Pelosi: Boehner Was Supposed To Have 218 Votes For Debt Limit Deal

August 4, 2011 11:10 a.m.

In her most candid assessment to date, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Democrats should have fared better in the debt limit fight. And she was unable to defend the final deal from the suggestion that it will cost the country jobs.

But in a new wrinkle, she also said the deal was crafted with the expectation that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) would be able to marshal a majority for the bill on his own — a mark he fell far short of.

Pelosi convened a handful of new media reporters to discuss the Democrats’ plans for legislative action on jobs. I asked whether she believed the new law, which will ultimately result in at least $2.1 trillion worth of austerity measures, would cost jobs, and if so, how many.

Her response is worth quoting in full.

“The standard that was set by Simpson-Bowles…the Gang of Six — everybody who has looked at this has said do not make those big cuts too soon, you will slow economic growth,” she said. “I think that principle stands.”

I also think, though, that passing something and getting it over with and moving on was necessary and compared to default it is preferable because default would really lose a lot of jobs. That is my way of saying, I don’t think this is the best path we could have taken. And especially I’m unhappy about the fact that this was developed with a premise that the Republicans would have the 218. Since they didn’t we should’ve had more influence.

I was in all the meetings, I’m not saying that isn’t the case. But if we had days, instead of backed up to hours, we could have said ‘you don’t have the votes, let’s go back in and how do we move this way in order to cut some of those cuts and have a better bill and get the votes.’ So I think we could’ve done better. I think they were successful at just prolonging it to the last minute so that we didn’t have that option and it was default or no default.

Emphasis added.

In the hours before the House’s final debt limit vote, Boehner insisted all leaders — including Pelosi — were obligated to provide enough votes for the plan to make sure it passed. Democratic leaders always said they wouldn’t let the plan fail, but Pelosi now suggests Boehner fell far short of expectations.

Pelosi ultimately voted for the bill — a de facto requirement of a party leader who strikes a bipartisan agreement. But she’s never been shy about suggesting that she dislikes the agreement, and her proxies in the House Democratic caucus registered that distaste by voting no.

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