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Public Statements

Weekly Press Conference With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Statement

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Location: Washington, DC

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SPEAKER PELOSI: Good morning.

Q Good morning.

Q Good morning.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yesterday, we were all dutifully shaken by the news of the violent attack at the Holocaust Museum. It reminds us of the valiant work of people who strive to protect us here, whether it's the tourist who visits, the press who cover, the members of Congress, the embassies, the -- the administration. They do so with great courage.

We had our own: Gibson and Chestnut. Those two words mean a great deal to us here, two who lost their lives fighting in the Capitol. And now, Stephen Johns.

Later today, we will have a resolution on the floor, hopefully to give comfort to his family and also to talk about how despicable this act of violence was. It's really sad.

Earlier this week, we met with the president at the White House when he announced his pay-as-you-go initiative. It was with great excitement that we heard his statement. Just as a little history, maybe even ancient history to some of you -- that means before-you- were-born history -- in 1982, at the Democratic midterm convention in Philadelphia, Congressman George Miller introduced a resolution for pay-as-you-go. It was passed. It became part of the Democratic platform that year. And it took until 1990 for it to become operative here under -- when President Bush was president of the United States.

Throughout the '90s, it was how we operated, pay-as-you-go. And the last four budgets of President Clinton were in -- or in balance or in surplus. We have to -- we know what has happened in eight years intervening in terms of the reversal of that under George -- President George W. Bush.

But now, happily, Democrats are coming together around this concept. For many years, it has been the central organizing purpose of the Blue Dogs: fiscal discipline, fiscal responsibility. And -- but I want you to know that there are initiatives from all sectors of our caucus which support pay-as-you-go.

Early this year, in February, I sent a letter to our colleagues, the chairs of the committees, to ask them to subject everything under their scrutiny to -- under their jurisdiction to the harshest scrutiny to find savings when there's waste, fraud, abuse, obsolescence or duplication. We have gotten the reports back. We'll save $10 billion below the president's budget in that respect, and as our appropriations bills go forward, they will implement that direction.

Health care reform will be part of how we address -- reducing the deficit. Health care reform is entitlement reform as the president so clearly states.

So with great excitement that we are accelerating our discussion of pay as you go as an important part of how we go forward on energy, on health care, on education, the three pillars to turn the economy around.

The Congress in the next week or so will have legislation on the supplemental and the FDA that our committee work will be focused on the three pillars of the president's agenda, which were in the budget, health care again, education, energy, reduce the deficit, lower taxes, create jobs, turn the economy around.

With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions. Yes, sir?

Q You said that health care reform will be fully paid for?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yes.

Q (Off mike.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: That is our intention and that is the work that we are doing now, one of them. But as a priority, how is it scored? How do we pay for it? It will be paid for.

Q Speaker Pelosi?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yes, ma'am.

Q Back here.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Okay.

Q So I guess the disclosure forms are out.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Right.

Q You have large -- (inaudible) -- through other members of Congress --(inaudible) -- and not just bailout funds, but in large aspects of the economy, you're investing in clean energy -- (inaudible) -- do you think there should be stronger restrictions on how members of Congress -- is it a conflict of interest there should be stronger restrictions?

SPEAKER PELOSI: No. I don't think there should be restriction on investments. We did that when it became accompanied with receiving funds, we divested ourselves of that, but for a long time, AIG was a thriving company and a concern in our country. But when there's any thought of conflict of interest, yes, then we should do that. But we don't know what that's going to be in advance. Who would have ever thought that AIG, this giant of an industry would come to the place where the United States Government had to bail it out? Nobody is happy about that.

Yes?

Q Madame Speaker, later today, the Commerce Committee will meet on the supplemental. Can you talk to us for a moment -- later today will be the conference committee on the supplemental --

SPEAKER PELOSI: Conference committee.

Q And there's been a lot of debate about further language from the Senate --

SPEAKER PELOSI: Right.

Q Has a final decision been made on that? And if the decision has been made to strike that then the House -- (inaudible) -- how was that decision arrived at and why?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, no final decision has been made. The conference committee will work its will and make its decision. But I can't say to you there's great concern in the House about making an exception to freedom of information while the case is before a judge.

Q Madame Speaker, when your office was working on the TARP legislation and other bailout legislation, did you at the time know about your portfolio and how much money your family had invested in AIG and other companies?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I signed my disclosure form. Yes. We didn't know on September 17th or 18th, the administration would come in and tell us the condition of our economy that if we didn't act now, we would not have an economy. That was a Thursday night -- by Monday. No, we did not know that. But I signed my disclosure form.

