Pelosi seeks bipartisan tone day after divisive midterms

Pelosi seeks bipartisan tone day after divisive midterms
© Stefani Reynolds
 
Pelosi, the once-and-probably-future Speaker, has pulled no punches when it comes to fighting the Republican president on issues from immigration and guns to ObamaCare and the environment. 
 
But two central tenets of the Democrats’ successfully campaign message this year mesh snugly with the vows Trump made himself on the election trail two years ago: a boost in infrastructure spending and a reduction in prescription drug prices.
 
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Both were highlighted by Pelosi in post-victory remarks on Wednesday.
 
The two sides will surely struggle to find common ground when it comes to the particulars of those broad concepts, especially heading into a 2020 presidential cycle that’s certain to launch early and accelerate quickly.
 
And the newly empowered Democrats will also face pressure from liberals in and out of Congress to stick with a progressive agenda and buck a president who’s anathema to the party base. 
 
But Pelosi used her first day post-midterms to advance the message that Democrats are ready to lay down their arms, reach across the aisle and get some things done.
 
“We will strive for bipartisanship in the belief that we have a responsibility to seek common ground where we can,” Pelosi said during a packed press briefing just outside her office in the Capitol. 
 
“Where we cannot, we must stand our ground,” she continued. “But we must try.”
 
Pelosi is not guaranteed a return to the Speakership, given the push from a group of rank-and-file detractors for new leaders to take the reins of the party.
 
But the Democrats’ victory Tuesday, and Pelosi’s heavy hand in seeing it done, have dulled the criticisms and led to a growing sense that she’ll ultimate attract the support to seize the gavel.
 
Pelosi singled out an infrastructure package as potentially low-hanging fruit.
 
Trump had campaigned aggressively on promises to pass a $1 trillion infrastructure bill as a first act of business from the White House, only to see the proposal fizzle on Capitol Hill, even with Republicans controlling both chambers.
 
Pelosi, who received a congratulatory phone call from Trump Tuesday night, said they specifically discussed the prospect of coming together on new infrastructure spending, which has historically had broad bipartisan appeal because of its benefits to districts of all stripes across the country. 
 
 
“That issue has not been a partisan issue in the Congress,” she said. “Over the years, we’ve been able to work together — regionally, across the aisle, across the Capitol and down Pennsylvania Avenue. 
 
“I hope that we can do that, because we want to create jobs from sea to shining sea.”
 
The health care debate, under Trump, has largely devolved into a partisan shouting match over the future of the Affordable Care Act, which Pelosi shepherded into law in 2010 and Republicans have fought repeatedly to repeal. 
 
But there’s been a glimmer of unity when it comes to tackling skyrocketing prescription drug costs.
 
Trump, during his presidential campaign, was a fierce critic of the pharmaceutical industry, saying the companies were “getting away with murder” and vowing to “negotiate like crazy” to lower Medicare drug costs.
 
“We’ll save more than $300 billion a year if we properly negotiate,” he said in early 2016. “We don’t do that, we don’t negotiate.” 
 
The notion of letting Medicare negotiate directly with drug companies — a power prohibited under current law — has long been a priority of Pelosi and the Democrats.
 
Their 2006 campaign agenda included the measure as a top priority, and Democrats passed it through the House in early 2007.
 
It was sunk by Republican opposition in the Senate, becoming the only proposal in the Democrats’ promised “Six for ’06” package that was never signed into law.
 
Eleven years later, Pelosi is hoping Trump will be an ally in the fight — and press critical Senate Republicans to get on board.
 
“We hope to get that done now because that has a big impact on America’s families’ budget,” she said.
 
At a press briefing at the White House moments before, Trump offered a similar message of potential bipartisan cooperation.
 
“We have a lot of things in common on infrastructure. We want to do something on health care, they want to do something on health care,” Trump said. “There are a lot of great things that we can do together and now we'll send it up.” 
 
The stab at bipartisanship faced an early challenge: Even as Pelosi was speaking Wednesday afternoon, news broke that Trump had ousted his Attorney General, Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMueller: Whitaker appointment has 'no effect' on ongoing legal challenge Cummings on 'Adam Schitt': 'Mr. President, please do not do that' Senate Dems sue to block Whitaker from serving as attorney general MORE, in a move that ignited a scathing rebuke from numerous Democrats.
 
Some accused the president of attempting to sink Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s ongoing investigation into potential collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign.
 
Pelosi quickly joined that chorus of critics.
 
“It is impossible to read Attorney General Sessions’ firing as anything other than another blatant attempt by @realDonaldTrump to undermine & end Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” she tweeted.
 
 
Pelosi vowed strong oversight of the administration — before and after the midterm results were in — citing the constitutional “responsibility” of Congress as a check on the executive branch.
 
But she’s rejected calls from some liberal members to pursue impeachment hearings into the president — a message echoed by her top lieutenants. 
 
“To get out in front of the Mueller probe, I think, would be a big mistake,” Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, told CNN just hours before Session’s removal.  
 
Pelosi has some experience to draw upon in cooperating with opposition presidents.
 
As Speaker a decade ago, she worked with former President George W. Bush to pass several major bipartisan initiatives, including a sweeping energy bill and a massive aid package to fight AIDS, primarily in Africa. 
 
With Trump in the White House, she’s eyeing similar accomplishments — at least in the earliest days of the post-victory glow.
 
“The president said, ‘I’ll wait for them to send me something.’ Well, we have some ideas, and we can send him something. But the fact is we’d like to work together so our legislation will be bipartisan,” she said.
 
“Our position will be a consensus within our own party of what we can support, but also welcoming other ideas.”