'This Week' Transcript 3-14-21: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. John Barrasso, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen

This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, March 14.

ByABC News
March 14, 2021, 9:40 AM

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, March 14, 2021 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR (through translator): Pandemic milestone.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over a year ago, no one could have imagined what we were about to go through. Now we're coming through it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One year into the COVID crisis, recovery in sight.

BIDEN: All adult Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine no later than May 1. July 4 with your loved ones is the goal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president's record aid package clears Congress with no Republican votes.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is a momentous day in the history of our country.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (D-WY): It includes provisions that are not targeted, they're not temporary, they're not related to COVID.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Hope is on the horizon. Help is on the way.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): This is vastly more expensive than should have been improved.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A legislative win, a failure for bipartisanship -- what it means for American families and Biden's agenda going forward.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I'm not going to resign.

STEPHANOPOULOS: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo defiant, as New York senators join calls for his resignation, amid a mounting impeachment effort.

We cover it all this morning in exclusive interviews with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican Senator John Barrasso, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, plus insight and analysis from our powerhouse roundtable.


ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, it's "This Week."

Here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week," a week that marks a major turning point in the fight against COVID.

One year into the pandemic, President Biden delivered his first address to the nation, signed one of the most sweeping anti-poverty programs since the New Deal. Almost 90 percent of American households are eligible for stimulus checks. The first hit bank accounts this weekend.

More than 93 percent of American children will draw income to their families, likely to lift nearly six million out of poverty.

Overnight, the CDC reported 2.98 eight million vaccines administered in one day, a new record. More than 105 million doses have now been administered, on track to have the overwhelming majority of Americans vaccinated by this summer.

As the president is set hit the road this week to sell his plan, big questions now about what's next for his agenda. That's our focus this morning.

We begin with the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

Madam Speaker, welcome to "This Week."

PELOSI: Good morning. My pleasure to be here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with the COVID relief package.

I outlined some of the benefits just now. But there was unanimous opposition on the Republican side. Most said the package was too large, not targeted at COVID relief. And our next guest, Senator John Barrasso, argues that it will overheat the economy and fuel inflation.

What's your response?

PELOSI: I totally disagree.

The fact is that it's strongly bipartisan across the country. It's only in the Congress of the United States where the Republicans have refused to meet the needs of the American people, where they didn't vote -- as I said of them, vote no and take the dough.

You can be sure that all of their states and communities will be benefiting from this, and they won't be complaining about it back home.

But let's just be on the positive side of it. This is pretty exciting. As I said, it's a momentous day. This is transformative. We have -- 50 percent of children in poverty will be taken off of poverty.

And, by the way, this bill is 90-some percent coronavirus-centric. This is similar to the bill that we wrote in May, the HEROES Act, some of which was implemented in December, much of it now, but refreshened by President Biden's proposals.

Then, we didn't have the vaccine. Now we do. So, that makes a tremendous difference in our goal to crush the virus and save the lives and livelihoods of the American people. So, it's a -- it's what we needed to do. And we need to do more, as we go into the next step with our recovery package.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk -- let's talk about what comes next.

You signaled Friday that major infrastructure legislation is coming next. That's going to require new taxes. Can you keep Democrats united behind a proposal like that and attract any Republican support?

PELOSI: Well, we will see.

I mean, the -- building roads and bridges and water supply systems and the rest has always been bipartisan, always been bipartisan, except when they oppose it with a Democratic president, as they did under President Obama, and we had to shrink the package.

But, nonetheless, hopefully, we will have bipartisanship. So, I put out the -- I called upon my chairs of the committees of jurisdiction to reach out to the Republicans to see what we can do, as we have traditionally done, in a bipartisan way.

This is about broadband. It's about water systems. It's about mass transit, it’s about good paying jobs all over the country. It’s also about schools and housing and the rest. Good paying jobs across the country. And not only that, once those jobs of building are done, it's about promoting commerce, creating good -- so it’s -- the goal is to promote good growth creating good paying jobs as we protect our planet and are fiscally sound.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it is going to take new taxes, right? You say fiscally sound.

PELOSI: Well, we'll see. There are some fees that spring from certain harbor maintenance tax credits, this that, we'll see. I think that some of it needs to be -- we'll look at everything.

