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Pelosi reacts to BP oil spill, primary results

On Friday, NBC's Chuck Todd interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the government's response to the BP oil spill and the results of the recent primaries.
/ Source: MSNBC

On Friday, NBC's Chuck Todd interviewed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the government's response to the BP oil spill and the results of the recent primaries.

Read the complete transcript below.

CHUCK TODD, CO-HOST, THE DAILY RUNDOWN: Madam Speaker, thank you for joining us. I wanna start with I know you just came out of a briefing with the president.  What did he say to convince you that the government's got control of this situation down in the Gulf?

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI: Well, the president confirmed. He didn't really have to convince me.  Because I believe that the president is taking a very calm approach to this.  That is, get the facts, let us see what the reality is.  And over a period of time what he saw is what BP said about the safety of the drilling wasn’t so about the capacity blowout wasn't so, or how would they deal with cleanup wasn't so. And so what we have learned is that it's an integrity issue and the president has sent the attorney general to the region.

TODD: So you're happy with the federal response?

PELOSI: Well, we are never happy when we have an environmental catastrophe of this magnitude.

TODD: Right.

PELOSI: that is in the hands of the private sector.  BP its their drilling—

TODD: Should it be? at what point for instance, these liability claims. Do you think FEMA should be taking over the handling,  the claims issue that's going on down there with all of these businesses and folks that need this stuff?

PELOSI: Well, let me just say that, I said first about what BP represented that happened not to be true from an integrity standpoint. From an accountability standpoint, there has to be accountability to the taxpayer and then to these claimants who have have lost their livelihood. They can document that. And BP is more interested in spending money on advertising and public relations and paying dividends before they meet the claims of the small business.

TODD:I don't mean to stop you there, because there's been a headline already about something you said about dividends. You were, is that a suggestion, or do you think BP should not pay its dividends until they meet all of their obligations? You would like to see them cancel their dividend payment, or postpone their dividend payment, until claims are paid?

PELOSI: I would say that they can't even determine their dividend until they know what their costs are in terms of the fishermen, tourism, people in the tourism trade, others down there have lost their livelihood. Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, they have an obligation to make these people whole.

And that is a cost of doing business for them, and they have to pay that cost. The law requires it. So that is an obligation that they have. They should be doing it immediately instead of dragging this all out. These people have no capacity to take out loans until BP feels like paying them.

When they made $17 billion dollars in profits last year. Where they're paying dividends on profit and they haven't met their obligation as a business or for what has happened in the Gulf. So the president is expediting that, and I commend

TODD: Okay.

PELOSI: you were asking about the president. He also has made a change in how the Minerals Management Agency is operating.

TODD:  Right.

PELOSI: And that is something we would have done legislatively and still may, put in statute.  But in terms of the places where he can weigh in, yes. And in terms of his impatience with BP, after giving them a chance to demonstrate that their technology that they were honest about their technology to prevent to drill, and then to prevent blowout, and then to clean up -- the facts are in now. The president is holding them accountable to the taxpayer, to the businesses in the region and and for this environmental disaster.

TODD: Were you surprised that the president hadn't spoken with the with Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP?

PELOSI: I don't know what the communication is with the president.

TODD:No, but do you think he should have by now?  There should have been at least one phone conversation—

PELOSI:I have no—

TODD: — between the two?

PELOSI:I really can't speak to that.  I know that all kinds of communications go—

TODD: Sure.

PELOSI:— between people that may not be direct.

TODD: Well, I think it only has gotten brought up because the president, there was this, Matt Lauer, my colleague, used more colorful language.  I'm not gonna, I feel embarrassed to say it in front of you.  But he was talkin' about whose butt to kick.  And —

PELOSI: Right.

TODD:— the president seemed to get mad and he said that he's still determining, but that is what he plans to do.  First, what do you think of the language? And second, you know, should it be all about BP at this point?

PELOSI: I think the language was quite indicative of  the need to do something to jolt these people. They live in another world where they think that they could drill into the unknown, way down deep into the sea, and take the cheap way down instead of the safe way down.
Same thing with blowout prevention. Same thing with cleanup, in terms of the dispersents.  They've been irresponsible.

In fact, it's sort of betrayal on the American people to contend that we can go all the way down 'cause we know how. And then if something happens, we can stop it. And if we can't, we can clean it up. That was a total misrepresentation. And the question is was there negligence?  And that's what the attorney general will look into. In the meantime, what is the federal responsibility in terms of the Mineral Management Agency?  And that should that has to change. In the House, I've called together the chairs of our committees

TODD: Right.

