Interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

By The Situation Room - October 2, 2012

BLITZER: With only 35 days until the election, a pair of Republicans want the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to testify next week about the deadly attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya. It's the only Congressional hearing on any matter scheduled between now and election day, November 6th.

In their letter to the secretary today, the House Oversight Committee chairman, Darrell Issa, and the Utah Republican, Jason Chaffetz, revealed new information about the attack. And I'm quoting from the letter now: "Multiple U.S. federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that prior to the sum -- September 11th attack, the U.S. mission in Libya had made repeated requests for increased security in Benghazi."

The letter then continues: "The mission in Libya, however, was denied these resources by officials in Washington."

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's get to some of the news and let's get your reaction right now to what Chairman Issa and Congressman Chaffetz are saying.

What do you make of this?

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CA, MINORITY LEADER: Well, I think it's important to note that Congress does have a right to know. But the secretary and the Department of State have to have the information.

There is an investigation by the FBI as to what happened in Benghazi and there also is an accountability review as to how it -- answering some of the questions that are asked.

But how can you ask the secretary to come before the information is known?

Not that it's also important to note that the Republican appropriation in Congress gave the administration $300 million less than it asked for for the State Department, including funding for security.

BLITZER: So are you suggesting that there was a financial aspect to what happened in Benghazi, Libya...


BLITZER: -- that the U.S. didn't have enough money to protect American diplomats?

PELOSI: No, what I'm saying is, Congress has the right of oversight, but it also has the power of the purse. So as it looks to what the fundamentals are here, we have to know -- and nobody is going to know by next week, but we have to have a full investigation and accountability for it.

But we also have to look to ourselves in terms of that funding question -- $300 million less than the administration asked for.

BLITZER: And the -- and we know that the State Department, the secretary has asked the retired U.S. ambassador, Thomas Pickering, to launch this full scale investigation internally in the State Department. But you acknowledge that Congress has an oversight role, to make sure that these -- these are legitimate questions that these -- these Congressmen are asking.

PELOSI: But as you indicate, they have had no hearings on any subject. Today, we had to have a rump hearing -- Democrats only, unfortunately, Republicans would not participate -- on Medicare and how Medicare is affected by the Ryan-Romney budget to sever the Medicare guarantee.

They didn't want to participate in that. They don't want to call Con -- we're supposed to be in session this week, but they've canceled it rather than passing a middle income tax cut, passing a jobs bill, passing the Violence Against Women Act, passing the farm bill, any of those things, but yet they have time to say we want information when they know it's premature.

BLITZER: So are you saying this is political, from their perspective?

PELOSI: One might suspect that.

BLITZER: That's what I hear you saying.

PELOSI: One might suspect that.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk a little bit about some other political stuff that's going on, a new Romney campaign ad.

I'm going to play a little clip of it, because you're prominently featured in this ad.

Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who will raise taxes on the middle class?

Barack Obama and the liberals already have. To pay for government-run health care, you'll pay higher taxes and more for your medicine. And their plan includes a trillion dollars in higher taxes, even on the middle class.

Mitt Romney and commonsense conservatives will cut taxes on the middle class.


BLITZER: All right, you see an ad like that, how does that make you feel?

PELOSI: It makes me feel sad for them, that the true -- they have no fidelity to the truth. The fact is, President Obama and the Democratic Congress were cutting middle -- taxes for the middle class from day one. One week and one day after the president's inaugural address, we passed a recovery package which had a tax cut for the middle class.

Approximately 30 percent of that legislation was a tax cut for the middle class.

I mean, these are the same Republicans who have held the middle income tax cut hostage to their giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country.

It -- I've never seen a campaign -- and I've seen a lot of them -- where there has been such a -- a lack of faithfulness to the truth...

BLITZER: I think what they're referring to is that the middle class taxes going up as a result of the Affordable Care Act. There are all sorts of new taxes in there. The Supreme Court deemed them as taxes. They'll be run by the IRS. And the middle class will have to pay these new taxes to comply with what's called ObamaCare.

PELOSI: Well, the fact is, is that this is -- what we're talking about is the well being of the middle class and the the Affordable Care Act reduces costs to the consumer for care and saves the taxpayers a hundred billion dollars over the first 10 years, a trillion dollars over the -- over 20 years.

