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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, everyone. The clock is ticking on the legislation for the payroll tax cut. We've made it clear: our top priority is to give a tax cut to 160 million Americans, to extend unemployment benefits to those Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and, of course, to make sure that our seniors have access to their doctor under Medicare.

We have said that it should not be paid for, the tax cuts for the 160 million Americans shouldn't be paid for. We didn't pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest in America, I don't know why we would have to pay for them for the middle class. Unemployment benefits have not traditionally been paid for. But if they want to pay for them, we can start with a surcharge on the wealthiest in our country. We can look to the Overseas Contingency account to cover some of the costs.

If they don't like that, we would like to see what the Republicans have to offer. But we are not going to give to the middle class with one hand, with the tax cut, and take from them with another, by having them have to cover the costs of their own tax cut. It's not fair to them, but it also undermines the stimulative effect of that money being injected into the economy and creating demand and therefore creating jobs.

So hopefully this can happen soon. We believe it has to happen by February 15th, excuse me, 17th, in order to be ready for the end of the month, meeting all of the Congressional Budget Office requirements. And that's what our motion to instruct conferees said last week, and that's what an overwhelming bipartisan vote was for.

Also this week, we're very excited about the STOCK Act. The President's mention of it at the State of the Union gave it a real boost. So when we came back, the first thing we did was to add cosponsors to an already large list. We have 271 cosponsors, of which 92 are Republicans. And then yesterday, last evening, when we went to the floor, had Members sign a discharge petition. Right away, we had over 100 Members who have signed it, and 2 of those are Republicans. So it is supported, as you know, by Common Cause, Democracy 21, Public Citizen, U.S. PIRG, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in [Washington], and the American people. So we are very excited about what Leader Reid has said, that the Senate will probably be taking up the bill by the end of the day, which, of course, means that hopefully we can take it up over here and have enough names on the discharge petition even if it is not 218, but a persuasive number of cosponsors. As I said, 271, 271 bipartisan.

And for your information, we have handed out an auto industry report on Democratic actions taken to bolster the American auto industry. We are very, very proud of this. At the time, as you know, well, maybe you don't know, three years ago in December, we passed legislation that was designed not as life support for the auto industry, but as a lifeline to them. Establishing standards and enabling resources to be extended to them to bring our auto industry back. It served as a framework for the President's proposal later, because our bill did not pass the Senate.

And yesterday, just yesterday, we learned in the news that Chrysler reported its first annual net profit since 1997. We are pleased that General Motors is now once again the top automaker in the world, and we are proud to have brought the auto industry back; not only the automakers themselves, but all that goes into that in terms of their suppliers. We have made an investment that has paid off, saved nearly 1-1.5 million American jobs. It is part of our "Make It In America," reignite the American dream success.

I want to salute the President for his courage, in doing what he did by executive action, because, as you may recall, it was not popular at the time, and people criticized the action. But nonetheless, it has paid off, and it is a job creator.

I just want to close by talking once again about reforms. Since I saw you, I have done some more traveling in the country, and the response continues to be overwhelming to the idea that part of the legacy those of us in public service must leave is one of a new politics free of special interest money. We want to be sure that the American people have all the knowledge they need to make a choice in the election year. That means we should disclose who makes these big--right now, secret, God knows where the money comes from--contributions. Secret, unlimited contributions to campaigns. Unreported.

And we say disclose, and we will be talking about that next week under the leadership of Chris Van Hollen. Next, when we win, we want to reform the system. I get rousing applause when I say that we want to reform the system, and by doing so we will elect many more women to Congress and to public office because women will no longer be deterred by the concern about raising money or being drowned by the opposition in money that they use in campaigns. So it is not only women, it's minorities, it's unleashing many more resources that will make our political system, our governmental system, more wholesome.

And then all along to talk about how we might amend the Constitution to overturn, I think, a decision that was very harmful to our democracy that said special interests, unidentified sources, could spend unlimited money to make their mark in a campaign. And they couple with this a flood of money and the suppression of the vote. So what we are talking about is how we offset that flood of money by the power of people's votes and their voices. And that means that we have to go out there and fight in, now about 36 States, where half of them they have been successful already in instituting barriers to voter participation.

We want to speak out against them, but we want to make sure that everyone who is eligible to vote does vote, and that that vote is counted. So I want to thank Chris Van Hollen for his work on the DISCLOSE Act, and so many of our Members on other parts of it, and Ted Deutch of Florida on the amendment part of it.

And also in closing, getting back to the STOCK Act, I want to commend Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Congressman Tim Walz for their leadership in just expediting all of this. So hopefully, our own majority here will realize that this is an important bill that should be taken up now.

With that I would be pleased to take any questions.

Q: Madam Leader, I am just curious from your perspective, you may have read some of these articles about the infighting between Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor, and similar stories were written about you when you were Speaker and Congressman Hoyer was Majority Leader. Does that just come with the post or…

Leader Pelosi. Let me first say that I don't agree with the stipulation that similar stories--I don't know, there may have been some inferences to be drawn from the stories, but Mr. Hoyer and I always had a partnership. We were not just a team, we were a partnership. And I know it's grist for the mill, and people have fun interpreting one thing or another, but the kind of story that I think is out there now on the other side is they couldn't even decide who would walk into a room or this or that. Why that is interesting to me is that we need jobs, we need jobs legislation, and we don't need anything to stand in the way of that job creation.

