Politico Says Pelosi Has Trump Over a Barrel, Are They Right?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., right, bump elbows as they attend a lunch with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


The Senate is currently voting on amendments to the House bill dealing with Wuhan coronavirus. It’s a large relief package that includes things like industry bailouts and family leave requirements for certain businesses. But despite the bill being fairly liberal in terms of things like entitlements and spending, some on the left still aren’t happy.

Enter Politico, who published a piece by a senior staff writer this morning proclaiming that Nancy Pelosi has President Trump over a barrel.

There’s an easy way to tell that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiated a bad deal on the bipartisan coronavirus response bill that Congress is expected to pass this week. It’s not the liberal complaints that she let the White House limit paid sick leave to about one-fifth of U.S. workers. It’s not the Republican complaints that the bill doesn’t provide tax relief and cash for businesses and individuals hurt by the pandemic. It’s not even the general consensus that this initial legislation will need to be followed up by a much more aggressive economic stimulus bill.

No, the easy way to tell Pelosi negotiated a bad deal for Democrats is that she negotiated a deal at all—rather than dictating the terms and telling President Donald Trump to take them or leave them.


Is that what happened? Because I’m pretty sure Republicans and the White House abandoned their call for a payroll tax holiday over the objections of Pelosi and her caucus. Further, the bill includes giveaways that would never normally pass GOP muster. The article attempts to make the case that Pelosi isn’t acting sufficiently partisan enough, which is a heck of a claim to make in 2020. The author seemingly wants her to put the country at risk to try to secure permanent paid sick leave, among other things, something many businesses simply can’t afford long term (or even short term).

He continues by suggesting that Pelosi should have dared Republicans to vote against a bloated, left-wing bill instead of compromising with the White House.

That was not the choice Democrats faced. Unlike the Republicans in 2009, who only had a filibuster-proof minority in the Senate, they also have a majority in the House, where they could have attached anything they wanted to the must-pass coronavirus testing and dared Republicans to say no.

If the president was unwilling to approve measures to help contain a pandemic and limit the economic fallout because he didn’t want sick workers to be guaranteed paid leave, he could have explained that to the public. He’s the president, the head of state, the “I alone can fix it” guy. He’s the one who will be judged by the outcome of the crisis that he initially insisted was not a crisis, then declared was under control thanks to his leadership.


The real question about this article isn’t whether it’s a typical liberal diatribe. Of course it is. Rather, it’s if there’s any truth to the idea that playing hardball would benefit Democrats, because the political aspects of this will come into play a few months from now.

In short, I’m skeptical. The idea that Pelosi has Trump over a barrel and could successfully twist his arm in this situation severely lacks evidence. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Testing is revealing masses of new cases, deaths are continuing the rise, and the global economy is teetering on the edge. There’s very little reason to believe that Democrats refusing to help unless they get a bunch of unrelated pet projects done would bolster their case with the general public. I’d actually think there would be quite a large backlash to doing that. Pelosi realizes that, which is why she’s not pushing the issue.

Politico tries to make the comparison to Republicans opposing Obama’s stimulus bill, saying that it lead to a Republican majority just two years later. But did it? There was a lot that happened between January 2009 and the next election. There’s also the fact that the stimulus bill was mostly ineffectual garbage. There was no existential crisis gripping the country at that point. Yes, the economy was in recession, but people weren’t dying from an unpredictable virus from China. Things are markedly different today than they were during Obama’s first month on the job.


The hubris of this article is just too much. I actually believe that Democrats are setting themselves up for failure with their reaction to this ordeal. The American people aren’t stupid. They can distinguish between a black swan event and orange man bad tropes. The more Democrats play politics, the worse it is going to look for them. Had they hunkered down and held up a relief effort so Elizabeth Warren and AOC can get their wish lists, it’d have only made matters worse.

So is Politico right here? I’m gonna go with a resounding no.



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