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MADDOW: Leader Pelosi, thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate it.
PELOSI: My pleasure. Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: The debate on the Republican proposal to repeal health reform is much anticipated. It is beginning. A lot of congressional Democrats I have talked to about this have described this effort as a second opportunity for Democrats to convince the country that health reform is a good idea. Do you see it that way?
PELOSI: Well, I think it"s a continuation of the effort to do so. What is most convincing of all, though, is having the bill come into effect and people seeing what it means in their lives and what we are seeing now is those provisions that have become law, removing discrimination on the basis of pre-existing condition, especially important to children and to women, allowing a young person to stay on his or her parents" policy until he"s 26 years old, lifting the lifetime limit--all of those kinds of things having prevented care and not have a co-pay, for example. As people understand what this means to their health and their economic security because of reducing costs, I think will--people will have a more favorable view of it. But yes, this bill will afford us that opportunity.
MADDOW: We are--we are seeing some signs of change and some deliberate effort by health reform proponents to achieve change. The Republicans support for repeal is dropping.
Among the other side on this issue, though, there is a significant chunk of the public who would like to see not only health reform not repealed but health reform expanded. Of course, under your leadership, the House did pass a public option. And many people have talked about health reform that did pass as a potential steppingstone for doing more on the issue.
Do you see it--if it doesn"t get repeal, it"s something that could be built on?
PELOSI: Well, let me say this. I think the point you make is a very good one because when people say that they are opposed to the bill, some of it is because it doesn"t do enough. And that"s never put into the calculation. So, you are opposed to it, so you are opposed to any health care initiative. No, some people thought it should be more, many of our friends.
And I think that this is not ideology, this bill, it"s a problem-solver. And it is a better way to solve the problem, which includes the quality of care and lowers the cost to individuals and to the federal government and to business. Then we are open to those.
As you know, the public option would save an additional $100 billion. It didn"t make the cut. It didn"t have enough support to survive the House and the Senate and the rest. But what is in the bill achieves many of the same purposes of that.
So, I don"t want to--I want people to understand opportunities that are there for individuals to have access to quality affordable health care.
MADDOW: If Republicans in the House try to sabotage implementation of health reform by gutting its funding, do you have a strategy to try to protect it from that?
PELOSI: Well, we"ve been working with the president on this because that is a way they could try to do it. But, again, getting back to your earlier point, it is a way to take this message to the public as they are sabotaging your ability to not--to be discriminated--to end discrimination on the basis of pre-existing condition or for your child to stay on your policy. In other words, you have to take what it means to people in their lives.
We had hearing today in the Capitol, where people came, and seven people came in and talk about what it meant to them. A mother of twins, who when they were 4 years old, these twin girls were both diagnosed with cancer. They are 11 now. She told us the story of all that and how this bill is making a difference right away for them and it has been in effect before, how the family wouldn"t have had to declare bankruptcy.
Those kinds of stories about health and economic wellbeing are what we have to drive home to the American people as the Republicans try to sabotage the bill.
MADDOW: And you have to drive that home in a way more effectively than during the debate? Is this--the effort to sort of take a second stab at selling the virtues of the bill to the public, is--does that reflect a failure to have done that effectively during the initial debate?
PELOSI: Well, to tell you the truth, the House Democrats saved this health care reform bill. And so, I am proud of my colleagues. In the month of August every year, a half a year ago, we had hundreds and hundreds of town meetings and public events talk promoting what was in the health care bill. Without that, I think the bill would have been gone.
Our members have advanced it, we passed it, we had to wait for the Senate a long time to do a bill because of the obstructional part of the Republicans in the Senate. But now, this is now. We are going forward.
Whatever success the other side may have had in misrepresenting what was in the bill, we have to have more success in conveying what actually is in the bill, and how it solves problems for America"s working families, how it gives leverage to them away from the insurance companies but to the patients.
MADDOW: In terms of the way the Republicans have tried to parlay their opposition to health reform into political capital for themselves, not only in the past election, I think but they were hoping they could do that in the second half of the president"s term--do you think that members of Congress who are voting to repeal health reform should be called on to also reject their own government provided health insurance if that is something they are so against on principle?
PELOSI: Yes. But let me go back to your opening premise. I don"t think this election was about health care reform. This election was about 9 ½ percent unemployment and in some places worse than that. It"s hard to talk about health reform if people don"t have jobs. Jobs, jobs, jobs--that"s what our priority is, to create jobs.
There are certain obstructions in the Senate to our job, initiatives that we had again as we go forward, it"s job creation. And we wish our Republicans success in any job initiatives, creating initiatives and they have.
But that"s what the election was about. If we had not passed health care reform, we may have lost more seats from being ineffective and our members are very proud of the votes that they took. They are very proud of the votes they took on health care.
