Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today

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 afternoon.  I knew you were there.

Earlier this week, President Obama put forward a balanced approach to how we can reduce the deficit, grow the economy, and create jobs.  Democrats are united behind the President.  We appreciate his balanced approach to this and look forward to working with him on it.

As you know, last week we stood on the steps of the Capitol, united in the support of the American Jobs Act, asking Congress to pass that bill.  The combination of the two, a job creating bill and a balanced approach to how we reduce the deficit, we think are what…is the way we should go and the way that that table of 12 should go.

What are we calling it?  The Supercommittee?  Is there any shorthand way that we reference the table of 12?  It doesn’t have a nickname?  You know what I mean?

Yesterday the House in a bipartisan way rejected a bill that would be job destroying, not job creating.  Don’t take my word for it.  Both the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers have written to Congress to oppose the Republican efforts in the CR to cut job creating initiatives putting Americans to work, promoting cleaner, more efficient American cars.  If you haven’t seen these letters, I’m sure we can make them available to you, one from the Chamber of Commerce, one from the National Association of Manufacturers.

As you know, we talk about the ABCs.  American made.  Made in America.  “Make It In America,” as Mr. Hoyer would say.  Very important.  Stop the erosion of our industrial and manufacturing base.

B, build the infrastructure of America.  Do so in a green way which creates good paying, green jobs for the future.  Today the President is focusing on the infrastructure.  So are our Members.  It’s always been part of how we would create jobs and keep America number one.  C, community recovery.  We’ve talked about that before.  So important now in this time of natural disaster.

I’ve said that in order to do that, we have to have a strong public sector.  The education of our children, the safety of our neighborhoods, et cetera.  We also have to have a strong private sector.  And we believe that the route to economic security, economic growth, personal success for American workers is our investments in small businesses.

We’re so glad that the President placed an emphasis on small business in his remarks on Monday, and our Members stand ready to go home and continue the conversations they have been having with small businesses in their districts; to talk to them about availability of credit, availability of trained workforce, customers…that would be a big thing…to help small businesses strengthen and to grow.  And also there to talk about creating small businesses as well.

Another part of that is…what the President mentioned was faster pay from the Federal Government for those who have government contracts.  But we also believe that the SBA and many of its initiatives, whether it’s mentoring, whether it’s SBIR, any of those entities, the Department of Commerce to help with exports for these small businesses, whatever agencies of government that contract or can help small businesses grow, we want to make that link.

That’s what Members will be spending a good deal of time next week when they go home to their districts.  Many of them have models that they are sharing with their colleagues about how…I always say by air, by sea…one if by land, one if by sea.  This is one if by air, cyberspace teleconferencing with small businesses in their offices in the communities around a roundtable, or going door to door listening one at a time to what small businesses have to say about all of this.

So we are very excited about that prospect, and it comes at this time.  The President has made it…we have been talking about it for a very long time.  The President made it a priority in his proposal.  At some point soon the table of 12 will be talking about initiatives to grow the economy, reduce the deficit, create jobs, and we want a small business to be a central piece of it.  We need to be that innovation, and we want it to be about an entrepreneurial spirit in our country.

So we, as you, are eagerly awaiting to see what the rest of the day’s schedule will be here.  In the meantime, I would be pleased to take any questions.

Q:  Madam Leader, you have expressed concerns about the openness of the table of 12 in the past.  They had a meeting today, another kind of informational kind of hearing.  But in between those hearings, they have had some basically closed meetings among themselves, informal gatherings, I guess they are calling them.  To what extent do you think that violates that spirit of openness and transparency that you expressed concerns about?

Leader Pelosi.  It’s always, let’s look to results.  What we want to make sure is that the American people know how these decision are being made by the table of…by the Supercommittee, for lack of a better name right now, and what the debate is around them.

