The following is a transcript of an interview with Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that aired on Sunday, July 25, 2021, on “Face the Nation.”
JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We turn now to the economy and the impact that the COVID resurgence could have on the recovery. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo joins us. Good morning. Thank you so much for being here.
COMMERCE SECRETARY GINA RAIMONDO: Good morning.
JOHN DICKERSON: You said this week, if you’re asking me what can we do to get our economy back on track, get vaccinated. Give me your sense- you talk to businesses all the time. What are some specific ways in which, I saw that Apple is delaying reopening their- their headquarters a month because of Delta, what are some specific ways that it’s affecting business?
SEC. RAIMONDO: You know, we- at this point this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. You know, 97% of people in hospitals are unvaccinated. So what- every business leader that I know is just encouraging every employee and every member in their family to get vaccinated so that when they come back to work, a lot of businesses are planning on full back in office post Labor Day, they’re saying, you want to feel safe, you should feel safe, you should feel comfortable. We want you back in the office collaborating. So that means get vaccinated. I don’t sense, I will say this, you know, we are not where we were a year ago or six months ago by any stretch. We have highly effective vaccines. So the push now is to get vaccinated.
JOHN DICKERSON: I want to talk about going back to the workplace in a minute, but tourism is one of the focuses. You’ve- you’ve tried to help the tourism industry that was hurt. There was a big sell off on Monday and a lot of the stocks that were hurt were tourism stocks. You don’t see any issues there with people being nervous about traveling because of this summer surge we’re seeing?
SEC. RAIMONDO: Again, I just- it really does come back to making sure everybody’s vaccinated. You know, I think that people are not nervous because they know these vaccines are incredibly effective on all the different variants. There is, you know, I think a frustration by those who are vaccinated with those who aren’t vaccinated, saying it’s so simple, it’s free, it’s easy, limited side effects. Let’s get this done.
JOHN DICKERSON: Speaking of let’s get this done, there’s an infrastructure bill that’s bouncing around. Where do things stand? This is in the bipartisan negotiations to get infrastructure passed.
SEC. RAIMONDO: Very close. We’re in the final strokes or in the final days. We’re optimistic. We are all engaging daily, multiple times a day, with members of the Senate and we’re feeling really good about it.
JOHN DICKERSON: So if it gets through the Senate, you get the 10 Republicans you want and the 50 Democrats you want, but Nancy Pelosi has said she’s not going to send a bill over until another piece of legislation passes and then passes the Senate. That seems to add a lot of complexity. You’ve got to do that before you get this infrastructure thing you want.
SEC. RAIMONDO: Yeah.
JOHN DICKERSON: How’s that going to work out?
SEC. RAIMONDO: This- this is complex. You know, this is unusual and complex, but it’s what Americans want. It’s what Americans deserve. I’ll tell you, when I was governor, if I ever worked on an issue where I had both the Chamber of Commerce and the local AFL-CIO saying they supported it and get it done, I knew it had to happen because it was the right thing to do. And that’s what we have here. I hear from business leaders every day, get this passed. We need everyone to have broadband. We need improvements in roads and bridges. You hear the same thing from labor and progressive. So, yes, it’s complicated. No, we’re not there yet, but it’s going to happen.
JOHN DICKERSON: So- but the hurdles are not just the Republicans working out on this infrastructure deal. It’s also got to be worked through with the Democratic leader of the House.
SEC. RAIMONDO: Absolutely. But I know I know this. If there’s one person in Washington who knows how to get things done, it’s Speaker Nancy Pelosi and she knows this is what the American people want. And so, it’s- I’m not going to pretend this is not easy. It is complex, but we make progress every day and we feel optimistic.
JOHN DICKESON: Let me ask you about the jobs picture. The president was asked in the CNN town hall, a restaurant owner said, I’m having trouble hiring people. And it was really interesting, the president was pretty candid. He said that basically people are looking to make more money and they’re looking to bargain. And he said, “So I think your business in the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while.” So how is that going to work out? Wages are going up, people want more, but if hiring is not happening, those businesses are- especially the small ones are going to have trouble staying- staying afloat.
SEC. RAIMONDO: There is some of that, to be sure. But the thing that I think we all really have to keep our eye on, in addition to wages is childcare. Like a lot of people who work in these jobs are women, waitresses working at a hotel. So schools have to open, childcare has to come back online, and we have to pass the president’s Families Plan, which provides for childcare, tax credits, investments in pre-K, investments in home care. Women are in these jobs and they’re struggling to juggle between taking care of their kids and going to work.
JOHN DICKERSON: And is that the answer to the small business question? Because small businesses say, look, the massive businesses, they can offer childcare, they can give inducements to help women back into the workforce. But our small business, we can’t do it.
SEC. RAIMONDO: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s why, you know, what the president’s calling for is every 4-year-old in America ought to be able to go to public pre-K. It’s good for the kids. It’s good for business. You know, the Families Plan provides for home care. I read a story recently about a woman who had to give up her job as a paramedic because she couldn’t find home care for her autistic son. And she started working for Uber so she could keep the kid in the car with her.
JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned workplaces, people coming back to work after Labor Day. Do- there seems to be some tension between CEOs who want people back, and surveys which show people want to stay with these hybrid environments, thinking of childcare as a part of that, how do you see that tussle getting worked out?
SEC. RAIMONDO: We need better, higher quality, affordable childcare. You know, I do hear from businesses all the time that women are turning down promotions. You know, some of their star employees who are women, they want to get a promotion and women say, I can’t do it because I have childcare needs or women aren’t coming back into the workforce. We still have 2 million women who fell out of the workforce who haven’t re-entered. So, you know, you talk about infrastructure and yes, we need bridges and roads to get to work. Women need childcare so that they can get to work and be productive and it needs to be affordable. And so I think this is it’s core to our competitiveness to have a better kind of family care infrastructure in America that’s affordable. That’s affordable.
JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Secretary Raimondo, we’re out of time.
SEC. RAIMONDO: Thank you.
JOHN DICKERSON: Thank you so much for being with us. And we’ll be right back.