House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sat down with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday to discuss the passing of the debt bill, the stalling of the FAA bill due to the August recess in Congress, and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ recent trip to Congress to cast her vote on the debt bill.
Read the full transcript below:
NBC’s ANDREA MITCHELL: Leader, thank you very much. Thanks for seeing us today.
HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER NANCY PELOSI: My pleasure.
MITCHELL: Now it’s over, but it’s not over. It’s really just beginning. You have basically two weeks to make appointments to this super committee. What are you looking for in your appointees? Do they have to be dead set against any cuts in Medicare, for instance, because if you appoint people who are against any cuts in Medicare, and Senator McConnell and the Republicans appoint people who are dead set against any tax increases, it’ll be deadlocked, and you’ll end up with triggering those very devastating cuts to come.
PELOSI: Well, your question is a good one, but I think, really, the less said about what people are going to the table to do, the better. We have a job, a responsibility to the American people to get the job done. They want jobs.
So what we want to do is have people go to the table share the values of the American people, understand the desperate need for job creation. And we see job creation as essential to deficit reduction.
So I don’t want to talk about shape of table, for those of whom remember what that means, at the end of the Vietnam War or any lines in the sand. We’re going there to get the job done.
And, really, I think that the American people are ready for us to talk about something other than the process of how we continue the conversation. They just want to see the meat on the bones of tangible jobs initiatives that we can work in a bipartisan way to achieve.
MITCHELL: The American people want to see jobs. They want to see the economy improve. But a lot of Democrats, your members, the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, feels that this deal is a bad deal, and it will lead to a slowing of the economy. Congressman Cleaver called it a Satan sandwich. You added on that it’s a Satan sandwich with a side of Satan fries. It’s a bad deal.
PELOSI: It’s a bad deal, but it’s a done deal, as my colleague Steve Israel says. It’s a bad deal but it’s a done deal, and it’s time for us to move on. It’s the basis on which we are going to proceed and we have to get on with it. We’ve got to go to the table, do the best we can in a balanced, bipartisan way, to create jobs, to reduce the deficit, and take us into the future. Just talking about how we got here and our complaints about this bill — don’t get me started.
MITCHELL: Well, let me get you started a little bit. Was the president a bad negotiator? Did he give away too much?
PELOSI: This is done. I don’t think so. I think the president was great. But, again, what is the point of talking about what is finished? On anything that happens around here, any one of us could have done it better, right? We could have written it better, we could have, whatever it is. But the fact is the president wanted a balanced, bipartisan agreement at the end of the day.
MITCHELL: But he didn’t get a balance. There’s no taxes in it.
PELOSI: That’s right, nobody knows that better than I or perhaps some do, but I fully appreciate that. But again, this is about how we go to the next steps: jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs.
We get sort of it’s like a cottage industry here in Washington, D.C., but we have to talk about what we did, why we did it. It’s horrible enough in real time. Now we’re going to continue to talk about it.
MITCHELL: But it was a turning point, many people feel — I’ve covered Congress many years. And I’ve never seen it quite as poisonous. I wanted to ask you about this, this moment. This was the night before John Boehner walked away from the grand bargain. You’re in the Oval Office with the president and the vice president. You look angry.
PELOSI: Well, I don’t even remember this, but I’m not angry in these situations.
MITCHELL: It’s a White House photo, I should point out. You can see the back of Harry Reid. What do you think you were saying to the president?
PELOSI: I think what I was saying to the president is ‘We’ve got to end this, we’ve got to end this.’ We’ve had the negotiations — as I look at this picture, the meeting was coming to end, since the vice president…
MITCHELL: Bringing back some bad memories?
PELOSI: No, it was just we’ve got to end it, whatever it is, everybody knows what the ante is. Now let’s just end it.
That’s — I think that Harry was — and I’m not going to speak for him, but it was - it’s no use continuing this conversation. We have to end it. Whatever can be gained by trying to get more, let’s try to do that. But without any threat of if we don’t get this, we don’t do that.
MITCHELL: But that’s when Boehner says the president upped the ante that night, called and said, we want another $400 billion. Did Democratic leaders on the Hill, did you want more on the tax side?
PELOSI: We said we would like to have more on the tax side, but not to the point of not having a deal. And that – or an agreement. At first when I thought it could have been any number of meetings at the White House…
MITCHELL: You had so many.
PELOSI: But you -- but when you identify it as that, I think at that moment I was saying, if we can do better, let’s do better. If we can’t, let’s end it.
