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Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today

Press Conference

Location: Washington, DC

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 you know the votes on the floor in the House of Representatives prevented us from coming together this morning, so thank you for being available this afternoon.

Before I get into my statement about job creation and where we go from here, I want to acknowledge the passing of a great visionary genius in our country, Steve Jobs. Those of us from his area, in the Bay Area of San Francisco, have seen him up close firsthand for decades and mourn his loss and send our sympathies to his wife, Laurene, and their children.

Many, many beautiful statements have been made about Steve Jobs and vision that he had and the marketing genius that he was and how he taught us how to communicate in a different way, but two testimonials that I think are very moving to me are my own granddaughter called her mom who was visiting me last night and said, "Mommy, Mommy, did you hear, Steve Jobs died."

The kids followed him, followed his products, followed him in Pixar. He had a connection with so many different generations in our country down to 4-year olds asking for iPads for Christmas.

And my daughter…same daughter was in a cab this morning and she was telling the story to the cab driver, and he told her that his 8-year old child said to him this morning, "Daddy, my friend died." And he said, "Who is your friend?
He said, "Steve Jobs."

So just a really quite an impact that he had on our country in so very many ways and how young people in our country took that relationship very personally. So it is a loss to our country, but his contribution is a great one that has affected all of us.

Over the last week's break, our Members went out and reached out to small businesses to talk to them about the President's jobs bill to see what they thought about how it would work for them. We got a very favorable response to it, and we are asking them questions and soliciting their ideas about how to improve access to credit, access to customers, access to a trained workforce, and also, how they could connect more closely with the SBA, the Ex-Im Bank, other agencies of government to help them grow their markets and improve their profits. This all in light of the President's excellent proposal which has widespread support in the House Democratic Caucus, as well as in light of what was happening with the table of 12. Have they come up with a name for it yet? The Supercommittee…for lack of a word, Supercommittee.

It is our hope as we discussed before that the Supercommittee would have as its centerpiece an initiative for growth, for innovation, for entrepreneurship; that we believe that creating jobs through the private sector, through small business is the way to grow the economy. That is not possible without a strong public sector as well, and so decisions have to be made at that table on how to promote that growth through entrepreneurship, taking us into the future, and in light of that, deal with the tax code and revenue and cuts and their timing in their discussion.

I was so pleased that Members reported back that they had communicated with well over 2,000 small businesses. They will go back out now and continue that, and by the time we make a report in the next week or 10 days to the committee about how we see things, we will have the validation of small business as to how, what they like to see happen at that table. We are talking to young people to see what they would like to see happen at their table, listening to them.

It is a very important opportunity, and the opportunity that we all have to say we hope that the proposal that comes forth and agreement that is reached will be big, very substantial; that it will be a grand bargain; that it will be marked by fairness with everyone paying his or her fair share; that as we grow the economy, to reduce the deficit, to maintain our position as number one in terms of competitiveness in the world economy.

And speaking of the world economy, next week, the House will take up three trade bills. We have said over time that we shouldn't even be taking up these bills until we deal with the China currency issue. It is not just about China. It is about currency manipulation, that the China currency manipulation has had a tremendous impact on the jobs situation in the U.S.

We believe that the China currency manipulation is costing us over 1 million jobs in our country, over 1 million jobs. That it is about…if they would stop manipulating their currency…I just want to read this to you because it is a quote. According to Fred Bergsten at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, "If China stopped manipulating its currency it would decrease the U.S. global current account deficit by $50 billion to $120 billion." This is huge. This is huge. We must level the playing field for America's workers and businesses.

Many of you or those of you who have been around know that I have been involved in this China trade issue for a long time. I think for at least two decades, and I can say flat out, with all the respect that I have for the people of China, all the importance I place on our relationship, all the fun I had digging to China when I was a child on the beach…perhaps you did that too…we are in an abusive relationship with China when it comes to trade. We are in an abusive relationship.

When we first started this debate like in 1990, '91, 20 years ago, the trade deficit with China was $5 billion a year. We thought that gave us great leverage to open China's markets to our products, to stop their piracy of intellectual property, to free the prisoners arrested at China's Tiananmen Square in 1989, to stop their proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to Pakistan and other places. It was about trade. It was about human rights. It was about weapons of mass destruction. We thought $5 billion gave us that leverage. That sounded like a great deal of money and it was. We were pushed back by those who said if we don't do this, you know, let's take the other route and our relationship will evolve and all this fairness will come into the picture.

Well, what happened was in the 20 years since, the trade deficit with China is not $5 billion a year. It is over $5 billion a week. $5 billion a year, big leverage 20 years ago, don't touch the situation; it is going to evolve to a more fair relationship. That fairness is now $5 billion or more a week. Much of it springs from manipulation of China's currency, underwriting the cost of their exports to the United States, costing us a million jobs at least, costing us tens of billions of dollars in our global account.

