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. As you are aware, yesterday I sent a letter to Speaker Boehner with a clear message: instead of heading home we should stay here in the House and pass the middle income tax cuts to help restore stability and certainty for America's families, workers, and businesses. Instead of hitting the road, we should pass the transportation bill that creates and saves more than two-million jobs. And instead of going on recess, we should prevent student loan rates from going up and keep college affordable.
Democrats have a simple request to our Republican colleagues: don't run out the clock on the economy. Let's work around the clock to create jobs, promote growth, and restore prosperity for the middle class. We call on the Speaker to cancel next week's recess - this is the ninth week long recess of the year - and to stay in session to address America's top priorities: jobs, economic growth, and the security of the middle class. The President has put his proposals on the table including passing the transportation bill, which has already passed the Senate in a strong bipartisan way. The Republican Congress in the House refuses to act.
With that I would be pleased to take any questions. Yes, sir?
Q: A number of prominent Democrats have come out in support of temporarily passing all the Bush tax cuts, including [President] Bill Clinton and Larry Summers, do you worry that that undercuts your message that the Bush tax cuts should be extended but not past those who make a million dollars?
Leader Pelosi. I am not aware that President Clinton and Larry Summers have stuck with the original interpretation that people had of what they said, but putting that aside, I think that the Bush tax cuts only increase - for the high end, the Bush tax cuts for the high end just increase the deficit, do not create jobs, and they should come to an end. And I call upon the Speaker to pass the middle income tax cuts, freeing us from that stranglehold that the high income tax cuts have had on our economy.
Q: Leader Pelosi, your California colleague, Senator Feinstein, says she is disturbed by what she calls an avalanche of leaks on intelligence matters. As someone who served on the Intelligence Committee, do you have concerns about what these leaks do to national security? And what should be done about it?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't know what these leaks are that you are referencing but I always have concerns about any leaks and what they mean to our national security. The Senator and her colleague, the Chair and Ranking [Member] in the House, will be meeting with the head of national intelligence, the Director of National Intelligence today to better improve the communication between the Congress and the White House and that's something that I have always advocated.
I don't know what this, I know that there have been some articles in the press that have raised some concerns but I do not know what the specific reference that you're making as to what Senator Feinstein is talking about, but leaks are not good. What is it they say, “loose lips sink ships?” That was the sign that was up in the Intelligence Committee all the time and our national security depends on our having good intelligence and not having that leaked.
Q: Just to follow up, Senator McCain is saying that he thinks these are politically motivated and thinks that an outside counsel…
Leader Pelosi. With all due respect to Senator McCain, for anybody to stay that a leak, and I don't care party, one way or another, that an intelligence leak is politically motivated is really a sad statement. Of course there shouldn't be leaks. If there is an accidental leak, and by the way, we had an investigation which found that Republican Senators were the source of the leaks many years ago, probably accidentally, unwittingly, but nonetheless they were the source. So to say that an intelligence leak which undermines the national security of our country is something that is politically motivated, I just can't agree with that.
Q: Leader Pelosi, there is a CBS News/New York Times poll out today that shows that 41 percent of Americans still want to overturn the health care law. An additional 27 percent at least want to get rid of the individual mandate. The numbers are not getting better in terms of favorability for the law. Why do you think that is and what does that say in terms of the chance that the Supreme Court will strike it down?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I'm very proud of the Affordable Care Act. I think that the understanding of it has been jeopardized by misrepresentations that have been put out there relentlessly largely by the industries that have, I shouldn't say not benefited because everybody benefits from this health care bill, but who claim to have suffered from the bill.
Here's the thing: the American Affordable Care Act stands there with Social Security, Medicare, health care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege. It was opposed vigorously by two forces: one, the health insurance industry, and secondly by anti-government ideologues who do not believe that there should be a government role in clean air, clean water, as well as health care in our country. We don't want our proposal to have any more government than it needs. It's very private sector oriented, it's market-oriented, it's about prevention, it's about innovation, it's about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for the American people because it frees them, unlocks them from a job that they may keep only because of the health benefits to pursue their happiness. If there were no other reason to do the health care reform bill than the fact that it is, the status quo at the time was financially and fiscally unsustainable.
For individuals, the rising cost of health care and the uncertainty of what those costs would be for businesses, the same thing; for governments, whether it is local government, county government, state governments, federal government, unsustainable the rising cost of health care and for our economy, because the cost of health care is a competitiveness issue. And our private sector finds it hard to compete globally with this anvil of ever increasing uncertain health cost increases.
So it was unsustainable. And what it did was, what it does is take us to a place where we will bend the curve, reduce the cost of health care, not only to the federal government, but to our economy, and to families, that it will improve the quality of care, that it will increase access and will do so in a way that is very innovative about the future, heavy emphasis on prevention and wellness that also reduce costs. The public doesn't generally know that, that children in America, over 80 million people in America have already benefited from the health care bill. Whether it is ending discrimination against children because of a preexisting medical condition, whether it was the wellness prevention, once a year checkups that now people, especially our seniors, are getting, whether it is lowering the cost of prescription drugs for seniors by closing the donut hole. And I bet you, if you went to a pharmacy right now and you saw a senior purchasing pharmaceuticals, prescription drugs, and those drugs are cheaper now because of the bill, they would not relate it to the Affordable Care Act.
And so, it's not about the bill, it is about the message of it. And, again, the public was so inoculated against any positive message about the bill because of those who were trying to defeat it that it is a long road back after that.
Q: But this ties into the Democratic side of the message war because it seems to [be] only on one side?
