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Transcript of Pelosi, Israel Press Conference with Newly-Elected House Democratic Members

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Steve Israel, and newly-elected members of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference today highlighting the size and historic diversity of the incoming House Democratic freshmen class.  Below is a transcript of the press conference:

Leader Pelosi.  That length of time it took for our new Members to come on to the platform here is music to my ears and to yours, Steve, as well, wasn’t it?  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well the picture that you see before you is worth millions of votes, millions of aspirations and dreams of the American people for problem solvers to come to Washington to get the job done.  Today, we officially welcome our Democratic freshmen to Washington, they are extraordinary leaders who will make our House Democratic Caucus the first Caucus in history, in the history of civilized government, to have a majority of women and minorities in the Caucus.  You can applaud that.

[Audience Applause]

Before you, you see a broad coalition of Americans that stand ready to work with President Obama to move America forward.  Of the 200 Democratic Members of the 113th Congress we welcome 61 women, we have 43 African-Americans, 26 Hispanics, 11 Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, 6 LGBT – now we’re not welcoming all of them, some of them have been here, but that is what our ranks look like.  Together the diversity of our Caucus celebrates the strength of our nation.  This Caucus is a picture of America.  All of our Democratic colleagues will play a critical role in support of President Obama.  Each one of them comes here as an independent representative of his or her district.  I tell them all the time: your job description and your job title are one in the same, Representative.  We need not only the diversity that you bring ethnically, geographically, generationally, gender-wise, etcetera – we need the diversity of your thinking, brought to bear to strengthen our policies.  We’ll work with the President to create jobs and grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, protect Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, reduce the deficit in a responsible and balanced way.  And they’ve come just in time to do that.

House Democrats are ready to work with the President, our Senate colleagues, and across the aisle for certainty for our economy and our middle class.  With our newly-elected Members, and the entire Democratic Caucus, we’re going to work together to reignite the American Dream, to build ladders of opportunity for people who want to work hard, play by the rules, take responsibility.  Central to all of that is strengthening our small businesses, our entrepreneurship in America, and having a vital and thriving middle class.  And we have work to do.  And we’re all ready to do that work.  Since I’ve began speaking, even more Members have come in here.  Come on in – Kyrsten, Annie, come on in Julia, Julia Brownley from California – we’re very proud of all of our Members.  

We could not be celebrating this tremendous, tremendous success without the leadership of Steve Israel, the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  When I asked him to take this responsibility to serve our country and our colleagues, I said to all of you that he is the gold standard of a Member of Congress.  He knows the policy.  He cares about the American people and that drives him to do the politics to increase our numbers, to pass legislation that takes us forward to improve the lives of the American people.  Before I bring him on though, I wanted to have a representative of the freshmen class, the new class, to speak on behalf of the class and that – I am very, very honored to welcome a real fighter for the middle class, a real representative of his generation, Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy.

[Members Applaud]

His election, as with the others, is a cause for celebration.  His election sends a message to a new generation of Americans that their voices will be heard at the table.  Congratulations Congressman-elect Patrick Murphy.

Mr. Murphy.  Thank you.  Thank you all, and thank you Leader Pelosi for your leadership and for being here with us.  And thank you all for all your support along the way.  My name is Patrick Murphy from Florida District 18.  The youngest new Member of Congress.

[Members Applaud]

And just defeated somebody you all may know, a guy named Allen West.  You guys might of heard of him.

[Members Applaud]

With the help of a lot of the people here behind me.  So, thank you all for your support.  Throughout this campaign, you know, the one message I heard time after time was the need for bipartisanship, to reach across the aisle.  And that’s what we need to do.  We have to put our country first.  What I’ve talked about with all of my colleagues already, this new freshmen class, is problem solvers – doing what’s best for all Americans – Democrat, Republican, Independent, do what’s best for all Americans.  And that’s what we’re going to do.  That’s what our country needs and that’s what I plan on doing.  So, thank you for your leadership.  Thank you Chairman Steve Israel.  And thank you all very much.

Leader Pelosi.  And without further ado, still working into whatever comes next, the great Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a leader in the Congress while he was going through all of the work that he was doing, he had to meet the needs, and a he did faithfully and first, of his constituents who were under siege from Hurricane Sandy, so he has his priorities in order, he knows his policy, he loves the American people, he’s very patriotic, and by the way, he’s very good at politics, Chairman Steve Israel.

