House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) scolded Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in remarks to the press Wednesday for refusing to extend middle income tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. Her message? Being speaker is hard, but figure it out for the good of the country.
“It’s tough. But you have to do it,” she told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday. “Figure it out.”
Her remarks echo earlier comments from Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and other Democrats who are publicly suggesting that Boehner is refusing to come to grips with the reality that the top tax rates will rise because he’s worried it will imperil his speakership.
Pelosi recalled taking the gavel in 2007 after sweeping into the majority on a pledge to end the war in Iraq. President Bush had demanded funding for the war, and Pelosi made what she described as a painful decision to let her members vote their consciences without leaving U.S. troops out in the cold.
“Do you know what it was like for me to bring a bill to the floor to fund the war in Iraq?” she said. “That’s what I did. It was very unpopular. And I have to tell you, I’m not sure I ever recovered among some on the left for that.”
“The issue at hand then, funding for Iraq, versus right now, middle income tax cuts,” she continued. “I as speaker had to make a decision — as a Democratic speaker in a new Democratic majority, very enthusiastic about ending the war in Iraq — to bring a bill to the floor that funded the troops.”
The House’s top Democrat offered Boehner a way out: hold a vote on the middle income tax cuts, let most Republicans oppose them, but allow it to pass on the strength of Democratic support. She also said he could bring up the legislation under suspension of rules, allowing it to pass with a two-thirds majority, which she said she’s “certain” it would.
“The world is watching,” Pelosi said. “There’s a way — as we did with Iraq — to bring something to the floor. It’s painful. But this is the job we signed up for.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.