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Pelosi: Democrats Expect to Keep House Majority, ‘Battle-Tested’ for Campaign

September 30, 2010 at 5:07 PM EST
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In an interview with Judy Woodruff, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi predicts Democrats will retain a majority in the House despite a hostile political environment and weighs in on the battle over extending Bush-era tax cuts.
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RAY SUAREZ: And to our newsmaker interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Judy Woodruff talked to her at the Capitol before Minority Leader Boehner’s speech today.

JUDY WOODRUFF: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you very much for talking with us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), Speaker of the House: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Virtually every respected political analyst in this town, around the country, are saying the Republicans are poised to take control of the House of Representatives.

How worried are you?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: I think it’s great that they think that, but we are acting upon another possibility, and that is that we will hold the House.

Our members left Congress last night very confident that they would return in the majority. We take it one district at a time. Nothing less is at stake than the choice between going back to the exact agenda of the Bush administration or moving America forward, and our members are ready for the fight.

Again, we take it one district at a time. For some reason, when they come here, they say, what’s all this conversation about in Washington? We don’t see that in our districts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The voters say the main issue on their minds is jobs. What do you say to voters that — that make them believe that Democrats are going to create more jobs than Republicans, especially when the Democrats haven’t been able to do anything significant here in the last few weeks about jobs?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, the fact is, is that we have done a great deal about jobs from day one. When President Obama took office, immediately, one week and one day later, we passed the — the Recovery Act, which created or saved 3.6 million jobs. And I want to add that, in the first eight months of 2010 alone, more private-sector jobs were created than in the eight years of the Bush administration.

So, we have to go tell our story and understand that this is a choice. The American people love choice. And they will have a choice in this election. And, so, in terms of jobs, from day one, we’ve created or saved 3.6 million. The job situation is not where we want it to be. We have to do more.

That’s why we have to get reelected to move forward, instead of going back to the failed economic policies that got us where we are in the first place.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I ask because voters keep raising jobs as their main concern.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: That’s right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The one thing many Democrats, though, think that Congress should have done before adjournment is pass middle-class tax cuts to accentuate the differences with Republicans. The decision was made not to go for that vote. Was that a miscalculation…

REP. NANCY PELOSI: No, not at all. It’s a decision because the fact is, our president got out there and talked about giving a tax cut to all Americans, not — but he does not agree that we should give an extra bonus to people making over $250,000 a year. They, too, will get a tax cut under President Obama’s plan.

We support that. Our members are fully prepared to go home and talk about what they support in it. It — it doesn’t require a vote to take a position on it. So, we feel — we are very confident about the decisions that we have made, about the priorities in legislation that we had passed, health care reform for all Americans, improving quality, expanding coverage, lowering costs, Wall Street reform. The list goes on.

Members are going home to talk about that, but also to talk about the future, what is the choice. And one of those choices is, do we — do we give a tax cut to everyone which creates jobs, or do we give a tax cut, a bonus to the upper income, which will only add to the deficit? We’re not going to do that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of that, there are 47 House Democrats, about a fifth of your Democratic Caucus, who are urging you and the president to go along with extending tax cuts on investments, like the capital gains tax.

Their — their argument is that, if it’s a tax that’s going to create jobs, even if someone’s income is higher than $250,000, why not go ahead and do it? And isn’t this going to be now inevitable when you’ve got more Republicans in the Congress after November?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, we intend to have a majority in the Congress after November. But the fact is, if they want to go into other issues related to the tax code, we’re all for putting everything on the table, talking about simplification, talking about fairness, perhaps lowering the corporate rate if we close loopholes. And some of the things that we have done have very good for small businesses.

We’ve probably passed 16 tax considerations favorable to small businesses. But the decision here and the distinction here is, do you want to give a tax cut to all Americans which creates jobs, or do you want to hold that tax cut hostage to giving an extra tax cut to the high end which will take us $700 billion into debt?

JUDY WOODRUFF: But…

REP. NANCY PELOSI: We’re not going to do that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … is there room, though, for compromise on this — tax cuts on investments that — for people who earn income through investments that create jobs, up to a million dollars?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Our position is clear. Everybody gets a tax cut. If you make over $250,000 a year, you do not get an extra tax cut.

Most of that tax cut, by the way, at the high end, goes to people making over — 80 percent of it goes to people making over a million dollars a year as joint filers. So, we feel very clear about our position. It’s where jobs are created. It is not where the deficit is increased. And Democrats, as I say, will go out there and make that case.

