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Pelosi to Axelrod: 'We will lift the debt ceiling'

Chicago Tribune
'This is a moral obligation,' House Dem leader Nancy Pelosi says at U. of C. about lifting the debt ceiling.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that she expects the chamber to support an increase in the nation's debt limit and believes Republican Speaker John Boehner is committed to doing so despite divisions in the GOP rank-and-file.

Pelosi, the California Democrat who previously served as speaker, also said Democrats were respectful of President Barack Obama's call to leave 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan after he leaves office but want to see his game plan.

Appearing at a University of Chicago Institute of Politics event hosted by David Axelrod, Pelosi recounted how some Republicans in the past wanted the U.S. government to default on its obligations by refusing to raise the debt limit.

"The very thought that they would question whether we would (lift the debt ceiling that ensures) the full faith and credit lowered our credit rating. You just don't mess with this. This is about how our economy functions," Pelosi said.

Asked by Axelrod, the institute's director, if she thought the outgoing Republican speaker was "committed" to raising the debt ceiling by a Nov. 3 deadline, Pelosi responded: "Yes. This is a moral obligation. Yes."

Later, she added, "We will lift the debt ceiling."

But when asked to describe the turmoil in the majority Republican ranks over determining a successor to Boehner, Pelosi offered little. "I would be the last person to tell you what's going on in the Republican caucus," she said.

On the U.S. military remaining in Afghanistan, Pelosi said she did not view Obama's announcement as contrary to his goal to have troops out of the country by the time he leaves office. Instead, she said, his move was "in keeping with the path he set us on." Still, she acknowledged concerns about the decision within the House Democratic Caucus.

"This president has solemnly and deeply thoughtfully considered how we put our troops in harm's way, and I look forward to a high-level briefing on what will be accomplished by doing this," she said.

"We really want to see what the purpose, what the timeline, what the possibilities of success are," she said. "Again, we trust the president, but there is a strong attitude in our country that we don't want boots on the ground."

Pelosi, a longtime member of the House Intelligence Committee, also defended the multinational agreement aimed at limiting Iran's capability for developing a nuclear weapon.

"This agreement is a great accomplishment. Now we have to make sure that they honor it, and the more compliments I pay the president for the agreement, the more we send a message to the Iranians, 'You have to live up to it,'" Pelosi said.

Pelosi said she viewed the creation of Israel, which strongly opposes the agreement, as "the greatest political accomplishment of the 20th century." But, she said, "If Israel never existed, if it never existed, Iran could not have a bomb in the national security interest of the United States of America."

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