Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks at a press stakeout at the White House following a meeting between congressional leaders and President Barack Obama. Below is a transcript of her remarks and the question and answer session with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
Thank you Mr. Leader. On March 1st we saw many of you out here after we had a meeting in the oval office with President Obama. At that time, Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell said that they would proceed on the budget discussion under the regular order – a Washington term which means you pass a bill in the House, you pass a bill in the Senate, you go to conference. All of that was March 1st, before the end of the month, the House and the Senate both passed a bill. But the Republicans have resisted the regular order. For six months they have avoided going to conference.
So now they come up with their suggestion of two, of $986 billion, or $988 billion, their figure varies, $988 billion, which is a figure that our Members in the House do not like, think it is far too low. And the Republican Chairman of the Appropriations Committee says does not enable government to provide for the needs of the American people. But nonetheless, having said that, over 100 Members of the House Democratic Caucus stood on the steps of the Capitol today and made a solid, real offer to the Speaker of the House to accept his number. Which they don’t like and they don’t respect. But for the purpose of opening up government and going to the next step. All we have to do is bring it up, pass it in the House, it comes to the President’s desk. Government is open. Then we go to the table, as the Leader suggests, on the budget. And some of that discussion can be helpful in terms of addressing growth, deficit reduction, and how we go forward on lifting the debt ceiling.
So we just have to find a way. And we have to find a path that they can down. But if they keep moving the goal posts and won’t even accept their own number. As Leader Reid said: “if they don’t take ‘yes’ for an answer,” then I can only conclude that they’ve wanted to shutdown government. That they think that, that has a purpose and we know what that is, they want to overturn the Affordable Care Act. That’s not going to happen. And frankly, that’s not what our Constitution had in mind that if you don’t like something, you threaten to shutdown government so you don’t – it’s not that kind of a system.
So, in any event. Ever optimistic because so much is at stake. I’m hopeful that in the conversation, we heard each other and that we will be able to find a place to go, as the Leader suggests, to the budget table, six months after we were supposed to, in order to discuss a budget that can be helpful. Because the next, the next challenge is lifting the debt ceiling. It was a worthwhile meeting, I’m glad it was held. It, we had a, shall we say, some candid discussion, would you say, Mr. Leader?
Leader Reid. You bet.
Leader Pelosi. And we won’t go into that.
Leader Reid. May I say one thing? One of the things, one of the things I was very happy, I felt very happy I was there. The President of the United States was very, very strong, strong, strong. This has never happened before. They can make all the historical analysis that they want. It just has never happened before, where a political party would be willing to take a country to the brink of financial disaster and say we’re not going to allow us to pay our bills. The President said he will not stand for that. That, and we were, we said that we’ll be happy to work – I said: “happy to work with you, Mr. Speaker, on a way out of this. But we are where we are. We’re not going to play, we’re through playing these little games on, and all, it’s all focused on Obamacare, that’s all it’s about. And as I’ve said before and I’ll tell each of you here tonight: they did the same thing to Social Security. They did the same thing to Medicare. And they’re trying to do the same thing to Obamacare. Obamacare is another Social Security. It’s another Medicare program. It’s something that is a signature to this Administration. And this – Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid worked hard to get it done, we’re happy it’s done. The one thing that we made very clear in that meeting. We are locked in tight on Obamacare.
Q: Senator Reid and Leader Pelosi, if I might ask, you were in that meeting for more than an hour. What is your sense? How real is the danger that the country may default?
Leader Reid. I believe. I believe based on what we have seen, the performance of the Tea Party driven, Cruz-led House now, no longer in the Senate, it’s now in the House. I think that it looks like these people are headed where they want to go. Michelle Bachmann said: “finally, finally we’re where we wanted to be. We’ve closed down the government.” She’s not alone.
Leader Pelosi. Let me just say this about the meeting. And that is the following: I think there’s certain principles or attitudes that we should have. Now, I’m not saying we agree to this in the meeting. But I’m just saying for the good of the order and the confidence of the American people, we should take the debt ceiling debate off the table. The United States of America will always honor the full faith and credit of our country. And no President should be held hostage to that for a social or other agenda.
So, let’s just take that off the table, A, because it’s really dangerous. I mean, closing the government is bad, the combination of that and not lifting the debt ceiling is beyond cataclysmic for the country, again, we have to think about whatever we’re doing now and what the President is. So, let’s take that off the table.
Q: Should he invoke the 14th Amendment?
Leader Pelosi. Well, that’s – he’s not going to. Secondly, secondly, every bill that ever passes in the Congress is subject to another bill passing in the Congress to amend it. And so, if they don’t like certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, they have every opportunity, in the majority especially, to bring anything to the floor to make whatever changes they want. But that should not be something that is a threat to whether government is open, or the full faith and credit.
So, take the lifting the debt ceiling off the table. Recognize that any bill that has passed, enacted into law, can be changed under the regular order. But don’t confuse the two.
Q: Did the Speaker say why he wouldn’t bring a clean CR to the floor?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I won’t go into – I don’t know why they haven’t accepted their own number. We stood on the steps of the Capitol, over 100 Members of the House Democratic Caucus, as I said, with the support of the other Members of the Caucus to say: “we’re making a firm offer to the Speaker,” as I have done to him privately, over and over again, but we will accept the $988 billion. You know that our Members do not like the $988 billion, most of them have dug in their heels to say they would never support the $988 billion. But to open government that, in my opinion is a luxury we can’t afford on the side of the Democrats, or the Republicans, so we’re willing to compromise to accept their number. They had two things: $988 billion and overturn Obamacare. This isn’t going to happen. We’re willing to accept this [the $988 billion]. They shouldn’t move the goal posts.