Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Nancy Pelosi takes swipe at President Obama's campaign promises
Nancy Pelosi has represented California's Eighth District in the House of Representatives since 1987. The Eighth District includes most of the City of San Francisco including Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf and Chinatown. In 2002, Namcy Pelosi was elected Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives. She was the first woman in American history to lead a major political party in the US. On January 4, 2007, Pelosi was elected Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, piqued with White House pressure to accept the Senate health reform bill, threw a rare rhetorical elbow at President Barack Obama Tuesday, questioning his commitment to his 2008 campaign promises.
A leadership aide said it was no accident.
Pelosi emerged from a meeting with her leadership team and committee chairs in the Capitol to face an aggressive throng of reporters who immediately hit her with C-SPAN’s request that she permit closed-door final talks on the bill to be televised.
A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras.
“There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,” quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.
People familiar with Pelosi's thinking wasted little time in explaining precisely what she meant by a “number of things” – saying it reflected weeks of simmering tension on health care between two Democratic power players who have functioned largely in lock-step during Obama’s first year in office.
Senior House Democratic leadership aides say Pelosi was pointedly referring to Obama’s ’08 pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class, which she interprets to include a tax on so-called “Cadillac” health care plans that offer lavish benefit packages to many union members.
The House aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Pelosi has been miffed with Obama’s tilt toward the Senate plan and his expectation the House will simply go along with the Senate bill out of political necessity.
“She’s setting up for the conference,” said a leadership staffer. “It’s strategic. She’s staking out her territory.”
It wasn't the first time she's done so.
Pelosi has repeatedly expressed her frustrations about the inclusion of the Cadillac tax in the Senate bill and has sparred with Obama about the issue during face-to-face meetings. Her hope now, House aides say, is to get the administration to accept a tax that starts on family plans worth $28,000 — $7,000 more than threshold favored by Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
The White House has shown a clear preference for the Senate product in the months-long, bifurcated health care debate. And Reid holds the two best trump cards in the form of Sens. Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman, two wavering moderates who have already threatened to vote against a final compromise if it deviates significantly from legislation the Senate passed late last year.
That means the speaker needs to play her cards wisely – even if it means directing some well-timed fire at the president.
All year, liberal Democrats have been clamoring for Obama to get more involved in the health care negotiations, hoping he would weigh in to push their top priority - the public option. The president is now promising to take a much more active role in these final negotiations - his staff will convene a meeting with House and Senate aides as early as Wednesday to start laying the groundwork for the talks. But that might not be a good thing for the speaker or her liberal colleagues because of the White House preference for the Senate bill.
During a White House meeting Tuesday, Obama told the speaker and other congressional leaders that he would like to see them approve a final bill by his State of the Union address, set for late January or early February. Earlier in the day, House Democrats weren't convinced they could meet that deadline - and seemed ambivalent about whether they even wanted to try.