Pelosi breaks from form and loses patience with Senate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lost her patience with the Senate this week.


The fiercely political but usually tempered Pelosi lashed out at Senate Republicans on Thursday after their unanimous objection to extending unemployment benefits caused the legislation to fail for the third time in a week.

ADVERTISEMENT
Pelosi usually manages to keep her frustration in check.

The Speaker has largely avoided public criticism of the Senate even as members of her leadership team, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.), issued broadsides.

Just before the Memorial Day recess, Pelosi refused to publicly lash out at the Senate after she was forced to scale back a package of unemployment insurance extensions, aid to states and extended COBRA health insurance benefits.

Vulnerable Democrats did not want to vote on the package, which would have increased the deficit, without an assurance the Senate would follow suit.

“It’s not a question of blame,” Pelosi said at the time, refusing to take the bait of lashing out at the Senate. She promised that the legislation would eventually be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“This is the legislative process," she added, using a line she often employs to explain why her plans don't work out.  “So I feel very comfortable about how it has proceeded and what we were able to accomplish with this bill and what that means for what comes next.”

The message Thursday as a slimmed-down package went down to defeat in the Senate over GOP objections it would add to the deficit, was quite different.

In back-to-back press conferences, Pelosi unleashed her full wrath on the Senate Republican Conference, blaming them for torpedoing unemployment benefits and leaving the middle class out to dry.

“What did middle-class families ever do to Republicans in the Senate that they would snuff out every opportunity for job creation that has been sent to them?” Pelosi chided at an afternoon press conference with Democratic women to drum up support for her remaining jobs agenda, much of it either unmovable in the Senate or the subject to stalemate in the House.

A few hours later, at her weekly press conference, Pelosi said that "Republican Senators seem to have a tin ear when it comes to the appeals of the American people for job creation.”

As many as 2 million people could see their unemployment checks run out as a result of the inaction.

Senate Republican leaders responded by saying they have no reason to apologize for refusing to support legislation that adds to the deficit.

“Both sides have offered ways to address the programs in this bill that both sides agree should be extended,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.  “And now we even agree on redirecting untimely and untargeted money from the failed stimulus bill. The only difference is that the Republican proposal reduces the deficit while the Democrat proposal adds to it.”

Pelosi hasn't shied away from being openly critical of Congressional Republicans as a whole. Last week she quickly led Democratic efforts to link Rep. Joe Barton's (R-Texas) apology to BP to what she argued was a Republican philosophy.

Thursday was also not the first time she took specific aim at Senate Republicans -- she vocalized her displeasure with the Senate minority after bipartisan healthcare discussions broke down among Senators on the Finance Committee.

But Pelosi also is not immune to having the dramatic charge sneak up on her unintentionally.  

In April of last year her claim that the CIA lied to her and Congress about their use of waterboarding perpetuated for weeks a controversy about her knowledge of the approval of enhanced interrogation techniques just as it was on the verge of dying down.