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Pelosi loss would have implications for DeLauro

November 16, 2018

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is bullish of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s chances of becoming the next speaker of the House — “100 percent,” she said in an interview Thursday.

But a part of her is wistful at the prospect that facing significant opposition among House Democrats, Pelosi might not make it.

And if Pelosi is not elected by Democrats as the next speaker, DeLauro, D-Conn., acknowledges she too would fall from the pinnacles of leadership as one of Pelosi’s top lieutenants.

“Yes, I would miss it,” DeLauro said of her role as co-chair of the Democratic caucus policy and steering committee. “I enjoy being at the table. I expect I will be there. But if somebody else gets the job, they’ll pick their own people.”

On the committee, DeLauro has a major hand in deciding policy recommendations for House Democrats and delegating all-important committee assignments. DeLauro, 75, just won re-election to her 15th term in Congress.

The future of Pelosi, D-Calif., as speaker is not assured, even though no Democrat has stepped forward to challenge her. How the math will work out on Jan. 3 —when House members vote for speaker — is uncertain.

Seventeen Democrats have signed a letter saying they will not support Pelosi. Two other House Democrats from Connecticut — Rep.-elect Jahana Hayes, who replaces Rep. Elizabeth Esty, and Rep. Jim Himes — have not said how they will vote on Pelosi.

The loss of those 17 Democrats would be enough to deprive Pelosi of the 218 votes she needs to become speaker. But it is unlikely that Democrats would carry out their pledge to vote against Pelosi if it meant a minority Republican would become House speaker.

DeLauro believes Pelosi, 78, has been victimized by Republican caricatures that have no substance.

Younger Democrats are searching for voices of their own, but DeLauro said that’s no reason to turn against a woman whom she considers a tested and effective leader.

“She brought it home,” DeLauro said, referring to Pelosi’s role as speaker between 2007 and 2011 in passing the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — and the stimulus package aimed at reviving the economy after the 2007-2008 Great Recession.

“She listens to everyone and she is one helluva negotiator,” said DeLauro. “You want the attributes of intellectual capacity, strategic acumen, compassion and core values. Add to that a spine of steel.”

DeLauro insists that whatever happens to Pelosi, her primary focus in the Democratic-controlled 116th Congress will be her role as chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies — “Labor H” in the language of Capitol Hill.

As chair, she would have major input into how federal money is spent on a wide swath of social services and agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food & Drug Administration, and the Departments of Labor and Education.

DeLauro sees this as her bread and butter — the fulfillment of the Democratic Party vision of helping people through government spending.

The chairmanship, she said, “is a dream come true.”

Herself a cancer survivor, DeLauro said that directing funds to the variety of health and other programs under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction is “my heart and soul.”

“You can provide opportunities to people through education, health care, their jobs — that, to me, is pretty extraordinary,” she said.

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