House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that while former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen are well-qualified candidates to become Fed chairman, “it would be great to have a woman” in the post.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the program with the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California. Thank you for being with us, Madam Leader.
NANCY PELOSI: My pleasure.
HUNT: We’re headed for a huge budget debt showdown in the fall. The Republicans have said that their budget’s going to slash EPA, slash the SEC, eliminate the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. The House Republicans seem in no mood for any kind of compromise.
PELOSI: Well, they’re a manifestation of what President Washington admonished us against when he left office. He said - cautioned against parties that are at war with their own government. We don’t want any more government than we need -
HUNT: You don’t think they’re going to bend? They’re going to try to have a showdown on this stuff?
PELOSI: Well, I would hope that we obviously go to the table hoping that there will be cooperation and it will be solution-oriented.
HUNT: But you don’t see any calls for that right now?
PELOSI: Well, I’m always optimistic, because there’s nothing less at stake than the full faith and credit of the United States of America. The American people don’t want that. It’s not good for the economy. And we’re willing to find common ground. We don’t want to find common ground that loses jobs, that - that hurts Medicare and makes seniors pay more, and that is not balanced in having a fair participation of the sacrifice.
HUNT: This gets wrapped in conceivably with the debt ceiling. The - your counterpart, John Boehner, says he will not increase the debt ceiling without big spending cuts. Other Republicans say it has to basically cut Obamacare further. The president has ignored your advice or not heeded your advice to do it unilaterally. So that’s off the table. So the president has to negotiate with Republicans on this, doesn’t he?
PELOSI: Well, of course, we all have to negotiate. There’s no question about that. But let’s just put this in perspective. When the president took office, he said he was going to cut the deficit in half in four years. Well, it took him four years and two months, but he did do that. And one of the ways he did it was passing the Affordable Care Act, because it has reduced the - slowed the increase in health care costs, which were the biggest contributors to the deficit, and other ways, as well. We’ve cut over $1 trillion. We’ve cut over $1 trillion in cooperation with the Republicans.
HUNT: But the Republicans say that’s not enough, so where does this showdown lead?
PELOSI: Well, I think that - that’s why I’m so happy that the president has gone out there. Again, let me just say about the budget, it was $1.5 trillion when he took over at the time of the meltdown. He’s going out now at a time when it’s $750 billion, we still have much more to do to reduce the deficit, but you have to remember the hand that the president was dealt.
He’s going out there to make these speeches around the five-year - I don’t want to say anniversary, what’s the word for it - observance of when the meltdown began to descend on our country. And it’s really important for the public to know what is at stake. It’s about jobs. It’s about education. It’s about a secure retirement. It’s about affordable health care. And that is a distinct distinction from the priorities that the Republicans have.
HUNT: I understand where you’re coming from, but let me ask you to put your political hat on. What do you think are the odds for a potential government shutdown or for the debt ceiling to - to be ignored and not passed?
PELOSI: Well, both of them would be very harmful to the economy. Already, sequestration cost us 750,000 jobs last year, scheduled to do that again. The Ryan budget is even worse than sequestration, in terms of being a job-killer. So we have to remember that these are terms of art in Washington, D.C., debt ceiling and shutdown of government, but they are job-killers.
HUNT: Do you think there will be a government shutdown? Or do you think the debt ceiling will expire?
PELOSI: Well, I hope that - I hope that neither will happen. I hope that we would be able to reach a compromise.
HUNT: But you know your Republican colleagues.
PELOSI: Well, I think that, again, President Lincoln - I quoted Washington, let’s move up to Lincoln - Lincoln said public sentiment is everything. And I think that, against the backdrop of the public knowledge of what is at stake here, that the Republicans may want to rethink -
HUNT: They’ll be forced to compromise?
PELOSI: - shutting down government.
HUNT: You think they’ll be forced to compromise?
PELOSI: And we’re willing to compromise. You know, we’re there - as I say, we’re not - we’re not signing up to cut jobs and make Medicare costs more for seniors, but we are there to say, what other areas can we work on?
HUNT: Let me turn to immigration. The Judiciary Committee chairman, Bob Goodlatte, put out a proposal this week or floated a proposal that would give legal status to the 11 million undocumented, citizenship only maybe to a portion of them, and the rest would begin, you know, a process which might or might not lead to citizenship. Is that a constructive step?
PELOSI: Oh, I like to think that any action is constructive, because it would take us to a discussion which can take us to the conference table, but it’s not a good idea. It’s not a good idea. It sounds a lot better than it is, if you are among the 11 million people.
It’s about our country. It’s not just about the 11 million who would - undocumenteds who would be on a path to legalization. It’s about, do we want to have an America where we have gradations of respectability, in terms of your legality in the country? I don’t think we do. I don’t think we do.
And so I think that the path that the Senate laid out in terms of legalization, which eventually could lead - and it’s a hard test to make, so it’s not an easy path. But it is a path, what is distinctly different in terms of purpose and - and vision than what Mr. Goodlatte -
HUNT: If the Senate bill came before the House right now, would it pass?
PELOSI: I believe that it would.
HUNT: It would.
PELOSI: And - but we want to have our own bill.
HUNT: No, I know that. But I’m just trying to see where - what the parameters are. Would it receive the support of your entire caucus?
PELOSI: No. No. You know, there are many people in our caucus who say to me, for example, I know that you want a path to legalization for 11 million people and you want to stop the deportation of 1,100 people a day, but you cannot just say I’m for that and I’ll accept anything, because our people live - our members from the border are saying you’re dumping all the problems on us, making yourself feel really good about citizenship for 11 million people.