So, again, we have said, if you want to talk about trade, fast-tracking trade deals and the rest of that, why don't we just clear our deck first from the abusive trade relationship that the United States has with China and that China has with us.

The Senate passed the bill [cloture], as you know. Was it 62-38 today? I would hope that the Republican majority would give us the chance to bring up the bill. It had passed overwhelmingly in the House, I think three hundred and something to whatever. Ninety nine Republicans last year voted for the bill. That was a major majority of Republicans. It is a new class now but still a great deal of support. I believe we have what, two hundred and how many cosponsors? 225 bipartisan cosponsors on that bill.

So, in any event, I would hope that we have a chance, if we are talking about leveling the playing field, if we are talking about making…"Make It In America" really count, not to be protectionists, but to be self reliant and to have our products be able to compete not only in our relationship with China, but their manipulation of the currency has an impact on cost as we try to sell our products to other countries, thus the global figure. And so that is what we would like to see.

I am pleased that we will be taking up the Trade Adjustment Act. My understanding is from the colloquy that it will be on the same day we are taking up these bills, but that is a small piece of all of this. The China piece, the manipulation of currency, whether it is China or any other country, is a major part of it.

These trade bills that are coming up, what did they say, Korea was 70,000 jobs, Colombia was 6,000 jobs, and Panama, maybe it is too small to register how many jobs it will create in the U.S., all of it very small compared to more than 1 million jobs that would be to our advantage should we act upon the manipulation of the Chinese currency.

Again, we support the report that we are getting back from the small businesses that they want the President's bill to pass. They like aspects of it, the payroll tax holiday, tax credits. They like many aspects of the bill, and we will continue to fight for that as we, as you know, went to the steps of the Capitol to support it when he introduced it, and we come back to the table to the Supercommittee and say to them, the path to prosperity, path to economic security in our country is through small businesses in our country. That is our message to them.

Yes, sir.

Q: When you went earlier today, were at the White House with Congresswoman Giffords for the decommissioning, can you talk a little bit about how she is doing, your observations about how she is doing, what you talked about to her and…including her possible return date?

Leader Pelosi. Well, I would say that it is really a thrill to be…we were actually in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Vice President Biden presided over the ceremony for the decommissioning…that is the word…of Captain Mark Kelly, Gabby Giffords' husband, in case you didn't hear the question, Gabby Giffords' husband. His family and her family were all there for the occasion. I was very impressed, and I have seen Gabby probably about once a month since the 8 months since the tragedy, and I was very impressed with the strength of her presence, how she walked in, and how she pinned one of…he received two very important decorations, and she pinned one of them on him and she looked great. She sounded great and it was quite thrilling.

I don't know if anything will ever be as thrilling, however, as the day when she came to the Congress to make sure the United States upheld the full faith and credit of the United States of America, that the Congress would. That day was a day in history that none of us will ever see anything quite as joyous as that. But today was right up there with that.

Yes, sir?

Q: Madam Leader, I would like to ask you about the Supercommittee. You have consistently said you would like to see a grand bargain, other people, including Senators McConnell and Kyl, think that maybe it might be just marching orders at $1.2 or $1.5 trillion. If it is a small, if you are able to unable to get a grand bargain and it is a smaller figure, do you believe that revenues have to be a prerequisite for any Democrats to support it?

Leader Pelosi. I think fairness has to be a prerequisite for it. We have just come through passing a bill that was $1.2 trillion in cuts, no revenue. I don't believe with the competitiveness of our country, the well being of our middle class can withstand doing that again. So it is about fairness. I am very pleased that the Senate is talking about the $1 million on a surcharge. You know their terminology better than I do. I have, for years, said that that $1 million should be the differentiation because it has clarity and it has money in order to reduce the deficit.

In fact, in the health care bill, we had a $500,000 for individuals, $1 million for joint filers as a surcharge in order to pay for parts of the health care bill. Now, the Senate has gotten to that point. I think it is the right place to go. Most of the money is at $1 million and above. Again, it has clarity, which is important for the American people to understand that after you make $1 million, not have $1 million, but after you make $1 million, your first dollar over $1 million gets treated in a different way.

Very important. I commend the Senate for the path they are on. I wish we had voted to do it a year ago.

Q: Madam Leader, I wanted to ask you about the Chinese currency manipulation. It seems that there is a fundamental difference between your view on it and the Speaker's. You said that it would create 1 million jobs. This morning he was warning that it could instigate a trade war. I am just wondering how you bridge that difference to get it to the House, and then, also, have you gotten any indication from the President that he is supportive of the measure?

