Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a transcript of the press conference.
Leader Pelosi. Good morning.
We are meeting here between votes, so it's all about time and how we use it. And it's about time for us to see this Supercommittee narrow its possibilities and reach an agreement. As you know, it's only 4 weeks from yesterday that the deadline of November 23rd must be met.
We are hoping that the committee will have an agreement that is big, is bold, and is balanced. And to that end, I have great confidence in the members of the committee that our Caucus has sent to that table. Mr. Clyburn, Mr. Van Hollen, Mr. Becerra have the full confidence of our Caucus. They have knowledge, they have judgment. They share the values of our Caucus, and they know that we want to have an agreement, a big agreement. Our Caucus stood with the President in his big agreement in the summer. That's how we'd like to see the committee go.
As we watch the proceedings, we're not just watching and waiting, we are working. I'm very proud that when the President released his American Jobs Act, which we hope the Majority will take the time to bring to the floor, that we have requested, respectfully, that our Members meet with as many small business owners in their districts as possible. In a matter of weeks, they've reached thousands of small business owners to review the President's proposals, to ask for suggestions from the business owners, and also to put it in the context of a proposal that should be on the table for the Supercommittee.
When I appointed my Members, our Members to the committee, we said we wanted something that reflected the entrepreneurial spirit of America. That is reflected in the courage and optimism of our small businesses to take that leap. And we want, again, the work there to start with the creation of jobs. We think small business is the path to that. Entrepreneurialism should be respected and rewarded.
And then look at the tax code and the spending and savings decisions that have to be made in light of how we grow the economy, produce revenue to reduce the deficit. Recognizing that if you're going to have entrepreneurial spirit and innovation, that innovation begins in the classroom, and that the importance in our educational investments, whether it is at the community college level for some of the skills that are needed for a trained workforce or whether it's producing more engineers and the rest, to keep America number one.
So I'm excited about the prospect. The vulnerability that all of the economies of the world have in our dependence on each other, the leadership role that the United States is expected to play, and the urgency in terms of job creation for the American people all require us to make our best possible effort to have no sacred cows on that table, to go there and to get the job done. We have told our Members that we want results, and I'm very proud of them and know that they will represent our Caucus very well.
Again, it's about time, about time we have between votes here, but it's about time that we will not be in in January. At a time, any time, having, what is it, 6 days on the calendar in January, it really makes you wonder about the schedule, but particularly at this time when the American people are feeling so much pain.
And while I value the time that Members spend in their districts--as I mentioned, they have been spending time with small businesses the last break--at some point, you have to bring the message home and represent your people, find agreement. You can't do that if everyone is at home. And I think that the American people deserve better than following a holiday break, that on top of that we would have a January where we are 6 days in session in Congress.
Again, the world is not waiting. The world is watching to see what we do, but events will overtake us if we do not play our leadership role in the world.
So, again, it's an unusual time, as to what is happening. We have an unusual opportunity. We can do something big here. We can do something big, something bold, something balanced. It has to be that way. But, again, we can have a great deal of enthusiasm in our caucus.
If I may just add a political note, I want to commend our distinguished chairman, Mr. Israel, our Chairman. This week, we had over 100 candidates come to Washington with all of the idealism and fire and spark to ignite the American dream, to build ladders of opportunity, remove obstacles to success for people who want to work hard and play by the rules. They know what is at stake. They are energized. They give us tremendous momentum.
That on top of our being successful in our efforts to accrue the resources necessary to win, out raising the Republicans, if I may be allowed a political note at the end. Just in case you would ask, I would anticipate that, since I may have to run out to vote.
Q: Madam Leader, without acknowledging some of the elements that have been discussed in the Supercommittee, do you think that you could support a plan that changes the inflation adjustment for Social Security and affects Medicare beneficiaries if there was a tradeoff of some revenue increases?
Leader Pelosi. What I have said to you before, and I will say it again, is that it is no use asking me about specific things until we see the whole package.
It is not fair to say to a senior, "You are going to pay more for Social Security, and we are not going to touch a hair on the head of the wealthiest people in our country." It's not fair to say to that senior, "By the way, that increased premium that you are paying is now going to be considered revenue is now going to be considered revenue."