Mr. Israel.  Thank you all very much.  Thank you to Leader Pelosi for her tenacity and the – just an unprecedented work ethic.  And to my new colleagues, welcome.  Thank you all for being here.  The Leader told me when she asked me to Chair DCCC that it would be a labor, it really was a labor of love.  I’ve enjoyed every single day of this job.  I think it says something about our unexpected pickups that you had to unexpectedly use your wide angle lenses to capture the incredible wealth of talent and diversity that we have.  With these new Members, the Tea Party starts to rollback and problem solving can move forward.  And that’s what this election was all about.  These leaders wake up every single morning not thinking about left, or thinking about right, they wake up every single morning thinking about how to move their communities forward, how to move this country forward, how to solve problems.  They are solutionists.  They are Mayors who had to balance budgets and fill potholes.  They are veterans who defended the nation.  They are small business people who created jobs.  They are doctors who delivered health care.  

I think the message that voters sent throughout this country was that they want problem solvers in Congress who are focused on the right priorities, who are focused on how you rebuild and reignite the middle class.  They are not interested in Tea Party ideology, they are interested in growing jobs and moving this country forward.

I make two other very quick points: the Leader mentioned this, and I think it really is a major takeaway from this election, these new Members reflect the priorities, and the diversity, and the values of the districts that elected them.  The Republican Caucus, if you look at it, it looks like a rerun of the show Mad Men.  Our Caucus looks like America.  Our Caucus looks like Congressional districts throughout America.  Sixty-one Democratic women, 43 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, 27 Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, 10 Asian-Pacific Americans, as the Leader said: ‘the most diverse Caucus in the history of Congress,’ she said in the history of civilization, and I think because of the addition of women, and African-Americans, and Hispanics, and Asians, it not only is the most diverse Caucus in the history of civilization, but that will make us a much more civilized Congress with the addition of so many that reflect that diversity.  It is that diversity.  It is that problem solving, which is why we surpassed expectation in this cycle.  My counterpart, and my friend, who chairs the NRCC had predicted a gain, a net gain of 16 seats for the Republicans.  Speaker Boehner predicted a gain of seats for the Republicans.  The Cook Political Report, the day after the election said this was a better than expected night for House Democrats, when all the races conclude, when everything is tallied up, when everything is called, we expect that our Caucus will have 200 Members, a pick-up of seven or eight Members.  These Democrats, not us, not me, but these Democrats defeated 16 Republican incumbents.  Pete Sessions said that they would pick-up 16 seats, these Democrats defeated 16 Republican incumbents and that’s, by the way, better than the 14 that we defeated back in 2008, which was a watershed election, 49 freshmen Members.

Final point is this: who they are, and what they look like, and who they beat is less important than what they stand for.  That’s what’s most important.  How we win is less important than why we win.  This is what they stand for: they and we are ready for solutions and not sequestration.  We are ready to seek common ground, hopefully on a higher ground as the Leader says.  And we’re willing to compromise and we’re willing to find consensus with Republicans.  We will work with Republicans to open up more small businesses instead of shutting down more Planned Parenthoods, which is what they tried to do.  We will work with Republicans to balance budgets so long as those budgets are balanced fairly and the middle class is not asked to be first and the only to sacrifice.  We will find compromise, we’re willing to find compromise with Republicans so long as that compromise is fair, balanced, just, and moves this country forward.  We’re ready for fiscal responsibility and not a fiscal cliff.  This election is now over ladies and gentleman and we, we as House Democrats, newly-elected Democrats, and those who are returning, we are ready to govern.  And the basis of governing effectively is solving problems, and standing up for the right priorities.  And every one of my colleagues and Leader Pelosi’s colleagues, who were elected in this cycle, set that as a goal.  And they are ready to deliver.  Thank you very much and I’ll turn it back to Leader Pelosi.

[Members Applaud]

Leader Pelosi.  We’re so proud of Steve – although we did not, we did win 25 seats, we didn’t net 25 seats.  And thank you Steve, for your great leadership in having this invigoration.  Our founders envisioned a House of Representatives which would be a constant reinvigoration of the Congress because it would, we’d have to be elected every two years, go to the voters every two years.  And this year, 25 percent of our Caucus is brand new.  Quite an invigoration.  Here they are, the freshmen recruits, who among them will lead our nation?  What other capacity, as well as leaders in the House of Representatives.  We may not have the majority, we may not have the gavel, but we have unity.  And with that unity, consensus built to solve problems, to work with President Obama, we’re ready to get to work.  And aren’t we proud of President Obama and his wonderful victory?  Not to get into politics.

