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House Speaker Discusses Democrats, Iraq War

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has faced criticism over the Democrats' inability to force change on the Iraq war. In an interview, she talks about the Democratic war strategy and other issues.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Madam Speaker, welcome.

    REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), Speaker of the House: My pleasure.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    The Minneapolis tragedy, the bridge collapse, is there a role for the Congress to take a look at what happened and why?

  • REP. NANCY PELOSI:

    There certainly is immediately. Today, Congress will suspend the rules and vote $250 million from the Special Highway Emergency Fund in order to help rebuild.

    But, first of all, of course, our prayers and our sorrow and sympathy go out to the families affected. Can you just imagine, as a parent and a grandparent, a family member leaving the house and not coming back for that reason? So rescue, recovery, that's all important. Rebuilding is, too, and that's what we want to help with.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    I know the facts are not all in yet, but is it your immediate impression that this was an isolated case or that there is an infrastructure problem that needs to be addressed?

  • REP. NANCY PELOSI:

    The chairman of our Transportation Committee, Jim Oberstar, is from Minnesota, and he has been beating the drum for taking inventory of the strength of our infrastructure throughout the country. This is not an isolated situation; however, it's a very dramatic one that drives home the need for us to invest in our infrastructure.

    Also, there is some issue here about other tragedies happening — I'm not talking about the loss of life, but other risks that have happened — where there's proximity to a dam and the water undermining the structure of the bridge. So we have to look at that more than a coincidence, but see if the cause and effect is there.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Congress is about to recess, of course. And is there going to be a House bill of some kind having to do with the redeployment of troops in Iraq?

  • REP. NANCY PELOSI:

    Not in the next 48 hours. We will have legislation similar to that which was passed in the Senate, the Webb amendment. It will be — Ellen Tauscher is taking the lead in the House. And what that resolution will do is to say that, for troops who are in Iraq for 15 months, they would have the same amount of time at home, dwell time at home, to be retrained before they can go back.

    This is beyond even what the standards of the DOD. They shouldn't be in Iraq that long, we're saying. If they're there that long, they have to stay home at least that long, instead of having this quick turnover of sending our troops back. They've got 56 votes in the United States Senate. It didn't meet the 60-vote barrier that the Republicans have put up there, but it was bipartisan, and it will be so in the House, as well.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    But there will be no move before the recess to pass a bill of any kind? For instance, one that's been suggested it was discussed was one that would set a mandate of 60 days for the Pentagon to come up with a plan with redeployment of the troops. You've dropped that idea?

  • REP. NANCY PELOSI:

    Well, we're considering that, but that's not a redeployment, a call for redeployment. Actually, what it says is we want to know what the status is of the redeployment and we want to know in 60 days. We may take it up now; we may take it up when we come back. If we do, it would be with a shorter timeframe on it, because it's really important for us and the judgments that we have to make to know what the plans are that this administration has for redeployment. It passed almost unanimously in the Armed Services Committee.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    So you are going to do that today, I mean, today or tomorrow, before you recess?

  • REP. NANCY PELOSI:

    Before we recess, we will do the Tauscher resolution on the dwell time at home for our troops, 15 months in Iraq, 15 months at home. We have yet to decide whether we'll take up this other legislation before we leave. But if we don't, we'll take it up when we come back.