Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Members of the House Democratic Leadership held a press conference today on the budget agreement reached by Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray. Below are the Leader’s opening remarks, followed by a question and answer session:
“I want to thank our conferees for their leadership and their effectiveness and their opinion is important, their opinions are important to our Caucus. They are very familiar with the particulars of the legislation and our Caucus is just finding all of this out this morning and so they will carefully review the provisions of the proposal and ask questions of our conferees, and Members will make their decision.
“I don’t know where that will come down because, as you know, our budget that Mr. Van Hollen was putting forth and our conferees [presented] was quite different. It was about growth; it was about investing in infrastructure and short term growth and long term growth and investing in early childhood learning. It was about ending the sequester, but doing so in a way that enabled us, again, to support growth as well as to extend the unemployment benefits, unemployment insurance.
“It’s absolutely unconscionable that we are – could possibly even consider leaving Washington D.C. without extending those benefits. Some of you were at our Steering and Policy hearing the other day, a few days ago, and saw the impact it has on the lives of people who work hard and play by the rules. The work ethic is strong and respected in our country and for people losing jobs through no fault of their own in an economy that has people with Master’s Degrees going to entry level jobs just to be able to have some income so they can stay in their homes. It’s a remarkable thing and you ask: “Why would the Republicans not just automatically do this?” It’s our responsibility to do this. Perhaps they don’t believe in that and that’s a fight that we have to make.
“So again, I thank our conferees for their leadership. Their opinions are important to us. Members will make their own decisions as to where we go with this and again we would have preferred something quite different. But we do recognize the value of coming to a decision so that we can go forward with some clarity on other legislation that we want to see.
“If we had included immigration, that brings over $150 billion early on – over $900 billion over time. It could have helped in this budget agreement. If we had closed even a couple of tax loopholes, but that was off limits as well. We would not have to go to user fees for TSA or anything on the public employees. But I think that our conferees did a really good job in mitigating for the damage to the federal employees and even holding off even much, much, much, bigger cuts for them that the Republicans had in mind.
“So we, we’ll see. We’re waiting to hear what the response is from the Republicans. Our Members are now studying this. And we do so very prayerfully as we meet here to go to celebrate the live and legacy – and also register our sadness on the loss – of President Mandela. We have a large delegation that is still coming home from the funeral in South Africa. We look forward to hearing their report on that as well.
“But you’ll have to stay tuned to hear just exactly where our Caucus will be going on this.”
Q: Would you vote for this deal now that it doesn’t include UI or are you…
Leader Pelosi. We haven’t even seen the finished product. We’re hearing this morning that now there may be another amendment joined to it about SGR, which are payments to docs, which is interesting, it’s something we should do. But why wouldn’t we do unemployment insurance if we’re doing that?
So, when they freeze the design on what it is we’re going to vote for, will solidify my thinking on the subject.
Q: When are we going to see this bill pass and what happened to immigration? Do we need to wait on the next year?
Leader Pelosi. I asked the Speaker that question yesterday and he told me: yes, we’ll have to wait until next year.