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Pelosi Remarks at the United Auto Workers Legislative Conference

Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at the United Auto Workers Legislative Conference.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

“Thank you all very much.  Is it still morning?  Yes.  Good morning everyone, GimmeFIVE!

“Thank you very much, Gary [Jones], for your wonderful, generous introduction.  Thank you David, for your leadership and for explaining why people say making laws is like making sausage, when you see the behind-the-scenes of it all.  It was important for us to hear from David, as we were in that important debate, because he was fresh from the trenches making the fight for America’s working families.  A strong voice for labor, for collective bargaining, for fairness, for a better future for all Americans – thank you, David, for your leadership.  And where did he go?  Thank you, David.

[Applause]

“It was also important to hear from him specifically as a voice of labor, because I almost always, in many of my meetings with my Members and in public as well, quote Walter Reuther who said something very, very important.  We all know, well, some of you are too young to know, you know from history, the rest of us know from our younger days, what an important he was in our country, as well as a leader of the U.A.W.  And he said, and I’m going to read it because I want it to be a direct quote: ‘There's a direct relationship between the bread box and the ballot box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls.’  I want Members to hear that all the time, because it talks about what our responsibility is.  But it also talks about the fact that you cannot – he began the quote by saying that direct relationship between the bread box and the ballot box – you cannot separate them. 

“So thank you to the GimmeFIVE.  Thank you to U.A.W.  Thank you to all of you.  Thank you Bob King.  Thank you Gary.  Thank you all for what you did in this election to reelect President Barack Obama.  Thank you [for] what you did to keep control of the United States Senate, under the leadership of Harry Reid.  And thank you for what you did to hold and increase our numbers in the House.  We did not win enough, we did not win it all, but we won a lot – and what we won, we won because of your help.  And now we’re ready for the next fight, and I say that because as Walter Reuther said: you can’t separate the two.  And if we are going to have the best possible policies for our country, and for our working families – we must have the best possible politics.

“And that’s why a very important part of our agenda is something that I know that you share, which is to, is to overturn Citizens United.  So the voices of the – overturn that, overturn that.  I have issued a DARE – disclose.  Where is that big money coming from, who are these people who want to undermine the opportunities for working families?  Who want to continue the disparity in income and ownership in our country?  D.  A: Amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United, as I said. R: reform our political system so that we have public funding of campaigns, instead of the big money influence.

“And E: Empower.  The President said in his State of the Union, there’s no reason people should be waiting eight hours in line to vote.  That is an impediment to voting.  So, we already have step one of empowerment – George Miller, a friend of the UAW, John Lewis, Mr. Jim Clyburn, they had on the first day of this Congress, a motion to say that the American people should not have to wait more than one hour in line to vote.  That means you have to have early voting, that means you have to have adequate precincts, you have to have adequate machinery and all of that.  But we will not allow those big money issues to suffocate the airwaves with their endless resources, to suppress the aspirations of America’s working families.  We will not allow them, and their elected representatives in states across the country, to suppress the vote – squeeze the air out of the airwaves, suppress the vote so they can have it all their way.  The exploitation of working families in America, the exploitation of the environment, the exploitation of our children’s future.  We cannot have that happen.  So that is going to be a very important, that is a very important part of our agenda as we go forward.  To heighten the voices, if you heighten the civility and lower the role of money, I assure you, you will elect people to Congress who really do speak for the American people.  And more women I might add, and minorities, and young people to public office. 

“Okay, so I’m here to salute all of you on behalf of my colleagues in the Congress.  To thank you so much for all that you do, and have done – politically, policy-wise, and in every way.  I had the pleasure of working with Bob King on the auto bailout – congratulations to the most productive workers in the world – America’s workers.  And in the course of that, and speaking for my colleagues in the House, House Democrats at that table with the CEOs of the big three and with Bob King there, anytime there would be a path suggested to go down, our question was always – what do the United Auto Workers think of this?  If it’s okay with them, it’s okay with us – if not, not so.  So, that was, I think a very important, not just to say that people said: ‘you’re saving companies;’ no, we’re saving an industry.  We’re saving American jobs, and that is very consistent with your plan that you have.  And I congratulate you on that – your National Community Action Program conference that you’re having; and I saw what your agenda is, and God bless you, it is consistent with the values of UAW historically and into the future.

“But it is also about Make It In America – ‘Make It In America.’  We say this: we believe, and when I leave here later today, the Democrats will be going to our issues conference and our focus will be on jobs and growing the economy.  And our jobs agenda is as simple as ABC: American-made, Make It In America.  B: build the infrastructure of America.  C: community involvement in all of those decisions, because that’s very important.  And again, part of your agenda that we share that innovation, clean energy, and keeping America number one.  We can only be number one if we Make It In America.  Two, in doing that, I think we will restore confidence in our economy.  Recognizing we have a moral obligation to create jobs in our country.  It’s very essential to a thriving middle class, and middle class is essential to our democracy, so for every reason you can name, including what it means for individual families and their, and addressing their kitchen table concerns.  We must, as I’ve said, honor a moral obligation to restore confidence in the economy by creating jobs.

“We must restore confidence.  It’s who we are as a people.  We are, by and large, a nation of immigrants.  So we must have comprehensive immigration reform, and I thank you for making that part of your legislative agenda – for making that part of your agenda.  We must have confidence in the safety of our neighborhoods and our schools for our children.  And so we must have gun violence prevention as part of our agenda as well.  And again we must have confidence in our democracy, and that is why I issued the DARE – to recognize what Walter said: the bread box and the ballot box, that we have the voices of the people heard in elections.  And UAW has been, and their GimmeFIVE program has been, a very important part of that.

