Transcript of Pelosi Press Conference Today
Contact: Nadeam Elshami/Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held her weekly press conference today in the Capitol Visitor Center. Below is a transcript of the press conference:
Leader Pelosi. Good morning. So here we are, this day before we leave for the August district work period. I think I see a sign of enthusiasm for that departure in this room.
Leader Pelosi. No. You want to stay? Good. We want to stay, too, because there is so much unfinished business. I have to, though, focus on what is at hand on the floor today. During the Bush years, when President Bush was President, we saw tax policy that enabled the greatest extraction of wealth from the middle class up to the high end, sucking up money from the middle class to the high end, various policies in that regard – until now, until now. Yesterday, you saw on the floor the proposal that for one year would give a tax cut of $160,000 to people making over a million dollars a year. That would be on average. And at the same time, that same bill for one year would, on average, increase taxes on the middle class by around a thousand dollars. One hundred sixty thousand dollar tax cut for the high end; $1,000 tax increase for the middle class.
That was yesterday. Today, they are doubling down. By putting out their principles for tax policy, they are now doubling down. In their proposal, millionaires will pay less: $331,000 tax break for people making over a million dollars, at the cost to the middle class of paying more, of $4,500. How many people in our country do you think are aware of this blueprint for, again, extracting money from the middle class and giving it to the wealthy in our country?
You have to give the Republicans credit. They are very clear about their agenda, when they talk about tax cuts for the rich, they talk about rewarding success. What they don't talk about is the tax increase for the middle class, which is devastating to our country. The middle class, the backbone – it is the backbone of our democracy. Tax cuts for the middle class are spent, they inject demand into the economy, they create jobs. Assuming the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, not even to mention these that they are plotting, assuming the expiration of the Bush tax cuts [on the high end], reduces the deficit, injects more certainty into the economy, and certainty into the lives of America's great middle class.
So this is a very, very important day because, to their credit, the Republicans are going out there and telling the American people, hoping they are not listening, what they intend to do. In Washington, D.C., the subject of tax policy is the be all, end all of the special interests. They see their fulfillment in tax breaks. It is really quite sad when you see that they would rather give $38 billion in tax breaks to big oil and cut that much money from Pell Grants. They are very open about those kinds of different priorities. But this focus right now is on their principles of how you go forward: $330,000 for people making over a million dollars. And that happens every year – every year. The Romney tax plan is not that much different. They all reflect the Ryan budget, which says: tax breaks for the wealthiest, make the middle class pay more, seniors pay more for Medicare as we break the Medicare guarantee, students pay more as we give tax breaks to the high end. So if you ever want to know what is the central focus of the special interests in Washington, D.C., you need only look at the proposals of the Republican Party for the high end and the special interests.
Q: You mentioned that they have been very clear, the Republicans have been very clear about what they want do with tax policy.
Leader Pelosi. Yes.
Q: Isn't the converse of that, though, that Democrats have not laid out any specifics about where you guys would go to flatten the code or to make it more broader based? I mean, I guess…
Leader Pelosi. No. I completely disagree with you, respectfully. The fact is, we have been very clear. President Obama has said it in his campaign and since then, and in this campaign, as well. The Democrats want to have fairness in our tax code, that we want to go forward with having the tax cuts for those making over $250,000 – a couple making over $250,000, to have those tax cuts expire. What that is is a tax cut for 100 percent of the American people. It is just that over $250,000 you don't get the pie sweetened for you. And with that, to say, when we go down that path and inject some more certainty into our economy and our fiscal soundness, we then go to the table, put everything on the table, and talk about tax fairness, tax simplification. You cannot do it dribs and drabs; you have to do it comprehensively.
Q: But what major tax expenditures would you want to look at as part of that?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think we have been really clear about that in terms of – I mentioned one of them, a tax break for Big Oil, for example. But the fact is, it is not just a question of asking about one or the other. It is working in a bipartisan way to have fairness in our code that meets the needs of fiscal soundness, of promoting growth – promoting growth – and strengthening the middle class in our country. That is a debate that we have all been pleading for a long time. And it is not with a set of principles that says: "this is how we are going to do it. We are going to give a $330,000 tax break to the wealthy. Now let's talk fairness." I think if you are talking about being open to the proposals – you know, within our own Caucus, we had many suggestions. But this has to be bipartisan, it has to be nonpartisan, really, and it has to be fair, and it has to be simplified. And we have to do it. But we don't start off with a basis of this kind of unfairness.
Q: Madam Leader, on the issue of dribs and drabs versus a grand, you know, the grand tax code, are you open to a one year fix of the sequester, or does that have to be solved in this broader context that you are talking about? And as a corollary to that, are you encouraged at all by a group of Republican Senators going around the country calling for revenue, not necessarily in the form of higher taxes, but revenue in order to patch the sequester?
