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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. We are here this afternoon because, as you know, this morning we had a meeting of the House Democratic leadership with President Obama. And without going into the particulars of the meeting, it did afford us an opportunity to congratulate the President on his excellent statement in Kansas about fairness and the strength of the middle class and what that means to our country.

One thing was that the President pressed upon us and we all agreed is that we can't go home for the holidays until we pass a payroll tax cut for working families in our country and extend unemployment insurance. As you know, these initiatives are the right thing to do.

Again, Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat. We have to put money in the pockets of America's working families: $1,500, that tax cut means to working families. Unemployment insurance, of course, for the 6 million Americans is very important.

It isn't just the right thing to do, as we think it is, it is actually, from a macroeconomic standpoint, very essential that we do because injecting--with this money in the pockets of middle income families, demand will be injected into the economy, creating jobs, and that's what we have to do.

Creating jobs. It has been 330 days since the Republicans took the majority in the House of Representatives and still no job creating legislation passed into law that is of the nature that--the size that we need. We did pass the bill about our veterans, and that was the only part of the President's jobs bill that could get through. And that's an important part. As our vets return, as our soldiers return home from Afghanistan, it's very important that we be in a job-creating mode for them and for our entire economy. We owe them a future worthy of the sacrifice that they made, that they are making, they and their families, are making for us.

Just think of this, though: the Congressional Republicans are holding up a payroll tax cut that will help 160 million Americans, 160 million Americans. They are holding that up because they want to protect tax cuts for the wealthiest 300,000: 160 million would benefit from the payroll tax cut; 300,000 of the wealthiest families who they are here to protect. This is just not right.

Democrats are about reigniting the American dream, building ladders of success with good strong rungs, to build ladders of success for those who want to work hard and play by the rules, to remove obstacles to participation for others. I am afraid that some people are thinking that that reality of the American dream may be slipping away from them. We have to remove all doubt. That is not, that is not the case.

And so, as Republicans are putting forth initiatives on the tax cuts, you know, as we said here, first, they were against it. Then we made it too hot for them to handle, and [with] the President especially going out there and speaking to the American people. Now they want to associate themselves with the tax cut, but not without injecting seeds of the destruction of their own bill, poison pills, into the legislation they know cannot possibly pass the Senate or be signed into law. And there is no time for this. There is no time for this.

So, again, as families gather around their kitchen table deciding whether they can afford Christmas toys, holiday toys for their children or Christmas presents for their families, and if they are even going to be able to pay the bills come January, we should be sitting around the table here, Democrats and Republicans, and we invite the Republicans to join us at the table to pass these tax cuts and the unemployment extension. We simply cannot go home for the holidays unless we get the job done for the American people.

Q: Madam Leader, on the UI payroll bill, will Democrats, will you recommend that Democrats vote against a UI payroll bill if it includes Keystone XL? Meaning, will you wait for something else to come from the Senate? And secondly, does an appropriations bill, omnibus, however it is broken up need to be rider free for Democrats to support it?

Leader Pelosi. Well, let me take them one at a time. First of all, on the rider. Let's start with your second question. I think we demonstrated very clearly and our distinguished Whip, Mr. Hoyer, has pointed out over and over again, that when there were no riders in the appropriations bills, we could pass them in a bipartisan way. That's the sensible way to go. And as I said before, we have to bring sanity to this process.

In terms of the first bill, we really haven't even seen what the Republicans fully are putting into any payfors for the payroll tax bill. I don't even think it needs to be paid for because the stimulative effect of the bill is the best thing to do for America's families by putting money in their pockets, which they will spend; to inject demand into the economy is very important. Depending on how you pay for it can dull some of that stimulative effect. But if that's the way they want to pass it, then we are happy to sit down and find payfors for it.

The President has said he will veto a bill that has the Keystone pipeline in it. That doesn't make a decision as to whether you are for it or against it. It has no place in this bill. Let's get serious.

Q: One of the scenarios I'm hearing from the Republican side of the aisle is that they may pass this bill with the Keystone provision on it, send it to the Senate, and maybe send it back and then pass the final version and get out of Dodge. Your side has said you want to stay in town to do this. What will you do if that is the way they play it out and wash their hands of it?

Leader Pelosi. Are you talking about them putting it on an appropriations bill?

Q: No, they…

Leader Pelosi. We still have to pass the appropriations bill. And that's, you know, that's the main…

Q: We are hearing they might do this bill Monday or, excuse me, Tuesday and then…

Leader Pelosi. So they can't go out of town just doing what you described is my point.

Q: After they are done, say, Wednesday or Thursday.

Leader Pelosi. But you described a tax bill that they would pass and then leave town.

Q: And then the appropriations bill?

Leader Pelosi. Okay, I'm sorry, I missed that point. Forgive me.

The question is we have to be responsible about this. And especially in the majority when you control the floor, I think that most Members would not want to answer back home for why they decided to leave Washington, the Capitol without getting their work done for the American people. And the Republicans know full well that the scenario that you described is not one that is going to be signed by the President of the United States.

I'm hopeful that we can reach agreement on the appropriations bills one way or another. The Members on both sides of the aisle and the committee are working very hard to find consensus on how we can go forward and pass something on the floor.

