Transcript of Pelosi Press Availability after House GOP Left Washington without Extending Payroll Tax Cut and Unemployment Benefits

December 9, 2011
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi held a press availability today in the Capitol after House Republicans left town without passing an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits.  Below is a transcript of the press availability:

Leader Pelosi.  Good afternoon.  Well, here we are in the Capitol.  I was thinking about, this morning, about the comments made by President Obama earlier this week in Kansas when he really set the tone on how we can go forward to end our work this year to create work for the American people.  He said: “We are greater working together--when everyone has a fair shot, when everybody does their fair share.” And that is really the attitude that we should be having.

Here we are, we're working to make sure that we can honor the budget requirement that we have legislation before the end of the year.  We're past the fiscal year but before the end of the calendar year, before we can leave for Christmas.  We can't leave for the holidays without finishing that work.  And we can't leave for the holidays without passing a payroll tax cut for the middle class.

This is legislation that the President's proposal will make a difference of 750,000 jobs to our economy.  The Republicans have made a proposal which will hurt the economy, will lose jobs, because their proposal doesn't have a shot, as one of the Republican Senators said: “what we're doing here is pointless” because it isn't going to pass the Senate, the U.S. Senate.  We don't have time for sending messages; we have to create work for the American people.  And so, so we have a situation where overwhelmingly the American people support a tax cut, a payroll tax cut for the middle class, overwhelmingly.

Everybody recognizes, the Macroeconomic Advisers recognize, non-partisan, independent, respected group of macroeconomic advisers--this is important to do and yet the Republicans, feeling the heat, the Presidents going around the country talking about the payroll tax cut, feeling the heat of the debate here in Congress about the necessity of doing it, being aware of the public's interest in this payroll tax being cut have said: “Okay we'll put forth a payroll tax cut but we'll put so many poison pills on it that it couldn't possibly survive.”

And so it's not about what the American people are thinking.  They support a payroll tax cut whether they are Democrats, Republicans or Independents.  It's about the extremism of the Republicans in the House of Representatives that it remains the obstacle to this tax cut.

This puts $1,500 in the pockets of America's working families.  This is important because this is not only the right thing to do for those families at this time, but it also has a macroeconomic impact of money that will be spent immediately injecting demand into the economy; demand, demand, demand creates jobs, jobs, jobs.  Along with that the unemployment insurance extensions that we are hoping will occur have the same impact.  Economists tell us that they have an immediate impact of injecting demand into the economy.  So these are the right things to do for our working families, but they also, again, have a positive macroeconomic effect of creating jobs.  So we're hoping that we can, in a bipartisan way, get our work done on the appropriations bills, that's what we have been working on, which Members are still here, because our work is not done.

The Republicans had us have 20 legislative hours of work this week, some of it on legislation that is not as important as the matters before us.  So, again, we are trying to make sure the American people understand that this payroll tax cut is being held hostage to issues that have absolutely nothing to do with the payroll tax cut, absolutely nothing to do with the unemployment insurance extension.

Again, we are not going home until we can get this job done.  20 hours of work, not being here this Friday when we have so much unfinished business, it's hard to understand--while we're not here working when the American people are looking for work.  Again, the President says, “We're greater together when everyone has a fair shot, when we engage in fair play and when everyone does their fair share.”

Q: Madam Leader I'm wondering if you could comment on the Medicare changes in the legislation that came out this morning and also reforms to UI?  Which you signaled yesterday might not…

Leader Pelosi.  We haven't really seen a final product, perhaps you have, as to what is in there.  I don't know if this is a proffer or if this is the legislation, I don't.  When they are ready to send it to the Rules Committee then we'll know what it is.  But let me just say of that, to take something like that independently outside of the context of the big, bold and balanced initiative to reduce the deficit, to create jobs, to grow our economy, it's hard to answer the question.  Some things might be acceptable in terms of a big, bold and balanced plan, are unacceptable if we're not only not going to the place where President Obama wants to go on the payroll tax cut, have a more modest proposal, and on top of that have consumers of Medicare pay the price.

Yes ma'am.

Q:  Madam Leader, Congressman Cleaver this morning, seemed to indicate on a fellow news program, that if it came down to between having the payroll tax cut extended or preventing the Keystone pipeline provision from going through, that he seemed to indicate that he could see himself supporting a package that would include the Keystone language that the Republicans were pushing.  Does that pose a problem for Democrats?

Leader Pelosi.  No I don't think so…I don't.  This isn't about the Keystone.  This is not about the Keystone pipeline.  The Keystone pipeline is a completely separate issue.  People on both sides of the issue agree that this shouldn't be on this package.  It's just not polite, it's a poison pill designed to sink the payroll tax cut.  So I don't think it poses a problem, with all due respect to the opinion expressed by a colleague.  The President said he will veto the bill.  He will veto the bill.

