CQ Roll Call’s Emma Dumain interviewed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Dec. 5. A lightly edited transcript follows.
Q: So it seems like you know you don’t know what’s going to come out of this appropriations package but it seems like between saving the tax extenders package deal that would not have been good for your party before the break and then looking ahead to next week where your party could be swooping in to save the government from shutting down, you know, you must be feeling kind of good right now in terms of the relevance of your party and the role that you play in sort of making things happen.
Pelosi: Well we have a higher standard than that. I mean …
(Loud burst of laughter)
Pelosi: … seen a tax package that was more job creating than the rest, but had to go to a place that we rejected what they were doing that I thought would be harmful. It would be harmful in the following ways: It made permanent tax breaks in the hundreds of billions of dollars for business, and ignored the needs of working families in our country. And, making it permanent tied our hands for what we could do in tax simplification and reform later as well as investments we wanted to make by reducing the revenue force.
So anyway, that had to end. The minute we got wind of what that could be and that it had a path, before it gained any respectability, I called our members and said, ‘This is what I think is happening’ — of course it’s all behind closed doors — ‘but I have to know that I can say to the president that this will, we will sustain a veto.’
The president was very aggressive on this, he knew the downside of what they were putting forth. So that put an end to that and I give my members credit — because some of the things sound very appealing, if you take one piece here and one piece there. They’re appealing to their districts, but overall they understood that it was going backward in terms of what we need to do to reduce the deficit, create jobs, lower taxes for the great middle class in our country.
Q: You know, our understanding is that this was a deal brokered between Harry Reid and House Republicans … going forward, you know, Harry Reid is your guy in the Senate right now and you know this for the next couple of weeks they have the majority and they were the ones you were looking to to make sure that they were gonna table certain pieces legislation. You know, next year, for the next two years, you guys are kind of on the same … are you concerned about, did you see Harry Reid’s role in brokering this deal as any sort of harbinger for how you’re going to work together?
Pelosi: I don’t really know enough because by the time we weighed in the deal was gone. I don’t know how, about Harry — Senator Reid, Senator Reid was in it but I know that the … many members in the Senate, of the House Demo — excuse me — of the Senate Democratic caucus didn’t support the arrangement, but I don’t know whose doorstep to put it at, except that it was a work in progress and before it progressed any further we wanted to put an end to it so I have great confidence in Harry Reid, I don’t know what the arrangement will be over there if they still have a 60 vote rule requirement and that’ll make a difference …
Q: You know, people like to say, or you know, it’s easy for people say, ‘Oh the House Democrats are a minority, they’re irrelevant.’ What do you say to that?
Pelosi: Well, I don’t think anyone is irrelevant. I just think the Republicans were irrelevant when they were in the minority. And especially not in the minority when your President in the White House is a Democrat, so there is leverage, and we have the ability to sustain vetoes, but we also have a relationships with the American people, and we can make … the contrast as initiatives come forward.
I think we’ll have an impact on the nature of this appropriations bill. I don’t think, unless your side can always produce the votes, you’re empowering the other side to make changes in the legislation. And so if they have 218 votes for whatever they’re doing, no matter how bad it is, that’s one thing. But I don’t know if some of their people will vote — I don’t know, we will see.
But I don’t … I’ve never thought anyone was irrelevant here, as I say, especially if … your party has the president in the White House.
The value that we have is that we have a united caucus, and we do because we build consensus. I don’t determine what the approach is we will take. As I said to you, when we saw what was happening with the bill, I immediately called the members to see what authority I might, in fact, would have to say to the president, ‘We will sustain the veto.’