Today Leader Pelosi held her weekly press conference discussing the ongoing debt talks, 191 days of Republican control of the House with no jobs legislation, what’s at stake for young people in the budget talks, and S’mores (really):
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. We are back on schedule, day 191 of the Republicans in the majority, and still not any serious legislation on the floor to create jobs. Any conversations with the American people will tell you that that is their top priority.
Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with college students and some newly graduated from college to see what their take was on the budget talks. This budget is a 10 year budget, it takes us well into the future. These young people are the future. They own the future. I wanted to know what they were thinking.
It was very inspiring to hear them talk about wanting to pay their fair share to reduce the deficit. It was inspiring to hear them say how they, of course, were supportive of Pell Grants, some of them beneficiaries of it, and concern they had for themselves or some of their classmates who would not be able to afford college if the Pell Grant or loan programs cost more. They appreciated the fact that Medicare and Medicaid enabled their families to have the freedom to help them get an education.
Of course, as I say, jobs, jobs, jobs. Any of you who are young, as many of you are, or any of you who have family members who are in college or school, know that the prospect for a job is very important to them. They expressed support for public institutions, many of them in elementary, secondary, college and public institutions, their reliance on libraries along the way. It was beautiful. It was an appreciation of our country from our young people who own the future. It wasn’t about politics, it was about values and priorities. I told them I would take their message to the table that evening, later that afternoon, and I did.
It was stunning though to see the contrast between the wisdom of youth, knowing how important the education of the American people is to not only their personal self fulfillment, but to the competitiveness of our country, and to see the Republicans fighting to increase, imagine this, they were fighting to increase by over $30 billion the cost of students loans to students, putting those students in the red, without charging one red cent to corporations that send jobs overseas, raising taxes for corporations sending jobs overseas, tax subsidies for big oil, tax breaks for people not paying their fair share, not one red cent from any of those special interests or those who should be paying their fair share, again, jeopardizing the opportunity for education for these young people.
It is stunning. It is really a stunning thing, and people should know that. And our young people would not approve of it because it hurts their prospects and our country’s competitiveness, as they volunteer to say we will do our share to reduce the deficit. We hope, they hope, and we all do, that whatever is done at that table will not, will not impede economic growth.
As you know, we are engaged, in these talks about lifting the debt ceiling. I don’t know how much evidence a wise person would need to know that it is important for us to remove all doubt that we will lift that debt ceiling. 191 days, no jobs bill in sight that is worth its salt, and yet dealing recklessly, dealing recklessly with our economy, recklessly, by even the thought that the debt ceiling would not be lifted.
You see what some of the rating agencies have said, Moody’s, and I don’t know if Standard & Poor’s is public yet about our credit rating, and that is important. But what is really important to America’s families is what it means to them around that kitchen table; higher interest costs for them on their credit cards, on their mortgages and their car payments. If they are seniors, they will maybe not get a Social Security check, a veteran not getting their benefits. Even our men and women in uniform could be in jeopardy for getting their checks if we do not lift the debt ceiling very soon.
So this is personal. This is personal, the impact that it has on America’s families. This is one time when that kitchen table and the boardroom table have a shared concern. Over 400 CEOs have written letters saying that it is absolutely essential that we lift to debt ceiling, to our country’s economy, to our reputation, our standing by our full faith and credit. So it is a very interesting time.
I will just close and then will take your questions by saying that what is happening at that table, well, you see even by just that one example, not one red cent, tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas, let’s not change that by one red cent, as we want to charge by tens of billions of dollars more in interest for America’s students who receive student loans.
As some of us discussed earlier this week, these discussions take a heavy toll on women if they do not come out right. Women understand the need for Social Security, for Medicare, for Medicaid. They are beneficiaries, and even before then they are caregivers and they are responsible for much of the care in their own families. The young people, we talked about that.
I want to commend the President. I have never seen—Job is no place compared to this President in terms of patience. He doesn’t even begin. This President has demonstrated a level of patience, not only during the meeting, but respectful of the suggestions that are made by all parties at the meeting, in his preparation for the meeting and his coming back to address concerns that are expressed by others.
