JUDY WOODRUFF: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, thank you for talking with us.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: Thank you for having me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: This coming, evidently, agreement on the payroll tax cut. Speaker Boehner is saying today that this is necessary because of the president’s failed economic policies.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, how sad. This is necessary because our economy and our people need this boost. For individual families, 160 million American families, this will be a boost. From a macro economic standpoint the demand that is injected into the economy as people spend this money will be a job creator. Again, a temporary measure to help give us a boost. The same as the unemployment insurance extension. Economists tell us that that’s an immediate jumpstart to the economy because of the macroeconomics of getting money, spending it immediately, injecting demand, creating jobs.
Does he wants us to get into a discussion of how we got here before, the Bush meltdown of our financial institutions, two unpaid for wars, a prescription drug bill that gave away the store for the pharmaceutical industry, a tax cut for the wealthiest people in our country, unpaid for.
I don’t think that we want to go down that path, the American people have been there, seen it, they know. Whatever it is. there is a ground truth in our country that we have to help the middle class.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you worry though that this does take money out of the Social Security trust fund and that it may never be fully be refunded, repaid?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: No, I don’t worry about that. I think that this should be the last year for it.
I do believe that other factors in economic growth are weighing in now and we see an improvement in our growth possibilities but I think one or two years, no, the trust fund can handle that.
JUDY WOODRUFF: If this, this is now off the table assuming the vote goes as I think you and the speaker are suggesting it will. What else can Congress get done this year?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: I don’t know, you’d have to ask him because so far any initiative the president has put on the table for job creation they have said no to.
What’s really sad is as we are meeting this week, they have a highway bill on the floor of the House. Traditionally, highway bills have been a bipartisan initiative for job creation. This is a bill, that has been, for the first time in people say 50 years, has not been put together in a bipartisan way, it is not a job creator, but a job killer for over half a million jobs will be lost if this bill were to become law and it’s dangerous to the public safety. For many reasons, this would have been the wrong path to go down and this would have been an important initiative for job creation.
JUDY WOODRUFF: I know that there’s a real disagreement about that. What about the president’s budget, even there are bi-partisan groups out there applauding the President for getting a start tackling the debt, but in fact the president promised he was going to cut the deficit in half by this point in his presidency. This is not a budget that goes after entitlement reform and it uses what it calls ‘savings’ from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that, again, bi-partisan outside groups are saying are really a gimmick, that isn’t money that can really be counted on as savings.
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, you put several aspects of the budget on the table. Let me say that I’m proud of what the president’s budget it. It’s a statement of our national values, as to what is important to us as a country being reflected into our investment priorities in a budget. It talks about investments in our future, it talks about job creation, it talks about deficit reduction. It talks about lowering taxes for the middle class as an ongoing theme in his agenda. Many of these outside groups did not say the same thing when the Republicans put the savings from the overseas war in their budgets, so this is a legitimate place. The savings are there and can be used to offset other investments. But it is, again, a continuation of what the president started when he came into office and he made that statement, reduce the deficit, create jobs, lower taxes for the middle class, do so by investments in education and innovation into healthcare and to energy innovations for which he is in the lead. What’s also important about it though and is important to note, is that when the new president made that statement he was basing his figures on those given to him by the Commerce Department of the previous administration which either didn’t know or didn’t tell what the actual fiscal situation was.
JUDY WOODRUFF: We are launching into an election year, in the last campaign Madam Minority Leader you became a negative symbol for the Democrats and the Republicans went after you with a vengeance, do you think they are going to do the same thing this year?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well it doesn’t matter but what’s important about that is they used money to win the election. They used money. Undisclosed, unlimited, special interest money, and that’s why our focus is on disclose. We want to know where that money’s coming from, we want people to stand by their ad. You have something to say? You’re going to spend tens of millions of dollars to misrepresent the president’s position on something, going to say and mischaracterize the record of a member of Congress, stand by your ad. So we want to disclose. We want to reform the system, after we win. We want to amend the Constitution to get rid of this Citizens United unlimited money in the system.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what do you think about the fact the Obama campaign — Democrats have embraced the system, the Super PACs, just as the Republicans have?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: No, I want to make the distinction. The Republicans’ money was undisclosed. Undisclosed. The president is, I think, doing the right thing to win this election by disclosing what the source of the money is. That makes all the difference in the world when people know where the money is coming from, because if people have to stand by their ad they may not make such outrageous charges or they may not even put the money up. So, I think they president has to win, he can’t go to a baseball game without a bat, and there is so much at stake for the American people in this election. But his is different from theirs in that his is disclosed, theirs was not, to the tune of about $150 million, as you said, directed at me.
JUDY WOODRUFF: You, I was mentioning that the Republicans used you, you became a negative symbol to the part of the Republicans in the last election, should Democrats do the same with Speaker Boehner or another Republican?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: I think the Democrats are running about the future. The Republicans have always got to attack sombody else because they’re frankly bankrupt in terms of ideas for the future. We are talking about reigniting the American dream. The president will go out there and talk about what is at stake for the future. It isn’t about attacking an individual because if you don’t have the issues you attack the person. He has the issues. He has the values. Reignite the American dream, build ladders of opportunity for all who want to work hard, play by the rules, take responsibility. But we have work to do to do that, and we would hope to do it in a bipartisan way. I think that’s what you’ll see on the Democratic side. And winning the election to change the system to diminish the role of money in the campaigns so the people’s voices and votes will decide the election, not the bankrolls of a very few people.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Another topic, the challenge to the healthcare reform law, the Affordable Care Act, coming up before the Supreme Court next month, are you worried about that?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well I think we’re in pretty good shape constitutionally. I mean we wrote a bill understanding our responsibilities to the Constitution of the United States. You never know what happens in a court, but in terms of the substance and the constitutionality of it, we believe that we’re on solid ground.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And if it were to be in part or fully overturned, what would that mean for the Congress?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, let’s be on the positive side. Even some of the most conservative groups, the Heritage Foundation for example, supported the individual mandate and that’s really the essence of the case going to the Supreme Court. The individual mandate. That has had support from the right to the left on the political spectrum. But you know what, it’s the third branch of government. They will act on their responsibilities and the substance before them. In terms of what we legislated, we feel very strongly and believe that its on strong constitutional ground.
JUDY WOODRUFF: A question, Madam Leader about the war in Afghanistan, there was a report in the New York Times last week, about an exhaustive and a really devastating report written by an Army colonel who went over to Afghanistan. His assessment is that this war has essentially been a disaster, the military leaders of the United States have not leveled with the American people saying the situation on the ground is much worse than what the American people have been lead to believe. My question is, first of all, are you familiar with the report and if you are, do you agree with his assessment, you’ve spent time looking at this?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: I’ve gone to Afghanistan many times in the course of our involvement there and my last trip was most optimistic. It was bearing fruit from the changed approach that President Obama has taken. You have to remember, that when the president took office, there had been no plan for Afghanistan for the full time, for the seven years before he took office. It’s a very sad tale to say we went in, we routed the Taliban we did not defeat them, and we went to Iraq. The president came in with a new approach for how to transfer the responsibility for security in Afghanistan to the Afghan forces and that I see much more progress in the past year than I had in the ten years before.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have confidence in what the military leadership is saying about how the war is going?
REP. NANCY PELOSI: From what I have seen there. Now let me say this, I think we will be honoring the president’s announcement that we will be reducing our number of troops or changing their mission in this year, in 2013 the year to come, in order for us to leave in 2014.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, thank you very much for talking with us.