Top Democrats Schumer and Pelosi are now deal-makers with Trump
WASHINGTON » It’s been a long eight months in the wilderness for Democrats, but if any two were going to find their way back to the action it was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and his House counterpart, Nancy Pelosi.
Or “Chuck and Nancy,” as President Donald Trump now calls them.
After the Republican-led Congress’ failure to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, when Trump cracked open the door of bipartisanship, the two Hill veterans barged through fullforce. They were looking for ways to “build some trust and confidence” with Trump, Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview Friday.
The willingness to engage with a president reviled by their party worried liberals like Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., who warned against “proceeding toward normalizing him.” But it surprised no one who’s watched Schumer and Pelosi’s combined 67 years of wheeling and dealing in Congress.
“Let’s put it this way, it doesn’t matter,” Pelosi said about whether she likes Trump following two meetings that yielded a budget deal and progress on immigration. She said she doesn’t know if Trump likes her, adding, “Right now, I want him to like the Dreamers,” the nickname for young immigrants the two Democrats and Trump aim to protect.
Schumer, D-N.Y., inadvertently shared his impression of the duo’s Wednesday parley with Trump, which moved an immigration agreement forward, catching uninvited Republican leaders flat-footed. At an open Senate microphone Thursday, Schumer said: “He likes us. He likes me, anyway.” He described warning Trump he’d be “boxed” if he only works with one party, adding, “He gets that.”
Both leaders’ comments were instructive.
Pelosi, 77, who was the first female House speaker, is admired as a legislative tactician able to maximize minority Democrats’ strength and as a prodigious fundraiser. Underscoring her penchant for finding allies, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said that when as governor in 2009, he called congressional leaders to discuss President Barack Obama’s pending health care bill — and only Pelosi called back.
Recounting the White House dinner that produced progress on immigration, the only woman among 11 people around the Blue Room’s rectangular table said she was responding to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross when “the others” interrupted.
“I said, ‘Does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?’” Pelosi said Friday.
But critics say that forcefulness also means Pelosi holds power too tightly, not consulting widely enough with junior lawmakers, and is part of an aging cluster of party leaders that’s frustrating younger, ambitious members.
Schumer, 66, has been Senate Democratic leader since January and is viewed by colleagues as a people person.
In this Sept. 6 photo, President Donald Trump pauses during a meeting with, from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington. The president genially calls them “Chuck and Nancy.” Schumer and Pelosi, have used two White House meetings to become Trump’s dealmaking partners on budget and immigration. They have a combined 67-year record of being willing negotiators in Congress. But they’re also partisan Democrats perfectly happy to rumble.