Pelosi Gets Votes Family Style

By Politico, Politico - April 2, 2009

Like a stern but doting mother, Speaker Nancy Pelosi matches a deep devotion to her caucus with a raised-eyebrow reproach for anyone who steps out of line. That maternal authority has been on full display as Pelosi helps Budget Committee Chairman John M. Spratt Jr. usher President Barack Obama’s first budget through the House. When the House approves its budget resolution Thursday, the speaker’s top priorities will be there: health care reform, a climate change bill and increased veterans’ funding. She’s held onto them by giving ground on issues that aren’t as near and dear to her heart, such as farm subsidies and more bailout funding for the banks. All the while, she has balanced her own concerns with those of her caucus and her president on the $3.6 trillion spending blueprint. “This is a very strong reflection of the president’s budget,” Pelosi told POLITICO. “When the president sends his budget, he knows Congress will work its will, and all of this was within the levels of investment that the president wanted.” For Pelosi, life in the House varies little from life in her house back in San Francisco when she was raising five children: Lots of listening so everyone has the chance to be heard and then an ultimatum to end the bickering. “She listens, then she acts,” said California Rep. Xavier Becerra, a close ally in the elected leadership and a member of the Budget Committee. “At some point, a mother knows when to move the brood forward.” On the budget, Pelosi and her leadership team held listening sessions with Democrats of every stripe to let them blow off steam during the month leading up to the vote. The speaker also presided over a late compromise to mollify conservative complaints about the mounting deficit. The day House budget writers unveiled their blueprint, Pelosi hosted a session with Spratt and other committee Democrats in one of her ornate Capitol conference rooms. In the meeting, moderates, led by Florida Rep. Allen Boyd, were pushing for deeper reductions in nonmilitary spending to take a bigger bite out of the ever-expanding deficit, according to the notes of one attendee. Before slipping out of the room for a meeting down the hall with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Pelosi delivered a stern warning: Iron out your disagreements, come up with a bill that all Democrats can support, and I’ll push the White House on whatever you produce. Afterward, the speaker huddled with Spratt and Boyd to hash out a compromise, and all three signed off on a deal during a follow-up later that night. The deal cut $7.2 billion in discretionary spending from the president’s request. During a follow-up meeting later that night, Spratt and Boyd told the speaker they had reached a deal: Nondefense discretionary spending would be capped at 9.5 percent of the overall package. The next day, Democrats on the budget committee unanimously approved the spending blueprint, defeating each Republican amendment with near-unanimous votes and setting the stage for an easier roll call when the resolution comes to the floor Thursday.

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