What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

‘We’re ready’ to pass Senate’s economic relief bill in the House, says Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House of Representatives will pass a $2 trillion economic stimulus package to support businesses and workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic “as soon as the Senate passes it.” The upper chamber is expected to take action Wednesday night, with a vote in the House expected as soon as Thursday. 

The California Democrat told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff that it is unlikely the bill can pass by unanimous consent.  While some members of Congress have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and others remain in quarantine, Pelosi said the House would likely allow some members to vote by proxy if they couldn’t reach agreement by a voice vote on the bill. She continues to oppose remote voting from outside of the Capitol because of constitutional and technological challenges, despite increasing pressure from some of her Democratic colleagues to allow the change in response to the pandemic. 

Other highlights from the interview: 

  • Defending the $600 unemployment boost. Pelosi dismissed concerns of some Republican senators who said the bill’s unemployment benefit as currently written — which would give $600 per person, per week, in addition to state benefits — would incentivize people to stop working. “You can’t just quit and say, ‘I’m going on unemployment,’” Pelosi said. The speaker said the one-size-fits-all strategy was best, given the complexity of tailoring this kind of relief to different states. 
  • What Pelosi would have done differently: Pelosi said the bill Congress will likely pass this week has seen many changes to be more worker-friendly since Senate Democrats blocked two procedural bills on an earlier draft on Monday. “Democrats in the Congress performed some jujitsu,” Pelosi said. But there were still areas she would have liked to be different, including: higher direct payments for Americans and expanded family medical leave. 
  • This isn’t the last of coronavirus funding.The speaker agreed with criticism leveled by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who said his state, which at the moment has more COVID-19 cases than any other, did not get enough direct assistance in the bill.  “We can’t fix it in this bill,” Pelosi said. “But this is not going to be the last bill.”

 

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, as you could tell from Lisa's reporting, there is a lot at stake in this aid package, from the health care system to basic tenets of the U.S. economy.

    It has been a political battle to find a bipartisan solution. It still is.

    At the center of these talks for Democrats is the speaker of the House. Her home state of California is among the hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

    And Speaker Nancy Pelosi joins me now.

    Madam Speaker, thank you very much for talking with us.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    Judy, hello.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Hello.

    What is your understanding of the holdup still?

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Well, first, let me just say that we have a challenge in our country that we haven't seen for over 100 years, tens of thousands of people — cases, hundreds of people who have died.

    It's really a challenge to us. And the health issue is preeminent for all of us.

    I just want to thank our men and women who are health care providers, our first responders, and the rest. They are truly our heroines.

    And one of the challenges that we have is to make sure that they have all the personal protective equipment that they have to do their jobs, so that they're not taking risks as they go into help others and don't bring any problems home from the office — of the workplace.

    So, that's — it's so important, that we can try to save lives, but also to respect what it takes to save those lives in terms of our health care providers and first responders, firefighters, and the rest.

    That involves an OSHA rule that should be — that isn't in this bill. That's still a challenge that we have, and also just getting the personal protective equipment to them. The health issue is everything.

    I think the health issue is central to the economic issue. The health and the lives and the livelihood of the American people are at stake, at risk, and are uncertain at this time.

    So, when we get to the economic side, we're very pleased, actually, that, in the last few days, the health — the Democrats in the Congress performed some jujitsu on the bill that was there. It was from the top town, corporate trickle down to the workers.

    We turned it completely around to workers — for the workers to bubble up, for the workers and for the families.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    So, there are many provisions in the bill that are necessary and immediate.

    And we would hope that we can — the Senate will take up the bill, so we can bring it to the floor in the House. We thought we were on that path, until some of the Republican senators objected to the $600 payment that is there, in addition to the unemployment insurance.

    Lisa did an excellent job of describing that to you.

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I want to ask you, what their argument is, as you know, is that people will end up receiving more in unemployment benefits in some instances than they would have earned in their salary. And they're saying that's a problem.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    But it isn't a problem. It isn't a problem.

    They also say the reason people want unemployment insurance is so they don't have to go to work. Well, that's not true. You don't get unemployment insurance unless you are fired or unless you are furloughed. You can't just quit and say, I'm going on unemployment.

    But the fact is, is that there is an imbalance in our country in income, and, therefore, the unemployment benefits. But Lisa described it very well. It's complicated. It's complicated to make it calibrate for every state, so just call it $600 around the country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you…

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    At a time when the — the fact is, is that we are a consumer economy, and that we really need people — put money in people's pockets, so they can then spend, inject demand into the economy, grow the economy, and that's a good thing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think this is going to get resolved? Are Democrats willing to give? Are both sides willing to give, do you think?

    Because, as you know, people are suffering. They're waiting for this to get done.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    But we have yielded on many points.

    We certainly would have had a higher direct payment. We would have had more expanded family medical leave in here. We would have had the OSHA rule protecting the health care workers. We would have full benefits for everyone who gets tested. Remember, we said free testing, but we want the whole procedure to be there.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    So we would have pensions in here.

    There's other things that we want that we will save for another day because of the urgency of getting this passed today. And so this is a Republican — among the Republicans, because, as Lisa indicated so ably, that it is House Democrats and Republicans and the White House in agreement that we should have this $600 payment.

    And so, either way, we're talking about $600. This is — people are scared, they're in need, they have additional expenses.

    I don't need to explain that to you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, let me — so, assuming it is passed, there's something worked out, how long before the House can get it passed?