I can see a scenario where they may need to have some conversations about what hearings they are going to have and this or that, but I think that should be kept to a minimum.  I think it’s important for the members of the committee to hear from the outside, whether it’s the Simpson-Bowles, and Rivlin-Domenici, the Gang of Six, whatever the entity is, in a very public way.  I think if there is a rejection of hearing from, for example, the mayors, and that was–I met with yesterday or the day before, the Conference of Mayors said, could we go before the committee?  And I said, well, you are just going to have to ask them.  How they make those decisions I think is very important to the American people.

But I don’t think it means that they can never have a meeting where they plan how they go forward, but, as I said, kept to a minimum, not where any decisions are made that will affect achieving a balanced plan, as President Obama has called for.

Q:  A group of about a dozen Senate Democrats say they want CBO to evaluate the Supercommittee’s plan, their product, on job creation terms; that it should create jobs or at the very least not reduce employment by a net amount.  Do you agree is that a good idea?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, I think it is a good idea.  The committee puts its rules together in a bipartisan way, and I was very proud of our House Democrats.  I assume they were joined by the Senate, but I know that it was a priority for the House Democrats to go–in the writing of the rules to say that as they made judgments as to how these initiatives would reduce the deficit, that they should also demonstrate how each initiative would create jobs or not.

The word that was insisted upon to get it in the language was when it talked about a measure of how many jobs are created, where applicable…oh, no, no…practical?  Some word like that.  You will have to look it up.  It had a little qualification on it.

What the possibility is of taking every initiative and passing it through the CBO for its job creating potential I think is a great idea.  I don’t know why anybody would want to make a judgment without that evaluation, especially at this time, because this table has to be quite different from any table that people have come to before because the situation is so urgent.  And it is important that, again, it be about innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and not just the same old same old, what do you cut, and who pays for it and that.  It has got to have a positive initiative about the future.

Q:  Madam Leader, it seems the Republicans are coming up with a new strategy for their CR.  Is there any type of offset that would be acceptable to the House Democratic Caucus?

Leader Pelosi.  As we made our point yesterday, we believe that we should not go down a different path now than we have done on natural disaster assistance.  That’s why we fought so hard against what the Republicans put forth.  They were going down a different path.  On top of that, we didn’t like the offset because it was a job killer.  And as I say, taking it out of the plan that the Republicans put forth is supported by the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce.

So my hope is that they will come out so we can resolve it.  Assistance in the time of a natural disaster should not be a controversial issue.  It hasn’t been before.  We all rally round.  These people are not Democrats or Republicans or people who believe in a big role of government, small role of government.  Americans have been hit hard.  It’s very hard to see how they will be made whole.  We should remove all doubt that we will be there in a timely fashion and that we’re not going to balance the budget on the backs of people who have already been hit by a disaster.

So, no.

Q:  If Republicans go in an opposite direction…

Leader Pelosi.  I’m sorry; I thought we were here.  Then I will come there, and then I’ll come there.

Q:  Two things are going on.  I know that you and many Democrats are opposed to any offsets, but at the same time my understanding is you don’t want to see the government shut down.  So the Republican leadership, in order to push this through, they are trying to thread the needle, as you well know when you were Speaker is what you have to do.  Is there a scenario you could support an alternate offset in order to avoid the government shutting down?

Leader Pelosi.  I think I answered that question.  There has never been an offset for disaster assistance.  You heard the distinguished chairman of the Appropriations Committee Mr. Rogers say:  Oh, we have done this with emergencies all the time.  It’s a different word.  There are many emergencies.  A natural disaster is something else where people are directly hit.  Immediately they want to see how we are going to be there for them.  We want to remove all doubt that the funds are there without…what offset is next?  What offset is next?

So especially when they went down the path that they did, they did the world a favor in the disfavor that they were proceeding on because they made it so egregious.  It was like, well, this is creating tens of thousands of jobs at a time when jobs are needed, and now you are going to blunt the effectiveness of this initiative.

And let me just say this, because this isn’t about paying for a disaster.  They have said in my conversations with them, well, we want to pay for it.  It is going to have to be paid for.  That is not the complete story.  This has been a very successful initiative.  It’s something that’s very important to our competitiveness and our innovation in our own country.  It has worked.  The National Association of Manufacturers, Chamber of Commerce and others.

