The House Thursday night passed a $1 trillion spending bill that averts a shutdown and funds the vast majority of the government for the next year. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) was on the losing side of the ledger. But she made her point.
That point? That she's tired of being forced to carry the water for the White House and Senate Democrats who, she believes, are in the habit of cutting deals without including her. "I'm giving you the leverage to do whatever you have to do," Pelosi reportedly told her colleagues at the conclusion of a three-hour long meeting Thursday night. "We have enough votes to show them never to do this again."
The "they" is somewhat vague in Pelosi's formulation -- John Boehner? Obama? Harry Reid? All of them? -- but her decision to take to the House floor earlier in the day, after the White House had said Obama would sign the bill if passed, makes clear who she was aiming at.
“I’m enormously disappointed that the White House feels that the only way they can get a bill is to go along with this," Pelosi said. "That would be the only reason I think they would say they would sign such a bill."
Shorter Pelosi: Stop taking me -- and liberal Democrats -- for granted.
Pelosi's power play not only forced a delay of the vote, which was originally planned for early Thursday afternoon, but also made the White House send chief of staff Denis McDonough to Capitol Hill this evening to cajole/plead with House Democrats to vote for the legislation. Even as the vote was called shortly after 9 pm eastern, the outcome was very much in doubt -- an uncertainty attributable to Pelosi's decision to publicly break with the White House.
Remember that the power within the base of the Democratic party is deeply grounded in an anti-Wall Street populism. That sentiment was stoked by the inclusion of a measure in the broader spending bill that relaxed some regulations on derivative trading for corporations. That revelation -- coupled with another provision that would greatly expand the amount of money individuals could give to national parties -- turned the legislation into a litmus test for liberals.
So, yes, Pelosi -- and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who spoke out forcefully against it too -- lost the battle on the spending bill. But, they may have won the wider war -- or at least scored a tactical victory that puts her and the party's liberal wing in a stronger position come the 114th Congress.
What Pelosi's revolt made clear is that while there will be more Republicans in the House and Senate come January, nothing can get done (or at least nothing can get done easily) without some portion of liberal Democrats on board. This was a warning to the White House and Senate Democrats not to cut Pelosi out or take her (or her liberal Democratic allies) for granted going forward.