[Audience Laughter]

With that, in case you have any questions, yes ma’am?

***

Q:  Would you plan to stay on as the Leader?

Leader Pelosi.  Let’s see, what time is it now?  It’s 2 o’clock on Tuesday.  I’ll see you right here 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.  While I love you all very dearly, I thought maybe I would talk to my own Caucus before I shared that information with you.  So, I’ll see you 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.  Okay?

Q:  Madam Leader, I just wanted to get your take on the scandal involving General Petraeus.  Obviously, he resigned and also General Allen has now kind of been brought into this scandal.  What’s your take on this scandal?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I think there’s some answers that we have to have about notification to Congress.  I don’t have any reason to think that there are any national security issues at stake in what has transpired.  I think some dishonorable things were done and the honorable thing has to be to resign and not to go forward.

Q:  Do you think that they should have reported it to Congress earlier?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I don’t know – see, that’s why I say we have to find out who knew what, when, and why would Congress not have known.  But again, again, if it doesn’t involve national security, the notification requirement doesn’t trigger.  If it involves poor behavior, yeah it would have been nice to know before we saw it on TV.

Yes, Chad.

Q:  Madam Leader, I know that you’ve met with the Acting Director of Central Intelligence a bit ago here.  I know, obviously those conversations are proprietary, did you express to him though what your concern was about these notifications?  And to the degree that you can, did he reveal anything about where we stand with this?  I guess what I am striving for here is, obviously you want to have some answers, but you also want to put them on notice that you have a problem with notification.

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I have notification if it involved national security.  But, as you know, the Acting Director is talking to the leaders about what has transpired and how we will go forward.  But I think that it’s really important to note that this was a personal indiscretion as far as we know.  Why somebody would be personally indiscreet is their own problem.  Why they would do it in emails is beyond my imagination.  But in any event, the honorable thing was done, the General has resigned.  There are questions about timing, just as a tradition, to notify Congress before we see it on TV.  If it involves national security though, that’s a different story.  So far we do not believe that it involves national security.

Q:  So, did he, so did you ask him that?  Today, again, I realize the conversation…

Leader Pelosi.  Well, you realize it was private but you want to know what I asked him?

[Audience Laughter]

Q:  Well, you don’t have to tell me exactly what he said.

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I have always been a great protector of the prerogatives of Congress.  And as you know, one of my fights with the Administration, for which I have taken many hits by all Administrations, is that the Administration always believes that they own intelligence information, we in Congress believe they are the custodians but that we have equal access to that information.  So, you can count on me to protect the congressional prerogative when it comes to our national security.

I don’t know if our colleagues want to stay.  I know they have a lot of orientation to do.  You’re welcome to stay for this but, yes ma’am?

[Audience Laughter]

Q:  I wanted to ask you about the fiscal cliff.  On the fiscal cliff, some of your Democratic colleagues have said it wouldn’t be the worst thing to go over the cliff, they say that might actually strengthen the President, Democrats, in negotiating.  What do you think?  Is it important to do a deal before the end of the year?

Leader Pelosi.  Absolutely.  We are here, I think, well I don’t know if I speak for everyone here, but I think I do.  And generally in my Caucus, I don’t know which Democrats you’re talking about there.  But that speculation is not one that is generally shared by our leadership on the House Democratic Caucus.  We want an agreement.  We want one, as Chairman Israel said, that is fair to middle class Americans.  That we need to have growth.  Put growth on the table.  How do we get growth?  If we have growth we can produce revenue.  But without, and we make the decisions about revenue.  And we make decisions about cuts to the extent that they promote growth.  And that is something that we stand ready to support the President, and something similar to what he proposed last year, I don’t know what his current proposal will be.  We’ll hopefully find that out on Friday when we go to the White House.  But I want you to be disabused of any nation that there is any widespread thought that it would be a good thing, for our country, for us to go over the cliff.  We want an agreement.  We want an agreement.

I’ll see you tomorrow at ten.  Or those of you who are interested.  See you there?

[Audience Laughter]