Again, I haven't seen the full measure of the payfor for the payroll tax cut, but if that involves the Keystone pipeline, the President has said he will veto it. It is a nonstarter. So let's get to work.

Q: Have you gotten any message from the protesters who have crashed a few events lately?

Leader Pelosi. I was just listening to the pounding on the ceiling. I don't know what that is.

Any message from the protesters? I think the protesters have made a very strong statement: The status quo is unacceptable. And we all agree with that.

I liked the President's speech in Kansas for many reasons. I think it was a tour de force about who we are as a country in a nonpartisan way. And I particularly liked his statement when he said we are greater together when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share. And that's really what I think has to be how we go forward. That's not the case now.

I think an important part of that is something the President said further in his speech, was about inequality distorting democracy. And very important to all of this is something that we talked about last week was we have to move forward to empower the 99 percent to offset the impact of the Supreme Court decision of money in campaigns. We also have to move for voter protection so we are giving leverage to working families, both with their small contributions and their large participation at the polls, without obstacles in either place.

So I think support for the middle class, fairness of opportunity in our society, and diminishing the role of corporate money and special interest money in the process are all connected. As you know, the President talked about going to Kansas and Theodore Roosevelt's, President Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt's speech, Teddy Roosevelt's. Listen to this: "It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes."

I won't read the whole thing, but "corporate expenditures have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs." President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910.

Much of that had been wiped away. The Court restored it. It's part of the statement I think of the protesters. The status quo is unacceptable. You have got to change the role of special interest money in campaigns. And you must ensure voter protection as we go into our elections.

Q: Madam Leader, what are acceptable payfors? You said you are willing to sit down and talk about payfors. What do House Democrats think might be acceptable?

Leader Pelosi. We will see, look, let me take you back to the supercommittee. In the supercommittee, when we were saying we want an approach that was big, bold and balanced, there were many cuts that were made in mandatory spending there that we could revisit. But let's see what, you know, let's go to the table. As Americans are agonizing over their kitchen tables as to how they are going to make ends meet, let us meet at the table here in Washington to resolve this issue. It shouldn't, this anxiety shouldn't be there about this payroll tax cut.

And so put some ideas on the table and let's see what results. But don't put something that has absolutely nothing, like the Keystone pipeline, on to a bill and say that's our price for the middle income people to get a tax cut.

Let me say this about this payroll tax cut. Tell me if I'm wrong on this. I know you will one way or another. Do you know anybody in the upper 1 percent who opposes the payroll tax cut for the middle class? This isn't about the people out there. This is about the extreme position of the Republicans in Congress. It's not about the 1 percent versus the 99 on payroll tax cuts. It has overwhelming support in the public.

So if we, indeed, are all in agreement that we should have this $1,500 tax cut for middle income families, and they have rejected Senator, Leader Reid's proposal that there be a surcharge on the wealthy because they want to protect the tax cuts for the wealthiest in our country who make over a million dollars a year, then why would you put on the bill something like [the] Keystone pipeline initiative rather than a responsible pay for that we could negotiate over?

Q: On that point, Madam Leader, Speaker Boehner says that the Keystone pipeline has bipartisan support. They cite the backing of many labor leaders. Are you concerned that the Senate might actually go along and force the veto?

Leader Pelosi. Well, the President has said he will not sign the bill. I think that is a clear enough message. This just doesn't belong here. You know what the issue is, because it crosses a border, the Department of State has to make a recommendation as to whether that can happen, whether this pipeline could cross from one country into our country. There are many other issues involved in it, and I'm not going to go into the merits one way or another, except to say it does not belong on this bill. No, I'm not afraid of that. And I do understand the various pros and cons of the bill.


Q: Madam Leader, can you comment on the Administration's decision, Secretary Sebelius' decision to maintain a prescription only status for Plan B for people 17 years of age and younger?

Leader Pelosi. Well, Secretary Sebelius has said that, and we all agree, that any decisions of this kind should be based on sound science. I have the highest respect for Dr. Peggy Hamburg, the head of the FDA, and the recommendation that she made based on science. But it wasn't satisfactory to the Secretary for younger girls. And so perhaps more science is necessary to demonstrate one way or another what the impact will be on younger girls. I agree that the decision should be made on science.

Q: Madam Leader, the Democrats have often in the past criticized Republicans for borrowing to pay for extending tax cuts, the Bush tax cuts. Yet the Democratic UI proposal was to basically to borrow to give money to the general fund, which would then be transferred to hold Social Security harmless from the payroll tax cut. How is that qualitatively different?

Leader Pelosi. Could you remind me of when Republicans ever wanted to pay for a tax cut? I completely missed that. I don't remember them ever wanting to pay for a tax cut. They certainly did not pay for the Bush tax cuts during President Bush's administration. They maintained the tax cuts at the high end would trickle down and create jobs. It didn't happen. All it did was create a deeper deficit.

In fact, I remind you that in the second year of the Obama Administration, more jobs were created in the private sector than in the 8 years of the Bush Administration. I have totally, I have totally, I have no recollection of the Republicans ever paying for a tax cut.

