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The 108th Congress:Nancy Pelosi

January 28, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT
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RAY SUAREZ: Thanks for joining us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: My pleasure. It’s a pleasure to speak for the Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, you’ve been their leader for about a month. How’s it going?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: It’s going great. We were very pleased to be able to roll out our economic stimulus package before the president’s, where we had thought we had credibility with our proposal, clarity with what we were presenting, and consensus within our caucus– all of this before Congress came into session.

RAY SUAREZ: What’s the top agenda item for your caucus going into the 108th Congress?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I would say the top agenda item is a combination. It’s the safety and soundness of our economy and of the American people. Certainly, national security looms large as an issue, and we want to work in a bipartisan way to promote our national security. When it comes to the soundness of our economy, we have some very big differences of opinion. I think one need only look at the president’s economic plan to see that it does not honor the values that we have placed in our stimulus package, which are fairness, which is fast-acting to create jobs immediately, and which is fiscally responsible. The president’s plan, which is a bigger plan, is one that is delinquent in all three of those areas. It does not create jobs. In fact, the President’s record for job creation is the worst in 58 years. No other president has a negative job growth, but Pres. Bush does in the first two years of his presidency.

RAY SUAREZ: Is that a tough argument to make to the American people at large when we’re on the edge of war, pointing to macroeconomic questions and saying, this is where the Democrats are planting their flag, this is what we’re going to fight the next election on?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Yes, we will plant our flag on the mogul, or hill, of economic security. Our plans, just our stimulus package, will create one million new jobs. The president has lost 1.7 million jobs in his first two years of office. And by the White House’s own calculations, he will only create 170,000 jobs with his plan. We have to convey to the American people a clear, credible message about where… why the Democrats should be in power, how we are different from the Republicans. And we can make that case very clearly, I believe.

RAY SUAREZ: If the whips enforce discipline and count noses and ride close herd on the caucuses, they win every vote. What kind of position does that put you in as a persuader, as someone who wants your side of the aisle’s voice to be heard in making legislation?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, now being the leader of the House Democrats, it’s my job to build consensus within our caucus. So our strength and our vote count will not depend on how well we whip people, but how well we build consensus. And even if we cannot win the vote, I hope that we can win the day with the American people in understanding the difference between the two parties, and that the agenda of discussion that we have put out there is one that had to be responded to, as we did from day one, when we put forth our economic stimulus package, by the time the president put his forth, he had to respond to ours. We want to take… we want to be in the lead on these issues that are relevant to the everyday life of the American people.

RAY SUAREZ: Madam leader, thanks for being with us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much.