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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. Thank you all for accommodating a couple of weeks in a row of a revised schedule due to the actions on the floor and in the Congress. Today, the House Democratic leadership sent a letter to Speaker Boehner asking him not to adjourn. We were very clear that we should not recess unless we had the people's business addressed. Our letter stated: "Our Nation can ill afford economic uncertainty that will result from Congress remaining idle for another six weeks. Democrats stand ready to work together to get the job done to put people to work and grow the economy, and we know that takes compromise and cooperation to do." Members of Congress, though, were elected to do a job, not to just hold a job by campaigning. But Republicans aren't interested apparently in working together to create jobs and grow the economy and strengthen the middle class. It's interesting to note that between August 3rd when we adjourned and November 13th when we are scheduled to come back into session -- August 3rd to November 14th we [will] have been in session eight days. Not even eight full days. Tomorrow, September 21st, will mark the earliest adjournment of Congress since 1960.

The do nothing Congress report card is here. On Medicare, Republicans voted over and over again to end Medicare as we know it and increase costs for seniors by $6,400. We give them an "F" for that. They have chosen tax breaks. They have chosen millionaires over the middle class and over Medicare giving tax breaks to people making over a million dollars, a tax break of $160,000 as they make seniors pay more for Medicare. On jobs, they have voted to outsource them. Republicans voted -- they have voted to give tax credits to corporations to send jobs overseas and rejected President Obama's American Jobs Act which would keep jobs here.

Urgent priorities: they failed to pass, when it comes to the farm bill, failure. When it comes to a massive bipartisan initiative over and over again, it is now in the Senate, but their failure for doing it in the House. Same thing for the Violence Against Women Act, bipartisan Senate bill, failure. Responsible deficit reduction, over and over again, we know how important it is to come to the table to get that done. And when it comes to women, they are definitely a failure as well. They voted to restrict women's access to health services. Again the VAWA works in there. And for two years House Republicans have chosen millionaires over the middle class and over Medicare. They get an "F."
And we will be talking some more about it tomorrow with a fuller array of Democratic Members so we invite you to that.

With that, I would be pleased to take any questions. I'm being shorter because you have been waiting.

Yes, sir?

Q: When you guys -- assuming the Speaker doesn't take you up on the offer to stay longer now, when you guys come back in November, you have to figure out what to do with the fiscal cliff. There has been some talk of trying to use a sort of a three year or six month punt over the Senate. Gives them time to work on tax reform and gives them time to work on what to do with the sequester and so on. Are you in favor of giving some more time past December for that, or would you want to see a long term grand bargain deal somewhere in the December January time frame?

Leader Pelosi. The latter. I oppose kicking it down the road. I do think we have to address every place the tax dollar is under consideration, whether it is revenue coming in or any investments that we make. But I do think that we have a responsibility to put certainty -- as much certainty as possible forward, and that would involve our making the tough decisions to avoid going over the cliff. After that, outside of the heat of that urgency, I think it is very important and we have all supported putting the simplification and fairness of the tax code on the table so that we can make it more simple, make it more fair, have it be more revenue generating without giving tax breaks to people who don't need it in order to make a trillion dollars a year as the case is with Big Oil.

I am not in favor of kicking the can down the road. I think we should address the matter. Because what is the certainty? We say three months and we say six months, and then is there going to be another three months, another six months? The point is if we can reduce the deficit by a large amount by coming to the table and making growth our centerpiece -- how do we grow the economy? How do revenues figure in? How do investments figure in? How do cuts figure in? Let's do that.

It takes a long time to revise the tax code and to address any other spending considerations that we want to address.

Q: So, of course, last week you probably didn't surprise anybody by saying you thought Democrats had a good chance of winning back the House?

Leader Pelosi. I do. Even better this week.

Q: Even better this week? Well, good. And some of your colleagues in the Senate, as I know you've read, thought that that wasn't as realistic. A lot of experts didn't think that was…

Leader Pelosi. Name names?

Q: Senator Durbin, he said he was re educated by the DCCC after he said that.

Leader Pelosi. I don't know. We are going to do very well in Illinois. He persuades me of that. He has persuaded me of that.

