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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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December 12th, 2013
02:00 PM ET

Pelosi to Democrats on budget deal: 'Embrace the suck'

By CNN chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper, Sherisse Pham, and Dana Davidsen

(CNN) – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told her caucus in a meeting Wednesday to "embrace the suck" over a bipartisan budget deal reached earlier this week that the House is set to vote on Thursday evening.

The phrase sums up well how her party feels about the deal, Pelosi told CNN Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper.

"It's not just the legislation, it's the whole process," she said in an interview on "The Lead," pointing to negotiators’ failure to include an extension of unemployment benefits.

Budget committee chairs Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, reached a bipartisan budget agreement Tuesday that would avoid another government shutdown - setting spending levels, reducing the deficit, and relieving some of the arbitrary, forced spending cuts known as sequestration.

"At the end of the day, we need to have a budget," Pelosi said. "So what we decided was, our approach would be to – ," gesturing in place of actually saying embrace the suck. "Then you roll with it, right?"

Pelosi said she borrowed the phrase from Democratic former Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, who once recounted his time in Iraq to members of Congress, telling them what it was like to lead a unit, to walk around, carry a 40-pound pack in 130 degrees, and not be able to shower in a month.

‘Immoral’ not to extend unemployment benefits

The California Democrat called it "immoral" not to pass an extension of the jobless benefits.

On December 28, unemployment benefits will expire for 1.3 million workers, a number that Pelosi says "will more than double in the next six months if we do not honor our commitment" to extend the insurance.

"I think it is immoral that we have in our country, people work hard, play by the rules, are unemployed through no fault of their own."

The budget deal was a "draw."

Regardless, Pelosi said, Democrats won't let the House vote go down, despite opposition from some, including Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a ranking Democrat on the budget committee, who has strongly objected to the idea of including an increase in federal worker pension contributions as part of the deal.

"I said to the people you know you'll have to come to your own decision, but on the merits of itself the budget bill is a vote that I will make and I think that it should pass,” she said.

GOP to blame for do-nothing Congress

With Congress on pace to have its least productive year in modern history, Pelosi blamed the Republicans.

"What I've said earlier is that the Republicans have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity when it comes to creating jobs," she said, specifically on immigration and gun control legislation - both issues with bills that have passed the Senate.

But Speaker John Boehner doesn't have it easy. Pelosi argued that hardline, tea party-aligned House conservatives are blocking legislative progress.

"There is no equivalent in the House Democratic caucus to the tea party for many reasons. Most importantly, because they are here to undo government."

"We have a good rapport," Pelosi said of her relationship with Boehner.

"Apart from that, people have to understand that just because we have a philosophical difference, and these are philosophical differences, these are not ploys or intra-party bickering or things like that. These are philosophical differences."

Will healthcare hurt Democrats in midterm elections?

After October's 16-day partial government shutdown, in part led by Texas conservative Ted Cruz, Republican approval ratings dropped in the polls. But Democrats also took a hit with the botched launch of HealthCare.gov and reports of canceled insurance plans despite promises by the Obama administration that Americans could keep their plans if they liked them under the Affordable Care Act.

Will President Barack Obama's sweeping health care initiative and the website's troubled launch hurt the Democratic Party?

"You have to remember, that while the website not working was not a good thing for government in general and Democrats in particular, the fact is the Republican numbers keep sinking," Pelosi said.

"And in the districts that we have to win, we feel very confident about where we go in and what our opportunity is in those districts."

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