Q: Susan G. Komen Foundation has decided they are going to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood because of an ongoing investigation by Cliff Stearns whether or not it funds abortions. As the most powerful elected female in the country, how do you feel about the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to do that? And there are even some state legislators in California who say they will not wear pink anymore because they are so upset about that. Will you continue to wear pink in support of breast cancer?

Leader Pelosi. My usual pink, that I wear here all the time? Well, thank you for your question. In answer to it, how do I feel about it? That was the way you phrased it?

Q: How do you feel about it, and do you plan to do anything about it?

Leader Pelosi. I feel very sad. I feel very sad about it. I know the Susan G. Komen Foundation to be a very effective organization, very professionally run and for a good purpose. I think their collaboration with Planned Parenthood, if that is the word, but whatever the connection was, was one that benefited women's health, and I feel sad that this decision on their part is to the detriment of women's health. But obviously, women are responding, and Planned Parenthood is getting a tremendous show of support from people out there.

Q: Do you think this is political by the Komen Foundation?

Leader Pelosi. I have no idea, but I will say this: If the basic premise is that they can't be associated with anybody who is being investigated, it would be interesting to see who else they are associated with who are being investigated, too, and that would be anybody from the NIH to, you know, down the line. So if that is the standard, then I think they have to be consistent.

But I know them to be an organization much admired, very professional, caring about women. And I find this to be unfortunate. But I don't attribute any motivation. I just don't know why they would do such a thing.

Q: Madam Leader, you mentioned the payroll tax and Medicare doctors. The doc fix exists, as you know, largely because back in 1997, Congress in its wisdom decided to use future cuts to doctors to give the appearance of a balanced budget.

Leader Pelosi. That would be a Republican majority in the Ways and Means Committee that decided that. Chairman Thomas. It was wrong.

Q: Okay. It was wrong, in your words, and that's what you all are stuck with now. And then yesterday, in the Budget Committee, when Ms. Castor asked Doug Elmendorf of CBO about using the Overseas Contingency Operations, which she said is a good place to get funds to help pay for this bill, he said, well, basically no such fund exists and instructed her that really that money doesn't exist.

Should the public be concerned overall about the budget process around here and what appear to be, whether it is Republicans or Democrats, what appear to be shell games to cover budgets? Because that's what appears to be going on on both sides.

Leader Pelosi. Well, the CBO did take into consideration the overseas contingency account with the Ryan budget. I refer you to that.

Should the American people be concerned about the budget process here? I think the American people first and foremost should be concerned about the budget priorities that we debate here. We believe the budget should be a statement of our national values; what we believe in as a country should be reflected in how we allocate our resources and how we are fiscally responsible for future generations.

I think they should be concerned about giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country without paying for them. Or just giving them to them, period, because they are not job creating, which brings revenue in.

So, I think the main concern is about what are the resources that we are calling upon? How are they being allocated? How will they grow the economy? How would they educate our children? How would they keep America number one? And at the same time, how are we fiscally sound? I think that is the concern. But you can't have OC counted one way and not counted another.

Q: But you're convinced that it's real money, OC?

Leader Pelosi. I think that it can be as justified as it was in the Paul Ryan budget. And let me just say that hearkening back to your basic premise, I didn't hear a lot of hooting and hollering on the part of the budget hawks out there when Chairman Bill Thomas, then the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, decided on this gimmickry, which far outdoes any other sleight of hand that you might reference.

Q: Madam Leader, the administration has issued a regulation that will require all health care plans to cover sterilization and all FDA approved contraceptives, including those that induce abortion. This would force Catholic individuals and institutions to act against their consciences. All Catholic churches…

Leader Pelosi. Is this a speech, or do you have a question that you've disguised as…

Q: If we will not comply with this, Catholic bishops are saying they will not comply with this law. Will you stand with your fellow Catholics in resisting this law, or will you stick by the administration?

Leader Pelosi. First of all, I'm going to stick with my fellow Catholics in supporting the administration on this. I think it was a very courageous decision that they made, and I support it.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Republicans are criticizing the administration for saying that the U.S. will end its combat role in Afghanistan in the next year and saying that this is just playing election year politics. What are your thoughts on that?

Leader Pelosi. Well, I think the decision, well, I don't know if it is a decision, but the timetable that Secretary Panetta has put forth is consistent with what the President has said all along, that we will, by and large, have our combat troops out of, or change of mission in Afghanistan by 2014, and this is the logical thing we would do on that path. So I fully support what Secretary Panetta has put forth.

It is consistent with the policy that has been put forth, which is that we will reduce our involvement there by 2014, in addition to what the President promised and said about Iraq and how now we are out.

