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 afternoon. As we gather here this afternoon on the floor of the House, the Republicans are bringing to the floor Plan B. As I’ve said to you before, Plan B: is send a bill to your children and grandchildren in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in our country, and still those making over a million dollars get a $50,000 tax cut, we’ll add nearly a half a trillion dollars to the deficit. A half a trillion dollars to the deficit. Again, 25 million working families, under this Plan B, will pay an average $1,000 more in taxes. Some of that by harming the Child Tax Credit, and other provisions, others of it in this bill that comes up after this – their bill, their reconciliation bill – more than 20 million children will have reduced food and nutrition benefits. Merry Christmas to you and yours. One point seven million seniors will lose Meals on Wheels. Happy Holidays to you.
How can this be okay at any time of the year? But at a time when we’re focused on families, why are they doing this – tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by the middle class, with sacrifices from our children and our seniors. Enough is enough. It’s time for the Republicans to end their bills to nowhere, ‘cause that’s exactly where this bill will go, and to do something real. We must reach a big, bold, balanced agreement that creates jobs, grows the economy, strengthens the middle class, and reduces the deficit. We must reach an agreement that will avoid the sequestration, stop us from going over the cliff, stop any consideration of our credit rating being undermined, the list goes on and on as to why what we’re engaged in right now doesn’t make sense.
So, I am optimistic that we can still make an agreement possible and I don’t know that the purpose of these bills on the floor today are. As I mentioned to some of you yesterday, what are they trying to prove? Well yesterday when we met, they had two bills on the floor – $250,000 and above, get a reduction in their – the tax cuts expired, 250 [thousand] and above. We had said all along, when we engaged in the discharge petition, “Mr. Speaker, bring the bill to the floor – 250 [thousand] and above, expire those tax cuts. “They were going to bring them to the floor, we said:” if you bring it to the floor, it will pass, it will pass with bipartisan, strong support.” They said they would bring it to the floor, then they found out that their Members really would vote for it and that it would pass. And so, they pulled that bill.
So, they still have their gift to millionaires, their Merry Christmas gift to millionaires on the floor. But, in order to reduce the deficit they have reduced, again, food and nutrition benefits for children, Meals on Wheels for seniors, the list goes on and on. If you want to know more about it, tune into the debate on the floor.
With that, I’d be pleased to take any questions.
You know there are 25 million working families would pay an average of $1,000 more in taxes under their tax bill that is on the floor today. Fifty-thousand dollar tax cut if you make a million dollars or more, in the middle class you pay $1,000 more.
Let me see, somebody who hasn’t had one.
Q: Given that we are getting so close to the end of the year, so close to the holidays, if the two sides were able to come to some sort of agreement on taxes, would you be open to allowing the sequester to go into effect next year?
Leader Pelosi. There is no question whether I am open to it. A tax agreement does not stop a sequester.
Q: Right. So if there was some agreement on taxes, some compromise…
Leader Pelosi. We are operating in the purely theoretical. They are getting farther away from an agreement. We are getting farther away from an agreement. What we need is a big, bold, balanced, and maybe it is not going to be so big anymore, but a balanced proposal that has the reasonable cuts that we need but it maintains investments in growth and job creation and revenue to help reduce the deficit. We need a package that accomplishes avoiding the sequestration, avoiding going over the cliff, avoiding a downgrading of our credit rating, avoiding the loss of jobs, and avoiding any further debates about the debt ceiling. So what we go to the table has to be – it can't be something that says, just when you thought we might be coming together, we are going farther away. We are going to have tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country, $50,000 tax cuts for people making over a million dollars; $1,000 tax increase for middle income families. But we are interested in reducing the deficit, and we know that a tax cut that we are talking about costs about half a trillion dollars, so let's take that out of the mouths of babes, let's have 20 million kids get reduced food and nutrition, seniors' Meals on Wheels, over a million seniors cut off from that. It isn't – we aren't getting closer. We are getting farther apart if we are just talking taxes. We have to talk a complete package in order, in my view, to avoid the sequester.
