Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined Craig Melvin on MSNBC’s Live to discuss the urgent need for the Senate to take up the House-passed Heroes Act, the Trump Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response and other news of the day. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Craig Melvin. I want to turn now to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Madam Speaker, always good to have you. Thank you so much for your time this morning.
Speaker Pelosi. My pleasure.
Craig Melvin. So many parents are going to bed night after night, Madam Speaker, worried about their kids’ safety as districts are making these back-to-school plans. You’re a mother. You’re a grandmother. I imagine this is something that’s weighing on the minds of you and your own constituents. What are your biggest concerns about reopening schools?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, of course the biggest concern is safety. You’re right, I have nine grandchildren from grade school all the way up to college. And my daughters who are their parents, this is the constant conversation: is it safe to send them back? Different in different circumstances, but there is a way. There is a way to improve the opportunity for children, to put children first.
We have it in The Heroes Act, $100 billion stabilization fund specifically to address the coronavirus impact in the schools. Most of it is for K-12. And it addresses what you would expect: spacing and what is entailed in that, hygiene, sanitation, training.
Also, beyond that figure, also more money for broadband. So that kids, as your last guest was talking about, so that there’s training for distance learning, but also so that there’s capability for every child to participate in that. So, let’s say, number one, if we’re going to do it, let’s give it its best shot and make a judgment if that’s good enough.
In addition to that, in The Heroes Act we have the testing and all of that. And that requires the President, the President to implement the Defense Production Act so we have the PPE, the personal protective equipment, and we have the equipment for testing, and, very importantly, the equipment to get the results from the testing. It’s no use taking a test if you’re not going to get your results until a week later.
So, all of these things are related to the safety of our children going back. Is it hybrid? Is it virtual? Is it actual? Well, let’s give it our best shot, putting our children first. We know what we need to do. The Republicans have resisted The Heroes Act and, in part, because they don’t want to support the state and local government, which is essential to the safety of our children going back to school as well.
The resources are there. We have to make it a decision about the safety of our children and only then can we talk about that.
And so, when I listen to my kids talk about their children and my grandchildren talk about it, it’s very similar to what you heard from your very special guests, the moms and the children and their point of view on this. We have to look after our children, our teachers, custodians. There are many, many people who are involved in the education of our children. Let’s show that we put children first and their education by putting the resources there. Because without the resources, we shouldn’t even be thinking about sending them back to school.
Craig Melvin. Madam Speaker, as you know, the Secretary of Education, on Sunday, she refused to say whether schools should follow guidelines from the CDC on reopening. She says those guidelines are meant to be flexible. There’s been some reporting that we’re going to get some new CDC guidelines this week that would help dictate how some of these school districts determine whether they should reopen and how. Have you been in contact with the CDC? Do you know what these guidelines are going to look like?
Speaker Pelosi. No. What I heard was that they were going to respond to a tweet by the President. I would hope they would be responsive to the science. I’m always happy when there are new guidelines if they’re based on additional information, scientifically-based. So, we’ll see what they are.
But this is as serious as it gets. Here we have a pandemic. We’re talking about the education of our children. We’re talking about what that means to families in terms of their ability to go back to work. We can open the economy, we can open our schools if we test, trace, treat, separate, mask, hygiene and the rest. But we have to make a national decision to do it.
And I’ll tell you this, I’m very afraid of where we are now because of the ignorance in the Administration about what needs to be done, the recognition of the challenge that we face and the threat to the health and well-being of the American people.
And if we don’t make the investments, including putting money in the pockets of the American people with Unemployment Insurance and direct payments, including honoring our heroes, our health care workers, our transit, teachers, sanitation workers, our public employees, if we don’t put that money there, we’re not going to be able – we’re going to pay a big price – worse hit on the economy.
So, they, you know, they complain. They say, ‘Oh, it’s too much money.’ They didn’t mind giving $2 trillion – adding $2 trillion to the national debt to give a tax cut, 83 percent of which went to the top one percent, and yet, and yet they want to quibble over what we need to do to keep – open up our economy, open up our schools, respect.
We have no right, they have no authority to thank our first responders and our health care workers and our frontline people in this fight against the pandemic unless we’re willing to support them. The Heroes Act, named for them, does precisely that.
Craig Melvin. Madam Speaker, what about this advice that we’ve been getting from medical professionals who point out that missing school for millions of kids, that means missing breakfast and lunch.
Speaker Pelosi. That’s right.
Craig Melvin. Schools also provide an escape for unsafe situations in home. How do we balance those needs with, with the safety needs of this pandemic?
Speaker Pelosi. Well, of course, that is something we have always fought for and it’s so sad that for many of our children, their breakfast, their lunch and their food comes from when they go to school. And we have a plan on how these kids, when they’re not in school, will be fed and the mobile units going out. We’ve had this with summer school in the past, not related to a pandemic, but we know how to get this done.
But the fact is, it’s not a question of balancing equities, it’s about a question of crossing a threshold of safety. We cannot say to kids, ‘Well, go to school, you might get sick and take it home.’ Because they’re the biggest risk, the biggest risk to the spread of the pandemic is opening up the schools in a way that is not safe, is not safe.
So, if we’re going to defeat this pandemic, we shouldn’t be opening up to more arena to spread. We should use this as an opportunity for our children, put the resources in. We know what needs to be done, the resources are there to do it. And it, again, it addresses many disparities in our education system.
And when the Administration talks about cutting off federal funds, which they really can’t do, the federal funds are mostly for children in economically disadvantaged areas, Title I. They’re for children with disabilities. They’re for homeless children. There are other things, teacher training and the rest. But they’re hitting right, again, at the disparity in education when they say that. You have to wonder if they really do believe in public education, which is the basis of a democracy.
Craig Melvin. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Madam Speaker, thank you.
Speaker Pelosi. My pleasure.
Craig Melvin. Thank you for your time this Monday morning. I appreciate you.
Speaker Pelosi. Thank you.
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