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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

Interview

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DAVID GREGORY: Leader Pelosi, welcome to Meet the Press.

NANCY PELOSI: Welcome to the Capitol.

DAVID GREGORY: Thank you for having us here. We are in full view of the Supreme Court, which has spoken on health care. Is the fight over?

NANCY PELOSI: Oh, as far as we're concerned, the victory is there for the merican people. If you're a person who has a child with diabetes, no longer will they be discriminated against because of a preexisting condition. If you're a woman, no longer will you have to pay more; no longer will being a woman be a pre-existing medical condition. If you're a senior, you pay less for your prescription drugs and nothing for a preventative check - wellness checkup. So again, and for everybody, no more lifetime limits on the coverage you receive. This and for other reasons -- if you're a young person you can be on your person, your parent's policy if you both agree to that. And so for the American people yes, the fight is over. Others will try to challenge, but --

DAVID GREGORY: Well, Republicans have said they won't waste any time to try to repeal this. Is that fantasy from your point of view?

NANCY PELOSI: It's being the mouthpiece of the health insurance industry. And we're saying let's not have them be in charge anymore. Let the people be in charge of how they receive coverage and health care. It's -- they'll bring it up, and when they bring it up they will ask for repeal, repeal of all the things I said that help children, help young adults, help seniors, help men or women who may have prostate cancer, breast cancer, whatever it is, any precondition. And everybody will have lower rates, better quality care and better access. So that's what they want to repeal, we're happy to have that debate.

DAVID GREGORY: So you don't think it's realistic -- I mean, look, you fought in the trenches to get this thing passed, it wasn't easy. Do you think repeal is unrealistic, it --

NANCY PELOSI: Yes.

DAVID GREGORY: -- You know, from Mitt Romney, to Republican leaders, they say, "We're gonna lead the charge on this"?

NANCY PELOSI: I think that that part of it is over. Do we always want to fight for more and better? We want to continue to lower costs, and we built that into the health care, Affordable Care Act. Because one of the reasons to do the bill was because the cost of health care to individuals, or families, to businesses -- no matter what their size -- to local, state and federal budgets, and to our economy. The costs were unsustainable. It's a competitiveness issue for business and for our economy. So we had to take, come to a place where we lowered costs to all concerned, and that we again take it down a path where we continue to lower costs.

DAVID GREGORY: But don't you acknowledge, even if it's passed muster with the Supreme Court, there's still a lot of work to be done by this president to persuade the American people this is a good thing for them -- to in essence win the argument, which he hasn't done?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, I think that he did very well the day that the bill got the approval, so to speak, but the decision was made and announced by the Supreme Court. But yes, it's always a conversation with the public, especially when you think that the health insurance industry spent 200 million dollars putting out negative misrepresentations about the health care bill, when it was on the floor and coming to fruition, and since. 200 million dollars.

DAVID GREGORY: But would you concede the public's not yet sold?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, 200 million dollars of negative publicity, both from the health insurance industry and anti-public -- what would you call it--anti-government ideologues who don't think there should be any public role, and yet support Medicare. So, you know, there's some contradictions here. But the fact is, is that yes, more needs to be done, but the most eloquent statement of all will be from the experience that people have if they have a preexisting condition in their family, if they have been subjected to lifetime limits, when they get their check in August that says you're getting a refund because your health insurance company spent more money on corporate CEO compensation and on administrative costs than it did on meeting your health care needs, those checks will go out in August. Some people have told me they're already getting reduced rates for next year thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Seniors are already paying less for prescription drugs. They may not know it, but it's because of the Affordable Care Act, and we have to make sure they do know it.

But already the health insurance industry has collected millions of dollars to go back out there, to put themselves in charge. And that's the fight we have.

DAVID GREGORY: To the extent that you believe and others believe the Supreme Court has conferred an extra level of legitimacy on this health care act, the reality is that the court also said that the act is in effect a tax, that the individual mandate requiring the folks who can buy insurance is a tax. Won't that make it more difficult to sell the popularity of this program to the American people?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, who is who is the penalty on? The penalty is on people who have the wherewithal but refuse to buy health insurance, figuring they won't be sick and if they do, other people will have to cover it. So these free riders, as they were identified by Governor Romney himself, he said people have the ability to pay and don't -- can't expect to be free riders. And I think that he termed it exactly right. These free riders make health insurance for those who are taking responsibility, making it more expensive. Personal responsibility is a principle of our country. Conservatives claim it, progressives claim it, liberals claim it, we all claim it a--

DAVID GREGORY: But words matter of political discourse, you know that. The president was adamant saying the individual mandate is not a tax --

NANCY PELOSI: Well it's --

DAVID GREGORY: -- When in fact his own solicitor general went into the Supreme Court and said this is constitutional under the taxing authority of Congress?

NANCY PELOSI: That's right, you said it exactly right

DAVID GREGORY: That's not how it was sold, that's not how it was sold to the American people.

NANCY PELOSI: No, it's a penalty. No, it's a penalty. It's a penalty that comes under the tax code, for the 1% perhaps of the population, who may decide that they're gonna be free riders. But most people are not affected by that --

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY: But it's a new tax -- it is a new tax on the American people.

NANCY PELOSI: No, no, no, no. It's not a tax on the American people -- a tax, it's a penalty for free riders. But, since you're bringing up the subject it's important to know that middle income families will get about $4,000 in tax breaks, in tax credits in order to have their health insurance, to buy their health insurance. Middle income families make out very well in this, businesses get tax credits to provide health insurance for their workers.

So what we're saying is those who take responsibility get the protections of this bill. Those who want to be free riders have to pay their -- they either have to take responsibility and buy insurance, and there are many ways for them to do it, or they get, they get a penalty. And the penalty, yes, it is charged under the tax code. It could come any other place, but it's under the tax code. And the tax code is the place where the federal government has all the constitutional authority -- to act as the court said.

