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Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference with House Democratic Leaders and House Democratic Ranking Committee Members

Press Conference

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Location: Washington, DC

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press conference with House Democratic Leaders and House Democratic Ranking Committee Members of the 113th Congress. Below is a transcript of the press conference:

Good morning everyone. We're all just beaming with pride at the election that just took place in the House Democratic Caucus, where we elected our Chairs, our Ranking Members for the 113th Congress. I hold up this chart because it shows the beautiful diversity of our Caucus. It shows that three of the top exclusive committees, the five exclusive committees [Ranking Member's] are Nita Lowey, [Ranking Member] of the Appropriations Committee, Louise Slaughter, Ranking Member of the Rules Committee, and Maxine Waters, the [Ranking Member] of the Financial Services Committee, along with Sandy Levin and Henry Waxman, [Ranking Member] of their committees.

About half of our [Ranking Members] are women or minorities. And that diversity is a reflection of America, and a recognition of the extraordinary talent that they bring to the Congress. Our Democratic Caucus in general, and our Ranking Members in particular, are a portrait of diversity, bold leadership, and a firm commitment to America's middle class. The first Caucus where the majority are women, minorities, etc.

Today, that Caucus confirmed the selection of an outstandingly diverse, dedicated collection of Ranking Members for our Committees in the House. Our Caucus looks like America. So do our Ranking Members. These men and women reflect the values of the American people and those values will stand firm -- front and center -- In every committee meeting. These leaders will ensure that the voices of all Americans will have a seat at the table, the interests of every American represented in the halls of government, and no American is left behind in the public debate. Our Ranking Members bring decades of experience, wisdom, and public service to their posts.

Now, it's really important as we talk about diversity, to reflect upon the fact that a large number of our Members are from the middle of America. The Ranking Member of Agriculture, Colin Peterson, the [Ranking Member] of Homeland Security Bennie Thompson, the [Ranking Member] of Transportation and Infrastructure, Nick Joe Rahall, the [Ranking Member] of Ways and Means Sandy Levin, Science and Technology, Eddie Bernice Johnson. We have one more from our heartland. Come on, speak up! Oh, Conyers! The Dean of it all. Really, I think, one of the first Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee from Michigan.

We represent, again, the diversity -- geographically, generationally, gender-wise, ethnically, in every way, and a diversity of opinion, all of which is respected in our Caucus.

I would like to introduce the others who I didn't acknowledge: Nydia Velazquez, our Ranking [Member] on Small Business; George Miller, the Ranking [Member] on Education and Labor; Adam Smith, Ranking [Member] on Armed Services; Mike Michaud, who will take over this very day as the Ranking Member on Veterans' Affairs, as the current Ranking Member was sworn in a couple days ago, Bob Filner, as the Mayor of San Diego. So, he starts right away, today. Henry Waxman, Chair of Energy and Commerce, I mentioned earlier; Eliot Engel, Ranking [Member] on Foreign Affairs; Linda Sanchez, Ranking [Member] on Ethics Committee; Mr. Ruppersburger, Ranking [Member] on Intelligence.

I mentioned, I don't know if you were here when I acknowledged the history you made, you and Maxine, as being [Ranking Members] of those two Committees, and that's a first. [Ranking Member] of Appropriations, Nita Lowey; Carolyn Maloney, Ranking [Member] on Joint Economic Committee; Elijah Cummings, oh my gosh we're so proud of Elijah, just right next to me, Ranking [Member] on the Government Reform Committee; Ed Markey, on Natural Resources Committee. Any others? There are so very many. We're so very proud.

I said to the Members after the election that with the selection of these [Ranking] Members, and with the election of our historic House Democratic Caucus, when we come together as we were gathered in that room this morning, to look around, because in that room were gathered one of the greatest intellectual, idealistic resources for the American people. That's how I see the House Democratic Caucus. The brilliance of their ideas, the dedication, and depth of their values make them a tremendous resource to improve the lives of the American people by advancing public policy that does just that. We'll be very proud to work with President Obama in moving America forward.

Thank you all very much.

[Leader Pelosi Steps Away With House Democratic Ranking Members]

***

[Leader Pelosi Reconvenes Reporters For Question And Answer Session With House Democratic Leadership]

Leader Pelosi. I know you appreciate that we all have day jobs and this is part of it, but we want to make sure that our Ranking Members work with the whip operation that Mr. Hoyer leads so effectively to make sure we get all of our Members on the discharge petition. So, they have work to do.

Whip Hoyer. Jill had a question.

[Laughter]

Leader Pelosi. Yes, we'll start with you.

Q: Are you at all concerned that if the Republicans end up giving in and allowing a vote on just the middle class tax cuts, that basically you'd give them what they want -- that they'll be able to negotiate everything else next year on the higher ground with the debt limit on the table and have more leverage in negotiations?

