Nancy Pelosi Wants Democrats to Stop Getting Distracted by the News

The House minority leader is pushing a disciplined message amid drama over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the president who chose him.

Alex Brandon / AP

With a mere 34 days until the midterm elections, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is urging her caucus to swap talking points about the news of the day with the issues she says voters actually care about.

“Health-care costs in the country—that’s probably the major issue,” she told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview at The Atlantic Festival on Tuesday. “And it’s tied to what the president and Republicans did on the tax bill.”

It was a disciplined message amid the frenzied news cycle surrounding the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Pelosi argued that “people care about what’s happening in their lives”—matters such as prescription-drug costs and the number on their paycheck. Those things “are more important to people than who’s on the Supreme Court,” she argued, and Democrats need to tailor their pitches accordingly. House Democrats hold a plus-six lead over Republicans on the generic ballot, but Pelosi was careful not to sound too bullish about their chances. Were the elections held today, she said, “I anticipate we would [win], but the vote is five weeks from today.”

Despite her message in the interview, Pelosi couldn’t escape the news. Bash asked Pelosi how, if she were speaker in the next Congress, she might handle the potential outcomes of Kavanaugh’s nomination. Will she move to impeach Kavanaugh from the Supreme Court if he’s confirmed, or from the federal bench if he’s not?

“Let’s take it one day at a time,” Pelosi said. As a rule, the House should “not [be] about impeachment,” she added, and its members should always seek ways to unify rather than divide.

She later quipped, “I already have enough people on my back to impeach the president.”

That’s not to say Pelosi wasn’t critical of Kavanaugh. She said she was frustrated by the judge’s remarks about the Clintons in his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing last week; he asserted that Democrats had orchestrated the sexual-assault and misconduct allegations against him as payback for the 2016 election. “What he said about the Clintons … what did that have to do with anything?” she said, calling his remark “beneath the dignity of the Supreme Court.”

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, “he should recuse himself from many cases” on the basis of such partisan comments, Pelosi said.

But that’s not her concern for now, she reminded the audience: She’s focused on taking back the House (along with clinching the speakership if that happens—she’s currently fending off a growing number of insurgents within her caucus who want her gone). From there, she wants to reshape the House into a body that holds the administration accountable, she said. “We’ll be able to show Article I: This is not a rubber stamp for any president, but its own independent, co-equal branch of government,” she said.