By Greg Sargent
“When Democrats are united, especially around not just an issue but around our values — not discriminating against anybody — we will succeed.”
That’s Nancy Pelosi, speaking about Republicans in the wake of the successful passage of reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This is a big win for Pelosi — the President gave her a shout out in his statement — and she sought to cast the outcome as another sign that Dems can force Republicans to act on their priorities when they do a good enough job of clarifying the choice the two parties are offering the American people. “I hope there’s a realization that when the public has clarity on the decision that is being made here, eventually they’re going to have to come around,” she told me.
Pelosi suggested that the Dem victory bodes well for the coming battle over the sequester, which she said is similar to the one over the Violence Against Women Act, in the sense that the public would side with the Dem vision. “It’s again about making it clear to the public what the decision is,” she said. “Every time we’ve done that, Republicans have folded.”
The problem for Democrats, though, is that the sequester fight is far less clear cut than the battle over the Violence Against Women Act was — even the name suggests the Dem message was an easy one to communicate. The sequester fight is a mess — there’s no telling how long it will take for the public to feel the pain and who will feel it, and the sequester is difficult to explain to the American people. Pressed on this point, Pelosi acknowledged that the messaging would be a “challenge” and that it would be “much more difficult.”
For instance, Republicans are considering passing a bill that extends the lower sequester-level funding of government past the government-shutdown deadline of March 27th. This would put Dems in a tough spot — they’d be forced to agree to the lower spending levels or allow the government to shut down.
Asked whether Dems would face a difficult dilemma if the GOP does that, Pelosi suggested it would be a non-starter. “That would be a very damaging thing to do to our economy, and I don’t think it would go anyplace in the Senate,” she said. But she added that House Republicans might not even unify behind that idea: “They might even have trouble passing that.”
Pelosi said that in order to win the sequester fight, Dems needed to spell out the two parties’ competing visions of government clearly — just as they had in the VAWA fight. “We have a difference of opinion here as to what the role of government is — we have to spell that out very clearly,” she said. “They are anti-government ideologues. They don’t want government to accomplish anything.”