Last May, The Washington Post’s James Hohmann noted “an uncovered dynamic” that helped explain the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare. Three current Democratic House members had opposed the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. Twelve Democratic House members represent districts that Donald Trump won. Yet none voted for repeal. The “uncovered dynamic,” Hohmann suggested, was Nancy Pelosi’s skill at keeping her party in line.
She’s been keeping it in line for more than a decade. In 2005, George W. Bush launched his second presidential term with an aggressive push to partially privatize Social Security. For nine months, Republicans demanded that Democrats admit the retirement system was in crisis and offer their own program to change it. Pelosi refused. Democratic members of Congress hosted more than 1,000 town-hall meetings to rally opposition to privatization. That fall, Republicans backed down, and Bush’s second term never recovered.
In 2009, Pelosi persuaded deficit-wary Blue Dog Democrats to back Barack Obama’s stimulus package, and it passed without a single Republican vote. The following year, when Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff, suggested scaling back health-care reform after the Democrats’ surprise Senate loss in Massachusetts, Pelosi insisted that Obama maintain his goal of universal coverage. She enraged her pro-choice allies by allowing a vote on an amendment prohibiting women insured through the law’s health-care exchanges from receiving government-subsidized abortions. But that gave antiabortion Democrats cover to support the bill, which passed with nary a Republican vote.