Leader Pelosi. I am not aware of what they are doing. I am not aware of what this group of Senators are doing. And I don't know what the one year fix is. We would have to see what it is. But we don't even have to get – you know, they are talking about avoiding the cliff. We don't even have to go that close to the end of the cliff. We can now have – we can pass a middle income tax cut today, send it to the President's desk. Again, that says there is an assumption that the high end tax cuts will expire. That gives us almost a trillion dollars. And a trillion dollars is what the cost is – $1.1 trillion is what the cost is of the sequester. So, you know, I would hope that either of the two candidates, the President and the candidate for President, Mitt Romney, the leadership in the Congress, the private sector would weigh in and say, you have to have revenue on the table to make this work, you have to have growth in order to bring in revenue, and you have to make some tough decisions about spending. We already have. We have already cut over a trillion dollars. So that part of it, we have already gone down that path, so we can't go down that path again without having some commensurate revenue to come in.
Q: Well, just to follow up very quickly, because you weren't familiar with it, Senator Graham is saying – he is one Republican saying we should have revenue, not in the form of any higher taxes, as you would favor I assume, but tax expenditures. He mentions, like, the corporate jet loophole, close that, all these other things.
Leader Pelosi. Yeah, those things should be closed. But, again, I am not going to respond to, you know, a smidgen of what one Senator is saying. The fact is that the Republicans in the House of Representatives have stood in the way of a middle income tax cut which frees a trillion dollars to avoid the sequester. I appreciate the intentions of anybody who is thoughtfully paying attention to this, but the fact is that it is not just about closing loopholes; you have to do it in a comprehensive way. It is not just about closing loopholes, although I think we have to do that. But we also have to make sure we have the revenue so that we can fulfill our role on the public private partnership that is job creating in our country: the education of our people, the safety of our communities, judicial system, a transportation system to get products and people to and from home and to market, and the rest of that.
So we have to, again, look at this about, let's take the complete high road on this, I mean, nothing do with politics. And that is really, I think, how most people come to Congress, is to say, how can we work together to find solutions? We all agree that it is important to the success of our country, our innovation, our competitiveness, and, most importantly, the self fulfillment of our people that we educate the American people, that we educate our children; or that we have a moral obligation to create jobs, to create jobs, to have public policies that enable the private sector and sometimes public private partnerships to create jobs; that we want retirement security for our seniors, health and retirement security for our seniors; that we want to defend our country, and do all of this in a fiscally sound way. If you don't believe that there is a government role in any of the above, then you are not going to accept any reason to pay for it.
So, again, it is a bigger – it is a budget issue, not just a revenue issue. But without the revenue, the starvation of our responsibilities to the American people will make us less competitive. We don't accept that verdict. We intend to be number one, to stay number one, and to make that fight. And that is why we want tax policies that do not reward companies that send jobs overseas, but tax policies that support the strengthening of the industrial, technological, and manufacturing base in our own country. “ Make It In America,” Mr. Hoyer would say if he were here, and we all echo him; that we want tax policies that have fairness, that puts money in the pockets of the middle class so they – it injects demand into the economy when that money is spent, that it is job creating.
So, this is a bigger issue than one proposal or another here or there. And it is something that should be done in a nonpartisan way, bipartisan way, and in a way that, again, creates jobs and growth, reduces the deficit, and has fairness in our Tax Code.
Q: Leader Pelosi, are you supporting or opposing the one year extension of the livestock disaster program? And are you going to urge your Members to do the same?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think this legislation that will be on the floor today is indicative of the failure of this Do Nothing Republican Congress. We should have a farm bill. There is no secret that we were on a path to get a farm bill. It is not like it has come as a surprise to somebody, "I didn't know we needed that." Farm country in our country needs a farm bill. Our economy needs us to have a farm bill. And we would like to see a farm bill come to the floor that then could go to conference and that can resolve this. This is a responsibility we know we have.
So, this is an indication of the bankruptcy of the Republicans to get the job done. The Senate has gotten the job done in a bipartisan way. We should be able to pass a bill in the House that goes to conference to do that. So, again, I see this as indicative of failure. Some of what is in it, in terms of the pay fors coming out of conservation, issues that relate to states, like in California, for example, specialty crops, are ignored in all of this. And so I have doubts about this legislation. Members will do what is in the interests of their communities to do. But make no mistake: we should be voting on a farm bill, not a drought bill. I have great sympathy for the needs of cattlemen and those who are suffering from the drought. Many of those people are in California, as well, from my own Golden State of California. But I think that this bill is just another indication of [what] we are doing, something that doesn't meet the needs of the issue that our economy requires. And we should be passing a farm bill.
Q: Leader Pelosi, local politicians in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago have made remarks that the food chain Chick Fil A is not welcome in their cities as a result of the company CEO's support of traditional marriage. A Chicago Alderman has taken action on zoning rights to keep the food chain out of his ward. And Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco tweeted, quote: "the closest Chick Fil A in San Francisco is 40 miles away, and I strongly recommend that they not try to come any closer."
