House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House Freedom Caucus, consisting of Tea Party-backed lawmakers, is harmful to Congress as an institution, suggesting that anarchy might work better for them.
Pelosi said she is “hopeful” and “optimistic” about Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) serving as speaker of the House.
Pelosi addressed some conservatives who object to the new budget deal supported by retiring House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and welcomed by Democrats. Heritage Action referred to Boehner as a “rogue agent” for negotiating with the Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.
“Just the language ‘rogue agent’ tells you something about the lack of civility that is going on in their caucus. I mean, we all come – this beautiful president for whom your university is named, the patriarch of our country, how great he was, and when he left office he was suspicious of political parties but one of the things he cautioned about as he left office was to be aware of political parties that were at war with their own government. And I think we have come as close to that as ever with some elements in the Republican Party,” Pelosi said during a George Washington University event.
“All of us come to try and find common ground – to stand our ground when we can – that’s what we do. You try to find common ground but to come and think that you have every idea, that you have the only good idea, well, maybe anarchy or something like that maybe better for you,” she added.
Pelosi predicted that it would be easy to negotiate with Ryan as speaker.
“You always have to be hopeful and optimistic and, to Paul Ryan’s credit, he knows the issues and he knows the rules and that makes it easier to negotiate,” she said.
Pelosi attributed Boehner’s departure from Congress as the result of the Freedom Caucus giving him an ultimatum: “Unless you shut down government – because the continuing resolution contained funding for Planned Parenthood – unless you shut down government, we are taking the gavel.”
“This is historic. This is a very big deal. You cannot let 10 percent of the caucus – say 40 members or something, but they have enough to create the 218 a speaker needs to be elected – to say unless you shut down government you are no longer speaker,” Pelosi said. “This is stunning and it’s harmful to the institution because he [Boehner] did the right thing by keeping government open – he knew that meant they would vacate the chair over and over again but we had his back, of course, because for the institution you don’t want the speaker being overturned by 40 people.”
Pelosi said Democrats had Boehner’s back in budget battles for the good of the institution as a whole.
“This isn’t good for the institution, so we’ll see how they proceed from here,” she said.
Moderator Frank Sesno asked Pelosi about social media’s impact on governance.
“This band of brothers, they decided they were going to declare their independence from the biggest military force in the world, the biggest navy, the British, they would declare their independence and their declaration would be founded on all people are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights,” she replied. “The word got out because people were paying attention and they put it out there. Then they wrote the founding documents. Thank God they made them amendable so that they could be amended to have a more perfect union, but this was remarkable.”