MITCHELL: Did the Tea Party win, because they have redefined the debate? And now the president— and your hands are really tied in terms of new spending. It’s going to all be on the downside in terms of cutting and perhaps raising taxes.
PELOSI: I think we see this in a little bit of a different way, from our perspective here. What we saw was for the second time this year, on a budget bill, the Republicans in the House of Representatives did not have the votes. The continuing resolution at the beginning of the year, they got 179. The other day they got 174. And that’s not 218.
MITCHELL: But when you were Speaker, that never happened to you. You know how to count votes.
MITCHELL: You know how to count votes.
PELOSI: I know how to count votes, and I don’t go to the table and say I have to have it all my way, when you don’t have the votes. So how do we — recognizing that they don’t have the votes, how do we work together? I think there are many areas that are bipartisan in terms of job creation, like infrastructure, like Chinese currency manipulation, over and over again we’ve had bipartisan votes on that. Like issues that relate to clean energy jobs for the future. These have all - how we encourage the private sector, the private sector to succeed.
MITCHELL: Now you’ve gone on recess with the FAA bill not done…
PELOSI: We shouldn’t have.
MITCHELL: … and those are thousands of jobs. People are losing their jobs because of the FAA…
PELOSI: But I don’t control the schedule, I’m not the speaker.
MITCHELL: I know.
PELOSI: But we should not have left here. This could be 90,000 jobs lost over a six-week period, one month, that - we should not have left. We should not have gone from Washington…
MITCHELL: There was a Pew study…
PELOSI: … well, many of us will be here this week still working.
MITCHELL: I know you’re working. You’re obviously here. But there’s a Pew study , getting people to give one-word responses when they think of Congress, and people said, ridiculous, disgusting, messy. How does that make you feel?
PELOSI: You know, if you read the history of Congress — and I know that you’re a student, you will see, from the earliest days — I just went with Speaker Boehner and Speaker Hastert to Kentucky, for the 200th anniversary of the speakership of Henry Clay, and…
MITCHELL: The Grand Compromiser.
PELOSI: When, you know, he was a compromiser in terms of slavery. He wasn’t a compromiser — and he was called a legislative dictator, OK, here. So the compromise was on the arrangement of the Missouri compromise and the compromise of 1850.
That wasn’t how he conducted the House of Representatives. President Polk, when he was the peaker of the House think he was the only Speaker ever to become president. But in any event— his chair is marked out there in Statuary Hall — when he was Speaker, he said, “This place is so out of order that I’m not going to recognize anyone.”
This is the marketplace of ideas. This is where people come and represent their constituents on the short term, every two years. And so it’s always been a contentious people. People had duels in those days, canings, and the rest.
MITCHELL: But how do you feel now to have people saying things like Congress is ridiculous, it’s messy?
PELOSI: Well, I agree with that. I think that the whole process has been makes people angry, makes people disgusted. And I don’t think that we should have the legitimate debate about budget priorities with the sword of Damocles over our head. If not, we’re going to default. I don’t think that that was the appropriate dynamic, but that’s done, and now we’re moving on.
And Congress for its whole entirety has been an institution that has been mocked. The real — the difference now is in communication, real time, in fact, quicker than real time, before anybody has a chance to process what’s going on, people have formed an opinion and gone on. It’s a very healthy, good thing.
It’s a very healthy, good thing, but it also — I also agree that from what they have seen of the sausage-making close-up and in real time that they would not approve. And — but, again, we have to do the job that we came here to do. You can’t say I’m not going to fight them when they want to try to cut benefits forf Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, just because it looks bad to the public. No, we’re going to make that fight.
MITCHELL: Do you think during this August recess that people are going to face angry constituents at town meetings, and it’s going to be a replay of what we saw two years ago, when the Tea Party really erupted?
PELOSI: What I think we’ll see a mix of things, but I think we’ll also people saying thank you for not cutting my Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, because that was at risk. That was at risk, and, you know, I was at the meetings, private and public. And that was at risk in these negotiations.
So I think it’s important for members to make sure people know. The more transparency in this, the better. If the public is angry, that’s their right. They’re our bosses.
MITCHELL: Now I know that you don’t control the schedule, and if the public is your boss…
PELOSI: That’s right.
MITCHELL: … and all the other members, how would the public feel about knowing that the House has been out already 63 days this year, and the Senate 30 days. Is — these are working recesses also, but there’s a lot of vacation time built in.