We'll look at the tax code. We'll look at the appropriations process. We'll look at bonding in terms of Build America Bonds enabled us to do so much in our (ph) package under President Obama, and Vice President Biden. We'll take a look at those, but, again, we want to be fiscally sound as we go forward.

And this is job creating which creates revenue that comes back to the Treasury, unlike what the Republicans did with their tax scam in 2017 which gave 83 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent and debted our children to the tune of nearly $1.9 trillion -- recognize the figure, in debt, added to the national debt. So they should be the last people to be talking about what is too expensive for the American people as we meet their needs.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the situation at the border. We've seen a huge surge in migrants crossing the border since January. The number of children in custody, higher than it was than its 2019 peak during the Trump administration. Your colleague Veronica Escobar of Texas called the conditions there unacceptable. She was there on Friday.

Is she right? What more must be done?

PELOSI: Well, I'm sorry. I didn't hear who you said.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Veronica Escobar.


PELOSI: Veronica Escobar, our colleague from -- representing El Paso, and yes, it is.

The -- actually, the facts of these, there are more children, about 600, 700 more children, unaccompanied children coming over the border. This is a humanitarian challenge to all of us.

What the administration has inherited is a broken system at the border, and they are working to correct that in the children's interest. I'm so pleased that the president, as a temporary measure, has sent FEMA to the border in order to help facilitate the children going from one -- the 72-hour issue into where they are cared for as they are transferred into family homes or homes that are safe for them to be.

So this, again, is a transition for what was wrong before to what is right. Of course, we have to also look to Central America, Mexico and the rest. The corruption, the violence, all of that’s so bad.

My most recent trip to the Northern Triangle, that would be Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, you saw the impact of the climate change, mind you. These people were leaving because of the drought. They couldn't farm and they were seeking other ways to survive.

So there are many reasons that go into this, but the fact is we have to deal with it at the border, and many of the people -- some of the people coming there are seeking asylum. And I always like to quote our friends in the evangelical movement, at one of our rump hearings we had before the majority of the representatives said to us, the United States Refugee Resettlement Program is the crowned jewel of American humanitarianism.

So we have certain responsibilities that we must honor. We have to have a system that accommodates that, and that is what the Biden administration is in the process of doing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about security on Capitol Hill. An increasing number of Democrats and Republicans are saying the National Guard presence has to be reduced, fencing should start to come down. Are you prepared to move in that direction?

PELOSI: Well, I have -- this past week we had the presentation by General Honore and other law enforcement and national security experts as to how to -- as to what we can do to avoid what happened before, but -- as we go forward. And members (ph) springing from that are having their views.

This has to be a professional security decision. I myself have been one to say, let's see what we can do with a minimum of fencing, but again, this is a security decision.

They're cutting in half the number of -- of the National Guard already. They only will be there as planned for the next two months, and subject everything that is there. The architect of the Capitol has certain needs that he must have to harden the entrances and windows to the Capitol. You know, it's a -- and then the Police Board has to be reviewed for how it makes decisions.

There are important decisions to make, and we had three sessions. So that's as many members as possible who wanted to know the facts of it all, and now, this week, hopefully, we'll be able to make some decisions based on that, and then we will have to have a supplemental piece of legislation to pay for the additional changes.

And hopefully, as we make our decisions, those will be our very best investments on how we protect the Capitol, return it as soon as possible to this glorious temple of democracy that it is, so our children can return, our visitors can return, and appreciate the democracy of the United States.

So --

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask --

PELOSI: I think we're all on the same page in terms of wanting to make changes necessary. Unfortunate that it had to happen, but if you have an insurrection incited by the president of the United States, based on misrepresentations, you have to make sure you're safe enough so those who are motivated by those misrepresentations do not think that they have open season at the United States Capitol.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask you about the controversy around the Iowa's second congressional district. The GOP Congresswoman Marjorie (ph) Miller-Meeks won a razor close election, six votes. The votes were counted, recounted, certified by the state.

But the House Administration Committee began a process this week that could lead to unseating the congresswoman.


STEPHANOPOULOS: That has Republicans accusing you of hypocrisy, including Jim Jordan. He put out this tweet: Speaker Pelosi says she’s open to unseating Republican Congresswoman Miller-Meeks. Translation, you're only allowed to object to an election if you’re a Democrat.