So let's just see a package. Let's not, again, exclude anything. Let's just see how they come
everybody recognizes the balance that we need to have. And I will
Q: Well, then, could you support the package that Senator Baucus presented as a package?
Leader Pelosi. Recognizing it as Senator Baucus' package, it has many of the elements that we have seen in the other three bipartisan proposals of Simpson-Bowles, of Rivlin-Domenici, Gang of Six. It has many of the initiatives that President Obama had thought he had an agreement with Speaker Boehner on.
But, again, I'm not making any judgment about any package until I see the fuller package that it is a part of.
Q: Ms. Pelosi, a lot of your colleagues have said that it's unfair that you have been cut out of the Supercommittee discussions. Do you agree with them?
Leader Pelosi. I don't believe that I have been cut out of Supercommittee discussions. Again, the three people that we have sent to the table have my trust and confidence and that of our Caucus. If there are any other meetings that are going on, I hope that they will be in furtherance of people reaching agreements on where they may have some differences. And I hope that that is all constructive.
Again, we are not sitting around waiting while this is going on. We are building our jobs and small business entrepreneurial proposal, which you will see next week.
And, again, I would not have appointed people if I said to them, "You go there, sit through the meetings, but I'll decide for the Caucus where we are going." I hope that the same discretion and judgment that I have respected my Members with is one that is shared by our Republican colleagues. I believe if they have the same freedom in the meeting, that we have a better chance of getting the job done.
Q: Madam Leader, are you concerned that the secrecy of the deliberations will make it difficult for leaders of Congress to build a consensus around a proposal, if one is actually agreed to by the committee and presented to Congress?
Leader Pelosi. Well, it cannot be a product of secrecy. You know, they may want to narrow issues that will be made that judgments have to be made over, but that has to be done in a public way. And I think you are you absolutely right; in order for our Members to embrace this, they have to know more about it and know why it has come to the place that it has.
And we hope that it will be, as I said, big, bold, and balanced, but, at some point, the discussion has to be more public. As you know, I've called for that in my statement when I appointed the Members, in this room, [and] on other occasions.
It is believed by some that it is constructive to weed out or eliminate some of the debate and, yes, narrow it to what the real decisions will be. And that, as I say, should be in the public domain not only so that our Members know but so that the American people know what is at stake, what the decisions are, and how people voted on them.
Q: Your colleague, Mr. Hoyer, sent a letter to Speaker Boehner yesterday, and Mr. Lew had done the same last week, about the spending priorities to get through the next, you know, set of spending bills here.
Leader Pelosi. Right.
Q: What do you see, I mean, in terms of being able to overcome these polarized positions that the Republicans have on these riders regarding health care, and also the idea that it looks like they are going to have to glom, velcro some of these bills together, which is something they said they would not do in the Pledge to America last year?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I support the letter that our distinguished Whip circulated and sent to our distinguished Speaker. And I think it makes all the sense in the world.
But just getting back to that table, I think what you suggest suggests that what we can get done at the Supercommittee is very important, because it leapfrogs all of these kinds of concerns about jurisdiction and cloture and, you know, all the rest of that.
And if we can say, this is what we need to do as part of the President's American Jobs Act, as part of the recommendations of the President's Competitiveness Council, as part of suggestions that have sprung first and foremost from small businesses, thousands of them, in our communities across the country, let's get this done now so that we have a real jobs component, a private sector developed jobs component, and eliminate some of the struggles we will have in the appropriations process.
It shouldn't be a place for policymaking and riders. It should be a place where the choice is made about our investments of our dollars. Of course that is policy too, but it's not rider policy.
So, you know, I wish that we could just go to the regular order, but not to ignore the tremendous opportunity that exists with the Supercommittee to be big, to be bold, to be balanced, to have a jobs initiative that rewards entrepreneurialism, that creates jobs, that rewards the courage of small business entrepreneurs and owners to achieve the American dream. And we have work to do in that regard.
Q: What is your reaction to reports that came out today saying that the Republicans on the Supercommittee are proposing a plan that would be $1.5 trillion in cuts without any revenue increases?