Q: I wonder if you could describe for us in as much detail, sort of, regionally or race by race, exactly the scenario that [is] making you believe that this is a realistic prospect for Democrats?

Leader Pelosi. Are we allowed to do that in the Capitol or should we go down the street to the DCCC? Maybe I will take another question after this so that it is only a small part of our discussion here today. First of all my confidence in our ability to win springs from the excellence of our candidates. We have out-recruited the Republicans. We have excellence. We have experience. We have young. We have a police chief from Orlando, Florida, Val Demings. The police chief in Orlando -- when she was police chief, she lowered the crime rate by 40 percent in Orlando. We have Tammy Duckworth, a woman who served our country in Iraq and who says not on my watch are they going to do this to our country. So we have a mix of former elected officials, public servants, generals. We have great small businesspeople, elected officials I think I mentioned. Everyone committed to public service. And we take a good deal of credit for out-recruiting the Republicans, but many of our people just self recruited. They stepped up to the plate because they are concerned about the direction, the backward direction the Republicans in the House of Representatives are taking the country.

So first and foremost, the candidate will always tell in a race of this kind, we have the candidates. The leadership of Steve Israel, Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is superb. I mean, he knows how to manage campaigns. All the M's: management, methods, mobilization, and did I mention money? All of those things. We have outraised the Republicans in the normal fundraising, not counting the SuperPACs. So from that standpoint -- but if you want to go map by map, we can go mano-a-mano, door by door, street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, precinct by precinct, district by district. We are not yielding one grain of sand. This is a fight.

Elections, by and large, and even in the last election, we didn't lose a lot of those elections by very much. We just lost a lot of them. But we didn't lose many of them by very much. So I would say seven weeks ago -- seven weeks ago, we were 50 50, but it could go either way. 50 50, within 50, 60, 70 seats could go either way. Since the selection of Ryan and his being the agent for the destruction of Medicare, that has changed things much more to our favor. And other, shall we say, indiscretions, whether it is the Sea of Galilee or statements by Congressman Akin, et cetera, that resonates with the American people. That has worked to our favor. The Convention was a very positive energizer for our base.

So there are 66 seats that are held by Republicans that President Obama and -- mostly by President Obama, but some also by John Kerry, carried -- are held by Republicans. And in a Presidential election year, we think that there is at least 25 to 35 of them that can go our way. I can break that down for you, but I think it's not of complete interest to everyone to go into those numbers. But I will say that there are probably -- okay. Say around 45 that were carried only by Obama. Give them 30, we will take 15. Of the remaining seats we will take two thirds. [Those] were the ones that were carried by Obama and Kerry. Of the remaining, give them, what is it, 21 seats? Give them seven, we will take 14; 14, 15, high 20s for us. Then we have to hold the seats that we have and we think that there is other opportunity for some ethically-challenged incumbent on the Republican side. So, if you take it to the map. First we have mano-a-mano. Then we have the global numbers. Now we're going to the map, and on the map, if you take Texas, California -- are you all interested in this? Is this more on the subject than you would want to know in your life?

Steve does it much better. I should have you come down the street and we can give you visuals. Texas, California, Illinois and New York, four big states. Three of them -- that would be all but Texas -- the President will not be campaigning in because he will win so overwhelmingly, New York, Illinois, California. Texas, he won't be campaigning because he will not win overwhelmingly in Texas. So in those four states, we figure we can get a dozen, 13 of the seats that we need. Then you go onesies, maybe two. Maryland, Washington state, Arizona, states like that. I'm not going to say the whole map, but where we have the prospect of winning one seat which takes us more to the high teens, half a dozen in those states. We think we can win two in Arizona.

Then we go where the President is: Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Nevada -- well, you know, it's about six or seven battlegrounds, and about four or five possible battlegrounds. So in that number, it's like 10 to 12, depending on what it is. And you have to ask them what their absolute battlegrounds are, but in that collection, we figure we can do 10 to a dozen at least, seats, if it is a very close election. If the President wins big, that changes the dynamic as well because of what it does in those hard fought states. But again, our candidates are clear about -- their names are on the ballot, but for us, Medicare is on the ballot. The middle class is on the ballot. The American dream is on the ballot. It's about values. It's about who we are, and that's what the fight is over. And there's a very distinct difference; the President is pointing out about his wanting to take the country forward and they want to take it back to where we were -- to what got us in this trouble in the first place.

