Politics

‘Master Legislator’ Pelosi Says She’s Staying on Top of House Democrats

After Conor Lamb ran a campaign distancing himself from her, the minority leader is 'pretty confident about my ability to' lead the party

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) insisted Thursday she feels “pretty confident” about her status as a “master legislator” and would not be handing the leadership reins over to a younger lawmaker quite yet.

Pelosi came under fire throughout Democrat Conor Lamb’s campaign for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, as Republicans tied him to her even as he sought to distance himself from the far-left liberalism that dominates the party.

Lamb ran as a moderate Democrat. He said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “we need to sweep some new people in there” in leadership roles and that he’d “like to see someone besides Nancy Pelosi run, and that’s who I would support.”

Lamb also issued an ad saying, “My opponent wants you to believe that the biggest issue in this campaign is Nancy Pelosi. It’s all a big lie … I’ve already said on the front page of the newspaper that I don’t support Nancy Pelosi. The real issues are the ones that affect your lives.”

But Pelosi brushed off Lamb’s criticism — as well as the grumblings of other Democrats over the past year — during a Capitol Hill news conference Thursday.

“I don’t think [Lamb] ran against me the entire time,” Pelosi said. “I think he ran on his positive agenda. I feel pretty confident about my ability to, first and foremost, be a master legislator for the good of the American people. I have proven that.”

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Then Pelosi insisted that “what you’ve done is not why you should go forward. Why you should go forward is what are you going to do next. And we have a very positive agenda about how to take back the Congress for the Democrats.”

That wasn’t the first time that Pelosi promoted herself as a “master legislator” amid questions about her competence. Pelosi used the same “master legislator” who understands the “motivation of people” during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” last year.

Pelosi maintained that she has “a strong following in the country,” while blasting GOP donors for pouring millions of dollars into campaign ads tying candidates to her. The House minority leader said she doesn’t think “that the Koch brothers should decide who the leader of the Democratic Party is.”

“On the one hand, Republicans are saying, ‘See? [Lamb] ran like a conservative,'” Pelosi said, noting that Republicans have no qualms about “demonizing me as the leader of the Democratic Party” when she “just wanted [Lamb] to win.”

Pelosi insisted that she retains a strong following among Democrats, saying that the anti-Pelosi rhetoric predominantly is coming from Republicans. Lamb’s decision to distance himself from Pelosi didn’t really have “that much impact on the race,” she maintained.

“He won. If he hadn’t won, you might have a question, but we won,” Pelosi said. “I don’t think your opponents should choose your party’s leaders. I think that we have an important case to make. They’re coming after me because of my city and they’re against LGBT, and they’re against poor children.”

But anti-Pelosi rhetoric hasn’t just come from Republicans and Lamb.

“If we’re going to take the majority, it’s going to be because we win districts like that,” Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) told Politico after Lamb’s apparent victory in Tuesday’s close race. “Running against Nancy Pelosi is going to help you a lot more than running with her.”

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) told Politico, “I think everyone’s watching what Conor Lamb’s doing, and I hope they’re taking notes.”

Undercurrents of opposition to Pelosi became topics of national conversation after President Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election and Republicans cemented their control over both the House and the Senate.

Approximately 30 percent of House Democrats voted to replace Pelosi with her House minority leader challenger, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), in 2016. Although Pelosi maintained her grip on the House, Ryan’s calls for new leadership struck a chord.

“But 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,” Ryan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last year. “But let’s make no mistake about it: This is not about us having a family fight publicly. We’ve got to have this discussion.”

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) addressed reports last year on CNN that he had attended a Democratic House meeting in late June to discuss how and whether they should work toward removing Pelosi in favor of a younger and fresher leader. Three times during the interview, the congressman refused to defend Pelosi.

Related: Lamb Promises to Work with Trump, Says Pelosi’s Time Is Past

“And the bottom line is this: The question that I have to my colleagues, are we putting our best foot forward? What do we need to do?” Cárdenas had said. “No one person is more important than this country … We need to move forward with our best foot forward, with the best plan, with the best individuals and having the best, honest message.

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), who also attended the June 2017 meeting, told Politico, “There are many more people today, even from November [2016], who are much more vocal, who have approached us and said, ‘I’m done. We need to move forward, and we need to get a new leadership team in place.'”

“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,” Rice continued.

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter.

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