U.S. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi predicted Jewish voters will reward President Barack Obama in November’s election for his record on the Middle East, while she said Republicans “are using Israel as an excuse; what they really want are tax cuts for the wealthy.”
Republicans are trying to appeal to Jewish voters by portraying Obama as distant toward Israel, though the president’s record proves the opposite, Pelosi said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. The argument over Israel distracts voters from Republicans’ true agenda, she said.
“That’s how they’re being exploited,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat. “They’re smart people. They follow these issues. But they have to know the facts” about Obama’s record.
Pelosi was interviewed as Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, traveled to Israel as part of his effort to win Jewish votes in the U.S.
Pelosi disputed a July 25 statement by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, on Fox News that his party has an opportunity with Jewish voters because there’s a “real cloud” over Obama’s relationship with Israel.
“This president has been a staunch supporter of Israel,” Pelosi said. “No president has done more.”
Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. A Gallup Poll released in June showed his support from Jewish voters at 64 percent and Romney’s at 29 percent. The survey was conducted from April 11-June 5 and had an error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Yesterday in Washington, Obama signed legislation to bolster U.S. military cooperation with Israel.
Pelosi said that Obama has been “the strongest person in terms of sanctions on Iran, which is important to Israel” and has supported funding for Israeli rocket and missile-defense systems such as Iron Dome and David’s Sling.
Pelosi said Republicans are distorting Obama’s record on Israel as part of pursuing their goal of cutting taxes for the wealthy.
“What they really want are tax cuts for the wealthy,” she said. “So Israel, that can be one reason they put forth.”
While Jewish voters overwhelmingly backed Obama in 2008, support has softened amid concerns that the administration is being too tough on Israel and reports of a tense relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Republicans don’t expect to win the community outright in November. Rather, they see an opportunity to gain enough Jewish Democrats and independents to change the outcome in a few swing states.
A 10 percent loss of Jewish Democrats could shift vote margins in Romney’s favor by 98,000 in Florida, 35,000 in Pennsylvania, 18,000 in Ohio and 8,500 in Nevada, according to the National Jewish Democratic Council, a Washington-based organization.
Pelosi rejected suggestions that Congress should extend into 2013 the George W. Bush-era tax cuts and a deadline for automatic spending reductions to allow more time to reach a deficit-cutting plan.
“What would be the point?” Pelosi said. “Let’s go to the table.”
Pelosi said Wall Street should urge House Republicans to adopt a plan that would reduce the nation’s deficit and avoid automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion set to start in January.
“All of your friends on Wall Street who are concerned about full faith and credit of the United States, who are concerned about certainty in our economy, should be urging them to do just that,” she said.
Pelosi said the Republican-led House should pass a Senate-approved plan to extend most Bush-era income tax cuts while ending them for top earners.
“Everybody agrees the middle-income tax cuts should continue,” she said. “We can do that right now today. And then you can do whatever else you want to do.”
Letting tax cuts for top earners expire would provide $800 billion in revenue, according to Pelosi.
She said Romney is “wedded” to a budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, that “will only increase the deficit, will break the Medicare guarantee” to senior citizens.
She also said Romney was “completely inappropriate” in giving a “political speech” on July 24 to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada.
Romney told the veterans that Obama’s policies “exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify, compromised our national-security secrets, and in dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it was not deserved and apology where it is not due.”
The Democratic leader said it is a “big deal” that Romney is refusing to release his income tax returns for years prior to 2010. She said she and other members of Congress won’t release theirs because they aren’t running for president.
“When we all run for president, then we’ll have to take that into consideration,” Pelosi said. “He could not even be a member of his own Cabinet.”
Pelosi said the race for control of the House is “sort of a dead-even race.” Democrats would need to gain a net 25 seats to take control of the chamber.
“I think the momentum is with us,” she said. “We’ve out-raised them. We’ve out-redistricted them. We’ve out-recruited them.”