SEATTLE — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned Wednesday that marriage equality and other constitutional rights could soon be in danger if the draft opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade is finalized.
Speaking in person with The Seattle Times editorial board Wednesday, Pelosi assailed the opinion for “the violence it does to the Constitution” and said it “mocked” Roe v. Wade, privacy and a woman’s right to choose.
“It has an impact beyond a woman’s right to choose,” Pelosi said. “The next thing could be gay marriage equality, there’s so many other things that once you’ve dispensed with precedent and privacy, that they could have the majority to do.”
Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, met with the editorial board as the speaker made several Seattle-area appearances to promote the $1.9 trillion dollar COVID-19 relief legislation and the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress. (The Seattle Times newsroom operates independently of the editorial board.)
Pelosi rattled off statistics — 8 million jobs created in Biden’s presidency, unemployment cut in half, $4.7 billion for roads and $1.8 billion for public transit in Washington from the infrastructure bill — to tout Democratic achievements, as historical midterm patterns and the president’s sagging approval rating could portend Republican victories in November.
But she also expressed faint optimism that the party can salvage parts of Biden’s ambitious safety net and climate agenda that foundered after months of intraparty negotiations last year.
Those policies, originally billed as Build Back Better, are now the subject of negotiations between the White House and the Senate, Pelosi said, where they’ll likely need the support of every Democrat, including holdout Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
Democrats are now trying to salvage parts of the plan, including clean-energy tax credits and bolstering the Affordable Care Act.
“We’ll either get them as part of a package now or continue to fight for them as we go into the next election,” Pelosi said. “We did so much with the rescue package, we did so much with infrastructure but because we haven’t finished BBB, it’s like well, what have you done for me lately.”
She noted that Democrats’ expansion of the child tax credit in the COVID rescue package drastically cut child poverty — by more than 25%, according to a Columbia University study. But it was a temporary measure and has since expired. And the rescue package didn’t receive a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate.
She praised Republicans for being “good on the Ukraine stuff,” as she pledged that Congress would soon pass additional aid for Ukraine as requested by the president.
But other than that, she was blistering in her critique of the GOP.
“We need a strong Republican Party,” Pelosi said, “not a cult to a thug, which is what we have, what they’re becoming.”
She accused former President Donald Trump, for his attacks on the news media, of being “a true authoritarian.
“The former president followed the example of Mussolini and Hitler in everything and undermined the value of the press and their dis- or mis-, whichever it is, information campaigns,” she said.
She noted a bill the House passed in March, which would cap insulin prices at $35 a month. It passed with unanimous Democratic support and just 12 Republican votes.
“Why would they be so resentful of the needs of the American people?” she said. “Because they’re in the pocket of pharmaceutical industry. They’re in the pocket of oil and gas, the fossil fuel industry.”
Pelosi also spoke Wednesday in University Place, near Tacoma, to promote a dam-removal and bridge-replacement project made possible by the new infrastructure bill.
On abortion, Pelosi outlined no plan for House Democrats — who have already passed a bill codifying the protections of Roe v. Wade — beyond building public sentiment against the opinion. The Democratic bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, has failed to garner even a majority in the Senate, much less the 60 votes it would require to overcome a filibuster.
She said Democrats just have to win “a couple” more Senate seats in November “so that we have enough votes to set aside the filibuster.”
“You know all politics is local, all politics is personal when it comes to this,” she said. “It’s an abomination what they did, you have to read it.
“The very idea that they would be telling women the size, timing or whatever of their family, the personal nature of this is so appalling, and I say that as a devout Catholic,” Pelosi said. “They say to me, ‘Nancy Pelosi thinks she knows more about having babies than the pope.’ Yes I do. Are you stupid?”
Republicans, she said, would like to talk about how the draft leaked and what the repercussions of the leak might be.
“What I’m telling my members is don’t get hung up on that,” she said. “Forget about that. What we’re talking about that is it’s leaked and this is what it is.”
In a statement immediately after the draft was leaked to Politico Monday night, Pelosi said that several conservative justices “lied to the U.S. Senate, ripped up the Constitution and defiled both precedent and the Supreme Court’s reputation.”
“Look at that, Kavanaugh saying over and over again, precedent, precedent, precedent,” she said Wednesday, referring to Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s 2018 confirmation hearings.
But, she said, now is not the time to consider any sort of court reform.
“I feel quite strongly that the Republicans would like us talking about expanding the court, talking about this, that and the other thing,” she said. “But for now, for now, we have to just keep our eye completely straight where it needs to be on these people undermining, doing violence to the Constitution, to privacy, to precedent and to women and their personal decisions.”