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Press Conference with Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House, and Other House Democratic Leaders

Press Conference

Location: Washington, DC


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SPEAKER PELOSI: This is a great day for us, on the floor of the House, where we're passing a budget, a budget in large part proposed by President Obama. His budget is historic in the investments that it makes -- in education, health care and energy -- tax cut for 95 percent of the American people and reduces the deficit in half, more than half, by 2013.

It fits comfortably among the initiatives of the Obama administration and this Congress, in terms of regulatory reform, in terms of addressing the concerns of our financial institutions, about other -- the recovery package that we passed earlier this year.

And the combination of efforts, over this three months, our first three months -- this first quarter of this first session of Congress -- has been investments in health care that are greater than anything we've seen, in a decade; investments in education that exceed any other time, comparable time, in history; groundbreaking initiatives, in terms of energy that will create a new green economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil; and legislation also this past week, signed by the president, the parks bill, which is historic in being one of the greatest initiatives for conservation in a very, very long time in our country.

So it's been a great three months. And this is a great day. And again this budget fits comfortably among the president's initiatives to turn the economy around; fits comfortably among other legislation that's passed the Congress, whether it's Lilly Ledbetter or SCHIP for our children or the parks bill or the America -- it's now called the Kennedy Serve America Act -- legislation over and over again to take our country in a new direction.

We'll be hearing from members of the leadership, but I want to acknowledge the presence of two of our newest members of Congress: Kurt Schrader of Oregon, who is here, and we're pleased to be answering any questions you may have -- very important part of our passing this budget today -- and Gerry Connolly, our neighbor here in Northern Virginia. Thank you, Gerry, for being with us and for your leadership.

Now I'm pleased to yield to the distinguished leader, Democratic leader, Steny Hoyer.

REP. HOYER: Thank you very much, Madame Speaker.

And again, as I have in the past, let me congratulate you on the leadership you have shown.

President Obama, in an historic Inauguration, was sworn in as president of the United States, said we were facing many challenges. But he assured America that we would meet those challenges. And he has done so in a vigorous and effective way, and we have been his partner in that effort. From day one we addressed the economic crisis that this administration inherited, that this Congress inherited from the Bush administration. That work has encompassed legislation to help families provide health care for their children, to help women fight for fair pay in the workplace, and, most importantly, to create jobs.

Job, jobs, jobs, jobs has been our focus. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is projected to create or save between 3-1/2 (million) and 4 million jobs. It does that through a combination of tax cuts -- tax cuts for 95 percent of working families -- targeted projects, and long-term investments.

Today, by passing the Democratic budget, we will continue that work. Our budget builds on the foundation of the recovery plan. It begins to bring down the cost of health care, which helps businesses struggling to make ends meet while rising health care costs -- and create jobs. It invests in energy independence, including incentives for the development of new technologies and the creation of new clean- energy jobs, or green jobs, as we call them -- again, jobs, jobs, jobs and green jobs. And it improves educational opportunities from early childhood to college, which means that American workers will be able to compete and win in the 21st century economy.

When the president spoke to the joint session of Congress, he indicated that his priorities were jobs, getting this economy moving; health care for every American; energy independence, and with that protecting our environment; and education. We have pursued vigorously that agenda, and it is included in our budget today.

It is unfortunate that Republicans in their budget repealed the recovery and reduced jobs. Democrats know that those policies are the wrong way to go. And we don't know that just by intellectually concluding that; we know it from experience. For the policies offered today by the Republicans on the floor of the House are the same policies they offered in 1981, which created large deficits; that they offered in 1989, which slowed our economy; and in 2001, which has led to one of the worst economies this country has ever seen.

Our budget lays the groundwork for a sustained, shared and job- sharing recovery. I am pleased to be here with my colleague, the whip of the House of Representatives, Jim Clyburn, who has been such a critical part in ensuring the passage of the agenda of which I've just spoken.

Whip Clyburn? Excuse me.

REP. CLYBURN: Thank you very much, Mr. Leader, Madame Speaker, other distinguished leaders of this Congress.

I believe that all of us would agree that education is probably the key to long-term economic prosperity. Nothing that we can do, nothing that we can invest in pays a greater dividend than investing in education. And I'm pleased that this budget that we're about to enact this afternoon will be building upon that which we did in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which, as all of us are aware, made investments in modernizing our schools and helped our states to avoid teacher layoffs and to avoid other educational cutbacks, and, most importantly, to make post-secondary education much more affordable.

