House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, hoping to once again hold the job of speaker, said Tuesday that she thought Democrats could “find common ground” with President Trump if her party wins the majority in next month’s midterm elections.
Speaking at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, Pelosi (Calif.) said Democrats would “have to always try” to find opportunities to govern in tandem with Trump. Moments later she said that one of Trump’s key policy demands — construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall — amounted to a “manhood issue” she had no interest in indulging.
“It’s an interesting dynamic when you have the gavel,” she said. “It just makes all the difference in the world in the leverage you have in your conversations.”
Pelosi’s hints at compromise with a Republican president stand in stark contrast to some Democrats in her caucus who have vowed to take an aggressive, even confrontational stance against his administration. House Democratic candidates have outpaced Republican rivals in fundraising thanks to small-dollar donors angry with Trump and his policies.
Pelosi said any opportunities for Democrats to work with Trump would be limited — perhaps on a national infrastructure plan, she offered, where Democrats would push for mass transit, housing and communications spending alongside roads and bridges.
But in other areas, she said, compromise would be impossible. Asked by a Harvard student what Democratic priority she would be willing to trade for Trump’s border wall, Pelosi said, “Nothing.”
“It’s immoral, expensive, ineffective and not something people do between countries,” she said. “In any event, it happens to be like a manhood issue for the president, and I’m not interested in that.”
Barely a month after the Nov. 6 election, Congress will be faced with a deadline for funding many government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, and Trump has threatened a government shutdown if Democrats do not agree to his demand for wall funding.
Pelosi’s remarks came the same day she announced raising more than $34 million for Democrats during the most recent fundraising quarter, from July to September. That showing brings Pelosi’s total for the midterm cycle to nearly $122 million and highlights her continued role as one of the Democratic Party’s top fundraisers.
The announcement came as she continues an East Coast trip that has taken her from Philadelphia over the weekend, where she campaigned for House candidates Madeleine Dean and Mary Gay Scanlon; to New York City on Monday, where she appeared at a private event with Hillary Clinton; to Massachusetts on Tuesday and Florida later this week.
On Wednesday, Pelosi is set to campaign in Coral Gables with two Democratic women hoping to flip Republican seats to Democrats in South Florida — Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is challenging Rep. Carlos Curbelo, and former Health and Human Services secretary Donna E. Shalala, who is running for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Pelosi also is set to host an anti-gun-violence event in Coral Springs on Wednesday with survivors of the mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. On Thursday, she will continue her swing in central Florida.
Pelosi’s fundraising — conducted at 250 fundraising events in 29 cities, as well as through online and mail solicitations to small donors — represents a show of strength amid continuing Republican attacks on her leadership, as well as a smattering of Democratic grumbles.
At Harvard, Pelosi said House Democrats were better positioned than Republicans three weeks ahead of the midterms.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, the mobilization that is out there,” she said. “The next three week, we fully intend to own the ground.”
She laid out a policy agenda, should Democrats win power, that would begin with a campaign-finance-overhaul package but also include measures to lower health care and prescription drug costs, change the way the House operates and offer legal status to the young undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”
Pelosi declined to speculate on the possible size of a Democratic majority.
“Wave or tsunami? We’ll see in three weeks,” she said. “I’d rather be Democrats than Republicans today. We’re in a much better place.”
Regardless of whether the margin is one seat or 50, the majority party wins control of committee chairmanships — and with them, subpoena power to conduct broad oversight of the executive branch.
Pelosi said Democrats would “make sure we are exercising our balance of power,” but she continued to tread lightly on the subject of the pending special-counsel investigation into Trump — and his potential impeachment.
“It’s something that I think we have to handle with great care,” she said of the probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, adding that Democrats would insist on reviewing all background materials gathered during the course of the investigation once it concludes.
Mueller “may come to a different conclusion about the indictment of somebody . . . but that’s a different standard from what could happen in the Congress,” she said. “I think an impeachment, to use that word, is very divisive. That isn’t a path that I would like to go down. But getting the documents and the truth, and where they lead us, that’s what we have to do.”
Republicans continue to attack Pelosi on the campaign trail as an avatar for liberal policies, including higher taxes and a permissive approach to immigration. Many GOP candidates running in Trump-friendly districts have suggested that Democrats would be intent on impeaching the president.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, the best-funded GOP super PAC focused on House races, debuted three new spots Tuesday tying Democratic candidates to Pelosi — targeting Iowa’s Cindy Axne, Wisconsin’s Randy Bryce and New York’s Anthony Brindisi, who is seeking to unseat GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney in an upstate district.
“Trump-Tenney or Pelosi-Brindisi,” the latter ad said. “That’s the choice for Congress.”
Pelosi-backed party committees are supporting dozens of Democrats who have distanced themselves from the minority leader — and in some cases have said they will not support her in a vote for speaker.
Many of those candidates have been buoyed by a huge surge in direct donations from small-dollar donors, giving some more leeway to break from the national party. Some have run ads declaring their opposition to Pelosi.
Pelosi said she was not concerned by any internal dissent: “None of that frightens me. It’s what I anticipate. It’s what I expect and what I thrive on.”