SPEAKER PELOSI…. There’s no shortage of heroes on health care reform , but the political world should keep one truth in mind: without Speaker Pelosi’s determination, the fight would have failed. This will likely serve as a crowning achievement for the California Democrat, but it will also make clear that Pelosi the Powerhouse ranks among the most effective House Speakers ever.
The NYT had a fascinating report yesterday, before the outcome of last night’s votes was clear, highlighting the behind-the-scenes role Pelosi played in making reform a reality — even when some were prepared to walk away.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi was at her wits’ end, and she let President Obama know it.
Scott Brown, the upstart Republican, had just won his Senate race in Massachusetts, a victory that seemed to doom Mr. Obama’s dream of overhauling the nation’s health care system. The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, once Ms. Pelosi’s right hand man on Capitol Hill, was pushing Mr. Obama to scale back his ambitions and pursue a pared-down bill.
Mr. Obama seemed open to the idea, though it was clearly not his first choice. Ms. Pelosi scoffed. “Kiddie care,” she called the scaled-down plan, derisively, in private.
By all accounts, Obama didn’t need much convincing, but it was the Speaker who refused to let the initiative die, and pressed the White House to seize the opportunity.
Her leadership was instrumental, and her commitment never wavered. Pelosi knew when to push, and when to wait.
“The main thing was Pelosi sticking with it and doing the quiet work of bringing people back to saying, ‘We’re doing this,’ ” said John Podesta, a former chief of staff to President Clinton.
Just last week, when it was far from clear if 216 votes would materialize, House Democratic leadership aides approached Pelosi with the names of 68 lawmakers — more than a fourth of her caucus — who needed some work. The idea was to divvy up the names among the party’s top leaders.
“I’ll take all 68,” Pelosi declared.
And let’s also note that while health care reform was the biggest lift, Pelosi has also passed an economic recovery package, a Wall Street reform bill, student loan reform (twice), and cap-and-trade. All, by the way, in 14 months.
They tend to name buildings after leaders with records like these.