The Spectrum: Colleen Marshall’s one-on-one interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Covering Washington

WASHINGTON (WCMH) — Nancy Pelosi is the only woman to serve as Speaker of the House of Representatives. She first took the speakership during George W. Bush’s presidency in 2007 and served in that position until Republicans took control of the House in 2011. Now, after a midterm election that saw Democrats regain control of the House, Pelosi is back holding the Speaker’s gavel, setting the scene for a contentious relationship with President Donald Trump.

After a few public feuds, Pelosi’s relationship with Trump was tested again last week after a bipartisan panel hammered out a compromise on a border security package that included $1.7 billion for Trump’s long-promised border wall. It was far less than the more than $5 billion he was asking for, but it was enough to win approval in the House and the Senate and then the signature of the president.

The president also pledged to declare an emergency to secure funding for the border wall.

Democrats, on the other hand, say there is no emergency at the country’s southern border and by declaring one, Trump is abusing the powers of the presidency.

Pelosi said the compromise bill gave each side some of what they wanted.

“It’s a compromise and, as I say to my members, don’t judge a bill on what isn’t in it. Respect it for what it accomplishes and this accomplishes a great deal for the American people,” she said. “Again, it is a compromise and I think it will make a really big difference.”

With a second government shutdown avoided, Congress and the White House now have the opportunity to try to get back to the business of governing.

“Well I do think we should try to find the areas where we have the most agreement,” she said. “In our ‘For the People’ agenda that we ran on, we went to issues that he says he supported.”

Pelosi cited lowering the cost of prescription drugs and rebuilding the country’s infrastructure as issues that both Trump and Democrats support.

“Let’s find our common ground. We have a responsibility to do that,” she said. “Stand our ground where we can, but again not find issues from the start that are dividing but issues that are unifying. I, that’s our founders’ guidance to us. From many, one.”

Pelosi’s return to the speakership has not been without challenges, even from within her own party. With different factions emerging and going in different directions, it seems like everyone has a different idea about where the Democratic Party should be headed.

“I feel like I am respecting the diversity of our country and it’s pretty exciting. I have long experience in the Democratic Party and anyone who thinks it’s a monolithic body doesn’t know the democratic party,” she said.  “That’s our strength, diversity and our power is unity.”

And the power of the record number of women holding seats in Congress was on full display at the State of the Union address. Women in the Democratic Party wore white and even Trump acknowledged the history-making number of women in Congress, all while Pelosi sat over his shoulder.

Pelosi said she might not have returned to Congress if Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential election, but when Trump pulled off the historic upset, she felt it was imperative to stay and work to protect the Affordable Care Act and other programs.

“But that didn’t happen, so here I am still,” she said.

For many Democratic women across the country, including Pelosi, Clinton’s loss to Trump was devastating.

“It was like getting kicked in the back by a mule constantly. It was physical. It was so unbelievable that not only would Hillary Clinton not succeed in winning, but Donald Trump would be President of the United States,” Pelosi said. “I thought that was just impossible to happen. But it did, and he is the president and we have to work with him to get results for the American people.”

But soon after Pelosi reclaimed the Speaker’s chair, the discordant relationship between the president and Democrats was on full display. In a now-famous Oval office meeting, the president challenged Pelosi’s leadership abilities and claimed ownership of any shutdown if he could not get funding for the wall he considers to be so critical.

“I really did not want to contradict him and just say what you are saying isn’t true over and over and over again,” she said. “That’s why I said, ‘Why are we doing this in public when we have to tell you that what you are saying isn’t true? It has no basis in fact, evidence, data and so let’s do this privately so we don’t have to lose face for you.’”

The meeting made headlines for days after it happened, with Pelosi and Trump sparring with each other.

“What hit home literally and figuratively for women was when he was trying to mischaracterize me and I said, ‘Mr. President, don’t characterize the strength of the leadership that I bring here representing the House Democrats,’” Pelosi said. “That was sort of the shot heard ‘round the world for lack of a better term.”

Pelosi’s colleague and central Ohio Congresswoman Joyce Beatty said Pelosi has never been content to just be the first woman Speaker. She wanted to help elevate other women in Congress.

“It’s not a goal, it’s an imperative. When I first came here, there were 22 women in Congress,” she said. “We made a decision on our side to increase that number. We have now 91 and they have just in the teens. But it’s really important for us to have women at the table, not only for what they bring but for what they inspire in other women.”

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