Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press availability today. Below is a transcript of the press availability:
Leader Pelosi. Good afternoon. We’re here because I promised we would be when I was out here earlier with the Foreign Minister of Italy, not to take away from the important focus we had on 2013 – the year of cultural, Italian culture, in America – I said I would be available for questions later, so here I am.
Once again, the Republicans have isolated themselves on this middle income tax cut. The President is poised with his pen to sign it, it has passed the Senate, Democrats in the House are ready to vote for it, and the Republicans in the House are resisting. Do you remember last year when we went through this on the payroll tax? Passed the Senate, had the President ready to sign, Democrats in the House supportive and they held out, and they held out, and they held out, until they didn’t hold out any longer. I don’t know if they understand the impact of that uncertainty on America’s households, I certainly hope they do.
Right now, on the floor, we’re taking up a bill, a rule that would say that we can continue until December 28th to bring up suspensions. However, they are – there’s more serious business that we have to be dealing with. Unless, of course, they’d like to bring up the middle income tax cut under suspension. And I wager you, that if they did, it would be overwhelmingly – more than the two thirds needed to pass under suspension. What are they afraid of? Are they afraid of not, you know, afraid of stopping, holding hostage middle income tax cuts to tax cuts for the wealthy? That’s getting really stale. It’s getting really old. And the closer we get to Christmas, it’s really getting boring. It smacks a little bit of Nero, but nonetheless it smacks of a lot of things around here.
So, in any event, we continue, and will always continue to support the President in his approach. He has agreed to $1.6 trillion – we all have, voting for the Budget Control Act and other measures that have passed this House – $1.6 trillion in cuts. We already took over $700 billion in savings in Medicare, pumped it right back into Medicare to lengthen its strength for at least a decade as well as increasing benefits now. So, we have addressed the issue of entitlements. And the third is that what we need are revenues in order to balance the budget, I mean, to reduce the deficit. We really do believe the best way to reduce the deficit is to create jobs. And that’s why the President has, also in his proposal, the commitment to infrastructure, and education, and the rest, which create jobs and builds our future.
What else – what are we waiting for? What other information? Is there a dove that is going to fly in with a message tied to his leg? What is that they are waiting to find out before they can make a decision that will give confidence to our consumers as well as confidence to the markets? I think the markets know that we have to reach an agreement. And that’s why they continue to be strong. Let’s hope that it will be soon.
Now, somebody asked me a question and I deferred. Who was it? Jill? Was it Jill? Oh, she probably didn’t come back.
Q: Madam Leader, what is your interpretation from the conversation with President Obama – we know you’ve had a few – where the state of the negotiations are?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you wouldn’t expect me to share that with you now, would you?
Q: What is your interpretation, or your perception?
Leader Pelosi. Well, my – something I’ve said all along is we need to have a solution, we will have a solution, but it has to be a solution that is fair and works for the American people and the President has put forth his budget which contains such a solution. He has also said he’s open to discussion and he knows our views, we trust his judgment, we all share the same values, and, again, we trust his leadership on this.
Q: On the floor a minute ago you talked about the holidays and things. And we have been here many years, very late, Christmas Eve a couple years ago on health care, but isn’t that the fact, the state of reality that sometimes it does take a long time to get these things and that the holidays – the closer you get to the holiday’s does advance things.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I wasn’t here for the health care because that was a Senate measure, you will recall. We watched that from home.
Q: We didn’t.
Leader Pelosi. I know. Poor babies. Poor babies. I’m just looking out for you, I want you to – because the fact is, is that we who run for public office, this is what we sign up for. You and your families are messengers to the world to covering what goes on here. There’s absolutely no reason, but you know, again, it’s family values, faith in family, all of that, that’s what these holidays are largely about.
I have – we celebrate almost everything in our family – from Hanukkah, I say that because that began last Saturday, to Christmas, and many other cultural – and the beautiful diversity of San Francisco, every other cultural, Kwanza, you name it, we’re there. But the fact is, is that these bonding opportunities for families, these rituals of our faith, and of our families, and of our communities are strengtheners of our communities and we should be home to be doing that.
But again, even if it were just us here, that’s our job, that’s our responsibility. But the uncertainty, the uncertainty that they are willing to inject into the economy, continue to inject into the economy, the uncertainty for consumers, the uncertainty for the market, it’s just not fair. Every single day that goes by, we could be losing something.
So, everybody’s talked about what happens if you go over the cliff – bah boom, bah boom, bah boom – what happens if you don’t? What happens if you don’t? You send a message of confidence and cooperation and you send something very positive to the world because the world is watching and to the American people who depend on our reaching a solution. So, again, does the end of the year, is that bad luck that it coincides with the holidays? Well, that’s the calendar. But the fact is, if we were waiting for something, you could say it was well worth the wait. But Republicans are just delaying, they’re just delaying, delaying, and delaying, and that’s not responsible.
