Debt Limit: Pelosi Praises President’s Patience, Shuns S’mores at Camp David

By John R Parkinson

Jul 14, 2011 12:50pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson (@JRPabcDC) reports:

While the temperament of the negotiations to increase the debt limit has been described as having all the drama of “The West Wing,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did her best to lighten the mood at a news conference this morning, and praised the president for demonstrating “more patience than Job."

 President Obama abruptly ended a nearly two-hour meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia asked the president whether he would reconsider his veto threat on a short-term solution.

Today, Pelosi said she did not see the problem with the abbreviated good-bye. 

“I just don't understand what the problem is if the president of the United States has had a meeting for over two hours … stands up and says, 'See you tomorrow.' That's how meetings with presidents end,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “You don't leave first; the president leaves first, so that was completely appropriate, unless somebody in the room thought that he or she should have the last word and start the exit from the meeting, but that would be I think a breach of protocol.”

Pelosi commended Obama’s leadership during the negotiations and said that “day in and day out, the president has respectfully listened, accommodated, engaged in the conversation in a — in a very informed way.”

“He is the president of the United States.  I know he's busy. I myself am almost too busy to continue listening to some of the things that are going on in that room, so I know he must be very busy,” Pelosi joked. “But he has treated everyone there with great dignity.”

With negotiations expected to continue through the weekend, there had been some speculation earlier today that the leaders would join the president at Camp David this weekend to continue working toward a compromise, but both House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Pelosi both shot that idea down.

“The only thing I hope he doesn't ask us to do is go to Camp David." Pelosi said, drawing laughter from the press corps. “Driving down the streets for these meetings is one thing.  I want that to be his preserve, a place where he — a president can go to renew, to study, to prepare for the next week.  I want it to be a place where a president takes heads of state, to close out all other concerns and stay focused on resolving a global problem.  I don't want it to be a place where the president has to continue to listen to some of this stuff.”

“You don't like s'mores at Camp David?” Fox News’ reporter Chad Pergram asked?

“S'mores?  No, I'm a Californian,” Pelosi answered. “I have five children, nine grandchildren.  S'mores are big for us.  I'd rather have them at home.

“Let's not say, well, we don't have to make any decisions today, on Thursday or Friday, because we're going to have s'mores at Camp David over the weekend, and I'd be real careful about giving out too much coffee, too,” Pelosi added.

Pelosi also rejected Cantor’s suggestion for a short-term solution, saying that “any suggestion that said we're going to end this for a little while, and then we're going to start all over again…I just do not think worthy of the American people.”

As for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “last choice option” back-up plan, Pelosi applauded McConnell for agreeing that failure to raise the debt ceiling is not an option.

“Leader McConnell has advanced is that it is a recognition that we must lift the debt ceiling, and for that reason, it has that value,” Pelosi said. “The particulars of it, I think that's a discussion that the senators will have about whether that's something that can pass, or what, but I think everyone who's concerned about lifting the debt ceiling is saying ‘bravo’ for Sen. McConnell to say this must be done.”

McConnell of Kentucky has suggested leaders could bring a bill giving the president the unilateral authority to ask for $2.5 trillion in debt limit increases between now and 2013.  These requests – which would require not one penny in spending cuts – would not need Congressional approval.  Instead, they would be subject to something called a “resolution of disapproval.”

Pelosi also echoed the president’s warning earlier this week that if a deal is not reached, people who rely on government checks, living paycheck-to-paycheck, might not get paid.

"What it means to them around that kitchen table, our — interest costs to them on their credit cards, on their mortgages, on their car payments.  If you're a senior, they would not — maybe not get a Social Security check, a veteran not getting their benefits.  Even our men and women in uniform could be in jeopardy for getting their checks if we do not lift the debt ceiling very soon,” Pelosi warned. “This is personal, and the impact that it has on America's families — this is one time when that kitchen table and the boardroom table have a shared concern.”

Pelosi said that “time is just growing short” and that it is “time to freeze the design” of the legislation and make a final determination on what the leaders can actually agree upon.

“We'll see what sense of responsibility people have about [striking a deal], and doing it to get it done, not to kick the can down the road so that we can go to meetings at the White House or have s'mores someplace, but just to get the job done, make the tough decisions that have to be done.  Everybody has to yield,” Pelosi said. “Let's get on with writing the bill.

“There's no reason why we can't at least evaluate, by the end of the meeting tomorrow, what a possible piece of legislation is to go forward if — if the Republicans truly believe that we must — we must lift the debt ceiling,” she added.

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