House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday there is nothing she would trade for President Donald Trump’s border wall, setting a hard negotiating stance in advance of an expected December showdown over the issue.
“It happens to be like a manhood issue for the president, building a wall, and I’m not interested in that,” the California Democrat said during a discussion at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.
Pelosi emphasized Democrats do support border security but they would prefer to look at strengthening existing security measures as part of a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.
“We can’t allow him to say we’re not interested in protecting the border,” Pelosi said of Trump’s frequent attack on Democrats for their refusal to support the wall. “That isn’t the only way to protect the border. In fact, it’s probably the worst way to protect the border.”
Trump is itching for a fight over border wall funding, and GOP leaders who convinced him to defer that battle until after the midterm election have said they’re prepared to push for the wall in December appropriations negotiations.
Seven of the 12 annual appropriations bills, including the Department of Homeland Security spending bill where any wall funding would be appropriated, are operating a continuing resolution that expires Dec. 7. The other five bills were signed into law before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year.
Pelosi’s stance on the wall likely won’t matter much in the House, where Republicans during the lame duck session should have enough votes on their side to pass the $5 billion Trump requested for the wall for fiscal 2019.
Senate Democrats will be the real obstacle to Trump securing wall funding during the lame duck, but Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer has not ruled out negotiating over it.
If the appropriations negotiations get deferred into the next Congress, then Pelosi could have more leverage if Democrats win the House majority in November.
“I think if the election were today we would win the majority … wave or tsunami, we’ll see in three weeks,” Pelosi said.
Asked about working with Trump if Democrats are in the majority and whether she could believe anything he tells her, Pelosi paused before answering.
“It’s an interesting dynamic when you have the gavel,” she said. “It just makes all the difference in the world in the leverage you have in your conversation.”
‘What I thrive on′
Pelosi also continued to project confidence about being elected speaker if Democrats win the majority but said that’s the furthest issue from her mind at the moment.
Pelosi said she’s expecting to be challenged for her leadership position as she has in the past and is ready for it.
“None of that frightens me,” she said. “It’s what I anticipate, what I expect and what I thrive on.”
Most of Pelosi’s comments during the Harvard politics discussion were ones that have become familiar tunes of late.
She talked about Democrats’ top priorities for next year if they’re in the majority, like lowering health care costs, increasing paychecks and improving on the nation’s green infrastructure.
The specifics of the agenda will be built out by the consensus of the Democratic members, she said, but noted there already seems to be agreement among incumbents and candidates about what the first bill should be.
“One thing I’m hearing from all of them, which is music to my ears, is that they really do want campaign finance reform to be HR 1, the first resolution of the new Congress,” she said.
Other legislative issues she said Democrats plan to act quickly on are gun control and protecting so-called Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Regarding the House’s oversight responsibilities, Pelosi reiterated her view that impeachment is divisive.
“That isn’t a path I want to go down,” she said.
But Pelosi made clear that Democrats will take seriously their responsibility to hold Trump and his administration accountable.
“I’ve asked my committee chairs to be prepared, but not everything is on par with everything else,” she said, calling for a thoughtful approach to oversight — “not scattershot.”