No More Blank Checks

April 13, 2007
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will not back down on war funding differences with Bush

Associated Press - April 13, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" she has no plans to back down on her differences with the president over funding for the war on terror.

Bush "wants a blank check on the war," she said Thursday on the late night TV talk show.

The nation's first woman House speaker steered away from questions about the 2008 presidential race and spoke cautiously about her relationship with the president.

"I respect the office he holds, and I respect him," she said.

Speaker Pelosi also discussed Iraq on NBC's "Today Show" yesterday:

MEREDITH VIEIRA, co-host: She's the most powerful woman in government right now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. NBC's Campbell Brown sat down with her for an exclusive interview. Campbell, good morning to you.

CAMPBELL BROWN reporting: Good morning, Meredith. Well, Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, is no shrinking violet. She is not afraid to throw some darts at the president, but she is also on the receiving end of some intense criticism these days, especially for her recent trip to Syria, a nation the Bush administration calls a state sponsor of terror.

Representative NANCY PELOSI: Everybody has a right to be critical of it. The point is, we had a very high level visit, which was very well received. The president wants a blank check on all of his foreign policy, including the war. We're simply not going to give that to him.

BROWN: But traditionally, that has been the power of the presidency. I mean, there are some who would argue that, legally, it is the president's responsibility to conduct foreign policy. And it wasn't just the Washington Post; The New York Times editorial page said your job is to spur the administration to pursue active diplomacy...

Rep. PELOSI: And that's what we did.

BROWN: ...not to attempt to conduct the diplomacy yourself.

Rep. PELOSI: We weren't conducting diplomacy. This may be an issue for an administration that has very little to offer to the American people. As far as we were concerned, I'm the speaker of the House. We oversee the budget of the United States. Much of that budge is about our national defense. The war on terror is a--fighting that war on terror is a very big priority for us. We had bipartisan delegation, we had the support of the Iraq Study Group, which said that we should engage in dialogue. That's what we were doing. Everything we...

BROWN: But the president rejected the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group.

Rep. PELOSI: But he...

BROWN: And said we're not going to engage Syria. So you don't think that you're conducting an alternative foreign policy if you're following those recommendations, even though the president said, `We're not going to going to.'

Rep. PELOSI: No, the president is not king. The president is the president of the United States. America is a democracy. We have to make decisions based on our judgment. Thus far the president's judgment hasn't been good in terms of, say, for example, the war in Iraq. So with all due respect to the president and the role he has, we want respect for the role that we have, and members of Congress have gone on fact-finding trips since our country began. We're not going to stop because the president wants to avoid the facts and doesn't want to engage in dialogue. We had a bipartisan trip. Interesting that the administration chose to ignore the trips of the Republicans who had been there in the week that we were there and...

BROWN: But the Republicans don't have your megaphone. They're not speaker of the House.

Rep. PELOSI: Well...

BROWN: When you speak, the world listens.

Rep. PELOSI: That's right.

BROWN: You acknowledged that.

Rep. PELOSI: And that's because I have power and that's why I have--in other words, the Republicans--the president wants to have it both ways. `She shouldn't go because she--what difference does it make? She should--she shouldn't go because she makes a big difference.' They have to make a decision. But the fact is that we will never stop finding the facts to honor our responsibility to provide for the common defense, to fight terrorism and to deliver the president's message.

BROWN: Let's talk about Iraq. You are locked in a standoff with President Bush right now over funding for the war. You say any bill has to have a timetable for withdrawal with troops out in 2008. The president is adamant that he will veto any bill that includes a timetable. Do you see any hope for resolution?

Rep. PELOSI: I hope so. I think that we owe it to the American people to sit down with each other.

BROWN: He's invited to you the White House to talk next week?

Rep. PELOSI: No, he hasn't. He said--he invited us to the White House if we agreed to give him a blank check. But there are no more blank checks. This is about a Congress that is accountable to the American people, and we will hold the president's policy accountable, as well.

BROWN: He says that you, that Democrats are using this bill to make a political statement at the expense of...

Rep. PELOSI: Well, I'm sad that he's saying that because there--our members, as he would say, are all patriotic on both sides of the aisle. We all care about our troops. We all are committed to our national security. So he can say what he will say, but it simply isn't true. Just because the president says it doesn't make it a fact.

BROWN: But why now, you don't have the votes to override a veto.

Rep. PELOSI: Well, we--you know, we would hope that the president will--we are a reflection of the majority view in our country. And I would hope that the president would understand that that's where the Congress is coming from on this.

BROWN: And this does all come to a head next week when Pelosi and other Democrats say they will meet with the president. Will there be a deal? Right now it doesn't look good, Meredith. Both sides are pretty entrenched.