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Transcript of Pelosi, Democratic Leaders' Press Conference Today

Press Conference

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Location: Washington, DC

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center and was joined by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson, and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Ranking Member on the Small Business Committee, to announce the recommendations of the Democratic Ranking Members of House Committees to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction for job creation, revenue and savings within the jurisdiction of each committee. Below is a transcript of the press conference.

Leader Pelosi. Good morning everyone.

Tomorrow, October 14th, is the date by which suggestions to the Supercommittee--have we decided on that term--Supercommittee are due. I'm very proud to report that our Ranking Members on all of the committees of jurisdiction are submitting their proposals to the Supercommittee. It's an excellent piece of work. It follows our wish to have a big, bold, and balanced proposal put forth by the Supercommittee to the Congress later this year.

It's about creating jobs. It's the centerpiece of how we create growth to bring revenue to the Treasury to reduce the deficit. That entrepreneurial spirit of America, it's about innovation.
In here you will see proposals about how to grow small businesses to do just that. Proposals on how we can find revenue and how we can reduce costs. I'm very proud of the work of our Members.

As we do this, as we go forward, I think it's very important to subject some of the suggestions to hearings, and it remains to be seen what the Republicans will be submitting. We had hoped that there could be bipartisan, and in a couple of cases they will be, but they're not yet in this packet, but they will be by tomorrow. And that would be Agriculture and our Veterans Committee. We are hoping that they will have bipartisan proposals.

What we are calling for from the committee are open hearings. We want open hearings. Rule 5 of their rules talks about transparency, so we want to honor their rules by having much more transparency in the proceedings.

We are calling upon the Supercommittee and the co-chairs to have open hearings with the Domenici-Rivlin proposal, on the Simpson Bowles proposal, and the Gang of Six. We think that they provide a good pathway, a good framework for deficit reduction, economic growth and can be a good place for us to start.

I just want to add this. When we passed the bill to avoid default to honor the full faith and credit of our country, $1.2 trillion [was] cut. The bill also called for an additional $1.2 trillion to be cut with interest deduction. That takes us to about $2.5 trillion. So that is going to happen. It will either happen by the work of this committee, or it will happen by sequestration. I hope it will happen by the work of this committee. And we hope that it will go farther than that to go to $4 trillion. Big, bold, balanced.

And so in the interest of achieving that, we want to have as much transparency as possible. We have excellent proposals from our Members and here joining me to talk about how we go forward, I'm pleased that we are joined by the distinguished Democratic Whip, Steny Hoyer; our chair of our Caucus, the champion for jobs, jobs, jobs, Mr. John Larson; and our champion on small business in the House, chairwoman Nydia Velazquez.

Steny has championed "Make It In America", and has been a deficit hawk. He is here to talk about that.

Whip Hoyer. Thank you very much, Madam Leader. Big, bold, and balanced. I hope that is what the committee is focused on what we call the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or affectionately, the Supercommittee. It is a "super" committee in the sense that it has been being given extraordinary powers to come up with a proposal that will then be considered, and 51 members of the Senate can pass it. If a majority of the Senate agrees, it will pass. If a majority of the House agrees, it will pass and go to the President.

I'm hopeful that they will be successful. Failure ought not to be an option. This is it absolutely critical, in my opinion, for the fiscal health of America and for the economy of America and to restore America's confidence in our ability to face tough issues successfully.

It will also, in my opinion, restore the confidence of the international community in America's ability to manage its finances and to lead as the world surely wants us to do.

The Joint Select Committee has a responsibility to set us on a course that will both make significant progress on our debt and speed our economic recovery. In the Bowles Simpson report and the Domenici-Rivlin report, and in the Gang of Six proposal, they all spoke to the necessity to grow the economy and to balance the budget. Not one or the other. They recognized that one without the other will not work.

We need to create jobs now. We need to increase a revenue stream because we have people working, not because we raise taxes, but because we have people working. Its immediate focus may be reining in the deficit--"its" being the committee's--but the effects on the committee's recommendations will be felt across the economy.