Anyone?  Anyone?  Ready to go home?

Q:  Leader Pelosi, the President said he would reject the bill.  It sounds like he's leaving himself some room in that if this is what ends up passing and the Senate, somehow takes it up.  Is there a possibility that you would be left with the choice of accepting this?

Leader Pelosi.  I'm sorry you're saying that, I just didn't hear your question?

Q:  The President didn't specifically use the word veto, he said he would reject the bill, leaving himself room…

Leader Pelosi.  I've heard the President say that if the Keystone pipeline was in the bill, he would veto the bill.  That's what I've heard the President say.  I don't…

Q:  Has he made that point to you specifically too that…?

Leader Pelosi.  He made it in the press.  I heard it in the press.  But let me say that it's, just to get back to what is at hand here, we've been having the debate for a long time about fairness in our system.  We had an opportunity with the Supercommittee to do something that is big, bold and balanced.  Repeatedly, the President put forth initiatives that were painful to Democrats but were necessary in order to produce a compromise and we supported the President in that.

The Republicans walked away from it because they would not take one red cent, not one penny, not one hay penny from the wealthiest people in our country to do what was right to grow the economy, to reduce the deficit and to create jobs, to take us on a course, $4 trillion course and it always comes back to the same thing.  When Senator Reid proposed that there would be, proposed the payroll tax cut in the Senate, he did so with a surcharge, with a small surcharge on those making over $1 million a year, not having, making over $1 million a year.  Republicans said no.  How could it be fair that a tax cut for the middle class, which injects demand into the economy immediately and further creates jobs, should be at the mercy of the protecting every penny and hay penny of the wealthiest people in our country.  How could that be?  And that has been the stumbling block all along.  So when you say, “Okay we get the message, we who have opposed the payroll tax cut,” as Republicans in the House have, “so we're going to put forth a bill that does that, but we're going to pay for it in ways that affect Medicare beneficiaries, we're going to demand--hold it hostage to the Keystone pipeline.”  This is no time for that.  This isn't serious.  This isn't about furthering, in furtherance of getting the job done for the American people.

So again, in the spirit of the holidays and the optimism and hope that we all bring to it, I wish we were still here in session having these kinds of debates because every day is important as we draw closer.  Families will soon be sitting around their kitchen tables making decisions as to what they can buy, holiday toys for their children if they won't be able to pay for them come January when the bills arrive.  And what are we doing?  We're out.  And we should not recess this Congress until we get the job done for the American people.  The President insisted upon that, we agree with that insistence and otherwise, we need to have an explanation as to why Americans are agonizing at their kitchen tables about how they're going to make ends meet, uncertain about their jobs, their homeownership, their pension, their children's education.

But we can't be at a table here hashing out our differences, there's always got to be a compromise involved.  For some reason our Republican colleagues think that compromise, they take the definition that means something negative, when in fact President Thomas Jefferson said: “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”  We all represent different communities across the country, bring our point of view, none of us comes here to say “I'm only going to support what I would write in the bill myself.”  It's a collaborative effort, so one mistake--compromising is the principle of our ability to cooperate to get the job done for the American people.

Again, Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.  We've got to put money in the pockets of the American people.  The payroll tax cut, unemployment benefits [extension] and we cannot go home unless we do it.

Q:  Have the Republicans taken you up on your invitation to talk about responsible payfors?

No, they haven't.  No they haven't, and that's why I said we should be sitting at the table to get this done, just as we did when Democrats were in the majority when President Bush was in the White House.  We sat down and went through this, recognized the power of his signature, recognized the leverage of our majority, but worked together--Mr. Boehner there to get the job done on our work on the stimulus package of 2007, which I wanted infrastructure, the President wanted tax cuts, we came to an agreement on his side of the ledger.  But no, that hasn't happened.  But I hope it will and I hope it will happen soon.  But time is running short and taking it to the limit of December 23rd or having us stay here over Christmas, it's an inconvenience to us, but it's really unfair to the American people and that's really the point.  It's not about will we have our Christmas dinner, it's about if the American people have Christmas dinner they can pay for with some level of comfort.

I want my colleagues this week to share the stories of the families that we have heard from where this $1,500 will make all the difference in the world to them.  Maybe the Republicans are not aware of the significance of that amount of money to middle income families.  But I hope that they will, when they hear the stories, come to their senses as to what is sane about how we do this.  It's the extreme position of the Republicans in the Congress.  I defy you to go out there and find a significant number of people who will say: “I don't think there should be a tax, a payroll tax cut for the middle class.”  It's in the 1 percent of Americans.  People all agree that should be fair and necessary in this economy.

Thank you.