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 afternoon. [We] had an action on the floor. It delayed me for a few minutes to getting to all of you as this session comes to an end this week.
This week the Republican policies have run into criticism from some of their friends, their traditional allies, for the triple threat that they pose to the economy. Former Reagan Economic Advisor Bruce Bartlett says, the Republican tax giveaway to the rich and famous will, quote: 'do nothing whatsoever to increase employment and should not be taken seriously.' The Wall Street Journal, their good friend, calls it “a gimmick and a ploy” and says that 'their proposal would lead to malinvestment and other economic distortion.' And the U.S. Conference of Bishops says the Republican budget doesn't meet their moral criteria. They say in their statement, 'government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all, especially ordinary workers and families who struggle to live in dignity in difficult economic times. And just solutions, however, must require shared sacrifice by all, including raising adequate revenues.'
On Tuesday, the Republicans voted to deem and pass their budget, the same budget that the bishops had said doesn't meet moral criteria, to end the Medicare guarantee, making seniors pay more to get less so that they can give a tax cut of nearly $400,000 to people making more than $1 million a year. It doesn't meet moral criteria. Just think of it. They are saying to seniors: we are going to end the Medicare guarantee, and as we do that, we are going to make you pay $6,400 more each year to get less in terms of benefits, and we are going to give a $400,000 tax cut to the wealthiest people in our country, those making over $1 million a year. This is a bill that does not reduce the deficit; does not create jobs. In fact, it loses 4 and a half million jobs.
The Democrats support a budget that does reflect our nation's values and a balanced approach to reduce the deficit, and that is what we have. We know that there has to be some cuts in investments. We know that there has to be investments and growth in the entrepreneurial state of America, and we know there has to be revenue.
Today, again, this is part of the triple threat back to that small bill. Today, House Republicans voted to give another tax giveaway to the wealthiest Americans. And this all fits under the same frame. You have to give them credit. They are consistent, and they stick with the guy that brung 'em to the dance, and that is the wealthiest people in America. The bill doesn't require the creation of jobs. It does not require that. Companies can use the benefit to send jobs overseas. Increases the deficit by $46 billion in 1 year alone. Left to their own devices, and keeping their tax cuts in place if they remain in power, it means it is a half-trillion dollars over 10 years, which is how you usually measure the impact of a revenue bill. It delivers tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Fifty six percent of this tax giveaway goes to the top 3 percent earners in our country. It gives an average of $58,800 - $58,800 - to 125,000 millionaires. They don't have to create one job. They can create them overseas.
Democratic alternative. We had an alternative on the floor today that would help small businesses hire and grow. It is accelerated depreciation. It has enjoyed bipartisan support every time it comes up. It allows companies to deduct 100 percent of the cost of capital in the first year of new investment in machinery and equipment. As I say, other versions of this same measure have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. We really were out to create jobs in a fiscally sound way. We could simply have gone that route.
Again, this week, today, we brought up the Buffett rule for a vote, saying that people making over $1 million a year should not be getting these additional tax cuts. Democrats voted ‘yes' in stark contrast to the Republicans voting ‘no.' We have got to take care of those people making over $1 million a year. It is their top priority. You know that the Senate Republicans blocked that same vote from even coming up on the Senate side.
On another subject, but related, yesterday House Administration Democrats held a forum on the need to create a new politics free of special interest money. I call it a forum because we were not allowed to call it a hearing because the Republicans will not allow a hearing on DISCLOSE. They did not allow the camera system of the room to be used to transmit the proceedings from the forum to the rest of the world. We think that this is about transparency, DISCLOSE. Stand by your ads. If you are so proud of what you are doing with your effective political action, then let the world know who is paying for this ad; not by the end of the year, or the end of the month, but by the end of the ad, in real time. We have to do it as candidates. They should have to do it as contributors.
We have a clear agenda in this regard. DISCLOSE, reform the system, reducing the role of money in campaigns, and amend the Constitution to rid it of this ability for special interests to let secret, unlimited huge amounts of money flow into campaigns. I think one of the presenters yesterday said it was - that the Supreme Court had unleashed a predator that was oozing slime into the political system, and that indeed is not an exaggeration. Our founders had an idea. It was called democracy. [They] said the elections are determined by the people, the voice, and the vote of the people, not by the bankrolls of the privileged few. The Supreme Court decision flies in the face of our founders' vision, and we want to reverse it.
So with that, I would be pleased to take any questions you may have.
Q: Leader Pelosi, there is more fallout now from the Secret Service scandal in Colombia. It's looking like there may be more Secret Service agents that may have to resign as a result of the scandal. What's your reaction to the scandal? Who do you think should be held responsible for what happened with the Secret Service and with the military folks that were involved as well?
Leader Pelosi. First and foremost, it's about the protection of the President of the United States and the Vice President, those the Secret Service is charged with protecting. It's a stunning thing. It's actually disgusting. There has to be an investigation to see how this could have happened, and those responsible should have to pay a price. But as with all of these things, there are many people in the Secret Service who do their jobs responsibly, and we can't paint everyone with the same brush. But nonetheless, those people who were responsible have brought disgrace, and it's disgusting.
