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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 morning. Welcome back for our two-weeks-on, one-week off. Last week, I sent a letter to Speaker Boehner asking him to bring a middle income tax-cut bill to the floor. I felt it was really important for us to get the show on the road; to act now so that we can remove all doubt that there will be a middle income tax cut -- that no longer will middle income taxpayers be held hostage to those making over a million dollars a year and that money raised by the expiration of the high income tax cuts will be used to reduce the deficit. This is urgent because as we go toward the months ahead we have another conversation brewing about the debt ceiling and it's important for us to show that revenue will be on the table as we reduce the deficit.

We have to deal with our economic issues and we have to do it now. There are only 44 -- in case you're making your plans, there are only 44 legislative days left in this Congress, six legislative days until the next recess. Today, tomorrow, a few days next week, and then we're off again. What we have seen here is that Republicans have no job plans. The votes that you've seen on the floor aren't about jobs. Their only plan is more tax breaks for the wealthy, tax breaks for Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

By refusing to act now the Republican majority is squandering our ability to help the middle class and to grow the economy and they are squandering our ability to address the debt crisis. By threatening to hold the full faith and credit of the United States of America hostage, Republicans are risking another deep recession. Don't take it from me. Professors at the Wharton School of Business and many other economists have spoken out on this, but these two professors at Wharton school said: "a debt ceiling standoff is an act of economic sabotage," end of quote.

Leaders of businesses large and small told us that last year, when this debate was waging, orders stopped. Whether a big global company or a local manufacturer that ships overseas, out of our country, orders stopped. Our credit rating was diminished even though eventually we did lift the debt ceiling. But the mere discussion of it lowered confidence. The FedEx leadership has said growth in the first quarter was sluggish along with a drop in consumer confidence in our ability to handle our debts in the wake of the debt ceiling debate. Again, because of the urgency of this challenge, I urge the Speaker to bring a middle income tax cut to the floor of the House. Put on the table whatever you want to put on the table. Let's have that debate. Let the American people see -- see what the decisions are and what the difference is. What they will see is the Republicans going to any length to protect the wealthiest people in America at the expense of the middle class. What they will see is Republicans giving tax breaks to the wealthiest people, to Big Oil, and people who ship jobs overseas at the expense of increasing our deficit.

Again, let's try to work together to have a middle income tax cut. That's something we all agree upon, that there should be a middle income tax cut. So, we want to remove all doubt and much uncertainty to grow the economy, bring in revenue, again, reduce the deficit.

Speaking of economic growth, one of my favorite subjects is women and growth in America and in that regard, yesterday, House Democrats had a hearing with a single message: pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. It's 2012. It's 2012, everybody. Why is it that we're talking about women getting paid less? Are you going home to your little girls each day and saying: "work hard, study hard, be diligent so that when you grow up you can make less than your brother?' I don't think parents and fathers are instilling that in their daughters. And yet there seems to be a decision somewhere, in some companies, in some parts of our economy, that that's an okay thing to do. This legislation, which was introduced by Congresswoman DeLauro -- she has been introducing it, I think, something like 17 years, in the late '90s. She began equal pay for equal work, ensuring that women earn what men do for doing the same job. It passed the House during the last Congress only to be blocked by the Senate Republicans.

Women still earn 77 cents for every dollar men make. In this time of great economic challenge that difference makes a big difference in the lives of families. We want to send a powerful message to women nationwide: "your work is valued.' By strengthening the economic security of America's women, we strengthen the economic security of America's families and in doing so we reignite the American dream. Many people recognize there is much to be gained in terms of economic growth by unleashing women in the workplace in a more fair and equitable way. This Paycheck Fairness Act does just that.

