Nancy Pelosi answers Raw Story reader questions

Published: Saturday March 25, 2006

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In the second part of our series "Ask Congress," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has answered some of the hundreds of questions RAW STORY readers e-mailed in.

What follows are your questions, and her answers (immediately after, in italics).


Imagine for one moment that Democrats have the majority, and Cheney and Bush have both been impeached. You, as Speaker of the House, are now made President. What is your plan for getting out of Iraq?

Pinole, CA

On Sunday, we marked the third anniversary of the war in Iraq. The costs of this failed effort are staggering -- in lives and limbs of US troops, our reputation around the world, and U.S. tax dollars. Our troops are put in harms way every single day because they still don't have the armor that they need. I have opposed this war of choice from the beginning and I strongly support my friend and colleague, Congressman Murtha's plan to bring our troops home. Mr. Murtha's plan would redeploy U.S. forces "over the horizon" in a safe and timely manner to ensure Iraq does not become a safe haven for terrorists and allows Iraqis to decide their country's future for themselves. The Murtha strategy would strengthen our military, make Iraq more stable, and ensure the safety of our troops.

Since you are specifically mentioned in the [letter written from Representative Waxman to Andrew Card, alleging that President Bush signed a version of the Budget Reconciliation Act that didn't pass the House,] would you care to comment?


Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to again highlight a topic that the President and the Republican Congress are trying to ignore.

On February 1st, the House of Representatives passed the Budget Reconciliation Spending Cuts Conference Report by a two-vote margin -- every Democrat voted against it. When the President signed the bill into law, he signed a different version of the bill that never passed the House. The Republican leadership knew about the error two weeks before the President signed the bill, but deliberately chose to withhold that information.

The very first civics lesson that American students are taught about how a bill becomes a law is that the exact same bill must pass the House and the Senate before it can be signed into law by the President. Sadly, this was not just an isolated case of erroneous paperwork. The Republican leadership has consistently and repeatedly bent, broken and ignored the rules that govern the democratic process, undermining both the Constitution and the will of the people. And if there's any doubt about that fact, when I introduced a privileged resolution demanding an investigation into the inaccuracies in the Budget Reconciliation legislation, the motion failed along party lines.

Congressman Waxman and I sent a letter on this to the President this week. You can read it here:

I'd like to know why Nancy Pelosi wants to regulate the internet. The bill she supports, HR 4900, makes it more costly for common taxpayers to participate in politics while the media is exempted.

Tremont City, OH

Raw Story, DailyKos, and sites like them should be treated as news media, which I agree should be free from the regulatory burdens. I support H.R. 4900 because it extends the media exemption to online publishers like DailyKos, while H.R. 1606 does not.

Why is it so difficult to send an email to you?

Keyport, WA

I don't know! If you are a constituent of San Francisco you can email me at [email protected] and if you reside elsewhere you can email me at [email protected].

What do you make of the idea that your party is seen as weak and complicit by citizens who are sympathetic to progressive causes?

Chattanooga, TN

I strongly disagree with the premise of your question. Democrats fight for every day Americans and against the Republican culture of corruption and Republicans' agenda favoring wealthy special interests.

Democrats stand up to Republican budgets that slash education, Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats stand up and demand answers and accountability for the federal government's disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. And Democrats hold hearings on mine safety when the Republicans refuse to.

The Republican leadership has given the President and his Administration a blank check, without any accountability, and House Democrats have been fighting them every inch of the way.

What are democrats doing to prevent the election fraud we have had in the past?

Palm Harbor, Fl.

During the last the two Presidential elections, we know that there were not enough voting machines in poor and minority areas. This led to appallingly long wait times of up to 10 hours in certain places. There were credible reports of voter suppression on Election Day through intimidation and misinformation. And the patchwork use of provisional ballots led to unequal treatment under the law.

The American people must have every confidence that every vote legally cast will be legally and accurately counted. But malfunctioning electronic voting machines in some areas led to an additional loss of confidence by the public.

As elected officials, we have a solemn responsibility to improve our election systems and its administration. Democrats have led that effort-through proposals to provide the Election Assistance Commission with resources to further reform the election process, and to improve the Help America Vote Act, including universal standards for provisional ballots and audit trails.

This Republican Congress, however, has been delinquent. Republicans have underfunded the requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) by $800 million from authorized levels that are needed for provisional ballots, voting machines, and registration lists. Democrats stand united to provide these resources.