Day in and day out the President has respectfully listened, accommodated, engaged in the conversation in a very informed way. And he is the President of the United States. I know he is busy. I myself am almost too busy to continue listening to some of the things that are going on in that room, so I know he must be very busy. But he has treated everyone there with great dignity.
The only thing I hope he doesn’t ask us to do is go to Camp David. That goes beyond the pale. Riding down the street to these meetings is one thing. I want that to be his preserve, a place where a President can go to renew, to study, to prepare for the next week. I want it to be a place where a President takes heads of state to close out all other concerns and stay focused on resolving global problems. I don’t want it to be a place where a President has to continue to listen to some of this stuff.
Q: You don’t like S’mores?
Leader Pelosi. S’mores? I am from California. S’mores are big for us. I have five children and nine grandchildren. S’mores are big for us. I would rather have them at home.
So who hasn’t had a question in the last couple of days? You.
Q: You were talking a little bit about kind of the mood in the room and how that you are kind of getting fed up with some of the discussions.
Leader Pelosi. I am not fed up. I am just saying the President has more patience than Job. I don’t compete with him in that regard.
Q: There were reports of the meeting when it broke down yesterday the President slapped back his chair and stood up and said, you know, see you tomorrow. I am wondering if you can just generally talk about the mood of the meeting last night throughout the whole progression and what happened yesterday?
Leader Pelosi. I just don’t understand what the problem is if the President of the United States has had a meeting for over 2 hours, stands up and says, see you tomorrow. That is how meetings with Presidents end. You don’t leave first. The President leaves first. So that was completely appropriate. Unless somebody in the room thought that he or she should have the last word and start the exit from the meeting. But that would be I think a breach of protocol.
Q: You talked about…
Leader Pelosi. This is his third day in a row.
Q: Seriously, not necessarily to the mood, but you just ticked off Moody’s, you ticked off the impact on children, women and families. At what point do these things spur you to really get to a sense of compromise? You joked about Camp David, but when are you guys going to all sort of go into a hole, roll up your sleeves, get out the pot of coffee, maybe go to Camp David and not leave until there is a deal.
Leader Pelosi. That is what we are doing. That is what we are doing. We met on Thursday. We left the meeting on Thursday, we left the meeting on Thursday with the idea that we were going to the big plan, which I fully support and commend the President for, the grand bargain, the big plan. So much can be accomplished in that way. A great deal of debt reduction can take place over a long period of time with the certainty that the markets need and America’s families deserve.
Then we came in Sunday with the idea that, well, the grand plan might not be as easily achieved as we had hoped, not easily, but as possible as we had hoped, and so the President still wants that and I agree with him, we should still have that. It is very important. It would be a major accomplishment. But if the Republicans don’t want to go to that place, that is what we have been doing every day in a very objective way, going over each of the provisions, whether it is—well, I am sure the White House has put out what the agenda was. So that is what we have been doing.
But the fact is that, I agree with you, it is time to freeze the design, what is it we can agree upon and let’s get on with writing the bill. But let’s not say well, we don’t have to make any decisions today, on Thursday or Friday because we are going to have S’mores at Camp David over the weekend. And I would be careful about giving us too much coffee. As you just said, roll up your sleeves and drink coffee.
Q: Why don’t you just blow up all of your schedules…
Leader Pelosi. That is what we are doing.
Q: I am not saying a couple of hours at a time.
Leader Pelosi. Let me just say this. This may come as a surprise to you. This may come as a surprise to you, but let’s try it.
When you go to a meeting with the President of the United States for 2 hours, or an hour and a half each day, that means he and his staff, you and your staff, are preparing for it. Then you come out of that meeting and you act upon what research you need to do to answer the questions that may have arisen.
So it is not about the time. That is like the tip of the iceberg. This is a major, major commitment, and that is why I think the President deserves tremendous credit for the respect that the time he has taken and, more important than that, the respect he has given to everyone’s ideas, to come back in a very knowledgeable, almost to the Nth degree himself. He is not asking staff to answer the questions except when it is going to be a long, Secretary Geithner, tell us what the impact is of this. He knows what that is, but he has others answer.