I'm very proud of President Obama. The first bill he signed was Lilly Ledbetter. We had a number of bills that we could have sent to him first, but Lilly Ledbetter, to end discrimination against women in the workplace, goes partway down the road to do what we want addressing the Supreme Court's decision. But now we need paycheck fairness to give teeth to the bill that passed in the early '60s but surely needs work. Not only do I urge my colleagues to support this, I urge all of America's businesses to support it. Why not, if not? Have you made a decision to pay women less? Is that part of your business model? Is that your corporate game plan? If not, get on board. This is a very well organized way for everyone to participate fairly and equally in the economic prosperity that we want to grow for our country. So, I call upon companies to say: "join us.' And if not, why not?

Any questions?

Q: Madam Leader, on the Defense of Marriage Act, the First Circuit Appeals Court in Boston this morning reportedly ruled and found the law unconstitutional. Two questions. Do you expect that the Supreme Court now will take up the constitutionality of the law; and if so, how confident are you that they will find the law unconstitutional?

Leader Pelosi. Well, it's very good news for those who are fighting discrimination anyplace, including in the area of marriage equality. This is three for three for the Speaker and the Republicans in the House who are fighting for DOMA. They lost this decision at a lower court level, now at the Court of Appeals, and then they lost another one, the Dragovich case, at the lower court level as well.

I don't know if the Supreme Court -- I have no idea how they set their agenda, but as you know, the District Court of Appeals decisions establishes precedent, so this is a very important decision.

Q: Do you want the Supreme Court to rule?

Leader Pelosi. Well, if this can stand, we accept that.

Let me just put this into perspective because you remember, you were here -- some of you don't, but I remind -- In the '04, '05, and recent time when the Republicans had the majority, they put court stripping provisions into the laws that they passed and said that the courts would not have a right of judicial review of those laws. You have heard me talk about this in relationship to the healthcare bill. But they particularly put it in bills that related to DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. And so they would say that the Court does not have -- they stripped the Court of the ability to exercise judicial review. And at the time some of them made statements that judicial review that was established under Marbury v. Madison 200 years ago was wrongly decided and others of prominence in their party have said that there wasn't a clear picture as to whether the courts could make a constitutional judgment over what Congress passes.

We believe in judicial review, we believe in the Constitution, and we believe that DOMA is not constitutional. So if it stands at the case at the District Court of Appeals that is precedent. That's a very big deal decision. At the same time, the Republicans in the House have spent hundreds -- maybe over $700,000 already going down this path. There are many, many cases and this could cost a lot of money. And, again, precedent has already been established in this case.

Q: Madam Leader, the Supreme Court is getting ready to rule in the next month or so on the healthcare bill. You expressed high confidence that there will be a six-three vote.

Leader Pelosi. Six three.

Q: But I'm just wondering if Democrats and the Democratic leadership have had any discussions or meetings to plan for any sort of contingency plans given the possibility that the Court could strike any provisions from the law or the whole law. I'm wondering if Democrats are having any of those discussions?

Leader Pelosi. Six three. That's it. Six three.

Q: Let me go one step further on this. In your speech at the Commonwealth Club, you said six to three. Do you have a crystal ball? What is your confidence -- I mean, you wrote the bill, but why do you have this confidence?

Leader Pelosi. Because I know the Constitution. This bill is ironclad. It is ironclad. Nobody was frivolous with the Constitution and the health of the American people in writing the bill. So, that's where my confidence springs from, the merit of the bill and the nature of the Constitution. The makeup of the court, well, we'll see.

Q: Madam Leader, the Republicans are soon going to be releasing documents that reveal details about the deal struck between President Obama and the pharmaceutical industry in the healthcare law. Could you comment on that deal and was the House party to those discussions?

Leader Pelosi. No, no. You asked two questions. No, no.

Q: You demonstrated flexibility on the tax cuts by setting the bill up to 1 million from 250,000. I'm curious as to whether there is similar flexibility on the duration of those. In other words, you come to the lame duck and there is no resolution would a three-month, or a six-month, or a one year extension be possible? Are you also flexible on duration?