Since you asked, I will continue, just to say this, because I think it's interesting. You will let me know if you think so too. Two days ago -- what is the date today? The 20th? Two days ago on September 18th, we -- I made note and I sent it out -- you probably read it, maybe you didn't -- just a statement that said four years ago today, four years ago on September 18th -- read it. I won't go down all the details, but just to bottom line it we had a meeting in the Speaker's Office in the Capitol, bipartisan, bicameral at which the Secretary of the Treasury described a situation of our economy and our financial institutions that was so dire, he took us to the depths of hell, a place so low that even Dante couldn't make a circle down there, it was so low. And when I asked the Secretary about it and he said how drastic it was, I then asked the Chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, what he thought about it. Ben Bernanke is an expert on the Great Depression. It's his field of expertise, academically or whatever.

And I said, "Mr. Chairman, what do you have to say about what the Secretary says?" And Chairman Bernanke said: "If we do not act immediately" -- now this is a Thursday night, I looked at the time on my watch. A Thursday night, September 18th. And the Secretary -- the Chairman of the Fed said: "If we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday."

Four years ago, and two days ago, the Chairman of the Fed said if we don't act immediately we will not have an economy by Monday, after hearing the description and knowing the crisis we were in as a result of the policies of the Bush Administration. So for them to have the unmitigated gall to ask the question: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago," when they had taken us to the brink of a Great Depression, a meltdown of our financial institutions, deep indebtedness, deepening the national debt to the point that if we didn't act immediately, we wouldn't have an economy -- an economy by Monday. And this election is urgent because what are they advocating? Going back to the same tax breaks for the rich that got us here in the first place. Get rid of Dodd Frank. Get rid of all of that. Take us back to the circumstances that created the problem in the first place.

So in any event, this election has an urgency about it. And as I say at many of the meetings that I go to, if any anyone ever asked you if this is the most important election of our time, of course, we always laugh because everybody says that every election. But they just keep getting more urgent that is why we have to win. And forgive my departure into a little politics, but that was the question I was asked.

Q: You list the farm bill as an urgent priority. The Speaker said today they are not going to be dealing with the farm bill until after the election.

Leader Pelosi. Way after the election. Did you ask when after the election?

Q: He didn't explain exactly when after the election.

Leader Pelosi. I know, but that is the question. When after the election? In the year Anno Domini 2012 or after the election?

Q: My question is more of the real world implications of letting this bill expire. At the end of this month, this is going to expire. What does that mean for the mother who goes out and buys food every day for her family? I mean, what are the real world implications of the farm bill expiring at the end of the month?

Leader Pelosi. Well, did you ask him that? If he understood what the ramifications are? Because it has to be understood. Again, another element of uncertainty. Now when we wrote the farm bill five years ago, and it is a very difficult bill to write. That's why the committee wrote a bipartisan bill, even though I don't like the cuts in nutrition that are in there, but they wrote a bill that could come to the floor, that could go to conference. Then the leadership just went silent on it. It was kind of shocking. But fortunately, the way we wrote the bill five years ago, some aspects of the bill will not be affected. Eventually, we had to have a bill, but not the very next day. For us in California it is a problematic -- and any of the states, mostly border states, Michigan being one of them. Not that it is a maritime state, it is to the Great Lakes. But for the East Coast and the West Coast, specialty crops, fresh fruits and vegetables, those kinds of things, some of that will be affected by not having a farm bill immediately. Some of the other -- it takes a little longer time to draw out.

But I don't want to go into the consumer aspects of it because you don't have that kind of time right here and now. Suffice it to say, not to have a farm bill is an irresponsible approach. It is not as if it took us by surprise. It's something that was due because its authorization was expiring. It's something that was being worked on in good faith in a bipartisan way in the House and in the Senate. And once again, the House Republicans have painted them in a place that is [an] outlier, over there from the Senate Republicans and Democrats, from the House Democrats. And their leadership -- the Speaker, I don't think, has ever voted for a farm bill. You check and see. You check and see.

So when he says after the election, I think that is exactly right. But the question is: "what year?" You know, is there going to be a farm bill? There is great disappointment in farm country on this issue probably now. I won't even have time for one more question because I have to go to the floor.