Why investigate an election that was certified by the state?

PELOSI: Well, it was six votes. It was six votes, and our candidate Rita Hart, the Democratic candidate asked for this process to begin.

What the committee did, the House Administration Committee, was very narrow to take the process to the next step and see where it goes from there. An election of six votes out of 400,000 votes cast.

This is not unique. This has happened -- maybe even when you were in the Capitol before when races had been close one side or the others saying, let’s -- let's take it to the House. Because even Justice Scalia agreed that the House has the authority to seat members, and therefore we can count the votes. Six votes out of 400,000 cast.

For them to call anybody hypocritical about elections when two-thirds of them in the House voted against accepting the presidency of Joe Biden is -- well, it's just who they are.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I want to ask you about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Majority of New York’s congressional delegation, both senators have called on Governor Cuomo to resign.

You've said there should be zero tolerance for sexual harassment.

PELOSI: Right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean that Governor Cuomo should resign?

PELOSI: I said there's zero tolerance for sexual harassment, and we have taken measures in the House of Representatives -- very strong measures in the House under the leadership of Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California.

The -- what I said at the time that these revelations came forward, I said what these women have said must be treated with respect. They are credible and serious charges, and then I called for a -- an investigation.

I have confidence in the attorney general of New York. She has called for a -- I think expeditious investigation, and again, with all the respect in the world for what these women have come forth and said.

I terms of -- you're talking about New Yorkers now. In terms of generally speaking, people have to look inside themselves and say -- and Governor Cuomo also, are they -- how effective is their leadership in leading the state under the circumstances that are there?

But I do think that the women deserve to hear the results of these investigations as does the governor.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can he be an effective leader now?


PELOSI: But again, no, no tolerance. No tolerance. And this is a subject very near and dear to my heart. This is -- no tolerance for sexual harassment. I’ll let the world know that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not calling on him to resign right now?

PELOSI: I think we should see the results of the -- but he may decide, and that was -- hopefully, this result will be soon, and what I’m saying is the governor should look inside his heart -- he loves New York -- to see if he can govern effectively.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker of the House --


PELOSI: And that could be one of the considerations that he has.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you very much for your time this morning, Speaker.

Let's bring in now, the Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, chair of the Republican Conference.

Senator, thanks for joining us this morning.

Let's start out with what Speaker Pelosi said about that COVID relief package. As you heard her say, she believes that more than 90 percent is going to go towards COVID relief and expressed surprise, bemusement that Republicans couldn't go along with it.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Look, to call this COVID relief is really false advertising. Only 9 percent of the money actually goes to defeating the virus. Only 1 percent of the money goes for vaccines. This is a Nancy Pelosi payoff to the liberal left. This is something she's been working on a long time. So, you know, today we see her taking a victory lap to what is now known as the most progressive bill in the history of the United States, according to the White House, and the price of it shows that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say it's a payoff to the liberal left. I want to --

BARRASSO: It didn't need to be this way. We've done -- we've done five bipartisan coronavirus bills.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to show the front page of "The Caspar Star-Tribune."

BARRASSO: We have three vaccines that are very effective. We have a -- that's what President Biden has inherited, a recovering economy. So Republicans want to make sure people get shots in the arms, kids get back to school, people get back to work, but we are not going to stand with the Democrats as they try to exploit a crisis to send lots of money to big cities and to blue states and to really failed pension plans. This is not supposed to be a bailout, it's supposed to be about helping get the disease behind us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say blue states and big cities. I want to show the front page of "The Casper Star-Tribune." It shows $1 billion going to your state of Wyoming.

BARRASSO: Yes, absolutely. And there's $350 billion going to states that even the 22 governors, including our own governor, said that the formula they used to send this out was biased and unfair, focused at California, New York, Illinois. It punished the states that opened earlier and it rewarded the states that stayed closed the longest. This coronavirus relief bill was not supposed to be about $1,400 checks to illegal immigrants or $1,400 checks to felons who are behind bars, it wasn't supposed to be about block grants to sanctuary cities or money to schools that continue to stay closed.

