WASHINGTON – Democrat Nancy Pelosi said she had no regrets on her last day as House speaker Tuesday, a reign that lasted four years and is ending after the November elections.
Pelosi said Tuesday she looks forward to leading a loyal but tenacious opposition in the House. She started by calling Republicans hypocrites for trying to repeal President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, saying it would add to the federal budget deficit.
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Republicans won the House majority in the November elections and John Boehner of Ohio will be sworn in as the new speaker on Wednesday. Pelosi — the first female speaker — will be demoted to minority leader.
"I don't really look back, I look forward, and we look forward to, as I said before, being a willing partner and solving the problems of the American people," Pelosi said at a news conference with other House Democrats. "When our Republican colleagues have positive solutions, again, they will have a willing partner in solving the problems of the American people."
Pelosi said House Democrats will focus on creating jobs, improving the economy and shrinking the federal budget deficit. The deficit hit $1.3 trillion in the budget year that ended in September — a year in which Democrats controlled Congress and the White House.
Republicans took exception.
"The House Democratic leadership's utter failure to stop Washington's runaway spending spree — which included failing to pass a budget for the first time in modern history — was one of the biggest examples of their utter refusal to listen to the American people," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "We have pledged to do better, and we will."
With unemployment stuck above 9 percent, Pelosi was asked whether she regretted not doing more to improve the nation's still-struggling economy while she was speaker. Pelosi said the nation's economy was in a "near-depression" two years ago, when Obama first took office.
Since then, she said, the House passed numerous bills designed to create jobs that were ultimately blocked in the Senate, usually because the two chambers couldn't agree on how to pay for them.
"We have no regrets," Pelosi said. "This administration and this Congress inherited a near-depression. And so the initiatives that we took were positive for the American people. It's not enough to save people from a depression, though. Nine-and-a-half percent unemployment is intolerable and as long as we have that we have to continue to fight for job creation."
Pelosi chided House Republicans for scheduling a vote next week on a bill to repeal the new health care law. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the massive law will slightly reduce the federal deficit over the next 10 years. Repealing the law would therefore increase the deficit, Pelosi said.
Republicans say repealing the law is one of their top priorities, but they are sure to fail in the Senate, where Democrats still have a majority.