The most important thing I believe is that the committee have a real chance to succeed and to reach compromise. We are all working towards that end. That's why the letters from our Ranking Members to the committee reflects the need to help the economy grow now while setting a path to reduce the deficit over the longer term.

House Democrats want the committee's recommendations to be, again, as our Leader has said, big and bold and balanced. And we want to make sure that they are balanced for the investments we need to grow jobs and strengthen our competitiveness.

Our "Make It In America" plan includes many such investments that can help create jobs right away and lay the groundwork for future growth. I also believe it is important for the committee's recommendations to guarantee that all Americans, each and every one of us, are paying our fair share and contributing together. We cannot afford to place the burden of deficit reduction only on the backs of working families and certainly not on the most vulnerable in our country.

I join Leader Pelosi in congratulating our Ranking Members and, yes, those who are working in a bipartisan way to say that we can address our deficits and our debt and grow jobs and our economy at the same time. Indeed, if we don't do both, we will not succeed.

I'm now pleased to yield the Chairman of our Caucus who has been such, as the Leader pointed out, vigorous, focused, effective advocate of growing our economy and focusing on jobs, John Larson of Connecticut.

Chairman Larson. Thanks, Steny. We do that by making it America, of course.

Whip Hoyer. Amen, brother.

Chairman Larson. Amen. Let me underscore what our two leaders have said with respect to the efforts put forward by the members of our Caucus. I think it reflects our desire to put the country back to work, and the consistent theme in everything that they have said is that job creation equals deficit reduction. Job creation does equal deficit reduction. The CBO has said so clearly. There is no other single item or silver bullet that reduces the deficit by a third other than the creation of a job.

What we witnessed across America in the last several weeks are our citizens taking to the streets, borne out of frustration, but borne primarily out of the desire to see their government respond to the simple dignity that comes from a job.

The opportunity to look across the table at your spouse and children and family and let them know that they are secure, not only the fact that you have a job, but secure again in their aspirations and in their dreams for this great country of ours.

As the Leader has said, we have an unbelievable opportunity as witnessed by the enthusiasm of the people in our Caucus, and we dare say, I believe Members of the other side of the aisle who truly do want to come together in this moment in this opportunity when the rest of the world is in peril and when the United States can be that shining example, we have an opportunity that excludes the cloture vote in the Senate and the poison pill amendments in the House that will provide an up or down vote on something that is bold, something that is balanced and something that is big. We all know that that is the path forward to job creation, and this opportunity is one for us to come together. Not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans and seize this opportunity that we have before us.

That will continue to be our message. That's the message that our members have sent forward to this committee. We have a very short period of time to enact, and that's why we have to move. And no one has led us in this area as it relates to job creation and small business better than Nydia Velazquez.

Congresswoman Velazquez. Thank you. Thank you and good morning everyone. Thank you, Leader Pelosi, Steny Hoyer. Chairman Larson said that job creation equals deficit reduction. I am here to say that the economic drivers of our economy are small businesses. That they are the innovators and they are the ones that create jobs in our economy.

We are here to make it clear that we will support deficit reduction, and we are prepared to offer solutions to get our country back on track. The goal is simple, to jump start the economy and that starts with small businesses.

There are already plans in place to shrink the size of government. But this proposal, which passed in August and created the joint committee, will result in at least $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. This will decrease government spending and ease the burden on taxpayers.

But while these savings are in place, we are here to say we go big, bold and balanced. Yes, deficit reduction is essential. But it cannot be the end goal. We cannot so shortsighted that we just cut spending but fail to strengthen our economy or put people back to work. And this is where small businesses come in. They are the cornerstone of our Nation's economy. They are the innovators creating 64 percent of new jobs. Any legislative package reported out of the Supercommittee must prioritize their role in the economic recovery. The committee should look at different areas that will be a win win for the economy and taxpayers.

