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 morning. Yesterday was quite historic. All of us, America's children and families, workers, saw history being made right before their very eyes, the President of the United States advancing civil rights in our country with his statement. His statement spoke to the values of our families, the values of our faith, and the values of our country. It was moving, it was historic, and it was a great day for our country. It honors the ideal of equality, which is the hope and heritage of our country.
Today, on the floor of the House, we will see a debate on the budget which clearly defines the values and visions of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. I wish that this were a statement that we could come together on what our priorities are for the education of our children, job creation for our workers, retirement and health security for our seniors, safety in our neighborhoods, and the air our children breathe, and security for our country, all done in a fiscally sound way. Nothing partisan, nothing political about that.
Except, instead of finding common ground, we see two different paths in these budgets. One that says we choose millionaires over the middle class; that would be the Republican budget. One that undermines our investments in our children, their education, their health, job security of their families.
I am very proud of our House Democratic budget that we are putting forth today, and commend Chris Van Hollen and the Democratic members of the Budget Committee for the fight that they made. Any of you up at five in the morning would have seen them the other day, fighting for the Medicare guarantee for our seniors. The Republican budget severs the Medicare guarantee. It also says to our seniors, in the meantime you will pay $6,400 more to get less. At the same time, it gives a tax cut of about $400,000 to people making one million dollars a year or more. I don't think that is a statement of our national values.
And so we have that debate going on. At the same time, we see it in the context of obstruction once again on the part, largely, of the House Republicans. On the transportation bill, the Senate has had bipartisan agreement. In the opening statement on the conference the other day, even the Ranking Member of the Senate committee took the House Republicans to task for not agreeing to the bipartisan Senate transportation bill.
We have seen the Violence Against Women Act, that was marked up this week in Judiciary, where you see the Republicans in the House rolling back the Violence Against Women Act, instead of accepting the strong bipartisan bill that passed in the United States Senate.
And whatever they want to say about student loans, that they want to solve the problem, in the bill on the floor today, the Republicans in the House have the 6.8 percent increase, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent increase still in the bill. We still haven't been able to come to terms in order to make college more affordable. And this is indicative of something that is even bigger than the interest, although the interest is important to students with loans and their families. This is also in the context of making college more affordable for America's working families, and what they do in terms of Pell Grants and the rest, that put up obstacles to more students having the opportunity to attend college. It is really a problem for our country, because investing in the education of our children is the best investment a family can make in its children and its families. It is the best investment a country can make in its people.
So with that, I would just hope that we can go into a phase where, as the President is speaking out about what he would like to see Congress do between now and the election, his ‘to do list,' to create jobs, to help small businesses, support homeowners, invest in clean energy, put veterans to work, I hope that we can address those issues. The legislation is there to be debated, amended, whatever, but to go forward. The American people want solutions. They want us to be problem solvers of the problems they have in their lives, instead of obstructionist.
So, we hope that we can have some level of cooperation as the visibility on this relatively modest agenda of the ‘to do list' is put forth. With that, I would be pleased to take any questions.
Q: Leader Pelosi, you have been pushing for same sex marriage, but you have also been pushing to become Speaker again. Are you concerned about how this issue will play out in the red districts that you need to take back in order to take back the majority?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all, let me just be clear: I have never pushed to become Speaker. I pushed for the Democrats to win. Whatever happens after that is incidental. What is important is for the Democrats to have the majority. The statement that the President made yesterday was something that was the right thing to do for our country, filled my heart with joy. We come here to do a job for the American people, not to hold a job. And I think what he did was to advance the cause of civil rights in such a personal, as well as Presidential way, that it is more important than any political consequences.
Q: Madam Leader, I would like to follow on that, please. You spoke about the values of faith. And I know you don't have a crystal ball, but there are large pockets within the African American community, evangelicals, who are absolutely against gay marriage. Do leaders have concerns about whether or not this voting bloc will turn out for the President and for Democrats just because of this issue?
Leader Pelosi. This is an issue that I brought with me to the Congress. That I care about very much. And so, it is really the day after the President made his statement that was so historic, so important for who we are as Americans, it is hard for me to adjust to a place where we are going to win or lose votes over it, really. I mean, shall we say, I love campaigns and I like politics, I don't want to seem removed from it, but this is why we come to office, to do some good things. And so we can't say, “well, we would have done a good thing but we can't do it because we will lose votes if we do.”
I think the President knows what President Lincoln said: “public sentiment is everything.” And that is why I think the manner in which he presented his decision is important, that he said it from the standpoint of his family, his children, his faith, his idea about America. And that is a conversation that we can now have more fully, because the President of the United States has spoken out on it.
