Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi. Good afternoon. We’re now less than one week from Christmas, two weeks from the fiscal cliff, there’s still time for us to come to agreement and I hope that time will be well used. In the last 24 hours, the question that I get from my Caucus, and from some of you, is: what is the Speaker trying to prove by going to his plan, what we call “Plan B – Befuddled.” Is he trying to prove, by bring the two bills to the floor tomorrow, that the Republicans are here to protect the wealthiest people in our country at the expense of the middle class? If so, he will do that tomorrow. Is he here to prove that he doesn’t care about going over the cliff? If so, he will do that tomorrow. Unless he leaves from that debate and goes into the room to negotiate with the President. Is he here to prove that he doesn’t care about SGR? The rate that doctors are paid for Medicare patients? If so, he will prove that tomorrow.
It’s really very interesting to see what his proposal does. It raises about – up to -- $300 billion, nearly a half a trillion dollars less than the President’s current proposal. And what he suggested earlier, he himself, the Speaker, suggested earlier. It takes, it gives people making over a million dollars at least a $50,000 tax cut. People making over a million dollars still get a $50,000 tax cut. It has another hundred – $20 million – billion dollars in revenue by protecting the wealthiest estates in our country. I think you have all of these numbers.
What it comes down to is that Democrats believe that our democracy depends on a thriving middle class. That our economic security, for our families and for our country, depends on us having a bold, balanced, and big package of, to put forward. But it’s sad about what is happening tomorrow, unless there are some other actions that accompany it, are that it takes us over the cliff, it does not avoid sequestration, it does not [prevent] the possibility that our credit rating will be downgraded, it does not create jobs, it does not instill confidence in consumers and in the markets, and it does not provide us with the down payment that we are told is necessary by the markets to instill that confidence, to be the down payment for us to go into the next year and address the tax code for fairness and a tax code that will energize our economy, to address our investments so that we’re investing in the future while making wise spending cuts and prolonging the life of Social Security and Medicare by addressing those issues, again, in a bipartisan way after the first of the year.
So, this is – I don’t know what the Speaker’s trying to prove. But if he thinks he’s trying to prove, by passing a high end tax cut and leaving town that, that looks some measure of legislative virtuosity, and try to put at the President’s door step – who is a champion for the middle class, who has fought this campaign on the middle income tax cuts, and Republicans would leave town giving high end tax cuts without ever even addressing the other needs that we have, other decisions we need to make, again, to avoid the cliff, to avoid downgrading, to avoid lowering confidence in our markets, to avoid the opportunity for growth that our economy could have.
I think what we saw here earlier was really an act of desperation. It didn’t look like, to me, a person who had the votes.
You started earlier this morning, so I’ll go to you directly.
Q: Thank you very much. Do you anticipate losing any Democrats? Do you anticipate having Democrats vote for the Plan B?
Leader Pelosi. The Plan B will not pass as a result of Democratic votes.
Any other questions?
Q: Madam Leader, you’re briefed regularly by the President, your staff even more regularly about how things are going in the talks between the Speaker and the President. You know, without speaking out of school, what’s your impression of the current state of affairs in the talks on, you know, for lack of a better term, Plan A?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I believe that the President keeps opening doors for the Speaker to go through. In fact, his latest proposal is just that, which says, you know, we’re open to compromise and with this action that the Speaker announced it just slammed the door in the President’s face for that kind of compromise. So, I would hope that this is all, shall we say, for marquee value, or whatever consumption in the Caucus, and that the Speaker is a responsible person and I trust that there is an end game. But I know that the President hopes that and is working toward that and put forth a proposal that was not, shall we say, wildly acclaimed in the Democratic Caucus, but nonetheless something necessary to put forth.
So, you know, I still am hopeful that something can be achieved. I would hope that it could happen immediately so that removes all doubt as people go home for the holidays – it’s almost getting too late for that – but as people go home for part of the holidays, that they could do so, if agreement was reached tonight they could give a three day notice, we could take it up over the weekend, and we could put the matter to rest.
Q: House Democrats met earlier today, were there any Democrats who were interested in finding a way to support this or amend this bill that Speaker Boehner has put forth?
