Nancy Pelosi Tells Bill Maher How Congress Can 'Keep Writing Checks' to U.S. Workers: 'Matter of Life and Death'

HBO host Bill Maher on Friday evening pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi how Congress can "keep writing checks" topping over $2 trillion to U.S. workers and businesses, to which the top House Democrat replied "it's a matter of life and death."

The Real Time with Bill Maher host and Pelosi discussed Congress' latest coronavirus pandemic stimulus legislation aimed at giving small businesses incentive to keep employees on their payroll until social distancing measures are pulled back. Maher questioned how the U.S. federal government, which was already trillions of dollars in debt before COVID-19, can continue writing "funny money" checks in order to prop up the U.S. economy. Pelosi pushed back, questioning where Maher and so-called "fiscal conservatives" were when President Donald Trump and Republicans passed his 2017 tax cut for "wealthiest 1 percent of Americans."

"You mentioned that this is the fourth bill you've passed, I think the total now is coming up on $2.7 trillion that's a lot of money in a short period of time," Maher said Friday. "I know Congress controls the purse strings, but I can't imagine there's much left in the purse. I don't get it, I don't understand -- I know we can bail out certain sectors as we have done in the past. I just don't know how we can indefinitely keep writing checks, we were already $20 trillion in the hole to begin with. And other world governments that are already in debt are doing this -- how can the whole world be writing this funny money?"

"Well, because it's a matter of life and death," Pelosi replied.

"Nobody made as big a fuss as we did when they passed a $2 trillion tax break for the wealthiest people in our country, 83 percent of the benefits going to the top 1 percent, and the debt that laid on our kids to pay for in the future. So this is more of an investment in the lives and the livelihood of the American people. And we have to think big about that, the more we invest in science and health, the quicker our economy can recover from the pandemic."

Pelosi went on to detail how House Democrats pushed for $25 billion necessary for establishing a "national plan for testing." She accused Republicans and the Trump administration of "dragging their feet" in providing nationwide testing capability in the month-and-a-half since the country enacted shelter-in-place orders.

Maher continued asking Pelosi about how the federal government's "stimulant" to the economy can be working of "we are just writing checks for money that doesn't exist." He said banks will soon be loaning this same money back to people "that didn't exist to begin with ... it seems like it's a house of cards that could end up hurting more people than the disease."

"Well the point is to keep people working, it's paycheck retention. The point of this legislation is for small businesses to be able to have some relief and if they keep their workers on they will have debt forgiveness," Pelosi replied, before continuing her criticism of the Trump tax cuts for the richest Americans.

"It is not anything in comparison to the irresponsibility of a tax cut of almost $2 trillion that all of these deficit hawks, these fiscal conservatives, didn't give one ounce of thought to -- the fact is we want a return on this investment," Pelosi continued.

"When we invest in food stamps, that's stimulus. When we invest in unemployment insurance, that's stimulus. When we give a direct payment, that's stimulus. And hopefully when we keep these people in their jobs ... people have paychecks and therefore people can survive."

nancy pelosi bill maher stimulus
HBO host Bill Maher on Friday evening pressed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about how Congress can "keep writing checks" topping over $2 trillion to U.S. workers and businesses, to which the top House Democrat replied, "it's a matter of life and death." Screenshot: Real Time with Bill Maher | YouTube