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. Speaking of morning and time, the clock is ticking for the Supercommittee to make its report to the Congress. The opportunity that the Supercommittee has is historic, it is urgent, and we are hoping that the committee will take advantage of that opportunity; that it makes the entrepreneurial spirit of America its centerpiece, that jobs and growth are where the focus should be, and then decisions about revenue and savings and the timing of them can spring from how we can create jobs, which bring in revenue to the Treasury. Job creation reduces the deficit.
As I have said over and over again, we want a plan that is big, bold and balanced. I think the only way it can be big and bold is to be balanced.
Since the committee has been charged with its work, as you know, the President has put forth his American Jobs Act. Our Ranking Members on the committees have sent their report for suggestions to the committee. The American Council on Competitiveness has put forth some of its initiatives on job creation for our country. And House Democrats, as I have told you before, have been engaged in conversations with thousands of small businesses to review the suggestions of the President's American Jobs Act and to hear their suggestions for what they think the Supercommittee can do to support and strengthen and help create many more small businesses in our country. Hence, our entrepreneurial theme. We think that is essential to reigniting the American dream to give many more people the opportunity to achieve it.
Today I am sending a letter to the chairpersons and members of the Supercommittee thanking them for their leadership and their service to our country, for the time and energy they have put into this work.
Basically we have come down to five points of focus that we believe can reduce the deficit, create jobs, and honor the entrepreneurial spirit of America.
Jobs, jobs, jobs: You say how are we going to create them? We are going to create them in the [private] sector through small businesses, which is the major job creator in country. In order for that to happen, of course, we have to have a strong public sector for the education of our children, safety of our communities and the rest. But our focus on this immediate job creation is the private sector.
Make It In America. You have heard that before. We must stop the erosion of the manufacturing, industrial and technological base that is happening in our country now. And that is unsustainable. We cannot sustain a manufacturing base at the pace that jobs are going overseas. We are hopeful we can pull them back.
Improve access to credit. For small businesses this is a very big deal. Provide a trained workforce. Access to capital, access to a trained workforce, access to customers. Increasing demand is a very important part of our proposal. And building America's infrastructure. We associate ourselves with the comments of the President yesterday about the need for us to build the infrastructure.
Without going into detail on each of them, I call your attention to the provisions in the letter and the appendix that accompanies it as to the specificity of our recommendations.
Again, this is labor intensive for our members. On their time away from Washington they engage in conversations either individually with businesses or in groups or in their neighborhoods, shopping centers and the rest, to hear--technological centers and the rest--to hear what their suggestions were. So we are always in touch with our small businesses, but we wanted them to be current in light of the President's proposal and in light of the opportunity that the Supercommittee presents.
Today we are having another hearing with our small business owners to again be immediately current on what they are thinking on what we have sent to the committee and what the opportunities are. We are encouraged by the bipartisan letter that was sent yesterday to the committee, strong bipartisan, large numbers of Democrats and Republicans signing the letter promoting a balanced plan.
I think all of this can be helpful, these and other suggestions they may be receiving. Most of the suggestions we have sent them have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, and that was part of their value. But they may have ideas of their own on how to, again, encourage and enhance the entrepreneurial spirit of America to create jobs and to do so in a way that reduces the deficit as we make more Americans ready to achieve the American dream, which is part of what this is all about.
With that, I would be pleased to take any questions.
Q: Ms. Pelosi, we all talk about the Supercommittee, but coming up on November 18 the government effectively runs out of money. It has been shown that Republicans want to attach policy riders to these types of appropriations bills. After seeing what the Republicans have done over the past few government funding bills, do you expect there to be talk of a shutdown again and do you feel that House Democrats emboldened by the last time they stuck together will stick together and draw a hard line and not cave too early as many thought happened back in the spring?
Leader Pelosi. As you probably know, under the leadership of our Whip, Steny Hoyer, 183 Democrats signed a letter to the Speaker and the Republican leadership saying let's just get our work done in terms of our appropriations bills. Let's not use them as riders that could be an excuse for this kind of confrontation. The public needs us to get the job done, not to make every bill that should be the regular order of the House to be this kind of confrontation about a showdown.
We will be passing one of the minibuses that has a number of the bills, and then another, and I would hope that sanity would reign as far as this is concerned. We will see shortly how long the next CR is. But it would be a disservice to the American people to decide that what should be the regular order of the budget process becomes a policy agenda that serves no constructive purpose.