PELOSI: — of jurisdiction on this. And it on issues that relate to liability, to leasing reform, to private sector preparedness in—

TODD: Right.

PELOSI:— terms of — integrity, first of all.

TODD: Right.

PELOSI: In terms of the role of the Coast Guard research into the technology, every aspect of this.  Some legislation we have already have written over the past year.

TODD: Okay.

PELOSI: Some of it we will have to refine.

TODD: What is it that needs to get done, in your mind, say, before your August recess?  That you gotta get done now in order to assist with this?

PELOSI: Well, I believe that some of it can be administratively by the  Obama administration.


PELOSI: And the president is taking action on many of those fronts.  He still may want to put them in statute. One of the immediate needs is to help the survivors of those who lost their lives in this tragedy.

TODD: Right.

PELOSI: And that would be to upgrade the  Death on the High Seas legislation—

TODD: Okay.

PELOSI:— so that they can have some recourse and some compensation for pain and suffering.

TODD: And then raising the liability cap. Do you wanna get rid of it completely?


TODD:As far as this whole company—


TODD: — you want unlimited?

PELOSI:I don't see why there should be any cap.

TODD:  Is that — can that get through? Can you get that through the House?

PELOSI:I believe that we can make a case for that. Why should there be a cap when we don't know what the size of—

TODD: Well, you had—

PELOSI: — damage is?

TODD:— said something in a previous interview that-- you had said-- indicated that you might be able to go to a $10 billion cap and then — that'd be—

PELOSI: For each—

TODD:— multiple incidents type of thing.

PELOSI:— for each incident.

TODD: Yeah.

PELOSI: But thought in seeing the size of this.  April 20 to now 50-some days—

TODD:  Right.

PELOSI:— to seeing the size of this— there shouldn't be any comfort to anyone who would be careless and reckless about— how they proceed that there's a cap on their damages.They are liable for the damage that they caused. To the ecology, to the economy, to the individual businesses, to the taxpayer. And the taxpayer will not pay the bill for BP. So when they're thinking about dividends, they have to think about what they owe the taxpayer, what they owe these small businesses, and what they must do in terms of the cleanup.

TODD:I wanna move to politics here. There's a piece that's coming out in the Sunday New York Times that quotes you having a conversation with David Axelrod, the president's senior—


TODD:— one of his senior advisors. And it says basically you're givin' him a hard time about the president's rhetoric when it comes to he goes out on a stump he sometimes beats up Washington. And you have made no secret of the fact that you'd like to see him, you know, when you do that, you're ended up,  you believe he's hurting all Democrats.  First of all, is that is that a fair representation of your conversation with David Axelrod?

PELOSI: No.  I would say that I had no complaint about the president's presentation.  No one is more eloquent and dynamic in terms of making the case for why we need to take the country in a new direction. Sometimes my House members like a differentiation because the president will say Washington didn't do this or that, or it was the Bush administration that didn't do this or that.

Or it was the Republicans in the Senate who were the obstructionists, who prevent things from happening. But in the House, we passed almost all of the initiative that the president is calling upon Washington to do. So for example, when you talk about recklessness on Wall Street, and they're talking about Washington, and they're talking about the Bush administration.  We'll like that distinction to be made.

Because its their lack of supervision, of regulation, of discipline of that caused recklessness on Wall Street to cause joblessness on Main Street, people losing their jobs, their health care, their homes, their pensions, perhaps their children's higher education, and no longer can we have a situation where there national privatizing the game, and its nationalizing the risk, sending the bill to the taxpayer can exist. Those were the policies of the Bush administration.  We're not going back to that. But we don't want to be lumped in with it.

TODD: How at what point do you think the public says, "You know what?  Yes, we were unhappy with the Bush administration.  That's why you're Speaker of the House. That's why Barack Obama is president of the United States. To stop blaming the Bush administration.  When you hear that, why do you know, you hear this critique, "Why do Democrats keep blamin' the Bush administration—"

PELOSI: I haven't even heard that.

TODD: — "forward?"

PELOSI:I haven't heard that.

TODD: So you think it's a favor. You know,  but when does that run out?


TODD: When do you feel like that runs out with the public?

PELOSI: Well, it burns out when the problems go away. And here's what the president inherited.  He inherited a deficit, when this president inherited from the Clinton administration four budgets that were either in surplus or in balance. And he turned it into a massive deficit.  He talked,  he brought us to the brink of  a financial crisis. He brought us to the brink of deep recession ignoring issues that relate to climate change—

TODD: You feel this is a very relevant thing, this is—

PELOSI: Absolutely.  This is—

TODD: And this should be—

PELOSI: how we got here.