Look, that's just the tip of the iceberg of the problems with this bill. The bill is going to come due for this and, ultimately, as you just heard Nancy Pelosi say today to you, taxes are going to be next on the Democrats' agenda.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if they -- so does that mean that there's not going to be any Republican support for an infrastructure proposal or future initiatives from the Biden administration? If you can't get behind this, which is not paid for, any chance of seeing bipartisanship on infrastructure?

BARRASSO: I'd really like to see bipartisanship on infrastructure because I chaired the committee in the last Congress that passed the highway bill. We also did the water bill, the -- all of the issues of water, as well as highway infrastructure. It was bipartisan. Bernie Sanders voted for it, and so did I. We got it to the House, and what did the House do? They replaced our highway bill with the green new deal. So they ignored what we have done in a bipartisan way. If they would take the model that we came up with in the committee in the Senate for highway and transportation, I think that's a very good start. I talked with the secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, about it, and I think that is the model on which we should move forward on transportation and infrastructure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the filibuster. There seems to be Democratic support coalescing around the idea for requiring the minority to do it the old-fashioned way, hold the floor by talking around the clock.

What's wrong with that approach?

BARRASSO: Well, there's nothing wrong with talking. The issue is how many votes does it take to get to moving forward with legislation? You know this coronavirus bill was done by reconciliation which allows for a majority of votes to win the day.

You know, we have a 50/50 Senate. That's what the American people sent to Washington with the vice president breaking the tie. You know, George, that ought to be a mandate to move to the middle. So we ought to do things that actually can get broad, bipartisan support like the infrastructure bill that came out of my committee last time. That's the best way to get things done.

If you get things that are one vote, and the vice president breaking a tie, harder for America to buy into that thing. The major pieces of legislation for our country historically have been done in a broad, bipartisan way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, to be clear, you have no problem with going back to the talking filibuster?

BARRASSO: I don't mind talking. I think the people ought to be able to stand and express their views. The question is, is it 50 votes or 51, or is it 60? And the current number is 60.

We've had this going on now for over a century. And the idea is to get bipartisan buy-in to bills. If there are parts that are very partisan, they ought to be left out. Focus on the areas on which we can agree.

On most items, I think you can agree on 80 percent of the things. So let's leave out the 20 percent which are the hot button issues and move the country forward on issues on which we agree.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your colleague Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has stirred up controversy with remarks about the Capitol riots and Black Lives Matter protests. I want to show them.


SEN. RON JOHNSON, R-WISC.: I knew those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law, and so I wasn't concerned.

Had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election, and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.


STEPHANOPOULOS: I should point out that the overwhelming majority of BLM protests, more than 90 percent, were peaceful.

Democrats are calling on Senator Johnson to resign. Do you agree with those comments? Should he apologize?

BARRASSO: Well, you know, take a look at -- you talk about peaceful protests. Look what's happened in Portland just the other night. These things continue.

We need to get back to a nation and a state where the razor wire can come down, the fences can come down, people can get back to Washington and the Capitol. We need to move the country forward, and that's to me, the best way that we ought to go.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So should he apologize?

BARRASSO: Well, he's going to speak for himself. You know this, George. You spent time on the Hill. Every member speaks for themselves, and I'm telling you what I believe.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Barrasso, thanks for your time this morning.

BARRASSO: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The round table is up next. We'll be right back.



MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, D-N.Y.: And it's not one; it's not two; it's not three; it's not four; it's not five; it's six women who have come forward. It's deeply troubling. He can no longer serve as governor.

(UNKNOWN): We have to move forward in New York State, and we must move forward with a leader in whom we can be confident.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, D-N.Y.: People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture, and the truth. Let the review proceed. I'm not going to resign.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Cuomo under tremendous pressure here in New York, one of the topics we'll talk about on our roundtable. I'm joined by Chris Christie; Amanda Renteria, CEO of Code For America, national political director for the Clinton 2016 campaign, former Republican member of Congress Will Hurd, and Donna Shalala, former Democratic member of Congress, also health and human services secretary under President Clinton.

We're going to get to Governor Cuomo.

But, Chris, let's begin with this milestone this week, the year of COVID, President Biden's address on Thursday, the passage of this COVID relief package.

Where are we right now? How is the president handling it?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, first off, we have now vaccinated more people than we say have been infected with COVID. So, we reached a big milestone there.