Last August, it was my honor to march in Atlanta in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. I took with me the commitment of over 200 members of the House Democratic Caucus to reauthorize the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act, several key provisions which expire in 2007. We will work hard to strengthen the Voting Rights Act as Congress reauthorizes these provisions this year.

As Democrats, we believe that the right to vote must never be compromised. That is why we must be vigilant about the rights of the displaced voters of Hurricane Katrina - nearly 500,000 registered voters who have been displaced to 49 states. Just as the immediate response to the Hurricane was abysmal, just as the federal government continues to neglect the needs in our Gulf Coast, so has the response by the Bush Administration to ensuring the voting rights of Katrina survivors been an utter failure.

Democrats have been fighting in Congress to meet the needs of Katrina's survivors. In fact, last week during consideration of the supplemental appropriations bill, Democrats, led by Congresswoman Millender-McDonald, introduced an amendment to provide $50 million for grants to assist with elections in the Katrina-affected states. Republicans defeated that amendment on a party-line vote. But Democrats will continue to fight.

To secure the right for all Americans to vote is the heart of what we are about. Every vote counts, and every vote must be counted.

Why did you refuse to give Cynthia McKinney her seniority back when she returned to Congress, when this is apparently standard practice for both the Republicans and Democrats?

Berkeley, Ca

It is not standard practice for Democrats who leave Congress to get their seniority back if they return. Congresswoman McKinney was not told before she was reelected that she would not receive her seniority.

First, let me say that I have tremendous admiration for your achievements. However, my question is, why are you and Sen. Harry Reid fighting Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean's efforts to rebuild our party state by state?

Boston, MA

Thank you, Michael. No, Leader Reid and I have our roles to play in electing Democrats to Congress and Governor Dean has his role to play at the DNC. Leader Reid, Governor Dean, and I meet regularly and work closely together on the Democratic agenda.

I've heard rumors that Paul Hackett dropped out because he didn't have funding, and didn't even tell his staff, and also that he was pushed out by other Democrats who wanted a more experienced candidate. What's the real story?

South Bend, IN

I'm focused on electing Democrats to the House. I thought Paul made a wonderful House candidate and would have made a fantastic Congressman.

There was roughly a 50% voter turnout amongst 18-28 year olds in the 2004 Presidential Election. What do you see as the key to greater mobilization of this voting block, and [how much] importance do you place on the organizing potential of the internet and the galvanizing influence of the blogosphere to achieve this?

Lawrence, KS

The turnout for young people in the 2004 election was phenomenal. Millions of young Americans participated in our country's democratic process. It was inspiring to see young Americans come out in such numbers to be a part of the political process, many for the first time.

The key to greater mobilization of young Americans is to energize them. We have to engage young voters by speaking up about issues of importance to them and continuing to fight for their interests. For their part, young Americans need to sustain their level of involvement. Their participation in 2004 was a wonderful achievement, but it shouldn't stop there. I hope they stay energized and continue to participate in the political process.

The work of bloggers and online organizing is critical to increasing democratic participation. The online community plays a significant role in educating and mobilizing people and has already revolutionized the way campaigns are run. Blogs have proven to be a great resource for raising the profile of key issues, energizing the base, and organizing effective fundraising campaigns. Blogs give elected officials the opportunity to come to a place like Raw Story and be able to speak directly with you, without the filter of the main stream media.

I reside in Ireland and I would like to know what I can do to help. Bush is no longer a US problem but has become a problem for the whole world. We all need to do something. I have started a campaign here to boycott all things related to Murdoch ie: the main disseminator of [falsehoods] and lies. Is there anything that non-Americans can do? We care.

Dingle, Co. Kerry.

Thank you for your question. You raise a good point -- the President Bush and the Republican Congress' policies go far beyond the United States' borders, they effect the whole world. Your fellow countryman Bono has fought tirelessly on behalf of the global community, and I have been proud to join him in his efforts to fight global poverty and the global AIDS pandemic.

I recently visited the Darfur region of Sudan and saw the crisis firsthand. The conditions in Darfur are a humanitarian disaster and challenge the conscience of the world. Peace and hope can be brought to Darfur, but not without a commitment from the international community. I am working with President Bush and the United Nations to make sure that we work quickly to end the genocide in Darfur.

I urge everyone around the world to join me in working together to bring peace to the Sudanese people.

Do you support publicly funded elections?

Anaheim, CA

Yes, I have long supported clean money elections.