HUNT: So there would be those reservations, but you still think the bill would pass, would get a majority in the House -
PELOSI: Oh, I think that the bill - if that’s our only choice. But I think that we should still try to support what our members in the House are doing, Democrats and Republicans working in the task force of seven people, to put something together, which I understand is imminent, that they should have something in a matter of days, and that will be a House product.
HUNT: Next week, before you go on recess, do you expect -
PELOSI: I’m hoping so. I’m hoping so. They’re doing their - their just checklist on it. And -
HUNT: And you think that’ll provide a good starting point, when that task force -
PELOSI: Well, I hope that the speaker would respect that. And I would hope that Mr. Goodlatte would. But you know what? However the speaker wants to bring the bill to the floor, in pieces, one way or another, just so we have the discussion, just so we can take the vote, and that one of those votes is a path to citizenship.
We think that we can produce a bill that should go to conference and take the best of both bills. We all have committed ourselves to the principles that our House Hispanic Caucus and our House Democratic caucus have committed to, secure our borders, protect our workers, unify our families, pass the legalization and citizenship for 11 million Americans, undocumenteds, and with all of the business, H-1B visas, all of that incorporated into it.
HUNT: This past week, the House in an unusual bipartisan mode almost - almost voted to prevent the Obama administration from collecting vast amounts of data. You voted against the majority of your caucus. I know you still have strong feelings about it. Do you think the Obama administration has gotten the message on this? And are they going to change policy?
PELOSI: Well, it’s not just the Obama administration. It’s the - it’s the intelligence community, because much of this practice preceded -
HUNT: But they run it now.
PELOSI: They run it now. And when we took the majority, we passed legislation to put in many, many more protections for civil liberties and privacy and, again, with the balance between security and - security and liberty that we have to strike.
What I did do after the vote, though, was organize a letter among my colleagues that begins, although we voted on different sides of this resolution, we are all united in our concern about the scope of the collection of the metadata and we want to - we want to visit that, and we want also to have much more transparency when it comes to FISA courts.
So while I’m glad it didn’t win, because I didn’t think we should shut down the - but I’m glad it got a good strong vote and are united with them saying, do not take any comfort in our vote no on this as support for the way things are going.
HUNT: Madam Leader, you’re going to spend the weekend in Connecticut talking about a women’s agenda, a medical paid leave, pay equity, affordable accessible childcare.
HUNT: Do you think there’s any chance that any of that could pass this Congress?
PELOSI: Well, I would hope so. And that’s why -
HUNT: What do you think?
PELOSI: That’s why I would like - that’s why we’re going on the road with it. I’ve traveled all over the country. Every place I go, I meet with women and they - these are the priorities in terms of valuing the work of women. Why should women be paid differently than men for the same work? Raising the minimum wage helps also women in the workforce. The balance between family and work is one that is really important to men and women alike, and we want to be able to have some -
HUNT: You going to have Republican support at all?
PELOSI: Well, we would like to have Republican support. We don’t know what liberty they have to sign on to anything.
HUNT: But not yet, huh?
PELOSI: But, again, take it to the public. See what the public thinks about this, because it really - we do have concerns. Now, I had the privilege of raising my children and then getting involved outside the home in a major way after they were, by and large, in college. I don’t - I’m in awe of my own daughters or members of Congress and working women in our country and how they balance - do it all at once. And for some of them, they’re underpaid for the value of their work and they’re paid differently from men.
And in terms of paid leave, sick leave, at least for part of it, 100 million people have benefited from the Family and Medical Leave, 100 million people in our country. We’re just observing the 20th anniversary of its implementation. But some of that has to be paid, and then childcare for me is the unleashing of the power of women in our country. Women got the right to vote nearly 100 years ago in the workplace in World War II, Rosie the Riveter, higher education of women, and - and whether they’re higher - educated in a higher way or not, many of them are in the workplace or in the home, and all of that has to be respected. So childcare is really important for - for families, men and women alike.
HUNT: Confirmation, of course, is a Senate role, but hugely important to the economy, which you talk about and think about and write and speak about so often, is the appointment of the next Federal Reserve chairman. You’ve dealt with the Fed chairman a lot these past six or seven years. The two leading candidates has come out from the White House are Larry Summers and Janet Yellen. Do you have a preference?
PELOSI: Well, that’s up to the president. It’s really -
HUNT: It is, but -
PELOSI: - a very -
HUNT: - you’re involved in this one.
PELOSI: - a very -
HUNT: Who would you like to see him pick?
PELOSI: You think I’m going to answer that question?
HUNT: Why not?
PELOSI: I want to see whoever the president appoints. Let me say that I think it would be great to have a woman - first woman chairman of the Fed, no question about it. Yellen would be - she’s extremely talented. It’s not just that she’s a woman. Larry Summers has been a patriotic leader in our country, working hard.
I think both of them understand the responsibility of the Fed chairman, and I see it from the view of the House, Congress, Humphrey-Hawkins. It’s about fighting inflation. It’s about monetary policy that does that, but also makes sure that reports on job creation in our country, so jobs, monetary policy that relates to that, that’s important to us. Both of them understand that. I wish the president luck in his decision there.
And you’re getting me in breaking news, because I did not realize that it was confined to those two excellent candidates.
HUNT: Well, those are reports at least.
PELOSI: Well, who knows?
HUNT: Who knows if those reports are right.
PELOSI: Who knows? But we’ll find out.
PELOSI: But either one would make an excellent chairman, I’m sure.
HUNT: Nancy Pelosi, thank you so much for being with us.
PELOSI: My pleasure.
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