But here's the thing, George. I participated in a focus group yesterday -- I was just talking to Amanda about it -- 20 voters from around the country who don't want to get vaccinated, and why. They think politics is being played by both sides on this.

They think that President Trump rushed it, so that makes them suspicious about the vaccine in general. They think that President Biden, by criticizing in his speech this week President Trump and acting as if the vaccines didn't exist before he got there, is politicizing it too.

If we want people to get vaccinated in this country, what became clear from listening to these folks yesterday is, we got to get the politics out of it. You know what moved them more than anything else, George, in terms of being willing to consider to be vaccinated, when they we're told that 95 percent of doctors who were offered the vaccine took it.

That moved them. What moved them was them saying nobody died from the vaccine and nobody has gotten hospitalized who took the vaccine. What we need to do now, what President Biden needs to do is resist the partisanship.

And I was disappointed in the speech the other night, because I think that you have got to give President Trump some credit for the fact that Operation Warp Speed happened, along with the pharma industry in this country and around the world. We're saving the world now.

It won't kill President Biden to be able to say, hey, listen, Donald Trump did that part of it right. By investing in these vaccines, we now have hundreds of millions of doses, and I'm going to build on it and I'm going to make it better. That would be fine.

And the reaction from folks yesterday was, they didn't like the partisanship when President Trump was doing it. They didn't like it when President Biden did it. And it made them suspicious about taking the vaccine.

So, if we don't knock off the politics in Washington, D.C., around this issue, we're going to have less people vaccinated, herd immunity less soon, and real problems. We don't need those.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Fair point, Donna Shalala?

FMR. REP. DONNA SHALALA (D-FL): I actually think it's not the politics that's keeping people.

I think it's the disinformation campaign that's being run on social media to suggest that the vaccines aren't safe. And in the black community, there's good reason, given their history with the public health service. So, I think it's deeper than the politics. We do have to overcome this.

But, at the moment, I actually think economic incentives are going to drive this as well, that people are going to get the vaccines because they want to get back to work. So, economic incentives are going to help.

I will give Donald Trump credit for Operation Warp Speed, if that will have one more person get the vaccine. But the important thing is, it's not just politics. It's a very dangerous social media campaign suggesting that these vaccines aren't safe. We have to overcome that with clear, consistent messages from Republicans, Democrats, independents, all of us.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Will Hurd, there does seem to be some exhaustion across the country, particularly in your state, with these pandemic restrictions.

We saw them lifted in Texas this week. Too soon?

FMR. REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): Well, we should still be wearing masks. We should still be social distancing. I think we can open up businesses and make sure that business -- small businesses are continuing to operate. We can do it in a smart way.

I wear a mask not because somebody tells me. I wear a mask because it's good for my community. But the fact that we're at a point where, by maybe the beginning of May, every adult American could potentially have a shot is a really big deal.

And we're close to coming out of this. But we're not there yet. So, we're still going to have to double down. But one of the things that we're not doing is, we're not putting ourselves in a position to be ready for the next pandemic.

Something is going to come. It's going to be worse than COVID-19. We have to be ready for it. We need the testing regimes to be put in place that we can flip a switch and get people doing that.

When the next -- when the next pandemic happens, we have got to make sure that we can do testing and get people on the first or second day when they're infected, when we're seeing a viral load increase, rather than on the seventh and eighth day, when that viral load is decreasing, and they have already infected 80 percent of the people that are going to be infected by it.

So, we have to be ready for this next one. And now is the time that we should be thinking about this as we're coming out of COVID-19.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That does lead to a big question, Amanda.

What lessons have we learned over the last year?

AMANDA RENTERIA, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I think you're seeing that in Biden's -- in Biden's speech.

Number one is an empathy and a connection with people. What people are really going through today was really important for him to say, because there has been so much loss.

But along with that is a measured hope. He is saying to everybody: I need you to stay on track. I need you to make sure that we can get to July 4 and have a good July 4th. But some of this is making sure that we communicate in an empathetic way that we’re connecting people again and that people have a responsibility that this is on them for us to get to July 4th, in a different kind of way.

