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 a great day. The United States Senate voted to give one hundred percent of Americans, everyone in this country, a tax cut. We all agree that that's a good idea. The only thing standing in the way of a middle income tax cut are the House Republicans. The Republicans want to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to give an extra tax cut to people making over $250,000 a year. And what is the effect of that? It makes the middle class tax payer pay more; it increases the deficit; and it increases our borrowing from countries like China. Extending the middle income tax cut is very important for what it mean to individual families, that's for sure, what it means to our economy, that money will be spent injecting demand into the economy, creating jobs, and what it means in terms of certainty for our families, for our businesses, and for our federal budget. It's a matter of a fairness. We call upon our Republican colleagues to bring this bill to the floor - today they could do it, we could have it today be on the President's desk, signed into law for this weekend. We absolutely must do it though before we leave for the August break.
Yesterday, to get our work done, Democratic Ranking Members of every one of our committees sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and the Republican Committee Chairmen with a clear message: “we must begin bipartisan negotiations immediately to replace the sequester with a balanced deficit reduction plan.” The letter went on to say: “we must initiate this process now” - it's long overdue - “must initiate it now and complete it by September 30th' - the end of the fiscal year - to avoid any uncertainty and the devastating consequences for our economy, small businesses, and the middle class.” We can avoid the sequester [if] we just come together at the table in a balanced and fair way.
Do you have any questions?
Q: Leader Pelosi, a number of Democrats have recommended that there be legislation to restrict guns, or to stop the sale of large magazines or assault rifles, will Democrats introduce legislation to address these concerns?
Leader Pelosi. I support what the President said yesterday. I listened to it, saw it, viewed it a number of times, as I'm sure you probably did yesterday in his speech before the Urban League. I thought his comments were very thoughtful, provided leadership, when he said: ‘we need to build a national consensus to reduce violence in our country.' He said that, I think that Americans wants answers to know how this happened - I'm speaking now for myself and how he, the murderer, that's what he was, acquired the guns and what mental health issues may be involved. So, we need some answers about what happened in Colorado. That's why I was so pleased with the thoughtful statement that President Obama made. He said: ‘so we've been able to take some actions on our own, recognizing that it's not always easy to get some things through Congress these days. The background checks conducted on those looking to purchase firearms are now more thorough and more complete. And I think that's very important. There are important, as you know, there are important voices on both sides of this issue - we all recognize the importance of the Second Amendment and also the need to reduce violence in our communities.
Our thoughts and prayers are, of course, with the families of those who died or were wounded in Aurora, Colorado. And everyone nationwide who has been affected by gun violence. I think we have to, as the President has suggested, everyone come together. I think a good deal of this will bubble up from communities that have been working on this on one side of the issue or another.
Q: Madam Leader, on the leaks issue, we have talked a lot in the past few weeks about these leaks. Do you think that there has been some sort of a culture shift in the post 9/11 world - the fact that we are more attuned to intelligence issues, the fact that the technology and the way that information can be disseminated appropriately or inappropriately in this case, that that is what led to this debate and the preponderance of leaks that everyone is so concerned about now?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all there is no question that there has been a shift in the whole approach to intelligence since 9/11, that people are much more aware, both people in this room who write about it and the American people who consume their news.
I do not subscribe to the idea that there is a preponderance of leaks. I don't know that to be the case, and that's why I'm pleased that there are two very respected U.S. Attorneys looking into the matter.
Q: Madam Leader, given the vote yesterday, do you expect to lose many, if any, Democrats when the Republicans bring up their bill to extend all tax cuts? And the second part of that question, Boehner's office is saying they're not going to bring up the Senate passed bill. Do you expect House Republicans will buckle on this?
Leader Pelosi. Well, you would have to ask them about that, as I have said to you before, but we're very confident about the Democrats supporting the President's proposal. It is, again, the right thing to do on the basis of fairness, which is an important value in our country. It's the right thing to do, the President's proposal is, when it comes to reducing the deficit. It's the right thing to do when it comes to having an approach to the sequester - the money from $250,000 [and above, or] a million dollars that [some have discussed]… the President is suggesting that we stop at $250,000 [and above], that money will be almost enough to avoid the sequestration all together.
So, we're, our Democratic Members are quite excited about the fact that the Senate passed this bill. And now it's just a process on the floor.
Q: Will any Democrats vote [for] the bill when the House Republicans bring up their version?
Leader Pelosi. Well, when the Republicans bring up their version it's important to know what it costs the middle class. If you look at any of the charts on the subject, the Republican bill gives an average to tax break to a person making over a million dollars a year, a $160,000 tax break, additional tax break than they get for their income up to $250,000. And how does that get paid for? Well, it increases the deficit and that has to be covered by borrowing from China and places like that. But it also takes a toll on the middle class because they pay more, the middle class pays more, all of us in this room pay more. It's an average, an average, but it could be more of $1,000 for middle income tax filers. But an average of $1,000. Middle income tax payers pay $1,000 more, people making over a million dollars a year make $160,000 more. That is our message.
Again, there is a great deal of enthusiasm in our Caucus about the fact that this is a way forward, it's the path of fairness, but it's also a path that avoids a good deal of the sequestration and to reduce the uncertainty. It's a good place for us to go to the table as we look for more cuts in investments but as we try to stimulate growth. I think there are 17 votes on the floor.