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MADDOW: In terms of grounds on which Republicans and Democrats - a ground on which Republicans and Democrats may be able to come together, even in the House, even in what is a deeply partisan time, after Tucson, is it politically feasible to reform any of the nation"s laws or policies that touch on guns? And not is it a good idea, but do you think it is politically feasible to do anything about guns?
PELOSI: One initiative that I think deserves some attention is the magazine - why would somebody be able to have a magazine that has 30 cartridges that has the capacity to shoot 30 times? And does that put our law enforcement at a disadvantage?
I think we have to look into that. I don"t think we can do very much beyond that. But I do think what Carolyn - Congressman McCarthy, in her own grief - the Long Island Railroad killer killed her husband and wounded her son very seriously.
And she is very pragmatic about this, about what can be done. And so it is worth a look. I think it is important to hear from law enforcement on this and to see why (UNINTELLIGIBLE) need a 30-cartridge magazine. Let"s have that debate in a respectful way.
MADDOW: When you were speaker, did you ever consider bringing up portions of the expired assault weapons ban, either as in a consolidated bill, bringing up the ban as a whole or bringing up specific elements of it including that extended capacity cartridge issue when Democrats were in control?
PELOSI: I think the expanded cartridge issue is one that"s riper now. And I think that when people saw that capacity - I spoke to Patricia Maisch, the woman who snatched - God bless her. How courageous she was. And it is interesting to hear in that moment she was courageous.
MADDOW: And recognized what he was doing -
PELOSI: And how many people"s lives she saved. She really was a hero because she went right into the fray. And it would have made it different. It would have made a difference if he was able to put that in.
So we really have to balance all of this out. I know people are concerned about their Second Amendment rights. Is it infringement on that if you can do 10 shots rather than 30 shots? And what does it mean to law enforcement?
So I think that when you ask about any piece of it before, I think, at this time, there might be some opportunity to talk about that. We"ll see, but it is very hard. I"ll be honest with you, it is very hard.
And it is - we just don"t have the votes.
MADDOW: Will it be a political failure if nothing changes in response to what has absolutely gripped the nation in this tragedy?
PELOSI: Well, here"s what I think. Every time we talk about it and we talk about guns and say it could get in the hands of somebody who is unstable. We talk about vitriolic language, which could fall in the mind of somebody who"s mentally unstable.
Let"s do something about mental health in our country. That, to me - and that"s one of the things that this health care bill is so important, because it has parity. We passed a mental health party bill.
Patrick Kennedy, when he was here - the Paul Wellstone Bill. We are very proud of that. We made a part of that - we incorporated it into the health care reform bill. And that"s really important.
And I think strengthening that and implementing that really gets to part of the frightening part of guns in the wrong hands, ideas falling on the wrong minds. Let"s get to the problem which is the mental health issue in our country.
It is stunning and obviously - probably it was - I think, we don"t know because they have to do the investigation. But it apparently had something to do with what happened in Tucson. And I think that captures many of the categories of concerns that we have.
MADDOW: To be clear, though, you are saying the effort to repeal health reform would be a step backwards on mental health?
PELOSI: Absolutely, positively. It really is. And that"s - that"s very serious to say to a business, if you get health care insurance for your workers, you must give mental health care as well for them and for their families.
It is very, very important. They will not be discriminated against because of the mental health challenges they may have and the medications they may need. So that - if I had to do one thing as a result of what happened in Tucson, it would be to address the mental health challenges that we have in our country.
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MADDOW: The Democratic leader expressing guarded, guarded, guarded hopes that some policy might conceivably be made about extended ammunition clips after the Tucson shooting, but expressing downright insistence that mental health issues be part of the political response to Tucson.
She was also pretty insistent with me when I asked her this question, which is sometimes an awkward question for liberals.
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(on camera) Are you worried that with these - this new crew of senior advisers and staffers coming into the administration in positions like this that the White House will become less liberal, less progressive in its outlook?
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Nancy Pelosi"s very firm response to that question when we come back.
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MADDOW: Are you at all concerned that the vice president"s new chief-of-staff, Bruce Reed, is from the Democratic Leadership Council, the president"s chief-of-staff is on the board of another centrist group, Third Way?
Are you worried that with these - this new crew of senior advisers and staffers coming into the administration in positions like this, that the White House will become less liberal, less progressive in its outlook?
PELOSI: I think the White House has always been fairly balanced in how it goes - I mean, this White House, if that"s we are talking about. I"m not concerned about that.
I have confidence in President Obama and the Vice President Biden
and in the people they trust to get the job done for them. But understand
you ran an awful list of things that are accomplished that would never have happened without Barack Obama"s as president and Joe Biden as vice president.
So they have delivered only solutions wherever they are from; in other words, from the right, from the left, from the middle. We hope to influence those decisions in a way that is progressive in that it meets the needs of all of the American people.
But, no, I"m not worried about that. Again, I"m very proud of the president and the vice president.
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