In the wake of Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, health-insurance reform was widely proclaimed as a hopeless cause. As recently as January, to cite just one example of many, Washington überhack Fred Barnes was chortling that “the health care bill, ObamaCare, is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection.”
Reading through various accounts of its resurrection, I’ve been struck by the importance of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After the loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat, it was Pelosi who blew off White House suggestions to “go small” and seek small victories. And it was the speaker from San Francisco who instilled discipline into a notoriously undisciplined Democratic caucus and rounded up the votes needed for Sunday’s unlikely triumph.
“Just think,” she said from the House floor Sunday night, once success was assured, “we will be joining those who have established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans.”
My favorite quote about Pelosi’s impact, culled from the New York Daily News, came from Democratic political strategist Mark Siegel:
“She’s Lyndon Johnson in a skirt. She was patient, tireless, persistent and cajoling – and she pulled off what no one else could.”
Pelosi has long been a designated “Object of Hate” for those on the right, for reasons that frankly escape me. All you had to do was flash a picture of her on the screen at a conservative political gathering and you could feel the room recoil. This historic success will no doubt cement that standing. And while the Republicans certainly will try to use health care as a lever to pry Pelosi from the speaker’s podium, they will find it almost impossible to undo the legislation itself.
So in this, National Women’s History Month, let’s raise a cup of morning coffee to Speaker Pelosi: She got it done. Let’s also take a sip in the hope that years from now, we may read about some hard-nosed male legislative leader who, fresh off a major success, is labeled “Pelosi in long pants.”