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Transcript of Pelosi, House Democratic Leaders Press Availability

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, House Democratic Vice Chairman Joe Crowley, Congressman Steve Israel, and Congressman Chris Van Hollen held a press availability today in the Capitol calling on House Republicans to avoid a government shutdown.  Below are the Leader’s opening remarks, followed by the question and answer session:

Leader Pelosi.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Democrats are continuing to work to avoid a shutdown of our government.  It would be a bad thing for the American people, for the confidence in what government does for them.  And we have made an explicit offer to the Speaker: to say that we will be willing to accept their $986 [billion] number, which we do not like but would be willing to accept in order not to shut down the government. 

As you know, the Republicans have put forth a bad number on the budget.  Even their Chairman has said that it will not allow government to fulfill its responsibilities to the American people, the Republican Chairman of the Appropriations [Committee].  And then they add to that undermining the Affordable Care Act.  Well, two “no’s” do not make a “yes.”   And they insist on bringing forth legislation to delay or undermine the Affordable Care Act, as I have said to you: “It’s like hounds baying at the moon.”  They’ve done it [43] times, they’ve done it [44].  Now, this will be the [45th] time, if this is what they propose.

So we’re saying: “Ok, you have two bad things there.  One, the $988 [billion] number, or the $986 [billion] number – whatever it is, however it comes out.  And you have the undermining of the Affordable Care Act; take that off, we’ll accept your number in order to go to the table to negotiate,” which is exactly what we should have been doing for the past six months, when all of us agreed that we wanted to proceed under the regular order of Congress.  The House passes a bill.  The Senate passes a bill.  That happened in March.  For six months, the Republicans said they wanted regular order, and then abandoned that once the Senate passed its bill.  And for six months, we have been long overdue.

Let’s just bring a clean C.R. to the floor.  Pass it with the few weeks that it gives us to come to the table to eliminate the sequester, which again, hurts our economy, destroys, at the cost of at least one million jobs, and again, something that is beneath the dignity of honoring our responsibilities to the American people, to do what limited government should do: to grow the economy, to create jobs, and very importantly to us, to reduce the deficit.

With that, I am pleased to yield to the distinguished [Democratic] Whip, Mr. Hoyer.

[Whip Hoyer Speaks]

[Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn Speaks]

[House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra Speaks]

[House Democratic Vice Chairman Joe Crowley Speaks]

[Congressman Steve Israel Speaks]

[Congressman Chris Van Hollen Speaks]

***

Q:  Do you think that, you know, you talked about the Speaker.  You know he has an option here to go with Democratic votes, but why do you think he’s under the thumb of Republicans?  Is this self-preservation at this hour?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, you are going to have to ask him that.  But I will tell you, if the Speaker does not give us the vote on a clean C.R. and just attempt to bring out, again “the howling,” I call “the howling,” to bay to the moon amendment, again, then it is the intention of the Republican Conference to shut down the government. 

This is their affirmative statement of shutting down government.  Make no mistake of that.  Why doesn’t he give the House the ability to work its will?  Put yours on the table.  Put ours on the table.  One of them has passed on the floor.  One of them has already passed the Senate.  It would go to the President…

Mr. Hoyer.  We don’t have an “ours.”  Put theirs on the table and we’ll vote for it.

[Laughter]

Leader Pelosi.  [Democratic Whip] Steny [Hoyer] is right.  This is their number, which we don’t like.  We’re at $1.058 [trillion] and as the Assistant Leader mentioned $1.028 [trillion].  We’re willing to compromise down.  [Whip Hoyer] was willing to go to $1.177 [trillion].  But they were going to their number.  That’s our compromise, that’s our offer.  We’ll take your number, keep government open.  Give us a chance to vote for it on the floor. 

Q:  Madam Leader, when we hear the Republicans – over here behind, the tall guy.

[Laughter]

We understand the Republicans are now considering adding some version of the Vitter Amendment dealing with contributions to congressional or, maybe, executive staff.  First of all, do you consider those contributions a subsidy?  And what would you think about that being added to the C.R.?

Mr. Hoyer.  Let me just say this: look, we need to pass a Continuing Resolution which keeps the government open tomorrow – some 15 or 16 hours from right now.  We need to stop playing games, “gotcha,” or otherwise, and that ought to be the principle focus of all of us right now.

There is time to discuss other issues, including the health care issue for the 45th, 46th, 47th, [or] 50th time.  There is time for that.  Today is time for doing what is our responsibility and effectively keeping the government of the United States of America operating for the people.

Leader Pelosi.  I do want to say one more thing in that regard.  Senator Schumer referenced this, this morning.  We are talking about something very serious.  And then we’re getting into the “di-tuh di-tuh di-tuh di and maybe we’ll make you feel the pain this way, that way.”  This is really very serious.  To my Republican colleagues, this is the major leagues.   This is about the functioning of the United States government.  And by the way, what will come next: the full faith and credit of the United States of America. 

When the country was at the brink of the meltdown of financial institutions, the President came to us and asked us to vote for the TARP bill.  It was his problem that was created – by the failed policies of the Bush Administration.  It was a solution that they had proposed, which we amended to protect the American people and the taxpayer.  But our Members did not want to vote for what looked to them like the bailout of Wall Street – and I don’t paint everybody on Wall Street with that same brush.  But the Republicans abandoned their own President at that time.  We could’ve said to the President: “Your people aren’t even with you. If you want our votes, we want background checks for purchasing a gun, or immigration bill, or anything else.”  But we didn’t.  We removed all doubt that action would be taken, that we would do the right thing in a timely fashion, and again, we did with an overwhelming 170-some Democratic votes to support President Bush’s initiative because it was the right thing to do for our country. 

So for them to be putting this thing, that thing, he’s gotcha things on this bill, it’s really beneath the dignity, I keep saying because it’s just so obvious – beneath the dignity of what we come here to do.  Unless, what you came here to do was to shutdown government – and that’s what their intention is.  And that’s why it’s important for the American people to know that what they’re doing to the budget is harmful, but we’re even willing to accept that number to go to the table to improve the legislation and therefore the prospects creating jobs, growing the economy, and reducing the deficit.

[Crosstalk]

Q:  [Inaudible] the House Democrats that, should the government shutdown, that you guys have leverage and it be easier to get a clean C.R…

Leader Pelosi.  That’s not for us.  Our Members have said to us: “How can we work with Republicans even if it means it makes them well on this issue?”  And we have said to them: “All that we’re interested in, is in keeping government open.”  If Republicans want to join us in doing that, and that raises their appreciation in the public’s mind, God bless them.  We’re all for it. 

Q:  Did you have conversations with Speaker Boehner about this offer you have now?  Did you discuss this with Speaker Boehner today about…

Leader Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  What was his response to you whenever he told you?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, he told me what he thought they were going to propose.  But I don’t know if they’re at their Conference yet, so I’m not going to get to that place.

Q:  And would you support something very short?  A week long?

Leader Pelosi.  No.  Senator Reid has been very clear about that.  And we don’t want to get into these short-term things where it all leads up to the debt ceiling and they combine the whole thing.

My colleagues, anything you’d like to say?

Mr. Hoyer.  Let me just say, six weeks is short-term.

Leader Pelosi.  It’s short-term.

Q:  And you initiated the call with [Speaker] Boehner?  You called [Speaker] Boehner to talk about this?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, we talk regularly, but it’s not a question about – yes, we talked.

[Laughter]