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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript - Marriage Equality, Womens' Health, and NSA Surveillance


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DAVID GREGORY: Alright, let me get in here. We'll continue this, but I want to get to another voice in this debate. On Friday, I went to Capitol Hill, sat down with the Democratic leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, to talk about this issue; some of the other big issues as well that Congress is dealing with. My conversation with her.


DAVID GREGORY: Leader, welcome back to Meet the Press.

NANCY PELOSI: Welcome to the Capitol.

DAVID GREGORY: Thank you, always good to be here.


DAVID GREGORY: Let me start on this historic week on gay marriage and where the fight goes from here. Some supporters of same sex marriage have said they'd like to see it be the law of the land within five years. But you've got 37 states in America where it remains illegal. Do you think that's an achievable goal?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, first of all, let's savor the victory. None of us were surprised-- that the Supreme Court ruled the way they did, nonetheless it was a relief-- to have it over, both in terms of the repeal of sections of DOMA as well as the-- sending-- Proposition 8 back to where it belongs.

The-- and-- and you know, we still have work to do. The president as you know has directed his administration to go through-- the federal laws that affect-- marriage equality, couples in our country. And yes, we would like to see it be the law of the land upheld as a constitutional right and no discrimination. No discrimination, that's what we're about as a country.

DAVID GREGORY: But you look at the states, Arkansas, only 18% approval, how do you change that tide?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, the-- you know-- you know what? It-- it's-- it's-- it's-- look how fast things have changed. Even when we went over to listen to the-- oral arguments at the time of DOMA-- in March-- the-- the chief justice said, "People seem to be falling all over them-- tripping all over themselves-- to come out in support-- of gay marriage." The-- generationally-- another generation of-- of people think in a different way about this kind of discrimination. I'm optimistic that the momentum is with-- with ending discrimination.

DAVID GREGORY: Five years is achievable you think?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, I would certainly hope so. Course I've been in this-- shall we say-- crusade for a long time. And to see the pace-- with which it has accelerated in the past few years is very encouraging. L-- let's hope it's even sooner than that.

DAVID GREGORY: What would you say to conservatives who are energized by this to say, "No, this is still a faith based issue. We're going to-- to lobby the federal government to-- to be very narrow in its implementation of it and we're gonna make this a big fight in the states based on-- a faith view-- a faith based view that marriage should only be between a man and a woman"?

NANCY PELOSI: Well-- for their faith-- they can apply that to their religion. And we're not talking about saying that-- religions have to perform wedding ceremonies. We're talking about the state-- what the state does and what the state recognizes. People have a right to believe what they believe. But we are a country that professes not to discriminate and this is a discrimination.

And again-- I think the more people see in their own families-- people coming out, seeing people they love-- profess to whom they l-- they love-- they're much more receptive. I think that-- culturally-- it's still a challenge, but it's changing in favor of not-- being a non issue before too long.

DAVID GREGORY: I wanna ask you about voting rights. The president this week says that you-- you wouldn't have to target particular states the way they were quote/unquote p-- pre-cleared in the past, but basically that every state should be subject to rules with regard to voting so that everybody can vote and that there's no suppression. Is that how you view it? Is that the way to get started do you think, to get legislation?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, what we want to do is to correct what the Supreme Court did. And to do so we must do it in a bipartisan way, which it always has been, and to do so in a way that-- addresses the challenge. It may be that we add place-- parts of some other states. But whatever it is you-- you're-- you're not adding states, you're adding criteria.

DAVID GREGORY: So many hot button issues to get to and I'd like to cover as many as I can. Immigration-- you've apparently spoken to the president about the game plan, the way forward. Do you know-- look how daunting this is. 70% of districts held by Republicans in the House have a population of Hispanic voters of 10% or less. You're an advocate but you're also a realist. How tough will this be to get meaningful legislation in the house?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, I'm hopeful-- I'm very optimistic that we will-- before too long and certainly this year have comprehensive immigration reform. Congratulations to the Senate in a bipartisan way and to the courage of those on the Republican side especially who made the tough vote. On the House side-- the speaker will have his way to bring legislation to the floor and hopefully it will be in a form that takes it to conference--

DAVID GREGORY: Well, what's gonna happen? I mean, we know that those are the outlines of it, but you've been very tough on the speaker saying he's weak. And how-- how optimistic can you be given the fact that I just qu-- you know, cited for you and the views that you're hearing that you're gonna get something akin to what the senate did?

