House Speaker

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Front Page - FRANK E. LOCKWOOD

Nancy Pelosi leaves the House on Tues­day af­ter passage of a res­o­lu­tion on court en­force­ment of sub­poe­nas. At a fo­rum ear­lier on fis­cal pol­icy, Pelosi, ques­tioned about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s crit­i­cism of her, re­sponded that she was “done with him.”

WASH­ING­TON — With the national debt at $22 tril­lion and climb­ing, au­di­ence mem­bers at the Peter G. Peter­son Foundation’s 2019 Fis­cal Sum­mit on Tues­day were ea­ger to hear how the nation’s lead­ers plan to ad­dress the coun­try’s bud­getary chal­lenges.

But much of the time, they heard in­stead about par­ti­san di­vi­sions, grid­lock and the lack of po­lit­i­cal will to make tough choices.

In­ter­viewed on stage by CNN’s Manu Raju, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sug­gested the fo­cus of the con­ver­sa­tion should be on fix­ing the nation’s fis­cal ills.

In­stead, she faced mul­ti­ple ques­tions about po­ten­tial im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings, un­kind pres­i­den­tial tweets and the like.

Raju quoted some of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s most re­cent dis­parag­ing re­marks about Pelosi.

Dur­ing a D-Day in­ter­view on Fox News with the Nor­mandy Amer­i­can Ceme­tery as the back­drop, Trump had la­beled Pelosi “a dis­grace,” among other things.

“He called you a nasty, vin­dic­tive hor­ri­ble per­son. … He later went on to tweet that you’re a dis­grace to your­self and your fam­ily,” Raju told Pelosi. “How do you re­act to the pres­i­dent of the United States calling you, the speaker of the House, [and] in­sult­ing you like that?”

“Well, what both­ers me more is that we’re talk­ing about that in­stead of how to re­duce the national debt,” the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat replied, draw­ing ap­plause from the au­di­ence.

When Raju pur­sued the line of ques­tion­ing, ask­ing, “But how do you work with [Trump],” Pelosi cut him off mid-sen­tence. “I’m done with him. I don’t even want to talk about him,” she said.

When the ques­tion­ing con­tin­ued along sim­i­lar lines, Pelosi said: “I don’t care what you ask any­more. I’m not go­ing to talk about him any­more,” draw­ing laugh­ter from some in the au­di­ence.

“I thought we were talk­ing about re­duc­ing the national debt,” she said.

“We’ll get there,” Raju replied, be­fore shift­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, yet again, to Trump.

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, Pelosi ac­cused Trump of be­ing the nation’s “di­verter-of-at­ten­tion-in-chief,” sug­gest­ing he is shift­ing at­ten­tion away from the ma­jor prob­lems fac­ing the coun­try.

The bar­rage of pres­i­den­tial crit­i­cism isn’t ham­per­ing her, Pelosi said.

“My stock goes up every time he at­tacks me,” she said.

Pelosi de­clined to say whether she’d told her Demo­cratic col­leagues that she’d rather see Trump in prison than im­peached.

“When we have con­ver­sa­tions in our cau­cus, they stay in our cau­cus. Do people think there’s some im­peach­able of­fenses the pres­i­dent com­mit­ted? Yes. How se­ri­ous are they? Are they crim­i­nal? Many people think they are,” she added.

Pelosi sug­gested Democrats are keep­ing their op­tions open, say­ing that im­peach­ment is “not off the ta­ble.” The report by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller “clearly spells out at least 10 or 11 in­stances of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice,” she added.

Shortly af­ter Pelosi’s de­par­ture, Trump fired back at the Capi­tol’s top-rank­ing Demo­crat.

“Nancy is a mess. The Demo­cratic Party is a mess. They’re doing ev­ery­thing they can to win the elec­tion in 2020. They are guilty of many crimes. Many, many crimes. What they’ve done; they’re guilty of many, many crimes. And hope­fully in a short pe­riod of time, that’ll be seen,” he said. “All they do is waste time on these in­ves­ti­ga­tions where there’s no ob­struc­tion, no col­lu­sion. No noth­ing. And in the mean­time, they can’t get a border deal done. They can’t do any­thing. … We need them to work on illegal im­mi­gra­tion, on lower drug prices, on in­fra­struc­ture and they’re not doing any­thing done. They’ve come to a halt.”

Speak­ing with re­porters be­fore trav­el­ing to Iowa, the pres­i­dent sug­gested Pelosi bears the blame for the lat­est ill will.

“Pelosi at­tacked me. She was here. She made a hor­ri­ble state­ment that I’m sure she wished she didn’t make … while I was with the Queen of Eng­land, while I was with the pres­i­dent of France, and you’re not sup­posed to do that, OK. But the ones that com­mit­ted the crimes are the Democrats. And others,” he said.

Tues­day’s event, ti­tled “Build­ing Amer­ica’s Fu­ture,” was the 10th an­nual gath­er­ing. The Peter G. Peter­son Foundation, which high­lights the “ur­gency of key fis­cal chal­lenges threat­en­ing Amer­ica’s fu­ture,” is named af­ter its founder, a for­mer Lehman Brothers pres­i­dent and CEO who also served as com­merce sec­re­tary un­der Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon.

The deficit hawk, who had urged fis­cal dis­ci­pline for years, died in March 2018 at age 91.

When the national debt fi­nally came up in Tues­day’s con­ver­sa­tion, Pelosi blamed the 2017 Repub­li­can tax break for the ac­cel­er­a­tion in deficit spend­ing, say­ing it would add $2 tril­lion to the national debt over the next decade.

The mea­sure was passed “in the dark of night. Speed of light. No hear­ings,” she said. “Now they’re say­ing, ‘Help us fix this. Help us fix that.’”

Pelosi praised the late for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s lead­er­ship on fis­cal mat­ters, por­tray­ing his vi­o­la­tion of his “no new taxes” pledge as a dis­play of states­man­ship.

Democrats, she said, are will­ing to work with Repub­li­cans “to re­duce the debt as we create good-pay­ing jobs.”

Later in the day, act­ing White House Chief of Staff Mick Mul­vaney said Trump re­mains will­ing to work with Democrats on sev­eral key is­sues, in­clud­ing im­mi­gra­tion, bud­getary mat­ters and rais­ing the national debt ceil­ing.

But he ex­pressed doubts that fis­cal aus­ter­ity is im­mi­nent.

“There is no cen­ter of grav­ity to re­duce spend­ing in this town. Pe­riod. End of story,” he said at the con­fer­ence.

But sharp cuts aren’t the only way to lower the deficit.

It can also be ac­com­plished, when the econ­omy is boom­ing, by rein­ing in the growth of gov­ern­ment spend­ing, he said.

“That’s what we’re shoot­ing for,” he added.

“We didn’t do a very good job on that in the first cou­ple of years, but again, when you don’t have active part­ners on the Hill, it’s very dif­fi­cult for the ad­min­is­tra­tion to do this by itself,” he said. Repub­li­cans were in control of both houses of Congress in the first two years of Trump’s term, then Democrats took control of the House this year.

The New York Times/TOM BRENNER

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