Leader Pelosi’s Weekly Press Conference Today
Leader Pelosi held her weekly press conference today discussing 205 days of Republican control of the House with no jobs legislation and how House Republicans are using the threat of default as an excuse to unravel Medicare and Social Security:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. How are you all? Good.
Last week, I saw Speaker Boehner say in his statement that the reason that he and President Obama couldn’t connect on an agreement was because they had two different visions of America. That may be so, but I also think they had two different reasons for coming to the table.
The American people thought, as did we, that the reason to come to the table was to reduce the deficit. The Vice President spent scores of hours, and the President the same, in working in a bipartisan way to reduce the deficit.
Some of the initiatives adopted many of the Republican proposals and the significant amounts of money proposed by the Republicans, cuts that were painful, but that we, in the interest of bipartisanship and a balanced approach, would be part of some agreement.
I believe the reason that the agreement wasn’t reached is because of the two different reasons to come to the table. I explained one, which we thought we all shared, to reduce the deficit. I believe the real reason they didn’t connect is because the Republicans all along have used deficit reduction as an excuse for the unraveling of progress made for the middle class over the past 50 years.
This isn’t about reducing the deficit. We can come to agreement on that. But we cannot come to agreement on that hardship that they want to place on the middle class by reducing what government does. Clean air, clean water, food safety, education, retirement security, and the rest.
The vision that President Obama has for our country, I believe, is on the high ground and shares common ground with the American people. The education of our children so that they can reach their aspirations and that our country can be innovative and be number one, continue to be number one. The dignified retirement of our seniors. That we honor, we honor the greatest generation by not becoming the default generation ourselves.
The creation of jobs, which we believe we have an obligation to do for the American people. Again, in a way that is innovative and keeps America number one. The security of the American people. All of this to be done in a way that reduces the deficit. That reduces the deficit.
If you believe in that, the education of our children, the retirement of our seniors, the creation of jobs in a fiscally-sound way, you couldn’t possibly vote for the bill that the Republicans are bringing to the floor today.
As I said, that is a vision of America that is destructive of the middle class and the aspiration of those who strive to make America great.
It’s hard to understand why the Republicans in all of this time never really wanted to put a jobs initiative in this package. Because we know that cuts are needed, revenue is needed. They didn’t want to put revenue, but to not have a jobs piece, a growth piece. In order to reduce the deficit, you have to increase revenue and in order to do that, again, you must create jobs. And they refused to put a jobs initiative in the package.
Hard to understand that, because that is the American people’s number one priority. Of course, we must reduce the deficit, but overwhelmingly, the American people are asking: Where are the jobs?
One would have to wonder why the Republicans want to concentrate on debt rather than on jobs. I’ll leave that up to you.
Again, it’s been 205 days since the Republicans have had the Majority in the House. As I said to you last week on Saturday, it was 200 days, and the bills that they had put forth on the floor would lose jobs, not create jobs, nearly 2 million jobs, to the tune of about 10,000 jobs a day. 10,000 jobs a day, should they ever become law.
And I might add, this idea that we have a short-term debt limit, five, six months, that’s a job killer. That’s a job killer.
So again, coming back to two different visions of America, what we do to create jobs, strengthen the middle class, ensure the security of our seniors by not cutting benefits for Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. Does it create jobs as we reduce the deficit or is it an ideological document that we will vote on today that will honor the call of some in the Republican Party that Medicare should wither on the vine and therefore they want to hasten its demise?
With that I would be pleased to answer any questions.
Q: Leader Pelosi, will Democrats have unanimous opposition to Speaker Boehner’s bill?
Leader Pelosi. Let me say this, I am very proud of the enthusiasm in our caucus for something other than the Boehner bill. The Boehner bill will not pass because it has Democratic votes.
Q: But not unanimous opposition?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I’m not speaking for every member in my caucus. But I feel very confident that if they are going to have 217 votes, whatever it is, they will have to be Republican votes.
Q: Do you think that the Republicans have the upper hand and that this will have to be the base bill and most of it will have to remain in place given that Reid cannot get the 60 votes they need for his plan?
Leader Pelosi. Well, there is no 60 votes for this plan either. So again [I] would say I think we have to go back to the table and negotiate an agreement that truly is about reducing the deficit, and not undermining the middle class in our country.
