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News Conference with House Democratic Leadership - Energy Prices

News Conference with House Democratic Leadership - Energy Prices


This weekend I traveled to the southland of America, was in Alabama and in Florida. As I reported to you before, in the trips that I have made to visit with our veterans and America's working families throughout our country, the great concern about the price at the pump is repeatedly told to us.

The vets tell us that they can barely afford to drive to get their benefits, their health care, because of the price of oil -- of gasoline. The working families say that in their areas, when they can't get jobs and they have to drive 50 to 100 miles a day to work, they can barely afford to go to work. The price at the pump is a terrible threat to the economic security and health and well-being of the American people.

In light of that, and for a long time now, the Democrats in the New Direction Congress have tried to address this issue. It is a national security issue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil; it is an economic issue in terms of what it means to the U.S. economy and the economic security of America's families; it is an environmental health issue, and that's why we're so pleased in our energy bill last year to pass the fuel efficiency standards the first time in 32 years. And, again, it is a moral issue to preserve our planet.

This New Direction Congress has made this a priority from day one. On day one we -- on day two, actually, we passed H.R. 6 to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by supporting renewable energy sources. The leader in that fight was Mr. Rangel, who's going to report to us on that in just a moment.

But first I want to say that two weeks ago we sent a letter to the president -- I've talked with you before about this -- asking him to take several steps to help us either pass legislation or enforce the law in a way that would help reduce the price of oil and certainly the price at the pump.

I received a response from the president which many of you may have, which basically was that he not only did not support what we were doing, he would veto any of these initiatives to reduce the price of oil, and he would instead drill. Veto and drill. Veto and drill. Veto and drill. That is the president's message.

We'd like to respond to that. Mr. Rangel will talk about how we reduce our dependence on oil with the initiative that he will soon bring to the floor.

Mr. Rangel.


I'm so proud that a legacy of this Congress would be that under the leadership of the speaker we just didn't complain about the ever- increasing price of oil, but we started initiatives so that generations to follow would know that we have the genius, the ability, to relieve ourselves of this dependency.

Clearly, we all are the results of our backgrounds and experiences. President Bush and Vice President Cheney have found time to find out exactly what we can do to ease this problem. Unfortunately, he only consulted with the oil industry, and they only consulted with their shareholders. And we don't see any end in sight, if we depended on them.

But we have the responsibility to provide the alternatives, and we have now not only extended to find alternatives other than oil for electricity, but provided for local people in terms of bonds initiatives to find out what is creative and what can work.

And so we have monies out there in tax credits that give incentives to increase the ever-successful efforts we're making in wind, certainly in solar, using the ocean, using waste, using every possible way that we have been able to bring experts in to show us there is another way to do it.

And we're here not only to encourage them, but to provide incentives for people to buy houses that are smart, to use methods to save energy, to create incentives for hybrid automobiles. In other words, we're making this a project that's going to change the world. And indeed, in my opinion, it's a question also of peace and war, as we become more and more dependent on oil.

And so we have all of the committees that she brought -- the Speaker brought together earlier -- looking and hearing -- having hearings of how successful have our efforts been, and sending a message to the president that this time we truly believe that notwithstanding his penchant for drilling and vetoing, that we will be working with the Senate in a bipartisan way at least to say that it was this Congress, this House, this Senate that provided the initiative for a new way to look at our dependency on oil.

SPEAKER PELOSI: And that legislation will probably be coming to the floor before --

REP. RANGEL: Before Memorial Day, we will be bringing it. It will be fully paid, and we will be taking it up in the Ways and Means Committee sometime next week.

SPEAKER PELOSI: So step one to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, invest in the renewable energy resources. Veto and drill, the president says.

I'm going to call on Chairman Nick J. Rahall of the Natural Resources Committee to talk about that subject of drilling.

Mr. Rahall -- Mr. Chairman.

REP. NICK RAHALL (D-WV): Thank you, Madam Speaker.

This morning your Committee on Natural Resources once again defeated a ho-hum proposal to open up ANWR for drilling. This proposal was defeated by a large margin. And to follow up on what the speaker has said, we simply cannot drill our way to lower gas prices.

Our Committee on Natural Resources has done a great deal of research into this. The fact that we have so much of our federal lands already under lease, yet underutilized by the industry.

Since 2000, for example, if we look over at this chart on the left, you'll see that the amount of drilling on federal lands has steadily increased rather dramatically. Between 1999 and the year 2000 (sic), drilling permits on public lands increased more than 361 percent. That's the increase in the red columns, the red columns there. The amount from '99 to 2007 has increased over 361 percent.