    Because people are waiting. Are you confident you can get — you can get the sort of what they call unanimous consent, which means it moves very quickly through the House, is voted on quickly?

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    No, I don't think we can get unanimous consent. I think there are a number of people who are working their way here on the Republican side, for sure, and maybe on the Democratic side, to object to unanimous consent.

    But that is only — that was only one option. The other option is to take the vote without a recorded vote, so that members do not have to be present, but that we'd have to have a majority to pass the legislation.

    If, in fact, that doesn't work, then we're all prepared — our distinguished whip, Mr. Clyburn, and our majority leader, Mr. Hoyer, have prepared the way for how members would participate, and that we could get the job done just in a matter of a short period of time.

    We also have the guidance of our Capitol physician and the sergeant at arms to talk about how members, if they need to come back, if that is required, that they could safely participate on the floor in debate and in voting.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    So, we're ready.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And I'm asking because, of course, the House is not in session right now. You would need to call members back.

    And, again, the people are waiting and asking, when — when is this going to get done? So, what's the soonest you think it could be voted out?

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Well, as soon as the Senate passes it. That's really the requirement. It began in the Senate.

    We anticipated, when they came into session at noon, that they would be bringing it to the floor shortly. We were anticipating seeing the text earlier in the day. But, obviously, there's some tweaks or glitches that need to be resolved, but nothing as substantive as taking away a $600 benefit for people, lower-income and, shall we say, low-wealth individuals, who really need that money to meet — ends meet, especially at this time.

    And so this was a formula that was worked out. I'm so proud of my House Democratic chairmen. Their wisdom, their knowledge, their experience, their strategic thinking is just dazzling. And they had a big impact, working with the Senate Democrats, to take this bill from a corporate-oriented bill to a worker-oriented bill.

    And that — part of that is to have the — America's working families benefit from the resources that we're putting into the bill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, just two quick questions.

    You are satisfied at this point with the corporate oversight in here, inspector general provisions, the oversight board?

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Yes. That was in our House bill, as many of the things that are in the Senate bill were in the House bill.

    And that — yes, I'm satisfied. I will be satisfied when it is implemented. But it is good legislation, and I'm proud of our — I salute chairman — Leader Schumer for his great leadership on this legislation, and the Senate Democrats as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And…

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Speaking from my own House, though, I'm dazzled by my own chairmen and their — and, right now, all day, they — all day, we have had all-day sessions, with each chairman explaining what is in the bill and answering questions, to the extent that we have that information from the other side.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And — which reminds me, in a different regard, we're hearing from governors. They don't think there's enough money in there for their states.

    New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said, not enough for New York. Is that something the House could fix? And what about your own state of California?

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Well, we can't fix it in this bill.

    We wanted more money. There's $150 billion in state stabilization funds. We wanted more. That's what we — was in the bill. But this is not going to be the last bill.

    We began this with two bills that were about emergency, emergency funding, legislation to address the emergency, testing and research and so many things.

    Then this bill is about mitigation for the damage that is being done by the economic challenge this presents, as well as, first and foremost, the health challenge.

    The next phase will be recovery.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Ah.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    But none of these has ended. We will still be doing emergency and mitigation, but then going into recovery.

    And we need much more money for our states. And that money goes down to cities and municipalities. So, we're calling upon the Fed, to Chairman Powell, to be more generous, to — he told me, think big, because the interest rates are low. I'm telling him to think big and help our states, because they are taking a big bite of this wormy apple, and they need many — much more in terms of resources.

    So, again, seeing what the Fed does, and what the nature of how this grows, we're going to have to come back and put more funds in. The concerns that the governors put forth are very well-founded.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, just finally, so we understand what the process is that you're looking at, there could be — I hear you saying, as a last resort, you could do remote voting.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    No, I didn't say that. I never said that.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    OK. What…

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    I don't think we're capable — we're not…

    (CROSSTALK)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Then, you said members could weigh in without being present; is that right?

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    No, what — no, what I said — forgive me if I mis — if I wasn't clear.

    What I said was, we would take a vote, an unrecorded vote. If someone calls for a recorded vote, then we would have a process whereby members could vote by proxy.

    A large number of our members want to be here, and some who can't can vote by proxy. If, in time, the decision is made that we should establish remote voting, that has a constitutional challenge, a technological challenge, and a security challenge that our chair of the Rules Committee put forth in a report just the beginning of this week.

    And that may be, at some point, where we have to make a decision. But in order to go there, you have to take a vote. You have to be present to take a vote to do that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But you're saying it could be done within a few days?

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Yes.

    And it's no use having a conversation about what might happen later. What is in the here and now — and I thank you for asking — is that we are ready. We hope that they would freeze the design, and whatever the difference is on the Republican side.

    Please don't resent our lowest-paid workers in America for getting $600, so that they can meet the needs of their families, spend the money. It's immediate. Spend the money, inject demand into the economy, grow the economy, and, at the same time, give people a little more confidence and less stress as they deal with the important health issue, health challenge that this is.

    We pray for those who have lost their loved ones and those whose are — whose family are affected by all of this. We pray and thank God for our health care workers, our first responders, our firefighters, and police officers, and emergency services people.

    They are our heroes in all of this, and we're grateful to them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    No question about it.

    Speaker Nancy Pelosi, we thank you very much.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Thank you, Judy. My pleasure.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest