I just got back from an on the record meeting for blogger with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Also present were David Waldman, Igor Volsky, Greg Sargent, Jason Rosenbaum, Ryan Grim, Chris Bowers, Brian Beutler, and John Aravosis. Aside from hearing a lot about parliamentary procedure that I think is being written about too much, and learning that having a woman Speaker of the House doesn’t guarantee that any women will be at congressional blogger briefings, the main message was one of confidence: “I have faith in my members that we will be passing this legislation.”
The road ahead is far from totally clear, but insofar as there’s value to being physically present at these meetings it’s to give you a sense of which pieces of boilerplate are just boilerplate, and which are boilerplate that’s actually believed. At one point the speaker said “I think the President sincerely believes in bipartisanship” to which she quickly and unconvincingly added “as do I” which prompted me to laugh and then get chided. But chiding aside, Pelosi is clearly someone who believes in advancing the most progressive possible legislation (note the razor-sharp vote margins her major initiatives get) and doesn’t care about bipartisanship as an end and you can see that in her body language and the tone of her voice. By that standard, the expressions of confidence in the Congress’ ability to get major health reform done seemed completely sincere and, frankly, I believe her.
To me, the most interesting part of the discussion was when Pelosi waxed a bit expansively about the historic nature of the achievement if reform passes. She observed that with the exception of John Dingell who was around for the Civil Rights Act and Medicre, nobody else serving in the House has been part of anything this important. For most of us, she said, “this is the most important thing we will ever do.”