Q: Madam Leader, in May 2012, you wrote a letter to Speaker Boehner saying that you supported taxes rising for those making a million dollars a year. Why the change in position now?
Leader Pelosi. Were you not here yesterday, and the day before, and the day before? Because we have been over this. The fact is – and last week – we talked about, at that time we were trying to smoke out the Republicans to see just how bad it was, would they not touch the hair on the head of even people making a million dollars a year? And if they would go to that place, what kind of other package would go with it? But to say they are bringing this to the floor, they have already become a little bit pregnant on their tax pledge that they are not going to ever raise rates, so they have done that, and that is a victory for the President, I believe, but you just can't do that and not say we are going to have another side to this in terms of how we again reduce the deficit, grow the economy, because the higher up you go, the less deficit reduction you get. The higher up you go, the less deficit reduction you get. And if you are talking about dollar for dollar, the higher up you go, the less in revenue you bring in, but the less cuts you can expect to have if it is dollar for dollar, but you have to have two sides of it, and I am sorry to say that to you that way, but we go through this every day. We did smoke them out. They said they would protect everybody up to a million dollars, but don't worry about it, because we are still going to give you $50,000 a year tax cut if you make over a million dollars a year. So, actually, really, they sort of pulled their punch on it.
Q: Madam Leader, the President has already offered to raise his threshold to $400,000. He has said he would commit to $400 billion over 10 years in cuts to Medicare and health care. He has also agreed to the chained CPI. Can you support those concessions, and how much further could the President go to try to get a deal with Speaker Boehner?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all, let me just make clear to everyone what the President did say about the $400,000. It was just on rates, it was just on rates, and it didn't apply to deductions or other tax considerations up to $400,000, so what he was conceding on was about $50 billion, about $50 billion, as compared to what the Republicans are doing with this bill, which is closer to $500 billion in terms of lost revenue. So, the President, yes, he did say he would do that.
The cuts, he has always talked about that; he has always talked about that. In regard to – and I think there are ways to do that, and one of the places you can go and get a big chunk of money is to – the cost of drugs in our system. We know that the President has in his budget over $100 billion – is it $130 billion in the budget? I don't know what the net of that is, but it is a big, a great deal of savings. So, yes, you can put that kind of, those kinds of savings together there.
On the CPI, chained CPI, if – and we have had this conversation, too. What we have said, any consideration cannot harm the poor and beneficiaries. So where are the vulnerabilities there? With people on SSI, they would have to be protected, with people who have received Social Security for at least 20 years, people like 85 years old, where savings start to fade, you would have to mitigate for the change at that point. And then there are people that are really poor, because your Social Security is tied to your wages, as you well know, and so you would have to mitigate there in the middle. So how much do you save by the time you mitigate for SSI, people with disabilities, poor people, and really older, much older people? With all of these things, as I said with the age, how much do you really – but if there are some savings that do not harm people who are in need, then that is something to look at, but we are actually looking at the bigger picture. It doesn't mean you subscribe to everything within it, and certainly my colleagues are not happy with the chained CPI, but if we were very happy with the proposal that the President put forth, I am not sure it would have much of a chance on the Republican side. So it is a compromise, and I salute the President for his trying to find a middle ground, even more, making another step to find a solution, but this is within range, you know, in terms of the – before the silliness that started with the million dollar proposal, there was a place to negotiate on this in terms of spending cuts, in terms of reviewing items like chained CPI, in terms of revenue, and let's hope that whatever happens on the floor – it is interesting, do you know how many times what has come to the floor has changed since yesterday? I don't know if you were here last night. Over and over and over again, a different version of the story was coming out of the Rules Committee, and the one that surprised me the least was when they pulled the 250 [thousand] and above, because I knew if they brought that to the floor, it could win.
