Schumer and Pelosi now deal-mak­ers with Trump

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Alan Fram

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 full-force. 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, RS.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. He’s mem­o­rized se­na­tors’ tele­phone num­bers, per­haps be­cause of his flip phone’s lim­i­ta­tions, and is known for emo­tional vis­its and calls with law­mak­ers who’ve ex­pe­ri­enced per­sonal losses. Schumer has ar­ranged dates for staffers and said this week that his life’s big gap was lack­ing grand­chil­dren, of which Pelosi has nine.

The pro­gres­sive end of the Demo­cratic spec­trum has shown wari­ness of Schumer, and thou­sands of lib­er­als protested out­side his Brook­lyn apart­ment af­ter Trump’s Jan­uary in­au­gu­ra­tion. They de­manded he ag­gres­sively op­pose Trump’s ap­pointees and agenda and ac­cused him of be­ing too close to the fi­nan­cial in­dus­try, which is cen­tered in New York.

With Schumer’s saggy suits con­trast­ing with Pelosi’s tai­lored wardrobe, the two lead­ers have known each other since serv­ing in the House in the late 1980s. Then-Rep. Ge­orge Miller, DCalif., in­vited Pelosi to join a group of law­mak­ers who dined weekly and al­ready in­cluded Schumer. Pelosi says she and Schumer now meet or speak “as nec­es­sary,” of­ten daily.

Pelosi’s four years as speaker be­gan in 2007 and in­cluded two years un­der Obama that saw en­act­ment of his health care law, an eco­nomic stim­u­lus pack­age and over­hauled fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions. She also pro­duced leg­is­la­tion un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in­clud­ing a bank bailout, a re­vamp­ing of how Medi­care pays doc­tors and sev­eral bud­get deals.

Schumer is still new on the na­tional scene, and few GOP cam­paign ads have used him as a foil. Thanks to her high pro­file and un­abashed lib­eral views, Repub­li­cans have starred Pelosi in thou­sands of spots to vil­ify Democrats.

The Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee, the House GOP’s cam­paign arm, says that in this spring’s special Ge­or­gia elec­tion for an open House seat, Pelosi was men­tioned in 90 per­cent of the nearly 7,500 neg­a­tive ads that helped de­feat Demo­cratic can­di­date Jon Os­soff. One by the Con­gres­sional Lead­er­ship Fund, which is aligned with GOP lead­ers, flashed pic­tures of Pelosi, lib­eral film­maker Michael Moore and vi­o­lent pro­test­ers op­pos­ing Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion as the an­nouncer said, “Jon Os­soff is one of them.”

Pelosi is from Bal­ti­more Demo­cratic roy­alty, daugh­ter of the city’s con­gress­man and then mayor. She moved to her hus­band’s home­town of San Fran­cisco and plunged into lo­cal pol­i­tics, en­ter­ing Congress in 1987 and lead­ing House Democrats since 2003. She’s raked in hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars for can­di­dates over the years, ce­ment­ing loy­alty from many col­leagues.

But in a tea party-fu­eled back­lash to the health care law and other big-spend­ing mea­sures, Repub­li­cans re­cap­tured the House in the 2010 elec­tions. Shoved back into the mi­nor­ity, hand­fuls of Democrats have tried oust­ing her ever since but fallen short.

“No one can deny that she’s an ef­fec­tive leader,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice, DN.Y., one dis­si­dent. Rice said “fair or not,” Repub­li­cans have painted Pelosi with a neg­a­tive rep­u­ta­tion that’s hurt­ing Democrats’ ef­forts to win elec­tions.

The son of a Brook­lyn ex­ter­mi­na­tor, Schumer at­tended Har­vard af­ter scor­ing nearly a per­fect 1600 on col­lege en­trance ex­ams. He cred­its a sum­mer job with neigh­bor Stan­ley Ka­plan, a test prepa­ra­tion in­dus­try pioneer.

At age 23, Schumer be­came the youngest mem­ber of the New York State Assem­bly since Theodore Roo­sevelt in the 1880s. He was elected to the House in 1980 and the Se­nate in 1998, climb­ing lead­er­ship ranks and leapfrog­ging into the top post over his one-time house­mate in Wash­ing­ton, No. 2 Se­nate Demo­cratic leader Richard Durbin of Illi­nois.

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