We in that bill increase by $49 billion -- or we provided -- I'm sorry -- $49 billion to states and school districts to prevent layoffs. And I am pleased to say that the vast majority of our states have recognized this, and are moving to get this done -- save maybe one. (Laughter.)

There are $25 billion in this for school construction bonds, the largest investment in school modernization. We've doubled the number of children in Early Head Start, and we have expanded Head Start. We've provided quality childcare for an additional 150,000 children, and will keep 200,000 children from being dropped from care. We have provided a new higher-education tax cut to nearly 4 million students. And we have increased college and other post-secondary educational opportunities to 7 million children.

I'm very pleased with what we have done with this budget to build upon this. And I am pleased now to yield to the distinguished chair of our caucus, John Larson.

REP. LARSON: Thank you, Jim, and thank our fellow leaders, as did President Obama when he spoke to our caucus last Monday when, in praising the leadership, he did single out the effort and work of John Spratt who, in one of the most civil manners and, though laborious, put forth the budget that we will be about to vote on.

Critical to that budget, as both our majority leader and whip have spoken about, is the economy, as it relates to jobs and as it relates to a knowledge-based society that we have to continue to grow.

Our president has been very clear as well about the importance of health care. We know that this budget here represents the long-term economic plan that is the down payment on making sure that there is access and affordability to the things that Americans care most deeply about. We've done it already, in terms of the passage early on of making sure that all the children -- 11 million more children -- under the S-CHIP proposal was passed and is now into law.

And now this document that we have before us and will vote on secures that health care future, deals with the growing deficit that it's causing, reforms health care and embraces for the American public the quality health care, from a preventative standpoint, that we so desperately need in this nation and that this Congress and this president will lead the way in.

And with that, I turn to our distinguished leader, Chris Van Hollen.

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Thank you, John, and thanks to all the team here and, of course, to our president. This budget -- this budget makes a sustained, long-term commitment to reducing our reliance on foreign oil and putting us on that path towards energy independence.

The recovery bill that we passed just a short while ago made the largest single investment ever in renewable and clean energy and energy efficiency. But we understand that that's not just part of getting the economy going again. If you want sustained economic growth, it's not just part of getting people back to work. It's part of laying the foundation for long-term growth in this country. And what this budget says is we're going to make that commitment for a very long time in the future, for the duration of this budget.

You know, we have short memories in this country. I remember back in the 1970s hearing all the talk about how we were going to finally break our reliance and addiction to foreign oil, and we never have made that kind of sustained national commitment going forward.

In this budget, we do that. In this budget we say it's not going to be an on-again, off-again thing. We're going to keep those tax credits for solar energy, for wind energy, for the biofuels and all the other array of energy sources so that we can diversify our energy base. We're not going to put all our eggs in providing tax cuts and breaks for the big oil companies, as the Republican budget does.

So this is a forward-looking budget. It's one that sustains our commitment to clean energy and energy independence. And that, as the president and others have said, is absolutely essential to our long- term economic growth.

And now, the man who pieced it all together -- who, as Mr. Larson said, with great grace and patience, but always persistence, and always knowing what we needed to do to put together a budget that reflected the values and the needs of the American people, the chairman of the Budget Committee. We're all so proud of John Spratt.

REP. SPRATT: Thank you, Chris. Thank you very much.

I thought I'd leave the cacophony of debate on the floor and come assert a few clear fundamentals on which this budget is based. First of all, let's go to the bottom line -- straight to the bottom line.

This hasn't been contested.

This budget starts with a deficit of 1 trillion 752 billion dollars per OMB, or 1 trillion 820 billion dollars per CBO -- a trillion seven to a trillion eight. We've never seen anything like it in American history. And it is our unwelcome inheritance from the administration that just left town.

What does this budget do? This budget goes to a deficit of $586 billion in three or four fiscal years. We believe that by 2013, we can take the budget -- using this budget, we can take the budget to a deficit of $586 billion -- that's 3-1/2 percent of GDP -- by the year -- by the year 2013. We also think that's a pretty remarkable accomplishment, but it's an achievable one as well.

