Pelosi: Without agreement on tax rates for the rich, ‘we go over the cliff’ [VIDEO]

Nicholas Ballasy Senior Video Reporter
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press briefing on Thursday that, if there’s no agreement between Congress and the White House on the expiration of the current tax rates for wealthy Americans, the country will “go over the cliff.”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has already said the White House is prepared to go over the fiscal cliff if Republicans do not agree to raise tax rates on families making more than $250,000 per year. (RELATED VIDEO — Geithner: Put rates back at Clinton levels … or else)

“I did not understand [Geithner’s] statement in the way that you characterized it,” Pelosi said at the briefing. “I think — the way I heard it … I think it was not as a threat — ‘we’ll go over if they don’t’ — it was a prediction.”

“If there is no agreement, then the fiscal cliff has to be dealt with. But I didn’t see it as, ‘if they do this, we do that’; I saw it as a statement of fact. It’s not a threat. It’s a prediction. If there’s no agreement, we go over the cliff. Let’s hope that we can have an agreement.”

President Barack Obama extended former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for every income bracket in December 2010, but the cuts expire at the end of 2012.

“There’s no reason why we couldn’t come to the table and get this done right now,” Pelosi said. “Everybody knows what the elements are, and so the question is, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it now.”

“If we’re not going to do it, if the Republicans are just going to say never, no way, we will not touch one hair on the head of the wealthiest people in our country, not one red cent from them, then let us know that right now too, so we can take the consequences of that and mitigate for that.”

Pelosi is pushing House members to sign a discharge petition that would force a vote on a Senate bill to extend the current tax rates exclusively for families making less than $250,000 per year.

“I’m really surprised that the Republicans would leave. We came in Tuesday and we left Wednesday at 12 noon? With all that needs to be done, avoiding the conversation? Sounds like people don’t want to be in town for some reason,” Pelosi said.

“The reason is, is because there are — we are asking them to sign a discharge petition to urge their — if they don’t want to sign, to urge their leadership to pass middle-income tax cuts, which is the liberation, which is the freeing from the hostage-taking, which is the setting the table for what can come next, once we understand that we’re holding the middle class harmless as we go forward.”

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