Q&A

Pelosi: I Don’t Want to Be Speaker Again

“No, that’s not my thing. I did that.”

Former Speaker, Current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
©2012 Richard A. Bloom
Ben Terris
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Ben Terris
Aug. 29, 2013, 11:09 a.m.

D.C. is a wait-and-then-hurry-up kind of town. After more than a month away, Con­gress re­turns to a full plate. Le­gis­lat­ors need to find a way — and quickly — to pass some kind of short-term budget and deal with the debt ceil­ing. That’s on top of a heated de­bate on im­mig­ra­tion (and don’t even start on the farm bill). House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi spent the sum­mer jet-set­ting around the coun­try, rais­ing money for Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates and in­cum­bents, and par­ti­cip­at­ing in con­fer­ence calls with mem­bers about what they’ve heard from their con­stitu­ents. She read­ily ad­mits that not everything is go­ing the way she would have drawn it up her­self, but she re­mains op­tim­ist­ic that Con­gress will be able to do more than the pub­lic gives it cred­it for. Ed­ited ex­cerpts of her in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al fol­low.

NJ Be hon­est: Are you kind of dread­ing head­ing back to Con­gress, just to go through the same debt-ceil­ing fights and budget battles?

PELOSI I nev­er dread go­ing back to Con­gress. There’s no great­er priv­ilege than rep­res­ent­ing the people of my dis­trict, on the floor of the Con­gress. So, no, not dread. I do wish it could be dif­fer­ent. There’s no reas­on we can’t be com­ing to some agree­ments. It just keeps hap­pen­ing over and over again.

NJ For a journ­al­ist cov­er­ing Con­gress, it’s start­ing to feel pretty re­pet­it­ive. Does it feel that way on your end?

PELOSI Oh, it’s Ground­hog Day Cent­ral. There’s no ques­tion about that. It’s not pro­duct­ive. It’s a waste of the tax­pay­ers’ dol­lar. It’s a waste of our time. And it’s time that’s not work­ing [for] the Amer­ic­an people. [The Re­pub­lic­ans’] agenda is noth­ing, and their timetable is nev­er. But hav­ing said that, hope­fully there are some among them that real­ize we have a re­spons­ib­il­ity to gov­ern.

NJ Do you think it’s a case of 20 or so Re­pub­lic­ans dom­in­at­ing the con­ver­sa­tion from the right?

PELOSI I think it’s more than 20. Here’s what I have to say to my Re­pub­lic­an friends out there: Take back your party. This isn’t the Grand Old Party that used to have such great lead­er­ship. The name “Re­pub­lic­an” in some ways has been hi­jacked by ob­struc­tion­ists. They are nowhere on the spec­trum of try­ing to get the job done, and they claim the name without bring­ing to it the great­ness, the lead­er­ship of the past.

NJ Do you feel that a dis­join­ted Re­pub­lic­an Party gives you some lever­age when it comes to their need­ing votes?

PELOSI I only have lever­age if the oth­er side is will­ing to gov­ern. If they are will­ing to gov­ern, we can find com­prom­ise. Not if they are just go­ing to hold their ideo­lo­gic­al po­s­i­tion and say, “We can be ir­re­spons­ible be­cause the Demo­crats are go­ing to be re­spons­ible.”

NJ It’s be­come something of a pas­time in D.C. for people to feel bad for Speak­er John Boehner for hav­ing an un­wieldy caucus. Do you feel for him?

PELOSI I don’t com­ment on their caucus, their lead­er­ship, or the rest of it. He’s the speak­er of the House. I re­spect the job. The po­s­i­tion that he holds is a very ex­al­ted one. I wish his mem­bers would re­spect his po­s­i­tion as much as I do. But if the pur­pose of your call is for me to get in snip­ing at the Re­pub­lic­ans on how they do their busi­ness, I will talk about how it af­fects the Amer­ic­an people.

NJ Do you want to be speak­er again?

PELOSI No, that’s not my thing. I did that.

NJ Demo­crats hoped that this Au­gust would be like 2009, where pres­sure could be put on law­makers in town halls. Did the sum­mer go ac­cord­ing to plan?

PELOSI We were very strong in those town meet­ings in 2009. We saved the Af­ford­able Care Act. If you re­call, they made a fuss, but Demo­crats saved an ini­ti­at­ive that we can now take pride in. It’s a dif­fer­ent kind of a year this year. It’s a calmer de­bate, and the heat is really more on im­mig­ra­tion.

NJ Be­fore the re­cess, the com­mon wis­dom was that im­mig­ra­tion re­form may be dead for the year. What are your thoughts?

PELOSI The House will work its will. If the speak­er wants to do it in pieces, that’s OK with us. But we’re not go­ing away. There’s a con­fid­ence about the in­ev­it­ab­il­ity of it on our side that is up against the in­con­ceiv­ab­il­ity of it to them. And we’re al­ways try­ing to shorten the time between the in­con­ceiv­ab­il­ity and the in­ev­it­able. And we think that’s hap­pen­ing. As Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln said, pub­lic sen­ti­ment is everything — and the pub­lic is speak­ing out on this one.

UP­DATE: 1:10 p.m., Fri­day, Au­gust 30

Speak­er Pelosi’s of­fice blas­ted a press re­lease this af­ter­noon con­test­ing the word­ing of NJ’s ques­tion and ask­ing for a cor­rec­tion. In fact, the re­cor­ded au­dio file sup­ports the ed­ited tran­script above. Here is the ques­tion and an­swer, from the tape:

Na­tion­al Journ­al: Do you wish for the chance for the speak­er po­s­i­tion again?

Pelosi: No, that’s not my thing. I did that.

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