Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters MORE has her swagger back after a stellar week for the California Democrat, who is expected to make history next month by beginning a second Speakership in the House.
First, she baited President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE into taking the blame for a potential government shutdown during a dramatic, televised showdown in the Oval Office.
The image of Pelosi strutting out of the White House meeting in a red wool jacket and pair of sunglasses quickly went viral, and even prompted the coat designer to bring back the discontinued piece.
Then, the very next day, Pelosi struck a deal with a rebellious group of Democrats who were hell-bent on ousting her from leadership, winning over more than enough holdouts to deliver her the Speakership in January.
“Well, she’s been telling me some very funny jokes all week. So I think she’s gotten her sense of humor back in a big way,” Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben Raskin'You're a joke': Greene clashes with Cheney, Raskin on House floor Cheney becomes GOP's Trump foil Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE (D-Md.) told The Hill on Thursday. “Politics is a tough business. You have to cherish the wins. And I think she’s feeling good.”
The high note follows a tense few weeks for Pelosi, who had been facing the biggest threat to her leadership during her decades-long political career.
Democrats seized back the House and picked up 40 seats last month, but in the days following the midterm elections, Pelosi was dogged by questions and headlines about her math problem in securing the Speaker’s gavel.
Dozens of Democratic candidates were critical of Pelosi or called for new leadership on the campaign trail, while a small but vocal group of incumbents had been agitating for a shake-up in the entrenched leadership ranks, where the top three Democrats have held a firm grip on power for more than a decade.
The anti-Pelosi insurgency released a letter in November that was backed by 16 members who vowed not to support Pelosi in the closed-door caucus vote or on the House floor. A handful of others promised to do the same.
But Pelosi, a shrewd political operator who has been a master of her caucus, began picking off her detractors one by one. She cut deals, deployed her deep network of powerful allies to lobby on her behalf and never let her critics see her sweat. And the 78-year-old lawmaker repeatedly refused to give in to demands from the “Never Nancy” camp that she publicly name an end date for her Speakership.
With the insurgency starting to crumble and Pelosi zeroing in on the gavel, some of the rebels brought a new proposition to the Democratic leader last week: agree to a proposal to impose term limits on party leaders, and we’ll deliver you the remaining Speaker votes. Pelosi, to the surprise of some insurgents, signaled she was open to the idea.
After a week of intense negotiations, Pelosi agreed to stage a vote on the proposal and promised to abide by the term limits regardless of whether they get adopted by the full caucus.
Their compromise, to be voted on in February, would cap the tenure of the top three leaders at three terms, with the option of a fourth if the candidate can win the support of two-thirds of the caucus. The limits would apply retroactively, meaning that the longest Pelosi could stay on is Speaker would be 2022. The constraints also would apply to Pelosi’s top two deputies: Reps. Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerPowerful Democrats push back on one-year extension of child tax credit The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Democrats optimistic after Biden meetings House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt MORE (Md.) and James Clyburn (S.C.).
Some Pelosi allies say she already had enough Speaker votes locked down — and wasn’t planning to stay more than four more years anyway — but wanted to cut a deal with her critics in the interest of party unity, which will give Pelosi a boost of momentum as House Democrats head into their new majority.
“People are looking for a reason to support the person who is going to be the Speaker. The writing isn’t on the wall, it’s in the cement that Nancy is going to be the next Speaker,” Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanFox's Bill Hemmer to Democrat: 'Do you consider yourself a capitalist or a socialist?' Progressives say go big and make life hard for GOP Left doubles down on aggressive strategy MORE (D-Wis.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Hill.
“If she wants to give them something to save face, that’s something that good leaders often do.”
Even though Pelosi put out one fire, there is still another cloud handing over congressional leaders: a potential government shutdown, with current funding set to run dry next week.
But Democrats feel like they have a stronger negotiating hand after Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerSchumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race Guns Down America's leader says Biden 'has simply not done enough' on gun control The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party MORE (D-N.Y.) headed to the White House on Tuesday to negotiate with Trump over his demand for border wall money in any spending package.
During the testy meeting, Pelosi got Trump to fully accept the blame if the government shuts down, called the president’s bluff that a $5 billion border wall bill could pass the House and put down his suggestion that she is weaker because of the anti-Pelosi insurgency.
“Mr. President,” she said, “please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.”
Pelosi was clearly riding high as she returned to the Capitol, where she waltzed into a closed-door Democratic meeting and started cracking jokes — including one mocking Trump’s manhood. Several days later, her campaign began fundraising off her battle in the Oval Office.
“It’s like a manhood thing for him. As if manhood could ever be associated with him,” Pelosi told members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, according to sources inside the room.
“It was so wild,” Pelosi continued, describing the meeting to her colleagues. “It goes to show you: You get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”