Transcript of Pelosi Press Stakeout Following Meeting at the White House

Apr 1, 2014
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washingon D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press stakeout at the White House after meeting for lunch with President Barack Obama.  During their meeting, Leader Pelosi and President Obama discussed the Administration’s announcement today that over 7 million people have successfully enrolled in private plans through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces.  Below is a transcript of the Leader’s remarks, followed by a question and answer session:  

Leader Pelosi.  Good afternoon, everyone.  I just enjoyed a very positive lunch with the President of the United States.  I was happy to receive a rosary blessed by Pope Francis – that meant a great deal to me.  In the course of our conversation, we, of course, were very pleased with the ACA results.  It’s not official yet, but I think the announcement will be that over seven million people have enrolled in the Marketplaces – this in addition to over three million young people who are on their parents' policy and millions more on the expansion of Medicaid.

It's just really, really so heartwarming for those of us who worked so hard so that many more people in our country would have access to affordable, quality health care.  There are those who are critics, and there have been bumps in the road.  But they have only been turbulence.  They have not been an obstacle to the American people having a healthier life – what our Founders wanted for them: life, a healthier life; liberty; and the freedom to pursue their happiness, not job locked, but having benefits, health care policies, that are portable.  They can be self-employed, be a photographer.  They could start their own business or change jobs. They could reach their aspirations.  And isn’t that a wonderful thing for a society and for an economy?  Any questions?

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Q:  The bill is not perfect – everybody admits that.  Why hasn't your party come up with a technical corrections bill to fix things that are wrong in the ACA?

Leader Pelosi.  Perhaps you missed the point that the Republicans are in control of the Congress of the United States, and we haven't really been able to put any bill forward.  I have not been here – perhaps you have – I have not been here when any perfect bill passed the House.  And as implementation takes place, then you see where there could be corrections, or improvements, or refinements and pursue it that way.

Enrollment closed last night.  Our Members have suggested some changes, many of which have been put forth by the Administration already.  So as we see it, nobody wants it to work better than those of us who fought for it.

Q:  Madam Leader, isn’t the real measure of success not the raw number who signed up, but how many of those who signed up were not insured before?

Leader Pelosi.  No.  The measure is two-fold.  The measure is how many more people have access to health care – quality, affordable, health care and insurance – than who didn't before.  But also, the really important reason to do the Affordable Care Act: if everyone loves his or her insurer and their health care – which was not the case – but even if they did, the real reason to do the Affordable Care Act, which could not be avoided, was the cost of health care in our country was unsustainable – unsustainable to individuals, to small businesses, to corporate America, to the competitive issue internationally and also to state and local and certainly the federal budget.  So what this legislation has done is it will save a trillion dollars over the lifetime of the bill.  And it will reduce costs for people. 

And even if they pay a little more in some cases, they're getting much better care.  No longer do they have pre-existing conditions be a barrier to their getting access to care.  Over 100 million people in our country have a pre-existing condition. 

So this is about the quality and the affordability.  And affordability: that’s why it has that name.  It’s affordable, again, to individuals, to families, to businesses, and to the public sector in terms of the role. 

We’ve  already decreased the rate of increase in terms of the cost of Medicare and the rest.  So this again is not just about who has it and who doesn't.  It's a question of who has what, and many more people now have affordable quality health care.  Some who may have moved policies have better coverage – no pre-existing conditions as a barrier; no lifetime caps; no annual caps; no longer being a woman is a pre-existing medical condition.  Women were discriminated against in the marketplace, in many cases paying 40 percent more.  So that is what I think is the measure.

Q:  Leader Pelosi, can you talk a little bit about how this is going to affect the November elections?   There have been a lot of nervous Democrats – some of your House Democrats and some of the Senate Democrats – very nervous with how this is going to affect their reelection.  What does this number, getting to seven million, mean for you and your Caucus as you sort of move toward November?

Leader Pelosi.  You’ll forgive me if I just use this day to be more concerned about what it means to the families who are affected by it.  And that is the reason we passed the bill.  Just imagine the comfort level for families who have signed up, who have ignored the barrage of negativism and misrepresentation that has been flung at them, and that had signed up.  And hopefully, today, still people are signing up because they tried yesterday.  So the number speaks to a healthy America, not just the good health care.  So that's what we're happy about today.

As I said to you before, we're not running on health care, we're not running away from it.  We’re proud of it, and our Members are, by and large.  Anecdotally, you can always find somebody who may have some concerns.  But I want you to know, overwhelmingly, our Members are out there on the offensive on this issue.  Because it’s what we did, and we're proud of it, and we're proud of what it means in the lives of the American people.  The politics are very secondary to us.

Q:  About the midterm elections, yesterday, Mr. Clyburn said on TV that he wanted more help from the White House.

Leader Pelosi.  I'm sorry, I missed that.  But I'm very pleased with the conversation I had with the President about the issues and the issue at hand now, today – two things.  One, we have the date – still people are still signing up, but the participation in ACA that we're very proud of.  But today, also, the Republicans put forth their budget.  It's a budget that is not about growth.  It's not about job creation.  And it's a budget that voucherizes Medicare – weakening that opportunity for America's citizens.

So I think as we go forward, yes, we’ll talk about the Affordable Care Act, proud to do so.  But the question now is: the President's budget, which is about growth and job creation, and about the future, and the education of our children, and the investment that is for the future, and science and technology and the rest, versus a budget that takes us backward.  It has a poverty of ideas that is really stunning.  So that's the debate that the election will be about – jobs and the budget, which is the blueprint to the future – a statement of our values.  That is the legitimate political debate in our country.  That's what we talked about.

