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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's Profile Is Rising Even With Added Pressure


Democrats provided the votes this morning to pass a major two-year budget deal that capped a high-stakes week for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. She set a record by giving an eight-hour speech on the House floor, protesting that the bill did not include an immigration deal. As NPR's Scott Detrow reports, Pelosi did that while coming under more pressure from all sides.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Nancy Pelosi found herself in an interesting position earlier this morning. She liked a lot of things in the budget deal the House was about to vote on.


NANCY PELOSI: This is a success for us to get, as I said, the opioid crisis, boosts in the NIH, pension crisis, caring for our veterans, making college more affordable and investing in child care for our working families. This was...

DETROW: And yet she had spent most of the past two days trying to get other House Democrats to vote no. The reason - Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had vowed to use government funding measures as leverage to try and force a resolution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But House Speaker Paul Ryan still wouldn't promise to hold House debate on any measure President Trump had not already OK'd.


PELOSI: Sometimes I think the speaker thinks he's speaker of the White House, not the speaker of the House of Representatives. And that - we should have the opportunity...


PELOSI: ...We should have the opportunity - we should - oh, touched a nerve there, I hear.

DETROW: So even though Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had negotiated the budget deal, Pelosi tried to tank it. House Democrats spent more than an hour behind closed doors Thursday as Pelosi made her case. As he left, California Democrat Brad Sherman explained what was happening inside.


BRAD SHERMAN: Number one, she's not in favor of the bill. Number two, she's very persuasive.

DETROW: But in the end, more than 70 House Democrats voted for the budget. That big of a split raises questions about Pelosi's clout with Democrats even though most members of her caucus still won't criticize her publicly. And it comes at a time when the longtime leader finds herself once again the focus of Republicans and not in a good way.


VAL DIGIORGIO: How many of you saw that State of the Union speech? Was that something else?


DETROW: That's Val DiGiorgio, the chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party. At a recent campaign rally in the western Pennsylvania district holding a special House election, he was one of several Republican speakers to paint Pelosi as a liberal boogeyman.


DIGIORGIO: Now, let me paint a picture for you. A year from now at the next State of the Union, Nancy Pelosi is not seated on the floor. She's up there on the podium behind the president of the United States. She's looking down.

DETROW: Pelosi is playing a leading role in most of the ads Republicans are running in the race against the Democratic candidate. That was the case during last year's special elections, too, and it will likely be the case this fall. As Pelosi spoke about DACA on the House floor for a record-setting eight hours this week, the Republican's congressional campaign arm tweeted, dear Nancy Pelosi, every minute you're in front of the cameras you make our job easier. Pelosi doesn't appear bothered by attacks from her opponents or the murmurs within her own caucus.


PELOSI: So you want me to sing my praises? Is that what you're saying? Why should I? Well, I'm a master legislator.

DETROW: That was Pelosi's self-defense in June when some Democrats raised questions about her leadership after the party's candidate lost a close, expensive contest in suburban Atlanta.


PELOSI: I am a strategic, politically astute leader. My leadership is recognized by many around the country. And that is why I am able to attract the support that I do.

DETROW: That's all being tested right now. As the leader of the minority party, Pelosi is trying to get as much as she can without much leverage. But she also has to show the Democratic base she won't compromise on key issues like immigration. Scott Detrow, NPR news.


Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.