Debt ceiling deal: What Nancy Pelosi is up to

at 06:30 AM ET, 08/01/2011


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol last week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Amid the it’s-all-over-but-the-shouting harmony that seized Capitol Hill in the wake of the announcement of a bipartisan deal on raising the debt ceiling, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) sounded a discordant note. Actually, two.

First, Pelosi said of the deal: “We all may not be able to support it, or none us may be able to support it.” Then, later in the evening she folowed up with this lukewarm comment: “I look forward to reviewing the legislation with my caucus to see what level of support we can provide.”

Pelosi, a savvy political operator, understands that the bill — backed by all of the other major congressional leaders and President Obama — will pass.

Her reaction then is best understood as equal parts caucus politics and message-sending to the White House.

There’s no question that liberals in the House — of which Pelosi is very much one — are not happy with the deal.

The idea of more than $1 trillion in immediate cuts with no tax or revenue increases to offset them had the progressive caucus and the black caucus up in arms.

Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, called the deal “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich” — a sentiment reflected (if not so colorfully) in a number of public comments from liberals Sunday

That’s not insignificant to Pelosi’s own politics because liberals comprise an even larger chunk of the Democratic caucus in the House than they did two years ago thanks the destruction of moderate and conservative Blue Dogs in the 2010 election.

The key to Pelosi’s success in the House — demonstrated in her ability to hold on as leader after Democrats lost the majority in 2010 — is her strength among liberals in the caucus.

Looking as though she happily and quickly signed off on a deal that will leave many House liberals deeply unhappy would badly undermine Pelosi’s appeal to her base. And she’s smart enough not to do that.

There’s also some history — dating back to before the 2010 election — between the White House and Pelosi/House Democrats that explains her comments about the compromise.

Democrats in the lower chamber have fumed, mostly privately, about what they believe is a not only a dismissive attitude toward them from the White House but also a favoritism toward the Senate.

Pelosi wants to make a point here — that the White House can cut all the deals it want but that she and the Democratic House caucus won’t immediately fall in line if it’s not in their own political or policy interests to do so.

Ultimately, Pelosi is a team player and won’t urge her Democratic colleagues to rob President Obama of the deal he desperately wants/needs heading into 2012.

But that doesn’t mean Pelosi won’t take her time — or maybe even vote against the compromise deal.

“I think she will not let it die even if in the end she votes against it,” predicted one Pelosi confidante.

Priorities USA leans on single donor: A new super PAC started by former Obama aides raised $3.2 million in the first half of 2011, with most of it coming from just one donor, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg accounted for $2 million of the total raised by Priorities USA Action. Another $1 million came from Chicago businessman Fred Eychaner and the Service Employees International Union’s PAC, who gave half a million each. Most of the other $160,000 came from 23 donors.

As a whole, Priorities USA Action and its nonprofit arm, Priorities USA, raised $5 million. The Fix reported Friday that Priorities USA and several other Democratic-aligned outside groups combined to raise $10 million in the first six months of this year.

Compared to the $20 million that a Republican-leaning group associated with the American Crossroads super PAC just spent on its summer ad blitz, and Democrats are still fighting from behind when it comes to outside groups.

Meanwhile, hedge fund manager John Paulson and hotel executive J.W. Marriott gave $1 million and $500,000, respectively, to a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney for president. It was previously reported that the group, Restore Our Future PAC, raised more than $12 million so far this year.

Fixbits:

Obama hasn’t given up on phasing out the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

Herman Cain wins a straw poll in Denver.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) won’t rule out being someone’s vice presidential running mate.

Veteran Kentucky political analyst Al Cross says GOP governor candidate David Williams shouldn’t be counted out.

Tim Pawlenty aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a veteran of multiple statewide campaigns, hasn’t really been vetted.

Must-reads:

Congress putting its faith in committee” — David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post

Big-dollar Rick Perry supporters fuel campaign committees with Perry ties” — Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News

Tea party support not a given for Perry” — Richard S. Dunham and Jeanna Smialek, Houston Chronicle

As Redistricting Plays Out, Lawmakers Face Uncertainty, or Even Extinction” — Raymond Hernandez, New York Times

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