DAVID GREGORY: Just one more on this before I move on. Bottom line, the president's health care reform is here to stay?

NANCY PELOSI: Absolutely, it'll only get better.

DAVID GREGORY: And you're confident given the heavy toll that the health care fight exacted on the president, and on the party, and on the loss of control of the House, that Democrats in the House and the Senate running in tight reelection races, they are gonna full, wholeheartedly embrace health care reform and campaign on it?

NANCY PELOSI: Let me say this: I don't buy the argument you make that we lost the election because of health care. We lost the election because of 9 and a half percent unemployment. It would have been 15 percent had Congress and President Obama, under his leadership, passed the Recovery Act, auto rescue and other initiatives. But if you don't have a job, you don't want to hear it could be worse. And so, and then if you have a shield of 9 and a half percent unemployment, which is very hard for an incumbent to penetrate and then start -- have $200 million coming in from the health insurance industry to misrepresent the facts on the health care bill, plus, another nearly hundred--

DAVID GREGORY: You don't take any responsibility for failing --

NANCY PELOSI: No.

DAVID GREGORY: To adequately communicate to the American people what was in the health care bill? And actually win the argument?

NANCY PELOSI: Oh, we certainly could have done better on that. No we certainly could have done that. But I could have left the battlefield of passing the bill and gone out and said "I have to raise a hundred million dollars"--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY: Right, and what about your point the economy -- is the president gonna lose reelection because of high unemployment?

NANCY PELOSI: I think the president's gonna be reelected and he's going to do so in a way that explains to the American people the two different paths; it's about-- it's about jobs, it's about good-paying jobs, it's about fairness and it's about --

DAVID GREGORY: Well, what's different about conditions from where we were when you, when Democrats lost the House? Unemployment is still high, growth has not been what was expected.

NANCY PELOSI: We're on a better path now and we would have been on an even better path had the Republicans not been so obstructionist on the president's proposals for jobs. But we have an agenda; it's as simple as ABC. American made, make it in America, not to be protectionist but to be self-reliant. We want to sell on the global market as well as buy. Build American infrastructure of America; it's taken so long for us to get a transportation bill, and we should be doing so much more to address the infrastructure concerns, whether it's broadband or bridges. C, do so in a community way, where we know the role that education and public safety and all play about fairness, in our tax code and the rest. The sense of community and shared responsibility in our country. And I add to the ABC's of that, a dare, a dare to reduce the role of money in campaigns, because you cannot separate the policy from the politics. Walter Reuther said it, he said, "The breadbox and the ballot box are connected," and they are. And so we are daring with disclose -- I am Nancy Pelosi, and I support this ad -- they should disclose, too. Amend the Constitution to overturn Citizen's United. Reform the system to reduce the role of money and elect reformers of either party or any party to do so.

DAVID GREGORY: What has to come out of this next jobs report, after such a dismal report last month, to give the American people hope that sticking with the president is actually something that can lead to some semblance of economic recovery?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, I don't know, I'd like it to be the best possible report, of course. But I think it's also important for the president when he shows the two different paths to go down, that our country can go down in this regard -- that giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country, as was the case under President George W. Bush, that that did not create jobs, it just increased the deficit, it took us to the brink of a recession, and that's not the way to go. But that's the same warmed-over stew that the Republicans are presenting now. The president's talking about growth, he's talking about fiscal responsibility. We need revenue, we need cuts, we need growth to create jobs. And I have every confidence that the president out there -- oh, well he already has made a tremendous difference. But you cannot assume that the public knows when there's this barrage of endless money. That's why I say money has to be taken out, endless money misrepresentations on the campaign trail.

DAVID GREGORY: High drama this week with the contempt vote for the Attorney General. You and others walked out as this vote was taking place. You actually suggested there's some conspiracy among Republicans because he's challenging some of the Voting Rights Act laws around the country, that they went after him on the contempt vote. What do you have to back such a charge up?

NANCY PELOSI: Oh, I don't say it's a conspiracy, I said it's self-evident that this Attorney General -- don't take it from me, you only need to look to some of the statements made by the Republicans, one in particular, about saying that he should resign from office because he has not enforced their voter suppression laws in the country. This is an ongoing theme. And it is really unfortunate. This is the first time in the history of our country that a cabinet officer has been held in contempt of Congress. To do so within one week of it coming out of the committee, after the administration has cooperated in every way with them -- but there was no way that they wanted to resolve it.

The constitution tells us, and William French Smith when he was Attorney General under President Reagan spoke to this point, that the branches of government have a responsibility to resolve differences, without one having a severe upper hand in all of it. When we had a similar situation in 2000, four and a half years ago, with Harriet Miers, to get documents regarding the firing of the U.S. attorneys at that time, you remember that? Some of that related to voter suppression, too. But in any event, we, the committee had asked for testimony witnesses to come in. Stonewalled, stonewalled, stonewalled -- not one scrap of paper, on Harriet Miers' request. We came out of committee, it wasn't for over 200 days that we took it to the floor. The chairman and I and the leadership said, "Just keep finding a way, just keep finding a way, we don't want to do this. We want the documentation, we want the record to show, but we do not want to do contempt."

And that's when we ended up having -- over 200 days and they, and with not one paper coming to us from Harriet Miers, not one showing up at Congress, one piece of paper. They've given thousands of documents-- to the committee in order to resolve this in advance of the vote. And then they took the vote anyway, in the committee last week, and in seven days. There's something very wrong with that abuse of power, it's just not right. The American people deserve better. And the Constitution admonishes us to do better.

DAVID GREGORY: The debate will continue. Leader, thank you.

NANCY PELOSI: Thank you, my pleasure.

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