Just got back from an hour-long interview Speaker Pelosi gave to a few journalists on healthcare. I’ve interviewed the speaker a number of times, and it always strikes me how vast the gap must be between Pelosi’s public persona as a kind of gentle earnest liberal grandmother, and her behind-the-scenes role as an incredibly effective vote wrangler. At one point she said that she’s always called Washington DC “the city of the perishable. When you got the vote, you take the vote.” And at this she pounded her fist into her hand with relish and a smile that made me think about just how much she seems to like her job.
She seemed confident about the House being able to pass a healthcare bill with a “strong” public option, the importance of which she repeatedly stressed. “That’s gonna happen,” she said flatly. She also said that for all the stories about Democrats rebelling over the Ways and Means proposed surtax on the rich, she’s gotten very little push back from members of her caucus.
And unlike Democrats in the Senate, Pelosi didn’t seem overly concerned with getting a bipartisan bill. “This is bigger than anything we’ve done in our political lives,” she said of passing healthcare reform. “It’s the most noticeable initiative that Congress can take that improves the lives of Americans.” Republicans, Pelosi said, know just how politically potent the issue is and how much successful reform would benefit Democrats. And that’s why they’re devoted to killing it. Jim DeMint’s comments that defeating healthcare would “break” Obama, “blew their cover.” Pelosi said. “They will do anything to stop it.”
All of that said, Pelosi, who urged forward momentum and no delay, wouldn’t commit to a firm time line. And she was restrained and diplomatic in responding to questions about members of the Blue Dog caucus that have sought to slow things down. While she suggested the house would pass their version of the bill before August recess, she stopped short of promising it. She clearly feels the urgency, however. “Ideas can melt in the sun,” she said, “especially in August.”
UPDATE: Ezra Klein has some more excerpts from the interview here.