Leader Pelosi. I think the President spoke to the issue this morning. We were having many votes at that time so you know more about what the President had to say. For now, I just have the reports on it and I will see it later, but my understanding is his comments were that…my understanding is that he said China is manipulating its currency; is that correct? Did the President say that? Is that your understanding?

Reporter: He admitted it, but he didn't say he would sign that Senate bill.

Leader Pelosi. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the inference to be drawn was that they are doing it, and if they are doing it and whoever is doing it, it has an impact on employment in our country, and I think that…I think that it is an issue that, again, we had over 300 votes last year, bipartisan way, in the last Congress, [invoked cloture], which is remarkable when the [Republican] leader of the Senate said it wasn't going anyplace. I think that was this morning, and now it passed this morning in the Senate. Maybe they did it last night. It was reported this morning.

I think we help the President by passing such a bill. He can say to the Chinese, this is what is in store. This is what is in store. This is what we have to deal with in terms of public opinion in our country and about, again, ending this abusive relationship. What is this? What is this? And now that the dollar is strong and they are devaluing their currency, we are really even in worse shape in terms of what it means to U.S. exports.

So I don't think we can go as slow as the slower ships when it comes to some of these issues. We just get out there, push for it, and if the President then wants to, shall we say, mitigate for the enthusiasm in the Congress for this issue, that is his role. But our role is to register the concern of the American people on this. This has been going on for 21 years, 22 years that I have been involved in this issue when the U.S. decided way back when ride the Chinese tiger. They will decide when we get off or we will decide, and we really have to take action.

Imagine, more than 1 million jobs. We are making a big deal out of three trade bills that only make 80,000 jobs. Eighty-thousand jobs are important, and if they are important just think what over 1 million jobs are. You know, really, it is not about protectionism. It is about self reliance. It is about "Make It In America." It is about making our products competitive and going back and forth in China trade, in U.S.-China trade, but also on the world market. Their manipulation impacts their prices on the world market and makes us uncompetitive in terms of price.

Q: I would like to ask you about the Wall Street protests which has now spread to 10 cities. I think one of their stated goals, main goal, is to get the corporate money out of the political system, and everyone knows you are noted as a champion fund raiser, particularly Super PAC. I know Senator Reid also raises money and now Mr. Cantor has launched a Super PAC. Are you concerned that the protestors' message will be lost on politicians in Washington, and do you, in fact, think there is way too much money?

Leader Pelosi. I certainly do. I have condemned in the strongest possible terms the Supreme Court decision that said that it was just open season on fundraising. I am probably one of the most successful fund raisers in the country, and if you look at where I raise money, it is very idealistic because people want good government for our country. It is the least pragmatic money you can find because look at, the first 8 months of the years we have outraised the Republicans. If it was pragmatic, that wouldn't be the case.

The fact that in the last election, in the last few days…well, last few months of the campaign, when the Senate failed to pass the Disclose Act, which would say they do disclosure, we know there is no disclosure, the money just flowed, and that had a big impact on the campaign.

The route that we are going…and we are only limited in what we can raise, $5,000 for the Super PAC but we insisted that it had disclosure, that it have disclosure, and that was the point. If you had disclosure, let the public judge what those resources are that come in, but I spend my time raising money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to give me the opportunity to say that last Friday we had our biggest day online. It was the last day of the quarter, September 30. $400,000 online in 1 day, biggest day in our history online, just all online, $30, $25, $10, and half of it were brand new contributors.

That is really the future, I hope, of resources coming to committees, but me, I am for public financing of campaigns. Call it anything you want, clean elections, all the rest. Does money play too big a role in politics? Absolutely, and I think that the Supreme Court decision did more to undermine our democracy and dim the voices of the American people than almost anything you can name. Took us backwards. It took us backward from the campaign reform, from McCain-Feingold. For some reason, it goes by the Senate names but we were very proud of Marty Meehan in the House as well.

Q: So you hear the protestors' message?

Leader Pelosi. The message of the protestors is a message for establishment every place. The focus is on Wall Street and justifiably so. I think that the message of the American people that no longer…and this was about Dodd-Frank… no longer will the recklessness of some…and I don't paint everyone with the same brush…no longer will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street. And remember, that Dodd-Frank…obviously we have a great long way to go on all of this…Dodd-Frank had the strongest regulations in decades to make sure this doesn't happen again, and Dodd-Frank had the biggest consumer protections in the history of our country.

You know the Republicans are preventing the appointments to that Office of Consumer Protection, that they have put the resolutions on the floor to stop the implementation of that. That is a fight that we are having. Perhaps it isn't visible enough. This will help make it more visible. But the fact is that when we don't pass a jobs bill, when people are not paying their fair share, when as Ronald Reagan said the millionaire is paying less than the bus driver. Have you seen his film lately, Ronald Reagan? I mean, Ronald Reagan was saying that a long time ago.