We also need to see more shared sacrifice. Banks that use Federal small business lending programs can make as much as $150,000 in profit on a single loan, and it is time that they do their fair share. This also means putting a greater focus on smaller loans to would-be entrepreneurs so that they can start up, grow, and continue to be the engine of our nation's economy.

The reality is that growth that small firms generate is hitting the exacta at Belmont Park. You not only increase tax receipts and lower the Federal deficit, but you also create jobs. That is the power of entrepreneurship and it is not the problem, but rather the solution. Thank you.

Leader Pelosi. Once again, I want to commend our Ranking Members and the members of the committee who worked with them to put together this proposal from each of the committees to the Supercommittee. Since this Supercommittee was formed, we've been getting ready for October 14th. We've had a series of Steering and Policy Committee hearings to take testimony. Our members in their committees have worked with their Ranking Members to bring forth their suggestions. Our members have gone out and met with thousands of small business owners to talk to them about…to listen to them and hear their suggestions how small business can be the key to job creation, which they are, capital formation, which they are. And how we can leverage our public initiatives in a way that creates jobs through small business creation and enhancement.

So again, many of the ideas contained here have had bipartisan support but don't have all bipartisan signature here, but hopefully they will be well received by the committee and we'll look forward to seeing what the Republicans will submit tomorrow. Hopefully we will have a great deal of common ground.

But, again, all of it, I think, needs openness of public hearings. Again, we call for the co-chairs to have public hearings on Rivlin-Domenici, Simpson-Bowles, and the Gang of Six proposals. With that, we will be pleased to take any questions that you have.

Q: Madam Leader, can you give us a little detail about some of the ideas in here? Like point to a couple of the tax and spending policies that your Ranking Members would be for?

Leader Pelosi. Well, as we said, we want it to be big, we want it to be bold, and we want it to be balanced. And in the balanced side, as all of our presenters today have said, we need to have everyone pay their fair share.

In addition to that, we have, for example--well, I want you to read this, so I'm not going to give you a shortcut to it, but I think you can see in the Natural Resources Committee by Ranking Member Ed Markey has proposals on how we could save tens of billions of dollars in his area of jurisdiction. We have proposals about job small business creation. Of course, the Small Business Committee takes the lead on that, but that is something that is impacted by the Ways and Means Committee and by Appropriations and by other committees as well.

So I want…I urge you to take a look through. I think you will be impressed by it. But it all comes under the framework: big, bold, balanced. It talks about how we can save money, how we can make…we can have savings that do not hurt our economic recovery as the distinguished Whip has said, we have to have growth…as all of our presenters have said, we have to have growth in order to reduce the deficit. And it's very interesting reading. It really won't take you that long. It is, I think, a very important document because it's realistic in what it proposes to achieve the goal that we set out to do.

Q: Ms. Pelosi, could you comment on the abortion bill that the GOP is bringing to the House floor tonight?

Leader Pelosi. Well, do you want to get to that right now? First of all, it is not a jobs bill. Everybody in America has [the] creation of jobs as their top priority, and what are we doing, but wasting time. I'm going to yield to Steny to talk about how ill-fated this legislation is, but not before saying this. Every woman in America should be concerned about this assault on women's health. This is just one aspect of women's health, but it has an impact across the board on how women get their health insurance. It is a waste of time. But I'm going to yield to Steny to talk about this.

Whip Hoyer. Obviously, it is not a new subject, as I said in my pen and pad. I haven't seen you at the pen and pad recently.

Q: I had to talk to the country. I'm sorry.

Whip Hoyer. I hear you. The fact of the matter is, you know, this is a political bill. The Republicans have been talking a lot about criticizing the President of the United States for submitting a comprehensive jobs bill to put America back to work. A jobs bill which almost every economist that has commented on it has said, in fact, will create jobs and will grow the economy. Now there's a difference as to how much that will be, but there seems to be little difference among economists right, middle and left, Democrat and Republican-associated, that the President's jobs bill will, in fact, grow our economy and create jobs. Nobody believes this bill will do that.