So a 2 hour meeting is a 10 hour involvement. And that is what we are doing. If location is the issue, I think we are all pretty accessible in those meetings. What I don’t want to see is any delaying tactics that would prolong the writing of legislation, because that is what it will take, legislation, in order to get this done. So as far as I am concerned, I don’t know what is different, Thursdays than Sundays. Let’s just decide one way or another.
Q: Leader Pelosi, Eric Cantor told reporters last night that he offered this option of breaking the vote into two separate votes and the President issued a veto threat again on that. Does this mean that the only option left is the $2.4 trillion plan that would get through the end of next year?
Leader Pelosi. Any idea that we would, instead of conveying confidence to the markets, to our creditors, most importantly to the American people who depend on those checks, Social Security recipients, military people, our veterans, also those whose interest rates will be affected around that kitchen table, any suggestion that we are going to end this for a little while and then we are going to start all over again I just think is not worthy of the American people.
Q: Regarding your position on Medicare benefit cuts, Steny Hoyer has been on the record for cutting them for years now.
Leader Pelosi. No, I don’t think that is true at all. I think everybody says, I say, every dollar we spend in the federal government should be subjected to the harshest scrutiny, defense, social initiatives, whatever it is, to make sure the taxpayer and the consumer, the taxpayer as a taxpayer but also as a consumer of services, is getting what the intention was originally of that initiative.
But there are some things, and we did some of it in our Affordable Care Act, to cut costs in Medicare, and we always stand ready to do that. But not to cut benefits for seniors and others who depend on Medicare and Social Security. That is a fight that is our fight.
Q: Senator McConnell has reported a backstop plan in case you all can’t reach a deal. What do you think about that plan?
Leader Pelosi. What I think of what Senator McConnell, Leader McConnell, has advanced is that it is a recognition that we must lift the debt ceiling, and for that reason it has that value. The particulars of it, I think that is a discussion that the Senators will have about whether that is something that can pass. But I think everyone who is concerned about lifting the debt ceiling is saying bravo for Senator McConnell to say this must be done.
Q: Leader Pelosi, you had an issue with TARP where it failed one day and passed 2 days later. What will break the stalemate? Do you need to see markets drop 400 points?
Leader Pelosi. No, I don’t need to see markets drop 400 points, but the Republicans may need to see markets drop 400 points. I think you brought up TARP. You recall, we went into TARP, probably the worst vote we ever asked members to take. There is stiff competition for that honor, but from their standpoint the worst vote we have ever had to take. It was President Bush’s problem, President Bush’s solution, although we improved it by saying the taxpayer had to be made whole, and the taxpayer is being made whole.
But we said we will get 120 votes, you have to get 100 votes, and they said they had 100 votes. They had what, 60? We had 145. We had more than two to one over what they had when we went to the floor. And then a couple of days later we brought it back and increased our Democratic number. We never, as long as we all shall live and beyond, said they will never have 100 votes on the TARP on the Republican side. So that shows some level of irresponsibility, because we voted for the TARP, not because we approved of how we got there or the cost that it would be, but because it had to be done to keep our country from a financial crisis.
Here we are again. So we will see what sense of responsibility people have about doing it and doing it to get it done, not to kick the can down the road so that we can go to meetings at the White House or have S’mores someplace, but just to get the job done and make the tough decisions that have to be done. Everybody has to yield.
But the time is just growing short and I think that there is, again, no reason why we can’t at least evaluate by the end of the meeting tomorrow what a possible piece of legislation is to go forward, if, if the Republicans truly believe that we must lift the debt ceiling.
I was going to juggle these two pennies for you. I could juggle three pennies, but the staff thought it would look gimmicky. Not one red cent to cut taxes for corporations sending jobs overseas; over $30 billion to put America’s college students and graduate students in the red. It is just stunning. It is a stunning thing.
So in their budget, they said: “We are going to eliminate Medicare. We are going to have seniors pay more to get less, while we give tax subsidies to big oil. We are going to place in doubt whether seniors can be in nursing homes under Medicaid so that we can give tax cuts to corporations sending jobs overseas. We are going to increase the cost to America’s students to the tune of billions of dollars while we give tax breaks to the wealthiest people in our country.” I don’t think it is a reflection of the values of the American people. Our budget should be a reflection of our American values.
Thank you all very much. See you later.