Good after­noon from San Jose! Our morn­ing ses­sions are now over, and it’s on to our lunchtime keynote: Ask the Leader with House Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leader Nan­cy Pelosi. This is for­mer (and hope­ful­ly future) Speak­er Pelosi’s third appear­ance at Net­roots Nation. She pre­vi­ous­ly took ques­tions at NN ’08 in Austin and NN ’10 in Las Vegas.

I’m going to try to cap­ture the ques­tions from mod­er­a­tor Zer­li­na Maxwell and para­phrase Pelosi’s answers so they’re read­able to those of you not watch­ing the livestream. I’ll throw in links as appro­pri­ate to add context.

FIRST QUESTION: Recent­ly, we’ve seen the House fail to come to agree­ment on a farm bill. When we get into big­ger bills, what’s going to happen?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: What hap­pened on the floor [of the U.S. House] was just real­ly inept. They had $20 bil­lion in destruc­tive cuts (like to SNAP — the Sup­ple­men­tal Nutri­tion Assis­tance Pro­gram). They keep blam­ing their fail­ure on us. They should take respon­si­bil­i­ty for what they’re going to do. It’s ama­teur­ish to blame it on some­body else. Six­ty-one Repub­li­cans vot­ed against their own farm bill, includ­ing fifty-nine who had vot­ed for a mean-spir­it­ed amend­ment to make it worse. They could­n’t even pass their own bad bill.

SECOND QUESTION: Elect­ing more women could solve the prob­lem of inep­ti­tude in the halls of pow­er. What is your advice to a young woman who wants to go into pub­lic service?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: We can’t just cel­e­brate every time we elect a few more women. We need more than incre­men­tal vic­to­ries. We need to kick the door in. We have to reduce the amount of mon­ey in pol­i­tics and increase the civil­i­ty. We need to amend the Con­sti­tu­tion to over­turn Cit­i­zens Cor­po­ra­tions Unit­ed. We need a rein­vig­o­rat­ed polit­i­cal dis­course — a dis­course that isn’t demean­ing to women. We need a gov­ern­ment that facil­i­tates deci­sions dri­ven by the many, not the mon­ey. If you want to run for office and you’re a woman, be your­self. Be authen­tic. If you don’t win the first time, don’t be dis­cour­aged. You will win even­tu­al­ly. If you’re a mom, put that right up there as a major credential.

THIRD QUESTION: When you see sto­ries about peo­ple com­mit­ting sui­cide after they’ve been sex­u­al­ly assault­ed, does it make you angry, or sad, or both? What can be done to help vic­tims of sex­u­al assault, so they don’t feel blamed?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: At least now, some of these sto­ries are out in the open. The sit­u­a­tion absolute­ly must change. We believe the process (for report­ing and respond­ing to instances of sex­u­al assault) must be tak­en out of the chain of com­mand. We need sys­temic, struc­tur­al change… good inten­tions aren’t enough. With more women in pow­er, we could make more progress on these issues.

FOURTH QUESTION: What about a dis­charge peti­tion to bring ENDA [Employ­ment Non-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act] to the floor?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: When we took over the major­i­ty, we had a num­ber of pri­or­i­ties. We did hate crimes leg­is­la­tion first — and I fought to ensure that pro­tec­tion for trans­gen­der peo­ple stayed in the bill — and then we were going to go ENDA, but the com­mu­ni­ty want­ed us to do Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal first, so we made that our pri­or­i­ty. The Repub­li­cans would­n’t even vote for the defense autho­riza­tion bill at the end of 2010 because it includ­ed repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I had to go to CPC mem­bers and ask for their votes for the defense autho­riza­tion bill, oth­er­wise we would­n’t have got­ten DADT repealed. We could do a dis­charge peti­tion on ENDA, but we don’t have the votes to pass it in the House. We’re eager to see what hap­pens in the courts next week on mar­riage equality.