Q: As you spell out kind of the path that you guys can take to win back the majority, it still sounds like even if everything breaks your way, it is going to be pretty close. That if you win all of your seats you may have like a five to ten seat majority. If you only have a one seat majority what would you envision the return of Speaker Pelosi, what would you envision that looking like and working with Republicans to get some of these major issues accomplished in both the lame duck and next year?

Leader Pelosi. Well, I think something is happening in the electorate, whether it is the Presidential race, the Senate races, our races, and in local races around the country. The view from here -- no offense, but it is a different place. When you are out on the ground with people across the country, I see what happens to communities when public policy just ignores that. So we think that a victory for the Democrats would be a victory for an agenda to save Medicare. But without going into what it means to me, what it means to the country is on the very first day, we would have a jobs bill. We would have a jobs bill. Much of it would contain what President Obama has in the American Jobs Act. It would be as simple as ABC, Make it in America, build America's infrastructure, C, develop growth from the community, and that means education of our children, the police and fire safety of our neighborhood. That sense of community and fairness.

And the next bill would be my DARE. So we have got ABC and then D, DARE. Disclose. We would have the DISCLOSE Act. "I'm Nancy Pelosi and I approve this message." But Mr. Big Bucks who put hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns to get tax breaks for their industries or their heirs, they don't have to disclose their names. So disclose, amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United; reform the whole money in politics, take it to public financing of campaigns; and elect -- and I don't care if they are Democrats or Republicans -- elect reformers who will save our democracy, keeping it the government of the many, not the government of the money. And that would be what our first day would look like. About jobs and about the integrity of our electoral system and the strength of our democracy, all of which are about strengthening the middle class and its role in our society and our economy and in our system.

Some of these issues -- I would hope that the Violence Against Women Act would be passed in this Congress. I don't know about the farm bill because, quite frankly, people thought it was on a path to be passed, and if he says after the election, I think that is probably so. Our jobs bill would be to reward businesses for developing companies in America, not shipping them overseas. Our tax bill would be a bill of tax fairness. People over $250,000 a year, there would be an expiration of that tax break at that high end. And, of course, Medicare. We would continue to strengthen it and put to rest the deceptions that are going forward about Medicare. Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. For 18 months, they have been the three most important issues in the campaign in alphabetical order. Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. And when Ryan was chosen -- the agent for the destruction of Medicare was chosen as the Vice Presidential candidate, well, it clarified the debate for many of the people in the races that we are active in.

So with that, I'm going to thank you all for being here this afternoon. Did you have a question? I don't like to just have the men.

Q: Can you comment about the welfare work labor resolution in light of what the GAO report that was released yesterday that said that HHS could not waive welfare work requirements?

Leader Pelosi. Well, the President has a waiver on that. But the fact is that you asked another question about another area where the -- it is really hard for me to understand a person who would be President would go out and even speak without knowledge or without integrity on a subject. And this whole idea about the waiver of the TANF waiver, the welfare waiver, is one, I think -- nobody said it better than Bill Clinton at the convention: it is simply a misrepresentation of what that is. That waiving the job requirement, it isn't the case. So what I have to say about it is that the President has been following the law. The governors, including Republican governors, have asked for the waiver, and the waiver is accompanied by strict requirements that lead to job creation.

So you have to think -- maybe somebody has not [spent] day-to-day on the Hill, somebody in an armchair someplace should think why are they misrepresenting this? What message are they sending? What population are they trying to reach? This is really a bad thing they are doing. It's not true. It is a matter of fact, and yet they insist on putting it forth. Just as they put forth a misrepresentation -- but you know what, I say to Members? Don't agonize, just organize.

The only answer to all of these questions is just to win the election and to take the message out there with all the clarity that is in your head and all the belief and authenticity that is in your heart about your call to service and what our country is about and the sense of community that they are trying to destroy. So again, it is yet another wonderment about how -- how could they possibly say what they are saying? Whatever the law is, there is no case to be made that President Obama is lowering the jobs requirement. And that is their point and it's simply not true. And I know that you as ambassadors of truth in telling these stories will make that clear.

So I thank you for the role that you have played in our democracy. Thank you.

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