Melissa Harris Perry
updated 5/12/2013 5:48:00 PM ET 2013-05-12T21:48:00

Congressional Republicans this week reached new heights of "obsession" over the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said, as GOP leaders fought to stoke controversy over the September attack that left four Americans dead.

Congressional Republicans this week reached new heights of “obsession” over the Obama administration’s handling of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said, as GOP leaders fought to stoke controversy over the September attack that left four Americans dead.

“The obsession that some of my Republican colleagues have in the House…doesn’t look like it’s on the path to find any solutions, but it is to keeping an issue alive,” Pelosi said on Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday. A House committee hearing on the Hill over the Benghazi attacks this week fueled that fire, along with a news report that surfaced which reveals how the White House shaped its talking points in the wake of the attacks. Pelosi dismissed the criticism in her conversation with Harris-Perry, calling them untrue and “subterfuge.”

The theme of GOP obstruction extended throughout Capitol Hill, Pelosi said, with everything from immigration reform to gun control. A major sticking point in the latest committee markups on immigration reform is whether or not Congress will allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign-born partners. While remaining optimistic that reform as a whole would pass, Pelosi stopped short of expressing confidence that immigration could make its way through Congress.

“Confidence is hard to use when you’re dealing with House Republicans,” she said.

Pelosi did however make clear that she and fellow Democrats consider that fight for gun control reform will continue, even after the Senate last month rejected a bipartisan bill that expanded background checks for gun sales. ”It’s appalling that it could not pass the Senate,” Pelosi said about the failed measure to expand background checks. But she was clear in her message to fellow gun control advocates: “We’re not ever backing down.” Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her gun control lobby group have raised a combined $11 million dollars in the past four months.

According to a recent Gallup poll, guns are actually near the bottom of American priorities; voters still view the economy as their top concern.  Yet, House Republicans passed the Working Families Flexibility Act on Wednesday, a bill which allows federal overtime laws to be loosened. Private-sector employees who work more than 40 hours per week could receive “comp” time rather than pay from their companies. “It’s just another manifestation of more for us, less for you. Happy Mother’s Day,” said Pelosi.

Pelosi was instrumental in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010. Starting Oct. 1, Americans can begin to sign up for the plan. Regardless of the law being upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, the law is constantly challenged by Republicans.

House GOP leader Eric Cantor even tweeted on Wednesday, “The House will vote next week for a full repeal of #Obamacare.” Pelosi seemed as unfazed by another repeal vote as she was by Cantor’s tweets. “Well, we don’t see it in the context of Eric’s tweets,” she said Saturday. “We see it in the context of a great, transformative moment.”

And what about the possibility of a woman being elected president, and the future for women leaders? Pelosi has been vocal in her support for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s rumored presidential run in 2016. When asked about Sanford’s use of her literal cardboard form in his complaint Pelosi said, “I won’t even dignify it.” However, Pelosi did say that tactics like those can dissuade women from running in the future because they’ll think, “Why should I subject myself to the silliness of these guys?”

One of the biggest questions Harris-Perry asked leader Pelosi centered around the midterm elections, and whether or not Pelosi would seek the speakership if Democrats regained control of the house in 2014.

“You know what, one step at a time,” Pelosi responded.

See the second and third segments of the discussion below.

Video: Nancy Pelosi comes to Nerdland

  1. Closed captioning of: Nancy Pelosi comes to Nerdland

    >>> welcome back. i'm melissa harris-perry. i had an opportunity to sit back with nancy pelosi when the supreme court upheld the constitutionality of the affordable care act . nancy pelosi made the passage possible. her tenure as speaker of the 111th congress is the last time anything got done in washington. in addition to giving millions of americans access to health insurance , pelosi's congress rewrote the rules for wall street , worked to revive a slumping economy, invested in alternative energy and ended don't ask, don't tell. and that is just a few. and with the midterms on the horizon, i can't think of anyone i would rather talk to than nancy pelosi . welcome to nerdland.

    >> good morning. great to be here.

    >> i appreciate the time. it's really been an incredible week of news. can we start with immigration sfl.

    >> you can start wherever nerd land wants to go. it feels like now that we're looking at this gang of eight proposals, are you confident? are you feeling good we're going to get comprehensive immigration reform ? i'm optimistic. confident is a hard word to use when you're dealing with house republicans. but i'm opt his mystic. the fact that 70% of voters voted in the election was clear message that republicans needed work. and work they needed to do was to pass an immigration bill . so i'm optimistic that a good bill will pass. that's what comp mice is about. now the the house we've been having our own force of people, democrats and republicans who have been working on it as well. and i would hope that the principles shared in the working groups would be what congress will adopt.