Q: Is there time to do that at this point? Tuesday is just around the around the corner.
Leader Pelosi. There is absolutely no way that this bill, which as I say is destructive of everything the progress that has been made in the last 50 years I’d like the American people to understand what is at stake. All you need to do is look at the manifestation of this budget on the floor of the House with the interior bill. Probably one of the worst bills Members will vote on. But you hear me say that now and again, so I would say it is stiff competition, enforcing clean air, clean water.
Look, I am a mom and a grandmother. I view my work in politics as an extension of my role as a mom. There are things we want to do for our children that are simply beyond us. The safety of the food they eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe, the society in which they live, safety and the environment, the safety of the environment and the neighborhoods in which they live. You need to have a public role, even though raising your family is a very personal thing.
And so I would say to moms out there, if it’s important to you that you have clean air for your children, clean water to drink, food safety, an education system that helps them reach their aspirations, policies that enable them to have higher education, security within your family that your parents have Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, so you don’t have to care for them as you care for your children, then understand that all of that is at stake here.
And although we all want to do everything we can for our children, we know that there are certain public roles and leadership that has to happen. And this bill, in one fell swoop, just pulls the plug on progress for America’s families. Progress made over the last 50 years.
As you know we observed the 46th anniversary yesterday of the signing of the Medicare bill. You can just kiss Medicare good bye.
Q: Just a few minutes ago in opening the Senate, Leader Reid said we blame the situation we’re in on, his words, “a few radical Republicans.” Do you view these Republicans who are pushing for this and in some cases even more extreme than what the Boehner bill is, do you view them as radicals? Do you view them as the problem in solving coming to some sort of accord in this debt crisis?
Leader Pelosi. What happens inside a caucus is really only something that somebody inside the caucus can tell you about. I can understand why, from the perspective of the Senate, Senator Reid would say that. He places respect on he respects Speaker Boehner, I believe. And that if he could do this, the right thing, he would. But there are forces within his caucus that are not enabling him to do that. If it is a few, then he has enough votes to win. If it is a policy of the party, then that’s a different story.
So what is a few? One is one, two is a pair, three is few, and something is several. Are you saying a few is three?
Q: That said, it seems that we’re heard so much from the freshmen they were going to come to Washington and storm the palace, change the way things are done, and is that part and parcel as to why we have had these two legislative products, the cut, cap and balance for the last week and a bill which you disagree with so much today?
Leader Pelosi. Again, whether that is the proud product of the leadership of the Republican Party or something they are being dragged kicking and screaming to do, I can’t tell you. All I know is whatever way it gets to the floor, it is a grave disservice to the American people, the middle class, and to America’s future.
Q: Madam Leader, the bill that you all will vote on today and the bill that Senator Reid will file cloture on at some point are largely similar, the main difference being one debt limit increase versus two. What are the parameters of where you realistically see this ending by Tuesday? We know that Senator McConnell is talking to the White House, Senator Reid is as well. I know that you are aware of those conversations. What is the parameters of where you see this ending?
Leader Pelosi. First of all, I don’t buy into your simplicity in the explanation. While you are right, much of the Reid bill are initiatives that the Republicans themselves have supported. They supported using the overseas account in the Ryan budget to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, if not a trillion dollars. They have called for steep cuts and that is in Senator Reid’s bill, plus the interest that you save by making those cuts in both categories.
So all of those initiatives are initiatives that have been supported by the Republicans. They have a similarity in that neither of them has revenue, but that is not possible to pass in the Senate. But that’s where the similarity ends.
The idea of a short term or a long term is not about a calendar. It’s about holding up the process by saying we’ll get six months and then we are going to do this all over again, and by the way, in order to get it within six months we have to start today. So it is an unending an unending hardship for the American people, the uncertainty that they have.
And the cuts are more drastic, the policies are more severe in the bills. They do not have that much in common except that everything in Harry Reid’s bill has been something that…Leader Reid’s bill is something that the Republicans have supported. And a date is not a small thing. It is a big thing.
Q: An agreement has to be reached?