Q: Just to follow up on that question. Some of your colleagues have expressed concerns about these cultural issues. Do you think this prostitution scandal is indicative of a culture at the Secret Service that tolerates this kind of behavior?
Leader Pelosi. I have absolutely no idea. As I say, I was stunned and disgusted by it. I had - I was very surprised to hear what it is. So, I hope that that is not the case, but only an investigation will demonstrate that. I hope. Hope is such a bad word. I hope it is just - I hope - and I say a bad word, I mean in regard to this. I hope it is limited to what we see in the press now, and not indicative of something else. But it is hard to understand how such a thing could happen.
Q: Madam Pelosi, have you actually been briefed on the scandal?
Leader Pelosi. No.
Q: And do you think that all 11 of the agents should submit their resignation or be fired?
Leader Pelosi. I haven't been briefed, but I don't see how those who are involved in this should be able to continue in their work.
Q: Foreign policy for just a moment. Secretary Panetta and Martin Dempsey testified about Syria this morning before the House Armed Services.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, he did?
Q: Secretary Panetta made it clear, he said that - you know, he said he “didn't see a scenario where there would be boots on the ground,” but he said that he would get - his term - “congressional approval” if there is to be any intervention.
Do you feel that the Administration is communicating properly with the Hill about potential - anything that they would do in Syria, and based on what happened with Libya last year, where some Members of Congress didn't feel that Congress was fully in the loop and didn't get the type of sign off to continue with intervention there?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't subscribe to the latter. I think that the President - this thing was happening in real time. It wasn't as if this was something we were planning to do six months down the road, and now let's talk about it for a while. This was happening. The Administration…
Q: With Libya?
Leader Pelosi. I am talking about Libya. I don't subscribe to your characterization. There may have been some who may have wanted more, but the conversations that I was involved in were pretty extensive in terms of those who participated, the kinds of questions, and the presentation that was there. And I think the President did the right thing.
In terms of Syria, I think that the amount of information, and I would not be completely aware of all of it, that has been conveyed to Congress. It's probably what is appropriate for our intentions, and we have no intentions to have boots on the ground. What we would like to see is an end to the violence there and to have that be an international initiative, and an opportunity for medical supplies, and the rest, humanitarian assistance to be provided there. That is something I think that we can do. It is very hard to figure out what would be the right solution and the right outcome in Syria, and what boots on the ground would do one way or another. But I don't - I'd have to go ask them, ‘do you have any intentions that we don't know about?' But, in terms of what I know of their intentions, I think that their communication with Congress has been appropriate.
Q: Madam Leader, earlier today Majority Leader Cantor was talking about tax reform at an event, and one of the things he said was, “if you have got over 45 percent of the people that don't pay income taxes in the country, the question is should they have something in the game? Should they even have a dollar in the game on income taxes, which is the notion of broadening the base,' closed quote. What is your reaction to that?
Leader Pelosi. Is he deciding that payroll taxes are not taxes? Is that what I should assume from your question?
Q: He is talking about people who don't pay income taxes, yes.
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know that they do pay taxes. They pay payroll taxes, and this is a tactic that the other side uses to make it sound as if these people are not paying taxes. They are paying taxes. They do have skin in the game, and I think that that should be respected. I wish they would earn more so they can pay more, and that is what we are about, the creation of good paying jobs in our country that contribute to our international competitiveness to keep America number one.
The ABCs, we will get right back to them. “Make It In America.” Stop the erosion of our manufacturing, industrial, and technological base not to be protected, but to be self-reliant. B, build America's infrastructure, and you see the stalling game that is being played with the transportation bill. Build it, build America, with products made in America, and create good paying jobs, and that way not only in the construction, but in the resulting flow of commerce, people to and from work that will revitalize our economy. And C, community. C, a sense of community. What are the solutions that work in particular communities to grow their economies and create jobs?
I would add D to that, DISCLOSE, because you are never going to change the policy unless you change the politics, and as long as big money rules, you are going to have tax cuts for the rich as the mantra of the Republican Party in Washington, D.C.
Q: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask you about some comments that Speaker Boehner said yesterday at the same podium. He said that the President has been AWOL since Labor Day. He said that the President lacks the courage to lead on the economy in order to get him into a stable - where the deficit is handled.
When you hear those kinds of statements, what is your general reaction?
Leader Pelosi. You're asking me about feelings or thinkings?
Q: How about both?
Leader Pelosi. You just want to know what I have to say, huh? A response.
It was interesting. I didn't see that press conference, but I did hear the comments that the Speaker made to Charlie Rose, similar to what you just said. And the fact is this President has been so respectful of the Republicans in Congress. He has given them every opportunity for the Executive and the Legislative branch to work together, to have a solution that has bipartisan support. He has been criticized by some for taking the time that it takes to find out that they are never going to give him a break, which is a compromise.