    >> there's one piece. you talk about the question of latino voters. there's another intersecting group of lgbt volters and the allies of the lgbt communities . it seems like a stoiicking point is whether or not gay americans can bring their partners as part of the immigration reform . will that be stymied here?

    >> we will see. we will hope there will be no more immigration in the bill as far as enjoying same opportunities. however, there are other obstacles. there's business labor issues that have been resolved in the senate. there are issues about diversity visas. so this is not the outstanding issue. there are other obstacles to overcome. i'm confident that they will. i would hope by then doma would have been struck down by the court and it would be a nonissue.

    >> so, even though there's compromise beginning to happen on immigration, one place where i'm stunned by the unwillingness is on guns. what in the world is going on, on this question, former congresswoman gabbi giffords. the resources are there. where is the political will?

    >> well, nothing is more eloquent to a member of congress than the voice of his or her own constituents. so while 90%, 80%, 70%, depending on your take of gun safety legislation, the public by and large knows we have to have a bill of serious background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them. that has not -- that message has not been delivered clearly enough to some members of congress . it's appalling that it could not pass the senate. but it also raises questions as to why you need 60 bullets to do something that overwhelmingly american people support. but we're never backing down. that's what the t-shirts say. whether it's gabby giffords and her efforts. mayors against illegal guns . mayors of advocates who have had impact of gun violence . and they brought to me 1.2 million signatures which they gathered in ten days. and i said, well, it's important enough for me to receive them. but it's important for these people to communicate directly with their member of congress . the public sentiment, lincoln said, is everything. so as long as the public is aware of what the choices are and votes with their own constituents and makes their views known, we will have to be ever hopeful that this will pass. i don't know how anybody could go to work the next day, look themselveses in the mirror if congress cannot pass a background check .

    >> what i love about the response is it shows you are still an optimist about the project of democracy. the idea that two sides can find a reasonable compromise. we can still hold our elected officials accountable. but then there's benghazi . and it's part of what feels to me -- it takes away the optimism. it sort of chips it away for me. this week we're back to the anxiety about tell us who changed the talking points . i want to take a quick listen to how the white house responded to the revival of benghazi .

    >> you told us the only changes made were stylistic. is it a stylistic change to take out all references to previous terror threats in benghazi ?

    >> , i appreciate the the question again. what i was referring to was the talking points that the skrrks ia drafted and sent around. to which one change was made. and i accept the stylist may not precisely describe the change of one word to another.

    >> this was not a change of one word. these underwent extensionive changes after they were written by the cia.

    >> there was an inner agency process which is always the case. a lot have a stake in the matter like this.

    >> so is there a transparency issue here well he himself said he was satisfied with the responses for the white house . the exception my republican colleagues have in the house is it doesn't look like it's on the path to finding a solution, but just to keeping the issue alive. we have to find out everything about what happened there. there's no question about that. to the wording. when it is the intelligence consensus estimate process. everybody says this is how i think it should be. they sign off. those tr the talking points . but the point is this. it was a terrible tragedy in benghazi . california feels particularly protective of the ambassador. so we want to find out what did happen. but there is one line of investigation or looking into it. the state department with the high, very esteemed, distinguished leadership appointed to look into it. and then let's talk about benghazi forever so we don't have to talk about what the american people want to talk about. they don't want to talk about jobs, economic security , economic growth . we want to talk about their future. and we certainly have to give the full attention that benghazi deserves. we cannot let it soak up all of the congressional attention. what would be the purpose of that.

    >> to keep you from governing.

    >> if you watch the shows, which i don't, surfing the channels, there's an obsession with benghazi , hillary clinton , let's stipulate to a set of facts about it. see how we can prevent it from happening again. that's the point. and recognize that we live in a dangerous world and we certainly want to protect all of our diplomats, our intelligence people. they do great work protecting our country and advancing our values. we don't do that by cutting budgets and then investing what happened.

    >> as you're thinking about your colleagues in the house. you're about to have a new colleague in the house. representative mark sanford .

    >> before you go there. i want to say about benghazi and the rest of that, this, again, with all of the sympathy and concern for the families involve ed, we have to get to the point. there is much of what is being said by my colleagues in congress that is simply not true. and we go into this, well you said but it wasn't true and this and that. it simply isn't true. so we have to make sure that the public record is clear about what actually happened.

    >> i'm going to leave us then on the brity of thought around benghazi and the importance of getting to the bottom of the facts without getting distracted by the politics that seems to be about discrediting particular individuals so that they're not sort of available for public office later. we will leave that there and take a break. when i come back i want to talk to you about the 2014 midterms and the special election in south carolina . thank you.


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