Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, speaking at the Maria Leavey Media Breakfast, said definitively that Obama's transformative agenda on health care, energy, and education would get through the House this year. I asked the speaker about the pundits saying Obama's agenda was too big a gamble, too much for the Democratic Congress to do, and whether congress would deliver. Here's the exchange:
Mike Lux, Author, The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be: Madam Speaker, several times in American history, we've had what I call in the book "big change moments." 1860s, the early 1900s, the New Deal, the 1960s, and I argue that we need another one now, and that's the path it looks like President Obama wants to go down. A lot of folks are talking about big gambles, he's pushing for all these huge pieces of legislation and a fundamental restructuring of the budget. The pundits conventional wisdom is saying, 'oh, this is too much for Congress to handle this year, they can't get it done.' I'd like to know your reaction to that. Clearly, you have some of the same ambitions. Do you think Congress can get this big agenda done this year?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Well, we will hopefully get it done this term. What he has said was that the agenda for this year would be the three things: education, yes, health care, yes, and the energy piece, yes. He'd like the energy piece by the time he goes to Copenhagen at the end of the year. That is all possible. I can only answer for the House of Representatives. I know that we can get this job done. We will have our cap and trade/energy bill out of committee by the end of May. Health care is a bigger ticket but everybody's ready. This isn't like, oh, let's talk about health care. Everybody is ready for that, it is something that all of this has to be done to the extent possible in the strongest bipartisan way. There's a lot of money, people, and future involved in this, so we want to have the best possible ideas. And then, we have to make the decision to go forward. Now, we know we can pass these initiatives in the House. So, education, health care, and energy. the three top initiatives the president set. We'll deal, the budget is difficult. We will be working on that with our members. It's very priority to have a budget that is a statement of our national values at long last that really reflects the priorities of the American people. To do so in a fiscally sound way, that he's building in, you know, at the end of his term, we'll reduce the deficit by half -- very important. Let's not forget what we were left with. He comes into office with a trillion dollar deficit. Stunning. George Bush came in on a path of $5.6 trillion dollars in surplus. For the last Clinton budgets were in surplus, in surplus. So think of the difference of the start. The president has said we must take risks, and we are. But they are well founded, you know, they're not because. again, it's what the American people need. These are issues we've worked on for a long time. But this is the debate. This is what we've come to Washington to do, to have the debate on what is the best possible way to go forward on health care. If you want more on health care, you'll ask, okay? Ellen seemed to think that I shouldn't go into health care more specifically right now. I want to hear your questions.
So, we now have a president pushing to do big transformative change, and a Speaker who says clearly she can get that big change through the House. We still have to overcome the 60 vote hurdle in the Senate, but momentum is building for the biggest positive change in this country at least since the 1960's.