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Nancy Pelosi: Activists should persuade GOP lawmakers to work to end war

The House speaker touted Congress's domestic accomplishments, but recognized Americans' frustration at a lack of action on the Iraq war at a Monitor lunch Tuesday.

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In recent weeks, Pelosi has taken a somewhat higher public profile. She has begun holding weekly press conferences on Capitol Hill and last weekend appeared on Fox News Sunday. She denied the timing was designed to take voters' minds off the lack of congressional success in ending the war.

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"No, what this is [is] that I have been very busy taking care of the children, taking care of business in Congress. We had our work to do. I think what the president has learned on the immigration bill is that passing legislation is very difficult. So this required my full attention. Now that we have done most of our legislation, it is time for us to gain the public support for it."

Pelosi disputed a story in Tuesday's New York Times that reported that Democrats appear ready to make concessions that would extend for several years the blanket authority for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop that was originally granted by Congress last August in the "Protect America Act." One reason, the story said, was fear that Democrats will be called soft on terror if they insist on strict curbs on gathering intelligence.

"This isn't Democrats being concerned about the next election. This is about Democrats saying the law must be followed. And we will collect whatever intelligence we need to protect the American people under the law," the speaker said.

"If you see the House bill that [Judiciary Committee Chairman] John Conyers [of Michigan], a great civil libertarian, and [Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman] Silvestre Reyes [of Texas] are putting in the hopper, I think today, to be marked up this week, you will see a bill that is not only better than what the bill was in August, it is better than the original FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] law in protecting our civil liberties. Again, recognizing that we have to get good intelligence and we have to do so in a way that is under the law. And we will do so in a way that has audits and is accountable and has guidelines on how to proceed in this manner," she said.

Pelosi, who will be honorary chair of next year's Democratic convention offered a wry view of the party's presidential candidates. "I think all of our candidates are great. They are all great; most of them can win. Of those, any one of those winners would make a great president," she said.

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