A lot of us out there were extremely disappointed that Democrats were so late to sign on to Russ Feingold's move to censure President Bush. I felt really betrayed by the party. But, I've read Senate aides here on Rawstory trying to make it sound like Feingold just did it himself, without letting anyone see the resolution. If that's true, it seems like he made everyone else look bad in order to boost his own profile. If it isn't, I'm deeply troubled that it took Democrats so long to jump on.

I know that this problem is Senate leadership (not your doing,) and that you probably don't want to speak ill of your own party either way, but it seems to me that supporters like me have a right to know: Was Feingold not supported by his own party, or whatever his reasons, did he make a move that big without even trying to get support?

Manhattan, KS

Democrats are deeply frustrated with the President's questionable use of domestic wire tapping and the Administration's unwillingness to fully brief Members. Senator Feingold's complaints served to highlight some critical issues about the program and the lack of accountability in the Bush Administration. But this is a serious matter and the NSA's surveillance program must be fully investigated before we start talking about punitive action.

House Democrats are focused on getting the country back on track. Our agenda for change is to help American people with jobs, health care, energy independence, education and real security. Those are our priorities now, and they will be our priorities when we take back the House in November.

Can the president order a preemptive strike against Iran without the approval of Congress? This question is in response to the Washington Post's article about the policy being changed or restated to promote preemptive war. Can this be true?

Mill Valley, CA

Any President has the duty to protect the United States from an imminent threat of attack. But if a threat is not imminent, our response must involve the President, the Congress, and our allies.

Can you tell me why any gay person should remain a member of the Democratic party after the constant let-downs and betrayals by politicians who have courted the gay vote and money only to not be there to support the community when needed?

Hanover Township, PA

Congressional Democrats have a strong record of support for the gay and lesbian community. When Republicans tried to write discrimination into the Constitution, the vast majority of Democrats voted "NO".

While most Republicans voted for it, Democratic votes killed the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" in both the House and Senate.

Republican leaders made amending the Constitution to ban gay marriage a priority, but for years have refused to even allow a vote on legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace. Of the 181 cosponsors supporting the most recent version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House, only 16 were Republicans. The Republican majority has also refused to allow a vote on H.R. 2662 - the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would add crimes based on sexual orientation to the list of federal hate crimes. Of the 152 Members cosponsoring that legislation, only 9 are Republicans.

I make it my personal responsibility in Congress to defeat these mean-spirited measures that target the rights of LGBT individuals and to fight for equality for all. The Republicans control the agenda in the House of Representatives, and Republicans have made it clear that the issues that are important to the gay and lesbian community are not a priority for them. In contrast, Democrats have made it clear again and again that equality for gays and lesbians is a priority for our party.

Why has nothing been heard from the Democratic Party about the recent decision by the US to side with Iran and China at the UN and work to bar the inclusion of two European groups which would have spoken to the plight of LGBT individuals worldwide?

Glenford, NY

When the U.S. representatives to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) supported the hateful anti-human rights motion brought by the Iranian and Sudanese regimes, Democrats fought back. Congressman Tom Lantos, a lifelong fighter for human rights, called on Ambassador Bolton for an immediate clarification of this hurtful action.

Over the years, I have been proud to join Congressman Lantos in his tireless efforts to confront state sponsored or initiated bias and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered people.

Do you think it likely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in the coming years? More and more states are drafting laws to challenge if not outright deny a woman's right to choose: do you see this as the result of an ongoing cultural shift in our nation, or the effects of the actions of the dominating Party? Do you think the current might shift back if a Democrat is elected president in '08?

Bethesda, MD

Our fundamental privacy rights and values are under attack in this country because of unprecedented attacks on a woman's right to choose. Unfortunately, with the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, our rights are more at risk than ever.

President Bush and the Republican Congress have chipped away our privacy rights -- the President signed the first federal bill to criminalize abortion, promoted policies that block access to family planning and emergency contraception, steered taxpayer money to abstinence-only programs, and the Justice Department subpoenaed the private medical records of women to defend his federal abortion ban.

Roe v. Wade is based on a woman's fundamental right to privacy, a value that all Americans cherish. I will remain vigilant in defending Roe and continue to fight to ensure a woman's right to choose.

How does being a grandmother inform your politics and political decision-making?

Washington, DC

Thank you for asking about grandchildren. My husband always looks for how quickly I start talking about our 5 children and 5 grandchildren when I speak.

