PRESS CONFERENCE WITH REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN
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SPEAKER PELOSI: I just had the privilege of speaking to the House Democrats about how we're progressing on the economic recovery package. We took great pride in the brilliant presentation that President Obama made last night, to the country, and that he has presented to Florida, to the Floridians today.
Here back in the capital, we're moving in a forward direction. Momentarily we will be appointing conferees on the floor of the House, in order to go to conference later today, to put together the reconciliation between the House and the Senate.
And hopefully that will be done as soon as possible, because tens of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs every day. Six hundred thousand of them lost their jobs in the month of January.
We cannot lose any time in stopping that by passing the economic recovery package.
Our colleagues are excited about the prospects, concerned about some of the differences between the House and the Senate. And we promised that because our bill, the House-passed bill, produced more jobs, we'll go to conference to fight for those jobs.
In addition, some of the other business of the meeting was that I told our colleagues that because of the condition of our economy and the financial crisis our country is in, that the leadership will be instructing the Appropriations Committee not to include a COLA for next year in the appropriations bill that is being put together for fiscal year 2010.
I also asked our chairmen -- I spoke with them this morning at the chairmen's meeting, but reported to our caucus that we are asking -- our leadership is asking the chairs of our committees, in the spirit of Mr. Tanner's legislation, for fiscal accountability, asking our chairmen to hold hearings on the issues that are before the -- the agencies of government that are before them: how the tax dollar is spent, what the results are.
Again, in the interests of fiscal soundness, we'll be looking at everything from entitlements to defense spending -- again, student loans to every dollar that the federal government spends.
So we're hard at work, eager to end -- to end the conference on the recovery package, and look forward to sending it to the president's desk, hopefully before the end of this week.
Q Madame Speaker, could you describe the tenor of the meeting, and address the possibility of any danger of your left-wing, particularly -- any defections on that part, in terms of not going along with the bill, with some of the cuts that the Senate -- (off mike)?
SPEAKER PELOSI: The tenor of this meeting?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, our members have one thing at heart: the creation of jobs to relieve the economic strife and stress that America's families are experiencing right now. So they know, as President Obama cautioned the nation, that we cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the effective and of the necessary. And we will not.
Any one of us can write the bill that we like better. Isn't that the way it always is? But we built consensus. We're proud of the product that we put forth. And it has a strategic vision, a strategic mission. So all the parts of it have to come together in a way that keeps the promise that we are making of bold, swift action to create jobs.
The -- I think that we're in good shape with our caucus.
I think I have time for one more, though, because I have got to get to work.
Q (Off mike) -- between the two bills -- Senator Reid sounded confident this morning after your meeting with President Obama that it would take about another 24 hours to break those differences. Do you share that timeline? And do you hope --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I hope that it's so.
Q (Inaudible) -- to bridge the differences?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I hope that that is so. Well, you know what the regular order is. The House has passed its bill. The Senate has passed its. Usually you go to conference and split the difference between the two houses. That may not be the case here. At these conferences, my experience has been that the White House has a seat at the table, that they weigh in -- whether it's a physical seat, but they weigh in on it. And we have a clear idea of what the differences are and hope to resolve them as soon as possible. But I --
Q (Off mike) -- about the three Senate Republican votes, to what extent do they play a role in your calculus here at conference, insuring that those three GOP senators will be aboard the eventual consensus?
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, my -- our responsibility on the House side -- and our conferees will be Mr. -- Steny will be announcing on the floor -- Mr. Obey, Mr. Waxman and Mr. Rangel. They're speaking for our House Democrats. Mr. Boehner has not informed me yet who the conferees are -- perhaps you know -- of the -- on the Republican side.
But from our standpoint, we're there to fight for the jobs. The Senate conferees will advocate for their position and they will be responsible for what the senators think or vote or what. But that's not my --
STAFF: Thank you all.
Q I'm talking about Collins, Specter and Snowe.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Right.
Q To what extent do they play a role in your calculus? Because they need those votes to --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, as I said, that's part of what the Senate will bring to the table. We'll bring to the -- hopes, aspirations of the American people for us to create as many jobs as possible in the most fiscally sound way and the most transparent way to stabilize the economy -- to stabilize the economy. And that is what our responsibility will be at the table.
We have some particular suggestions on how we can get more jobs out of this conference than there are in the Senate bill. And we hope that they will be well received by the other -- (inaudible word).
Q What about the top end of $800 billion, with Senator Nelson --
Q What other suggestions have you talked about?
