WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is attempting to lay a tougher line against funding cuts, telling reporters on Thursday that House Democrats will not be held hostage in September by the risk of a government shutdown.
"They've used the engine of deficit reduction as an excuse to destroy, and we cannot let them do that," Pelosi said in a meeting with reporters and bloggers. "That is like a train coming down the tracks with the engine of deficit reduction that is there to destroy. And we have to stop that train."
Calling her members "very unhappy about the vote the other day" to raise the debt limit, Pelosi said House Democrats are not willing to push off another deal to the last minute.
Congress pushed two major funding issues to the 11th hour this session, making a last-minute deal to avoid government shutdown in March and negotiating earlier this week on a bill to increase the debt limit and avoid default.
With another government shutdown crisis set for September, when funding expires on the current continuing resolution, Pelosi said Democrats will not be held hostage as they were with the previous shutdown and the debt limit.
"You won't see a repetition of last week, taking us to the last minute," she told reporters. "A default is a much more serious consequence than a government shutdown."
House Democrats were less-than enamored with the deal to raise the debt limit, which cut spending by $2.4 trillion over a decade and put economic recovery at risk. Still, Pelosi said it was good that the deal passed before the Aug. 2 deadline, when the Treasury has said it would have begun to default on its loans.
"Compared to default, [the deal] is preferable because default would have lost a lot of jobs," she said. "That's my way of saying that I don't think this is the best path we could have taken."
She said the difference between Democrats and Republicans is fundamentally about priorities, questioning whether some Republicans want wealth as a path to "immortality," and therefore oppose raising taxes as a means of deficit reduction.
"How much bigger can their yacht be that it doesn't move in the water anymore?" she joked. "How many homes do you need? What is it that has that reason for there to be this unshared sacrifice. I have concluded that some of these people want something that is intangible. … They want immortality; that's why it's never enough."
The role of Democrats, then, is to hold the line against Republican efforts to cut back on regulations and end certain government programs as well as to push for jobs, she said. Part of that will be to educate the public about government shutdown and block Republican efforts to exchange major cuts for government funding.
"Our goal is to have government function and run and do the job it's there to do," Pelosi said. "Expect us to be more visible in terms of what we say here and how we mobilize outside to make sure Republicans know the risk of taking us to the brink. It makes it a completely unacceptable place for them to go."