Pelosi: Economy Key In Democrats' Election Losses
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Our own Renee Montagne reached Pelosi yesterday in her office on Capitol Hill.
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Madam Speaker, good morning.
NANCY PELOSI: Good morning. How are you, Renee?
MONTAGNE: But you've been talking about the positives. Tell us what the main ones are that motivated you to go for being minority leader.
PELOSI: I'm running to put together the strongest plan to work with the Republicans to solve problems. The biggest problem is unemployment. I hope we can work together to create jobs. And I do so with the overwhelming support of my caucus, not the unanimous support.
MONTAGNE: To protect this big - some of these big pieces legislation that you helped lead the Democratic Party to achieve, are you now, though, willing to tinker with any of it - for instance, the Health Care Law?
PELOSI: But the fact is there seems to be general agreement that a Patient's Bill of Rights is popular. No lifetime limits and no pre-existing condition can prevent you from getting health care. Those kinds of provisions are very popular.
MONTAGNE: Can you give us, say, one part of it that you would be willing to revisit to make some sort of compromise with the Republicans, or give them something they want?
PELOSI: One item that I think we all agree on is that's in the Senate - that was in the Senate bill - not in the House bill, but became part of the law - is 1099, which affects small businesses and small contractors and how they report their transactions. They know what it means, and they know they'd like to see it go. I think that's probably the first place we could go in together.
MONTAGNE: Getting back to the politics, you have been quite successfully demonized by the Republicans. How are you going to keep that from hurting your party more than it already has?
PELOSI: The reason they had to try to take me down is because I've been effective in fighting the special interests in Washington, D.C. I'm also the most significant attractor of support for the Democrats. So I'm not looking back on this. They asked me to run. I'm running. And again, our members understand they made me target because I'm effective.
MONTAGNE: I'm wondering though if it might be more comfortable leading a predominantly liberal Democratic minority rather than the quite fractious majority that you've been leading. Do you have some sympathy for Republican Jim DeMint's famously stated preference for a hardcore group of conservatives over having even a majority - in his case, the Senate?
PELOSI: If it is just more tax cuts for the rich and it'll trickle down and somebody will get a job, maybe, then we have to do something different. But let's be optimistic. We're here to solve problems.
MONTAGNE: Where do you stand on that at this point in time?
PELOSI: Well, the position that we have and - which is the position that the president has put forth - is that everybody should get a tax cut in our country. The problem comes when you give an additional tax cut to the wealthiest two percent that will heap $700 billion in debt onto our children and our grandchildren.
MONTAGNE: What about, though, a temporary extension for including a tax cut for those at the high end - a year, two years?
PELOSI: Well, our position in the House has been that we support the tax cut for the middle - for everyone, but not an additional tax cut at the high end. It's too costly. Those tax cuts have been in effect for a very long time. They did not create jobs. In fact, with the tax cuts that President Obama had in the recovery package, we have now 10 straight months of private sector job growth. So from day one, President Obama and this Congress have been job creators, at the same time giving tax cuts to the middle class, which do create jobs.
MONTAGNE: I'm talking with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Madam Speaker, is there an opportunity for you now that you're in the minority and will be - well, to the public at least - less visible?
PELOSI: This isn't about me. Maybe the Republicans will take a course of action that will solve problems. God bless them if they do. But maybe they will pursue what they have said, which is to privatize Social Security, to make Medicare a voucher, to resist our initiatives. So it's not - the opportunity that is there is to have clarity. Maybe they will be more eloquent in defining themselves than we could have ever been in defining them.
MONTAGNE: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, talking to us from her office on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much for joining us.
PELOSI: Thank you, Renee. My pleasure.
INSKEEP: Of course, she spoke with our own Renee Montagne, and you can hear the entire conversation at npr.org.
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