Q:  Madam Leader, it was obvious here in the White House, during the darkest days of the botched rollout and the difficulties with the website, some people here believed that there was a possibility that the Affordable Care Act could collapse entirely.  Did you ever share those anxieties?

Leader Pelosi.  Never.

Q:  And did you put some of your own personal credibility on the line with your Democratic Caucus to hold the line during those dark days, to keep your Caucus together on behalf of this law, when it looked like it was not getting off to the start you thought it would?

Leader Pelosi.  I know that some of us had come together in the course of the passage of the bill when people didn't think that was possible.  It never for one instant occurred to me that the Affordable Care Act would collapse. Yes, the website didn't perform.  We were very disappointed.  It was an embarrassment.  But it was an episode, and it's over.  And at that time – well, our Caucus acts in consensus, and the consensus in our caucus was: we're going to ride this out, and you can't be afraid of one thing or another. 

You can't predict many things that will happen and the – while the website didn't work, the principles of the legislation were very, very important.  And we are wedded to them as we go forward.  Certainly in the implementation, we see room for – look at me: I wanted single payer.  I wanted public option.  That's where I’d like to go.  That wasn't the consensus of the House and the Senate, so that didn't pass.

Anything that brings us closer to, again, more quality, lower cost, simplification of implementation, we would all be for.  But that's the first I've even heard.  I didn’t know that that was the mood in the White House – that's news to me.  But certainly it was not the attitude – it was just:  “Get it fixed.”  Of course, I come from Northern California, where you have a technological problem, task for it, get it done, move on from there.

Q:  At what point did you think you were going to hit the six million projection?

Leader Pelosi.  It's over seven million, I think.

Q:  Was hitting this number, getting over seven million signups, is this a vindication for you and for the President?  And do you think that we will see the tide turn politically on the Affordable Care Act?

Leader Pelosi.  Let me just say: those of us who fought for this knew what we believed in and I don't think we needed any vindication.  We just had to protect it from those ideological, anti-government people who didn't want to see it succeed for ideological, or political, or whatever their reasons are.  But the fact is, for what it means to people – that's why we're here, to get something done for people.  So taking the heat on something like that – that's what we do.  That is all in a day's work.  We'll see. 

I think the fight for the election – elections are always about jobs, so I think that while, as I say, we're proud of the Affordable Care Act, we now pivot to job creation – which is, you know, the bill will create four million jobs.  This is a jobs bill.  It never advertised that.  It's a deficit reducer, job creator, and again, it is affordable quality care. 

So maybe it just clears the air a bit, so we can have the fuller discussion of jobs.  And, that’s a place where Republicans have been totally bankrupt in terms of their suggestions.  And some of it's as easy as ABC.  Make It In America: stop giving tax breaks to companies who send jobs overseas and instead focus those on people who Make It In America.  B: build the infrastructure of America.  That's always been a nonpartisan, a bipartisan approach.  It’s only recently that they have objected to some of the President's Build America Bonds and other initiatives to do that.  And C: the community – listening to the communities in terms of how they educate children, how we protect our environment and our neighborhoods and the rest – the security of our neighborhoods and the rest. 

And that is a public policy investment.  And it's an investment for the future.  And by the way, investments in education bring more money to the Treasury than any initiative you can name.  Nothing brings more money to the Treasury than the education of the American people: early childhood education, which the President has championed, K-12, higher-ed, post-grad, lifetime learning, training for our workers. 

So they have rejected any initiatives in that regard.  And that's the debate we have to have – and our investments in science and technology, and their rejection of science.  How do you reject science?  As I say all the time, if I had to describe four words to describe our legislative agenda, it would be science, science, science, and science.  Science for our innovation, science for our environment, science for our health, and science for the protection of our country.

So again, we have a debate about what is the role of government?  We don't want any more than we should have.  That's a traditional debate, a legitimate one in our country. The budget is a statement of values, and we have two big contrasting views of the future: the President’s agenda, which is about the future, or the Republican budget – the Ryan Budget – once again, taking us backward.  And that is what I think will be the debate in the election.  That is the question that will be called.

Q:  Beyond raising money, what could the President's political team do to help the candidates in your Caucus turn out voters, work the ground game better in November?

Leader Pelosi.  I have no complaint about what the President is doing.  I do think they have initiated this.  We're all in sync – let’s put it that way.  That energizing debate is really important, and what energizes our base energizes their base to the contrary.  And that's the legitimate fight, and that is: the base is energized by seeing the contrast of policy statements, a blueprint for the future – which is the budget. 

Our national budget – a federal budget should be a statement of our national values.  What's important to us as a nation should be how we allocate our resources – and to do so in a way that creates growth, first and foremost creates growth, and the jobs that go with that.  To do that, we have to invest in education to keep America number one.  Innovation springs from the classroom, and all of the wonderful, miraculous solutions that spring from scientific research – for example, at the National Institutes of Health and the rest.  It's all about keeping America number one, to lift everybody in our country.

The President's commitment to the middle class is something that's been a hallmark of his presidency.  It is certainly a view that is shared by the House Democrats and the Senate, Congressional Democrats.  Because the middle class is the backbone of our democracy.

I thank you very much.  I have to go to work.  Nice to see you.

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