments. I would hope we could overcome some of the difficulties we have. The Republicans do not seem interested in doing food stamps, SNAP, what we call the SNAP program. I hope we can overcome that. But otherwise – and we've tried to get that in a number of bills unsuccessfully, but I think the American people are well aware of the need for us to do more in that regard, so I am optimistic. But we will move forward in a big way, because we have a big challenge to our country.
Steve Scully. With all of that, Madam Speaker, is there an estimated price tag?
Speaker Pelosi. We are working on it, big.
Steve Scully. A trillion? Two trillion?
Speaker Pelosi. You're getting warmer.
Steve Scully. Three trillion?
Speaker Pelosi. You know, it’s interesting to me when people ask about the price tag for us to give money and help to the American people, which in many ways is a stimulus, making sure states can meet their payrolls, for the – paying them for what they have spent on the coronavirus and the lost revenue, but no other expenses they may have, or putting money in the pockets of the American people. Everyone wants to know how much it will cost, but around here, nobody batted an eyelash when the Republican side of the aisle, when they, in the dark of night and the speed of light gave 83 percent of the benefits of a tax scam to the top one percent in our country and that was nearly a $2 trillion addition to the national debt and did not create any jobs except more burden to our children.
Steve Scully. To that point, today marking VE Day 75 years ago and during the War, there was a tax to pay for our military operations. Should there be a tax to help pay or offset the costs or do you think down the road support a tax increase to bring down the nation’s debt?
Speaker Pelosi. But I do think that if you are going to do any tax policy, it should be bipartisan and comprehensive. I don't think you just do it right here – I mean our country is fairly well together. There are exceptions, but we are all in this together and we have to face this to end this, to rid ourselves of this so that we can open up the economy – the lives and livelihood of our people.
So, again, if there’s – we had two unpaid wars, Afghanistan and Iraq. We had a big tax cut in the Bush years, and we had a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry. All of these things have added to the national debt, and we should have, as you had mentioned, in other military engagements, we have had a way to pay for it and if it was to be a worthy mission, the American people would be behind it. This time, this is a war as a President said, but we have to give our warriors the equipment they need to fight the war.
Shame on us that these health care professionals and others who risk their lives daily to save other lives are risking there's, and they can bring that home. I think that it is foolhardy of us not to make the investment we need to keep people safe and healthy like using science to open up the government and the vitality of the American people, the optimism and the entrepreneurship of our small businesses and the rest will lead us out of this if we do it right. And we have to make sure we are doing it right because there is a lot of money involved.
And we don’t intend for hundreds of billions of dollars to solidify the disparity and lack of access to credit that has existed before now. We see how hard it is for some small businesses, women, and minority-owned businesses, veterans, rural businesses to gain access even to PPP before we passed our most recent version that gave a set-aside for them. We don't want disparity in access to credit or disparity in access to care to be solidified. We expect it to improve, and we will make progress in that regard. It is a decision that we have to make as a country.
Steve Scully. I know negotiations are continuing into the weekend. I’m curious how they work. Are they on zoom calls? Are they face-to-face? What are the mechanics behind the talks?
Speaker Pelosi. We are in a whole new world as you know. There is very little face-to-face around here, and we don't want there to be and there is not supposed to be. And so, again, as I said, we put a marker down that follows the lead of other bipartisan legislation that has been passed with increased funding because we have not done enough testing, with increased assistance to state and local governments because their outlays of money for the coronavirus and their loss of revenue continued to grow. I would hope – and again, the money in the of the pocket of the American people – consistent with what we have done.
We do have some issues that are controversial, as I said. I don't know why food stamps are controversial. It is just a mystery to me, but it is a difference of values and that is one of the discussions we will have to have.
Steve Scully. Is the President part of these discussions, these negotiations?
Speaker Pelosi. I don't have any idea what the President does.
Steve Scully. He said that the House is on vacation.
Speaker Pelosi. You know what – don't waste your time or mine on what he says. We are trying to get a job done for the American people in a way that brings people together. We certainly have our differences of opinion. We have a strong agreement that we have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people. I am an appropriator. That’s how I was forged in Congress, two places, Intelligence and Appropriations. So I know, left to their own devices, appropriators can reach agreement. They have all along. So, we want to get to that place – and what differences we may have at the end, we will see how we can resolve them.
There is a great deal of public attention on what happens next, because there is a great deal of heartbreak in our country, the loss of a loved one and the sadness of losing a business or the prospect of losing a business. People want to know what we are here to do for them. They don’t care about who said what about whom in the White House. That’s so totally unimportant, with all due respect to your question.
Steve Scully. On a personal note, the Institute of Notre Dame announcing this week it is shutting down, your reaction?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I was so sad, so sad. My mother went to the Institute of Notre Dame and then so did I many years later. It had a revered place in our hearts. And my brother Tommy, who served as mayor of Baltimore, he served on the board of the Institute, I think really out of love for my mother. But I went there too. So, he had a mom and a sister who went there. This is very important to our family. My brother passed away in the fall, which was very sad for all of us. He was a beautiful, lovely, daily communicant, supportive of the school, Jesuit educated all along, taking interest in the interest of the Institute of Notre Dame school, sisters of Notre Dame in such a beautiful way.
You know, it is inner-city. We were across the street from the projects. It was a school that was founded a very long time ago, 100 some years ago. As with some schools, some schools moved to the suburbs or moved outside of the city a bit. This Institute stayed in downtown Baltimore. It was a wonderful place to go. It taught us what we needed to learn academically, and it taught us values. And it was the place where we went to Mass every day as well. Hot chocolate after Mass, that was a thing I remember with great joy. I love chocolate, and I love Mass.
Steve Scully. Madam Speaker, one final point, because social media has been commenting on your face mask, which also serves as a scarf. Are you making a fashion statement?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, I don’t know. People are sending me these – is a mask. From all over the country I'm getting these masks. And it is – my colleague, Chellie Pingree sent me one from Maine. It has lobsters all over it. Donna Lewis’ store in Virginia, they sent me this one and a few others. But again, people – it’s a distraction. People, you know, enjoy sharing something that they may have done that could be useful and maybe they will see it on TV.
But in any case, I am a big believer in wearing a mask and not sharing any, shall we say, air unnecessarily accept to talk with you. That’s why I took the mask down.
Steve Scully. Speaker Pelosi joining us on Capitol Hill. We appreciate your time here on C-SPAN.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. My pleasure, always. Thank you.
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