Yet as the green line will show, the price of gas -- the price of gas, so important these days and of such concern to each and every one of us -- has risen dramatically. There is simply no correlation between open federal lands to oil and gas drilling and lowering the price of gas. It's not there. You cannot drill your way to lower gas prices.

Further more, despite the federal government's willingness to make public lands available to energy developers already, of the 42 million acres of on-shore federal lands that are currently being leased by oil and gas companies, only about 12 million acres are actually in production or producing oil and gas.

So there is a tendency in the industry to stockpile leases -- to stockpile leases -- and this has been evident for the past decade.

In 2007, the government issued 7,561 permits to drill -- again, that's the red line over there -- yet only 4,704 wells were started. And that's the blue line. You see the red column higher, and yet the wells actually drilled much lower in most of the years.

So over the past four years, for example, there have been 9,800 more permits issued than wells drilled. Today, the oil and gas industry holds in excess of 3,000 permits for on-shore oil and gas development that they are not utilizing to increase domestic production.

And yet they would tell us, the president would tell us that we're not opening up enough, that the federal government is holding lands unavailable to increase our domestic uses of energy. Not true. Not borne out by the facts, as this chart will clearly show you.

Once again, you cannot drill your way to lower gas prices.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you very much, Mr. Rahall. I think the point that the president makes about drilling in the ANWR, in saying that, he ignores the opportunities that are already there. Because if the public that they're ignoring these opportunities, they would have no case with the American people on the ANWR. They have very little case it is.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your excellent work.

Part of what we talked about in our New Direction initiative was research and development and how we would establish within the Department of Energy the entities necessary to take us to a place where new technologies could be advanced. A leader in that field is the chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, Mr. Bart Gordon.

REP. BART GORDON (D-TN): Well, I think Speaker Pelosi well laid out earlier the personal security and the national security interest in having energy independence of the country.

So let me just quickly maybe talk about a couple of ways we can do that.

Certainly we want to do all we can to be able to provide short- term relief for consumers. I think we need to move forward, as Chairman Rahall pointed out, with intermediate answers or -- not answers, but partial solutions in terms of taking advantage of the leases that are already there.

But if we're going to have real energy independence, we're going to have to have a technological bump. You know, doing more of the same isn't it. Doing incremental change won't get it done. We have to have a bump. And this Congress has passed a vehicle to accomplish that.

In the COMPETES bill, which many of you are familiar with, with our math and science education and other programs, there was another component of that, and that was something called ARPA-E. It was modeled and recommended by the National Academies in "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" after DARPA. DARPA, as you know, is the high-risk, high-reward agency within the Department of Defense where the Internet, stealth technology and other things were developed.

And trying to use that same model within the Department of Energy -- which, again, we have passed and authorized -- would create a very narrow management level. Basically you would go and think about, okay, what are the seven or eight peer-reviewed, most cutting-edge technologies for the future.

You would then find a project manager that knew about that. That project manager would go out to the public sector, the private sector, the national labs, the universities, find the best minds that are available, and crash on these -- again, high risk, high reward -- knowing that they're all not going to be successful, knowing there's no penalty for failing. You want to make those breakthroughs. You don't need many Internets to really change the course of our economic and energy security history. That's what we want to do.

Now, then you have to think about, okay, why haven't we done it? Well, you've got to fund it. These things are expensive. And I think there's a way we can go about that. First of all, we need to inventory a lot of the research we're already doing in the federal government and see, is that focused right? I think there are some savings that can be directed there.

Secondly, we've done it before and we need to go ahead and once again pass and take back from the oil companies their economic subsidies that were passed a couple of years ago. If we were to take that money that they don't need that they received when oil was about $50 a barrel, and with it being over $120 a barrel, certainly those subsidies aren't needed now. Let's use that for alternative energies.

And finally, these are international issues. And I think we -- you know, part of the reason that the president pulled the plug on FutureGen, he said it was too expensive. Well, it is very expensive as we look at carbon sequestration, for example. But you're seeing the Italians, the Germans, people all around the world know this is important, and they're starting to work on it too.

So why don't we work as a team? Why don't we determine what are the seven or eight geological type formations that are the most common that we need to look for? And we'll say to the Germans, "You take this type. The Italians could take that type. We'll take two or three here in this country. We'll work together with our best minds, but we'll each underwrite the sequestration models of our own and we can bring all that together."

