House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) confronted her critics — both Republicans and Democrats — on Thursday after Democratic losses in Tuesday’s House special elections brought new scrutiny to her leadership and fresh calls for her to step aside lest she drag down her party’s candidates in the 2018 midterms.
After briefly addressing the health-care bill unveiled Tuesday by Senate Republicans, Pelosi spent the bulk of her weekly news conference playing down the special-election losses, defending her leadership and lashing out at a cadre of “blatantly self-serving” internal critics inside the House Democratic Caucus.
“When it comes to personal ambition and having fun on TV, have your fun,” Pelosi said. “I love the arena. I thrive on competition, and I welcome the discussion. … But I feel very confident in the support that I have in my caucus.”
She added: “Every action has a reaction, I try to say that to them. Every attack provokes a massive reaction that is very encouraging to me from my members, from our supporters outside and across the country.”
Pelosi’s most vocal Democratic critics in recent days consist mainly of members who opposed her bid last year for an eighth two-year term as the party leader in the House.
“Nancy Pelosi was a great speaker. She is a great leader. But her time has come and gone,” Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) said Thursday on MSNBC. “I believe that she is not the leader for the future of the Democratic Party. It’s that simple.”
In the record-breaking special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, Republicans routinely featured Pelosi in TV ads and mailers attacking Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff — seeking to paint him as a liberal whose values were more in touch with Pelosi’s San Francisco district than suburban Atlanta.
Top GOP leaders frequently say that they have no better ally in electing House Republicans than Pelosi, given her wide name recognition and dismal image among conservative and moderate voters — a point echoed Thursday by none other than President Trump.
“Do I think it’s fair that the Republican playbook over the last four election cycles has been attacking Nancy Pelosi and demonizing her?” Rice said. “No. That’s not fair. Nor is it accurate. But guess what? It works. They’re winning. So we have to address that reality.”
In retort Thursday, Pelosi said, “I think I’m worth the trouble, quite frankly.”
“You want me to sing my praises, is that what you’re saying?” she said. “Well, I’m a master legislator. I am a strategic, politically astute leader. My leadership is recognized by many around the country, and that is why I’m able to attract the [financial] support that I do, which is essential to our elections, sad to say. … I have experience in winning the Congress. When people said to us in ’05 that you don’t have a chance, be prepared for a Republican permanent majority, [former Senate Democratic leader] Harry Reid and I didn’t accept that.”
Pelosi added that Republicans have long sought to target Democratic leaders in their advertising, “and usually they go after the most effective leaders.”
“I don’t think that any party should allow the opposite party to choose their leaders,” she said.