WASHINGTON | It has been some week for Nancy Pelosi. The televised meeting with President Donald Trump. The pact with restless Democrats to secure their votes to become House speaker. The fashion statement of her burnt orange winter coat going viral in social media memes.
It all displayed the staying power of the Democratic leader, who remains relentless in her quest to reclaim the gavel and wield it with a strength that is nothing like Washington has seen — at least since the last time she did it.
“We’ve seen some strong speakers like Pelosi and some weaker speakers,” said Matthew Green, a professor of political science at Catholic University, who has written a book about House speakers.
“What we’ve seen this week is another demonstration of how effective Pelosi is, in both her negotiation skills and in her ability to stand up publicly to a president of the opposite party,” he said. “The most dangerous place to be in Washington is between Pelosi and an undecided vote. It’s like a beeline, she goes right for that person. That’s her thing.”
Pelosi has said this time around as speaker would be different. On the campaign trail this fall she told The Associated Press she would “enjoy it” more, because last time it was all “work.” She said she wants to “show the power of the gavel.”
But even before taking back the speakership, she is utilizing its strength. Pelosi used it during Tuesday’s Oval Office meeting with Trump, refusing his $5 billion border wall money; on Republicans during their last days in the majority; and on her fellow Democrats to give her their support.
The public exhibition this week points to the return of one of the more powerful leaders in the history of the House, even if she’s now term-limited herself to serving as speaker no more than four years. It’s the beginning of a long final act of the 78-year-old mother of five and grandmother of nine, and she’s more comfortable than ever taking her seat at the table.
“Leader Pelosi really demonstrated this week why she is about to become the speaker of the House,” said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., part the newer generation of House leaders. “She had a great week.”
Not everyone on the Democratic side is happy about the turn of events, and Republicans made clear they are more than ready to accommodate Pelosi’s rise, employing the kinds of attacks they have for years used against her. They’ll be targeting newly elected Democrats who vote for Pelosi for speaker when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3, especially those who had vowed on the campaign trail to oppose her.
Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted that “So many Dem House candidates have proven themselves to be hypocrites.” She tweeted, “Voters won’t forget it.”
And some House Democrats, including members who have been waiting for Pelosi to step aside so they could rise in leadership, are grumbling over the deal she cut to impose term limits for top leaders. Democrats will vote on that proposal in the new year, and it could very well fail. Pelosi has promised to abide by the deal regardless of the vote.
“I’m not for term limits,” the No. 2 Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters. “Is anybody confused about — I am not for term limits.”