Pelosi, Boehner agree: Midterm politics will lead to a do-nothing Congress


Nancy Pelosi (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Speaking in their back-to-back weekly media briefings, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) found a rare point of bipartisan agreement on Thursday.

With the debt ceiling in the rearview mirror, the House leaders for both parties signaled that another major legislative accomplishment -- such as immigration or tax code reform -- could be unlikely this year. The reason: with midterm elections in November, some in Washington are more interested in playing politics than tackling heavy policy initiatives in 2014.

Naturally, they disagreed on which party is to blame for that stalemate.

Both parties' House leaders accused their political rivals of prioritizing the midterms over reaching across the aisle. Those comments come as many members of Congress gear up for a competitive election season in which Republicans are expected to make a serious play for control of the Senate and could also increase their majority in the House.

"According to some of our Republican colleagues, we're almost ready to go home for the year," Pelosi said. "That 'nothing' agenda, 'never' time table, is not working for the American people."

Pelosi blasted the Republican leadership for refusing to bring to the floor bills that would overhaul the country's immigration system, extend unemployment insurance for jobless Americans, and raise the minimum wage -- all major Democratic objectives that would potentially pass if brought to the House floor by the Republican leadership for a vote. Instead, she said, all Republicans want to do is focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act, rather than passing meaningful legislation.

"After one of the least productive years in Congress' history, they've decided they want to do even less [this year]," Pelosi said. "All we want is a vote."

In recent weeks, several prominent Democrats have ramped up pressure on the Republican House leadership to bring the measures to a vote.

But Boehner -- who argues that the GOP's pathway to midterm success is by focusing on Obamacare and the economy and by providing "better solutions" -- said that it is President Obama who stands in the way of meaningful legislative action.

"Back in 2012, the president chose politics over government, he took the year off and got little done, and this year I'm starting to see the same pattern of behavior," Boehner told reporters. "We see more and more that he president has no interest in doing the big things that he got elected to do."

Boehner, who said that he and Obama had a "very healthy" conversation with regard to immigration when the two met in the Oval Office on Tuesday, said that the president has refused to lead on reducing the debt and deficit and has chosen instead not to work with Republican leaders in the House.

"The president said his focus is going to be going around Congress instead of working with it Boehner said. "So we've got two options: we can follow the president's lead and pack it in for the year and just wait for the election, or we can pursue our own vision and continue to present alternatives."

Wesley Lowery covers Capitol Hill for The Fix and Post Politics.
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