TODD: — one of the issues in the fall?  Bush administration,  what happened then—

PELOSI: And what continues to happen now on our energy bill. We wanted to reign in the  the oil companies. The Republicans said no. On the health insurance bill, we wanted to reign in the health insurance industry. The Republicans said no. We're on Wall Street reform legislation.  We wanna reign in those who were reckless on Wall Street. The Republicans said no.
We didn't get one single vote. We didn't get one single vote  from the Republicans in the House on the Wall Street reform legislation to protect the taxpayers and the American worker from that recklessness. 

So its a continuation of those Bush policies in the Congress, but they have their roots and the problems were caused during the Bush administration.

TODD: Did you just preview the fall campaign in your mind? That's the Democratic message.  And, you know, the Republican message is gonna be, "Congress is overspending. They're spending too much money. They gotta reign this in."


TODD: I mean, is that—

PELOSI:— to hear the Republicans talk about that when they have produced the greatest deficit. Thank you, President Bush, for the biggest deficit in our country's history.  But our message is about jobs. It's about job creation in every way.  And all of our bills are about job creation. And this president, by the way, is just about  in a month or two, will have created more jobs this year than the Bush administration created in its eight years in office.

So I think these distinctions have to be made. This is how we got to where we are. This is how we're trying to change it, and their resistance we are meeting.  And this is the positive side of what we are trying to do.  It's hard digging back from the mess that they have driven us  had driven us into. But we will.

TODD: I know we're running short on time. In California, we've seen between yourself, Senator Feinstein, Senator Boxer, there's a resurgence of Democratic women over the last 20 years and it was led out of California. All of a sudden it seems this year it's Republicans that are nominating more women for governor all around the country. Are you disappointed that the Democrats aren't followin' suit with as many—you're not seeing as many women candidates run for governor around—right now, or having success?  Or what do you explain the Republicans' success this year—

PELOSI: Well, let me just say this. Jerry Brown will be the governor of California come November.

TODD: Okay.

PELOSI: Barbara Boxer—

TODD: Making that clear.

PELOSI: — will be the senator, great woman, United States senator—

TODD: But I'm talking about this trend all around we've seen a lot of women

PELOSI:— see what happens in November. It's one thing to be nominated; it's another thing to be elected.  We know that.  But let me also say that I don't think anything is more is more wholesome than the increased participation of women in politics, whatever their party. But the fact is, is we have a difference between our parties. And I certainly believe that the Democrats will prevail, whether they're men or women—

TODD:All right.

PELOSI:— in the general election.

TODD: Very quickly, I gotta ask you what did you make of Carly Fiorina's comment about Senator Boxer's hair?.

PELOSI: Why would you ask me such a question?

TODD: Well, I just — I throw it out there 'cause I couldn't believe I heard another politician sat that about another politician.

PELOSI: You could believe it.

TODD: Well, (LAUGH) you tell me.  What did you,  I mean, what was your re—  you must have had a reaction?

PELOSI: Well, let me say this. I wasn't surprised.

TODD:You weren't surprised—

PELOSI:I wasn't surprised—

TODD:— at the comment?

PELOSI:— that she would say that.

TODD: That she would say—

PELOSI: But the point is, is that— Senator Barbara Boxer is one of the strongest voices in the Congress of the United States. She's been a great senator from California. She will be the elected— no matter who likes her hair styles or not. And women are used to people making comments about their hair, just ask Hillary Clinton a question.

: Are you gonna hold the House?  You confident?

PELOSI: We're definite—

TODD: Hundred percent?

PELOSI: Take it to the bank.

TODD: And if you don't, is it—

PELOSI: We will.  It's not a question if we don't.

TODD: Do you say to yourself, to your members, if we don't then —you know I take responsibility?

PELOSI:I always take responsibility.  Victory has many sponsors and—


PELOSI:— parents. And any time we win, it's because of the work of many, many people.  I feel very confident that we will attainthe majority of the Congress of the United States.  I'm very pleased with how the primaries have been going in terms of the votes that my members have received.  Looking at the other side and who the challengers are, I feel pretty good about it.  But our members are experts.  We'll  win this one district at a time. And they are experts on how they communicate in their specific way with their districts.

I tell them, "Your job title and your job description are one in the same: representative."  I said we count on them to deliver their message on creation of jobs and health care for all Americans and-- as a right, not a privilege.  They're very proud of our agenda, and I'm sure we will— we'll meet here six weeks  or, no.  Six months— Six months.