Leader Pelosi. Well, when you have endless money, and money is really a factor in opinion and elections in our country. For example, the other day in California we had an initiative, it was an initiative on the ballot that would raise the cost of, tax on tobacco, on cigarettes. It was supported by every entity, whether it is the Lung Association, or Tobacco Free Kids, you name it, all of those entities to do the right thing by reducing smoking in our country and all that that involves, means to health, and you have the tobacco industry coming in four-to-one, nearly $50 million versus $12 million. And by the way, if you were in California and you ever saw one of those ads on T.V., you would not recognize that it was an ad against Tobacco Free Kids. You would think it was undermining the entire economy of our state and sending the money to other states. So, the misrepresentation, endless money misrepresenting, suffocating the debate, it is a dangerous thing.
Q: Leader Pelosi, what about the 43 Catholic institutions that have now sued the administration over the regulation that requires them to provide contraceptives, sterilization, abortions in their health care plans and they say that violates their religious freedom. Do you report the Catholic Church in their lawsuits against the Administration?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't think that is the entire Catholic Church. Those people have a right to sue, but I don't think they are speaking ex cathedra for the Catholic Church and there are people in the Catholic Church, including some of the Bishops, who have suggested that some of this may be premature.
Q: But do you agree with the Catholic Church teaching that…
Leader Pelosi. You know what? I do my religion on Sunday in church and I try to go other days of the week. I don't do it at this press conference.
Q: Madam Leader, despite your, and their, protestations, it seems that both Democrats and Republicans are happy to take the tax issue into the general election, but I'm wondering how much you guys are worried, or looking at Europe, and the possible financial fallout that could cause you guys to come to the table earlier than the election?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think we should be at the table right now on those issues. I think that we should be at the table right now on what might happen in Europe because it would have an impact on us. You imagine that in addition to inheriting a near depression from the Bush Administration, a financial meltdown of global consequences from the Bush Administration, huge deficits from the Bush Administration, this Administration also was faced with the crisis in Europe, a tsunami in Japan, an oil spill in the Gulf. I mean, many things have happened that have been detrimental to economic growth, and still 4-million jobs have been created.
But the fact is that we have to be prepared and try to foresee what other possibilities there are out there for better or worse. And I think that we should always be at table to protect the economic security of our country. But I still think that one of the biggest contributors to the deficit in our country is tax cuts, especially at the high-end, where they did not create jobs, and that we said that, the President said that in his campaign two-years-ago because of the depth of the recession that we were in, the President, not two, what is it, a-year-and a half ago, that they would be continued, but they have to come to an end.
Q: On the highway bill, what sort of feedback have you heard about the Senate proposal to the House Republicans on their offer? Is it likely to go anywhere? And what do you make of Harry Reid's comments the other day suggesting that Leader Cantor may not want to do a bill?
Leader Pelosi. There were three questions. You okay with that? This is the last three questions. First of all, let's just say that the transportation bill that has been, that has passed in the Senate, enjoys, let's take that word, 'enjoys' strong bipartisan support. It has the support of the President of the United States and the House Democrats. On any number of occasions we have suggested that should be the bill, and let's take a vote on it, a straight up and down vote. We have put it on the floor in terms of Previous Question, Motion to Recommit, Motions to Instruct, all of that. But the Republicans will never abandon their leadership on procedure. But on the vote on the bill, I think, as Mr. Hoyer has said, I believe the bill would pass.
So, what are they afraid of? They are afraid of passing a transportation bill that will create or save more than two-million jobs, that puts hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job? And as you saw by the figures last week, this is the hardest hit industry in last month's job report. So we want, again, the Senate, Chairwoman Boxer and Ranking Member, I guess they call him Vice Chair in the Senate, Inhofe, have delivered a bill to the House. It's not the bill that passed the Senate but one that accommodates many of the concerns that have been expressed by House Republicans as the last place that they can go, and if there is a sincere wish to create or save these two-million jobs, if there is a sincere wish to help lift up the construction industry and that has support in the private sector as well as within the Congress then the Republicans will bring it up.
Why would they not bring it up? You would have to ask Senator Reid why he said what he said but I agree with what he said because I think that the Republicans in the House want to do nothing more than keep having extensions. Maybe they will do something right before the election but it will be too late to create jobs. And if they do the extensions they are using up the trust fund, the transportation, the Highway Trust Fund. They are hurting our job creation. In fact people will lose jobs and it's just the wrong thing to do. I think that, again, you have to ask Senator Reid why he said what he said but I think he's right and I think it's wrong that the House [Republicans] are holding up this bill. It's just, the Senate cares very deeply against Keystone. Harry Reid has come out very strongly against that. Republicans, and some Democrats in the House, support Keystone. But take that out. Strong views on both sides of the Capitol, it isn't part of the transportation bill, that isn't what the bill is about. So, they are taking a foreign ingredient, putting it in the bill, and it's not growing a pearl.
So, thank you all very much, again. And see you when we come back. I'm hoping that we stay. The President has put his initiatives on the table over and over again. It would take just 15 minutes to pass the transportation bill putting those people back to work. This is irresponsible, it is immature, and it's unfair for America's workers. Transportation bill, an infrastructure bill, is a bill that not only creates jobs right now to build the infrastructure, it does so in a way that is American made: it does so in a way that gets people and product to and from market, communication, spreading the word on commerce in our country. It's about our economy in so many different ways, in addition to the jobs it would create immediately.
Thank you all.
Q: Happy anniversary.
Leader Pelosi. Thank you.