Q Madame Speaker, on energy, Chairman Waxman and Congressman Boucher yesterday both said that they intend -- they're working toward a floor debate the week before the 4th of July recess, June 22nd. Can you confirm that that is the goal that you're working toward? And also, how are you helping to bridge the differences with the Agriculture Committee?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we will bring the bills to the floor when they are ready, whether it's health care, whether it's energy, when they are ready. And I congratulate Chairman Waxman and Mr. Markey for the masterful job they did in passing the bill through the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Now, other committees have their jurisdiction to weigh in on and that's the process we're involved in and when we're finished and when we're ready, we'll go to the floor.

Q On health care, Madame Speaker --

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yes, ma'am.

Q There are bipartisan discussions in the Senate about an idea, looking at creating privately-run cooperatives instead of a public option. I'm just wondering what you think of the concept and given the concerns among some of your moderate members about public options, this is something you might be able to do.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Not instead of a public option, no. In our caucus, I think, members have -- I know that members have been very clear about what their concerns might be about a public option and I agree. It should be actuarially sound. It should be administrative and self-sufficient. It should be a real competitor with the private sector and not have an unfair advantage. When you say the words public option if that is the term about we will be using, you have to say right next to it, level playing field. But in our House, there's strong support for public option and great respect for the concerns that had been raised within our caucus and we will address them.

Q Given what you just described is going to be very complicated for people to understand, given the experience of the Clinton health plan had and we had with Medicare Part D with public worries and anxieties and confusion, what strategy are you going to follow to explain this massive bill to people? Because health care is peoples' -- one of their most basic worries in life.

SPEAKER PELOSI: It sure is. It's a personal worry in terms of their health and well being. It's also an economic issue for them as well and I always say, everybody in the country is an expert on his or her health care and how to be able to afford it.

We have an overarching message of affordability, accessibility and quality that the president has put forth. In that framework, we will have the initiatives to help us meet those goals and deeply rooted in those values.

Right now, a bill is being considered and I can only speak to the House, the three committees are working in unison practically with the unified staff. They will have something on the table in a week or two and hopefully most of it will already be scored because at some point, we have to know how much each element of it costs to see what we can afford and then how we pay for it. It will be paid for. And that challenge for us is to relate what we are doing here to the lives of the American people and how this makes a difference to them.

But we're very excited about it, whether it's about prevention and wellness, which is the important part of this, investments in scientific research, that we can have personalized, customized care for Americans with investments in technology so that we have a common record for all people to be on it, whether it's investments and community health centers, to reach out to achieve -- as many people being involved as possible because that's hard and community health centers will enable us to do that, whether it's having the resources to have sufficient health care providers at every step of the way.

We will be able to explain the bill to the American people once a mark comes forward and then open -- Congress will work its will and people will make suggestions and we will have a product that will meet the president's values, meet the needs of the American people, be paid for and make America healthier.

Q Madame Speaker, the public plan or government plan, whatever you want to call it, is it your belief that this is central, you know, an essential element of health care reform? Can you have effective health care reform without a public or government plan?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, let me say -- at the health summit the president was asked this question by Senator Grassley and you may have heard him. He said, don't you think that having a public health plan is unfair in terms of competition with the private plans?

The president said I think a public option is a way to keep the private sector honest. That -- and we want to achieve just accessibility, quality and affordability so that all Americans have access to quality health care. He then said, if you have another way to do that, put it on the table. And that's where we are. Everything should be on the table.

From our perspective here, though, there is strong support for a public option right from the start, and there is also full support for having it be a real competitor, not something that has an overwhelming advantage. Of course, it's not for profit, and it doesn't advertise, so it has -- it doesn't have some of the overhead that the private sector has.

Already, just the thought of having a public option has sort of eliminated words from the health insurance glossary of "precondition," "portability" -- everybody seems to be subscribing to the idea that we shouldn't have a precondition in order to get -- eliminating you for health insurance.

This is -- this is what we have come to do. Three chairmen have asked that Chairman Dingell be the author of this bill. Every year since he has been here, he's been the author of universal health care. Before that, his father was. When he was a young member of Congress in the '60s, he gaveled Medicare. He gaveled down the Medicare bill. Very few Republican votes, by the way, on Medicare; very few Republican votes. So we've heard the same concerns before.

But it is -- it's a pretty -- as I say, this is a life work for many members of Congress, and it certainly is a responsibility for all of us. This will happen. We told the president we'd have a bill by the end of July, that it would be paid for, and that's the course of action we are in.

And I commend our three chairmen -- Chairman Rangel, Chairman Waxman and Chairman George Miller -- for working together to eliminate any turf challenges that occurred in the early '90s -- '93/'94 -- and to facilitate this improvement in the lives of the American people.

Q Madame Speaker, will the Senate -- (or House ?) accept the Senate-passed tobacco bill barring unexpected amendment adoptions in the next couple days?

SPEAKER PELOSI: When we see the bill, I can give you a more definite answer. But from what I have seen so far, I believe it will be possible for us to accept their bill and send it right on to the president. We're talking about the FDA tobacco bill.

Thank you all very much.


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