And you are seeing a different leadership here. He was very clear not only about what we need to do on vaccines, but also what we need to do for our communities in terms of economic challenges that people are facing. too.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: And, Chris Christie, was it a mistake for every single Republican to vote against this COVID relief package? Given the fact that things appear to be moving in the right direction.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, George, I think each one of these representatives have to make their own judgment on what they want to do. There was not a big effort on the White House's part to try to beat some of them. There were a number of them that came to the White House, especially senators urging things to be done.

This was essentially a COVID package enveloping a wish list of what Democrats have wanted to do for a very long time, and listen, they have the majority so they get to do it. I mean, elections have consequences and they get the majority, so they get to do it.

It doesn't mean that Republicans have to agree with it, and if it's fundamentally against what they think needs to be done, I’m sure there are things in there --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it good politics, I guess, is what I’m asking?

CHRISTIE: You know, George, I don't think we can tell yet. I think it's too soon. We're so intent these days on wanting to make instant judgments and snap judgments. What we know, if we look at the arc of politics over the last 30 years, is that these things take a little bit of time to figure out.

And so, there are some reps who may look back on this from a political perspective and say, it was a mistake. There’s others who will say they did the right thing I suspect. My guess it will be a mixed bag by the time you get to midterm ‘22.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Donna Shalala, you and I worked in the Clinton administration when he ended welfare, as we know. You compare what happened then to the sweep of this legislation this week, and it's a brand-new world.

DONNA SHALALA (D), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, COVID has destroyed the social safety net. It's what we were worried about with welfare reform, and that is if we had something dramatic that happened, we wouldn't have a social safety net that could catch people, and COVID has destroyed it.

My argument is all we're doing is giving people their tax money back. It actually is an investment in the economy, and people are getting their money back in a way that protects their children, protects their families, allows them to pay their rent. So the social safety net that we had was destroyed by COVID. We're putting it back together again at least for a short period of time, but what we're really doing is giving people back their money so they can invest it in their own community and protect their families.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you have voted for the package if you were still in Congress?

WILL HURD (R), FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: It's a hard question to say. There were some good elements in there. There was additional money going to testing. There was additional money going to first line responders.

You know, there was debate about how, what percentage of this is for COVID and what percentage of this is to progressive wish list. My concern with the way this bill was passed is it shows how dysfunctional Congress has become. The fact we were able to pass a number of COVID bills in a bipartisan, bicameral way over the last -- couple -- last year, we should be able to continue to be able to do that.

The fact that this was an opportunity for people to pile on some of their pet projects is a sign that not much is going to happen over this next year in major legislation.

You talked with Speaker Pelosi about that transportation bill. You know, everybody always says, bridges, roads, locks and dams and also, digital infrastructure is a bipartisan area, but are we going to be able to engage, and will the leadership of the House and the Senate be willing to work with Republicans? I hope that --


STEPHANOPOULOS: If working with Republicans means it's not paid for, does that end the debate?

HURD: It should be paid for, right? There's no doubt about that, right? And how that gets done and how that is paid for, that's going to be the crux of much of the argument, but I think that President Biden is going to have to go around some of his Democratic leaders in Congress and engage directly with some of those Republicans that are willing to play ball.

The only way this country has ever gotten big things done that has stuck is by doing it together, and unfortunately, I don't know if we're going to see that happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Amanda, this was a huge accomplishment for President Biden. Was it also his last big legislative accomplishment given the majority right now, the razor thin majority?

RENTERIA: I don't think so. I think what you’re going to see is he putting the vision forward.

But I’ve got to say, we have 20 million people on unemployment, 24 million people looking -- saying they're hungry right now.

The idea you couldn't go forward with a bill and have both people -- both parties on this is really immoral right now when there is so much going on, and the idea for the first time, we have a paradigm shift where we are starting and centering in low income and poor communities and saying that's how we're going to build back our economy, that's exactly the vision Biden put forward.

And, frankly, he had a lot of Republicans. He had the West Virginia governor knowing that 30 percent of his folks couldn't make household expenses right now. He had the West Virginia governor knowing that 34 percent of his folks couldn't make household expenses right now. He had a lot of mayors coming out and saying when that bill was done, thank you for insuring that we had state and local funds here. And so the idea that he is very much in line with a bipartisan group of people on the front lines I think really bodes well for the next things he wants to do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR: Chris, I see you smiling right there, but setting aside the governor, is it -- the bill does have 70 percent support. That means a lot of Republicans are supporting it.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR (R) AND ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: George, look, if you give away money, it usually is supported, right? If you give somebody something for nothing, they usually say, sure, I'll take it. That's not shocking that this would have that kind of support at all. It's going to be one of the ramifications for it down the road.

