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 I joined our distinguished House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, our Assistant Democratic Leader Mr. Clyburn, and Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Levin, in sending a letter to Speaker Boehner and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp asking for a markup of tax cut legislation for the middle income tax cuts. Everyone agrees that we should have a middle income tax cut. Tax legislation will soon be brought to the floor. We think a matter of this magnitude should have a markup in committee where both parties can offer amendments and that we can have a full discussion in committee before it comes to the floor. The middle income tax cut is something, again, that the President has put forth, that we all agree should happen. Tax cuts for everyone up to $250,000 a year. That means if you make more than that you still get a tax cut up to that level of income. So, everyone gets a tax cut.
It appears that the Republicans have made their choice. They're not going to have - hopefully they will have a markup, but so far we don't see evidence of it. They've made their decision that they're going to hold these middle income tax cuts hostage to tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country. Ninety-eight percent of the American people will benefit from these middle income tax cuts. In fact, 100 percent will benefit, but the other two percent will get an additional benefit under the Republican plan. It increases the deficit, it does not create jobs, it does not take us forward in the growth that we need in our economy. From what we have heard - obviously, jobs are the preeminent concern that we have, it's an answer to every families challenge. Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. So, our focus has been on jobs, on middle income tax cuts, and on fiscal soundness. We have heard from the minutes of the Fed, and statements of the Fed Chair, and the rest, that some of the headwinds that the growth of our economy is facing, the growth is facing relate to the availability of credit, what's happening in the housing market, what's happening overseas, and fiscal stability. Fiscal stability is something that Congress can do something about. And we can do something about it now.
We can do something about it now. We can't wait until, why should we wait until a lame duck when that certainty is really important? Important to America's workers, America's families, America's businesses, to our economy. So we would hope that by having a markup we'll hear the arguments on each side, we'll go to the floor, the choice will be made. But the fact is that beyond the tax cuts, and the jobs, the growth, the certainty that will spring from that, all of that contributes to our fiscal stability. It's really necessary, we should be about it now. If you want me to I'll talk more about where we were August 1st, you know - one year ago, almost one year ago, - August 1st we had the vote on the floor. It was about lifting the debt ceiling, but in order to do that, Republicans insisted on the Budget Control Act. One hundred and seventy four of them voted for it including the Speaker of the House, Mr. Boehner, and the Majority Leader, Mr. Cantor. They both voted for that. One hundred and seventy four. It established a cap on spending, took us forward, sent us to the table of the Supercommittee in order to come forth with a package for both growth, for deficit reduction, and to avoid sequestration. As I say, 174 Republicans voted for that and it wasn't long before, of course, the Supercommittee did not succeed because they would not include revenue. We knew there had to be cuts, we knew we needed growth as part of growing the economy and producing revenue, and we needed revenue. You know that happened then.
We're in the situation we are one year later, let's make this a better summer. Let's, by August 1st, pass the middle income tax cuts to remove all doubt that that's the path we're going to go down, without holding them hostage to those high-income tax cuts, which, again, increase the deficit and do not create jobs.
Q: You talk about fiscal stability. One of the appropriations bills that was not successfully marked up last year, the Labor HHS bill, social issues in that bill, as you know, sometimes are controversial, but one of the issues in that bill this year is to defund the Affordable Care Act. Many Republicans have sent a letter to the Speaker urging him not to put a bill on the floor that would not defund the health care bill. How do you see that issue playing out as we get to the fall, we get to September 30th, and forcing the issue of keeping government open?
Leader Pelosi. When you say 'social issues in the bill,' are you referring to the fact that they want to defund Planned Parenthood? Is that the social issue? What other one would you mean?
Q: Health care.
Leader Pelosi. Oh, okay. Well, that's an economic and a health issue. I just didn't know what you meant by 'social issue?' The defunding of Planned Parenthood, which is part of what their markup was about, was it yesterday - did they officially mark up yesterday? That was what I know was in the mix. I didn't know if they were finished with that markup. It will be interesting to see if they're even able to bring a Labor HHS bill to the floor for the simple fact that that is a bill about jobs, it's about education, it's about our workforce, it's about the health and well being, the funding of the National Institutes of Health and all that that implies in terms of research, about the CDC and prevention. It's about so many things that are central to the well being of the American people. And yet they have cut, I think, about - I haven't seen the final product, but about $6 billion from that bill in order to fund some of their other endeavors, all of this at the expense of health, education, and jobs for the American people.