Leader Pelosi. I haven't seen that, actually. I haven't seen that, so I can't address what you're talking about.
But if it is going to be big, 1.5 is not enough. If it is going to be bold, that doesn't do it. Big in terms of the number, that we can really do something great for our country in terms of deficit reduction; at the same time, bold in terms of recognizing that revenue coming to the Treasury comes from job creation and small businesses and also the public sector. The education of our children, the safety of our neighborhoods, that's a very important element in terms of jobs producing consumers, producing demand, which injects that demand into the economy to create jobs.
So that doesn't sound like anything that would even be in league with what the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson, Rivlin-Domenici, Gang of Six, or any of the other initiatives that have been put forth. Everybody has said, be careful how you cut and when you cut, because you may destroy the momentum for economic growth that we need to have as we go forward.
Q: Given Republicans' position on revenue, some have questioned whether they really want a deal. What is your sense? Do you sense Republican leaders really want a deal?
Leader Pelosi. You would have to really ask them. But assuming that they are responsible leaders, knowing how important this agreement is, the message it will send to the world, to the markets, to the American people, the confidence that it will build, it is a missed opportunity--it is even worse than that--if we do not do this.
And it behooves all of us to be as open as possible. I always say to my Members [be] "agnostic."
You know, I know what, we all know what we believe, and we are going to be true to our beliefs. But in terms of how we get there, if there is a new way of thinking about proposals that are put on the table, bring them on.
Q: Madam Leader, you mentioned a jobs component a few times.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Do you think it is vital, for your Caucus to support whatever final product there is, to have a jobs component?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think it is vital for the plan to be successful to do the job it needs to do to turn the economy around. This is about deficit reduction, yes, but it is also about job creation, it is also about growth. And we know that you cannot reduce the deficit if you are stagnant in terms of growth.
So it's not just about my Caucus. It's about meeting the needs of the American people in a way that we have expedited procedure. This could get done right away, be signed by the end of the year. And the growth part of it could, from day one, instill confidence, which is what we need to displace some of the fear that is out there of businesses to hire more or to take any more risks because of their lack of certainty as to where we are on this.
It is a very exciting time. I know you appreciate what could be done there. I think you saw an example of it in the President's agreement with Speaker Boehner about Democrats being willing to, in a big package, raise the roof on it. It's all about our values. Forgetting all the politics and everybody's position on this, that, or the other thing, do we all agree that we have to educate our children? For their own self fulfillment, but also for the competitiveness of our country. That we want to be number one in job creation and innovation, and innovation begins in the classroom.
So, the education of our children; the creation of good paying jobs in our country; the dignified retirement of our seniors, which is important not only to them but to the success of their families, freeing them up to educate the next generation; the safety and cleanliness of the neighborhoods in which our children grow up; and the world, our national security, which is our first responsibility, to protect and defend to do that in a fiscally sound way, this table of 12, Supercommittee has a super opportunity to get an important job done for the American people. We stand ready to make an agreement.
I also, though, want to come back to the fact that we have to use our time well. I don't know what other facts they need, what more information they need, to understand that it has to be big, bold, and balanced. So let's just get right to it. I don't know why we even have to go to the 23rd. CBO will need a couple of weeks to score, so Members will be becoming familiar with it, as will the American people.
But as soon as say, it passes, I hope, before the 23rd, because that is the day before Thanksgiving, you don't want to be here then, do you? I didn't think so. And then as soon as that is passed, as soon as that is suggested for the Congress, let's move as quickly as possible to send a message of confidence to the country and to the world. I don't think you want to be here the 23rd of December either, do you?
So, in any event, regardless of whether we want to be here or not, the fact is we want to be in a place in our country where, as soon as possible, in light of the decisions that we have to make, that we use our time well. And that we know that this--while the opportunity is a great one, and we want to take advantage of it and exploit the fast track opportunity that is there, our work will not be done then. We want to reignite the American dream. We have work to do, and we cannot accomplish it on a schedule that has 6 days in the first month of January, following a holiday break for Members.
With that, it is time for me to go vote, so I thank you all for being here this morning. Thank you.