WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her party at a caucus meeting that the midterm elections have to be won day by day over the next 10 months despite this week’s loss of two House Democrats.
But despite the fact that she’ll hardly miss a departing Blue Dog Democrat who has voted against the president’s key agenda items, she maintained that the right would send moderates into her party’s “bipartisan” arms come November.
“We have to use every day, every week; one good day, one good week, one good month, one good quarter on top of another, to take us to a place where the issues we care about prevail in the election,” Pelosi told reporters today, stressing that they’re focusing on the three “R”s: “the recruiting of candidates, the raising of the resources, and of course, the raising of the issues that are part of the debate.”
“So we feel pretty confident about it and that confidence some, as I say, the caliber of the candidates that we have and the support that we have at the grass-roots level that has enabled us to attract, as I say, candidate, resources, volunteers and the rest,” she added.
Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog coalition and an attorney by trade who has served in Congress since 1997, said it’s time to open “a new chapter” and retire at the end of this term.
“I am grateful to all of the Democrats, Republicans, and Independents with whom we have successfully worked through nine elections over 18 years,” McIntyre said in a nod to the bipartisanship that has often found him at odds with liberals in his party. “…My prayer is that those in public service will always put the people they represent first and that God’s blessings will continue to be upon the great citizens of the Seventh Congressional District who live, work, worship, play, serve, and retire in eastern North Carolina.”
President Obama said little of McIntyre’s politics — the congressman voted against Obamacare and for its repeal, and against the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” — yet instead gave a shout to the McIntyre’s history as “an active participant in the annual National Prayer Breakfast – a reflection of his deep faith.” Pelosi lauded McIntyre for bringing Scottish culture to the Hill.
McIntyre’s seat may be harder to hold on to, but the other loss in the House for Dems this week is a member more near and dear to leaders’ agenda: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.). The avid gun-control proponent came to Congress campaigning on that very issue in 1997 after her husband was killed in a 1993 mass shooting.
The 70-year-old congresswoman, who has been receiving treatment for lung cancer, has spearheaded several pieces of gun-control legislation this Congress to close the “gun show loophole,” stop online ammunition sales, ban assault weapons and “prohibit the transfer or possession of large-capacity ammunition feeding devices” — more than 10 rounds, as defined in her bill.
Obama praised McCarthy as having earned “a reputation for principled and compassionate leadership” through her gun-control work and role in passing Dodd-Frank. “Like many across the nation, Michelle and I admire Carolyn’s determination and personal strength,” he added. Pelosi said McCarthy was “like a sister” and “a real champion for what purpose she came to Congress, which was safety, protect and defend.”
After today’s caucus meeting, Pelosi called it “disappointing that the House Republicans are continuing their obsession with the Affordable Care Act in this new year” yet was open to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) moving immigration reform in a piecemeal fashion as long as the goals of comprehensive immigration reform were eventually agreed to in conference. “And that’s why we have the three Bs — the Bible, the religious community; the badges, the law enforcement community; and B, the business community — supporting an effort for comprehensive immigration reform.”
But she wasn’t shy about the ultimate reform she seeks this year: taking back the Speaker’s gavel from Boehner.
Pelosi was asked if the political climate “stacked against moderates” could work against Democrats and put taking back the House out of reach.
“I certainly hope not, in terms of moderates on both sides of the aisle. We feel very confident. We think 2014’s going to be a great year, for these reasons. One is that the issues that I mentioned, whether it’s immigration, raising the minimum wage, background checks, all the rest of that are the priorities the American people want to see us act upon and so that’s what our debate will be about,” she replied.
Pelosi noted that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in an off year, raised $15 million more than two years before, “and that’s quite remarkable.”
“More important than that are the candidates we have been able to recruit, who are first-rate and ready for the fight and understand that change has to happen in Washington D.C. and they’re prepared to come here to represent their district, the American people, in a nonpartisan, bipartisan way to get the job done, similar to what it was when many of us came to Congress in the first place,” she continued.
“And, you know, it’s 10 months. As I said to the members yesterday — on Tuesday, 10 months from today is the election, but tomorrow, meaning Wednesday morning, we’ll know what the results are.”
Pelosi then mocked the preparatory training the GOP is conducting to avoid messaging blunders — and potentially lost seats, like when Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments sent his campaign into a nosedive.
“I see that they are taking lessons on how to, you know, speak to women and all that, and now, on how to talk about the unemployment insurance benefit. So while they’re teaching themselves how to talk to women, they have a subcommittee today that is passing out legislation that seriously undermines any respect for women. And, you know, it’s a funny thing, because they are true to their nature,” she said, referring to a House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice hearing weighing a bill to prohibit the District of Columbia from spending money on abortion services for residents.
“Bless their hearts; they act upon their beliefs,” Pelosi continued. “And you can’t really teach them how to understand something. When you have a committee that is 100 percent male, passing out a legislation, denying a woman member of Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the ability to testify on that legislation and how it impacts the District of Columbia, you think, these lessons are not taking. They’re not having the desired effect.”
“And then, they’re going to teach people how to talk about unemployment insurance and what they are doing is holding unemployment insurance hostage for the ransom of tax breaks for the wealthy and the rest. How do you talk about that to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, played by the rules, are seriously looking for work? They have a problem and that differentiation is one we’ll be sure to make clear in the election.”