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Pelosi defends Reid, slams conservatives as the 'E. coli club' at appearance

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June 6, 2012: House Minority Leader Leader Nancy Pelosi participates in a discussion in Washington.AP

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi came to the defense of Sen. Harry Reid on Monday over his comments about Mitt Romney's taxes.

   Reid outraged some Republicans with his remarks last week that he'd been told the GOP presidential candidate didn't pay taxes for 10 years, without identifying his source. Pelosi defended the Senate majority leader, saying though it "remains to be seen" whether the allegation is true, she doesn't believe Reid did anything wrong in publicizing it.

   "If he has said somebody told him that, some credible source, then I believe that," she told reporters after an appearance at a Boca Raton retirement community. She continued: "That's up to Gov. Romney to release his returns" and disprove the rumors.

   Democrats have pressed Romney to release additional years of tax returns, suggested he has something to hide in his finances and tried to make his personal wealth a campaign issue.

   Pelosi appeared with congressional candidate Lois Frankel and sought to convince seniors that Democrats are the most ardent defenders of Medicare and Social Security. She criticized Romney, who has voiced support for a House Republican plan that would shift Medicare from a fee-for-service program into one where future retirees buy insurance using subsidies.

   "That's just not what Medicare is about," Pelosi said. "We cannot have our seniors be at the mercy of the health insurance industry. This is a guarantee. We cannot turn it into a gamble."

   She called GOP efforts to trim government misguided, saying "we don't want any more government than we need," but that it's a mistake to think there isn't a place for federal oversight of things like clean water, health and safe food.

   "This is the E. coli club," she said of conservatives, suggesting over-the-top spending cuts would lead to serious consequences.

   The House minority leader said she didn't believe there is congressional support for gun control legislation, despite two high-profile mass shootings: one Sunday at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, and one last month at a Colorado movie theater.

   "After the election, we'll see what the support is there," she said. "But I think right now, in terms of the gun issue, we're all mourning the loss of what happened over the weekend. It's a stunning thing once again."

   Pelosi said her focus was on regaining a Democratic majority in the House, and she drew laughter when asked about one competitive Florida race, in which Rep. Allen West, a first-time Republican wildly popular with the tea party, seeks re-election.

   "How sweet would it be for Democrats not to have Congressman West in the next Congress?" a reporter asked her. "How sweet would it be for the country?" she replied.

   A spokesman for West was in a meeting Monday afternoon and did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.