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"Fox News Sunday" Host Chris Wallace

Interview

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FOX NEWS SUNDAY"
HOST: CHRIS WALLACE

MR. WALLACE: Congress returns tomorrow to take a final stab at passing intelligence reform before the end of the year. Here to discuss the last-minute negotiations and other issues is our exclusive guest, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. Congressman, welcome, good to have you with us today.

REP. PELOSI: Good morning.

MR. WALLACE: I'm going to begin with a local issue. As the congresswoman from San Francisco, which is the home of Barry Bonds and of the San Francisco Giants, should Congress impose drug testing on professional athletes if major league baseball does not crack down itself?

REP. PELOSI: Well, first, may I join Senator McCain in the spirit of bipartisanship and congratulate on your one-year anniversary.

MR. WALLACE: Thank you.

REP. PELOSI: Having said that, I don't disagree with Senator McCain. I hope it wouldn't be necessary for Congress to have to crack down, whether it's the league, the owners, the unions, or the individual players, they have a responsibility not only to the sport but to the children of America who look up to these players. So I would hope that they could self-enforce a regimen that would deal with this. And, quite frankly, it's overdue.

MR. WALLACE: And if they don't self-enforce, would you sign and support a bill in Congress to impose mandatory drug testing?

REP. PELOSI: Well, it depends on what that bill had in it, but I certainly think that Senator McCain's leadership gives a lot of leverage to Congress, being the chair of the committee of jurisdiction, and that should be a motivator to baseball, to the league, to the players, to move on this.

MR. WALLACE: All right, new subject -- Congress comes back tomorrow. Has the House worked out all the issues, all the problems on intelligence reform and will it pass this week?

REP. PELOSI: Well, that would be a question for Speaker Hastert. My last most recent conversation with him on the subject was on Friday. He was still optimistic. I pledged the support of the Democrats, that we would be there with a strong vote on the floor to support whatever votes he had on the Republican side. It's very important. When the 9/11 Commission sent its recommendations at the end of July, it did so with a sense of urgency. Every day we delay our country is less safe. Speaker Hastert knows that, the president knows that, they just haven't convinced all of the Republicans. Maybe it's not necessary to convince all of the Republicans. We should just bring the bill to the floor. It would win overwhelmingly. Remember, this was a bipartisan recommendation of the commission and unanimous bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate but strong support from the Democrats in the House. The support of even the Republican chair of the conference by just a few holdouts, have held up the issue.

MR. WALLACE: I want to ask you about that. It seems, by all accounts, that the House could have passed intelligence reform before Thanksgiving with a lot of Democratic votes, but Speaker Hastert has said that he wants a majority of the majority. In other words, he wants a majority of Republicans to pass key legislation. What do you think of that?

REP. PELOSI: Well, with all due respect to the speaker, and I do respect him, that's really putting politics over policy and the safety of the American people. In the past when issues have come up, when we were in the majority, for example, the NAFTA bill, which President Clinton supported, the majority of the Democrats in the House did not support, the responsibility was to let Congress work its will on it. So if we're going to always be constrained by an element within the Republican Party, that won't be good for the country. So I hope that the speaker will revisit that principle and come forth with a bill that can pass that makes us safer, that the president will sign.

MR. WALLACE: I want to talk about politics now. There's always politics in everything. Now that you've had a month to think about it, what did you learn from the elections? What do you think the country was saying? And are you too liberal to lead the House Democrats?

REP. PELOSI: Well, first of all, let me say we just finished our elections last night. We had elections in Louisiana, which were runoffs from the November 2nd election. We had one Democratic victory in one race and a Republican victory in the other. So we split in a red state, and we're very pleased with that. I take -- we're still looking at the results of those elections, because we're in, say, 40 different races and have 40 different views about why one race went a different way. It isn't like you're looking at a presidential, which is a national race.

I am very proud of my leadership of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. I'm proud of them to make history in choosing a woman who is their leader. I'm proud of the fact that we have had unity in our party. They said more unity ever than since Sam Rayburn was Speaker of the House in 1960. We're about consensus, we're about credibility in what we put forth, we have clarity in our message, we know who we are as Democrats. We have our new partnership for America's future with our agenda as we go into the next Congress.

MR. WALLACE: Let's talk about who you are as Democrats, and I'm not just talking about it as the House Democrats but the whole party. Let's look at some of your votes in Congress, if we can. You can take a look at them here. You voted against the Bush tax cuts.

REP. PELOSI: Right.

MR. WALLACE: You voted against creation of the Homeland Security Department; you voted against banning partial birth abortions; against the Defense of Marriage Act; you voted against authorizing the Iraq war; and against the $87 billion. Congresswoman, is that where the Democratic Party should be?

