Pelosi:'I Want Us to be on a Path to Balance the Budget in a Number of Decades'

By Elizabeth Harrington | March 14, 2013 | 2:44 PM EDT

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House minority leader. (AP photo)

( – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Thursday that she would like to see a balanced budget, “in a number of decades.”

During her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, asked Pelosi if she agreed with President Barack Obama’s recent remarks that America does not have an “immediate” debt crisis.  The U.S. debt as of Wednesday stands at $16.7 trillion.

“Well, I believe that we’re on a path to reduce the deficit,” Pelosi said.  “And I would say that—count me as one who would say I want us to be on a path to balance the budget in a number of decades.”

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“You can’t do it in one decade,” she said.  “Not after what we have been through.”

Pelosi added that there was an “explosion” of debt during the Bush administration.

“President Clinton, coming out of his administration we were on a path of serious deficit and debt reduction,” she said.  “After the explosion of the debt in the Bush years and the downturn in our economy and the meltdown of our financial institutions and the loss of revenue that engendered, we’re at a place where the deficit is much bigger and in 10 years you can’t do it without hurting the middle class.”

“But in terms of a path to balance—hopefully to surplus—that’s what I would like to see,” said Pelosi.  “I really don’t like to comment on things I’m hearing in isolation.  I don’t know how the president said that or in what context.”

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, Obama said the debt is sustainable.

“I think what’s important to recognize is that we’ve already cut $2.5– $2.7 trillion out of the deficit,” he said.  “If the sequester stays in, you’ve got over $3.5 trillion of deficit reduction already.”

“And, so, we don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt,” Obama said.  “In fact, for the next 10 years, it’s gonna’ be in a sustainable place.”

Obama also said, “My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance.”

“My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that, we are going to be bringing in more revenue,” he said.

This week, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled the Republican budget for fiscal year 2014, which apparently would reduce the deficit by $4.6 trillion and balance the budget in 10 years.

The total public debt on Jan. 20, 2009, when President Obama took office, was $10.6 trillion, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt.  Since then the debt has risen more than $6 trillion.

When President George W. Bush assumed office on Jan. 20, 2001, the debt stood at $5.7 trillion.  In two terms, Bush added a total of $4.9 trillion in  debt, from January 2001 to January 2009.  In little more than one term, Obama has added $6.1 trillion to the debt.

The deficit when President Bush left office in 2008 was $458.5 billion.  President Obama has not presided over a deficit lower that $1 trillion, with $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010 and 2011, and $1.1 trillion in 2012.

Pelosi said Thursday, “Increasing the deficit and the debt service that goes with it is no service to the American people.”

“It is important to reduce the deficit, it is important for us to come to have a balanced approach to bring us to balance,” Pelosi said, in reference to taxing the wealthy.

“You don’t have any idea what is out there in terms of protecting our country, global economic challenges we may face, but to be on a path I think is a really important thing,” she said.

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