It was Nancy Pelosi, the stories claim, who stood up to both Barack Obama and his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who wanted to settle for minor changes to health care after the election of Republican Scott Brown to Ted Kennedy's former Senate seat.
During a mid-February conference call with top House Democrats, Pelosi made it clear she would accept nothing short of a big-bang health care push – dismissing the White House chief of staff as an “incrementalist.”
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The groundwork for Sunday’s vote was laid out during a three-day marathon White House negotiating session, which took place in the week before the Massachusetts special election Jan. 19. ... there was a stark reminder during those three days of the differing styles of the House and the Senate, and how that divide would define the next two months.
On the second day, Obama asked the House and Senate leaders to return after dinner with $70 billion in suggested cuts from the bill. The senators hunkered down in Sen. Max Baucus’s office, ordered pizzas and drew up a list of trims. Each senator gave up something, aides said.
Later that night, back at the White House, the House presented its approach: They would cut nothing. Obama, not persuaded, sent them to different rooms, and told them to keep working at it.
Eventually, they whittled the gap down to $20 billion, and Obama made his own suggestions.
Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, seemed pleased. “I don’t speak for the House, but you have put forward a serious set of numbers,” he said to Obama, according to a person present.
Pelosi was not so impressed. “Mr. President, I agree with Henry on two points,” she said before turning to Waxman. “The president put out a set of numbers, and you don’t speak for the House of Representatives.”
Obama was done. He left the room in frustration, telling his aides to deal with it.
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Around the time of Brown’s victory, Pelosi and her staff became alarmed by reports, in the New York Times and elsewhere, that consensus was growing for the House passing the Senate bill as-is – with no reconciliation.
Pelosi, according to several associates, went through the roof, telling Obama and Emanuel that there was no chance her members would pass the Senate bill with its excise tax and sweetheart deals.
It was Nancy Pelosi, not Barack Obama, who provided the leadership required to get the Democrats back on track for their major legislative agenda item of the Congressional term. Obama, rather than leading, followed her lead- almost completely unable to get her to bend or even give on anything.
This story reinforces what has become more and more apparent as time goes on: Barack Obama is a legislator, not a leader. He can campaign well and give good speeches at rallies, but aside from this he has shown absolutely no leadership qualities at all. The closest he has come to doing so is through his continued efforts to ensure that the crimes of the Bush Administration go forever unanswered for...
... which, considering Nancy Pelosi's past history on the subject, might also be a case of Pelosi's leadership rather than Obama's own.
And, to be honest, Nancy Pelosi is not a President I would ever, ever have voted for. In addition to being completely opposed to holding war criminals accountable (possibly because she herself is complicit in at least some of those crimes), she has a record of putting her own and her party's electoral prospects ahead of the good of the country- and even ahead of the things her party supposedly stands for, as I believe the current health insurance reform bill is a prime example.
But we've seen it since the stimulus package debate last year, when Nancy Pelosi took Obama's proposals and basically said, "Who runs Bartertown?" You can't even really say that Barack Obama has ever backed down from Nancy Pelosi... because, for the most part, he's never STOOD UP to Nancy Pelosi.
Or, for that matter, to pretty much anyone.
Well, the odds are very good that next year Pelosi will merely be Minority Leader- if that- and Obama will face instead Speaker John Boehner and a Republican majority. Maybe then we'll see some leadership out of him- although I severely doubt it.
In the meantime, Nancy Pelosi is effectively President, at least on all domestic affairs... and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is just a house.