“So, where do we go from here?  Right now on the floor of the House, we’re having a debate about the budget.  The Republicans are getting up there and talking about how immoral it is to have a big budget deficit.  They’re deficit hawks all of a sudden.  You didn’t hear a ‘hoot,’ ‘peep,’ a ‘roar’ or anything out of them when George Bush was running up this [deficit].  Tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country, which did not create jobs but did increase the deficit.  A giveaway pharmaceutical program that did not meet the needs, commensurate to what we later had to correct in the Affordable Care Act – where health care is a right not a privilege.  They also had two unpaid-for wars.  So the bulk of this deficit has been presented to us by the Bush Administration.  In addition to a massive downturn in the economy that reduced revenues coming into the Treasury because of their bad economic policy.

“So, all of a sudden their on the floor saying: ‘oh, this budget, it’s immoral, it’s indecent.’  Well, that’s a new found value for them, because they didn’t seem to mind for the eight years of the Bush Administration.  But it is immoral, and we must reduce it.  And we have already agreed – we have already agreed to $1.6 trillion, in the Budget Control Act, in reductions in spending.  We’ve already agreed to protect Medicare, but to find savings to prolong its life.  When they’re talking about Medicare – well we want to save Medicare and protect it, that doesn’t mean you take money from Medicare, and give tax cuts to the wealthiest, as they do in their budget.

[Applause]

“And we want to – but you know what, this is all about they’re protecting the wealthiest people in our country.  They refuse to put a balanced approach to it and that means we must have more revenue.  And so we have on the floor – well, we don’t have it on the floor because in all their openness and transparency and the importance of debate on the budget, they would not allow our amendment to come to the floor.  Chris Van Hollen, our Ranking Member – anybody from Maryland – too busy celebrating the Ravens victory, I guess?  As a 49er fan, born and raised in Baltimore, you can just imagine my interest in that game.  But the point is, is that in the Van Hollen proposal, we had more spending cuts, we had revenue that comes from ending subsidies to Big Oil.  Imagine, oil business will make a trillion dollars, a trillion dollars over the next ten years.  A trillion dollars in profits, and they say: ‘We need a subsidy, an incentive,’ to go make a trillion dollars.  But at the same time they want to cut Pell Grants and other investments in our children’s future.  It’s just not right.  It certainly is not a statement of our values.

“So, Chris has responsible spending cuts, serious revenue coming in by making millionaires pay their fair share and closing the special interest giveaways to Big Oil and others, and we, again, have something that is balanced to find a solution.  My friends, the sequester is not a solution.  It is something that is out of the question.  And what I said on the floor before I came here is that the games that they are playing in February, they are giving new meaning to the term ‘March Madness’ because that is what this will become.  This is what it will become as they try to make a voucher of Medicare, and a Medicare guarantee.  We cannot let that happen, we cannot let that happen.

[Applause]

“And we won’t, and with your help, and with your help, we will not let that happen.  Imagine that they thought it was a good idea to raise the age – now don’t take any money out of the subsidies to Big Oil – but raise the age on Medicare.  It’s just plain wrong, we rejected it, it didn’t even find its way into the cliff legislation.  So, in any event, that’s the debate that is going on there.  We believe a budget should be a statement of our national values, who we are as a people, as we invest in the future for our children, how our workforce thrives and contributes to a thriving middle class, which is the backbone of our democracy.  

“The labor movement that UAW has been essential to that, not only for people who are in organized labor, but for all workers, every American benefits from what you do.  And I am here to say ‘thank you’ to you for that.  It’s clear that – applaud yourselves, thank you UAW!

[Applause]

“It is clear, it is clear that the – that in order for us to have a real legacy for President Obama beyond all the wonderful things that Gary said we accomplished in the two years that he was President and we had the majority [in the House], and some of that was accomplished even under President Bush because we had a strong majority and we took our case to the public, and you helped us do that.  I say to President Obama, President Lincoln said: ‘Public sentiment is everything.’  What we’re doing, and as David described, what happens behind closed doors, the public doesn’t see all that.  They don’t really know how different our values are, between the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress – I don’t mean in the country, because I think most of Republicans in the country do not subscribe to this sequester, take-no-prisoners kind of approach, my way or the highway, that the Republicans in Congress do.

“And you don’t want to be a fear monger, to go out there and say: ‘You know what?  Everything that we care about, everything that is important to the future, whether it’s the education of our children, the safety of our neighborhoods, the competitiveness of our nation, the fairness of our tax code, ending the immoral disparity in income and equity in our country, which is a bad thing; not only for the economy, but also for our democracy and as an example to the world – not a good one?  Not only for all of those reasons; but just in terms of the civility, the respect for each of the constituents – I respect my Republican colleagues because they have been sent there by the American people.  But the American people have to know what the decision is, and we need you to be part of the messenger system, to [be] ambassadors to take the concern out there.

“Again, we’re not fear mongers, but there is a lot to be concerned about.  And we can make the difference in the debate, in the next 18 months; and then we can make the difference in the election in 2014.  Either by changing the minds of some of the Republicans, so that they vote in support of America’s working families, or by changing who they are by electing a Democratic majority, not only to the Senate, but also to the House of Representatives, where the gavel will be returned to the people of the United States.  This is a moment, a very important moment for our country – a very important moment.

“So, I want you all to know your power in all of this.  You come from a union that has a tradition of greatness in our country.  Walter Reuther, and others over time, Bob King now – values based, visionary, visionary, central to the competitiveness of America, that keeps America number one.  When President Kennedy said, when he was getting ready to announce the moon launch: ‘If we are going to honor the vows of our founders, we must be first and therefore, we intend to be first.’

“Thank you, UAW for keeping America number one.  Thank you for your support of Democrats.  GimmeFIVE!”