So, you'll have to talk to the Speaker, and you soon will, about whether he brings a bill to the floor. It's hard to see that he would want to subject some of the Members of his Caucus to a vote on a bill that is so destructive. When I served on that committee, I know the brief of it very well, because in terms of HIV AIDS, in terms of women's health, in terms of education, it's a fabulous place to be because it's about another source of the strength of America, the well being of the American people. And our Chairman way back when used to say it was lamb eat lamb everything in the bill was so good. And he was a conservative southerner. He said it was lamb eat lamb in the bill, because it's hard to cut or substitute one thing for another within the bill because everything was an important priority for the American people.
So, again, I don't know what the - need I tell you what the decision will be in terms of the Speaker? The bill, what they marked up, is really, in my view, an immorality, an immorality, to ignore scientific opportunity to make the American people healthier. Things like that, I think, are an immorality. However, it doesn't happen to be a priority for the Republicans.
Q: But you talk about fiscal stability, and there are some who say that that really puts the House position and the Senate…
Leader Pelosi. Perhaps I should remind you that the House bill, what we have to measure is what does it do in 10 years, what does it do in 20 years? Twenty years of the Affordable Care Act saves $1 trillion. If there was no other reason to pass the Affordable Care Act, it was because the cost of health care to our economy, to our federal budget, to local budgets, to families, to businesses is that it is a competitiveness issue, is that it was financially unsustainable, and that's why one of the reasons why even if you loved everything about your health insurance, that there was a need to go down a path to take us to lowering costs. So, if we are talking about fiscal stability, the Affordable Care Act is an act of fiscal stability.
Q: Do you think - there was, last week you were very adamant that Governor Romney should release his tax returns, but there was a report that came out today that showed most Members of Congress, including yourself, have not released their tax returns and [you did not release it to the McClatchy Newspaper]. Do you think that it's appropriate for Leaders in the House, and Members, to reveal their tax returns if the same standard is going to be held to the…?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you know, some people think the same standard should be held for the ownership of the news media in this country who are writing these stories about all of this. What do you think of that? Is everybody on the table? Everybody on the table?
I don't know, I'd have to look and see about adamant. I said I think he should release his tax returns. That is the custom for people running for President and why wouldn't you? Because you're going to invite… I think that it's a relationship between the person running for President and the American people. There has been a tradition that tax returns are released. If you decided not to, if you release them you tell the story. If you don't release them, you leave it up to the imagination of anybody who wants to talk about it to talk about it. So, it's a decision that the candidate has to make. I think it would be important for him to do so. So do many Republicans who are calling for that. But the issue of, if you want to be President of the United States shouldn't you have to live up to the standard that is there for your Cabinet? If your Cabinet nominee is put forth, he or she must put forth their tax returns.
Again, it's his relationship with the American people. There's a risk, perhaps, in releasing them in his case. I don't know. But there certainly seems to be a [risk], according to what the Republicans are saying, in his not doing so.
Q: Following, thank you for mentioning that…
Leader Pelosi. Glad to be polling you guys. Who else has their hand up?
Q: Why are the rules different for Cabinet members when everything said could apply to you? Why doesn't it?
Leader Pelosi. Well, because why are we taking the focus away from the subject at hand. A person has decided that they want to run for President of the United States. The tradition that was honored by this same persons father - now I'm not here, this is not important to me, let me say this: what's important to me are jobs and the rest. The discussion about what the Republicans, and how they deal with their nominee as to whether he should release, that's really up to them. If asked, ‘do I think he should release them?' Fine. And I said to you last week, ‘when I run for' - was it here or another meeting? ‘When I run for President of the United States, you can hold me to that standard.
Q: I'm not being argumentative, but why are the rules different for Members of Congress?
Leader Pelosi. There are no rules. There are no rules. He - there's no rule about Romney releasing his tax returns. So, what rules are you referring to?
Q: Why is the standard different?