So this is -- what they've said about the Affordable Care Act and Medicare is another place where they -- I don't know how they can tell the American people something that simply is not true.

What we did there was take over -- what would be increased payment to a -- from health care providers, use it to give increased benefits to seniors and extend the life of Medicare by 10 years.


PELOSI: And they are misrepresenting that, as well.

BLITZER: But the Supreme Court and others have deemed it to be a tax and it would affect primarily the middle class. So that's what -- I assume that that's what this Romney ad is -- is referring to.

PELOSI: Well, I think you can assume that it's a very -- it's a misrepresentation.

BLITZER: All right.

Let's talk a little bit about Joe Biden for a minute.

Did you hear the news today that -- I -- I don't know what he was saying. I know what he was suggesting, but it certainly came across poorly when he said the middle class has been buried over the past four years.

Did you hear that earlier today? PELOSI: Well, I heard when I came in that -- I didn't see the context of what it was. But the fact is, is that if the Republicans had not stood in the way of President Obama's initiatives on job creation and tax cuts to the middle class, the middle class would certainly be better off.

It was interesting to see an article the other day that talked about the high end, the Forbes 400. And it said in one year, that the -- those in the Forbes -- that list...

BLITZER: The wealthiest...

PELOSI: The wealthiest Americans gained $200 billion more in wealth while the middle class stagnated.

BLITZER: Yes. The stock market, the Dow Jones has done from 7000 to 13500...


BLITZER: So it's not surprising that they've -- they've made a lot of money. People have invested in these stocks over the past few years.

PELOSI: Well, but that is the point of the article...


PELOSI: -- saying that capital gains differential is not necessarily about growth in the economy for everyone.

BLITZER: Here's what -- you've said repeatedly that you think you could become the majority in the House of Representatives, the Democrats...


BLITZER: -- once again. "The Cook Political Report," highly respected, they came out with this. And I'll -- and I'll read it: "It's often noted House Democrats need to pick up 25 seats to win back the majority. But in actuality, as we've noted all cycle long, Democrats will likely need to pick up between 35 and 40 Republican- held seats because they are likely to lose a few of their own members."

Do you agree with that analysis?

PELOSI: Well, that's -- we've said all along, we have to net 25 seats. We're in a drive for 25 more seats. The -- I don't think it's up to 40, but I think that we probably have to win more than 25 to net 25.

BLITZER: Can you net 25 seats?

PELOSI: Oh, yes. We -- I think we can (INAUDIBLE)...

BLITZER: Why -- why do you think so? Most of the analysts don't think you can.

PELOSI: Well, I'm -- because I'm out on the campaign trail. I see the enthusiasm of our candidates. They're absolutely great. Many of them self-recruited. They just came forward and said not on my watch will we let what's happened -- what the Republicans are doing to our country continue.

We have a great leader in Steve Israel, the chairman of our committee, who's very analytical and -- and very strong in the -- and scientific as to how we go forward.

But it's mostly about the vision for our country.

BLITZER: Because I know you...

PELOSI: Bring back the American dream...

BLITZER: -- you -- you believe, correct me if I'm wrong, that Paul Ryan being added to the Republican ticket has helped you in trying to gain seats, is that right?

PELOSI: March your cal -- mark your calendar, August 11th, the day he was chosen gave a clarification to the issue of Medicare. This is a person who has been the destroyer of Medicare guarantee.

BLITZER: He wants to save it...

PELOSI: And he...

BLITZER: -- he says.

PELOSI: -- and his -- no, wither on the vine. He wants it -- he wants it to wither on the vine, which is the language the Republicans use when they're not on TV.

But here's the thing. The -- six times do nothing Republican Congressman, which has refused to pass a jobs bill or -- I've -- I've said some of the other bills earlier, has -- has taken the time for six times to sever the Medicare guarantee.

By naming Ryan in the spotlight move to that. For 18 -- 16 months, we had been saying, previous to then, we had been saying to members, the three most important issues in the campaign, in alphabetical order, are Medicare, Medicare, Medicare. It's about our seniors. It's about their families.

