Love her or not, Speaker Nancy Pelosi's list of legislative accomplishments is formidable. On Wednesday, she capped four years of negotiating, cajoling, compromising and pressuring lawmakers by witnessing President Barack Obama sign the biggest remake of the financial regulatory system since the Great Depression.
Pelosi calls the landmark legislation nothing less than a modern version of the 1930's New Deal
Since Pelosi became speaker in 2006, she has pushed through the U.S. House of Representatives a half-dozen pieces of transformative legislation, starting with the first increase in the minimum wage in a decade (in 2006). Then came the $787 billion economic stimulus plan and the biggest overhaul of health care and health insurance in U.S. history.
I spoke with Pelosi recently on my PBS program, "To the Contrary." A transcript of parts of the interview follows:
: [This week's Wall Street-reform legislation has] the boldness and enthusiasm of the New Deal but with less government. We . . . like to be thinking in entrepreneurial ways, more innovative ways than in previous recent memory. Actually, the New Deal was very innovative in its approach and that was the tradition of America. Our founders were innovators -- they were advocates of an entrepreneurial system, of public-private partnerships, of thinking in fresh ways. From that came the Industrial Revolution and then . . . the technological revolution. Now we'll have a green revolution, and we'll have a revolution in terms of the way we think of our country as we go forward.
: Financial regulation -- is that as big as the New Deal?
: It's very big. The day the president signed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection bill was an historic day for us. His comments at the time were perfect -- perfect about how our financial institutions must thrive and support innovation and grow our economy, and they can do so in a better way with transparency and accountability and without putting the taxpayer at risk and without putting the consumer at risk, and so this is a real change. It's on a par with some of the measures that were passed at the time of the New Deal to address the Great Depression. We're in a deep recession, a financial crisis, and this legislation is very needed, and Barney Frank and Chris Dodd did a masterful job of orchestrating the legislation, and we had to work again with our colleagues here to have legislation that they all could support and address the concerns of their constituents and the taxpayers.
A couple of weeks ago someone in [Obama's] administration talked about how the House or Senate could be lost in the November election. If you talk to Republican leaders they say as many as 100 House seats are in play. What do you say when you hear those things?
: I think, "Let the Republicans think that -- let them think that 100 seats are in play." I feel very confident that we will have a Democratic majority come November.
What makes you think that?
We win the House of Representatives one district at a time and . . . I have great confidence in my members. I know they love their districts, I know they know their districts, and . . . we fully intend to win. The Republicans say their agenda, if they win, is to have the same exact agenda as the Bush administration. We're not going back.
: You've been called the most powerful woman in American politics and the most powerful speaker, certainly in recent decades but maybe ever. What do you think about that?
: I accept the kind words on behalf of my House Democratic caucus because any power that I have springs from their working together to get a job done for the American people and my effectiveness in leading them really springs from their willingness to have commitment and courage and do the right thing by the American people.