When people ask me why I entered politics, I always say the children, the children, the children. My work is an extension as my role as a mother and grandmother. I want the best for my grandchildren, and I want every child to have the same opportunities my grandchildren have. That's why I fight for clean air and clean water, the best education and health care, safe streets, and a secure future.

I read on Raw Story that you met with Kofi Annan about the horrible genocide in Sudan, and I want to thank you for doing what you can. God bless you for it.

I also read that he recently received a vote of no confidence from his staff on an organizational plan. I hate to side with Bush or Bolton on anything, but if the leader of the UN won't stand up against genocide and can't manage the organization, it seems to me like he should step aside. What are your thoughts, having met with him yourself?

Fallbrook, CA

Secretary General Annan appears committed to resolving the situation in Darfur and to reforming the UN. The United States should support him in both efforts.

Why was the Slaughter report on the cost of war removed from your website?

Tulsa, OK

Congresswoman Slaughter released a report on the cost of corruption called America for Sale which my office sent to reporters and our e-mail lists.

The report is available online ( and I encourage everyone to read it.

Do you think America should adopt a national health care system? If so, what kind specifically?

Medford, OR

All Americans should have access to affordable health care whether they lose their job, change jobs, get sick, or just grow old. By improving and building on our current health care system, we can reach that goal.

Democrats want to provide a tax credit to help small businesses offer health coverage to their employees and create new health insurance options to help working families. We want to lower health insurance premiums by combating frivolous lawsuits, and providing direct assistance to communities that have a shortage of health care providers. Democrats want to give states the option to allow middle class families of children with disabilities to purchase Medicaid coverage, helping parents care for their children while continuing to work. We want to allow older Americans who have lost their jobs, whose employers have dropped their retiree health benefits, or who have lost their insurance coverage, to buy into the Medicare program.

Democrats also want to fix the flawed Republican prescription drug plan by giving Medicare the authority to negotiate drug costs, allowing for safe re-importation of prescription drugs, allowing beneficiaries to change plans and to get their drug benefit directly from Medicare.

In light of the [the Dubai scandal,] would it not be prudent to question the same of another private corporation which is also owned by foreign individuals who may not have our best interests in mind; the Federal Reserve?

Winston-Salem, NC

Our foreign owned debt is a huge problem and reducing our debt is crucial to our economic security and our national security. President Bush and the Republican Congress fiscal irresponsibility has mortgaged our future to foreign investors who fund our debt. That's not right. Democrats support pay-as-you-go budgeting that does not grow the deficit and heap decades of debt onto our children.

Is it true that you have asked Democrats not to submit ethics complaints to the house ethics committee? [If so, why?]

Seattle, Washington


I'm really disillusioned and disgusted with the Democrats, and on the verge of going Green. I need good reasons to stay on board, and you're the lady in charge of at least one house of Congress.

Are Democrats planning their own "Contract with America" for 2006? When do we get to see it? If I give my time and my money to support Democrats working under you, what can I expect from you in return, come 2006?

Los Gatos, CA

Thanks for the question, Marcia.

Democrats have a clear vision and plan for the country that gives every American the opportunity to succeed. We want to end the Republicans' culture of corruption that puts special interests before your interests. We want to ensure that we have real security for our country. We want economic security so no family has to choose between paying their children's health care and education costs.

Democrats' fresh and dynamic thinking would focus on policies like our Innovation Agenda, which taps into the talent, intellect, and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people. By investing in an educated and skilled workforce, we can build a stronger economy, a healthier nation and a brighter tomorrow.

The Republican Contract with America talked about fiscal responsibility, honest government, and better wages. After 10 year of Republican rule, America has record high deficits, a rampant Republican culture of corruption, and stagnant wages that have failed to keep up with inflation, rising health care costs, energy costs, and education costs.

How would you like history to remember you?

Santa Fe, NM

This month is women's history month and as we reflect upon the incredible women that have shaped our lives, personally and politically, we also pay our respects to three women who agitated, struggled and remained committed to equality and progress: Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Betty Friedan.

I take strength from their legacies and would be both humbled and honored for history to remember me as the first woman Speaker of the House -- upholding and continuing the fight for justice, creating opportunity, fighting for an equal chance to succeed, providing for a safe and prosperous country, and ensuring every child has the chance to shape the future of our nation.


RAW STORY would like to thank Representative Pelosi for her time and attention in answering the concerns of our readers.

Tomorrow, we open questions for three Representatives under 40: Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the "Thirtysomething Dems."