So something is wrong with this picture, and God bless them for the spontaneity, you know, independent people coming. It is young, it is spontaneous, it is focused, and it is going to be effective.

Q: What kind of agreement do you see…if you wanted a vote on the Chinese currency in the House as a condition for Democratic support on the free trade; is that what you were saying?

Leader Pelosi. I don't think anybody's looking for our support on the bills. I am saying that from the standpoint of our responsibility to the American people, that if we are going to be proceeding with any trade bills and we are trying to represent to the American people that trade is going to make a difference in their lives, we should get real about it and address where the real job loss is and address the currency manipulation by China or any other country that is manipulating its currency.

Q: So is it your position that your Members should vote "no" on the free trade agreements?

Leader Pelosi. Well, they are going to do whatever they want to do. I think it is very clear that Republicans will just go down the path…I don't know what they will do. We will see what happens on Tuesday, but Members are going to do what they do. They have different views on different bills, and we will see what happens then, but that doesn't eliminate the morality which is 80,000 jobs versus over 1 million jobs, between $50 and $150 billion in our global account because of this. It is a big problem. We have to deal with it in a big way, and I hope that we will have a chance to vote on it because, if we do, I think it will strengthen the President's hand in his relationship with China.

Yes, sir?

Q: With only 174 signatures on the discharge petition for that bill, despite wider spread support on it, how are you going to be able to force the Speaker to…

Leader Pelosi. Well, we can discuss that. We have over…I think there are about…forgive me for not having the figures right here: 61 Republicans, 225 cosponsors. Now, we don't have 218 Democrats. You notice that, right? So we can't have a…if we had 218, we wouldn't need a discharge petition, and when we had 218, we brought it up and got over 300 votes. So I would just hope that in talking about this issue and the public awareness of it will, you know, shall we say, lead the way to doing something about it.

It is really interesting. The public has very serious concerns about the trade bills right now, and it is always hard in times of unemployment to convince the American people that we should…that trade is going to open up, especially after the experiences that they have had in their region.

Without going into that, I will just say that to ignore the manipulation of currency by China or any other country and try to palm off the fact that trade is going to be the answer to our job challenge is to ignore the major problem.

Q: On the Jobs Act, do you think that the Jobs Act will be more or less successful than the Recovery Act at creating jobs, and secondly, what do you think are the most significant differences between the Jobs Act and Recovery Act?

Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say as a matter of fact that the Recovery Act saved millions of jobs…saved or created millions of jobs for our economy. Without the Recovery Act and accompanying Federal interventions, whether from the Fed or Cash for Clunkers or other initiatives, the unemployment rate last year at the time of the election would have been 14.5 percent, not 9.5 percent, but if you are a voter and you don't have a job, that doesn't mean anything to you and that is right because 9.5 percent is too high. But we were more in a depression under the Bush economic policies. We were a depression and we were in a meltdown of our fiscal situation and we had deep, deep deficits, and now we have to dig out of that.

So I believe that the recovery package was a success in terms of job creation. It wasn't fully appreciated, but the fact is that it made a big difference, made a big difference in helping us have a running start on electronic medical records, which are going to be job creation and improve quality of care, lower costs, expand access, and again, create jobs. Four million jobs will be created by the health care bill and the associated issues like what was in the recovery package on health care alone. So I think it was a success.

This is a much smaller package, but the President says it will create 1.9…not the President, but those who…was it the CBO or whatever has said 1.9 million jobs. It is a good start. It is a good start, but hopefully it will have an explosive effect that people with jobs will become consumers of health care jobs, which takes us back to small businesses, which is what we think if people have jobs and we have more consumers, our small businesses will thrive, people will be more entrepreneurial, take risks, keep us competitive, whether it is talking about making chocolate candy comes to mind, or children's clothes or high tech inventions in their garage, as Steve Jobs did those decades ago.

In closing, I just want to say that today also marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, longest war in our country's history. On my recent visit there in the spring…I go most every year…I saw much more progress than I have seen before and that progress was taking us toward bringing our troops home. I believe the American people are weary of war, period, and want our troops to come home.

On my way to the Executive Office Building to see Mark and Gabby…have you been out? Go out. It is a warm day. [I saw] against the war, for jobs, you name the subject, the banners are waving between here and the White House, and of course, today our Progressive Caucus had a hearing on the war in Afghanistan. It is very clear to the American people that we don't know..they are weary of war…we don't know if we can afford it. What does it mean to our national security? We appreciate that the President is winding that war down and we won't have many more anniversaries of the longest wars in our country's history.

Thank you all very much.

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