Leader Pelosi. I don't think three-months or six-months is about flexibility. I think that is fairly stupid. Let me preface my remarks by saying next week we won't be -- oh, we will be here -- I will be observing my 25th anniversary in Congress, and I'm very proud of it. I have exploited it to the hilt, been honored all over the place, and mostly to focus it on reelecting a Democratic Congress. But I have decided, as I cross this threshold, to be economic in my use of words. And so I thought I would just get right to the point, which to do three-months, what are we talking about? We are not talking about instilling confidence. We're not talking about growing the economy, strengthening the middle class. We are talking about kicking that old can down the road.

Q: Madam Leader, you talked about income disparity amongst male and female but a report came out that shows that women working for Senate Democrats make about $7,000 less than male staffers. Can I get your response?

Leader Pelosi. You would have to go to the Senate side for that. When I was Speaker, I was the highest paid person on Capitol Hill, and women took great joy in that. But I can't speak to what the Senate -- needless to say, it's another world.

Q: What is your read on the abortion bill in the House that the Republicans are offering?

Leader Pelosi. Well, I join with the American Congress of Gynecologists and Obstetricians in opposing it. There is a long list. Do I have it here? I don't. But there is a long list of healthcare providers who oppose the legislation.

Well, the maker of the motion has said he brought it to the floor for a purpose that was not exactly scientific and so I think it should be treated that way. I will oppose it.

Q: Will you encourage Democrats to oppose it?

Leader Pelosi. No. I think people will vote the way they vote.

Q: You made a trip to Syria and saw Mr. Assad. Do you think more needs to be done by the international community against Syria right now? And do you -- you obviously knew Mr. Assad. What is your comment about how he is acting now?

Leader Pelosi. Well, I think that his behavior is outside the circle of civilized human behavior. I think he must be stopped. I think that it is a difficult challenge because there are so many different religions involved and the rest. And I think there was some caution used to say what comes next after Assad, and unlike Libya, where the Arab League and NATO and the U.N. and everyone came together and said: "we are all going in together.'

But I think that he has -- it's long overdue, in my view, that this should stop. How it should stop? Well, we'll have to figure out a way internationally to do so. But it's disgraceful. It's uncivilized. It, again, must stop. Now, we went through periods where people in Syria and outside of Syria who were, you know, concerned about -- more than concerned -- outraged about what Assad was doing were saying to us: "we need medical supplies, we need a humanitarian corridor, we need -- this is the kind of thing that we want.' And that was being provided. We keep saying to these groups now: "what is it that you think is possible? Is it safe havens within Syria? Safe havens within Syria?' Not many countries want to take all the refugees out of Syria and what does that resolve anyway if they leave?

It is a very, very complicated situation made more complex by the fact that he is an Alawite -- it is a small sect that has ruled the country for a long time. What he knows or doesn't know about what is going on over this past year is irrelevant. In the beginning he said -- oh, he thinks it's the outsiders, but by now he knows.

Q: Do you feel that international force should be used to stop these terrible humanitarian massacres that are going on?

Leader Pelosi. I think the massacres should stop. I'm not close enough in terms of the downside of some of the suggestions you may be alluding to to say what the cost benefit would be. But needless to say, coming from California, we are blessed with a great diversity of any state in the country -- New Yorkers may object. And we have been hearing for more than a year from Syrian-Americans about what is going on in their country and the need for us to do something. And some of the things they wanted to do have been done.

But clearly Assad has long ago crossed into that circle of uncivilized behavior. He's got to go. It's a question of how. And again, I'm not in that inner circle of discussion as to what that might be. I think it is a global discussion. The friends of Syria have met. Our Secretary represents us very well, Secretary Clinton, and I trust her judgment.

Q: Madam Leader, you called for balance between more revenue and spending cuts to try to reduce the deficit, yet the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that your tax plan to tax people who earn a million or more in income would actually raise a little more than half of the revenue over the next 10-years than would the President's plan of letting the Bush era tax cuts expire.

