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 afternoon. As we gather today, of course our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, and the other American as yet unidentified, I mean, not publicly identified in the attack in Benghazi. All Members of Congress stand united in condemning this brazen, brazen attack, and we stand united condemning it in the strongest possible terms. These Americans, diplomats, served on the front lines of Libya's quest for democracy, freedom, and stability. Their commitment to peace and security stand in stark contrast to those cowards who perpetrated this act. As President Obama said yesterday, as Americans, let us never, ever forget that freedom is only sustained because there are people who are willing to fight for it, to stand up for it, and in some cases, lay down their lives for it. Four courageous Americans lost their lives in the service of our country. We hope it is a comfort to their families and their friends and their colleagues at work that so many people mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time.
Our attention is rightly on our brave men and women, both in uniform or in the diplomatic or intelligence who serve us so well abroad. We salute all of them as we acknowledge this loss. But we must continue to focus on challenges here at home. On this very day alone, today is the 18th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. House Republicans still refuse to take a vote on the Senate bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support. Today, Senate Republicans are blocking a vote on President Obama's Veterans Jobs Corps to put veterans to work using skills developed in the military. It is really very important. We honor their service by providing jobs for them when they come home, building a future worthy of their sacrifice. And the Republicans are standing in the way of that today on the Senate floor. And today on the floor in the House, the Republicans are bringing forth their sequester bill. The Republican plan does not stop the sequester, is not fair and balanced, demands no new revenues, doesn't ask for one red cent from the wealthiest people in America, while asking students, seniors, and the middle class to pay more.
Democrats have another idea. Unfortunately, we cannot bring it to the floor because it was blocked in the Rules Committee last night. The [Republicans] did not allow us a substitute, or to have this in the form of an amendment. That will be part of our debate, though, today. It is based on fairness and balance that actually ends the sequester through a mix of cuts and revenues. But again, the Rules Committee did not allow that to come forward. But you have seen much of it before. It is contained in the House [Democrat's] Budget Committee. Democrats, under the leadership of Chris Van Hollen, who has brought forth our budget earlier, that substance of that is part of our suggestion for the sequester, which would eliminate the need for the sequester. The Republican proposal does not.
Every day brings us closer to the fiscal cliff. Speaker Boehner said he is not confident at all that Congress can reach a bipartisan agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff. Well, we simply must. That is a luxury we cannot afford. We simply must. Moody's Investors in fact announced that it would likely downgrade the U.S. credit rating if budget negotiations fail. You recall that last year our credit rating was downgraded even though we did come to a conclusion, simply because it was in doubt. Democrats are committed to staying in session as long as it takes to ensure certainty for the middle class, that we avoid that cliff, that we will have growth in our economy, and the creation of jobs for all Americans. Unfortunately, the Do Nothing Congress wants to go home. I think we are here what, we are scheduled for just eight days session in September. There is a question as to whether we will even be here in October. The ball is in the Republican court. Instead of leaving town for 7 weeks after being gone for 4 or 5 weeks, let's work across the aisle to restore fiscal responsibility, put people to work, and strengthen the middle class. We absolutely have to do that for the American people.
With that, I will be pleased to take any questions.
Q: Leader Pelosi, you traveled to Egypt earlier this year. There has been protests at the embassy in relation to a movie portraying Mohammed and the Muslim religion. Do you feel that Egypt is an ally of the United States?
Leader Pelosi. Well, Egypt is, I believe, the largest Muslim country in the [Arab] world. It is a force in the Middle East. It is a country with whom we must have a good relationship. It is important, again, for our national security interests. And part of our national security interest involves the security of Israel. But even if Israel did not exist, the fact is that we really do have to help Egypt go forward. And I don't know about the word ally, we will see. But the fact is that we have an interest in Egypt's success. Let's hope that we can do that as allies.
Q: To that end, we have heard from a number of Republicans who were critical of the President here, saying, well, the President should have done this, that, or the other. What tools does the President have in his toolbox when a situation like this erupts? What should he be doing? And what do you think he could be doing to sort of allay some of this tension?
Leader Pelosi. First, let me just ask you a question. You said there were a number of Republicans who were critical of the President. Are we talking about Mitt Romney? Who are we talking about and what is their criticism? Because I can't address your question.
Q: There was Mitt Romney, there was Jeff Landry yesterday, from Louisiana. There were a few others.
Leader Pelosi. I don't know who that is. Who is that?
Q: He is a Congressman.
Leader Pelosi. I see, okay. I missed his significance in all this. So, he is a Congressman from Louisiana.
Q: Yes. And there were some others.
