Pelosi, Self-Described ‘Master Legislator,’ Not Worried About Attacks

‘I don’t think the Koch brothers should decide who the leader of the Democratic party is in the House,’ she says

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is not worried about GOP campaign attacks on her or candidates who say they won’t support her. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not worried about Republican campaign attacks against her stirring up enough opposition among Democratic candidates to impact her future as Democratic leader. 

“I feel pretty confident about my ability, first and foremost, to be a master legislator for the American people, that I have proven that,” the California Democrat said.

“But what you have done is not why you should go forward. Why you should go forward is what are you going to do next, and we have a very positive agenda about how we take back the Congress for the Democrats,” she added. “I have a strong following in the country, and I don’t think the Koch brothers should decide who the leader of the Democratic party is in the House.”

Pelosi was responding to questions from reporters about the likely but still uncalled victory of Democrat Conor Lamb in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th District. The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, along with the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Congressional Leadership Fund, spent millions in the race trying to tie Lamb to Pelosi. Lamb subsequently said he would not support Pelosi for Democratic leader if he were elected. 

“I just wanted him to win,” Pelosi said. “I don’t really think that that had much impact on the race.”

While Lamb did note on several occasions he was not supporting Pelosi, she doesn’t believe that was a major pillar of his campaign. 

“I don’t think that he ran against me the entire time. I think he ran on his positive agenda,” Pelosi said, citing his support for protecting Medicare, helping working families and the backing he got from unions. “It was a very issues-oriented campaign.”

The “D” next to Lamb’s name was “very significant” in blue parts of the 18th District, and Lamb mounted a successful effort to minimize the damage in deep red counties, she added. 

“This was a very big win,” she said.

Pelosi said she expects the Kochs and other Republicans to continue to spend money across the country trying to tie Democratic candidates to her, noting,“They’re coming after me because of my city and they’re against LGBT and they’re against poor children.”

“Yes, I am a liberal,” she said, but noted that “the misrepresentations, the denominations” that have put out against her are just like attacks Republicans have made against Democratic leaders for years and they won’t matter.

“I feel pretty confident that we’re going to win, we’re going to win big,” she said. “We’re going to win a lot of seats and that’s going to be good for the American people.”

If Democrats do win big enough to retake the House and Pelosi decides to run for speaker again, she will likely face a challenge.

Unlike elections for minority leader where she only needed a simple majority of the caucus to be elected, Pelosi will ultimately need 218 votes on the floor to be elected speaker. If Democrats hold a narrow majority, that vote could get complicated if several incoming freshmen win in part on promises not to support her. 

Most House Democrats on Wednesday wouldn’t delve into the leadership question but some did say they expect candidates to take the same tact as Lamb and oppose Pelosi.

Pelosi also wasn’t phased by the prospect of more Democratic candidates saying they won’t support her ultimately impacting her ability to remain as leader of the caucus.

“The fact is that one candidate in Texas came out and said he would not be for me and he came in fourth, so let’s not read too much into this,” she said, referring to Jay Hulings, who failed to advance out of the Democratic primary in Texas’s 23rd District.

Pelosi then continued to bring her argument back to the GOP: “This is part of the bankruptcy of the Republican Party. … They can’t win on the issues so they go after a person.”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. 

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.