One thing I do know with absolute certainty. President Obama was in agreement with the grand bargain that the two of them negotiated last summer. When he asked us, the Democrats in Congress, can you support us going down a path that has not as much revenue as we want, but that has the balance, that has cuts that are painful, but also has some revenue in terms of assuming the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, we said, “go for it.” That would be our recommendation.
The President didn't need our recommendation. He knew where he was on it, but I think it was important for him to know that we were with him, as we had said all along we are for a grand bargain. You can do many things and the difficult choices that are there if you also have revenue. And I know that the President agreed with that, and that the Republicans walked away. They are trying to revise history now, but it just ain't so. You have people who came into office, and the first thing they do was they wanted to shut down government so they - they didn't want to fund Planned Parenthood. Then we get to the summer, and they want to default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America, walk away from the grand design. That was, as I said, has been a bitter pills for us, but was necessary to uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America. They walked away from that.
Then we go to the Supercommittee, which was part of a what do we do next, and they walk away from any solution that was not lopsided. You had to have revenue. No revenue. We just want cuts. And now we are faced with reconciliation. And then it took them a while to figure out that the payroll tax cut was something that the American people, middle income families, needed in our country. The House Republicans were even to the extreme of the Republicans in the Senate. The Senate and, Democrats and Republicans, supported that. And the President went throughout the country, the American Jobs Act, with his proposal for how to create jobs. This was one piece of it, where there could be bipartisan support in the Senate. It took the House Republicans a long time to figure it out. Now, way overdue, they keep kicking the can down the road on transportation. So it is cute, but it isn't true. The President has not been - the President has been engaged. He has been engaged with the American people, and for that reason the Republicans had to come around on the payroll tax cut in the House.
So, it is - I think it is a sign of things to come in the campaign, but I don't think they should go unanswered. And the fact is, what I know, is that the President agreed to a grand bargain; the Republicans walked away.
Q: You talked about kicking the can down the road. There seems to be an assumption now that the Bush tax cut, payroll tax cut, UI, all of that will not be debated or voted on before the election, when there will be another crisis of timing coming up. What are your thoughts on that? Do you see it happening sooner, and why do you think it looks like this is all getting pushed off?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we are hoping that the economy will grow to such an extent that we would not need to do the payroll tax again. It is something that you make an evaluation as to what you need at the time. And I think that the length of time that it's been in effect should give some indication of a necessity to go forward with that.
The Bush tax [cuts for the wealthy], they expire. There is no need to have any discussion about that. They expire in December. That's over. So, I don't know what - I do think that we should always be mindful and prepared to talk about simplification and fairness in the tax code, and that any work that any of us are doing in that regard should prepare us for a serious review, and perhaps change to the tax code in that regard. But it has to be something that is about growth, a growth the economy supports the entrepreneurial spirit of America and not just give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country and allow them to use the money to send jobs overseas.
Q: On the Secret Service, do you see a need for Congress to investigate, or should it just be left to federal law enforcement officers?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think you can take it one step at a time. I think that everybody should be on notice that we in Congress feel responsible for oversight of every federal tax dollar that is spent, and so we want to subject all federal - all spending - to the harshest scrutiny. Is it there? Is it doing the job that it needs to do? Because those of us who believe in a public space, no more space than we need, no more government than we need, but we believe in the public space, also believe that we have to have accountability and transparency in all of that.
So, we reserve the right to look into anything, but for the purpose of the protection of the President and what that means, I think the investigation that they are conducting - I am hoping it is a thorough one. I mean, I don't know the particulars of it, but that investigation, first and foremost, about the safety of the President, is one that the Secret Service should do. Anything, you know, going aside from - going, backing up from that - whether it is GSA or whatever it is, you know, we have the right to look at any spending to make sure that the taxpayers' dollars are used well, especially those of us who believe in the public space.
Q: But at this point, you know - at this point you are not ready to say Congress should take a look?
Leader Pelosi. Well, do you know enough about the situation?
Leader Pelosi. See, I don't either. And if you don't know, I don't know, because I know what you tell me, along with the rest of the country. But it is, it's so - what would be the word: disgusting, disconcerting, every ‘D' word you can think of? But, it is nonetheless something that needs to be looked at right away, because the security of the President is immediate, and that can't be put on a back burner.
So, I think that those responsible should report what they know. And if that is not satisfactory, then we reserve the right to go forward on it. But, I don't - I think generally we like to think, let's get the job done. Let's not try to complicate matters. Let's not politicize it. Let's just - and we are very proud of the work of Elijah Cummings, our Ranking Member on the Oversight Committee. He has a very reasoned approach. He has the taxpayers' interests at heart. He knows what the purpose of the investment is supposed to be: is the taxpayers' dollar being well spent, and let's not paint everybody with the same brush, as a few, several - one is one. Two is two. A few is three. Several bad apples. So far, several bad apples.
Thank you all very much. See you next week.