We can do this. The money is there. And, you know, my seven- year-old daughter is very interested in us doing this. If we don't -- I went to her science class this morning. I was a little late, Steny, for our chairmen's meeting. They have a science class in the morning. And we were talking about the future.

We saw these seven-year-olds, and you're wondering, you know, are they going to inherit a national standard of living less than their parents and a reversal of the American dream? I think they will unless we can address this problem. And the tools are there.

And thank you for your leadership, Madame Speaker.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank Peyton for being an inspiration in all of this for you.

REP. GORDON: She'll be a conferee. (Laughter.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: One of the other issues that we've talked about quite a bit is the SPRO, to ask the president to stop filling the SPRO at the high cost of oil as it is now, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

A leader in this initiative is the chair of our Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Mr. Markey.

REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D-MA): Thank you, Madame Speaker.

If the president could do just one thing to pierce this speculative bubble, which many experts believe is now one-third to one-quarter of the total value of the barrel of oil, just speculation, and the president wanted to send a signal to the futures marketplace that the United States government was not going to stand on the sidelines and allow American consumers to be tipped upside-down at the gas pump every time they pull up to refill, then the one thing that the president could do before Memorial Day is to announce that he is going to stop the United States government from buying 70,000 barrels of oil a day at $123 a barrel, which puts an additional pressure driving the price of oil up, and that the president will begin deploying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to send a message to the speculators that the United States government is serious about not allowing this money to be really just taken out of the pockets of consumers at the pump.

The president has had no problem in redeploying, over and over again, the Army Reserves in sending them to the Middle East, while the petroleum reserve is meant to protect the American people here, the American economy here, from being attacked by OPEC and price speculators in the oil marketplace.

A policy of holding the hands of Saudi sheikhs and asking them to please produce more oil that the American people can buy has clearly failed. The president has to be a more effective communicator. He has to wield a big stick. So we have sent a letter to the president, led by Mr. Welch from Vermont and myself and all the members that you see here, close to 100 members, asking the president to immediately deploy the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The president's own Department of Energy says that it would have an immediate positive impact in lowering the price. And more importantly, the precedent is there. In September of 2000, when prices were skyrocketing, President Clinton deployed the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The price of oil dropped by 34 percent over a four-month period.

So this is the first and most immediate thing the president can do to show that he's serious, talking to OPEC, talking to the big oil companies, talking to the speculators. Otherwise, I'm afraid, the American consumer, over the Memorial Day weekend, just two weeks away, will see ever higher prices at the pump.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you very much, Mr. Markey. I thank all of our chairmen and the other chairmen who are not with us. And we'll be meeting with you, with them, on other pieces of this in the days and weeks ahead.

Now I want to yield to our distinguished majority leader for some initiatives about this and other initiatives that we have in mind.

Mr. Leader.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): Thank you very much, Madame Speaker.

A dollar-forty-six, seven years ago, a little over seven years ago, for gasoline; today, $3.56, $3.66, higher than that in some places in our country; in seven years, over a 200 percent increase. And every American is feeling the consequences of that spike.

What you've heard is the chairmen of each of our committees and the speaker talk about why are we so dependent. There was someone who said, "Well, our people are being taken advantage of," and that's absolutely correct. And the question is why.

The why is because the producers around the world believe we have no alternative. And because they believe we have no alternative, they believe they can charge whatever price -- not that the market will bear; that the market can't avoid, because consumers that need to get to work can't stop buying gas, or need to get their children to school or need to transport goods from production site to market site. They don't have an alternative.

This administration continues to look to the past for solutions. And one of the problems is they've looked to the past for the last six years. And indeed, for 21 of the last 29 years we've looked to the past. We should have adopted a future-looking policy decades ago. We did not. For that, perhaps a lot of responsibility goes around.

But this administration, more than perhaps any other administration, has looked only to oil, only to petroleum, only to a product that is controlled off our shores.

Mr. Rahall mentioned very clearly, we're doing more.

And, by the way, we've authorized additional refinery capacity. There's additional refinery capacity that has not been used. Now, it's my understanding, from my expert, that refining capacity is about 85 percent, where normally, at this point in time in the year, it's at 95 percent.

We've asked the FTC to look at price manipulation. We've looked at -- asked the Justice Department to look at what's going on with the cartels overseas. Why? Because we want to protect America and American children.

