Nancy Pelosi fades as power player
By JONATHAN ALLEN | 4/14/11 4:35 AM EDT Updated: 4/14/11 9:15 AM EDT
During the past election season, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could have starred in a remake of the Hollywood cult classic “Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.” In an endless string of campaign ads, Republicans caricatured her — even put her image on billboards — as a political monster.
But now, the former House speaker more closely resembles “The Incredible Shrinking Woman.”
Her diminished stature has affected the way she is perceived in Washington’s power game and the way she handles her duties as head of the House Democratic minority. It all adds up to this: At times, the once-omnipresent Pelosi seems practically invisible in the Capitol.
When President Barack Obama, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hammered out a deal last week to avert a shutdown and fund the government for the rest of the year, Pelosi was delivering a speech at Tufts University near Boston.
But her hands would have been idle if she had stayed in Washington: The White House didn’t want her involved in the talks.
In fact, Democratic and Republican sources tell POLITICO, none of the power brokers wanted her in the room. They feared that her presence and her defense of liberal values would have made it impossible for Obama to cut a deal with Boehner. The sources say Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also was excluded so the White House could justify keeping Pelosi out.
Boehner, more or less, had McConnell’s proxy in negotiating with Senate Democrats and the White House.
Pelosi’s shutout from the biggest deal so far this year is a remarkable comedown for a former speaker who drove the legislative process in the past Congress. Some Democrats also say they’re steamed at the White House for mistreating Pelosi after she delivered the president’s legislative agenda in the past Congress and took lumps for him on the campaign trail. A Pelosi aide insists that during the budget negotiations, “she made it clear to all parties that there was a willingness on the part of House Democrats to work to keep government open.”