Secondly, this bill substantively puts women's health at risk. In fact, one aspect of it could undermine the responsibility for hospitals to deal with women who come in a crisis situation where their lives and health are at risk, and hospitals may not be required to serve them under this bill.

But the fact of the matter is they've criticized the President for presenting a jobs bill that they say the President knows won't pass. Two thirds of the American public, of course, when told about the aspects of this bill, support this bill. Two-thirds of the American people believe we ought to act on the jobs bill.

The fact of the matter is that this bill that you referred to, no Republican believes it is going to pass the Congress, or be signed by the President. So when they criticize the President for presenting a bill that won't pass…it should pass, two thirds of the American public are for it, and it deals with the issue that the American public is very concerned about, that's jobs. This bill enjoys none of those aspects. They ought to be having a jobs bill on the floor, unlike the previous 8 months that we have been in session where there have been no jobs bills that economists, not Democrats, not Republicans, not spin meisters, but economists say will grow jobs. None of the bills that they've offered to date have done that.

Congresswoman Velazquez. I would like to add something else. The fact that we're dealing with the bill that you alluded to shows the disconnect between Republican leaders and Americans. You know, 64 percent of the American public is supporting the jobs bill. And we owe this, we owe job creation to the 14 million people who are without a job. The fact of the matter is that wages and income are going down and poverty is rising in America.

We have to show leadership by taking the decision. It's just really sad that we cannot take this bill, the Jobs Act and move it forward. It is a bipartisan…it has bipartisan proposals. When it comes to small businesses, there is no Republican or Democratic approach to the issues affecting small businesses. And many of the proposals contained in the jobs bill are Republican proposals and are Democratic proposals.

Q: On the matter of Iran, how tough can the U.S. be with Iran considering all the questions that are still at large and unanswered about this plot?

Leader Pelosi. How tough? I think that we have been very clear in our sanctions bill on Iran in terms of trying to isolate them so that they will have some change in their behavior in terms of promoting terrorism and supporting those outside the country.

Now, I have been briefed on this matter. Most of what I have been briefed on is in the public domain; that which is not, I cannot [discuss]. But let me enlarge the issue for a moment. The fact that Iran has a program, a nuclear program, is something that should be of concern to every country in the world. Of course, it's of concern to Israel because Israel has proximity to Iran. But it's an issue for all of us. And I believe that what we have to do as a country is be very frank with our allies around the world to say that a relationship with us means putting your foot down in terms of the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran. It is the most dangerous thing that is happening in the world today and it must be stopped. Hopefully, the sanctions that we have in place, the participation of some of our allies will send a very clear message.

This incident now that happily--not happily--fortunately avoided is just another indication of Iran's challenges to the security in our country and across the world, the global threat. Israel bears the brunt, as I said, because they're the nearest neighbor and have the inflammatory statements made against them, but it is a problem for the entire world.

Q: Leader Pelosi, you have praised the Wall Street protests, members of your caucus have, the DCCC. A lot of these protesters seem to be upset at the system as a whole. Washington, Wall Street. So don't they consider your party…I mean, it was in control for the last 2 years of the two branches of government…don't they consider your party at least as part of the problem as well?

Leader Pelosi. It's very hard to explain to the Wall Street protesters that you need 60 votes in the Senate and a simple majority is not enough. A majority in the House and a majority in the Senate. And many of the jobs proposals that the President has put forth have been obstructed in the Senate. They were very clear in the Senate that the President's failure was their success.

But not to go into that, let's just take this to a larger place. 99 percent they're talking about. I think it's probably about 99.5 percent of the American people feel that the system is not fair, that people don't have a fair chance, that obstacles are put up for them if they work hard and play by the rules, there are obstacles to their achieving success.

So, yes, I think any criticism of the status quo and the establishment is justified. So when you say I praise this or that, I commend them for being outspoken. They have a varied agenda, but the message is clear: The status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable for our keeping a strong middle class, which is essential to our democracy.