Q: I wanted to ask you, given the past inability of any bipartisan working groups to come up with a solution that Congress will actually act on, what makes you optimistic, if you are, that Congress is going to be able to achieve this sequestration plan by the end of the fiscal year?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we really have to. I mean, I think the urgency is intensified. We are in this situation because last year the Republicans held hostage the lifting of the debt ceiling. You remember it well. In order to lift the debt ceiling, over 170 Republicans voted for the Budget Control Act, including Mr. Boehner, who rarely votes as Speaker of the House, and Mr. Cantor. They voted for the Budget Control Act. And now that sent us to the table, Supercommittee, to consider how we could avoid sequestration? We went with an attitude of balance as the President had done in his conversations with the Speaker in the summer, which the Speaker walked away from, but hoping that the Supercommittee - but once the pledge to, what's his name, Grover Norquist, became more important to Members than their oath of office, then we found ourselves where we are today.
But, again, the urgency is there. We cannot risk us even having a conversation that would suggest that we are not going to do the responsible budgetary thing. And it's a bitter pill to swallow for everyone. We don't want the defense cuts and we don't want the domestic cuts. We have already done over a trillion dollars in domestic cuts and plenty of defense cuts as well. All we need to have is revenue and balance on the table so that we can find more cuts but we can have the revenue piece of it. Imagine, almost a trillion dollars coming from what the Republicans want to do from people making $250,000 and above, almost a trillion dollars and the sequester is $1.1 trillion. So, the American people demand that something be done because we cannot again just have a conversation that places in jeopardy our credit rating and the full faith and credit of the United States of America that we are able to fiscally manage own our house.
Q: Leader Pelosi, two years ago 139 Democrats voted for a bill similar to the one that the House Republicans are proposing on taxes, extending all the tax cuts from December 2010, and the President signed the bill saying, letting the taxes go up would be a blow to the economy. What is the difference now?
Leader Pelosi. Well, as you see, that was a limited number of Democrats, a substantial, but there was different thinking in our Caucus about it, but it was a one-time thing. We were disappointed that we had to extend the high end tax cuts, that in order to even get unemployment benefits - you have to remember what this passage was. In order to get the extension of unemployment benefits, in order to get refundability for middle and low income people to be extended, we had to agree to extending high end tax cuts, including icing on the cake, which was even a more generous estate tax. So, again, it was a passage that we were unhappy with, but could not pull the plug on unemployment insurance. But it was once again hostage taking on the part of the Republicans.
I will take one more question.
Q: Do you support the regulation taking effect August 1st requiring all health plans to cover free sterilization for teenage girls?
Leader Pelosi. I don't subscribe to your characterization of it.
Q: The vote on the Fed, audit the Fed bill this week was roughly bipartisan.
Leader Pelosi. This big vote.
Q: And the Fed is making a decision in the coming meeting or two about whether or not to try to do more quantitative easing, and now they have this political thing to think about. Was it irresponsible of Members to sort of fire warning shots essentially at the Federal Reserve on this issue?
Leader Pelosi. I'm not going to say it is irresponsible, it's just that. Just a shot. It's probably not going to be the law. But the fact is that that bill covered more territory than I think it should have. I did not vote for it. There is interest in monitoring the Fed from the standpoint of certain of its activities. But if Congress gets in the business of monitoring the Fed in terms of monetary policy, I think it is a very - I don't think that's a very good path to go down. And I don't know that everyone who voted for the bill was subscribing to that part of the bill.
But should the Fed be accountable? Yes. Should they be able to have a discussion about it, about how monetary policy is made? I think they should be able to do that. But I don't know that Congress and the public should be completely having a political impact on monetary policy. The central banks in all countries have these responsibilities and if the thought is that we are politicizing monetary policy, I don't think it is a good idea.
Q: Conventional wisdom in Washington, by the people who study these things, is that Republicans will hold on to the House in the fall. The Democrats may pick up a handful of seats, but the Republicans will hold the House. As you prepare to go out back to your districts in August, is there something that you think that Democrats can do to change that calculus?
Leader Pelosi. Well, fortunately it is a conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., but it isn't the conventional wisdom in the districts in which we intend to succeed. Clearly as a Californian, as one who served as the Chair of the California Democratic Party and [has] represent[ed] the Golden State for 25 years in Congress, I can tell you clearly that any analysis I see coming out in Washington about California is totally wrong. Totally wrong. But you just wait and see on election day. But we believe that our “Drive for 25” will be successful. We have a great Chairman, Steve Israel. But you know what, let me just whisper this to you. You won't share it with anyone. Let them think that. Let them think that. And we will just one district at a time show the superiority of our candidates, the enthusiasm at the grass roots level, because so much is at stake in this election. And that's why I have issued a DARE. A DARE. Disclose - ‘I'm Nancy Pelosi and I approved this ad.' I have to say that. But somebody putting $10 million on the table for the Republicans doesn't have to say that. Disclose, amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision, reform the system. And we have many good ideas, one of them being put forth by John Sarbanes, and elect reformers. And I don't care what party they are from, any and all parties who want to reform the role of money. Reduce the role of money, increase the level of civility, elect more women, young people, minorities to public office. And nothing less is at stake in this election than our democracy. The government of the many, not determined by the checkbooks of the very, very few.
And if there is a validation of the Republican trickle down tax cuts for the wealthy, special tax breaks for the special interests, if that is validated in the election, our country is going down a very difficult path for the great middle class in our country, which is the backbone of our democracy. So, we feel pretty confident about it. They can think what they want. And the more complacent they are about our prospects the better from our standpoint. But complacency is not where we are. And it's interesting, because newspapers, you all are always wanting to have a fight. You know, let's make it controversial. Except in this case, you have an argument that is based on a false premise starting with California. But we're excited about it. We are excited about our candidates. We are enormously proud of the President of the United States. We have a path to victory. The only thing, the only thing, as Steve Israel said this morning, the only thing he's losing sleep over is undisclosed, unlimited, secret special interest money pouring into the races. We will have to deal with that and we fully intend to.
Thank you for your question.