Transcript: Larry Kudlow on "Face the Nation," March 15, 2020

Kudlow says coronavirus bill "not perfect" but will help average Americans

The following is a transcript of an interview with National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow that aired Sunday, March 15, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're going to turn now to the director of the White House National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow. Good to have you here. 

LARRY KUDLOW: Thank you, MARGARET.

MARGARET BRENNAN: American lives changed dramatically. There is an economic impact to all of this. People are worried about paychecks and the like. I want ask you specifically about the bill that the House has passed that would provide paid leave and other assurances. When do you expect the Senate to vote and for the president to actually sign it into law?

KUDLOW: Well, it would be a big help. It may not be a perfect bill, but it gets done. Essentially what we want it to get done, take care of individuals, people on hourly wages, families, kids home. If your spouse is home. A lot of people may have to stay home in the weeks ahead, we want them to get paid.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is the Senate already scheduling a vote? And will it be on the president's desk within days?

KUDLOW: Well, I think the Senate is going to work on it tomorrow. I hate to predict that legislative calendar, but I think there is an urgency to this, something we've pushed from the very beginning. You know, again, it's about- it's about helping families and middle income and blue collar type folks. They should not be penalized financially. And we don't want to force them to go outdoors when they should be indoors. So I think this would be a big plus. And yes, I think the Senate will get it done pretty rapidly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Some big corporations already have paid leave policies.

KUDLOW: Yes. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But this bill doesn't apply to--

KUDLOW: Small, medium businesses.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Small, medium--

KUDLOW: This is really impacting--

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you have 500 employees and above, you're not impacted by this bill. Why? How do you guarantee that the people who fall into these categories will still be able to take leave, go home and put food on their table and afford to do what the government is telling them to do?

KUDLOW: Fall into which categories, MARGARET, the lower category?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you have- if you're 50 employees or less, you can have a hardship exemption--

KUDLOW: That's correct. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --if you're 500 or more employees this doesn't--

KUDLOW: You qualify for- if you're 500 or less--

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you're in that middle range you're impacted--

KUDLOW: --you qualify. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: If you're above that you're not required--

KUDLOW: And that includes self- that includes self-employed people also. It's very important. Well, look, the last word on that, we don't know yet. I mean, if larger companies get into trouble, we will be looking at the possibilities using the full powers of the federal government, which are quite substantial during an emergency declaration like this. We will be look to helping any individuals who might get left behind or might have a danger of getting left behind. You know, in this bill, free testing, I think is a very big thing. And I also think the food stamp additions particularly if kids have come home because the schools are closed down. So we will- we have lots of ways and means to make sure nobody falls through the cracks here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president speaking to grocers today I saw on the schedule. If you go into a lot of grocery stores, there are empty shelves right now. What is the supply line like? Can you guarantee people that they will be able to stay home and feed themselves?

KUDLOW: Well, I'm going to say yes. Knowing there may be some exceptions to this. I've now- I've read about some situations where this is a difficulty, but most of our supply lines are working pretty well in the domestic United States. If I may make a point. I mean, there's a huge economic challenge here. Do not get me wrong, a huge economic challenge. On the other hand, most of America is still working. There was a good story in the journal yesterday about this. Factories are not shutting down across the country, at least not yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yet.

KUDLOW: The employment story, which may become more tenuous in the weeks ahead. I understand that. Nonetheless, a lot of CEOs I talked to, they're doing everything they can. I just talked to somebody, a CEO of a big car company not to lay off anybody. So, I--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have projections on possible layoffs? What is the White House preparing for?

KUDLOW: I'm not going to put numbers out this morning. I would just say--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have one?

KUDLOW: We're- we're looking at everything right now as best we can. You know, so much of this, because of the unusual nature of this virus, so much of this is new. It's very hard to model stuff--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

KUDLOW: --you don't have much experience with. We're going to- my view, we go day by day, fact by fact, report by report, phone call by phone call. But I do want to make this point: across the board in order to assist, I call it fiscal assistance, in order to assist individuals and families and small business, we've put on the board 400 billion dollars already, and that includes the paid family leave that you're talking about before. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about--

KUDLOW: It also includes small business assistance. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

KUDLOW: Very large significant sum. It also includes deferred tax payments with no interest penalties.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about the travel related industries?

KUDLOW: Well it all--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you looking at a bailout--

KUDLOW: But let me also--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --for airlines? Like loan guarantees?

KUDLOW: Before I get to the bailout, I also want to mention some other important areas here. President is going to- by executive order I reckon, we will defer the interest on student loans for the rest of the year. Also because of the mishmash between Saudi Arabia and Russia, we want to put our energy people out of business. They never will. We are purchasing--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Purchasing for the--

KUDLOW: --75 million barrels from the Strategic--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

KUDLOW: --Petroleum Reserve.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you said- I just want to clarify, you did use the word bailout. 

KUDLOW: No, I did not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What is- well, what is it that you were preparing to do for the travel related industries? Is it loan guarantees? Can airlines plan on that?

KUDLOW: It could be. Look, we're talking to the airlines. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is deeply involved. We talk every day.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah. 

KUDLOW: We're gonna go up to the hill this week. We will have a number of new proposals with respect to the airlines.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

KUDLOW: We've got issues on cruise ships. We've got issues on the whole leisure story. But I just feel, look, this is a story that will be very challenging in the short run. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

KUDLOW: But, MARGARET, this is not a story of years. This is a story of weeks and months. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.

KUDLOW: We come in- strong economy by all accounts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

KUDLOW:  And I think by the end of this year, we will be back to a strong economy. But we're taking these fiscal assistance measures just to make sure. And please,--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.

KUDLOW: --I don't want to leave out, the president strongly supports the payroll tax holiday. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah, which is not his bill.

KUDLOW: Which would be enormous benefit—

MARGARET BRENNAN: But we'll talk. Okay.

KUDLOW: --to the middle class and blue collar workers.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we'll have to see.

KUDLOW: It would be an enormous benefit.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  Well, we'll look for you to put that to Congress. It's not in the current bill. We have to leave it there. 

KUDLOW: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When we come back, the CEO of Bank of America, Brian Moynihan, will join us.