A defiant Nancy Pelosi said Friday that she doesn’t take responsibility for suffering losses in House races last week, while dismissing the notion that she would now have to compromise on her party’s agenda since she will preside over a slimmer majority in the next Congress.
“I take credit for winning a majority and holding the House,” the California Democrat said when CNN asked if she took any responsibility for losing seats.
Speaking to reporters at her weekly news conference, Pelosi was emboldened by the election of Joe Biden as President-elect, arguing that Democrats have far greater power to push through their agenda and that it’s Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will be forced to heed to their party’s demands after the new Congress takes power in January.
Asked how a smaller majority will affect her legislative approach and if she will have to compromise more frequently, she replied, “No, not at all. We have a President of the United States,” later adding, “We still have the power of the majority, but, on top of that, our leverage and our power is greatly enhanced by having a Democratic President in the White House, especially Joe Biden.”
The comments come despite the lackluster performance by Democrats down-ticket in key House races. Pelosi’s leadership team had expected to pad their majority in the House, which is split between 233 Democrats and 201 Republicans, along with one independent. But Democrats, particularly in districts that President Donald Trump carried in 2016, lost in races across the country, meaning Pelosi will likely have one the fewest seats of any Democratic majority since the end of World War II.
With 13 seats uncalled so far, Democrats are poised to hold at least 219 seats, compared to 203 for Republicans, according to CNN projections as of Friday afternoon.
The poor performance has led to an intense debate within the Democratic Party, with moderate Democrats attacking liberals over policies that led to GOP attacks over “defunding the police” and being “socialists,” while liberals bashed moderates for running shoddy campaigns. The party’s failure led to the ouster of the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who said she would not run for another term atop the powerful campaign arm.
On Friday, Pelosi continue to argue that Democrats pulled off major victories in Trump-carried districts in 2018 when the President was not on the ticket, but struggled in 2020 to overcome his supporters in races where they came out in droves last week to vote for his reelection.
“After Joe Biden was declared the winner on Saturday, I spent most of the weekend listening to those who did not win the election,” she said. “I have pages, in fact, books of notes about how they saw what happened in their districts, and how they see how we go forward.” Pelosi added: “We have to have a deep dive. We have to really have the data. So all of them gave me their view for the moment and said when we get more data, we’ll have a clearer picture.”
The speaker said it was “sad to have lost some of our members” but added: “Many of them are ready to come right on back. Some want to be in the Biden administration. All of them proud of their campaigns.”
Pelosi signaled that her immediate legislative priorities now will be attempting to pass spending legislation to keep the government open by mid-December and a new coronavirus relief bill, an agenda item that Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on with negotiations stalled despite the worsening pandemic.
Pelosi described passing additional coronavirus relief as a “red alert” issue.
She criticized congressional Republicans over their refusal to accept the results of the presidential election and Biden’s win, arguing the longer it continues, the more difficult it will be to address the coronavirus pandemic.
“The election is over. Joe Biden is the President-elect,” Pelosi said, “The longer the Republicans keep up the charade, the further out of control the Covid crisis will spiral.”