And now, they want to take us to a time before Medicare existed, by giving you a voucher to go shopping, which helps -- gives choice to the insurers, diminishes your choice of...

BLITZER: You'll have to...

PELOSI: -- of health care professionals.

BLITZER: -- you'll have to thank him if you become the speaker once again. You'll send him a little note thanking Paul Ryan for helping you if that's the -- that's the way you believe it.

All right, hold on for a moment, Leader Pelosi.

We have much more to talk about.

I want to take a quick break.

We have to take a quick break.

We have much more to discuss, including the former speaker's unique perspective on why she believes the country is better off now than it was four years ago.

Stand by.


BLITZER: We're back with the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi.

Leader Pelosi, you -- you were telling me the other day a really amazing story. We're -- people forget, four years ago, almost exactly to the day, you got a call from the then Treasury secretary, President Bush's Treasury secretary, Hank Paulson.

What did he say to you?

PELOSI: Well, it was actually the reverse, I called him, because I was seeing what was happening with Lehman, Merrill and then AIG that very day. It was September 18th four years ago.

And why that's important is because some people are going around saying, are you better off than you were four years ago?

Well, here's where we were four years ago.

I called Hank Paul -- the -- the secretary -- what's going on, how can we be helpful, can you come to my office tomorrow morning at 9:00?

The secretary says, tomorrow morning will be too late. Tomorrow morning will be too late, then why am I calling you, why aren't you calling me?

I said I will call Ben -- would call the chairman, Bernanke, and ask him to come to our office at 5:00 in the afternoon to brief the leadership on what was going on in the markets.

And so...

BLITZER: You were then the speaker of the House?

PELOSI: I was then the speaker.

And so we'll wait -- I said, why am I calling you?

And the response I -- the impression I received was that the White House did not want Congress to know. They were just trying to wait it out...

BLITZER: To know what?

PELOSI: To know the following.

So then they come that evening. Now we have the House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, in the speaker's office. And Secretary Bernanke describes a disaster, a meltdown of our financial situation in our country of horrible magnitude.

So I turned to the chairman, Bernanke, and said, what do you think of this, Mr. Chairman?

And this is the point. The chairman says, if we do not act immediately, we will not have an economy by Monday.

BLITZER: This is the -- Ben Bernanke...

PELOSI: Ben Bernanke...

BLITZER: -- the chairman of...

PELOSI: -- if we did not...

BLITZER: -- the Federal Reserve.

PELOSI: -- act immediately.

BLITZER: And this is a Friday, you're saying?

PELOSI: That Thursday night.

BLITZER: This was a Thursday night?

PELOSI: Thursday night.

BLITZER: And he's saying that if you didn't take emergency action...

PELOSI: Immediately. We would not have an economy by Monday.

So when they want to ask...

BLITZER: What does that mean, we would not have an economy by Monday?

PELOSI: No, it's -- it's -- it's a horrible -- it's a horrible prospect. It means everything would disintegrate in terms of financial transactions and the rest.

So we went out and I said time is of the essence, regardless of the fact that there was a presidential election si -- seven weeks away, this was the president -- happened on the president's watch.

He was suggesting a solution. I said we must work together in a bipartisan way to get this done.

But the fact is, is that they knew -- they were withholding the information from Congress because they were hoping to get to the election, in my view.

But the fact is that four years ago, the end of September, if we didn't act immediately, we would not have an economy by Monday. That would have been a disaster for our country.

So while we want to do more to help individual families and the Republicans have obstructed that in the last two years, the fact is, we would not have had an economy on the path that the Bush administration and the Republicans had us on then.

BLITZER: And -- and I know you acted, the Federal Reserve acted and the economy exists today. But you're trying to give that perspective, where the country was exactly four years ago as opposed to right now.

PELOSI: Oh, when I brought it up, except they brought up, are you better off now than you were four years ago?

We certainly are very much better off now then we were four years ago. But we'd be even better off if the Republicans had worked with the president in a cooperative way and not an obstructionist way, to create more jobs.

BLITZER: Let's see what happens over the next five weeks.

Thanks very much, Leader Pelosi, for coming in.

PELOSI: A pleasure.

Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

PELOSI: Congratulations on your new digs.

BLITZER: Oh, thank you very much. 

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