Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. There is a lot going on this morning, so thank you for coming. It is a good morning indeed. I think 155,000 jobs added in December. Good pace, going in the right direction; 1.8 million private sector jobs gained in 2012; the 34th consecutive month of private sector job creation. On the floor today, we have the Electoral College vote, pretty exciting; reelection of President Barack Obama made official by the votes cast on the floor today. That is really quite a historic event. I am so pleased that our new Members will be here to bear witness to that.
Several weeks ago, I came before you bringing our 49 new Members together, and we saw the beautiful diversity in every possible way, gender, geography, philosophy, in every possible way, ethnicity, of course. And now, they are Members of Congress with constituents, and they will have a representative voting – have a vote on the floor today for the electoral – the vote has been taken. It will be reported, but it was their appointees who made the vote.
Yesterday on the floor, I presented several issues that I think we can work together on, extend a hand of friendship to the Republicans to say, let's work together for job creation, for good paying jobs here in America, build our infrastructure, address our energy challenges, Make It In America so America's families can Make It In America; talked about the safety of the American people that we want to, again, we must work together in a bipartisan way in what the President has called the national conversation, Congress' role in that in terms of protecting our children in their schools, in their homes, in their neighborhoods and communities across the country. We talked about clean campaigns, building confidence in the electoral process, all of this, building confidence that we can create jobs, building confidence that we can keep our people safe, building confidence that our campaigns are clean and that we remove obstacles to participation, increase civility, reduce the role of money. I hope we can work together to do that and, at the very least, to see the reaction of the Congress, at least on one side of the aisle, to a comprehensive immigration reform.
How we tie that to our new Members is that they come here as problem solvers. They don't come here as partisans. They come here as Representatives, independent Representatives of their district. Their job description and their job title are one and the same: Representative. How they do that, honoring their conscience, the Constitution, and their constituents, is how they make their decisions about their votes. And they are really, this group, this 49 new Members, these 49 new Members, they are personal manifestations of the American Dream in their own lives or in their parents' lives of making that, crossing that threshold into being part of the American Dream. And that phrase has two parts, the dream part of it and the American part of it. So it is not just about economics. That certainly is important, but it is about who we are as a country, promoting our values, keeping the world at peace, and respecting the judgments of the American people about how they make their personal decisions in their lives, respecting their creativity, honoring our country's founders' commitment to the future in every way. We have a responsibility to honor those commitments now.
So it is, again, a pretty exciting time. I think that election of the 49 new Members really represents a sea change in the Congress. The Republicans have a large number of new Members; is it 25 or 35 that they have? There is a big number of new people, and I would think back, reflecting back to when I was new, that most people come here to see how we can work together, first and foremost, how we can find our common ground, how we can stand our ground when we don't find the common ground, but to strive for that, as I said yesterday, a higher, better ground for the American people.
With that, I would be pleased to – well, right now, the reason we are calling this earlier, is because of the vote on the floor on Sandy. Of course, we are disappointed that the package that was passed in the Senate in a bipartisan way was not taken up by the majority, the Republican leadership, earlier in the previous Congress that just ended, and now they are saying we are going to take it up by suspension today, just 1/6th of the package, and hopefully, that will go through today, and then, in a couple of weeks, we can vote on it further. But it is, as one who has experienced natural disasters in her district, it is really important that the confidence the people have in a public response to their personal plight be upheld, their confidence be upheld.
I am also disappointed, of course, that the last Congress did not pass the Violence Against Women Act, since we are talking about what they didn't do. But because I have to leave to go to the floor for Sandy, I would be pleased to take any questions you have right now.
Q: Madam Leader, have many of your fellow Democrats voiced concern to you, as they have to others, that the President may have lost leverage in the upcoming debt limit crisis, on how the fiscal cliff ended, particularly on the tax issues…
Leader Pelosi. No, I think most of our Members, in that we are never unanimous, but we do have consensus, as most of our Members know, that the President has leverage, and so on the next hurdles that we face, that we had to get over this hurdle. And while there had been some ideas proffered that the Republicans wanted age, race, age, chained CPI, the rest of that, the fact that they needed a strong Democratic vote in the House to pass this bill, it was necessary to get those kinds of objections out of the bill.
So, no, I think, by and large, we don't want to be up against the wall the last minute of the last day; in fact, the first day after the last minute of the last day. But the fact is, by and large, I think Members understand why it was important not to go over the cliff.
Q: Will you urge the President on the constitutional obligations?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know that I – I think that in speaking to all of you, I made my view very clear on that subject. I would do it in a second, but I am not the President of the United States.
Q: You don't urge him to do it? It is gone?
Leader Pelosi. Sometimes I think that the Administration hears you more clearly when you say it publicly than when you say it privately.