Leader Pelosi. It's up to the American people. The American people are the judges of that. I think the Republicans want him to release the returns because they may think it's politically damaging. But you'll have to ask them about that. The longer he takes to release them, doesn't make me sad, but again, this isn't what I spend my time on. And this is what - it's a big issue, obviously, in the public because you're spending so much time on it. And that is the point. What is it that the public wants to see? What is it that Members of Congress and their constituents want to see from them? The disclosure that we have is full and complete. Members have to take it up with their own constituents, but in terms of tax returns, maybe they should all be made public. Maybe it should be a public function. What do you think of that? For everybody. For everybody who writes about it. For everybody who hires people who write about it. For corporate ownership of the media and what are they doing as far as their taxes are concerned? But really, let's not be silly. A person is running for President of the United States, his party is calling upon him to release his returns. It's up to him to take the consequences of not doing it, or doing it, but not to deflect it to say: ‘well, if he has to do it, why don't everybody else have to do it?'
Because everybody else is not running for President of the United States and that's the last thing I'm going to say about it.
Q: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask you…
Leader Pelosi. See, we spent too much time on it. We should be talking about middle income tax cuts and why they were going to reinvigorate the economy and remove the uncertainty and take us to a place where the headwinds that are stalling some of our economic growth. That's really what is important.
Q: A question on the economy and the way that CBS News poll showed a deadlock pretty much, Romney 47 [percent], Obama 46 [percent], and then 55 percent of Americans disapproved of the President's handling on the economy. Are you at all concerned that the focus on tax cuts and - not tax cuts, but the tax releases are a distraction and whether Obama could be a drag on the ticket for the House Democrats?
Leader Pelosi. Well, the President of the United States, no. He is an absolute boost to the ticket. We're very proud of President Obama, his leadership as President of the United States, his campaign for reelection, and he is a giant plus for us in that regard. I think it's really important that that poll - you know, when I saw that poll, I'll be very honest with you, I thought there are so many different measures. You know, one poll says this, another poll says that, three days later it says this. What it does show across the board in terms of the race is that it's a dead even race, it's a close race.
But in terms of who approves of this or that, how is the question asked? They even said in one of the polls today the metric was different than had it been when the question was asked before. It may not have been that poll, but another poll. And I've been talking to some measurers of public opinion, and it's a different world out there in terms of who are these people who are being asked. Are they likely voters? Are they registered voters? How do you define a likely voter?
You know what? It's what elections are about. Election day will tell the tale. But I do think that it's important as the President goes forth that the path that he has led us on be fully described to the American people so that the choice is a clear one, because I think that absent the actions taken by the President and the Congress when he became President, we'd be in a much worse economic situation. But that's no consolation to you if you do not have a job, and obviously that's why jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs is the most important issue, and these other things are distractions. But, again, it's not for me to say; it's for the party that nominates somebody to decide how they conduct their presentation. We're very proud of the presentation of President Barack Obama. I feel quite certain that he will be [re]elected President of the United States.
And, again, those polls, some of it was in battleground states, some of it was not in battleground States. So what is the measure of it? I love numbers, so I'm fascinated by stats. That's why I love sports scores. You know, I like all that. But, nonetheless, what matters is how we go forth and get out the vote on election day. And again, that takes us back to my DARE. One of the concerns that everybody has is how this - what's at stake in this election in terms of our democracy. That's why I have my dare. In fact, I'm making it a double dare.
I DARE, disclose, ‘I'm Nancy Pelosi, I approved this ad.' How can people spend millions and millions of dollars without disclosing what the source of that money is? Amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United; reform the system; have citizen financing of campaigns to lower the role of money; and shorten the time of campaigns. Would you like that? And elect reformers. I don't care what party they're from. Elect reformers committed to do that so that we are back to what our founders envisioned, a democracy of the voice and vote of the many determining the outcome of elections, not the checkbooks of a very, very few.
There was a cartoon in the San Francisco Chronicle - I don't have it here with me - this Sunday. Perhaps it was a reprint of one of your metropolitan journals, but it had somebody going up to vote and, for lack of a better term, a fat cat arriving with all this money to be put on the table, with no disclosure as to who it was, to impact the election, while at the same time suppressing the vote by demanding identity beyond what is normal in terms of people voting.
If I am a senior citizen - well, I am a senior citizen - but if I am a senior citizen someplace where I don't have access to all the records that they are requiring now, my one vote cannot impact that election. But if I'm Mr. Big Bucks with tens of millions of dollars and an agenda of the special interests, I can just pour it into the campaign, no questions asked, no identity required.
So, in my view, nothing less is at stake in this election than the strength of our democracy as our founders envisioned it, the voice of the many, not a plutocracy of government of the wealthy.
Thank you all very much.