Secondly, this is not just about numbers. It is about vision and values and investments. And so we're proud that we've got in our budget a number of initiatives. But bear in mind what we've said repeatedly -- bear in mind what we've said again and again, and that is these initiatives will have to be implemented through the medium of so-called deficit reduction or deficit neutral reserve funds. That means in order for the project to take place -- health care, climate, environment, education -- not only must the policy be identified and defined, but the amount of money needed or the offsetting cuts required to make it deficit neutral will have to be put in the package together for the deficit neutral reserve fund to be utilized. That's extremely important.

Secondly or thirdly, if you listen to the debate on the House floor, you would think that we have propagated in this budget some substantial spending increases. In truth, defense goes up 4 percent, a modest increase. Non-security programs -- if you define non-defense discretionary programs to include -- to exclude programs like the Veterans Administration, because it's security related -- non-security discretionary spending is 4-1/2 percent.

Now, I'm not trying to bore you with numbers. I'm simply trying to give you the hard facts. This is a modestly spending bill, which has huge objectives and amendments. And that's why you see the Democratic members so pleased to see this is going forward, because they know it's not just the contents. It's a symbol of our coming together and taking power and doing good things for the country that need to be done. That's why this is a momentous occasion.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Mr. Chairman, would you like to -- (off mike) -- of your key colleagues from the committee and ask them to say -- (off mike)?

REP. SPRATT: Gerry Connolly or Walt Schrader.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Both members that we are -- both of the new members of Congress are -- started the --

REP. SPRATT: These votes are sometimes tough votes for new members to take.

But these guys came over here, worked the committee, helped us put together a 100-percent unanimous support for this resolution coming out of the committee, which is probably unprecedented in itself.

Let me turn first to Walt and then to Gerry.

REP. SCHRADER: Well, I appreciate the opportunity. I'll just give you a perspective as a new member. Coming from a small state on the West Coast, Oregon, I was chair of the Budget Committee for the last six years in the Senate. And I can tell you that without this infusion and this forward-looking budget, my state would be bankrupt.

This budget, I think, gives us hope not just now in the short term -- the bridge to private enterprise coming back -- but by dealing with the big cost-drivers that are going to cause us big problems in the future -- in health care, energy independence and our education system -- is just a beautiful, beautiful light on the horizon that should give confidence to all the American people. And I'm proud to be associated with it.

(Cross talk.)

Oregon-5, the great Willamette Valley. Kurt Schrader.

(Cross talk, laughter.)

REP. CONNOLLY: Good afternoon. I'm Gerry Connolly from Northern Virginia, from the 11th Congressional District of Virginia. And I was pleased to work with the chairman and the leadership in supporting this budget.

You know, this budget can be described, as Steny Hoyer just said, as a four-letter word: J-O-B-S. It's all about jobs. It's all about reinvigorating an economy that's been driven into the ditch by the previous administration. It's all about investing in the innovative economy of tomorrow, in terms of green jobs, in terms of health care reform. And I think that's really important.

President Obama has provided a blueprint, with this budget, that allows us to leap forward, while getting out of this economic mess we inherited, but also looking toward the future, in terms of the investments we need to make and the kind of future we want to leave our children and the speaker's new grandchild. And that's why I was proud to support this budget. (Laughter.)

SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you very much.

You see how proud we are of our distinguished chairman of the Budget Committee. He shaped a budget: values-based, intellectually driven, civilly presented and strong in the support it will receive on the floor of the House shortly.

Thank you, Chairman Spratt. Thank you, Kurt Schrader. Thank you, Gerry Connolly, and to all of the members of the Budget Committee for their great work.

We have heard the message. It's about reinvigorating our economy. As Mr. Hoyer said, it's about jobs; Mr. Clyburn, about education; Mr. Larson, about health care; and Mr. Van Hollen, about the investments in energy which are a priority for the president; and again, as Mr. Spratt said, one that will reduce taxes and take our deficit down.

So we're very proud of it; it's a happy day; and as I said before, fits comfortably among the other initiatives of the first three months of this Congress to address the needs of the American people and, again, to improve the economic climate in our country.

With that, we'd be pleased to take any questions that you may have. We'd like to start on the budget.

Q The other body, the Senate -- (off mike) -- approximately $60 million to stop the border violence in Mexico -- with Mexico. They call it a clear and present danger. Is that going to be incorporated also in the House?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Our bill is on the floor now as it is. If it is in the Senate bill, we will go to conference, and that's when we'll see it. So -- our bill, though, is on the floor.

