The fact that the pale-yellow walls remain bare suggests that Pelosi has no intention of getting settled in her new offices. What drives her these days is the realization that, with the party’s upset victory in last month’s special election in a heavily Republican Upstate New York district, Democrats need just two dozen seats to take back their majority.
“I feel comfortable about our ability to win it back,” Pelosi said in an interview, as she approached the six-month mark of being in the minority again. “I have a sense of responsibility to win it back, a plan to do so, and a confidence that it is very much possible to do so.”
And yet the challenges and frustrations are evident. Pelosi can no longer get things done in the House — or stop them. She and her diminished caucus have been rendered all but irrelevant as President Obama and congressional Republicans accelerate the fight over spending, taxes and debt.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a close confidant of Pelosi’s, acknowledged the tensions between the White House and House Democrats. “Not great. Not great,” Miller said. “Listen, this is a rough-and-tumble world, but I think their relationship with the caucus has not been good.”
But while Pelosi has been largely absent from the ongoing negotiations over lifting the debt ceiling, she may yet have a role to play, as it becomes clearer how difficult it will be to bring around enough Republican votes to pass it.
On Friday night, Pelosi found herself onstage in Lexington, Ky., between Boehner and former congressman J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the man she had unseated as speaker. They were there to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Henry Clay’s speakership.
As the three speakers discussed the legacy of the man who went down in history as the “Great Compromiser,” Pelosi noted that few issues are more difficult than asking members to go on record in favor of deeper indebtedness.
“The speaker has all of my sympathy,” she told Boehner, not very convincingly.
“Can we get any of your votes?” he shot back.
On Sunday, Pelosi indicated in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Republicans shouldn’t count on support from her caucus for the legislation — which must pass by early August to avoid a default on the nation’s debt — unless they are willing to consider boosting taxes as well as cutting spending.
“We’ve all said we would vote for the full faith and credit of the United States to be honored by voting for this increase in the debt ceiling,” the Democratic leader said. “If they don’t want to do taxes, maybe they don’t want to do anything.”