MyDD Interview with Nancy Pelosi
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Jun 21, 2007 at 09:22:11 PM EDT
Bumped -- Jonathan
Yesterday morning, Wednesday June 20, I had the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes with the Speaker of the United States House, Nancy Pelosi.
During the interview, which immediately followed Speaker Pelosi's speech at the Take Back America conference, we covered some of the questions you raised as well as some that had been in my mind for some time, touching on issues ranging from Iraq to global warming to immigration reform. You can listen to the audio of the conversation below, download it as a very large .mp3 here, or read the rush transcript below:
Nancy Pelosi: I believe that we're right on course. We had the votes to say that there are timelines and the President had to honor them. The President vetoed the bill. There isn't much more you can do after that.
But we have changed the debate in our country. Going into the spring, nobody thought we would ever be able to put a bill on the President's desk. So we did that. He had the veto and we didn't win. So we have at it now, our next appropriations bill, which will be in the fall. But we'll have an array of initiatives in addition to appropriations.
But the fact is I didn't vote for the supplemental. I thought it was very weak. But it did have Republican thresholds that the President is either going to have to respond to or he is going to have to waive. And I think he has a considerable risk in either case.
But, no, I'm very proud of what we've done in the Congress. I know outside people are dissatisfied. And I am too. I would have liked him to sign the bill and bring the troops home. But that's not where he is. And he's not respecting the wish of the American people in that regard.
But we're right on schedule. Nobody thought we would get a bill on the President's desk and we did. And now we're on our path to--
Singer: So on this path, what are the next steps?[THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.]
Pelosi: We have a number of options, but the timing will relate to when we think it's best to do them. One will be to repeal the authority of the President's ability to conduct the war. Another will be to have appropriations similar to the McGovern resolution that says that our troops come home, except to fight Al Qaeda, protect our diplomats and train the Iraqis. A much, much, much smaller number of troops would be needed for that.
Initiatives that would put timelines, put timelines, once again put timelines. But it's a different bill. So in terms of just keeping sending the same bill, it's a different bill that we would send the President, one that he would have more incentive, I believe, to sign hopefully because the voices of the American people will finally reach him.
Singer: Now thus far in the Congress, Democratic unity has been at an all-time high. A lot of this is because the issues that have been most controversial within the caucus have kind of been held out for later, perhaps. Minimum wage is an issue upon which almost every Democrat agrees. But some other issues, let's say the Farm Bill or global warming initiatives, there is more division within the party. How do you foresee and how do you intend to take these bills up?
Pelosi: These bills are coming up. These bills are coming through the committee process. I requested all the committees of jurisdiction have legislation to me by June for the first phase of our energy independence package. And by September we'll have more of the global warming piece of that. So we're right on schedule. The Farm Bill is going to be marked up maybe next week. The subcommittee marked it up yesterday. It's right on target.
But we passed other bills like the Hate Crimes Bill. Nobody thought that we would get the kind of vote that we got for hate crimes, especially because we have for the first time gays, lesbians, transgender. This was a very progressive hate crimes legislation, which many people said to me, "Pull it, you'll never pass it." And I said, "Well, we're going to fight for it." And we did. And we won.
So it hasn't been... Certainly we have tried to pass things where there was bipartisan support so we could demonstrate that we can work together and that we're relevant to the lives of the American people. Stem cell research, minimum wage, repealing the subsidies to big oil to have the funds to do renewable energy, cutting in half the interest on student loans - those had broad support but they were not done in a Republican Congress.
But again many of the issues that we will bring up will be controversial within our caucus and within the Congress, but we will make the fight.
Singer: So when there is division within the caucus, or controversy or even just differences of opinions, will there be an opportunity of a large minority of the caucus, let's say, or even a majority, let's say on an issue where a committee chairman does not maybe see eye-to-eye with the majority of the caucus, will there be an opportunity for an open rule or a vote on a substitute?
Pelosi: Well, we'll judge them all... I have my criteria on all of the issues. For example on global warming/energy independence, the criteria that I've asked the chairmen to honor are: Does it reduce energy [dependence]? Does it turn around global warming? Not only stop but reverse global warming? Does it invest in the technologies to make these two things happen? And it of course must all be done in a no new deficit, paygo way.
So they have the standards. So this is to make us less dependent, live in a healthier environment, keeping America number one with the technologies to effect the first two. The bills have to meet those standards. Those are the standards of our caucus.
If you go to anything on the economy, does it make the economy fairer? Again any initiative must be paid for. Does it make the economy fairer? Is it relevant to the lives of the American people? And to that end we did minimum wage, we did card check, that is Employee Free Choice Act. We will have a progressive economic agenda that will precede our votes on trade and possibly immigration - I'm not sure what the timing will be, depends on the Senate on immigration.
So we know why we're Democrats. And again sometime there are regional differences on some issues. But by and large we have a very strong unity in the caucus.
Singer: You brought up the issue of immigration. Is there a feeling that there should be a bill passed through the Senate first? I know that there are some issues with tax that there's a feeling that a bill would need to be passed in the House first.
Pelosi: Yeah, on taxes. That's different. By law, certain bills must begin in the House. The immigration bill has begun in the Senate, and if they can pass a bill then we will take it up. And I'm optimistic now that there's a chance that they will be able to get a bill out. It all depends on the leadership of the President. If he cares enough about it, which I believe he does, then the Senate will pass comprehensive, bipartisan immigration legislation.
We'll watch it very carefully to see what it is and see what we can do to either improve upon it or possibly reject it. But again, it has to meet certain standards. We have our standards. We've put them out there. Secure our borders, workplace enforcement, protect our workers, non-exploitation of the people coming in and a path to legalization for the millions of people in the United States now. Central to all of that is family unification, which has always been one of our principles.
So there's no mystery to what our standards are on all of these different categories. And so when you talk about the caucus, we welcome the debate. Our caucus is very diverse geographically, politically in many ways. But we have been united on everything we have set out to do. And we will continue to be because we agree on these basic principles. Our bills have to meet certain standards. And that consensus has been developed by the caucus.
Singer: Just one final question. If there's one message that you'd like to send to the netroots today, to the progressive blogosphere, what would that message be?
Pelosi: The one message, the biggest issue for me in this Congress is to end the war, to bring the troops home. I'm as disappointed as anyone that that hasn't happened yet. There's 60 votes needed in the Senate, a President's signature that's needed to change what's happening in Iraq. But we cannot let those obstacles be barriers to our changing the course there.
So my message to the netroots at this point would be, let's work together to show that unity with the American people, who want this war to end, to convince the Congress and the President that it has to come to an end.
We cannot wait until November 2008 or January 2009. It's too far away. Too many lives will be lost. Too much reputation for our country will be destroyed. But we have to act soon. It's long overdo. But we have to work now. And I fully appreciate the frustration of the netroots on the war. I share it. And as I say, let's work together to change the thinking of those forty-some people that we have to win ten over in order to end the war.
Singer: Terrific. Well thank you so much for your time.
Pelosi: Thank you Jonathan.