Q: Madam Leader, Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced legislation, thank you, thank you, have introduced legislation to undo the defense portion of the sequester in the budget control agreement. Is that okay with you, and does that open the door for Democrats?

Leader Pelosi. Okay with me?

Q: To introduce legislation to undo the sequester on spending cuts that they don't like?

Leader Pelosi. Now we're really talking skullduggery. We are really talking skullduggery here. A commitment was made, an agreement was reached, and I think it is wrong for them to say, we are just not going to honor the commitment, and we are certainly not going to honor it on one side. How do they expect to make up for the deficit reduction that is gained?

We had an opportunity to do something big. The supercommittee had the opportunity to do something, at least $4 trillion or more. They could have started with the entrepreneurial spirit of America to grow our economy, promoting small businesses and the rest, and then had a revenue side and an investment side that reinforced that. It would certainly have involved some difficult cuts on the one hand and some need to pull in revenue on the other side.

They understood what the consequences were. They agreed to the consequences, and they thought that they could walk away from all the deficit reduction that was possible in that and now say, well, forget about deficit reduction altogether when it comes to the defense budget. I think that an agreement was reached. It must be honored.

Q: In follow up to that, how about in respect to delaying it for a year? Senator McCain is suggesting that.

Leader Pelosi. I think we made an agreement; we have to proceed with it. I don't like it. I would have hoped it would have been a motivator for the Republicans to understand that you cannot have a serious deficit reduction that we need to have unless you do not have tax cuts for the rich, which have not produced anything but a deeper deficit for us, and that there are certain tax subsidies like for Big Oil, et cetera, that we could have done away with in order to reduce the deficit in a very big way, which would have enabled us to make all kinds of compromises, because everybody was part of making sacrifice. Instead, we had just kick the can down the road. Now kick the can down the road. No.

Q: You have made the case from the beginning that President Obama inherited a bad economic situation from President George W. Bush.

Leader Pelosi. He did. Right.

Q: Do you think at this point Harry Reid, yourself, and President Obama should take ownership for the current state of the economy?

Leader Pelosi. I think we should take ownership for the fact that the unemployment rate would be 15 percent without the actions we took to create jobs. President Obama did inherit a mess of a magnitude unseen since the time of the Great Depression, and we would have been close to a depression had he not won the election and taken the actions he and the Democratic Congress did.

Remember, a meltdown of our financial institutions of a global magnitude, which was drastic, required intervention on the part of the taxpayer with no commensurate cooperation back in terms of lending to grow the economy. This happened and had accompanying it a loss of revenue into the Treasury because of the impact on the economy. At the same time you had tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country. You had a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry that was in the hundreds of billions of dollars, and you had two unpaid foreign wars deepening the deficit. Very deep deficit, a meltdown of the financial market, and policies that did not run the economy.

And so the President inherited that. He was a job creator, President Obama was a job creator on day one. I've probably said this to you before, but just in case, I think it bears repeating: A job creator from day one. In his inaugural address he called for swift, bold action now. In one week and one day after his speech, the House of Representatives passed the Economic Recovery Act, which even the CBO says has saved or created over 3 million jobs.

And again, we talked about the auto industry and how his actions there, not popular at the time, you will recall, but effective nonetheless; cash for Clunkers, and things like that that added to it; and measures to make sure that this does not happen again with the Wall Street reform, which also gave protection to consumers, the biggest consumer protections in the history of our country.

So we fully embrace those parts of what we did in order to reduce and mitigate for the damage that was caused under the Bush administration and the Republican policies. We were in a very, very deep hole, and that's what we have to come out of. It is not cyclical. It's systemic. It's structural. It's very big. And that's why it was really important for us to have more job creation. But, as you know, we didn't have the 60th vote in the Senate. That was hard to do even with the Democratic majority in the House. And now, of course, with the Republican majority in the House, no jobs agenda, and they are 1 year into their majority.

So I am really pleased that the President has taken this message to the American people. It is not about assigning blame, but you asked. It's about taking us to a path that will be important.

And while I'm on that subject, we are never going to have again in our country, the fairness and opportunity and reigniting the American dream that we have called for, building ladders of opportunity for all who want to take responsibility and play by the rules unless we change the political system, the role of money in the political system. It has again drowned out, drowned out serious debate, and if you tie it to their voter suppression, which in itself is undemocratic, but it is so true.

So these things are all connected, and we have to make sure that in this fight it is very clear to the American people what the choice is. And so, President Reagan was President for eight years. President Carter was President for four years. And up until, I think, almost his last day in office, President Reagan was blaming his economic woes on President Jimmy Carter, who hadn't been President for eight years already.

It's not about, this President has been so professional. By that I mean he understands the role that he has to play and the responsibility that he has. And so with the given that he got, he has, I think, tried very hard to take us down the right path. The Republicans have been obstructionists in that regard. This election will be about that. And I feel very comfortable about the message that he is conveying. Blame it on the "Do Nothing Congress" because they have obstructed so much, in addition to the policies that he inherited.

And now I have to go to vote, so I thank you all for being here today. Thank you.

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