Trump snubs highlight Pelosi’s grip on Dems

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObjections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated Latest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' MORE (D-Calif.) has her troops locked down and walking in step as the Democrats face off against President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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 HigginsHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment On The Money: Sanders unveils plan to wipe .6T in student debt | How Sanders plan plays in rivalry with Warren | Treasury watchdog to probe delay of Harriet Tubman bills | Trump says Fed 'blew it' on rate decision Democrats give Trump trade chief high marks 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. PetersDuncan Hunter gets another GOP challenger Hillicon Valley: Facebook won't remove doctored Pelosi video | Trump denies knowledge of fake Pelosi videos | Controversy over new Assange charges | House Democrats seek bipartisan group on net neutrality House Democrats seek bipartisan working group on net neutrality 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 MurphyDemocratic leaders seek to have it both ways on impeachment Senate committee advances 'deepfakes' legislation House Democrats delete tweets attacking each other, pledge to unify 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 RoseAssault weapons ban picks up steam in Congress The 11 House Dems from Trump districts who support assault weapons ban Pelosi backers feel vindicated after tumultuous stretch 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 SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Appropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down 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 TlaibTlaib suggests boycotting Maher show after he calls anti-Israel boycott movement 'bullsh-t purity test' The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown Tlaib's grandmother to Trump: 'May God ruin' you 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 PerlmutterAppetite for Democratic term limits fizzling out Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers struggle to understand Facebook's Libra project | EU hits Amazon with antitrust probe | New cybersecurity concerns over census | Robocall, election security bills head to House floor | Privacy questions over FaceApp On The Money: Liberal Dems warn moderates against changes to minimum wage bill | House grapples with Facebook's Libra | Congress, White House inch closer to budget deal | Blue states sue over tax law regulations 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) John RyanThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Head of flight attendants group claims 'broad support' for 'Medicare for All' among union members 2020 Democrats release joint statement ahead of Trump's New Hampshire rally 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.”