WASHINGTON -- Jobless people who voted against Democrats or sat out the midterm elections may have cut off their unemployment benefits to spite the party in power, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an interview with The Huffington Post two days after the election.
One of Pelosi's top priorities during the lame duck session, Pelosi said, will be to reauthorize unemployment insurance, which is set to lapse at the end of November, cutting off two million people by the end of the year. Even with Democrats controlling both chambers during the lame duck period, passing the reauthorization will be a challenge given GOP opposition in the Senate.
But when the GOP takes over the House in January, the challenge will approach impossibility. "It's a funny thing," said Pelosi. "I have this impression that some of the people who did not vote Democratic, because they -- they didn't vote Democratic -- are people who don't have a job. And they need unemployment insurance and the Republicans are not for it."
The results of the election, she said, were "very sad, of course, about what it means to the great middle class." Pelosi said that the vote was not a rejection of Democratic ideas, but frustration that those policies didn't work fast enough to create jobs. "The election was no ringing endorsement of Republicans," Pelosi said. "We do not accept their version of what this election means. It's not about rejecting what President Obama has done. It didn't go fast enough to create jobs. That's what it's about."
A problem Democrats faced, she said, was that much of their action was aimed at stopping a downward slide, which had to happen before the economy could turn around. It's hard to get credit, she said, for preventing potential bad things from happening. Rep. Barney Frank made the same point more colorfully just before the first bank-bailout vote in 2008. "It's like wearing dark pants and pissing down your leg," Frank said. "It gives you a warm feeling, but no one knows you did it."
Pelosi made a similar point. "From our standpoint, we have saved the country from eight and a half million jobs lost, from 14 and a half percent unemployment and the rest. But you don't get any credit for what you prevented from happening," she said. "We believe that there's a big distinction between Democrats and Republicans, but nine and a half percent unemployment is just such an eclipsing phenomenon that no message really can come through unless it's a message that says, 'Here's your job.'"
Nevertheless, said Pelosi, she respects the will of the voters. "I have enormous respect for the electoral process," she said. "The people are the boss. They have spoken. Now let's give their decision a chance to prove itself worthy."