Q: Madam Leader, but you just said that the payroll tax cut would pay for itself. So how is that different than Republicans saying that capital gains would pay for itself?

Leader Pelosi. No, I didn't say it would pay for itself.

Q: You said that…

Leader Pelosi. I said it would have a stimulative effect. And don't take that from me. That's from respected independent nonpartisan economists, who say that unemployment insurance and food stamps are two of the most positive effects on the economy because they are put in the pockets of people who will spend the money immediately and inject demand into the economy and create jobs. And they have formulas for that.

So there's, this is not about the Republicans saying there is a dynamic scoring and the rest of that. This is about money in the pockets of people who need to spend it immediately.

Q: So you don't want to pay for the payroll cut, or you do want to pay for it?

Leader Pelosi. I'm willing to pay for the payroll tax cut. I said that.

Q: One of the proposals that Republicans put forth in their bill was to expand the means testing for Medicare. Part D, also extending it for the--and freezing the threshold, the placement adjustment for the thresholds for means testing for upper income people. Would Democrats favor some of that?

Leader Pelosi. I'm sorry; I didn't understand the second part of it. The first part they wanted to means test, let me just say, on Medicare, and perhaps you can zero in, so I'm answering exactly your question. Medicare is an initiative that is already means tested in certain aspects. Part A is not, but Part B and D are means tested. So if there is a way for a person of my age and resources to pay more in a deductible or co pay, that is something that I think we should look at.
So I don't know what the particulars of their proposal are, but this is something that, I do not apply that to Social Security. That is not a means tested initiative.

What do you think? What do you think? What is that? Are they going to come through?

Q: They are proposing putting a freeze on the cost of living adjustment to the threshold, the minimum income threshold, to expand it in a sense.

Leader Pelosi. Let's say this. Why don't we wait and see what their proposal is really, because you may have information the rest of us do not have. When we see what they actually come out with, and something like that, taken in isolation, I really don't like to answer the question because we thought that that was something that could be on the table as part of the big, bold, and balanced initiative. So don't say we are not going to do revenue, but let's go after these initiatives over here. So when you ask, is that something that could be on the table as part of something bigger, yes. But in isolation, you know, let's just see what it is a part of it.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Republicans are talking about drawing down unemployment benefits next year from 99 weeks to about, by about 40 weeks. Is that a nonstarter for Democrats to support a bill that would have that provision in it?

Leader Pelosi. I think that we must, we must pass the unemployment insurance. I do not think it should be paid for because it is, again, it is something that people, that is paid into and now we should, for many reasons not pay for it. It may be that we have that on the table as part of a bigger package, we will have to see in terms of payfor or not payfor because it is absolutely essential to the well being of these families, for the macroeconomic impact on our economy, that we expand this. I haven't heard any figure as low as 40. That would be very problematic in our Caucus.

Q: By 40 weeks, from 99 to 50.

Leader Pelosi. Decrease by, yes, I've heard that one. That would be problematic in our Caucus. It is not just about the number of weeks. It is about how you do it. Are you penalizing states that have more unemployment or less unemployment or whatever it is?

Again, all of these are hard to--I would not support that. I don't think my colleagues would. But again, there are other parts of it that are problematic, even if they were at a higher number of weeks, that might be problematic in terms of any terms that they might put on it.

Q: Leader Pelosi, there were several polls out yesterday showing Speaker Gingrich ahead in many of the early primary states. As you look ahead at your goals of regaining the House back next year, is Gingrich the candidate you would most like to see?

Leader Pelosi. I would never tell you the candidate I would most like to see. But that's a matter for the Republicans to decide.

Q: What impact would Gingrich versus Obama have on the effort to regain the House?

Leader Pelosi. Let me just say this, President Obama is going to be reelected as President of the United States. His campaign will enable all of us to get out there and make the case for what a great President he is and what an obstruction the Republicans have been, as you see, in this first 11 months, this 330 days, without any real serious effort for job creation. And that what does the next year hold with that majority?

So, in supporting President Obama, we also want to support his ability to get a job done for the American people. We cooperated with President Bush when he was President. Mr. Hoyer will tell you, we had many, many more bills signed into law by President Bush working as a Democratic Congress with a Republican President, that Republicans have the obstruction of President Obama as one of their goals. Our success contributes to the success of President Obama. So Republicans will decide who their candidate is. We are very proud of President Obama and look forward to serving with him in the majority next time.

So, as I said at the beginning, we assured President Obama we were prepared to stay here, not go home for the holidays, until we passed the payroll tax cut and extended UI. So we will be here with all of you perhaps for Christmas, for Hanukkah, for Kwanza. Anything else? Any other?

Q: Boxing Day?

Leader Pelosi. Boxing Day, you name it. We are prepared to stay here. How could we possibly go home when people in homes across America are very concerned about jobs and their ability to provide for their families. Christmas is coming; that goose is still getting fat. We want to put something in the pockets of the American people. Thank you all.

We'll probably have one more visit before Christmas.

Q: Many more?

Leader Pelosi. Many more, but hopefully, at least one. Thank you all.

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