New York Times: Though Out of Power, Democrats Are Winning the Fight, Pelosi Says


Representative Nancy Pelosi might have retired from Congress had Hillary Clinton been elected, content that she was leaving the government in capable female hands.

“One of the reasons I stayed here is because I thought Hillary Clinton would win, we’d have a woman president and so there would be a woman not at a seat at the table, but at the head of the table for the world,” said Ms. Pelosi, the liberal Californian and longtime leader of House Democrats.

“We wanted to have a woman president,” she said in an interview for the New York Times podcast “The New Washington.” “But when we didn’t, then I couldn’t walk away and say, O.K., just let all the men have the seats at the table that are making decisions for our country.”

As Republicans last week came up short yet again in their push to repeal the Affordable Care Act — a health care law that she was instrumental in writing and enacting as

speaker of the House — Ms. Pelosi feels she is taking good advantage of the place she retained at the negotiating table. By virtue of Democratic unity and Republican disarray, she said, Democrats have been able to shape spending bills to their liking (no border wall, for instance) and hold off Republicans on their attempts to unravel the health care law.

“That’s another reason I stayed — to protect the Affordable Care Act,” Ms. Pelosi said.

“We didn’t win the elections, but we’ve won every fight,” she said about the legislative agenda. “We’ve won every fight on the omnibus spending bill — you know the appropriations bills and the rest. You look at everything, they have no victories!”

In her post as House minority leader, Ms. Pelosi is in the congressional leadership position that arguably has the least influence of the top four. The rules of the Senate and the power of the filibuster give the Senate minority leader significant leverage. But the House is a majority-rules institution, and the majority can roll over the opposition fairly easily, as reflected in the scores of bills the Republican-led House has passed, only to see them languish in the Senate, where Democratic votes are needed in most cases to get anywhere.

But Ms. Pelosi has been able to assert herself in talks with President Trump as part of Washington’s hottest new power couple, personally branded by Mr. Trump as “Chuck and Nancy” — as in Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate Democratic leader, and Ms. Pelosi. She does not seem to mind that Mr. Schumer comes first in the president’s depiction of them.

“I don’t care what order it is, I just care that we can get something done for the American people,” she said. “I love working with Chuck. You know we’ve served together for a long time in the House. He’s been in Congress longer than I have, believe it or not.”

To the surprise of many, including the congressional Republican leaders who were in the room with them, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer persuaded Mr. Trump to accept a three-month extension of federal spending and a temporary increase in the debt limit. Democrats believe that arrangement gives them a significant voice in assembling a spending plan for 2018 that is due in December.

The two Democrats followed that up with an agreement with Mr. Trump to explore ways to allow undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain after Mr. Trump rescinded an Obama-era program that shielded them. Ms. Pelosi even successfully prodded Mr. Trump to tweet out assurances to participants in the program that they would not be deported during the six-month period Mr. Trump set for Congress to work out a legislative solution. The president also said this past week that he would pursue health care talks with the Democrats.

Ms. Pelosi has faced some backlash for dealing with Mr. Trump but intends to press ahead regardless.

“The president wants to work together,” she said. “We have a responsibility to find common ground. That’s my view.

Noting the disdain many in her party have for Mr. Trump, Ms. Pelosi said that during her tenure as leader, Democrats “worked with President Bush, even though he took us into the war in Iraq on the basis of a falsehood.”

“What could be worse than that?” she added.

Ms. Pelosi was the architect of the Democratic takeover of the House in 2006, only to see her party lose control in the 2010 elections after passage of the health care law. She can be a polarizing figure. Republicans, in a special House election in Georgia this year, resurrected their tactic of tying the Democrat in the race to Ms. Pelosi.

They will no doubt do so again in next year’s midterms as they try to hold on to their majority in what will be a difficult political environment, given the low approval ratings of Congress and Mr. Trump.

“They do that because they’re bankrupt in terms of their ideas,” she said of her Republican attackers. “They have to resort to personal assaults. But the fact is it really didn’t make that much difference in the election.”

Ms. Pelosi said Democrats have a “very excellent” chance of recapturing the House majority in 2018, a shift that would upend the political dynamic in Washington by giving Democrats control of House committees and the ability to conduct aggressive oversight of the Trump administration.

“I would not have said it like six months ago, because six months ago we would not have known what the president’s number would be in October,” she said. “He is self-

immolating.”

She cautioned that a Democratic triumph would not be “easy or a foregone conclusion,” but that “it’s a door that is very wide open for us to recruit and raise the resources

and raise the issues to win.”

If Ms. Pelosi can somehow maneuver her party through that door, she could regain the speakership and move closer to the head of the negotiating table in her own right.