Leader Pelosi. No. No, I mean we are in it for the middle class. The $250,000 limit, you know, tax cuts would expire for those making over $250,000 a year. It’s something that the President campaigned on. There is absolutely no deviation from that. And as to modifying what the Speaker has put forth, well they brought up the bill under, is it called a ping pong – looks like a ping pong to me, but they may have another terms of art. I think it’s the Burmese Freedom Act? That they’re attaching these amendments…
Q: Of 2003…
Leader Pelosi. Of 2003, they’re attaching it to that so that we would not have the opportunity for a Motion to Recommit. They’re shutting down that opportunity. But, you know, here we are. We have a responsibility to the American people. They want to see us get a job done. We have to go the distance to try to do that, to listen to, accommodate concerns of others. I just don’t know how serious these outside groups are who are lobbying against the rule. If that has an impact on the Republicans, you’d have to go into their Caucus to find that out. But our Caucus is meeting right now and I do have to get back to it. And everyone understands that the $250,000 is what the President campaigned on, that’s what we’re here to vote for, that’s what gives middle income tax cuts, that has – the President’s proposal is one that really helps the middle class so much, because, again, it has the middle income tax cuts, it has revenue coming in, it has protections for the American Opportunity Act, the deduction for kids to go to school, the credit for kids to go to school. It has the Earned Income Tax Cut, the Child Tax Credit, all of those kinds of things that helps the middle class are in the President’s proposal.
So, you can, he can describe it anyway he wants, but the facts are clear: the middle income tax cut that is on the floor tomorrow is one that the Democrats will support. If it fails it will have failed because we don’t have the majority and the Republicans have rejected a middle-income tax cut in order to give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in the country with the illusion that people paying over a million dollars will not be getting an additional tax cut when some of them will be getting $50,000 tax cut. That’s as much as many people in the middle class make in our country.
One more? We have time for one more. Well, we’ll do two more.
Q: Members of your Caucus are organizing against the chained CPI that the President has put on the table in negotiations, is that something you can support in any deal at this point? I mean…
Leader Pelosi. Well, whatever the final arrangement is, we’ll have to have balance. So, we’ll see where that figures. But I’ve said to the Members: “express yourselves.” You know, speak out against, because I’m not thrilled with the President’s proposal, I mean, it is what it is in order to save the day. But that doesn’t mean that we’ll all identify with every aspect of it.
So, they go forth with my blessing.
Q: Do you consider that a benefit cut?
Leader Pelosi. No, I don’t. I consider it a strengthening of Social Security. But that’s neither here nor there. There’s no use even discussing that because we don’t even know if we have plan. And if the savings that the Republicans are talking about is $300 billion, then the cuts to be made on the other side are far lower. And that’s how we see it. But it is interesting to see that even with the concessions on cuts and, what you just described, the chained CPI and things like that – the President put on the table what everybody has been discussing for quite a long time. And once again, as he did 18 months ago, the Speaker walked away. The Speaker walked away.
There’s an attempt to try to put it at the President’s doorstep, which is completely ridiculous. In fact, some would say, “befuddling.”
Q: He actually took my question, so I’ll ask another one.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, then we’re finished.
Q: In the campaign both sides talked about how deep the sequester cuts would be to the Republicans on defense spending, but we’ve heard very little about what’s going to happen with those cuts so far in debate. Mainly, it seems to been about tax – about where the tax cuts proposal on.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, well you’ll be hearing a lot more but pretty soon the letters will be going out from the different agencies of government about how to accommodate the cuts – and they will be large. I think this year it will be about $45 billion from the Defense Department. A good deal of that will not be the quality of life of our troops, that’s our first priority. It will be probably procurement and that will affect the private sector in many districts in our country. Others will be from HHS about SGR. And so this will have an immediate impact in people’s districts and in people’s personal lives. We haven’t been talking about it because we hoped to avoid it. And what we hoped to talk about instead is what can happen if we do come to agreement, which is to avoid the cliff, to avoid the sequestration, to avoid the downgrading of our credit rating, to avoid the deficit increase that the Republicans would have with their bill.
So, you know, there’s so much to be said for what happens if it passes. I remain optimistic that the President will remove obstacles to that happening, as he has again and again, keep opening doors, let’s hope that the Republicans will go through them. But make no mistake: the idea that the Republicans can say: “we’re voting against the middle income tax cut, we’re instead giving a tax cut to the richest people in the country, and we therefore are the champions of the middle class,” when what they’re doing is sending a bill for $600 billion to our kids, put $600 billion, over a half a trillion dollars on the credit cards of our children. They always talk about how – “oh we can’t put mountains of debt onto our children,” well they are with Plan B.
Plan B is a real burden to our children because it says we value tax cuts for the high end, more than we do reducing the deficit. Plan B sends the bill to our kids and our grandkids.
I don’t know if I’ll be seeing you some more. I certainly hope so because we want to stay until the agreement is reached. But in the meantime I hope that you have some measure of joy in this holiday season.
Q: Can you vote against a draft resolution or something?
Leader Pelosi. You know what? You’re talking about. We’re hoping to have, let’s be cognitive, we’re hoping to have an agreement