SAN FRANCISCO -- House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she expects the U.S. Supreme Court next month to uphold President Barack Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act.
"We believe that this bill constitutionally is ironclad," she told a crowd of about 550 at a Commonwealth Club event at the Fairmont Hotel. "I expect a 6-3 'aye' verdict from the Supreme Court."
Pelosi, whose discussion with the club was meant to commemorate her 25th anniversary in Congress, said the law is among her proudest legislative accomplishments. More than 80 million Americans -- young people allowed to remain on their parents' policies, children with pre-existing conditions, people availing themselves of preventive care -- already have benefited from its provisions, she said.
She said she finds it ironic that some Republican lawmakers just a few years ago were engaging in "court-stripping," writing sections into bills in an attempt to make them impervious to courts. But once the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, she said, "all of a sudden we have these newfound advocates for judicial review."
Pelosi called Obama's newfound support of same-sex marriage "all great ... so beautifully spoken, so heartfelt, so personal."
"He made a values judgment," she said, noting that it would've been a more overtly political move to remain silent.
Pelosi, a San Francisco resident, is the first woman to have served as Speaker of the House, from 2007 to 2011. Before that, her four years as minority leader had made her the first woman, the first Californian and first Italian-American to lead a major party in Congress.
Asked about the deep partisan divides that have stymied significant progress on many issues, Pelosi replied, "It doesn't have to be this way, and it hasn't always been." Under President George H.W. Bush and even under President George W. Bush, she said, Democrats and Republicans still were able to find some common ground on certain key issues.
Pelosi said today's Republicans aren't obstructionists purely because of political gamesmanship. They simply don't believe in a public role in job creation, social services and so forth, she added.
"Bless their hearts, they do what they believe, and they don't believe in government," she said.
She said the current "battle of the budget" will depend very much on whether American voters express themselves clearly.
Pelosi cited Abraham Lincoln's observation that "public sentiment is everything," saying that Democrats will do all they can to educate the public about the importance of protecting investments in higher education, among other things.
Asked about Democrats' chances of retaking the House this November, she replied, "If it were today, I think it would be about 50-50." But she sounded a more optimistic, defiant note during a press gaggle after the speech.
"The president will talk about his record; we will echo what he says and it will be a winning message," she told reporters, adding that strong support from women voters will "lead the way to a great Democratic victory."
Added Pelosi: "Let me say about President Obama, he was a job creator from Day One."
The Recovery Act economic stimulus included clean-energy sector investments similar to those received by Solyndra, a now-bankrupt Fremont solar manufacturer.
Asked about Republican criticisms of such investments, Pelosi replied that "with these kinds of initiatives, some succeed and some do not," but overall the stimulus successfully brought the unemployment rate far down from the heights to which Republican policies had sent it.
Pelosi last week urged House Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote on an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for those making less than $1 million a year. The president's budget calls for extending the cuts only for those making less than $250,000 a year; Pelosi's plan would benefit many millionaires by meaning lower taxes on their first million per year.
She said she would prefer a $250,000 cutoff too, but that won't get through Congress.
"The American people will understand it more clearly" at the $1 million threshold, she said. "Let's get something done; let's move this thing along."