Now, having said that, if they want to bring the 250 [thousand] and above to the floor, and they want to bring their whatever to the floor, the bills to nowhere to the floor so that their people can have the purity that they need to have, their bills to nowhere will go just exactly there, and the middle income tax cut can go forth, but you still don't have the rest of the package. So, why don't we just forget those steps and go right to where the President and the Speaker, I think in good faith, had been going up until now? It is no wonder people ask the question, you know, why can't this be – it could have been done a month ago, really, and now we are waiting to see what comes back from the Senate, if anything, on the supplemental, but otherwise, people will go home very disappointed, and it will be a missed opportunity.
Q: Madam Leader, Senator Reid has essentially put this on – the situation – on Speaker Boehner as a failure of his Speakership, and as the Speaker, do you agree with that? Do you think that this is…
Leader Pelosi. I didn't really hear the Leader's remarks, so I can't really comment on them, but it's all about results, and we would like to see some results, okay?
Q: So, both sides seem to be so far apart. Is it going to take some kind of dramatic action, market crash or paychecks being lowered in January for both sides to come together?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let's certainly hope not. I think that a market crash would be unthinkable, and I think that – I don't think that that is going to happen. I do think that the sequester is not a good thing. I think the $500 billion out of our domestic investment, $500 billion out of our national security, our defense investments, that is really not a good idea to do, and so you would think it would be enough motivation for there to be some – in order to reach a solution you really have to want to do that. You have to want to do it. If they don't want to do it, any excuse will do. If they don't want to come closer to an agreement, they put on the floor some warmed over stew from last May that has gotten very stale and very nasty to children and other living things. You put on a tax break for the wealthiest people in our country to prove that that is why you are here, to protect the wealthiest. As I said yesterday, what are they trying to prove? They are rejecting the middle class tax cut for a tax cut for the wealthiest. They are cutting nutrition and food for children and seniors in order to give a tax cut for the wealthy. They are saying to middle income families: we are taking away your assistance for higher education, your child tax credit is being reduced, so we can give a tax cut to the highest.
They are proving, I guess, who they are, and I don't think they are all that. I think that many of them would like to vote for something that solves the problems, that gets results, that removes all doubt that we honor the full faith and credit of the United States of America and we won't do anything to cast doubt on that and that we want to create jobs, grow the economy, and to reduce the deficit, and now I am going to have to go back to the floor, so I thank you all very much. Thank you.
Q: Are we in this weekend do you think?
Leader Pelosi. Say again?
Q: Are you in this weekend?
Q: Have you made any Christmas travel plans, Madam Leader?
Leader Pelosi. I mean, any that I had are gone now. What it is, it is supplemental, if we finish it today or tomorrow afternoon, that would be a good thing – go to Hawaii, go to the funeral for Daniel Inouye, and if it isn't finished by then, then they come back. Of course, when they come back, they can do things by unanimous consent, but if we have to come back, we have to come back.
But since I mentioned Danny, I don't know if many of you saw the beautiful service this morning, here he is, Danny Inouye, lying in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Never was there a person with more brilliance and humor and compassion and just kindness. Imagine that he came to Congress before President Obama was born. He served that long, came as a Congressman, fought for statehood, came as the first Congressman and then, a few years later, became the Senator from the State. Just really such a hero to so many of us. Fought for our country, Medal of Honor winner, even though, in World War II, his family, the families of Japanese-Americans were in camps in the United States and being discriminated against in a very terrible way, but he nonetheless fought for freedom for all Americans, so this is a real champion, a hero, really a great person. And it was an honor for any of us to serve with him, especially precious to us in California because of so many connections. But he was a champion in defending our country in terms of the national security of our country. He measured the strength of our country, also, in terms of the health and well being of the American people.
And you know what, he was a wonderful champion for Native Americans as Chairman of the Indian [Affairs] Committee. He really – Indian Affairs Committee. He really did probably more than anybody for Indian country and people who live there, so he will be very, very missed. His wife, Irene; his son, Ken; his family I think knows how sad we all are with his passing, how much we mourn their loss, and how we are all praying for them at this sad time. Danny Inouye, what a guy.
Thank you all.