Transcript: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on "Face the Nation," May 17, 2020

Pelosi says "time is of the essence" to reach coronavirus relief deal
Pelosi says "time is of the essence" to reach... 07:44

The following is a transcript of an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that aired Sunday, May 17, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Capitol Hill and the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Madam Speaker, good morning to you. 

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE NANCY PELOSI: Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to talk about this three trillion dollar package that you just passed. But I want to quickly get your reaction to the White House, one White House adviser saying that the CDC let the American people down with testing. You just heard the Health and Human Services secretary say he does not believe that is the case. What do you think happened here? 

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Did the CDC let the American people down?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, the CDC was grossly cut in the president's budget, but setting aside how we got here, let's talk about how we go forward. It is important for us- the American people want the economy to open up. We all do. We want our societies to open up. We all do. And in order to do that, we have testing, tracing, treatment and isolation. And that is the path. It's what the scientists advise. That is what we do in the HEROES Act. We talk about how we can get there with a plan. This- we haven't had a plan. Let's go forward in a bipartisan way to have a plan, a plan to test. We have no idea the size of this challenge to our country because we have not sufficiently tested. Let's test so that we can diagnose and then we can treat and then decrease the number of people have died. Imagine that 90,000 Americans, almost 90,000 Americans have lost this life- their lives, to this awful villain. We, whatever our differences, have to join together to fight this enemy to the lives and the livelihood of the American people. 90,000 people, we send our condolences and our prayers to their families. We will always carry them in our hearts. Sadly, the number is projected to even grow and then nearly a million and a half people infected. So we have a common enemy. And as we go forward, let's do so with a strategic plan, a plan that has a timetable. It has- it has a- a goal, a timetable,-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. 

SPEAKER PELOSI: --benchmarks and the rest to get the job done for the American people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask about your plan, because, as you just mentioned, that HEROES Act as the three trillion dollar bill that you just passed. Republicans are looking at a different deadline, say that the enhanced unemployment benefits that exist now don't expire until July, let's see what reopening looks like and what a new package shouldn't be tailored to. Why do you think there's not merit to that argument that a few more weeks before crafting a bill could be more effective?

SPEAKER PELOSI: No. Time is of the essence. And we passed our proffer, what we put forth. In the past bills, they've put forth their proposal and then we worked in a bipartisan way. That's what we all anticipate. Now, across the country, Republican and Democratic mayors, governors and the rest all want this bill to happen in terms of the investments in state and local and tribal and territorial governments and also in terms of the testing to be done across the country, largely at the state level. Time is very important. We have lost time. But again, setting aside how we got here, we cannot take a pause. They may think it's OK to pause. Well people are hungry across America. Hunger doesn't take a pause. People are jobless across America. That doesn't take a pause. People don't know how they're going to pay their rent across the country. We have- we have to address this with humanity.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Has there been any- has there been any Republican response, any counter offer or opening to begin negotiations since you passed this bill, which the White House says has no chance of becoming law?

SPEAKER PELOSI: That isn't so. We- and no bill that is proffered will become law without negotiation. So, yeah, but again, with the other bills, we had four bills all bipartisan. The bill that Leader McConnell put forth, the CARES one was his offer. Nobody said, "doesn't have a chance because he just put it forth." The interim PPP bill was his offer. We--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Has he reached out to you? 

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we just passed the bill within a matter of- a matter of hours ago. But I do have confidence. I have confidence because the American people and the governors and mayors, as I've said, in a bipartisan way, know that we have to support our local government. That's where our health- we have health-care workers, police and fire, first responders, in other words emergency, our teachers, our sanitation workers. You know, they're at risk of losing their jobs. Many of these people risk their lives to save lives and now they may lose their jobs. And--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Repub--

SPEAKER PELOSI: --by the way, I think it's important to note that everything, sounds like a big number, but everything that we have in the state and local column there is less than the Republicans put in their tax scam to give 83 percent--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you- are you open to--

SPEAKER PELOSI --of the benefits to the top one percent.

MARGARET BRENNAN:--liability protections for employers? That's what the Republicans say is their red line. To get what you want, what will you give on that?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we have no red lines. But the fact is, the best protection for our workers and for their employers is to follow very good OSHA mandatory guidelines. And we have that in our bill. And- and that protects workers, protects their lives as well as protects the employer, if they follow the guidelines. Remember, when people go to work, they go home. They could bring it home to their children--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SPEAKER PELOSI: --or they could bring it home to a senior living in their home. There is a- this is beyond just the individual at work.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Madam Speaker, late Friday, President Trump sent you a letter saying that he was going to remove the inspector general of the State Department, Steve Linick. There's the fourth IG to be removed in six weeks. Why was Linick removed? What's behind this?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, this is new to us and typical of the White House announcing something that is very unsavory. They would do it late on a Friday night. The fact is, as you indicated, it's the fourth inspector general- inspectors general, that office was created after Watergate to make sure that there was integrity in the departments, the agencies of government. They're supposed to show cause. Even Republicans in Congress are concerned about and have spoken out--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was he investigating the secretary of state? When you say unsavory, is that what you mean?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I mean, unsavory when you take out someone who is there to enforce the- to stop waste, fraud, abuse or other violations of the law that are- they believed to be happening. So, again, let's take a look and see. The president has the right to fire any federal employee. But the fact is, if it looks like it's in retaliation for something that the attorney- the IG, the inspector general is doing, that could be unlawful.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Was he investigating the secretary of state as Elliot Engel has said?

SPEAKER PELOSI: (UNINTEL) I trust the word of my chairman. Again, I'm just passed a big bill and I- I only got this letter from the president that night. But he didn't say in his letter any reason except that he lost confidence. Well, he's lost confidence in other IG's because they had been investigating or looking- have reason to believe--

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. 

SPEAKER PELOSI: --that something should be investigated that he is doing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood. 

SPEAKER PELOSI: I really do think that presidents should not have the ability--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Madam--

SPEAKER PELOSI: --to do investigations into their own actions.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Madam Speaker, thank you very much for joining us today. We have to leave it there. 

SPEAKER PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you so much. Thank you. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back.