Can you weigh in on this debate?
Leader Pelosi. No. What I tweeted was, I am a Kentucky Fried Chicken fan. That is where my loyalty lies. But I am here to talk about the tax policy of the United States of America, avoiding a budget cliff, and the rest of that. I will leave the local matters to my locality.
Q: But, Leader Pelosi, do you really think, though, that perhaps any business should be banned from a city simply because of the CEO's personal belief? I think that is a really controversial issue.
Leader Pelosi. Well, I believe in freedom of expression. But I believe that the Mayor of San Francisco has freedom of expression, as well.
Who hasn't had one in a while? You.
Q: So Republicans, when they have talked about extending the top bracket for the tax cuts, they have talked about job creation. Yesterday, Chairman Camp had his own graph on the floor, and he said that if you don't extend it, that you would lose 700,000 jobs, referencing the Ernst & Young report, and that if you do, that it would create a million jobs just in the first year. I am guessing you dispute those numbers, but I am wondering…
Leader Pelosi. I do.
Q: …what you think the impact could be on job creation.
Leader Pelosi. Well, let me just say that the evidence of our own experience in the Bush years indicates what the tax cuts at the high end do. They increase the deficit. They do not create jobs. They do not create jobs. So for them to put forth a formula, a recipe for failure that we have already done – I mean, we did this in the Bush years. It didn't work. It produced record unemployment – record unemployment. So now they are saying: "perhaps we shall all engage in the luxury of amnesia. Let's forget all of that and let's do it again, because our friends, they need these tax cuts." And that is just not right. And I think others have discredited that study that they put forth. But the fact is, it is self evident: it didn't work before. It didn't work before. President Bush has one of the worst records of job creation of any President and, again, with such a ditch that he took us in that it would continue later, because it was exacerbated by the financial crisis, that lack of supervision and attention caused in his Administration as well.
So, it took us to a near depression. We don't want to go there again. And, again, I know that the handmaidens of the millionaires think that that is the only way: trickle down. Well, I don't know what is trickling down, but it is not a pleasant experience for the middle class. Instead, money is extracted up to them.
But I think that we are going to have to go. Maybe one more question?
Q: Leader Pelosi, you said that the reform of the tax code, that all of this should be nonpartisan and bipartisan. But both sides over the years since this has been debated really start at a position where they think the other is – their entire viewpoint is completely wrong: the trickle down on the Republican side, any sort of tax increase being unacceptable.
How do you take the politics out of it? How…
Leader Pelosi. Well, I think it has been done. Again, experience shows us that it has been done. President Bush, President George Herbert Walker Bush, during his campaign, he said: "read my lips, no new taxes." That was his view of the economic situation at the time, that that would be okay. When he became President and saw what the economic – how things had perhaps changed – let's say it that way – and you can read his own book and see what he said about agreeing at Andrews Air Force Base to a compromise. So we all come in with – I mean, I don't believe in trickle down. They don't believe in percolate up. So, okay, now let's sit down at the table and figure this out. It doesn't mean we exchange our philosophies; it means we recognize that we have to compromise, recognizing the legitimate role of the public sector in job creation and recognizing the very important role of the private sector in job creation. We have to promote growth, we have to address the deficit, and we can do so in a bipartisan way, as was done at Andrews Air Force Base with President Bush as President, as was done before, addressing some issues that related to Medicare – Social Security, I mean, with President Reagan and Speaker O'Neill. So we have experiences that show this.
We also have an experience in the Clinton administration, when we passed on the floor in 1993 our economic package, which required an increase in taxes at the higher end. It was very unpopular because nobody wanted tax increases, but it was very necessary to address the budget. What resulted in that was, working with the private sector, over 20 million jobs were created. What also happened there was, in at least the last four Clinton budgets, there was no deficit. They were either in surplus or just even. They took us on a trajectory, $5.6 trillion on the way to surplus. President Bush came in, tax cuts for the high end, prescription drug giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry, two unpaid for wars, but almost immediately, even without the full extent of the wars, almost immediately with the tax cuts and the prescription drug bill – don't take it from me; that is what the Congressional Budget Office told us during the Bush years – that that took us on a trajectory of $5.6 trillion the other way. A swing of $11 trillion, unheard of in our country's history. And now they want us to go down that path again. It did not work then.
There is so much more that is wrong with what is on the floor right now, but the clearest picture of what it does to the middle class and what it does to millionaires, it is stunning. It almost has an immorality to it. It certainly is the reflection of [the special interests] who sent them to Congress.
Thank you all very much. Have a good August district work period. Perhaps if we stay in, as is your wish, we will see you again before this is over.
Thank you all.