As Biden’s big bill progresses, Pelosi’s big legacy also advances
Washington Deep in the arduous negotiations over President Joe Biden’s big domestic policy package, when it seemed that bickering among Democrats would never stop, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi let everyone in with a little secret.
She publicly confided to reporters some time ago that “that’s the fun part”.
The legislation mill, treacherous to some, sporting to others, and often unsuccessful in a slow-moving Congress, is where Pelosi resides, as she makes a relentless effort to deliver Biden’s nearly $2 trillion package Friday through the House of Representatives. , and now sent to the Senate. .
The House vote, with only one Democratic opponent, bolsters momentum for Biden’s signature legislation after months of start-and-stop negotiations and provides a down payment on the party’s campaign promise to deliver proficiency in government and its running for the benefit of Americans.
And for Pelosi, who entered the House chamber early Friday to close out the vote after a nearly all-night session, the result is a career milestone and cements her legacy not only as the nation’s first female speaker, but among the most powerful — someone working to secure massive federal investment. Biden and others have compared it to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.
“Congratulations,” Biden told her in a phone call, taking her up the floor to the golden room as the final tally approached.
Friday’s vote was never certain. The final action has in some ways crept into lawmakers after frantic weeks of negotiations, numerous false starts and high-profile setbacks that have been delayed, and threatened to derail the entire project.
First, there has been the difficult process of putting together the 2,135-page “Building Back Better Act,” with its far-reaching proposals to expand government support to help families afford health and child care and lower prescription drug prices, along with new efforts to tackle climate change.
Then, faced with a solid wall of Republican opposition, Democrats had to decide whether they could approve the bill on their own, engaging in multiple rounds of private meetings and public squabbling between centrists and progressives.
Any step along the way could sideline a leader in Congress, especially one who does not have the political fortitude to push lawmakers into line. Her immediate predecessors, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, struggled to lead the Republicans, and both retired and gave up the gavel.
Pelosi, who has represented San Francisco in Congress for more than 30 years, not only has the audacity to have such painful conversations, but has turned the dangers of the legislation into political opportunities, exposing the party’s factions. “Diversity is our strength” among her sayings.
And when she’d heard and seen enough, she straightened her spine and moved on, drawing on Pelosi’s other principle—”Unity is our strength”—to come up with a solution. In a private meeting with House leaders Monday evening, she indicated it was time to act.
Pelosi told them there was “a small amount of drama for my taste,” according to a Democratic aide familiar with the private meeting and granted anonymity to discuss the matter.
The House had already approved the $1 trillion related infrastructure package, a measure of roads, bridges and broadband favored by centrist lawmakers after poor election performances in Virginia and New Jersey that served as a wake-up call for Democrats. Now, according to Pelosi’s strategy, it is time to make good on the commitment to Biden’s broader vision favored by progressives.
“It’s been a long way to go, because the huge amount of impact we’re trying to make is massive,” Rep. Andy Kim, DNJ, said Friday.
“It’s always complicated, I mean, when you have people representing every corner of this country, there will always be complexity, but that’s the art of statecraft,” Kim said.
Pelosi has been here before. A decade ago, she led House Democrats to pass the Affordable Care Act, a year-long effort that consumed Congress at the start of Barack Obama’s first term and helped scrap the electoral party in the 2010 midterm elections.
Pelosi lost the speaker’s gavel after Republicans regained control of the House in 2011, and today’s Republicans expect a repeat in 2022 as they criticize Biden’s bill as a major government overreach.
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who would become the speaker should the Democrats lose power next year, set the tone in an all-night speech filled with criticism and complaints against Biden, Democrats and Pelosi in particular, in which he criticized and wished her leadership. the retirement.
McCarthy said that if he seemed “angry,” it was because he was. His speech, which lasted more than eight hours, set a new record, beating the one set by Pelosi just a few years earlier. But his protest did not stop the vote.
Pelosi responded with one of the most politically ruthless strategies in her arsenal—she ignored it.
Early Friday morning, Pelosi paid almost no attention to McCarthy’s standard manner and delivered a sunny speech in stark contrast to his dark temper.
“Under this dome, members of Congress have stood for centuries exactly where we stand to pass legislation with extraordinary consequences for our nation’s history and our nation’s future,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi said the Capitol venue reminds lawmakers, “We are a part of history, that our words and actions will stand up to the judgment of history and that we are part of the long and honorable legacy of our democracy.”
Democrats cheered for passing the House floor chanting “Nancy, Nancy, Nancy!” As arrogant Republicans once said, “Hello, goodbye,” some wryly waved across the aisle.
Rep. Carolyn Purdue, D-Democrat, a newcomer to Congress, said the bill’s programs for free pre-kindergarten for all 3- to 4-year-olds, along with affordable health care options, are priorities policymakers have been trying to achieve for decades.
“We are addressing needs that have been around for a very long time,” Purdue said after the vote. “People need to realize that every other developed country in the world has a lot of these benefits, and it’s time for us to get that as well.”
She added, “We’ve really accomplished something amazing.” ___
Associated Press writer Varnosh Amiri contributed to this report.
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