Q: Can I ask about the sequester bill on the floor here today? I know you don't agree with the Republicans' approach to this. But these cuts are going to cut, or going to kick in automatically, if something isn't altered between now and January. Why, after the failure of the grand bargain last summer, why after the failure of the Supercommittee, does anyone think, regardless of what their approach is, Democratic or Republican, think that this can be resolved in a way that the sword of Damocles doesn't come down the way it was designed to in the Budget Control Act?
Leader Pelosi. As I said, public sentiment is everything. As the public sees the deadline drawing near and knows that certain decisions have to be made, the case we will make to the American people is we think we have to have a balanced approach. We have never gone in and said we have to have it all our own way. We said we have to have a balanced approach, and that balanced approach says that we have to establish our priorities first. What is important to us as a nation? How do we create growth? How do we create jobs? And springing from that, we have to make decisions about how we will call upon more revenue, and what cuts we have to make. This is something that should be done in the public interest, in a bipartisan way. We have a plan to do. Our suggestion is what we are putting on the table today.
And by the way, when we talk about the tax cuts for the millionaires expiring at the end of the year, Democrats are saying we want tax cuts to expire for people making over $1 million a year and that money will be used to reduce the deficit, not to increase spending. The Speaker has said he wants all of these to be renewed. We simply cannot afford that. We cannot afford people making over one million dollars a year to get a $400,000 tax break and grow the deficit, while we do not create jobs.
So, this is the debate. This is what we come here to do. And are you suggesting that we fold? That is never going to happen.
Q: If I may follow up briefly, you talked about the deadline, we have been through two pretty historic deadlines, the August deadline last year, obviously the Supercommittee deadline in November, and neither of those produced a result.
Leader Pelosi. That is because the Republicans walked away from an agreement in July that, again, was a compromise, but a grand bargain that would have reduced the deficit by $4 trillion, a huge amount of money. They walked away from the table for the Supercommittee. But you know what, that was then, this is now, we are going forward. The deadline is rushing toward us. And the American people will be more engaged in what the choices are because we are in the course of an election. And perhaps that debate will have an impact on whose proposal creates jobs and growth, reduces the deficit, and invests in our country to keep America number one. I believe those are the questions that will have to be answered in terms of how you make a judgment about what we are putting forward in these bills.
I am sorry, I told them I would come over to this side again. Okay. Which one of you over here? I said I would move to the left and answer the last question.
Q: That is why we always sit over here. On the same sex marriage issue, there is, of course, an important fundraising component to this whole issue. Your statement yesterday, your DCCC statement came out before your Leader's statement I noticed. And I wonder if you have spoken to friends, bundlers, donors, Democratic friends who were reticent before because the President had not come along on an issue that is important to them, and now maybe are less reticent, more enthusiastic than they were in terms of supporting Democrats, supporting House Members, supporting you or anybody else.
Leader Pelosi. As I said to you before, this is a statement the President made. I think everybody can say we didn't know it was coming. Right? And it had to do about who he is, what he stands for, what he believes, what he thinks is right for America, our families, our values, and our faith in the future. Anything about the politics is incidental. I don't think that this is political at all. But I will say this: we are hoping to have many more Republicans join the bandwagon, join the bandwagon.
I think what the President did was, whatever the timing and the rest, was an attempt to unify and not divide. And our statement from the DCCC, and from me, had nothing to do with money. Nothing to do with money.
Q: And yet I wonder, if your friends who are involved in politics, fundraising, donors, bundlers, have expressed to you - up until yesterday...
Leader Pelosi. I am not big in the bundler crowd.
Q: I am sorry?
Leader Pelosi. I am not big in the bundler crowd. We have people who are idealistic about wanting the future to be better for our country. Many of them would have liked single payer, a public option, things like that. So there is always a conversation about what other things we could do, and how far we can go. But I really dismiss the idea that this has anything do with money. I really do.
Q: Leader Pelosi, many of the people that are opposed to gay marriage cite their religion as the reason why they are opposed. But you are a Catholic that supports gay marriage.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Do you believe that religion and the idea that you can support gay marriage should be separated? And how do you grapple with the idea that you support gay marriage as a Catholic?
Leader Pelosi. My religion compels me, and I love it for it, to be against discrimination of any kind in our country. And I consider this a form of discrimination. I think it is unconstitutional on top of that. So, I think that yesterday was a great day for America because the President in a very personal, as well as presidential way, made history. And hopefully, this will bring people together on the issue. It is a matter of time. It is all about time. And on these issues, what is inevitable to some of us is inconceivable to others. And what we want to do is shorten the difference between the inevitable and the inconceivable. And I think the President went a long way in doing that yesterday.
Thank you all.