Leader Pelosi. I see it completely the opposite. Consider if the Republicans agree to bringing up the middle income tax cut, which I hope they will, that will be a victory for the American people and that's why we are here. I would hope that would break the fall on the cliff, which is becoming more of a slope if they do that. But really, we really do need to put a down payment, not just in revenues, which passing the middle income tax cut means the end of holding them hostage for tax cuts for the rich.

So, I'm going to yield to Mr. Hoyer to speak further on that point.

Whip Hoyer. I share the Leader's view. This ought not to be about tactics, or strategy, it ought to be about our country, our economy, and working Americans. Ninety-eight percent of American workers if we pass the Walz bill, will have the assurance that they will not be subjected to an increase in their taxes on January 1st. This will give them confidence and it will add immeasurably to the confidence of our economy. And that is why we ought to do it. It's not a question of tactical advantage after January 1st, it's a question of whether after January 1st working Americans will have the assurance that they will still have the resources to participate in helping to grow the economy.

Q: But don't you have more say [inaudible]?

Vice Chair Crowley. Let me just add to that -- I don't know why for every movement there has to be an answer. Why isn't we just can't come together, as the American people want us to, to solve the problems of our country? And I think we continue, once again, to focus on the middle class. We continue to defend and stand for the middle class in moving towards what we have on the floor right now in the motion to discharge the legislation that has already passed the U.S. Senate. We should move on that and then -- we have other issues we'll have to deal with next year but certainly we have the opportunity right now to send a message to the American people. We got what the results of what these elections were and now it's time to move forward and get down to doing the business of the people of this country.

Whip Hoyer. Jill, I don't think the issue of the middle class tax cut is not disputed. So, neither side is going to get a tactical advantage because we all agree. And I'd say this -- I'll say it to Mr. Cantor in just a little while on the floor, said it last week, I continue to believe it, that I think the overwhelming majority of Republicans that don't want to see the working Americans, 98 percent get a tax increase on January 1st because we have overwhelming agreement the American public are saying to themselves: "hey, you guys all agree, why don't you do it?' That's what they're so frustrated about, even when we have disagreements, obviously we're having difficulty moving but when we have agreement the other side has refused to put that agreement on the floor so we can enact it.

Q: Madam Leader, and perhaps Mr. Crowley can weigh in on this, cause this is a question about the supplemental, so I will direct the question to both of you. Don't you think that this request, which we're going to hear from the Administration in the next couple of days for the supplemental. Because it's expected to be so large, that has to be woven some way into this conversation because even if you, if you get a deal of $1.2, or $2.2, or whatever trillion it is, you have, you know, about $80 to $100 billion coming off from the supplemental. Doesn't that have to be part of this conversation as the supplemental moves ahead?

Leader Pelosi. Doesn't that have to be -- you mean the middle income tax cut be part of that conversation?

Q: As part of these overall discussions on the fiscal cliff and maybe the debt ceiling and then enroll all this together.

Leader Pelosi. Well, I don't think the debt ceiling has a place in all of this. I think that we continue the McConnell rule which said: the President sends it over, if two-thirds of the Congress objects then that is overturned. So, we have a path away from that because, really, that is holding hostage any investments in the future that we can make, any fairness that we can inject into the tax, into the revenue challenge that we have. But not to get this to be too complicated, the two steps that we need to take. One is now, by passing the middle income tax cut, the decoupling of that from the high end tax cut is a liberation in terms of discussion on how we go forward. A package that recognizes that we have to establish priorities. That means values some investments more than others and make cuts and make sure judgments we make on revenue and judgments we make on cuts are all in furtherance of growth in our economy.

I have confidence in the sense of responsibility all of our colleagues have to our country that we'll be able to reach an agreement and again, not to make it too complicated, a good first step would be to pass the middle income tax cut.

Whip Hoyer. Before Mr. Crowley speaks, obviously from New York, first of all we need to pass the supplemental -- the people of the northeast, luckily Maryland was somewhat spared on this, but the people of New Jersey, the people of New York, the people of Connecticut in particular, others as well, have sustained a very, very damaging blow both corporately and individually. We need to act on that. Historically, supplemental's are not paid for, are passed so that we can meet the immediate need, Mr. Crowley will speak to that.

But let me say this: the answer to your question is, it's part of the math. If we're going to put our country on a fiscally sustainable path we'll have to consider all the expenditures we made, whether we paid for them initially or not, we'll have to put that in the math and it needs to part of the agreement. I've said this is a math problem and certainly whatever the dollars that we expend will have to be accounted for, and will have to be paid for over a longer period of time. But we can amortize that immediate expense that we need to make on behalf of the severely adversely affected, damaged areas, we need to make that expenditure now. But we need to pay for that over the longer term. So, to that extent, yes Chad, that will part of -- from my own standpoint -- part of the math that will have to be dealt with.