NANCY PELOSI: We wouldn't even be where we are right now had it not been that 70% of Hispanics voted for President Obama, voted Democratic in the last election. That caused an epiphany in the Senate, that's for sure. So all of a sudden now we have already passed comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. That's a big victory.

The-- I believe that the members of Congress, many more than h-- than are directly affected themselves-- by the number of Hispanics in their district will do what is right for our country. And it's certainly right-- for the Republicans if they ever wanna win a presidential race.

The senators know it's important to win statewide-- to have Hispanics and other immigrant populations-- supporting them. Hopefully they can persuade their colleagues in the House. But I think there are enough, there are enough. The question is do we have to have these pi r squared mathematical f-- formulas about what it takes to bring something forth. 218, that's a majority of the House.

DAVID GREGORY: That would be including Democrats not adhering to only a majority of-- of-- of the majority of Republicans?


DAVID GREGORY: On abortion rights-- look what's happened, this back and forth in Texas to-- an attempt to-- to-- narrow abortion rights there. As you look at it, here's the Supreme Court bringing back to the states power over big issues-- like gay marriage. Do you see what's happening in the states as-- a p-- the potential-- laying the groundwork for the potential to undermine abortion rights? And might the Supreme Court even take that up again? Do you feel that pressure?

NANCY PELOSI: Yes, I do. But I think it's really important to enlarge the issue behind-- abortion. Because-- I have been serving here for over two decades and I have seen year in and year out-- largely the Republicans voting-- against women's-- contraception, family planning.

So-- they wanna argue the sensational-- which is about abort-- not-- certain cases of abortion, but the fact is it's a fundamental disrespect for women-- women's judgment about the sizing and time of their families. This is a women's health issue. And again if you want to-- win the day, take the issue to the extreme. But the fact is every single day in the ordinary-- the American people, America's families have to make decisions about their families and-- th-- that should be made by them, not by the--

DAVID GREGORY: Well, that's the argument--

NANCY PELOSI: --a Texas or U-- United States--

DAVID GREGORY: But do you-- do you fear that we're--

NANCY PELOSI:--Congress.

DAVID GREGORY:--at a new age of the erosion of abortion rights if you look at what's happening in the states, the number of states that have banned abortions for instance after 20 weeks?

NANCY PELOSI: I think we're at a place where-- a woman's-- health is danger-- because of whether this family planning or contraception or any issues that relate to women's health, there's an assault on that in the Congress on the ongoing and in other parts of the country. So we have to be ever vigilant and-- and fight for this. This is-- again this is about respect for women, the judgments that women make and their doctors about their reproductive health. It's an important part of who women are, their reproductive health.

DAVID GREGORY: Let me ask you about-- the controversy surrounding this NSA surveillance programs and the issue of spying. You were-- you were booed by some progressive at a recent conference-- because you talked about Edward Snowden who leaked all of this-- classified material as having broken the law. As there is widening concern about a quote/unquote surveillance state do you think we need more Edward Snowdens in this country who leak this material and force this--


DAVID GREGORY:--of debate or less?

NANCY PELOSI: No, I think what we have to do is obey the constitution of the United States. And by the way, it was a smattering when I objected to him being called a hero. And-- yes, he did break the law.

DAVID GREGORY: And he's no hero in your mind?

NANCY PELOSI: No, and-- here's the thing. I've been involved in the intelligence side of-- of-- of-- the federal government for a long time. We h-- all know that we have to have a balance between security to protect the American people and liberty. We take an oath to protect and defend the constitution and the American people.

And there-- so I have-- in all of the legislation that I've been involved in put serious obstacles-- to having-- surveillance that comes anywhere near to violating the rights of the American people including-- the-- c-- Privacy and Civil Liberties Board which I think will now be further strengthened.

