Politics & Government

Nancy Pelosi shrugs off Mitch McConnell’s critiques

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrapped up Congress’ 2016 session as he called for a Senate Intelligence Committee review of possible Russian interference of American elections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrapped up Congress’ 2016 session as he called for a Senate Intelligence Committee review of possible Russian interference of American elections. AP

Mitch McConnell has spent much of the week very publicly lobbing blame at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tarring her an agent of the “politics of obstruction.”

He may as well have been talking into the wind.

Pelosi has simply ignored his daily blasts, and given a big chance Thursday to respond, the San Francisco Democrat saw no reason to hit back.

Instead, at her overcrowded weekly press conference it was President Donald Trump that Pelosi excoriated for what she called the “Trump shutdown.”

She promised that the House would skip its scheduled recess next week to continue its “drumbeat” of passing spending bills to re-open the government. She reiterated how she wanted the presidential State of the Union address scheduled for Jan. 29 postponed until the shutdown ends.

Pelosi and Trump have been battling for days. The fight hit a fresh crescendo Thursday when Trump abruptly cancelled the military flight Pelosi and a delegation were about to take to Afghanistan and Brussels.

While the president and Pelosi were slugging it out, the Pelosi-McConnell dispute was on low boil.

The speaker noted that legislation to reopen the government had cleared the Senate earlier, but didn’t mention that it was McConnell who has blocked the bills.

“Once again, we call upon the president to reopen government,” Pelosi said. “This senseless shutdown is inflecting great pain in every part of our country.”

President Donald Trump reiterated a threat to shut down parts of the government over his promised border wall with Mexico, and said the military could build the wall if Democrats refuse to vote in favor of the project.

McConnell took to the Senate floor three times this week to blame Pelosi for the impasse, calling her opposition to giving Trump money for his wall at the border with Mexico an “extreme, fringe position that walls have now become immoral.” He’s also accused her of putting the “politics of obstruction” before governing. He penned an editorial that accused her of posturing.

A top Pelosi said McConnell’s charges were not resonating.

“They’re not breaking through anywhere,” said deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill. McConnell’s assertions, he said “are not viewed as credible.”

Still, perhaps in a subtle nod to McConnell. Pelosi said Thursday that although she’s not “a big supporter of coal,” she had met with the United Mine Workers of America. She said they warned her that reimbursements of healthcare providers are not being processed because of the shutdown and that health care for 35,000 mine workers care could be affected.

Her office also encouraged the freshmen House legislators who Wednesday ducked into McConnell’s offices in the Capitol and a Senate office building to deliver a letter, asking the majority leader to bring the House spending bills up for a vote.

Pelosi’s office sent out the email alert to reporters on Wednesday about the protest and the group, including rising Democratic star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, was trailed by a horde of cameras.

Trump has said he won’t sign legislation without money for his promised wall at the border with Mexico. McConnell has repeatedly said he will not entertain spending bills to re-open the government unless Trump has signaled he will sign the legislation.

“We think that is important for the Democrats and for the president to sit down and negotiate a compromise, get the government funded and open again, and address something that is a huge priority for our country, and that’s the security of the border,” McConnell this week told reporters.

Pelosi’s colleagues did not hold back. Rep. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, a chief deputy whip, told reporters on Thursday that he plans to “reclassify” the shutdown as a Trump and McConnell initiative.

“It is absolutely disgusting that the majority leader of the United States Senate has now ceded his authority to the president of the United States of America to conduct business in the United States Senate,” Butterfield said. “And so going forward, I’m not speaking for the leadership now, I’m speaking for myself, we’re going to, I’m going to start calling this the Trump-McConnell shutdown.”