Vice Chair Crowley. I don't think there's any question it's part of the math about how to be dealt with. But, I've taken a, certainly in good faith, what I know of Speaker Boehner's remarks as it relates to this catastrophe. But I don't think the quad-state region, nor the rest of the country wants to see [it] embroiled in politics here in Washington. This is a disaster that -- the community that my mother comes from, Rockaway, is still, parts are without power. We're going on six weeks now. In many part of the city and the region, we're really pushed back decades for the last six weeks. It's kind of hard to understand unless you've been there.

And I think Mr. Boehner is sensitive to that. His remarks have been very positive, that we need to address the needs of the people and deal with the payment for that later. I would hope that this would not get embroiled, in already, what seems to be, by many Americans, insurmountable problems. This should not be insurmountable by any means. We should address it. And we will have to deal with it at some point but this needs to be addressed immediately.

Leader Pelosi. If I just may say, any of us who has been affected by a natural disaster -- in our case in California, earthquake, flood, fire, whatever. But the, the moment when the people look to the public sector to say: "do we really have this compact? Are you there for us?' When the storms hit last time into the New York area. Our Members came to us and said: the devastation was so great that it has changed, in some ways, the character of our communities. The same thing can happen now unless we are there for the people.

I do agree with you, [Mr. Crowley], that the Speaker has been gracious and open from what I have heard as to honoring that social compact that we are there in times of natural disaster and to remove all doubt in people's minds that this is not going to be a political debate, but a values debate.

Let me just say to that, because it comes to mind, I don't know why. When the Bush Administration came to us and said they needed 700 billion dollars for the TARP funding, and the Chairman of the Fed said: "if we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday,' this being four years ago, we acted. We didn't have a debate about this, that, or the other. We acted. Now, that -- the tax payers been made whole on that and I believe that the investments that we make in this recovery will have a very positive effect in the rebuilding and the jobs that come with it. But the more important point is that the connection between people and the government is one that is honored.

Q: Madam Leader, to follow up on Jill's question; what is the Democratic contingency if the debt limit isn't raised before the end of the year and RepublicansÂ…

Leader Pelosi. Oh Jill's question. Okay, I thought you said Drew's.

Q: What is the Democratic contingency if the debt limit isn't raised before the end of the year and Republicans demand a crisis?

Leader Pelosi. Well, what the President has put forth in his budget what I believe to be an excellent proposal. We have said in our budget that passed under the leadership of Chris Van Hollen where we think all of this should go. It's a negotiation, now if we could take the middle income tax cuts off the table then we have end[ed] the hostage taking that the Republicans have been engaged in -- we're not going to do that unless you give tax cuts to the wealthy -- I think that clears the debate to find areas of agreement as we go forward. But I'm not going to put forth what that is here today because we go to the table to negotiate.

Whip Hoyer. Can I just make a comment on that? The debt limit ought not to be held hostage to anything. It hurt our economy, we were downgraded for the first time in my career, and I think in history, by one of the rating agencies. The creditworthiness of America ought not to be put at risk, it ought not to be a negotiating item, very frankly if you talk to the overwhelming numbers of people who are focused on the economy and trying to grow jobs and build our economy, many of whom are Republicans, they will tell you this ought not to be a subject of political debate. And so I think that, from that standpoint, first of all, of course, the President wants a part of the agreement so that we do not harm the economy, harm the creation of jobs, and harm working Americans, and America's creditworthiness by making that part of the debate. It ought not to be part of the debate.

Leader Pelosi. I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the passing, during the night, of our former colleague, Steny and my former colleague, Chairman Jack Brooks of Texas. We were looking forward to his 90th birthday a little bit later in the month of December. God took him to spend his birthday with him, but he was surrounded by his family. I had the privilege of seeing him a month or so ago, right before the election, in Beaumont, Texas. Where he was holding forth, completely knowledgeable about everything that was going in Congress. He was a very courageous leader, we all learned a lot from him. He had the courage to pass the crime bill, which had the assault weapon ban, and that was the end of his service in Congress because, again, it took courage. And he paid a price for doing the right thing. The new breed, Member of our leadership, Mr. Crowley came long after Mr. Brooks left us but we all share great pride to call him colleague whenever he served or whenever we serve.

So, our prayers and sympathy go out to Charlotte -- his "Beautiful Charlotte' as he called her, Beautiful Charlotte, and his family in Beaumont, Texas and his many, many friends throughout our country and certainly in this Congress. We love you Jack Brooks, we miss you.

Thank you all very much.


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