Pelosi shows prag­matic streak in bor­der ne­go­ti­a­tions

Houston Chronicle - - NEWSMAKERS - By An­drew Tay­lor

WASH­ING­TON — Repub­li­cans have vil­i­fied Nancy Pelosi for years as a San Fran­cisco lib­eral, and now they’re try­ing to por­tray her as a cap­tive of resur­gent left-wingers in her Demo­cratic Party.

But in her early moves so far as House speaker, Pelosi is dis­play­ing her prag­matic streak. She’s set to en­dorse a split-thed­if­fer­ences deal on gov­ern­ment fund­ing that ap­pears on track to give Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at least some bar­ri­ers on the bor­der, af­ter she had said Trump’s bor­der wall idea was “im­moral” and promised he wouldn’t get a penny for it.

And as the Demo­cratic Party’s pro­gres­sive wing pur­sues dreams such as “Medi­care-for-all” and a “Green New Deal,” Pelosi is keep­ing her dis­tance.

“We are re­sults-ori­ented, val­ues-based, and for the bold­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor,” Pelosi said Fri­day. “Every­body has a path to make their case, to see what the op­tions are. I’m wed­ded to the Af­ford­able Care Act be­cause I think it’s a path to health care for all Amer­i­cans.”

Pelosi pre­sides over a 235mem­ber Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity that in­cludes de­fi­antly lib­eral law­mak­ers such as Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

“There’s a new crop of Democrats that make Pelosi look moder­ate. I never thought I’d see that day,” said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. “You see this Green New Deal roll­out, you see this Medi­care-for-all roll­out, and you don’t see her buy­ing into those pro­pos­als.”

There’s no deny­ing Pelosi’s skills. She was a strong speaker when run­ning the House in 200710, keep­ing Democrats uni­fied and some­times run­ning roughshod over Repub­li­cans. But some in her cau­cus started to doubt her af­ter pu­n­ish­ing elec­tion cy­cles in 2010, 2014 and 2016.

Pelosi over­pow­ered her doubters, how­ever, in a lead­er­ship chal­lenge last fall, emerg­ing stronger than when she started. At age 78, she emerged from her shut­down vic­tory over Trump as a hero in the party and is car­ry­ing greater lever­age into the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Pelosi’s more mea­sured ap­proach is play­ing out as talks grind on over bor­der se­cu­rity money. She took a hard line dur­ing the re­cent 35-day par­tial fed­eral shut­down, re­fus­ing to en­ter into ne­go­ti­a­tions while the gov­ern­ment was shut­tered, while dis­miss­ing Trump’s dream of a bor­der wall.

“We’re not do­ing a wall. Does any­body have any doubt about that? We are not do­ing a wall. So that’s that,” Pelosi said last month.

Those re­marks led many Repub­li­cans to be­lieve that Pelosi would be­come an ob­sta­cle in the talks.

In­stead, Pelosi is in­tent on pur­su­ing a deal with Repub­li­cans on a $350 bil­lion-plus ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill that has been hung up for weeks over Trump’s bor­der wall de­mands. She still op­poses the idea of a wall but has sig­naled she’s open to ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers and other steps. She says she’s del­e­gat­ing most of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing to al­lies on the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee.

“I trust the ap­pro­pri­a­tors,” Pelosi said. Pre­dic­tions that she’d be hemmed in by her prior stance aren’t com­ing to fruition.

“No­body hems in the speaker, OK?” said Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. “The speaker is quite se­cure in her po­si­tion and is some­one who doesn’t have to worry about what any­one chat­ters about.”

Part of that is the dif­fer­ence be­tween mak­ing a po­lit­i­cal point and mak­ing a law. Must-pass leg­is­la­tion to fund the gov­ern­ment, for ex­am­ple, which re­quires Trump’s ap­proval, gets treated dif­fer­ently than do up­com­ing mes­sag­ing mea­sures on cli­mate change, taxes and health care.

While high-pro­file lib­er­als such as Oca­sio-Cortez, who won a safe seat in New York City, cap­ture the at­ten­tion of the party’s left wing, Pelosi is more fo­cused on pro­tect­ing the first­term mem­bers who took over GOP seats in ar­eas won by Trump.

“She’s try­ing to hold them back from go­ing over the cliff,” said the House’s top Repub­li­can, Cal­i­for­nia Rep. Kevin McCarthy. “The party has moved be­yond where she has philo­soph­i­cally been. So she is try­ing to rein that back.”

Mark Wil­son / Getty Im­ages

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s mea­sured ap­proach is play­ing out as she sig­nals that she’s open to ve­hi­cle bar­ri­ers on the bor­der.

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