Leader Pelosi. Okay. So Mitt Romney of the appropriate statement -- inappropriate statement on this subject -- and a Congressman from Louisiana have said?
Q: They wish the President would do more. They laid some of the blame at his feet.
Leader Pelosi. And they wanted him to do more in what regard?
Q: They weren't specific.
Leader Pelosi. I understand that. But I can't answer your question about commenting on what they are proposing if they don't even know what they are proposing.
Q: Are there certain things that you think that any President should do in these situations?
Leader Pelosi. I believe that there has been a consensus that we cannot leave Egypt by the by. So if they are suggesting that we should cut off assistance to Egypt -- I mean, I have to know what you are talking about -- I don't agree with that. I think that the Administration and even our friends in the region have said it is really important for all parties, whether it is the private sector as well as the public sector, to invest in Egypt because its economic success is important to the stability of the country. And that is important to the stability of the region and world and global peace.
So even our friends in Israel have said that -- President Peres, to be specific -- have said that we should be supporting publicly and privately -- when I say privately, I mean the private sector -- as well Egypt's success.
Q: The Federal Reserve announced today that they are going to buy another $23 billion in mortgage bonds and add that to the portfolio and keep interest rates near record lows through mid-2015. Does that go far enough? Do you have faith that that will do anything to improve the economy and bring unemployment under 8 percent? Or what needs to be done?
Leader Pelosi. Well, it is interesting that they made the decision to go forward and that it was a 11 to 1 vote. It was really quite a strong vote in taking this action. I think it indicates that they see -- I think it is clear that they did so because they saw a need to bolster the economy, and, of course, this -- hopefully, what they are thinking will become a reality. It already had an impact on the stock market. It is up, what, 80 points already today? Nasdaq is up as well. So from a confidence standpoint, it has already had an effect. I think the strength of the vote, the reaction so far would indicate that we are optimistic it will have a positive impact on the economy. It is unfortunate that the Republicans have refused to support many of the initiatives that President Obama has put forth in this past nearly 2 years for job creation, because we could be farther down the road in the economic recovery if we had those investments in jobs.
Q: Your office this morning released a video welcoming Chairman Ryan back to the Capitol. Earlier this morning we also heard the DCCC Chairman talk about the impact that he believes Ryan's selection has had on all the races down the ticket. I am wondering what impact you think Ryan's selection has had, and whether you are more optimistic today than before we went on recess about the Democrats' chances of take back the House majority.
Leader Pelosi. We have been talking for a long time about the fact that Medicare is on the ballot. When the Republicans put forward the Ryan Romney Republican budget that severed the Medicare guarantee and said to seniors you are going to pay -- while we are at it, $6,000 more to get less from Medicare, while we give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country, this was a value that is on the ballot, not an issue, and not a name of a candidate. Much more important than any of that or us. So, our approach has always been that the three most important issues in the campaign in alphabetical order have been "Medicare, Medicare, and Medicare." The fact that the Republicans voted for it around four times, every one of them, to sever the Medicare guarantee, to make seniors pay more, while giving tax cuts to the wealthy, while making students pay more while giving tax cuts to the wealthy, was just so out of whack in terms of what a budget statement of values should be in our country.
So when the presidential campaign took a turn to where we are now, which is to choose a Vice Presidential candidate, and Governor Romney embraced the repeal of Medicare, that was a sad day for our country and for Medicare. But at least it put the focus on the issue which we have been focusing on since day one. And day one being the day the Republicans voted for the Ryan budget. I guess he was catering to his base. I mean, I am not here to talk politics. But whatever he thought was a good idea at the time ranks along there with some of his other poor judgments, which we have seen recently.
Q: You are more optimistic, though, that you will win back the House?
Leader Pelosi. No, I have always been optimistic, but yeah, I am more optimistic. Steve Israel spoke to that today. I just refer you to his comments, because it is all about numbers. And the numbers are much more clearly in our place. But we were going to make this fight anyway. We saw this as essential, not as a path to victory, because that is unimportant. What is important was to save Medicare. And Governor Romney is making it easier by embracing the repeal of Medicare.
Q: Yes. Madam Leader, with the collapse of last year's debt talks and Supercommittee failure, Speaker Boehner said yesterday that he was not confident at all that an agreement would be reached. Do you share that sentiment?
Leader Pelosi. No. Here is what I believe we have to do. We have to acknowledge the job that needs to be done. We must have an agreement. And then we engineer back from there, how do we get this done. But we do not contribute to the uncertainty in our economy, contributing to the lack of confidence in our economy, of saying to the rating agencies I don't think this can happen, because that is not a good thing for our economy. I think it was a really unfortunate statement. And I think that Senator Reid said we at least have to get the job done.