Q: Madam Leader, Republicans released a poll that 72 percent of Americans believe the debt ceiling increase should be accompanied by spending cuts. Do you think it is politically sustainable for Democrats to just say, no, we are not going to negotiate at all under that current increase?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't think that Democrats are saying we are not having spending cuts, if that is the basis of your question. We have all agreed to over a trillion dollars in cuts in the Budget Control Act. So, we all know that how we proceed has to be in three parts: revenue to reduce the deficit; growth to bring money into the Treasury; and cuts establishing our priorities in a way that does not harm our future growth; for example, cuts in education and investments and innovation, which I think are a false economy, because they reduce the possibility for growth rather than increase them. So, no, I don't hear – none of us are saying we are not going to talk about spending cuts.
Q: Madam Leader, the Speaker typically has said in the past and is indicating now that they still want spending cuts to be larger than any debt limit increase.
Leader Pelosi. Well, that is a way to – I think that is a complete manifestation of the philosophy that is at work on the Republican side. If you do not believe in the public role, if you do not heed the call of President Washington, who said a political party should not be at war with their own government, then you would disagree with what the Republicans are doing. Every day, after you see the Ryan budget, which I think they deemed passed yesterday in [the] foolish rules that passed on the floor yesterday, it said, practically direct, that all of the things that the public role plays a part of – clean air, clean water, clean safety, public safety, public education, public transportation, public housing, public health, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security – forget about it.
So, if you think that there should be more spending than reaching the debt limit, then if you do that a couple of times, pretty soon you have no public investment in the future. So, I think that it is a very, very bad idea, and I think that there has to be some maturity that has to set in here about the fact that, by and large, many of the – some of the debt that has been incurred is incurred by Congress, much of it in the Bush years: two unpaid for wars, the prescription drug bill that gave away the store to the pharmaceutical industry, tax cuts for the very wealthy that did not produce jobs and, therefore, growth and revenue to the Treasury. So they have created, in part, created this problem, and now they are saying we are not paying our bills. Well, that is just not right, and I think that is an appropriate conversation for us to have. This is an issue that is about who we are as a society, as a country, as an economy, and the rest. And I think it is really important for the American people to have a clear understanding of what is at stake and some of the buzzwords that the Republicans put out there about this. Of course, everybody thinks there should be spending cuts, and we have all subscribed to that, which would subject every dollar, whether it is domestic or defense, to the harshest scrutiny as to whether the taxpayer is getting his or her dollars’ worth.
Q: Leader Pelosi, there seems to be some concern that the second tranche of funding for Sandy victims may not pass through the House. Republicans are saying that there are some concerns that some of the funds from that $33 billion tranche might not be going directly to Sandy victims. Are you concerned that that…
Leader Pelosi. That would be the third tranche, I would imagine.
Q: You are right, the third tranche.
Leader Pelosi. Okay, well, I am concerned about that whatever passes here, passes in the United States Senate. That is why I thought really, in the interest of confidence building, comfort to those affected by loss of life, loss of home, loss of job, loss of community, character of their community, that it would have been important just to pass that bill. Why did that have to wait until after the go over the cliff bill, which was of course being delayed and delayed? So, I think that was a mistake. But they did say to the Members from the region that if they agree to a bifurcation, that they would take up the $27 billion so that some of their Members could look decent and vote for assistance to people in need of public assistance, natural disaster assistance, and then the others who didn't want to go for the 33 – well, they just need a few number of Republicans and the Democrats would carry the day for them. I didn't think they should take the deal. They thought they should, and here we are with $9 billion today. Hopefully, that will pass.
So, I would hope that whatever minor concern they have about this side or the other thing in the bill, the major initiative of being there for the American people in time of natural disaster, as we have been, Katrina, the Midwest, California, all of these places, that we should be there for them. In fact, this is the longest delay on any natural disaster assistance since last year, Hurricane Irene, which affected a large part of the Northwest – Northeast as well, same region, although broader swath up the coast of the East Coast of our country. But I hope, at the end of the day, enough Republicans would understand what our responsibility is to honor the social compact that we have.
This has to be the last because we have a vote right now.
Q: Leader Pelosi, yesterday your office put out a photo of all of the female Members of the House…
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: …and then later put out another photo of, I guess, a few of them that weren't there yet, and photo-shopped in a few of them.
Leader Pelosi. Is that what they did?
Q: Yeah. Does that present an accurate historical record?
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are. It is also an accurate record that it was freezing cold, and the Members were waiting a long time for everyone to arrive and that they had to get back into the building to greet constituents, family members, to get ready to go to the floor. It wasn't like we had the rest of the day to stand there. But it was an accurate reflection of who the 61 Members, Democratic women Members of Congress are. And not only were they women, but they reflected the beautiful diversity of our country; women from every community as well as every religious faith. So we were pretty excited about it. Thank you for asking about it. We enjoyed seeing – we got a lot of response back from the country, and one I loved was when they said, “can the women in Congress hear people cheering across the country?”
Thank you all very much.