Leader Pelosi. I don't agree with their calculation because I certainly -- if the inference to be drawn from their calculation is therefore we have to make other cuts, I don't agree with that. The tax rate on income is one way to approach upper income revenue. There are other ways as well, and our Ways and Means Committee and our Joint Tax Committee have presented us with many of those.

So this is, and I hope they have confidence in my dedication to the proper investments that we need to have a balanced approach and that means revenues, and it means cuts, which we have already by and large made. And if there are others that we can make, which do not upset our priorities, then we should go down that path. But this is what is called the lively debate, and it's pretty exciting, and people put their views of one thing or another on the table. But the fact is that we all agree that the higher income has to pay its fair share. Everybody has to pay his or her fair share and we are not going to be able to have balance unless we have revenue and we are not going to be able to reduce the deficit unless we have revenue. And that revenue will be used to reduce the deficit.

Q: Wouldn't it put a lot more pressure on Congress to cut programs to make up for that lost program?

Leader Pelosi. No, no. No, it would not. And that's the path I think they've been going -- I don't know where they got that information. But I highly regard them, but I have a different view of how this goes. And part of my view, I mentioned -- part of my view is, I have been pushing for middle income tax cuts for a long time. A. B, the $250,000 never made it. Three, if we can get the million dollar and above people to pay their fair share, we get a lot of money. Eighty-percent of the benefits -- excuse me, 81 percent of the benefits of the Bush [high income] tax cuts go to the people making over a million dollars a year, 81 percent of the benefits. If that's easier for the public to understand, then we should go that route. But when we were in that debate, we can go anyplace with it -- Clinton tax cuts, $250,000, whatever it is, but let's get it started. It is a path to getting something done. It is a path to reducing the deficit while we get the wealthiest people to pay their fair share and it is a path to take us to tax simplification, tax reform. Let's put it all on the table at that point and see what we do with the rest of it.

But year in and year out, getting nothing accomplished except the extension of the tax cuts for the high-end, I think that has done more to demand cuts in the domestic agenda than what I'm talking about. And I will put it in this context as I leave here. I think it's pretty clear to the public that the Republicans have been obstructionists to any of the jobs bills that President Obama has put forth. Their goal is to obstruct. Why do they obstruct? Some say it is political, that they don't want a good thing to happen so that they can win the election. You be the judge of that. I say they obstruct maybe for that reason but also because that's what they believe in. They do not believe in taking action. Their jobs bill, you know what it is: déjà vu all over again. Tax cuts for the wealthy, trickle down and it will create jobs. And if it doesn't, so be it. That's the free market. That's exactly déjà vu all over again, which we had under George W. Bush. Tax cuts for the wealthy was their jobs agenda. That's exactly what the Speaker is talking about, saying if we eliminate the tax cuts for the high end, we're going to lose jobs. No, we are going to reduce the deficit. We are going to instill confidence. We are going to grow the economy. That's what we're going to do, instead of taking it out of children's education, which brings more money to the Treasury than anything you can name -- investing in the education of the American people brings more money to the Treasury than any initiative you can name -- instead of making seniors pay more for Medicare, make seniors pay more for Medicare while they give tax cuts at the higher end, just to use two examples.

So, in any case, the policy that they have -- I don't want the public to get the impression they're obstructing what the President is going to do, but they have a better idea. No. Been there. Done that. Seen it. Tax cuts for the wealthy. And in terms of any jobs bill, we keep saying: "bring the middle class tax cut to the floor, bring this transportation bill to the floor. Bring it to the floor so that we can have a job creating bill.' No, their job creator is tax cuts for the wealthy. So, it is a situation where when you -- if they had their way, they would do nothing because they do not believe in doing anything. We saw that for at least six of the eight-years under President Bush until we had a Democratic majority.

I have to go now. Thank you all.

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