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Woodward: Pelosi pressed mute button on Obama during stimulus talks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Obama’s fraught relationship with congressional leaders during his first term extended to Democrats as well as Republicans, according to a new book by the legendary Washington journalist Bob Woodward.

In one scene during negotiations over the 2009 economic stimulus package, Woodward reports that when Obama called then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to discuss the bill, she put the president on speakerphone so that the group of Democratic lawmakers in her office could hear him, according to a report in The Washington Post.

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But when Obama began making an “uplifting speech” over the phone, Pelosi pressed the mute button.

“They could hear Obama, but now he couldn’t hear them,” Woodward writes in “The Price of Politics,” according to the Post. “The president continued speaking, his disembodied voice filling the room, and the two leaders got back to the hard numbers.”

Pelosi was asked about the incident at a breakfast Thursday in Charlotte sponsored by Politico.

"That didn’t happen," Pelosi said, according to Current.com. "When the president of the United States is having a conversation, it’s a formal situation. Every call is history so I usually, mostly, I clear the room when I am talking to the President. I clear the room and I take notes and we have a conversation."

Woodward’s book reports new details about Obama’s failed negotiations for a deficit “grand bargain” with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

It also describes tensions between Boehner and both Obama and his chief lieutenant, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), which have been reported elsewhere in narratives about the debt-ceiling negotiations of 2011. Boehner told the author that when he pulled out of the talks with the president, Obama “was spewing coals.”

Woodward depicts a warmer relationship between Cantor and Vice President Biden, who led a working group on the debt talks even as Boehner and Obama began separate negotiations. Cantor felt “lied to,” Woodward writes, when he found out about the Obama-Boehner talks from Biden. “I get more information out of Joe Biden than I do my own speaker,” Cantor is quoted as saying.

The Washington Post will publish an adaptation of the book on Sunday.