Nancy Pelosi Digs In: I’m a ‘Master Legislator,’ Not Going Anywhere
House minority leader stands firm as Democrats fret about 2018 midterm elections
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promoted herself as a “master legislator” who understands the “motivation of people” and enjoys sufficient support from Democrats amid ongoing concerns surrounding her leadership.
Host Chris Wallace cornered Pelosi, during an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” about congressional Democrats’ new economic agenda unveiled last week, called “A Better Deal.” The Party spent months crafting this message following its staggering Election Day losses across the board in 2016 and the string of losses in special elections in 2017 — losses that some members of Pelosi’s own party have attributed partially to her leadership.
As Pelosi’s status as House minority leader continues to be called into question, various factions of her party disagree over the direction in which the party should head during President Donald Trump’s first term in office.
“OK, I’m going to ask you about it because Democrats put out a new agenda this week called ‘A Better Deal,'” Wallace said. “You call for higher wages, lower prescription drug costs, as you said, job training, infrastructure. Leader Pelosi, I’m not saying anything, any of that is wrong … What I am saying is that none of it is new. We’ve been hearing it for years. We heard it from the Democrats and Hillary Clinton in 2016 and you lost.”
Noting that the Democrats lost all four special House elections following Trump’s election, Wallace observed that “some of your own Democratic colleagues in the House say part of the problem is that you and your leadership team are, frankly, too old. And the question I have is: Does, do Democrats need new leaders with new ideas?”
Although Pelosi responded that “self-promotion is a terrible thing,” she said that “somebody has got to do it” as she presented her case for her leadership status.
“And I think that the situation that we are in, I am a master legislator. I know the budget to the nth degree. I know the motivation of people. I respect the people who are in Congress,” Pelosi said. “So I feel very confident about the support I have in my caucus.”
Pelosi, 77, has served in the House for 30 years and held the position of House Speaker from 2007 to 2011. Although Pelosi maintained her tenuous grip on her House leadership position following a challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) on November 17, murmurs from disgruntled members within her own party have continued to dog her. The House minority leader’s popularity percentage has also remained in the 20s, across dozens of polls, throughout the first half of 2017 .
“I have never not been opposed within my caucus, and it had nothing to do with support,” Pelosi said.
But when Wallace asked Pelosi, “What are the chances Democrats win back the House in 2018,” and whether or not she would “run for speaker” again as a result, the House minority leader claimed the issue is “so unimportant” at this time.
“What is important is that we have a lively debate on a better deal, better pay, better jobs, and a better future. And that’s what we look forward to having,” she said. “We have unity in our party. You saw with the fight on Affordable Care Act in the House and in the Senate.”
Pelosi also responded to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) admission on ABC News’ “This Week” on July 23 that “the number-one thing that we did wrong” as a party was failing to communicate “what we stood for” as a party to the American people. Schumer’s remarks came in the wake of an ABC News-Washington Post poll revealing that only 37 percent of Americans believe the Democratic Party “stands for something” positive, while 52 percent say it only stands against Trump.
Although Pelosi acknowledged that the party’s anti-President Trump message “had some influence” on the four 2017 special election losses, she said, “I don’t want to go into that,” and pivoted, saying, “I want to go into our new plan.”
But several members of Pelosi’s party have been unwilling to let the issue slide. Ryan, Pelosi’s House minority leader challenger, told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in early July that “the reality is the fact that we have to go into 2018 with a leader who has been damaged, and the caucus at the end of the day has to make a decision.”
“We’ve got to have these discussions because we owe it to our constituents. We owe it to the American people to put us in a position to be able to fight for them,” Ryan added.
In particular, Ryan noted that Democratic House candidate Jon Ossoff lost the special election in Georgia’s 6th district in large part because GOP PACs spent millions of dollars tying Pelosi and her “San Francisco liberal values” to Ossoff.
“I think it would be hard for us to say after $5 million dollars being spent tying that candidate to her, that it didn’t have some effect. I mean, the Republicans wouldn’t still be using this if it didn’t have some effect. And so it’s still being used for a reason, and I think that’s a discussion that we need to have,” Ryan said.
Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) executive director Corry Bliss told The Hill after Ossoff’s loss that Republicans will continue to tie Democratic candidates to Pelosi heading into the 2018 midterm elections.
“Nancy Pelosi will be front and center in the millions of dollars we’re going to spend over the next two years across the country,” Bliss said. “This midterm is going to be a referendum on Nancy Pelosi and her San Francisco liberal values.”
“That’s what the elections are going to be about,” Bliss added. “We saw a little glimpse of that on Tuesday.”
Following the special election losses, Ryan and a group of other House Democrats met on June 22 to deliberate over how and if they could remove Pelosi and re-brand the Democratic Party going into 2018 and 2020. They met in Rep. Kathleen Rice’s (D-N.Y.) office.
Following the meeting, Rice told CNN: “If you were talking about a company that was posting losing numbers, if you were talking about any sports team that was losing time and time again, changes would be made, right? The CEO out. The coach would be out, and there would be a new strategy put in place.”
“We need to move forward, and we need to get a new leadership team in place,” Rice told Politico. “There is a consensus, I think, that we can reach in the caucus that allows for a new leadership team to be put in place in a time that’s well before, hopefully, November of next year.”
Fellow meeting attendee Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), the House Democratic assistant whip, refused three times to defend Pelosi when specifically asked about her political leadership in an interview with CNN in early July.
“As far as I’m concerned, we have to look in the mirror and realize whether we can or can’t,” Cárdenas said of Pelosi’s fitness for leadership. “And then move forward and make some tough decisions.”