So billions of dollars have been used for this.  There is a billion and a half dollars left in the till.  People are waiting to qualify for loans.  They take a billion of it to pay for the disaster, and they take a half a billion of it and rescind it.  It was clear to us that this wasn’t about paying for disaster; this was about destroying any initiative that is job creating.

Why would you take a half a billion dollars out of an initiative with the excuse that you need it for disaster and just rescind it, erase it from the possibility of people making loans?

So we shouldn’t even be having this conversation.  This is a conversation that never–we should never have gone down this path.  The fact is when natural disasters strike, the American people are in need, they need to have the confidence that we are there.  They don’t need to have the fear that there’s going to be a debate as to how this will be paid for.

Q:  If Speaker Boehner decides to go in the opposite direction and include deeper cuts in order to garner the support of more conservatives in his conference, how would you interpret that?  Would you say that they are going back on the debt ceiling agreement?

Leader Pelosi.  Why don’t we just see what they do.  I don’t really want to go into the theoretical.  There are many consequences to going down that path.  But let’s just see what they do, okay?

Q:  At this point we do know that they don’t seem to have a strategy yet.  They are still talking, trying to figure it out, maybe looking at replacing one offset with another.  The one thing that some of the Republicans coming out of the meeting are saying is that Boehner is not really looking for Democratic support.  At this point do you see any real risk of a shutdown?  Do you think this can be resolved by next week?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, it has to be.  It has to be resolved by next week, and the burden is on the majority to make sure they put something forth that not only passes the House, but will be acceptable in the United States Senate.  As you know, it is a bicameral Legislature, and if you are going to not shut down government, you have to have something that is going to be able to be passed in the Senate.

When we opposed the bill yesterday, we opposed it and our motion to–not to get too insider here, but our alternative was the Senate bill, which has much more money for disaster assistance right at this time.  That’s the bill that the Senate has been considering and for which Senator Reid had at least 60 votes.  If all of his people showed up, he would have had more.

So that’s where they are.  They are well beyond us with even more money.  That’s what we would like to have done here.  It would be my hope that there will be some split the difference, that the Republicans would come out and say, we’re not going to go as high as you wanted in your motion on the floor to the Senate level, but we will go to 3.5 trillion, 3.6 trillion–excuse me, billion, and we will have no offset.  That, I think, would be a reasonable place to be.

It’s an easy path for them to go.  This isn’t philosophical, that they are going to make people have doubt about    I don’t think this has any political thread to it at all.  The American people need help; we’re there for them.  This is a priority.  It is a priority.  And when we have to do other things to reduce the deficit and the rest, we are certainly prepared to do that.

Okay.  One more question.

Q:  You said how committed you are to the disaster relief. 

Leader Pelosi.  Yes.

Q:  If the Republicans propose language that would prohibit funding to Planned Parenthood as they have in the past, how committed would be to opposing that?

Leader Pelosi.  Well, let’s hope they are not playing games with this.

Let me say this:  Why don’t we come back and have another press conference after they say what they are going to do.  I think it is a waste of your time and my time to speculate on the horrors that they could come up with, because we know they are endless, and we could be here a long time.

So why don’t we just say this:  we wish them the best.  We understand when you need to get 218 votes, you have to count on your own side of the aisle to do that if you don’t want to do it in a bipartisan way.  If you just want to do the best possible job that you can on something that is not controversial–why are we even having a debate over this?  It’s not controversial.  This is the easiest place for us to join in a bipartisan way and remove all doubt the Federal Government will be there to honor the Federal compact that we have with the American people in a time of national disaster as we always have.

Thank you all very much.  Good afternoon.  We can come back later if you want.

Q:  Will there be chocolates if we come back?

Leader Pelosi.  You will have to come to my office for that.

Let me say this:  I’m sure the views of the Democrats will be very well known once we see what the Republicans propose.