JUDY WOODRUFF: House Speaker — House Minority Leader John Boehner is giving a speech today in which he is talking about reckless Democrats and saying, among other things, we’re told, that there needs to be an end to comprehensive spending bills, that spending bills need to be done department by department.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, that’s great. The fact is, though, that the Republicans in the Senate have held up legislation over and over again. That’s why we have to go to a comprehensive bill.

I agree. I would much rather do it. We’re prepared to. We’ve taken our bills through their subcommittees, which where — which is where you do it, not one department at a time, but two or three departments at a time, which is how Congress is set up.

But that’s — it’s interesting that he would say that, because that’s not what they did when they were in power.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I know you believe and you’ve said the Democrats are going to have the majority in the next Congress…

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Right.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … you’re going to be the next speaker. But, to the Republicans who say John Boehner’s going to be the next speaker, what kind of speaker would he be?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, you know what? I’m not here to talk about that, because I’m not predicating any conversation on the basis of Democrats not winning the majority.

We’re proud of our record. We know what the choice is for the future. We have the candidates. The candidate will always tell, battle-tested, courageous, convinced of the fact that — that nothing less is at stake in this election, except the future of the middle class.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The — some of those candidates are — who are running for reelection, though, are running against — trying to distance themselves from you. They’re out there saying: I didn’t go along with Nancy Pelosi and spending bills. I didn’t go along with the speaker and the president on health care reform.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, if they didn’t…

JUDY WOODRUFF: How do you…

REP. NANCY PELOSI: … then that’s their record. That’s their record. I mean, they — we don’t have — we — we — sometimes, Washington gets used to a rubber-stamp Congress, which was the very homogeneous Congress of the Republicans.

We’re very diverse in opinion, gender, generation, geography, philosophy, and the rest, House Democratic Caucus. And some members did not vote for some of the bills. And that’s their record, and that’s what they go out and say.

I just want them to win. They know their districts. They are great communicators, very eloquent communicators to their own constituents, and they are the ones who will be the independent representatives.

I say to them, your job description and your title are one and the same: representative. So, they run on who they are. They don’t run on — and what this is about, again, just takes it to the middle class. It’s not about me. It’s about the middle class. They know that. That’s what unites us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Even if they’re implying criticism of you in their campaigns?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, they took a different vote. So, that’s a disagreement. I don’t call that a criticism.

JUDY WOODRUFF: When it comes to health care reform, Madam Speaker, the Republicans are already talking about it. They are saying, we can’t — if we can’t repeal it, we’re at least going to de-fund it.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: We’re going to make sure that important pieces of it aren’t funded.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, that’s another reason why we must win this election — and we will — because making health care more affordable, accessible and higher-quality is important to the American people.

Republicans want to de-fund stopping denial of coverage because you have a preexisting medical condition, stopping repeal of your policy because you become sick or because you need an operation. The list goes on and on of very positive initiatives — which have already gone into effect — that the Republicans want to de-fund.

So, our members know that it was one thing to pass historic health care reform. Now we have to make sure it is enforced. The Republicans want to stand in the way of that.

JUDY WOODRUFF: One last question about post-election. The lame-duck session…

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: … you will presumably be dealing with the tax cuts.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Yes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But what else? What else do you have in mind that might be part of the lame-duck?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, everything that we do, I always say to Members, we have two — two standards: Does it create jobs? Does it reduce the deficit?

And as we go forward in the lame-duck — and, really, beyond — it’s about job creation. It’s about innovation. And that begins in the classroom. It’s about keeping America number one. It’s about making it in America.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Any specific proposals?

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Well, we do have — we have an agenda for this. But, in terms of — what we must do is pass our bills to fund the government and go forward in a, again, deficit-reducing, positive way to create jobs. And we’ll have to do the tax cuts in the lame-duck — in the lame-duck.

But it is — but it is the way — you know, there’s a lot of time between the election and the new Congress. Traditionally, we have come back to do the people’s business.

And we will come back, and we’ll be preparing for a Democratic majority. I — I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t believe it was so, that I wasn’t so convinced that our members are battle-tested, ready for the campaign. And we’ll see.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On that note, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, thank you very much for talking with us.

REP. NANCY PELOSI: Thank you. My pleasure.