Q: Are you hearing things from the Supercommittee, because, as you say, we are at a very late hour here, but things they are giving you and maybe Speaker Boehner particular options, and you are processing in your head here is what we might have to do, because we have to sell this to our caucus, he has to sell this to his conference to actually pass this in December sometime?
Leader Pelosi. Well, as I said to you before, I have sent three very distinguished Members of the House. Our caucus has given the authority to our Assistant Leader Jim Clyburn, Vice Chair Xavier Becerra and the Ranking Member of the Budget Committee Chris Van Hollen to go to the table to speak for the House Democrats and for the American people. We trust their judgment. They know our values, they know the issues and they know what the possibilities are. They know that if we are going to have a big, bold and balanced plan, there is going to be responsibility taken across the spectrum by all of us.
So it isn't something that I get a report or the Speaker gets a report. On our side, our people are not on a short leash. They have the authority to negotiate for the House Democrats. It is hopeful that we will have a consensus, but it is everybody's understanding that we have to yield on certain points when we see the urgency of doing so.
But, again, it has to be big, bold and balanced, and that means it has to have a jobs component, a revenue component and a savings component.
Q: Well, to follow on Chad's question, some of the information that is leaking out of the committee doesn't appear to be encouraging at all, and I am wondering if there is anything at all that you can say that would help instill a little more confidence in those of us who are covering this and the American people?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we have said from the start that we want an agreement; that it is important to the American people to see that this committee can function, to recognize the opportunity that is there. Imagine, 12 people at a table able to pass a bill, present a bill to Congress that is going through expedited procedures, that can move quickly through the House and contain many of the provisions that we have in our jobs package and, again, agreed upon savings that we have talked about, whether it is--in all the bipartisan commissions, whether it is Simpson-Bowles, Rivlin-Domenici, the Gang of Six, you name it, everybody has a balanced and big approach.
So it is just this committee that seems to be having some challenges reaching that decision. But, you know, as I said, our people are there to speak for us. I am hopeful that the time that they are taking is time that is bringing us closer to a consensus.
As we discussed before, I have not put any lines in the sand, because if it is big, bold and balanced, many things are possible to reduce the deficit in a very significant way to take us into the future, a path to prosperity, honoring the entrepreneurial spirit of America.
So we are optimistic that something can be done. When you say, is there anything--well, when they have a plan, that is when we will be optimistic. In the meantime, we have questions and we are trying to supply some answers that have had bipartisanship in the past.
But the time is drawing near. It is November 23rd, and figure back from there and you have probably 10 days or 2 weeks that the CBO needs. So probably the first or second day back after, which I don't think we should have another break, we should be here but the Republican schedule is not to be, but the first or second day back we have to have something to go to the committee.
Now, it would be helpful--and we are not just, you know, sitting back waiting. We are trying to show Members what some of the possibilities are. And if it is going to be big, bold and balanced and it is going to be a compromise, you know, there is going to be some level of unhappiness across the board, on our side and theirs. But hopefully that means that we all took the steps necessary.
I would like to see a $4 trillion package. I harken back to, it seems a long time ago now, but the proposal that the President and the Speaker had worked together on is a good model, too. Again, many of my members are not happy with some of the particulars in it, but the result that it gives us is a grand one, and I would hope to see that we could return to a proposal that resembles that. The President--the Speaker said it gave him 98 percent of what he wanted. So I would hope we could get to a place like that.
We just have to encourage them. We are trying to keep the rhetoric down about why aren't they doing this, that or that. The fact is they have this responsibility. We respect the charge that they have, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate. We wish them well and we have been praying for them.
Q: And the possibility of failure?
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just put that in perspective for you. And, I don't know how much longer we have the room, so I know we have some other questions to get to.
When the President signed the bill, the $1.2 trillion in cuts, it was called for that there would be another $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. That will happen. That will happen. How it happens depends on the Supercommittee. It can happen with, again, balance and boldness and of a size that is good for our country, or it can be…and that is the $4 trillion level and with savings and revenue and job creation that makes sense. Or it can happen through sequestration. $1.2 trillion will be saved if nothing happens on the committee. So the $2.5 trillion by the time you put in the interest will be achieved. It won't be achieved in the best possible way, but it will be achieved. So passing the bill and the President signing it guaranteed that there would be $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction.
So when you say failure, it is disappointment that we couldn't have done it better, but the markets should know that the deficit reduction will occur. I think we should try to avoid it at all costs, but, again, that is up to the Supercommittee.
Q: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask you why you and your husband back in March of 2008 accepted and participated in a very large IPO deal from Visa at a time there was major legislation affecting the credit card companies making its way through the House. Did you consider that to be a conflict of interest?
