Contact: Speaker’s Press Office,
San Francisco – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Chris Hayes on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes for an interview discussing the latest in the ongoing efforts to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Chris Hayes. Speaker, it’s great to have you from what looks like your house. I want to start with a Dear Colleague letter that you wrote today – just sent it to your colleagues. It’s a kind of setting the record straight letter. And I’ll quote part of it from you, ‘The truth is, a weak person, a poor leader, takes no responsibility. A weak person blames others.’ You also record many of the missteps of the Trump Administration. Why did you feel it was important to send this letter?
Speaker Pelosi. During the Easter Weekend, I had more time for prayer and reflection, and it just bothered me so that so many lives were at stake, so much livelihood on the table, and just – I had to say something.
For a long time, we tried to be as apolitical as possible, working together; the American people want that. But the fact is that he ignored the facts and ignored the truth. You cannot possibly solve the problem.
Our first bill that we passed – we had three bills in a bipartisan way in the month of March. The first one was prepared in February and brought to the Floor in the beginning of March – testing, testing, testing. It passed the House on March 4th, but we’re still not where we need to be with testing more than a month later – testing and trying to identify what the problem is. And what it means, and to our communities of color, having that documented. Other issues, other initiatives that the President failed to take but saying that he did, telling his supporters it was a hoax, and it would magically go away. Lives are at stake. People are dying, and so while it ran a risk of looking – people said it looked political if you say this, and I’ll say, well, lives are at stake and it looks political to insist upon the truth? So be it.
Chris Hayes. Is it true – you just referred to these three bipartisan bills, and I want to get into some of those negotiations – on the last one, that $2.2 trillion package, my understanding from the reporting is that you were speaking – negotiating directly with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Is it true that you and the President have not spoken personally in months, I think? Is that correct?
Speaker Pelosi. Probably since the State of the Union address. You remember that.
Chris Hayes. I do.
Speaker Pelosi. But I only speak to the President on an as-needed basis. It’s a historic event when the Speaker of the House and the President of the United States have a conversation. It has to have preparation. It has to have a goal and, again, it makes history. I didn’t see any opportunity for any of that.
However, we do need to work together for the lives – to save the lives of the American people, the livelihood of the American people and quite frankly, the life of our democracy itself. All of that is at stake in what is happening now.
Chris Hayes. There seems to me – obviously I think there’s consensus that there is going to be more legislation needed from Congress, even after that very large bill. Mitch McConnell says the Payroll Protection Program – which is for small businesses, which they said was going to be first come, first serve, and has had huge administrative headaches and lots of people have had a hard time – but it’s going to run out of money. Let’s just pass $250 billion – clean, just that. Why do you not want to just do that? What are your priorities for this next piece of legislation?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, let me say that CARES 1 – we’re getting ready for CARES 2 ¬– but CARES 1 was a bill that had many good features. We were successful working together, House and Senate Democrats in changing it from a corporate trickle-down bill to a workers-first, bubble-up bill. Part of it is Paycheck Protection Program, which is very important.
However, I will not allow anything to perpetuate the disparity and access to capital that exists in our country. So, when they said first come, first serve, ‘Oh we’re just serving the customers we know at the bank –’ what happens to our underbanked folks? So, last week when they asked for a quarter of a trillion dollars in 48 hours, I said, ‘Well, I don’t think so. Let’s see how we can open this up to many more people.’
So, Chuck Schumer and I, as this all happened on the Senate side, and I congratulate the Senate Democrats, they went to the Floor when Mitch McConnell went in for the $250 billion. And they said they objected, and then they said we have another proposal, which opens the door to the underbanked. There are $60 billion, 10 percent of what they were asking for, to be used for community development financial institutions – know the neighborhood, know the language, know the culture, know the people, know the businesses to enable them to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program.
In addition to that, we still gave them half the money – $125 billion, but we used some other for this initiative and also for the grant and other loan programs that benefited everyone.
Okay – so, then we also said, ‘While we’re at it, what we desperately need is support for state and local government, as well as for hospitals. This is urgent.’ And they just said, ‘No.’ They only were going for the $250 [billion]. We said let’s negotiate. Let’s see how we can come to some conclusion that will benefit all of the needs – the underbanked, the hospitals, the state and local governments who are carrying enormous burdens and also the hospitals still talking about testing with the imperatives for us to have the data, racial data that is in there so that we see how this is affecting everyone in our community.
So, we were not going to let all this money that is spent because the of coronavirus crisis, which is just heartbreaking – the number of people who have died or other who have lost their loved ones and the rest, but we could not allow the big money that was put to fight it to perpetuate disparity and access to capital and access to care.
Chris Hayes. So, what I’ve heard from you are priorities in terms of access to capital, and I know that this has really been a concern for lots of small businesses in lots of communities, particularly –
Speaker Pelosi. For a long time.
Chris Hayes. Particularly immigrant communities, African American communities. So that – money for the states and hospitals, all that I get. I wanted to talk about two other things that people have been talking about, which are adjacent to the virus itself as priorities. One of them is, it seems possible that the Post Office, which has been around since the country’s founding just goes under, like is just a victim of the coronavirus, and we don’t have one anymore, is that a realistic possibility, and what needs to be done to stop that?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, in the negotiations on CARES 1, we put forth an initiative for $20 billion for the Post Office in recognition of their ongoing needs, but also that they were delivering so much to people’s homes now, that we were advocating vote by mail and that requires more – and that may be why the Republicans are against it – but the fact is, we offered $20 [billion], they came down to three, we worked it up to $6 billion. Not enough, but it’s something. But that went, just like a piece of mail, right to the President’s doorstep. And he said ‘No.’ This was personal, in my view, with how it was reported back to me from those negotiating it, that the President said no to the postal service. What could he be thinking? Well, ‘thinking.’