Now, my friend, Bart Gordon, talked about his 7-year-old daughter. I have a 16-month-old great granddaughter --

Speaker Pelosi: (Off mike.) Great?

REP. HOYER: Great granddaughter. So, we have a diversity of interests here.

REP. PELOSI: (Off mike.) (Laughs.)

REP. HOYER: That young lady is not yet worried, but her great grandfather is very worried about whether she's going to have the kind of innovative energy alternatives that she's going to need -- to not only be energy independent, but as the speaker indicated, our nation secure, our economy running, and our globe environmentally safe for her.

The average price of the pump nation-wide this week -- I said $3.56, it's $3.62 per gallon. Families are struggling -- just today, to pay for the car to get to work, to get the kids to school, to get their errands done.

Meanwhile, we've lost 260,000 jobs in the first four months of this year. This president's economic policies have failed terribly. Food prices and health care costs are exploding while housing values continue to plummet, eroding home equity and consumer confidence.

And all the while, the big five oil companies have been raking in record profits. Exxon Mobil alone reported a first-quarter profit of nearly $11 billion. The president, in his letter, said to us, we want to penalize the oil companies. Not at all.

What we want to say to the American taxpayer is, you're paying the highest prices you've ever paid at the pump. What are subsidies for? What do we give tax incentives for? To get something done that otherwise may not be done and is not profitable. So, we want to incentivize it.

Is there anybody in this room, or anybody in America who believes that the oil companies need incentive to get more product when they get the highest price they've ever gotten for it? Of course not.

So, what we're saying is -- that $18 billion being paid for by the American public -- is somebody's got to pay the bills. And if Exxon's not paying bills; if BP's not paying the bills; the other oil companies aren't paying the bills, guess who gets it in the neck? The average working guy's got to pay more than his fair share, or her fair share.

So, we're saying, let's take that $18 billion and spend it on the future. Spend it on independence. Spend it on alternative and renewable sources of energy.

Unlike the administration and Congressional Republicans, we're working night and day to give the American people a fighting chance. At our urging, the Federal Trade Commission -- in a letter that was initiated by Speaker Pelosi, signed by all of us, and is now going to begin to look into market manipulation in the oil industry.

We passed that in the bill last year signed by the president, but they hadn't done it. We wrote them a letter. They have now responded: Yes, you're right. And they are now doing it.

We passed bills cracking down on price gouging; holding OPEC accountable for price-fixing; and repealing taxpayer handouts, that I've talked about, to the oil companies -- measures that most Congressional Republicans opposed, including the leadership.

In addition, House Democrats have launched an aggressive schedule of hearings to investigate oil price fixing, oil speculation, and why we should stop deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. I'm not for taking down the Reserve, but it seems very foolish at a point in time where if we stopped demanding more supply -- which is driving prices up, if we stop that, our experts tell us that it would immediately bring the price down.

Some say there's nothing the Congress can do. We say they're wrong. The American people sent us here to work on their behalf and that's exactly what we're doing. That's exactly what these chairmen are doing. That's exactly what the speaker and I are doing, and the chairman of our Democratic Caucus, Rahm Emanuel -- who will follow me, and be the clean-up hitter. (Laughter.)

REP. EMANUEL (D-IL): How about if I talk about Steny's grandchild today?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Great. (Laughter.)

REP. EMANUEL: (Laughs.) Great grandchild. (Laughter.) What did Mo Udall say? Everything that needs to be said, has been said, it just hasn't been said by everybody that needs to say it. So, that's why I'm the last speaker.

President Bush, in his State of the Union said, America is addicted to oil. But, through his veto threats, he's made clear that he's not willing to, basically, kick the habit -- at all.

On July 28, 2005, almost three years ago, the House Republicans passed the conference report on the Energy bill that led to all this drilling. At that point -- and that was declared then that it was going to be a major energy independence policy, by the president and the House Republicans. Energy was $2.29 a gallon, and it was $59 a barrel. There's been a 103 percent increase since they passed that Energy bill.

Now, we have no control over the rising demand around the world. What we have control over -- as China and India's economies are growing and there's clearly more demand there -- but what we do have control over is what we do here, whether we have alternative energies; whether we, as Steny said, invest our resources in alternative energies and not just do a half, or one-third of the solution to the problem.

Remember, we passed an increase in the CAFÉ standards, the first time in over 30 years, with no help from the administration. And the next day they tried to undermine that very bill.

This effort here is to start to fund alternative energies so we have an alternative energy policy that fills out our energy strategy, because for the last six years we've done exactly what the Republicans have suggested -- from drilling and opening more land, without a policy that deals with alternatives.

