For Pelosi, a few regrets, but some achievements, too
The speaker of the House prepared Democrats for the prospect of electoral victories at a Monitor Breakfast Tuesday.
Lauren Victoria Burke/AP
Nancy Pelosi didn't achieve all she wanted in her first term as speaker of the House - most notably, the end to a five-year war in Iraq. But she is already looking forward to the prospect of bigger Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill and a Democrat in the White House.
"I've begun ... telling my colleagues: Be prepared for what happens, because your day will be different. The expectations will be high and results must happen," she said at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters Tuesday. "You will be called upon to do so many different things than you are when you don't have a president in the White House."
But for now, the veto power of a Republican president and the vote calculus on Capitol Hill forced many compromises that the speaker says she would rather not have made.
The most recent example is a controversial intelligence surveillance bill. In a surprise move, Ms. Pelosi all but encouraged Senate Democrats to filibuster an intelligence surveillance bill that she voted for just last week.
In the end, she said, she voted for the bill - but did not call on other Democrats to do so - because "we have to collect intelligence in order to protect the American people." Unlike a Senate version of the bill, the House bill made it clear that future presidents must respect this law as the exclusive basis for intelligence-gathering.
But she noted many Americans' strong objections to retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated in the Bush administration's secret surveillance program after the 9/11 attacks.
"A filibuster against the bill would be healthy and wholesome," she said Tuesday.
If Sens. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut and Russ Feingold (D) of Wisconsin follow through on a promise to filibuster the bill, that could help vet a controversial issue for the American public.
Even with a Republican in the White House, her first term as speaker achieved some Democratic gains, she said, pointing in particular to a new GI bill that she called "the biggest increase in benefits for veterans in the history of our country."
In last week's House vote on a war-funding bill, Democrats added about $400 million for science. "It's not as much as I wanted," she said, but it signals priorities for a new Congress. "The four areas that we have to focus on domestically and have an impact on our national security are science, science, science, and science," she said.
In a new administration, Pelosi says she will urge that "pay-go" rules, which require lawmakers to find offsets for new spending or for tax cuts, become the law of the land - not just a rule of the House - so that the White House and the Senate will comply with it, as well.
"We will not be successful in our public policy if we are heaping mounds of debt onto the next generation. Pay as you go is an article of faith for us," she said.
There's no clearer window on the mind set of Pelosi than her response to a question about whether sexism a factor in Hillary Rodham Clinton's failure to win the Democratic nomination.
"Is there sexism? Probably so. Is it responsible for the defeat? I really wouldn't have ... all of the information to know that," she said.
"On the positive side, Senator Clinton has advanced the cause of women in government and her candidacy has been a positive contribution to the country and had a positive effect on the political process. I am a victim of sexism myself all the time, but I just think it goes with the territory.... I'm a full-steam-ahead person," she said.