Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Pelosi Finds Her Footing as Democrats’ Attack Dog

Tom Williams/Roll Call
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has spent recent weeks trying to re-establish herself as the Democrats’ leading messenger.

Two months on the job as Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi has been working vigorously to raise her profile and reassert herself as one of the nation’s most powerful Democrats. 

In the weeks leading up to the November elections, the California liberal — whom Republicans worked hard to make a liability for vulnerable Democratic incumbents — kept an uncharacteristically low profile: She avoided public events and focused most of her attention on fundraising. 

Pelosi continued to embrace that posture during last year’s marathon lame-duck session, when she faced a challenge for Minority Leader from moderate Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.). Pelosi prevailed, but Shuler, a Blue Dog Democrat, won the backing of nearly one-fourth of the Caucus. 

But since then, Democratic sources say Pelosi has moved aggressively to re-
establish herself as her party’s top messenger and shore up Member loyalties. 

“Obviously it’s a new job for her, and she’s got to figure out the best way to help her Caucus, and the best way to do that is to get out there in the public as much as possible and defend the position her party is taking,” said Steve Elmendorf, former chief of staff to then-Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.). “Now your job is much more about message than it is about getting things done. ... You have to make the case for why in two years they should put you back in the majority.”

It’s a role Pelosi is familiar with: She served as Minority Leader from 2003 to 2007. In recent weeks, she has accused Republicans of doing nothing to promote jobs, defended the Democrats’ health care law and championed the idea that the new Republican majority is acting at the behest of special interests. 

She has staged a series of mock hearings, held numerous press conferences and delivered a series of speeches to hammer home those themes, with an eye toward gaining back control of the House in two years, her allies say. 

At the latest unofficial, Democrat-only hearing Monday — which focused on investing in clean energy as a way to promote jobs — Pelosi blasted Republicans for backing subsidies for large oil companies at taxpayers’ expense, adding, “We must change course now.” 

Pelosi also has staged mock hearings to highlight Democrats’ commitment to infrastructure investment and to talk about the positive aspects of the health care law.  The goal of the sessions, organized by the Steering and Policy Committee, is to demonstrate how Democrats would govern if they were back in the majority and how they differ from Republicans. 

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