House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Occupy Wall Street protests are a reaction government putting "Main Street at the mercy of Wall Street" by bailing out failing financial institutions.
In an interview for Sunday's "This Week" on ABC, Pelosi said that the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was passed in 2008 when she was House Speaker and signed by President George W. Bush, was one of the causes for the demonstrations.
She said since those bailouts didn't help revive the economy, financial centers like Wall Street were a logical outlet for frustration.
"I do think that, from what we saw after TARP, that the focus on Wall Street was one that they thought was a legitimate place to go. Don't do this again; don't put Main Street at the mercy of Wall Street," she said. "Not to paint everyone on Wall Street with the same brush. That would not be fair. But actions were taken that risked our economy and we don't want that to happen again."
Democratic lawmakers began to embrace the Occupy Wall Street protests as they spread to Washington, with some likening the movement to a Tea Party of the left.
Several liberal House lawmakers endorsed the protests Wednesday, and the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said they had been inspired by demonstrators who have been arrested by the hundreds in New York City.
"I support the … the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest, that change has to happen," Pelosi said on ABC. "We cannot continue in a way that does not - that is not relevant to their lives."
Some Republicans have spoken out in opposition to the demonstrations.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) described Wall Street protesters as a mob on Friday and implied Democrats were egging them on.
"I didn't hear him say anything when the Tea Party was out demonstrating, actually spitting on members of Congress right here in the Capitol," Pelosi said. "And he and his colleagues were putting signs in the windows encouraging them. But let's not get down to that."