So, the entire approach of the House Democratic Congress, and other colleagues, is to have an alternative energy policy, invest resources in creating alternative energy policies that deal with diversifying America's energy sources so we have a strategy that seizes the future and does not force the taxpayers or the consumer, wedded to a past energy source which is only oil.

And I think that you've seen -- as Steny laid out, and others have laid out, a comprehensive approach. Yes, you have drilling, but you have to raise the CAFÉ standards, you have to invest in alternative energies.

And I close by this one (column?) -- and point, which is, as Steny said, about tax policy: You create credits and deductions to encourage certain behavior. At $20 a barrel, at $30 a barrel, at $40 a barrel -- I get it. At $120 a barrel, I am waiting for the free- market Republicans to believe in the free market. You do not subsidize at $120 a barrel. You subsidize solar, wind, hybrid, ethanol, other types of energy that gives you a diversity that's wed -- that does not wed you to a 19th -- or 20th Century energy source, but begins to invest in a 21st Century energy source.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you very much, all of you, but thank you, Chairman Emanuel.

What we sent to the president really was a list of legislation that we had passed in the House already, that dealt with market manipulation with -- by price-fixing by the OPEC countries, called the "NOPEC" bill; talked about the empowering the FTC to do more to empower the FTC to investigate and prosecute price gouging at the pump, the SPRo, the list goes on. As was said, the president's response was: veto and drill.

Many of these same initiatives are part of the proposal that the Senate has put forth earlier this afternoon. As I say, most of it has been passed in the House, and we look forward to their bringing it to the floor and passing in the United States Senate.

But it should be a real message, not only to all of you here, but to the markets and to, and to the American people that some of the claims that the administration makes are completely false claims. They had plenty of environmentally-approved leased -- leases, already granted opportunities for drilling, but they still want to make the fight over ANWR.

They have -- so, in any event, what we want to do -- as has been said by Mr. Rangel, in terms of using the tax code to give incentives to the renewable energy resources; by Mr. Rahall, you need more. You want to drill? You already are able to drill in an environmentally sound way, why pick another fight unless you're doing it for political purpose?

As was said by Mr. Markey, the SPRo is an easy, short-term initiative; the long-term initiatives that Mr. Gordon -- Chairman Gordon put forth are essential to energy independence and the security of our country. And so in all -- with all of that, we have plenty that we could be doing to -- working together with the administration if they were serious about this.

The message that we want to send to the markets, to the business community, to the markets, to Wall Street and the rest is that Congress is prepared to act to reward the initiatives to preserve our planet, to make us energy-independent, to make our environment healthier for our children. Congress is -- the government is prepared to act to look into the manipulation and the price fixing and the rest. With that, I'd be pleased to take any questions that you may have.

Q What's your reaction to -- (off mike)?

SPEAKER PELOSI: You may, and I will answer it. But first, since I have some of my chairmen here, I'd like to stay focused on this and I promise you I'll take any of those questions.

Q (Off mike.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, Mr. Rangel has been working with the Senate on a package that we think will be passable to them -- will be able to be passed by them. They have objected to some of the PayForce in the past so we may take these issues up separately, in terms of having a different set of PayForce for the renewable energy tax credits and then take up the legislation that Mr. Hoyer was talking about, and others were talking about, which is to repeal the subsidies to big oil and use that money more appropriately to some of the initiatives Mr. Gordon was talking about, and maybe a different match- up will be more successful. We certainly hope so. That's the indication that we have.

Q (Off mike.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: I don't know. I heard that former Speaker Gingrich recommended to them that they do that. We'll see if they're responsive to that. But they know because they go home every weekend and they hear what is happening to the economic security of America's families, if they are listening.

Q (Off mike.)

REP. MARKEY: We're introducing a bill to do that. Just as a standalone bill -- well, part of a package but that will be a separate part of it that will just order the cessation of any additions to the SPRo.

Q (Off mike.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we're working with the chairman, Mr. Dingell, on one that would come up, but we have some other issues that we need to get out of that committee urgently now as well -- other legislation. But that is in the works.

Any other questions on this subject? Yes.

Q Can you say when the PayForce might be in the renewable energy tax breaks?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, I really would -- I know Mr. Emanuel is on the committee and he's been working very hard on this, and I'm going to yield to him. But, I think if Mr. Rangel wanted to make that presentation earlier, he may have. But in any event --

REP. RANGEL: (Off mike, laughter.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: But they've proven -- the resources are there, the motivation is real, and I think they've reached some level of agreement with the Senate.

