…because I’m an economist and a mom–that’s why!

It Ain’t Over Until the Speaker Lady Sings

March 24th, 2010 . by economistmom

signed-health-reform-whitehouse…and gets the President to (sign and) sing along.

There are lots of good stories speaking of Speaker Pelosi’s own determination and the pressure she put on the President to follow through with the necessary leadership on health reform that only the President (if anyone) could provide.

The health reform effort seemed about to crash and burn just two months ago.  As Ceci Connolly recounted so well in yesterday’s Washington Post:

The remarkable change in political fortunes thrust Obama into a period of uncertainty and demonstrated the ability of one person to control the balance of power in Washington. On Jan. 19, that person seemed to be Brown.

But as the next 61 days would show, culminating in Sunday night’s historic vote, the fate of the legislation ultimately rested in the hands of Obama, who in the hours before Brown’s victory was growing increasingly frustrated as Pelosi detailed why no answer was in sight.

There went health-care reform.

There went history.

“I understand that, Nancy,” he finally snapped. “What’s your solution?

Well, her solution seemed to be to keep up the kind of determination, forcefulness, and yet grace and diplomacy that perhaps only the first female speaker (and a mom and grandmother) could provide, as a Politico story suggests:

The rebirth of the reform effort is the result of a little luck, insurance company avarice, a subsiding of post-Brown panic among party incumbents and the calculation by many Hill Democrats that going small or giving up was just as politically perilous as going big.

But the main reason the bill has made it to the floor has as much to do with the complex, occasionally tense, ever-evolving partnership between the first African-American president and the first female speaker.

“I think [Pelosi] is the one who has kept the steel in the president’s back — and I think she represents that to Harry Reid, too,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Pelosi’s closest friend in Congress, told POLITICO.

“White Houses end up with — how do I say this? — they take an incrementalism pill,” added Eshoo. “But Nancy Pelosi is not an incrementalist.”

Neither is Obama, says Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), it’s just that he moves more deliberately. “I don’t think [the White House] were there from Day One, but they were from Day Two,” he said. “I think they knew this would be the way.”

So this unique Pelosi-Obama partnership, and their blend of personalities, seems to have somehow worked in the end.

Now, of course it’s still “not over,” even with the Speaker lady having led the President in song, because the reconciliation “fixes” have to be passed by the Senate–over the Senate Republicans’ objections (off-key dissonance?) which we will hear over the next several days.

But the President has gotten his song out, and apparently now that it’s out, it sounds pretty good to people.  (See this USA Today/Gallop poll.)  Earlier this month, Speaker Pelosi caught a lot of flack (and indeed made me cringe), when she said “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of controversy.”

But now I think what she might have meant was that the President would have to sign the bill into law and “sing” about it more (like no one else could), so that Americans could more clearly see what was in it to like.

Perhaps it was the Speaker’s special “intuition” on the matter–and only something that a shrewd politician who also happens to be a woman and a mother could pull off.

6 Responses to “It Ain’t Over Until the Speaker Lady Sings”

  1. comment number 1 by: sam

    I’m sorry — did you actually claim that Pelosi exhibited ‘grace’? Determination? Yes. Forcefulness? Absolutely. Diplomacy? In some cases. But grace? Never.

  2. comment number 2 by: Brooks

    Dick Morris writes:

    Once we get the majority in both chambers, defund appropriations for the Obamacare program. The bill passed by the Congress and signed by the president is simply an authorization measure. Funds must be appropriated for it each year by Congress. Through zero funding these changes, we can cripple them before they take full effect.

    I thought the subsidies (not to mention the expansion of Medicaid) were entitlements rather than appropriations in the discretionary budget. Is that correct, and if so, what is Morris talking about? Wouldn’t it take a change in the law (rather than simply not appropriating funds in the budget) to reduce/eliminate the subsidies?

  3. comment number 3 by: Brooks

    I’ll try that link to the Morris piece again:,_defeat,_defund,_repeal

  4. comment number 4 by: AMTbuff

    Occam’s Razor says that Pelosi knew that her majority was toast regardless, so she might as well defy public opinion and get while the getting was good.

    Whether one agrees that this was a good idea or not, it was fiscally far less responsible than Bush’s tax cuts. Or maybe not, if I’m right that the fiscal house of cards will collapse before the health care changes take full effect. The collapse will end this add most other middle class benefits from government.

  5. comment number 5 by: SteveinCH

    Good question Brooks. To be honest, I have no idea.

    One would suspect that proponents were smart enough to do whatever it is that would be necessary to declare this “mandatory” spending but I honestly don’t know if they did.

  6. comment number 6 by: saltzmas

    Interested in talking more about the passage of the Health Care Reform Bill? This, as well as the prevalence of an African American voice in the media, are the topics of discussion tonight on WGBH’s Basic Black! You can tune in to the conversation at 7:30pm on Channel 2 in Boston or watch online at There will also be a live online chat throughout the show!