Congressional leaders met this week with two of the most important people in Washington: the co-chairmen of the Joint Committee for Deficit Reduction. There was only one problem: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t even know the meeting was taking place.
With work on the all-important super committee finally kicking into high gear, panel co-chairmen Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in the leadership suite of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Kyl is also member of the deficit panel.
Though sources close to the principals declined to comment on the nature of the discussions between the leaders, they all confirmed that Pelosi was not present.
In addition, Pelosi and Reid held their regular weekly meeting at about 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, just moments after the session in McConnell’s office ended.
A House Democratic leadership aide said Pelosi’s office had no advance knowledge of the super committee leadership meeting, and it was not clear why she was not included.
There then was a “miscommunication” between Pelosi’s and Reid’s offices, according to sources familiar with the events surrounding the meeting in McConnell’s office. But at what level the miscommunication occurred is in dispute. After news of the session surfaced, Reid’s camp informed Pelosi’s that Reid was not present, leading Pelosi’s staff to believe the meeting was just the co-chairmen and Republican leadership. Multiple sources, however, confirmed that Reid was present at the session to discuss the deficit reduction panel, which needs to produce a final recommendation of at least $1.2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years.
Given the timeline of events, it is unclear whether Pelosi knew or asked directly about the larger meeting in her personal talk with Reid, who was the architect of the joint committee and pushed for its inclusion in the Budget Control Act.
If Pelosi is being shut out of Congressional leadership meetings, it would not be the first time. In April’s negotiations to pass a continuing resolution and avert a government shutdown, Pelosi was not in the mix with Reid, Boehner and President Barack Obama, who ended up negotiating the deal.
Pelosi was more involved, however, in this summer’s fight to raise the debt ceiling. House Democrats provided pivotal votes to avert government default, and an important leadership meeting the Sunday before the final deal was approved was held in her office suite.
But the Wednesday incident highlights the sometimes-frosty relationship between Reid and Pelosi, and the apparent leadership power play Wednesday gives a window into the division between Democrats on how to move forward, at best, and continued personal beefs, at worst.
As far as the super committee negotiations have gone, leaders have been relatively hands-off to date, with Reid even telling reporters late last month that he was “leaving the super committee alone.” But if Wednesday’s meeting is any indication, time is running out for members of the bipartisan, bicameral panel to find their own solutions without the heavy influence of leaders.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.