REP. PELOSI: Well, I believe that what I did vote against was discrimination. I firmly believe that going into Iraq was wrong, and I won't back off that. I think that we went in without leveling with the American people about the real cause of war. We went in without being fully prepared. Let me take this moment to salute our troops, our men and women in uniform. We are so proud of them. Whether we agree or not about going into Iraq does not diminish the pride and the appreciation we take in their service, their sacrifice, and the patriotism that they are demonstrating.

So we take great pride in them.

But the fact is they deserve better, even General Zinni said the level of sacrifice has not been met by the level of preparation for them.

MR. WALLACE: Let me ask you -- for instance, bans on gay marriage in November were on the ballot in 11 states, and it passed in all 11 states. Is the Democratic Party out of touch with where the country is on this issue?

REP. PELOSI: Well, I don't know your point. The point is that President Bush and Senator Kerry were substantively at the same place on gay marriage. They both opposed it, and they both supported civil unions. Clearly, the public is not ready for the idea of gay marriage, but Senator Kerry's position was identical to President Bush's on that score. So let's not over-read into those results.

MR. WALLACE: Of course, the president was also for the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and Senator Kerry was against that.

REP. PELOSI: I understand that, but that's about the constitution, and there were many Republicans who did not want to taint the constitution with an act of discrimination. Many Republicans fell into that category as well -- some in the Senate, some in the House of Representatives -- and they voted accordingly.

MR. WALLACE: Let me ask you -- Harry Reid has just taken over as the Democratic leader --

REP. PELOSI: -- yes, that's wonderful.

MR. WALLACE: -- in the Senate, but you and he have voted on opposite sides on a number of issues. You voted on opposite sides of authorizing the Iraq War, of the $87 billion funding for it, on partial birth abortions -- I believe you're on opposite sides about the ban on assault weapons. So who speaks for congressional Democrats -- you or him?

REP. PELOSI: Well, you're taking areas where we disagree. There is the fundamental core values of the Democratic Party, which is to work to grow the economy; to create jobs; to encourage small business; to encourage ownership; to expand access to quality healthcare; to enhance opportunity by making higher education more affordable to America's young people, sending them to college without sending them into crippling debt; to have our children live in safe neighborhoods, drug-free, crime-free, and a safe and clean environment; first and foremost, to provide for the national defense, to protect and defend the American people and to have accountability -- accountability for our budget and for our spending, which is rampant, as you know. This budget deficit is really immoral. So on those core principles, Democrats are united, and that is where we come together to make our case to the American people and to the Congress to hope to influence decisions in the Congress and to hopefully work with the President of the United States.

MR. WALLACE: I want to ask you about one other area. In fact, it involves the president, because you and other congressional leaders are meeting with the president tomorrow on the issue of Social Security reform. Would you accept any package that includes cuts in benefits for workers years in the future? Not current workers, not workers -- people about to retire -- but years in the future?

REP. PELOSI: What I have said to President Bush a couple of different times is that we should go to the table in a bipartisan way with no preconditions -- put everything on the table. Some principles I think we should adhere to would be that the middle class is not harmed, and that we do not add to the deficit. I don't think we should start at a place where the president's advisor Mankiw said, "Let me state clearly that there are no free lunches here. The benefits now scheduled for future generations, under current law, are not sustainable given the projected path of payroll tax revenue, they are empty promises."

Well, we have to start at a better place than that, I believe. But I do believe that if we're going to deal with Social Security, it has to be a sustainable solution that is bipartisan.

MR. WALLACE: You would consider, then, for instance, raising the retirement age, given the fact that with life expectancy people are living so much longer, you would consider raising the retirement age for workers 10, 20 years down the line?

REP. PELOSI: Well, when you talk about raising the retirement age, you know, in your profession you can go on for a very long time, as your wonderful father has. But if you're doing --

MR. WALLACE: -- that depends on the boss but, anyway, go ahead.

REP. PELOSI: If you're doing heavy lifting on the job, not that you aren't -- but if you're doing physically heavy lifting on the job, that might be a different story.

MR. WALLACE: I'm sure we consider --

REP. PELOSI: -- what I'm saying no preconditions go to the table, no preconditions, I certainly would. I believe that not cutting benefits should be a priority. But we go to the table, again, no preconditions on either side. And I look forward to working with the president on this.

MR. WALLACE: Congresswoman, thank you so much, great to have you with us today. I appreciate it.

REP. PELOSI: Thank you, Chris, happy anniversary again, congratulations.

MR. WALLACE: Thank you. I think we've overdone this. Anyway, up next -- you need a scorecard these days to see who is in and who is out of the president's second term. When we come back, we'll play the cabinet shuffle with our panel -- Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol, and Ceci Connolly. Stay tuned.

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