This is so immature, so irresponsible, so unworthy of the trust that the American people place on us that we can at least get a budget done. It has happened over and over. You saw in terms of President Reagan and Speaker O'Neill when it came to Social Security; you saw it with President George Herbert Walker Bush at Andrews Air Force Base coming together. There has to be a coming together to get this done. And obviously, the more bipartisan it is, the stronger it is. But I just think it is very frivolous to even suggest that it isn't possible.
Q: Leader Pelosi, there is a lot of worry amongst Members from farm states, rural states on both sides of the aisle about the lack of a farm bill. What is your thought about that and have you heard of anything moving forward possibly? There seems to be bipartisan support to get it done, or at least bipartisan concern.
Leader Pelosi. Well, it is very interesting because when the bill was being negotiated in the committee, it came out of the committee with bipartisan support. There were some areas of disagreement in terms of nutrition and the rest of that, but the bill came out of the committee with bipartisan support, with the idea then it would go to conference with the Senate, which had already passed its bill, and that we would have a farm bill. And it was only after that that there seemed to be a silence of, well, it wasn't on the agenda for the week we thought it was. And then it wasn't on the agenda for the next week. And then it became clear that there was a major kicking of the farm bill down the road going on here.
So this is really unfortunate. I harken back five years to when we put the farm bill together, it is hard. It is a very difficult -- it is a complicated bill, and that the committee can come out with bipartisan support to bring something to the floor, to move the process forward, to take it to conference and work out some of the differences within the bill is what we come here to do. So you would just have to ask them. Now, one of the Members from the Republican side said it is my fault it is not coming up. What could he be thinking? Does he think I am still Speaker? Does he think the Democrats have 218 votes to pass the bill? The Republican leadership has blocked this bill from coming. They have well over the votes that are needed for the bill. There will be Democratic votes for it as well. But they can't vote unless it comes to the floor. And now they are trying to make any excuse. It doesn't even make sense. Well, sometimes you have to wonder. It doesn't even make sense what they are saying that the Democrats are holding it up. But not to even repeat their silly charge. But, yeah, you would have to ask the Speaker why are they not bringing up the bill.
Q: Do you think both parties are waiting until after the election to find a compromise and avoid this so called fiscal cliff?
Leader Pelosi. I have always said the sooner we can do it, the better. There is no reason why we should inch closer to a cliff. The sooner that we can instill confidence in the economy that we can get this job done. And President Obama supported that one year ago, and the Republicans walked away. We have said, okay, there have to be cuts. There have to be revenue. You can't get there from here, especially since we have made all the cuts already. But it may turn out, since we are scheduled only what, tomorrow, a few days next week. Do you know if we are going to be in in October?
I get some of my best information from all of you, Chad.
Q: I will ask Jeff Landry.
Leader Pelosi. I thought you were talking up here.
Q: I am sorry.
Leader Pelosi. Really, what is going to be different? You know, somebody will win the election, somebody will not win. But the clock will keep ticking. And it is really important for us the sooner that we can remove all doubt that we understand what the responsibility is here that you have to do a budget, that you have to make compromises to get it done. Then let's just get it done. And then go into the next term, whoever wins, and do reform, simplification and fairness into the tax code to deal with issues of that kind of consequence in a time frame that is not in the heat of political battle or the aftermath of, but in the new Congress, the newly elected Congress of the United States, whoever that may be.
Q: Leader Pelosi, could you give us your thoughts on the CR vote and what it says about where Republicans have come since all the battles of 2011?
Leader Pelosi. So what is your understanding on the CR vote? If the question is what my view of the CR vote, which is that they will agree to the $1.047 trillion funding level, is this more than you want to know on the subject? That they will agree to that one level and move forward, I think it was probably a decision they made to just get it off the table. It is not controversial.
Now, what they do with the sequester is controversial because it takes the 2013 number way down. And so in one day they are doing two different things. But the one that will be signed into law will be the continuing resolution. And I don't see it as controversial, no. It is a whole, you know -- you could write a big story if you interviewed them as to how they got people to agree to it. Except that they are giving them, [in] the same day, the chance to vote against what they are voting for in the CR.
I think I have to go. We have some briefings that are coming up. And so I am going to have to excuse myself. But I thank you all very much for being here, for your interest. And any information that you have about schedule, let us know. But I want you to know the Democrats stand ready to be here for as long as it takes to pass a jobs bill, to come to agreement on a budget bill, to avoid the sequester, and to, again, make sure the full faith and credit of the United States of America is recognized and is not diminished in terms of any rating agencies to that effect.
Thank you all very much.