Now, governors, having been one, if you're going to give me money, then I don't have to raise taxes to raise revenue myself. In my state, we -- we've seen a budget increase over the last four years from $34 billion to $44 billion in four years. We've seen taxes go up every year. And now my state, which did not have a revenue loss beyond about 1.5 percent, is now going to get $6 billion more from the federal government. Man, if you're the governor, you're like, sure, you're going to send me that money and I'll spend it. Of course I'll spend it.

So, of course, they -- Jim Justice is going to spend the money because Jim Justice is now going to get to spend money that he's going to be able to say to his conservative constituency, I didn't raise taxes. This is revenue for -- it just came in. What was I supposed to do with it?

What we need to start thinking about as we look at the transportation challenges is, yes, I think we do need to pay for it. That's what we did in our state when we increased our transportation infrastructure funding, you have to pay for it. But when you questioned the speaker this morning, she wouldn't say the "t" word. You're saying, what -- will Republicans -- you know, will they pay for it?

STEPHANOPOULOS: She didn't say we'd have to find revenues. You're right, she wouldn't say taxes.

CHRISTIE: Well, but, George, you -- George, you asked her three times. I -- Will and I were sitting there listening about taxes. Well, we'll see. We'll have to see what happens. There could be fees or some other budget reconciliation. Like, she knows what the word is. The word is taxes. And Nancy Pelosi wouldn't say it. So I think we've got to be fair about this. If it's going to be paid for, both parties haves to do it and it's going to be her responsibility because she's the speaker.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is going to be difficult.

Before we go, I do want to talk about Governor Cuomo's situation.

Donna Shalala, let me begin with you.

Can he serve effectively given what's happened here in the state of New York?

DONNA SHALALA, FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSWOMAN (R): I don't think so. Look, normally you would say, wait for the investigation, but the cumulative effect of the number of women who have come forward, in a crisis we need a strong governor in New York, and at the end of the day it looks like he cannot and should not survive, and hopefully he will do the right thing for the people of New York.

This is not about, have I offended people? This is about breaking the law. This is -- the law is very clear on sexual harassment. And in this case, I don't think the governor can survive.


RENTERIA: I agree. You got to call it out. The days of where you can use your positional power to take advantage of folks who work for you is over. And I think you're seeing that more and more. You're seeing the Democrats line up and say, it's time.

CHRISTIE: George, look, I can't be a hypocrite on this. I sat here for years when Democrats were demanding things of President Trump before investigations were completed and I would say, wait, we've got to let the investigation go forward, let's hear all the facts and then let's make a decision. Well, if I'm going to sit there and say that about Donald Trump, which I did, then I have to say exactly the same thing about Andrew Cuomo if I'm going to be consistent.

We have an independent attorney general, independently elected attorney general in New York, who says she's conducting an investigation that's brought in two independent people outside her own office. One, a very well respected former, you know, acting U.S. attorney in the Southern District. Let them do the investigation. If, in fact, what Secretary Shalala says is correct, and it's proven out by the investigation, then action will have to be taken.

But I think that the same way I felt like Donald Trump deserved to let the facts be heard, I think Andrew Cuomo has to deserve exactly the same thing. And if I said something different, then we'd just be playing the same polarizing politics we've been playing in this country. If it's right for the Republicans, it's right for a Democrat too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will Hurd, you get the last word.

WILL HURD, FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN (R): This is not an issue of cancel culture. This is an issue of a powerful individual creating a toxic culture that prevented women from being successful within their jobs. That is unacceptable from someone who's running a major state the way the governor is. And I think you listen to Republicans and Democrats in the state and say it's time for him to step down.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you all very much. Great discussion.

Coming up, more on the economic impact with the COVID relief bill. An exclusive interview with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Stay with us.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Tune into "GMA" Wednesday for my exclusive interview with President Joe Biden, as he travels the country to sell his economic relief plan. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is up next. We'll be right back.



JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: It's essential that we put the federal budget on a path that is sustainable.

