As part of our Speaker Series on California’s Future, PPIC is inviting elected leaders across the political spectrum to participate in public conversations. The purpose is to give Californians a better understanding of how our leaders are addressing the challenges facing our state.
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As Congress and the White House continued their negotiations over a COVID-19 relief package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked with Mark Baldassare last week about the government’s role in dealing with the pandemic.
“The role of the federal government,” she said, “is big in terms of policy, in terms of finances, and in terms of just example. We haven’t succeeded in all of those.” She pointed to four bipartisan bills that have passed so far, but noted that “we haven’t had the implementation of the policy contained in those bills.”
Pelosi characterized the HEROES Act, passed by the House in May, as the best example of what the government can do. Named in recognition of the services being provided by “state and local employees—our health care workers, our first responders, our transit workers, our teachers,” she said, the bill provides assistance for state and local governments that are dealing with the virus and its economic consequences.
The HEROES Act also includes funding for testing, tracing, and protective measures that could allow the economy to reopen safely. “In the time since we passed this bill,” Pelosi noted, “over 3 million people have been added to the list of those infected with the virus. And 70,000 people have died since we introduced this bill.” In addition, the bill funds food assistance and extends the direct cash assistance that previous legislation provided. “We really do need the federal government to put that money in the pockets of the American people,” she said.
Democratic leaders are also focused on ensuring the integrity of both the November election and the Census. “These are not, dollars-wise, big figures, but they are values-wise very important,” Pelosi said.
“We’re talking about lives, livelihoods, and the life of our democracy,” Pelosi concluded. “We see the federal government as having to play a very substantial role in how we address all of that.”
Pelosi noted that her caucus has worked on a number of priorities since the Democrats regained control of the House in 2018: “Our members have been churning away.” She pointed to legislation that addresses health care costs, infrastructure needs, and electoral reform. The House has also passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the Equality Act.
However, the pandemic relief package is a uniquely urgent priority. “This is different from any negotiation ever, because people are dying,” she said. “It’s not about let’s just get this done and get out of here. . . . Too much is at stake.”