PELOSI: Well, no, these are working recesses, but this schedule this year is a schedule that we’ve never seen before, two weeks in, one week out, like that. It really — ou’d have to speak to the Speaker about what that schedule is.
But for the days that we are in, the bills that the Republicans have introduced have cost us jobs and cost us jobs. And we’ve been in about 210 days since they took the majority, and we’ve lost about 2 million jobs if their bills had passed, nearly 10,000 jobs a day. So I don't know, the schedule, I think, is — can’t explain it to you. It’s not my schedule.
MITCHELL: I know.
PELOSI: But I and it doesn’t look like the schedule that we had. We maybe worked people too hard, I don't know, but the swinging of the pendulum is two weeks in, one week off, and now we’re leaving with the FAA bill and all that that…
MITCHELL: And the Korean trade deal and other trade deals that could have produced more jobs.
PELOSI: Well, that’s debatable. You know, we had a big debate into Congress as to whether these…
MITCHELL: But the White House supported it.
PELOSI: Well, the White House may support it, but the Congress may have a different view.
MITCHELL: What’s your relationship with President Obama?
PELOSI: I have a very good relationship with the president. I respect him enormously. I think we’re very blessed to have his leadership, his wisdom, his judgment, his knowledge of the issues.
It’s stunning to watch him what in so many different settings, he’s so knowledgeable about the details, about the history, the institutional memory, because he hasn’t been around Washington that long, and that may be a healthy thing, because he brings fresh eyes to a situation, great judgment, strategic in his thinking, eloquent in his presentation.
And he’s of another generation from me in terms of the perspective that he brings to our country. So I have a good rapport with him.
MITCHELL: And John Boehner?
PELOSI: I have a good rapport with John Boehner, well, up until this (laughing). We’ll see after this, but we’ve been friends. I treated him with great respect when he was Leader, and I respect the position that he holds now, and I think that we — I think without the — with the public watching and the possibilities that we have for rebuilding the infrastructure of America and creating jobs, for enabling the private sector, helping with public-private initiatives, but also policies and incentives, to keep America number one with innovation and the rest, and also some of the issues that relate to trade, where we can find areas of agreement, which, I think, we can, currency manipulation for example, that we can really do — and you talked about tables before.
I only thought that, you know, coming to the table, I always talk about the kitchen table, what are the needs of the American people? How are they going to make ends meet? How — what about their pension, the education of their children, their health securities through Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security and the rest, that kitchen table, I think, is important to Democrats and Republicans, as well as the board room table.
We have to give confidence to the market that we are going to honor full faith in credit. I think there’s plenty of room for us to work together in that regard.
MITCHELL: Finally I just want to ask you about Gabby Giffords. It was such a moment. You couldn’t watch it without tears coming to your eyes. And you were there. You were so much a part of it. You were one of the few people who knew she was coming. What was it like, and what are your impressions after, you know?
PELOSI: Well, it was a quite remarkable and, of course, I’m a mom, and as a mom, I’m not sure I would have encouraged her to do that. But she wanted to do it. She felt so ’ she believed so strongly that it was important for us to end this, and to move our doubt, that our country would not default. And she has said that. So that motivated her to come.
I did meet with her the day after, and again told her how incredibly important that was. And she even agreed that it was a boost of morale for the entire country. I told her that I had told the press that when that green light went up next to her name, the green light went up next to her name, it was the brightest light we’ve ever seen in the House of Representatives. She’s an inspiration. She’s courageous. She’s disciplined. She wanted to get back to her therapy, so she can get back here in the strongest way possible very soon.
MITCHELL: You think she’ll be able to run for reelection? I know she hasn’t made a decision. She’s focused on her rehabilitation. But do you think it’s going to be possible?
PELOSI: Yes, I do, and I feel — we’re all helping to make sure she —when she makes that decision, she has the resources to run her campaign. But this is a young, strong, value-based -- couldn’t be more bipartisan in her approach, lovely person, with a great husband.
But she has great support from her husband and from her family, her — I’ve met her parents on many — several occasions at the hospital, or even here. So I’ve seen her a number of times,
I’ve spoken to her on the phone, and yesterday I was thrilled to meet with her privately.
But the night before, as I said to the pages who were there, and pages have seen history made here, nobody until now has seen something so moving, so inspirational, so special for our country than Gabby Giffords, with her courage, her inspiration and the love she commands in that country, coming to this floor, to make a vote, to set America strong.
MITCHELL: Could not have come at a better time. Thank you, Madam Leader, thank you so much.
PELOSI: Thank you so much, Andrea.
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