Q: Madam Leader, Speaker Boehner, this week, is being squeezed on the left and on the right on this deal. As a former Speaker, do you think that he can – what do you think is at risk here for him to bring a deal that President Obama could sign onto, to the House floor. And do you think he should be willing to risk his Speakership on such a deal?
Leader Pelosi. Well, that’s what we all take the job to do. To risk it for something, not to just sit in the office. But let me say this, and you may recall, maybe you don’t, but some of you will recall. In 2006, we won the election, we’re sworn-in as the new Congress, the President of the United States was George W. Bush. The emotion in the election was about ending the war in Iraq, ending the war in Iraq – you remember that? And people thought that when the people had spoken, that something would happen to that affect. We came back here – there were two issues in the election, well three – one was stopping the privatization of Social Security, but we did that sort of early on. So, that wasn’t the emotional piece of the election, the other was ending the culture of corruption that existed under the Republicans here. But the main emotional – people in the streets, by the tens of thousands, you remember that, I remember because there were a lot of them camped out in front of my home. Some of them are still there.
But the fact is, is that we came in, President Bush said to us: “no way.” So how were we going to get legislation to go to the President, in a Democratic Congress, in a Democratic Senate, to a Republican President, that accomplished what we needed to do? We sent a bill that set out that planning should be starting in 90 days, of course the President vetoed that bill. But then we had to deal with Katrina, here we are Sandy, issues that related to the domestic agenda, here we are – SGR, AMT, other issues that we have to deal with now, that need to be extended, and the issue at hand then, funding for Iraq, versus right now, middle income tax cuts. I as Speaker had to make a decision, as a Democratic Speaker with a new Democratic majority, very enthusiastic about ending the war in Iraq, to bring a bill to the floor that funded the troops.
We did it in a trifurcated way, or a bifurcated, however you want to look at it. But we said: “this is one piece of the bill, those who want to fund an unlimited war in Iraq, you have your vote here.” Republicans largely voted for that, some Democrats did. The next piece would be the domestic side of it, including [funding Hurricane Sandy relief], they could do that right now. They can bring a bill to the floor that does not have a – let’s see, a majority, or maybe it does have the majority, but it doesn’t have everybody in their Caucus on board. They can bring a bill to the floor that the Republicans don’t have to vote for, except for 25 of them, and then they can, with that, bring a bill to the floor that does [Sandy] and all of the other domestic issues that will expire by the end of the year.
I had to do it as Speaker. Do you know what it was like for me to bring a bill to the floor to fund the war in Iraq, a war predicated on a misrepresentation to the American people, a highly emotional – in that war where the President said: “don’t even think about it, we’re not changing the policy to Iraq.” So, it’s tough. But you have to do it. So is the point that you don’t want to put your Members on the spot? Figure it out. We did. Figure it out. And then, and then go forward and continue to debate the issue, but don’t have our men and women in uniform wondering if they’re even going to be – if they’re going to be high and dry because we couldn’t have the policy debate that would later ensue – but that we couldn’t have it right there that day in a way that would end the war in Iraq.
So, that was what I – you asked me about what I do, that’s what I did. That’s what I did. It was very unpopular and I have to tell you, I’m not sure I ever recovered amongst some on the left for that, bring that bill to the floor.
Just one more question because I have a schedule.
Q: Madam Leader, If I could just follow along that last question.
Leader Pelosi. Yes Ma’am.
Q: This delicate dance that Speaker Boehner has to do, do you believe that, that is of greater importance, or of greater importance than it needs to be in order to move these negotiations?
Leader Pelosi. I don’t know – I don’t get your point. The – do you mean the dance? What dance? The dance he does in his own Caucus?
Q: The dance that he’s doing in his own Caucus to get people on board.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, oh in his own Caucus, okay.
Q: Is that slowing the negotiations?
Leader Pelosi. I just don’t have the faintest idea what goes on in their Caucus, I’d be the last person to know. You know that. But I believe he is a person of good intention and maybe that gets him in trouble, my saying that, I believe he’s a person of good intention. He knows his responsibility to the country and there is a way to say we have to do it, we have to do it, we have to give the middle income tax cut. Because that is the breaks, it breaks the chains that have confined our possibilities. And once you’re not holding those middle income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the wealthiest people in America, you open the door for job creation, for growth, for reducing the deficit, for many, many positive things and including the full faith and credit of the United States of America not being in question.
So, again, I’m not the right person to ask about what dancing goes on – not my job, not my job – in their Caucus. But I do know there’s a way to bring a bill to the floor that accommodates the needs of the American people, that protects the Republicans who don’t want to vote for it, but that gets the job done for the American people. A piece of legislation that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support in the country, passed in the Senate, I’m certain would receive two-thirds at least in the House if it were brought up under suspension, but if not, then there’s a way, as we did with Iraq, to bring something to the floor. It’s painful, but this is the job we signed up for.
Thank you all very much.