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Pelosi Says Democrats Will Keep Control of the House

4 years ago
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sunday predicted the Democrats will keep their majority in the House despite some of the rough rides it has been having in the polls and Republican warnings that Democrats will suffer political damage if health care reform legislation is "jammed down the throats of a public" that opposes it.

Asked on CNN's State of the Union whether the Democrats will lose seats, as usually happens to the party in control of the White House during midterm elections, Pelosi answered instead, "Let me just say it this way, the Democrats will retain the majority in the House of Representatives...I am not yielding one grain of sand. We are fighting for every seat."

The Republicans would have a long way to go to take back the House, with Democrats outnumbering them 257 to 178. While many national polls have shown Republicans catching up to Democrats on a "generic" congressional ballot, the numbers are different when voters are asked if they will vote for their actual representative or another candidate. CQ Politics rates about three-quarters of all 435 seats as safe.

"We are ready," Pelosi said. "And in the past when there have been these swings, it has been when people have not been ready. We've won our elections. We've won our special elections. We just recently took a seat that had never been Democratic since it was created at the time of the Civil War."

Pelosi was presumably referring to the upstate New York congressional district where the Republican candidate, Dede Scozzafava, was forced from the race when conservative activists rallied around Conservative Party candidate David Hoffman. That helped Democrat Bill Owens win the seat.

Read the transcripts of NBC's Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, CNN's State of the Union and ABC's This Week

On ABC's This Week, Pelosi was asked to give herself a grade for her first year as Speaker. "I think I get an 'A' for effort. And in the House of Representatives, my mark is the mark of our members. We have passed every piece of legislation that is part of the Obama agenda, whether it's the creation of jobs, expanding access to health care, creating new green jobs for the future, regulatory reform. We have passed the full agenda."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would not make a prediction on CNN about how many seats Republicans might pick up in the Senate, except to say, "Obviously, we're optimistic. I think the elections in Virginia and New Jersey -- and particularly Massachusetts -- were encouraging." He was referring to last year's GOP pickups of governorships in New Jersey and Virginia, and this year's upset election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat once held by the late Edward Kennedy.

Turning to health care reform, Pelosi vowed, "We are going to pass a health care bill" despite the failure of Thursday's health care summit to break the partisan logjam on the issue. She said, "We don't have the substance of our bill yet. When we have the bill, we'll see what the Senate can do, and then the House will act upon that."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer added. on CBS' Face the Nation, "I would think that within the next couple of weeks we're going to have a specific proposal and start counting votes to see whether or not those proposals could pass either the House or the Senate or both and send something to the president."

But Republicans warned the Democrats would suffer widespread political damage if they tried to push the legislation through the Senate using the "reconciliation" process to present the health care proposals as a budget bill which requires only a majority vote for passage. The Democrats lost their ability to muster a veto-proof supermajority when Brown won the Massachusetts special election.

"We know the American people oppose this bill," McConnell said. "They oppose using reconciliation to pass this bill. So this is really the Democratic majority in, frankly, a kind of arrogant way, saying we're smarter than you are, Americans, we're going to give this to you whether you want it or not."

McConnell said "something of this magnitude (should not) be jammed down the throats of a public that doesn't want it through this kind of device."

But there was also a warning from a top Democrat about reconciliation. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota said, "The major package of health care reform cannot move through the reconciliation process. It will not work." Conrad said that, under the rules governing reconciliation, "anything that doesn't score for budget purposes has to be eliminated. That would eliminate all the delivery system reform, all the insurance market reform, all of those things the experts tell us are really the most important parts of this bill."

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona said on Fox News Sunday the health care legislation is now "so unpopular with the American people, I doubt seriously that there will be enough House members, House Democrats, who will risk their careers to vote for this legislation the second time around."

What the political impact of the success or failure of health care legislation will be on this year's midterm elections appears mixed.

Roughly equal numbers of Americans -- 37 percent and 36 percent respectively -- polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation said that whether a candidate supported or opposed health care reform legislation wouldn't make much difference in their voting decision. Thirty-five percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who back the legislation and 24 percent would be less likely to vote for that candidate. Twenty-six percent would be more likely to vote for a candidate who opposed the health care legislation and 35 percent would be less likely for a candidate who took that position.

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