FIFTH QUESTION: What is your response to those who feel betrayed by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion on civ­il lib­er­ties issues like NSA spying?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: What Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is doing is not the same as what George W. Bush did. The two admin­is­tra­tions have had dif­fer­ent poli­cies on the col­lec­tion of sig­nals intel­li­gence and sur­veil­lance. We can do more, though. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Schiff has a bill to make the FISA court’s pro­ceed­ings trans­par­ent. [At this point, Pelosi was inter­rupt­ed by a Net­roots Nation attendee who stood up and began yelling “No secret law!” He was even­tu­al­ly escort­ed out of the hall after he refused to stop being dis­rup­tive]. Now that the pub­lic knows more about these sur­veil­lance activ­i­ties (thanks to Edward Snow­den’s leak), it gives us oppor­tu­ni­ties to press for a bet­ter bal­ance between pri­va­cy and security.

SHOUTED AUDIENCE QUESTION (SIXTH QUESTION): And what about out­sourc­ing of our nation­al security!?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: “I am so with you, babe!” (That’s an actu­al quote!) I’m nam­ing names (i.e. Booz Allen Hamil­ton). We need to reverse this dan­ger­ous out­sourc­ing trend, not just in the nation­al secu­ri­ty sec­tor but in oth­er sec­tors as well. We should not be par­tic­i­pat­ing in a destruc­tive glob­al race to the bottom.

SEVENTH QUESTION: What can we do to help you get the speak­er­ship back?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: It’s not about me get­ting the gav­el again, it’s about Democ­rats reclaim­ing the House major­i­ty so we can work on pri­or­i­ties that most Amer­i­cans care about. When Pres­i­dent Oba­ma came in, the Repub­li­cans just shut down. They were for noth­ing. And when they got the House major­i­ty, it was even worse. Noth­ing, and nev­er. They’re now inter­est­ed in an immi­gra­tion bill, at least in the Sen­ate, because of the out­come of the 2012 election.

You have to respect the Repub­li­cans for this: They act upon their beliefs. And they do not believe in gov­ern­ment. And that’s why every day we are vot­ing on stuff that is goofy and makes no sense. Pres­i­dent Wash­ing­ton, when he left office, cau­tioned against polit­i­cal par­ties that were at war with their own gov­ern­ment. And that’s what the Repub­li­cans are. The 2012 elec­tion was urgent and impor­tant, but now the 2014 elec­tion is urgent and impor­tant. We need sev­en­teen seats to regain the major­i­ty in the House. The DCCC has out­raised every­one so far.… we’re com­mit­ted to stand­ing behind our can­di­dates with small dol­lar dona­tions. Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has promised to help and put his machine’s resources behind us. I’m hope­ful about the elec­tion. If it were today, I think we’d win, but it’s not today, and we have a lot of work to do. We must over­turn Cit­i­zens Cor­po­ra­tions United.

EIGHTH QUESTION: What are House Democ­rats doing to ensure a humane immi­gra­tion bill comes out of the U.S. House of Representatives?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: Immi­grants make Amer­i­ca more Amer­i­can. We have to treat peo­ple with respect. Luis Gutier­rez and Zoe Lof­gren have been work­ing hard for years on this issue, and the bipar­ti­san bill they’ve been craft­ing is the best vehi­cle we have right now. If Boehn­er would go with that, it’d be a good start. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it looks like House Repub­li­cans are pur­su­ing a dif­fer­ent approach. In the House, nobody is elect­ed on a statewide basis and many Repub­li­cans sim­ply aren’t con­cerned about the need for immi­gra­tion reform, because they don’t need the votes of com­mu­ni­ties of col­or to get elected.

FINAL QUESTION: Why is John Boehn­er cry­ing all of the time? If you behaved like that, do you think peo­ple would react differently?

RESPONSE FROM PELOSI: I don’t know why he cries all of the time. If a woman leader was doing that, can you imag­ine how she would be mocked and judged? But we can’t wor­ry about him. We have to wor­ry about the pain he and his cau­cus are caus­ing to the Amer­i­can peo­ple. When we had the major­i­ty, we tried to do trans­for­ma­tive leg­is­la­tion, like the Patient Pro­tec­tion Act. Even dur­ing George W. Bush’s tenure, we tried to improve peo­ple’s lives — for exam­ple, by increas­ing the min­i­mum wage. It used to be that work­er pay went up with an increase in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and prof­its, but not any more. CEOs are doing extreme­ly well, but work­ing fam­i­lies aren’t see­ing any of that suc­cess. We are focused on end­ing that income inequal­i­ty, that dis­par­i­ty, as Democrats.

And with that, we’re done!

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

2 replies on “LIVE from San Jose: Ask the Leader!”

Comments are closed.