Q But does it have enough -- (off mike)?

SPEAKER PELOSI: Well, we'll see what the justification is. Certainly, we are, and in our appropriations bills we will address this. We supported the Merida Program this year, and will do so again to address the challenges that we face. But Mexico is our nearest neighbor, and there is great opportunity between our two countries, as we go forward developing our economic successes. But we also have to secure our border, and that is something we'll work with the Mexican government to do. But it will be a -- it is a priority for us to secure our borders and to respect the relationship between the United States and Mexico.

REP. HOYER: And I'm going tomorrow.

SPEAKER PELOSI: Steny, want to talk about it? Steny's going tomorrow.

REP. HOYER: I will be going to Mexico tomorrow. We believe this is a very serious challenge to Mexico and to the United States. We share a common border. We share a great friendship. And I'm not immediately familiar with the Senate amendment that's been adopted, but I'm sure that that will be a significant focus of ours as we talk to the attorney general in Mexico City on Saturday. But I believe this is a matter that will get our attention. And in conference, as the speaker said, it will be considered.

SPEAKER PELOSI: A major -- Mr. Hoyer -- the leader's trip is a very important one for us, and demonstrates how important this relationship is.

We just -- I just sent, during -- just a week or so ago, to Mexico the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton; the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman; the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Sylvestre Reyes. As you know, he has great experience. He lives in El Paso, where there is a community with a border running through it, and great experience himself as a public servant in that regard.

So again, our focus is very -- very concentrated on the U.S.- Mexico relationship and the security for both sides of the border.

On the budget? Yes?

Q Yes. This is for Chairman Spratt. Mr. Spratt, given the consternation from Republicans over the use of reconciliation -- (off mike) -- for big-ticket items like -- (off mike), what do you expect the tenor of the conference to be -- (off mike)?

REP. SPRATT: Oh, I think the tenor of the conference will be very positive. We are not that far apart, and I'm confident we can close it. There will be some issues that will require some negotiation. We'll see. I wouldn't want to speak prematurely about reconciliation, because I just don't know how the issue lines up in the Senate. I do know that the leadership here in the House is strongly in support of that.

REP. HOYER: I'd like to make a comment on that because I think it's interesting this has been raised so frequently. The Republicans on a regular basis over the last eight years used reconciliation for various items they felt were important, not just their tax cuts, but other issues as well.

Reconciliation is within the regular order. It's within the rules of the House. And the chairman has included, in his budget, reconciliation but not until September. It is a fallback, a last resort. We are hopeful and our objective will be -- and the chairman has demonstrated that, I think, very amply -- that we want to work in a bipartisan way to get this country back on the right track.

The inheritance was a very dire one indeed, hundreds of thousands of jobs being hemorrhaged every 10 days; 600,000 jobs lost each of the last two months. The statistics will come out tomorrow, but we're very worried about those.

So that reconciliation on health care was designed to give us, in the final analysis, if we cannot get bipartisan agreement -- which we hope we can -- the opportunity to pass legislation very important to the president, very important to us, but more importantly, very important to the American people.

Q Mr. Spratt --

STAFF: Thank you, folks.

Q Mr. Spratt, you're the first member I've heard who's looking forward to a positive and calm conference. Every other member, Republicans and Democrats, say it could get downright (nasty ?).

SPEAKER PELOSI: Yeah. Let me just say this. Mr. Spratt always has in the forefront, as do we, what this means to the American people. It's very important, at the end of the day, that we have the health-care reform, a healthier America. Reforming health care reforms the entitlements, takes down that deficit by reducing the cost of entitlements.

So we can talk about process here and this and that, and the majority leader is so right; we hope to have that bipartisanship. But at the end of the day, if bipartisanship does not yield health care reform, then we'll have to move to reconciliation, and we hope that that will be the course the Senate will agree to take as well.

But what's important is what this means to America's families who are struggling, concerned about losing their homes, their jobs, their pensions, the -- money they've put away for their children's education, and health care looms as a very large cost to them.

So again, we always have to think about does this translate to the American people. Mr. Spratt has been their hero, and we're very grateful to him for his leadership.

Thank you all. Bye-bye.


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