Obama meetings couldn't have prevented gridlock, Pelosi says
Republicans have been trying to block Obama initiatives, House minority leader says
The stalemate in Washington is not because President Barack Obama has held himself above meeting with Republicans, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Sunday.
In an exclusive interview on CNN's "State of the Union," the chamber's top Democrat said Obama respects congressional Republicans and called "just really not reality" the idea that Obama could have prevented gridlock by meeting with the GOP sooner.
"It is not why we haven't had progress before. We haven't had progress before because the Republicans were committed to blocking the initiatives of President Barack Obama," she said.
Pelosi spoke shortly after Obama took a dozen Senate Republicans out for dinner, sat down with the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate and has plans to meet with senators and representatives from both parties on Capitol Hill next week. Washington has just over two weeks to pass a measure averting a government shutdown, which neither party wants.
House Republicans passed such a continuing resolution on Wednesday and the bill was also supported by more than 50 Democrats. It gives the Obama administration leeway on implementing the forced federal spending cuts to the defense budget, though many Democrats would also like to see leeway on the cuts to domestic spending programs.
"When we weigh the equities of the value of the bill the Senate has, it's almost impossible for it not to be a better bill than what is written by the House Republicans," Pelosi said. "But they will have to send a bipartisan bill in order to get the 60 votes. And I'm sure it will be stronger."
There is some talk off of Capitol Hill that the two branches will be able to reach a grand bargain or large government spending and deficit reduction compromise. Pelosi said she hopes Obama's meetings will open the door for such agreement as well as compromise on legislative items.
"I certainly hope it will," she said. I hope that it will create confidence so we can go forward with immigration reform, issues that relate to ending gun violence to name two that are imminent."
And if such a deal could include entitlement reform based on the principle that Democrats "don't want to hurt beneficiaries."
"We certainly want to strengthen Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid. We want to make them more fiscally sound," she said.
But, she said, not through one avenue Republicans propose: an increase in the eligibility age for those programs.
"If the point of it is to take trophies, let's raise the age," Pelosi said. "That doesn't save money. It's a trophy. It's a scalp. But it's not a solution."