Leader Pelosi. I don't know what your point is of your question. Is there some point that you want to make with that?
Q: Well, I guess what I am asking is do you think it is all right for a Speaker to accept a very preferential, favorable stock deal?
Leader Pelosi. Well, we didn't.
Q: At a time when there is major legislation affecting that company in the House?
Leader Pelosi. Well, first of all let me say this. What we are talking about is an industry. What we are talking about is a Congress that passed more protections for credit card holders. The [Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights] bill, you know Carolyn Maloney has been our champion on, to the point where the industry spent $3 million to try to defeat her last time.
So the issue that you are talking about, first of all, what you are contending is not true. But second of all, we are very proud of our record of what happened.
Now, what Congressman or Senator Durbin was able to do in the Senate is quite remarkable, and when he was able to achieve that, then it was on this same issue, it was included by our Chairman Barney Frank in the bill.
Q: That was 2 years later though.
Leader Pelosi. But it was when we had a President who could sign the bill, and that is when we passed what Carolyn Maloney had. There was no interest on the part of President Bush to sign such a bill. But the fact is your basic premise is a false one, and it…
Q: I don't understand. Why is it false? You participated in the IPO.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I have many investments.
Q: You were Speaker of the House, and there was a bill very unfavorable to the credit card companies.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I will hold my record in fighting the credit card companies, as a Speaker of the House or as a Member of Congress, up against anyone. We had passed the Credit Cardholder Bill of Rights. I don't know what your point is. You like one bill better than another bill. No, this was the big powerful bill, and in fact we were able to achieve both once we were able to have a Democratic President. That is really all I am saying.
Q: You don't think it was a conflict of interest or have the appearance of a conflict of interest?
Leader Pelosi. No, it only has the appearance if you decide that you are going to elaborate on a false premise. But it is not true, and that is that.
Q: I don't understand what part is not true.
Leader Pelosi. That I would act upon an investment.
Q: It has now been one year since the midterm elections. I suppose that probably every day for the last year you have fought to regain the majority. I wanted to ask, how do you think the Democrats are doing? There is one year left. Do you think you will be able to take back the House?
Leader Pelosi. You know, I am a temporal marker. I always place things in time. The clock is ticking. But I didn't want to bring up the subject of politics, but since you did, yes, it is exactly the midway point between last year's election and this year's, and in over 300 days that the Republicans have been in power they have not produced--they have not created jobs for the American people. And that is, I think, the measure that we want to compare our first 300 days.
One week and one day after the President made his inaugural address, one week and one day we passed a recovery act in the House, in a few weeks it was in the Senate, saving or creating millions of jobs for the American people. One week and one day. Here we are over 300 days, no such legislation.
From a policy standpoint, I think it is really important to know that President Obama was a job creator from day one. Now, was the ditch that we were in so deep that when you are talking to people and they still don't have a job that that is any consolation to them? No. But I will tell you this, if President Obama and the House Congressional Democrats had not acted, we would be at 15 percent unemployment. Again, no consolation to those without a job, but an important point to make.
This was a cloud that was over the last election because it was too--if you don't have a job, you don't have somebody to say it could be worse, right? But it could be. And the fact is we have to be on a path to make it better, and President Obama has made suggestions in that regard policy-wise for jobs.
From a political standpoint, we are very proud of the recruitment of candidates. We had 107 candidates for over 70 seats here last week. I wish that you could see them. Two generals, a colonel, many people, service people, men and women from Iraq and Afghanistan, who want to serve our country in another way in Congress, to take the oath again to protect and defend; legislators, small business people, mayors, many women and minorities, all with the determination, the determination to take us off the path that the Republicans have put us on. So we are very, very enthusiastic about the recruitment of our candidates.
Not to talk money, but we outraised the Republicans for the first three quarters of the year. This is quite remarkable. And with the support of many small donors and idealistic progressives and Democrats across the country, we were able to succeed in that way.
So, again, if we hadn't been successful in recruitment and hadn't been successful in raising money, you might make a statement of how on Earth do you think that you can win. But I think we have definitely put the House in play. I give all the credit to our Chairman, Steve Israel, who is just as clear eyed a chairman as we need to have to do that.
So, thank you for your question. In terms of policy, we think that our taking back the House is urgent in terms of job creation and taking us to a path of prosperity that reignites the American dream, where everyone who plays by the rules and wants to work hard can have ladders of success built for them so they can achieve the American dream. We know we have work to do.