But the most important thing, in my view, that we can do today to put us on a path of fiscal sustainability is to defeat the pandemic, to provide relief to American people.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen right there.

And she joins us now.

Secretary Yellen, thanks for joining us this morning.

You just said that the relief package is the most important thing we could do to get on a sustainable path. This is a massive package. Are you confident it can be administered effectively? And as big as it is, is it enough to do the job of recovering those 9.5 million jobs lost during the pandemic?

YELLEN: Well, I think it's the right size to address the very significant problem that we have.

You said we have lost 9.5 million jobs. If we were properly measuring unemployment, it would register over 9 percent. We need both relief for the people who are suffering because of what's happened with the economy. We need to defeat the pandemic. This package really does that.

It provides substantial aid. There will be $1,400 checks going out to 85 -- members of 85 percent of American households, $3,000 payments to children, $3,600 for children under 6, unemployment compensation that will extend through Labor Day, money to address the eviction crisis, to address people who are behind on their mortgage payments.

We have 22 million Americans who say they don't have enough to eat. There's additional money for food stamps. State and local governments have already laid off 1.4 million workers, and they're going to get the money that they need to keep those essential workers on the payrolls.

And we need to open schools quickly and safely, and this package has the money to do that. So, I believe there's enough support in this package to relieve suffering and to get the economy quickly back on track. I'm hopeful that, if we defeat the pandemic, that we can have the economy back near full employment next year.

And I think this is the package we need to do that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about inflation, though? Your predecessor, Larry Summers, has warned of the dangers. Economist Mark Zandi says investors are underestimating the dangers.

If we get back to full employment, could we see inflation surge? How big a problem is that?

YELLEN: Well, policy-making is about identifying and addressing risks.

And the most significant risk we face is a work force that is scarred by a long period of unemployment. People being out of work, not able to find jobs can have a permanent effect on their well-being. I think that's the most significant risk.

Is there a risk of inflation? I think there's a small risk. And I think it's manageable. Prices fell a lot last spring, when the pandemic surged. I expect some of those prices to move up again, as the economy recovers the spring and summer. But that's a temporary movement in prices.

To get a sustained high inflation like we had in the 1970s, I absolutely don't expect that. We have had very well-anchored inflation expectations and a Federal Reserve that's learned about how to manage inflation.

So, I don't think it's a significant risk. And if it materializes, we will certainly monitor for it. But we have tools to address it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in 2017, you testified that long-term budget productions should keep people awake at night. The situation is worse now. Federal debt expected to exceed GDP for the first time since World War II.

So are you getting any sleep?

YELLEN: I am getting sleep. I’ve -- my views have changed somewhat about fiscal sustainability, in part, because what we've seen all around the world is a trend toward very low interest rates. Interest rates in the United States are much lower than they were in past decades, and you see that in all developed countries around the world, and it reflects structural trends that are not going to disappear soon.

And I think about -- when I think about the burden of debt, I think about it mainly in terms of the interest payments that the government needs to pay on those -- on that debt, and in spite of the fact that the debt has increased substantially, interest payments relative to the size of the economy have remained quite low. No higher than they were back in 2007.

But of course, we have to make sure that the economy, that the budget is on a sustainable path, and this is something that we can afford. In the longer run, we need to get deficits under control to make sure that our fiscal situation is sustainable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that means raising revenue to pay for future programs. What do you think of Senator Warren's call for a wealth tax?

YELLEN: Well, President Biden has put forward a number of proposals. He hasn't proposed a wealth tax, but he has proposed that corporations and wealthy individuals should pay more in order to meet the needs of the economy, the spending we need to do, and over time I expect that we will be putting forth proposals to get deficits under control.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But no wealth tax?

YELLEN: Well, that's something that we haven't decided yet, and can look at, but, you know, president -- President Biden during the campaign proposed a higher tax rate on corporations, on individuals and on payments, capital gains and dividend payments that are received, and those are alternatives that address -- that are similar in their impact to a wealth tax.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Yellen, thanks very much for your time this morning.

YELLEN: Pleasure to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll be right back.


SUBTITLE: Who was the first female candidate for a majority party’s nomination for president?



STEPHANOPOULOS: That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," and my interview with President Biden on Wednesday, and I'll see you tomorrow on "GMA."