So in any event, we’ll have to –
Chris Hayes. Wait a second, wait a second. Can I ask you to spell out the implication there? What are you saying there, that he bears a grudge against the post office because of his fixation with Jeff Bezos and them delivering for Amazon and the Washington Post, which some people have speculated? What are you saying?
Speaker Pelosi. Don’t ever ask me to find out the – this President of the United States. That’s for others to do. I have to cope with the consequences, but I cannot analyze thinking, so to speak.
But it is something that has to be stopped. The Postmaster General was one of the first cabinet officers in our country, in the beginning of our country. The mail is so important to America’s families. So we really are going to have to have another discussion about that. There has been bipartisan support in this regard. And that’s why we thought we could negotiate a number, until the President himself said no.
But, again, that’s just one of many consequences that we have of the – shall we say, truth matters. What is the truth here? What is it that is the problem the President has? Perhaps we can make adjustments and fix it.
But again, the public has to know. For a long time now, mistakes have been made. Okay, that was then, let’s go into the future. But if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you have to insist upon the truth in order to go forward.
And you cannot go forward unless you have testing, testing, testing; unless you have a documentation of how that is affecting communities; unless you have the data from how this money gets spent in terms of the paycheck protection program, which we fully support, but let’s make it be fair and also inclusive so that everyone can participate in it. Those are small businesses. We salute small business, entrepreneurship and many of them are newer, younger, newer in terms of being minority-owned, Native American, in rural America, veterans, so many elements of our economy who are brave, courageous and optimistic to start a business just don’t have a banking relationship sufficient enough to be in first come, first serve.
Chris Hayes. Two more topics I just want to get to, and then I will let you go. But first on oversight, because it obviously is extremely important. $2.2 trillion pushed out the door, $500 million, Steve Mnuchin has tremendous discretion. The President immediately signing the legislation with a signing statement essentially x-ing out many of the oversight provisions you put in. There is one person appointed to that, sort of, oversight panel right now, who was just profiled and doesn’t have a verified Twitter account. Do you and Congress have the capacity to actually make sure this is not incompetently or corruptly distributed?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, we have to. In addition to the panel that you referenced, and that will be in place, I have named a select committee on the challenge of the coronavirus and my colleague, the Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn is the Chair of that. That is predicated on a committee called the Truman Committee, that then-Senator Truman instituted during World War II, the start, at the very beginning of World War II. He said at the time, 116 investigative committees were formed to investigate the defense spending on World War I. So, he said how much better it would be in World War II to have an investigative committee at the time. And so it would be to fight waste, fraud, abuse, price gouging, profiteering and the rest. And that – this committee is modeled off of that. And it will have investigative authority, subpoena power, and I don’t know why the Republicans would take offense at it. Why wouldn’t they want to fight waste, fraud, abuse, price gouging and profiteering off of the taxpayer dollar, which is destined to fight the coronavirus as it attacks the lives, the livelihood of the American people.
Chris Hayes. Final question for you is just about the urgency and timeline here. I mean someone raised the idea of remote voting, right? I mean you’ve got Congress, you’ve got 435 people, they come into a room. There’s all kinds of staffing around each other. Everybody right now is physically distancing, saying it’s very hard to make Congress work. People raised the idea of virtual voting with you, you said that was not going to happen. And then Steny Hoyer said this: ‘Members are advised that absent an emergency, the House is not expected to meet prior to Monday, May 4, 2020,’ which is a long way away. And also, I think a lot of people read that and said what do you call this now, if not an emergency?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, it is an emergency, but what the distinguished Leader was referencing was in terms of urgency of passing a bill. We do think there is that urgency. But, we have to get some agreement on the part of the Republicans that’s something the President will sign. We need that signature, after all.
But here’s the thing, because you raise it and then you quote one thing that I said. What I said is we’re giving a task to the Chairman of the Rules Committee and the Chairwoman, that would be Jim McGovern and Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Administration Committee, the two committees of jurisdiction, to present options to us. What is allowed under the Constitution, under the rules of the House, what is possible technologically, but we haven’t gotten to that.
But on this Thursday, Jim McGovern will be making a report on what he sees as some of the options. And people think we can do Congress by Zoom. Zoom is a Chinese entity that we’ve been told not to even trust the security of. So there are challenges, it’s not as easy as you would think. Are there other options? Proxy voting and the rest, which other people tell me have Constitutional problems. So this is not as easy as you might think and when we do it, we’re going to do it right. But in the meantime, we hope we will have testing in this and then be able to come, at least in the numbers necessary to hold a quorum in order to do the work, the people’s work.
In the meantime, I’m so proud of our Members. They’re all working very hard, 24/7, tele-town meetings, meetings with community folks, smaller tele-meetings and the rest, so that every single day we have hours of feedback from them as to what is happening out there, how the initiatives that are out there so far are working or not working. But all of them committed to saving lives, insisting on the truth to do so and, again, by opening up to our economy when the health folks tell us the time is right.
Chris Hayes. All right.
Speaker Pelosi. Congratulations on your new show.
Chris Hayes. Oh, thank you. My new show from the remote location. Thank you very much. It’s great to have you, Speaker.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you. My pleasure.
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