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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday engaged in a heated exchange with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, calling the host "an apologist" for President Trump and Republicans on the issue of reaching a COVID-19 relief deal.

Why it matters: House Democrats and Senate Republicans remain at a standstill on key elements of a stimulus package. The Senate has largely been left out of the negotiating process between Pelosi and the White House.

What they're saying: Blitzer questioned Pelosi about her rejection of the White House's latest offer, asking, "Can you look [Americans] in the eye, Madame Speaker, and explain why you don't want to accept the president's latest stimulus offer?"

  • Pelosi responded that he ought to ask Republicans “why they don’t really want to meet the needs of the American people.”

"The Situation Room" host then read a tweet from Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) urging Democrats to accept Senate Republicans' $1.8 trillion proposal.

  • "What I say to you is, I don't know why you're always an apologist, and many of your colleagues, apologists for the Republican position," Pelosi said, noting "no one is waiting until February" for a stimulus package.
Blitzer: There are millions of Americans who have lost their jobs, they can't pay the rent, their kids need the food. $1.8 trillion. The president just tweeted: "Stimulus. Go big or go home. He wants even more right now. So why not work out a deal with him and don't let the perfect ... be the enemy of the good.
Pelosi: ...What makes me amused, if it weren't so sad, is how you all think that you know more about the suffering of the American people than those of us who are elected by them to represent them at that table.
It is unfortunate that we do not have shared values with this White House and that they have, in their bill ... a tax break for the wealthiest families in the country while they cut out the income earned tax credit for the poorest families and poorest children in our country...
Blitzer: Here is what you wrote in a letter to House Democrats, Madame Speaker. And I ask these questions, only as you know, so many millions of Americans are suffering right now...
Pelosi: But you quote two people who know nothing about the agreement. There is no agreement. But what the suggestions are, as if there is some authority on the subject. Please, give equal weight to all of the chairmen on the committee who have written this bill. 
Blitzer: But so many of your fellow Democrats in the House, they want a deal right now. The problem-solvers, they all want a deal right now. And here is what they're complaining about because you wrote a letter to House Democrats and you said this. Let me read a line from the letter you wrote. 'The president only wants his name on a check to go out before Election Day and for the market to go up.' 
Is that what this is all about? Not allow the president to take credit if there's a deal that would help millions of Americans right now? 
Pelosi: No, I don't care about that. He's not that important. But let me say this, with all due respect ... You really don't know what you're talking about. ... So do a service to the issue and have some level of respect for the people who have worked on these issues, written the bill to begin with. 

Go deeper: Trump tells House GOP leader he wants a "big deal" on COVID relief

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.

Bush labels Clyburn the “savior” for Democrats

House Majority Whip James Clyburn takes a selfie Wednesday with former President George W. Bush. Photo: Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush credited Rep. James Clyburn with being the "savior" of the Democratic Party, telling the South Carolinian at Wednesday's inauguration his endorsement allowed Joe Biden to win the party's presidential nomination.

Why it matters: The nation's last two-term Republican president also said Clyburn's nod allowed for the transfer of power, because he felt only Biden had the ability to unseat President Trump.