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: And I guess if the Speaker’s bill passes that game changes significantly. But again, the parameters of where you see this realistically ending by Tuesday?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I’m hopeful that once everyone has made their statement, that we can again come together with the White House, because they have a very strong role to play here in terms of signing the legislation, that we could come to terms as to how we go forward in a way that honors the original purpose: to reduce the deficit. But not in a way that comes together to destroy the middle class. And somewhere in between we have to find that place.
The differences between—yesterday we had a fabulous presentation from Jared Bernstein, an economist who has been part of the Obama administration but now isn’t and he has been an intellectual resource to us on these economic issues among others. He said to the members, it is a difference between WITT and YO YO. WITT, you know Washington, we love our acronyms don’t we? Maybe we don’t love them, but we use them. WITT, W-I-T-T. “We’re in this together.” That’s the Democratic view. YO YO, the Republican approach. “You’re on your own.”
Members liked that. They liked the simplicity of it. They all were claiming YO YO as their own. I said well, you can’t claim it as your own. The first time, you attribute it to Jared Bernstein, the second time you say somebody said, and the third time it’s all yours. So today I’m attributing YO YO to Jared Bernstein.
Q: Madam Leader, you have a member of your caucus who won’t leave until this has been resolved. Can you talk about whether you were given a notice as to his resignation on Tuesday and if you were surprised by his about face.
Leader Pelosi. His about face to resign?
Leader Pelosi. No, I wasn’t surprised by that. I had a message on my phone, my cell phone when I got back to my office that he had tried to reach me in the morning. But by then, I think actually we were in a press conference and somebody mentioned it there. That’s how I heard of it. It was formulation as to how long he would stay and when he would leave. But from our standpoint, the issue is closed.
Q: Leader Pelosi?
Leader Pelosi. Oh, there you are again.
Q: It’s been a while.
Leader Pelosi. Al Jazeera?
Q: Yes, indeed. Thank you. If you remember, if you wind the clock back to TARP, the markets made a statement. Are you concerned and this goes along with some of the other questions that have been raised are you concerned that the global markets will finally make a statement before the Congress has a chance to cut its deal and prevent the United States credit rating from being downgraded and so forth?
Leader Pelosi. Well I’m glad you brought up TARP because it gives me the opportunity, without appearing to be self serving by bringing it up myself, about the cooperation we gave to President Bush when he was President. You may not know this, but on the Thursday that we gathered in my office, House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, we were told by the, Mr. Bernanke, the Chairman of the Fed, that if we didn’t act immediately we would not have an economy by Monday. They had withheld that information from Congress because the White House wouldn’t let them tell us. But we asked, and they told us. And we immediately said time is of the essence, we will work in a bipartisan manner to take action to prevent that from happening. It was President Bush’s problem. It was his solution, which we modified to protect the taxpayer, and it was Democratic votes that got the bill passed.
Not even half of the Republicans—I doubt they reached 50 percent of the Republicans voted for it. And this is because they just were not going to have any government intervention. And it’s the same policy they have for clean air, clean water, food safety, children’s education and the rest. They do not believe there is a public role.
Now, getting back to me, this—we gave President Bush cooperation, whether it was a bill he signed on energy, was a compromise bill. It was a great bill. And tomorrow President Obama will expand what is in that bill in terms of emissions, increasing the emissions standards. So it was not only a good bill in itself, it laid a path for cleaner air and I thank President Bush for that. We gave him what he wanted. We cooperated with him. On his stimulus package, I wanted infrastructure, he wanted rebates. We cooperated on that.
On TARP, this was—now that competition comes in again—the worst bill our Members will tell you they ever had to vote for, but they did because it was essential to our financial stability in our country. The first vote, the Republicans practically didn’t show up, and the market went down. We increased the number of Democratic votes they got some more Republican votes, but it was the Democratic votes that passed that bill.
So for me who passed every debt ceiling increase under President Bush when we had the majority, to see the lack of cooperation with this President, and you have to ask the question why? Is it because they want to make this statement about the markets come tumbling down? That happened before, and then finally we could pass the bill. Hopefully that is not the case, but the President has been patient. He has been respectful. He has listened to the proposals. He’s tried to accommodate them. He studied them and the rest. And I hope that all of the, shall we say, study that has gone into this on both sides of the issue will facilitate our reaching something that the President can sign, something that is not an undermining, a reckless undermining of the middle class in our country. Thank you all very much.