Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press availability today. Below is a transcript of the press availability:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. This morning we received the encouraging news that the economy had added 146,000 jobs last month. The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent and we marked the 33rd consecutive month of private sector job growth. Our economy is moving forward, but it could be growing at a faster rate if the Republican leadership had taken up and passed some of President Obama’s jobs initiatives, including the American Jobs Act, and had passed the middle income tax cut. Having done that, held up those initiatives, Speaker Boehner says Democrats are “slow walking the economy to the fiscal cliff.” Yet this is the same Republican leadership that had the House in session barely a day, barely a full day this week.
We’ve had the election, the President was clear in the campaign that he was advocating and fighting for the middle income tax cut. A tax cut, which by the way gives everyone – 100 percent of taxpayers – a tax break. But it also asks that the upper two percent pay their fair share. Since that election four weeks ago, the President – we’ve had time, the President has given Republicans flexibility to come up with a credible, specific plan. What they offered in return was an empty letter lacking in specifics. It was a further manifestation of the lack of agreement in the Republican Caucus with division on the middle income tax cut and no agreement on specifics in their plan. Not even Senator McConnell endorsed the House Republican proposal.
We can make a difference right now by bringing the middle income tax cut up for a vote to give, once again, 100 percent of Americans a tax relief. The Senate has already passed the bill, the President is poised with his pen to sign it, Democrats are unified on it. We have a discharge petition to bring it to the floor. The only obstacle standing in the way of middle income tax relief are the Republicans’ unwillingness to ask the top two percent to pay their fair share. This top two percent which, by the way, gets a tax cut – it continues a tax cut in the middle income tax extension. This is a moment of truth. The clock is ticking, Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat. But in many homes across America it’s a very, very lean time. What the – the facts are though very important to reiterate: Democrats have already agreed in the Budget Control Act and other cuts in this Congress, to a $1.6 trillion in cuts, in spending cuts. We’ve already agreed, in the Affordable Care Act, and in the President’s budget, to over a trillion dollars in savings in Medicare without doing any harm to beneficiaries and while extending those savings, extending the life and strength of Medicare.
What is lacking are the revenues. You cannot cut your way to deficit reduction. What does reduce the deficit are jobs. Job creation. We have the spending cuts, we have the Medicare savings, what we need are the revenues. And that is what, you have to ask the question: ‘why are we not here to pass the middle income tax cut, which unleashes the, increases the high end contribution to the budget talks. Why are we not here to pass the middle income tax cut? Why are we not here to even debate the middle income tax cut? Could it be because the Republicans are holding the middle income tax cuts, as they have all along, hostage to tax cuts for the wealthy? As long as they will not touch one hair on the head, or one red cent – get one red cent from the high end – we’ll never have the revenue necessary to combine with the savings and with the spending cuts, to reduce the deficit, to create jobs, to grow the economy, to improve the lives of the American people.
Q: Leader Pelosi, Speaker Boehner this morning was asked whether he could accept a middle ground tax rate hike on the top two percent – 37 percent instead of 39.6 [percent] – he didn’t necessarily rule it out. Is it your understanding that that is all under discussion and is that something that you could accept?
Leader Pelosi. Well, as I’ve said before on that subject, what we want to do is protect the middle class. So, it’s not about the rate, it’s about the money. None of this high end tax – the objection to extending it is about being punitive to the high end, it’s about getting the money to reduce the deficit, to grow the economy, and to unleash that power and that giving the middle income tax cut does as well. So, again, just depends on how much money you can get. And, again, not to say: ‘oh they’ll pay less, so the middle class will pay more.’
Q: Is it your understanding that the 37 percent will bring in the requisite revenue?
Leader Pelosi. No, I don’t know that. And that’s why we should be here to make that kind of, have that kind of review of the facts. But the facts are at this point the 39.6 percent does produce the revenue and the differential, our differentiation between the 39.6 percent and the 28 percent that the President has for limitation on deduction creates a great deal of money as well. So, it’s not just about the rate and what it brings in, it’s a differentiation between 28 and 39.6 percent and what that brings in – $1.6 trillion.
Q: Madam Leader, the President spoke with Speaker Boehner on Wednesday. When was the last that you spoke with him and are you satisfied with the level of communication right now between the White House and your office?
Leader Pelosi. Yes, I am. I don’t necessarily talk about when and how many times I speak to the President. But I’m very satisfied with the communication that I have with the President, that my staff has with his staff, and that our lead person on this, Chris Van Hollen, his communication with the Executive Branch. The President knows our views, he shares our values, we feel confident in any negotiation that he takes the lead in.
This will be the last one.
Q: Madam Leader, you had mentioned again today the discharge petition. There have been reports that zero Republicans have signed that. Is that true? And are you disappointed in where that’s led so far?
Leader Pelosi. No, I’m actually very happy about the discharge petition. It’s already exceeded my expectations in terms of the speed in which our Members, being only here a limited amount of time this week, were able to stand in line to sign the petition. The fact is, is that it’s about getting people to sign, it’s also about bringing pressure on the leadership to say: ‘why are you not bringing this to the floor?’ Is this a forever, forever protection of the wealthiest people in our country at the expense of the middle class?
This decoupling is essential to solving our fiscal challenge that we have now. And – don’t you wonder yourself why they – the American people, almost 100 percent, I mean, I’ve never seen a poll that says 100 percent, overwhelmingly support the middle income tax cut. Our colleagues overwhelmingly support – Democrats and Republicans. The Senate has passed it, the President is poised to sign it – why would they block that except to protect the high end?
We’ll just take one more. Yes sir?
Q: I have a question on the debt ceiling. As an institutional question, did have you any concern about ceding authority to increasing the debt ceiling over to the Executive Branch? Basically the proposal from the White House.
Leader Pelosi. Well, what my understanding of what the White House was talking about is the McConnell Rule, which says that the President would send his proposal over, unless two-thirds of the Congress rejected it, then the President’s lifting of the debt ceiling would stand. I’m – the White House and the House Democrats are on the same page on the debt ceiling question.