Trump snubs highlight Pelosi’s grip on Dems

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Justices rule Manhattan prosecutor, but not Congress, can have Trump tax records Supreme Court rulings reignite Trump oversight wars in Congress Pelosi on Baltimore's Columbus statue: 'If the community doesn't want the statue, the statue shouldn't be there' MORE (D-Calif.) has her troops locked down and walking in step as the Democrats face off against President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' Trump confirms 2018 US cyberattack on Russian troll farm Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott MORE over border security.

Just weeks ago, Pelosi had faced the toughest challenge to her leadership career from disgruntled Democrats fed up with her long reign, leading to questions of how effectively Pelosi would manage her diverse and restive caucus heading into the high-stakes 2020 presidential cycle.

But 25 days into a partial government shutdown, virtually every Democrat has adopted Pelosi’s position of refusing to negotiate on Trump’s border wall before the government is reopened — a consensus that’s bolstered the Democrats’ political hand even as cracks have emerged between the White House and congressional Republicans. Many are crediting Pelosi.

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“She has demonstrated that she is a very formidable congressional counterbalance to the White House,” said Rep. Brian HigginsBrian HigginsBiden slams Trump for promoting conspiracy theory about man shoved by police Trump claims 75-year-old man shoved by Buffalo police could be part of 'set up' NY, NJ lawmakers call for more aid to help fight coronavirus MORE (D-N.Y.), an early Pelosi critic who supported her
Speaker’s bid only after winning some concessions. “It’s hard to get members to coalesce around you as a leader unless you articulate a clear and compelling narrative. She has done that, clearly.”

That dynamic was on full display Monday when a handful of moderate Democrats — including some conservative-leaning Blue Dogs seen as Trump’s closest allies across the aisle — unanimously refused an invitation to meet with the president on his border wall while the government remains shuttered. 

“Once you re-open the government, I’d be honored to come and have a serious discussion about smart, bipartisan solutions to border security,” Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump, Pence tested, in more ways than one House Democrats press Pelosi for automatic unemployment insurance and food stamp extensions Issa advances in bid to fill Hunter's vacant House seat MORE, a Southern California Democrat, wrote in a short letter to Trump refusing the invitation. “However, I am not interested in a photo op.” 

Rep. Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphyModerate House Democrats introduce bill aimed at stopping China from exploiting coronavirus pandemic Encouraging a safe business environment can help drive America's recovery The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Former Rep. Delaney says Trump is spewing venom when he should be leading; Protests roil the nation as fears of new virus outbreaks grow MORE (D), a Florida Blue Dog, also turned down Trump’s entreaty, citing “a scheduling conflict.” And at least three other Democrats also declined to attend Tuesday’s White House meeting. 

The across-the-board snub highlights the grip Pelosi, who’s led the Democrats since 2003, retains over her caucus even after the fractious post-midterm fight over her rise to the Speakership. It also suggests there’s no end in sight to a partial government shutdown that already ranks as the longest in the nation’s history.

“I’ve never been a member of Congress when the government’s open,” quipped freshman Rep. Max RoseMax RoseAlarm grows over Americans stranded in Yemen amid pandemic Moderate House Democrats introduce bill aimed at stopping China from exploiting coronavirus pandemic Republican Nicole Malliotakis wins New York primary to challenge Max Rose MORE (D-N.Y.).

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But Rose, who opposed Pelosi’s bid for Speaker this month, also praised the strategy adopted by Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump for commuting Roger Stone: 'The most corrupt president in history' A renewed emphasis on research and development funding is needed from the government Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs MORE (D-N.Y.), who have refused to negotiate over Trump’s demand for new border wall construction while roughly 25 percent of the government remains shuttered.

“I’ve demonstrated from my first day here that I’m more than willing to stand up to my leadership — more than willing,” Rose said. “But we’re doing the right thing right now.”

“Everybody is ready to talk. Everybody is ready to negotiate,” Rose continued. “We just want to open up the government first.”

Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats see victory in Trump culture war The Hill's Campaign Report: Colorado, Utah primary results bring upsets, intrigue Progressive lawmakers call for conditions on Israel aid MORE (D-Mich.), a liberal freshman who supported Pelosi for Speaker, delivered a similar message. 

“We all are unified in getting government back up and running, and then start this conversation” she said. “No one disagrees with that.”

Rose and Tlaib are hardly alone in their praise for Pelosi’s handling of the shutdown. 

Rep. Ed PerlmutterEdwin (Ed) George PerlmutterFor safety and economic recovery, Congress must prioritize cannabis banking Eight surprises in House Democrats' T coronavirus relief bill Democrats introduce bill to include cannabis businesses in coronavirus relief MORE (D-Colo.), who had initially been a leader of the effort to oust Pelosi after November’s elections, responded with one word when asked about her negotiating strategy: “Strong.”

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanDemocrats see victory in Trump culture war House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay The Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' MORE (D-Ohio), another Pelosi detractor who had challenged her leadership position in 2016, said the Speaker has done a good job keeping rank-and-file Democrats in the loop throughout the negotiations — a promise she’d made in taking the gavel and one Ryan said has helped maintain the Democrats’ united front in the shutdown fight.

“We’re holding tight, man,” Ryan said.

And Higgins credited Pelosi with lending the Democrats political capital in the fight.

“She was tough, she was clear, and I think took a principled position that the wall is immoral,” he said. “This is not what we are as a country.”

The comments arrived on day 25 of the partial shutdown, which has closed roughly a quarter of the federal government as both sides have dug in over Trump’s signature border wall. 

The president has insisted that the outstanding spending package include $5.7 billion for new wall construction; Democrats have countered with $1.3 billion for border security enhancements like new surveillance technology, more personnel and repairs to existing walls and fences — but no new barriers.

Some Democrats said that while Pelosi’s handling of the standoff is commendable, the nature of the debate has given her an easy hand to play.

“People are unified in understanding that the president should not be harming everyday people because he has a tantrum over wall funding. I mean, that’s easy for everyone in the Democratic Caucus to see,” said Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), another initial Pelosi critic who, like Higgins, Perlmutter and Ryan, supported Pelosi in the end. “She’s our point person on that, so clearly, she’s sort of seen as the rallying person. But I think the issue is just so easy for members of the caucus that you’re not going to have people cracking or splitting off, like you’re seeing on the Republican [side].”

But others said it’s Pelosi’s negotiating skills — and her refusal to back down in the fight — that’s given the Democrats the edge in the public relations debate over who bears the blame of the historic shutdown.

“I am heartened by what I’ve seen in terms of her ability to get in there and fight,” said Higgins.

“There’s been a pretty good flow of information to the members,” added Ryan. “We’re pretty united.”