For a moment I want to get back to what was asked about the issue on the floor today that Mr. Hoyer addressed. He made a point and I want to emphasize it. Under this bill, when the Republicans vote for this bill today, they will be voting to say that women can die on the floor, and health care providers do not have to intervene if this bill is passed. It's just appalling. It falls right into their--it is a health issue. This is a health issue. And it falls right in there with a lot of other initiatives that they have coming up on the floor about clean air, clean water, mercury, you name it.

America's families deserve better than this, and again, today is another example of a wasted opportunity instead of taking up even an aspect of the President's jobs bill, that could create jobs, that…I can't even describe to you the logic of what it is that they are doing. I just know that you will see a large number of women on the floor today fighting for women's health issues as well as to point out how savage this is about withholding care for a woman because of this legislation.

Q: Mr. Hoyer, you have been meeting behind the scenes with some of your caucus members strategizing about voter suppression. And I'm wondering if you have any plans to bring the administration, anybody from DOJ in to even consider filing lawsuits or does it rise to that level?

Whip Hoyer. It certainly rises to that level. We believe that one of the most perverse policies that are being pursued in our States around the country are efforts to subvert Americans' basic right to vote.

It's being done in a number of ways. Number one, to require identifications that many people don't have, but they are citizens and they have every right to vote. Suppression efforts have gone on throughout this country and have been accelerated in the last 12 months in many, many States. We intend to heighten America's focus on these efforts at undermining the basic American right to vote and to have their vote counted.

As you know I was the sponsor of the Help America Vote Act along with Bob Ney. And the Leader and I worked closely on that bill, along with my colleagues here. We want to make sure that every American can vote. So what we intend to do, working with the administration, working with nonpartisan groups around the country, interested in ensuring the basic right of Americans to vote, working with civil rights groups, human rights groups, voter education projects, working with the minority communities, working--whether they be Hispanic, African American or any other minority--to ensure that in the coming months and years, that every American--as we pledged to do when we adopted HAVA -- not only has the right to vote, but will be encouraged to vote and will be facilitated in making sure they can cast their vote.

So my answer to your question is we intend to very vigorously pursue this and we are working very closely with the Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus, with the Blue Dogs, and with every aspect of our Caucus, to make sure that Americans can vote and to confront and to bring to light the efforts that are being made throughout this country in too many States to undermine people's right to vote and to suppress registered voters from casting their vote legally and effectively.

Q: If I could follow up, the suppression, is it actually illegal or are they just throwing speed bumps up in the road? Not anything that you could really prosecute; correct?

Whip Hoyer. You are correct, some of these may not be crimes. However, the poll tax was not a crime during the period of time that it was enforced. It was the law. They were following the law. But ultimately, it was concluded that those laws violated the constitutional right of Americans to have the opportunity to vote and to due process and equal protection of the laws.

So that we believe some of these efforts that are being made are clearly designed to suppress the vote of those people who most need to vote to make sure that their government is paying attention to their needs as well as the needs of those who have great resources and can get attention.

Frankly, there are some people the way they get attention is to vote, because they don't have great money to contribute or great status or power. So what is their power? Americans basically have believed throughout our history the basic power of the people is to vote and select their leadership and select their policies. We want to make sure that is protected.

Leader Pelosi. If I may on that score say I thank the Leader for his, the Whip for his leadership on this issue which goes way back. Our Assistant Leader, Mr. Clyburn, has said this is a 21st century poll tax, because a lot of this is targeted to people who can ill afford to go through all the machinations that it takes to get the kinds of identification that is required or go the distances, for example, moving Departments of Motor Vehicles to places that are too remote for people to go to.

So in our history and in our country, we have always tried to remove obstacles of participation. That has been the path of our democracy. They want to reverse that. It's wrong. And what the Whip and others are doing in the Congress is to shed light on this. And I know that the Administration is fully aware of this challenge that it's presented.

It's economic. We are talking ethnic, we are talking, it's economic. The dividing line is economic. They don't want poor people to have the right to vote. They want to limit that access. That's why Mr. Clyburn called it the poll tax of the 21st century.

Thank you all.


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