SPEAKER PELOSI: You know what? I really -- I won't be finished if I stay here. So I really do have to go.
Q Could you just mention these suggestions that you mentioned? Can you articulate them, what they --
SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, the issues that the president talked about in his speech last night are priorities that we share. The president talked about school construction, how that was important to children, but it creates jobs immediately.
He talked about the greening of America's federal buildings, how that was important to our environment and economy. It created jobs immediately.
He talked about information, health information technology and how that makes health care better, more affordable, fewer errors and how that created jobs immediately. There are some. The extension of COBRA and Medicaid piece that goes with that on the tax side and energy and commerce side of it is important. The tax credit for children, the refundable tax credit for children is important.
I'm not going to give you the whole list, but all of these stimulate the economy, create jobs, are fiscally sound and are part of a strategic mission for this bill to create jobs, to bring stability, to inspire confidence and now I have to go to work.
Mr. Hoyer, I'm sure will be happy to --
Q Mr. Hoyer, how long do you think it's going to take (inaudible).
HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER STENY HOYER (D-MD): I don't think we know realistically. I have said and the Speaker have said and Leader Reid have said that we're going to get this bill done before we leave here for the Presidents' Day break. I'm hopeful that we can get this done relatively quickly and we're going to work as hard as we can to get it done by Friday.
Q Senator Nelson has been saying that the -- (inaudible).
REP. HOYER: I'm not sure about this, but I think Senator Nelson and Senator Collins both mentioned an $800 billion number, frankly, as they were relating to $780 billion bill, however, the Senate added $60 billion to that bill on the floor, which got it to $840 billion. So I'm not sure that was done, I think, before the Senate added substantial dollars to their bill.
Q (Off mike.)
REP. HOYER: Excuse me?
Q (Off mike.) Do you expect the debt ceiling to increase --
REP. HOYER: Well, I think the answer to that is the responsible thing for us to do given the situation that we confront. It's clearly that we're going to borrow money and raising the debt ceiling I think is a responsible thing to do. Nobody likes to do that, but very frankly, we ought to stop buying things and stop borrowing if we're not going to raise the debt ceiling, otherwise, America is going to pay its bills.
Q Do you essentially -- (off mike) -- that the final version passes the Senate?
REP. HOYER: Nobody has said that and I don't think that's the case. I certainly hope it's not the case, after all, the House passed a bill, the Senate passed a bill. They're different and we're now going to go to conference to try to resolve those differences and the way you do that is to compromise and I would hope that that's the procedure we're going to follow and I would hope that all of the members of the Senate, all the members of the House understand that's the process and are willing to give a little. But the very fact is that the president said yesterday and has said continually, we have said continually, it is absolutely essential for the strength of our economy, the ability of our economy to rebound, to stop the hemorrhaging of jobs in America, that we pass this bill and we pass it soon and we give confidence to the economy and to our people that their government can act on behalf of stabilizing the economy and trying to bring back jobs as opposed to lose jobs at the extraordinary rate that we've lost them over the last few months.
Q (Off mike.)
REP. HOYER: Well, let me say, I don't know whether the Speaker said this, but the Speaker and I view this the same. This bill is whichever bill you use, the Senate or the House bill, a very, very substantial investment in bringing our economy back if we took the Senate bill as it is. There are differences, however, state stabilization being one of the major differences, large dollar differences, about half the difference. We believe the state stabilization fund were very important to give the states who, after all, have to have a balanced budget, 49 of them are constrained by balanced budgets. I'm for that, by the way, so they don't lay off teachers, they don't lay off police, they don't lay off firefighters and they can continue to operate in a way that will educate our children, keep our people healthy and grow our economy.
So that that's the difference and we're going to have to talk about it and we'll see whether we can resolve the differences between those two figures, but obviously, we thought it was important and we still feel it's important.
Thank you. I apologize because I forgot I wanted to say something. I doubt that there are -- there's anybody in the House of Representatives who has fought harder to make sure that we have cost of living adjustments on a regular basis. I did that because I think when you do large raises as opposed to cost of living adjustments, the people understandably say why are you doing that? We haven't done that? However, we're in a context today where we have extraordinary pain in our community, people losing their jobs, our economy under great stress and the Speaker and I have discussed and we both agree that it would not be appropriate for us to take a COLA adjustment in the coming year.
And so we will provide in the bill that handles this matter in the future that that COLA adjustment will not occur.