REP. EMANUEL: I'm not going to get ahead of my chairman. You should just know, A, we met on it again today. We're taking up the bill next week in committee. And we've been in active discussion with our Senate colleagues on the other side about our array of PayForce.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Any other questions on this subject?

Thank you, my colleagues. You're welcome to stay if you wish. (Laugher.) You'd like to stay wouldn't you, Ron? You'd like to stay. (Laugher.)

This morning I was swearing in our newest member Mr. Scalise from Louisiana. And after we had the photo up and the rest, someone said to me, "Well there was a very important" -- you did -- "There was a very important primary last night." And I thought, "Could she be thinking of Andre Carson in Indiana?" That's the only important primary we had last night. But of course I'm always thinking House races, so -- what was your question?

Q What's your reaction to the presidential primary in Indiana and also what's your reaction to some people saying that -- (off mike)?

SPEAKER PELOSI: I think the elections in Indiana and North Carolina last night proved once again that we have two great candidates for president -- dynamic, informed, knowledgeable, eligible -- (laughter) -- eloquent, eligible to be president, and two candidates that we're very, very proud of. They both had bragging rights last night, Senator Obama in North Carolina, Senator Clinton in Indiana. And I think that the race is alive and well and will continue. And I don't know the second part of your question.

Q Some people are saying -- (off mike).

SPEAKER PELOSI: It was that. But a win is a win. A win is a win. Let's just call it what it is and the -- I believe that the races must continue. The people should all have the opportunity to speak as long as two candidates wish to compete in those primaries and caucuses, and that, in a few weeks, we will be on our way to nominating the next president of the United States.

Q (Off mike.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: You never know in elections. You never know in elections. But I'm so proud of, as I said, both of our candidates -- in fact, a wide array of candidates we had earlier, going back a year, that we had before. But again, I'm so strictly focused on my responsibility, which is to increase and strengthen a confident Democratic majority in the House that that's where my ear is to the ground, and that's where I travel to see what's happening with those races. I'm not part of the presidential election, so I think as long as a campaign is going and the candidates are in the race, there's always a possibility.

Q Madame Speaker, your California colleague, Senator Feinstein, who's a strong supporter of Senator Clinton, said earlier today that the race has reached a point where it's proving negative -- (inaudible) -- in terms of division in the party. Are you hearing that kind of -- (inaudible) -- do you share that kind of -- (inaudible).

SPEAKER PELOSI: I'm sorry. I was not aware of Senator Feinstein, and therefore -- I heard the statement -- and therefore --

Q And he's concerned about what it means for the party.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, certainly the presidential election is very important. It's absolutely a matter of the utmost importance, not only in America but in the whole world, who this person will be. And I know that either one of our candidates would be a great president. So the outcome either way is a good one for us. And I think the American people see that.

What you saw last night in Indiana was a huge number of Democrats who turned out in incredible -- was it over 1 million Democrats who turned out, well over 1 million Democrats who turned out. This was a remarkable thing. So this is something positive that is coming out of this race, a tremendous turnout in North Carolina for the Democrats. This is tremendously positive for the Democrats.

Is there some ease when there's some negative attacks in the campaigns? Certainly. But the -- let me say this. The day I see that the actions taken by the presidentials has an impact down ballot on my races for the House, I'll let you know.

Q Do you feel like Senator McCain is getting a free ride while there's no Democratic nominee out there able to take him on?

SPEAKER PELOSI: I'm not following Senator McCain's campaign. I was following the primary on the Republican side to see who we would get. But Senator McCain -- is President Bush getting a free ride? Because that's what we get with Senator McCain -- a war without end, economic policies that have failed our country, and this -- you know, that's what I think is out there. I don't think the public is going to give President Bush or Senator McCain a free ride.

But our campaign has to take its own course, because at the end of the day, we must have unity to work together to win. That's how we're going to win, if we're unified. I think there's plenty of time to make the case about Senator McCain, but I think the public is generally aware of his closeness in policy to President Bush. We don't need another four years of President Bush.

Q A question about Iraq -- do you plan to take the supplemental up tomorrow. Congress has been down this road before. Do you expect the outcome is going to be any different this time? I mean, with all three of these bills, do you think we'll reach -- (off mike.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: I don't know if all -- when you say all three of the amendments -- the amendments.

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