It was a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission-- when we won the House-- H.R.1, the first bill we passed was to enact the recommendations of the-- 9/11 Commission, one of which was to protect their civil liberties, our Privacy and Civil Liberties Board. The-- when the left or the right wants to say that President Bush is-- excuse me, President Obama's the fourth term of President Bush they couldn't be farther from the truth.

President Bush exercised unfettered, unlimited presidential discretion for surveillance in-- for surveillance. Under President Obama in '08 before he even became president we passed the FISA amendments which put up obstacles to the federal government doing surveillance which put oversight whether it's-- inspectors general, whether it's the Congress of the United States, whether it's a privacy or-- Privacy and Civil Liberties Board. So the-- I would love to show you the chart to show you what was happening under President Bush and what is the law now. Whether it's a Democrat or a Republican president we want the-- do not want any president to have President Bush--


NANCY PELOSI:--had, unlimited presidential discretion.

DAVID GREGORY: There's obviously a debate about whether-- whether this president has expanded-- some of those programs. Beyond that you heard the president this week say, "Look, I'm not gonna scramble jets to get a 29-year-old hacker." How important do you think it is that America track Edward Snowden down and make him face justice?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, I think it's-- I think it's pretty good that he's stuck in the-- Moscow Airport. That's okay with me. (LAUGH) He can stay there, that's fine.

DAVID GREGORY: But he's still in a position to leak more documents.

NANCY PELOSI: Well, that-- I think the bigger question here is who are these consultants who-- now-- we've gotten into-- the president-- this president has reduced the number of consultants as I understand. But the--

DAVID GREGORY: Who get into the NSA, who are the contractors--

NANCY PELOSI: Right the contractors to the NSA and this revolving door between the NSA and the-- and-- Booz Allen Hamilton and that-- take that to Admiral--

DAVID GREGORY: But should we--

NANCY PELOSI:--McConnell as well--

DAVID GREGORY: But how aggressive should we be in tracking him down?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, the fact is-- is we have to really know, you know, evidence. We have to know what is it that he has. And-- and I don't know that he has that much substance, I don't know. He may know-- something about the machinery. I don't know that he knows that much about the content. But I think that anybody thought he was a hero to begin with, now that he's threa-- threatening in any event to share information with Russia and China, if he fact he has any information, I think that should disabuse anybody of the notion-- that he is a hero.

DAVID GREGORY: Let-- let me end on a political note. You talk-- talked about Hillary Clinton this week, talked about how-- how-- credentialed she'd be-- how prepared she'd be to be president and that if she ran that she would win in 2016. Is that an endorsement, number one? And number two, do you see any challenges to her either getting the nomination or to winning the White House?

NANCY PELOSI: Well, let me just say I think it's a little early to be talking about 2016. We have the election of 2014 which we fully intend to win--

DAVID GREGORY: Right, I know you're pretty invested in--

NANCY PELOSI: Pretty invested in that because it's so urgent that-- so that we can really have a jobs agenda, that we can have a budget that grows the economy and-- and--

DAVID GREGORY: But obviously there's a lot of focus and a lot of planning going into this and the-- among these potential campaigns, so you speaking out was significant. Are you endorsing or would you like to see her be president?

NANCY PELOSI: But I'm really excited about the prospect of a woman president of the United States. I think it would be-- well, especially-- a woman as well qualified-- as Hillary Clinton. I make a habit of not endorsing people until they make a decision to run. But I think there are many people who are waiting to see-- if Secretary Clinton runs.

But first, we have to win in 2014. We need a budget, we need a jobs agenda. And all we have here is obstructionism. I wish in 2014 one word could be on the ballot, vote it up or down: bipartisanship, cooperation, working together to get the job done for the American people instead of the obstruction that the Republicans have-- put up-- for-- against any initiative that President Obama puts forth to create jobs, to reduce the deficit, to grow the economy, to strengthen the middle class. We've got get through 2014 first.

DAVID GREGORY:Leader Pelosi, we'll check back. Thank you very much as always.

NANCY PELOSI:Thank you, my pleasure. Thank you.


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