Nancy Pelosi just wants to talk about the economy, but she can’t escape the drama surrounding President Donald Trump.
At a CNN town hall on Wednesday night, the House minority leader clearly wanted to talk about the Democrats’ agenda for the future, but the first three questions she got were about Trump, the continued fallout from the Russia investigation, and his scandals involving alleged affairs.
Asked what Trump’s endless scandals are doing to America’s reputation and how it’s impacting the country’s future, Pelosi pivoted.
“Thank you so much for your very important question,” she said, before diving headlong into the Democrats’ policy platform, “A Better Deal.”
“I would say that what is important to the American people is really what affects them in their lives,” Pelosi said. “We go into the campaigns, we want our candidates to be talking about how we’ll understand their apprehension and their aspirations. That we have a better deal, better jobs, better pay, better future.”
Trump is looming large over 2018, but Pelosi’s town hall drove home the point that national Democrats aren’t that interested in talking about the president — or the possibility of removing him from office. Despite Trump’s historically low approval rating and the desire from many Democratic voters across the country to see the president impeached, Pelosi isn’t biting.
“Impeachment is to me divisive,” she said. “If the facts are there, the facts are there; then this would have to be bipartisan to go forward. But if it is viewed as partisan, it will divide the country. And I just don’t think that is what we should do.”
Midterms are typically a good year for whichever party is out of power to reclaim the House majority. Trump has the potential to magnify that in 2018; there’s a huge backlash to the president that’s translating into overwhelming Democratic enthusiasm and a record number of new candidates, many of whom are anti-Trump.
But Pelosi’s unwillingness to dive into the ongoing Russia investigation and Stormy Daniels scandals on Wednesday night shows how Democrats plan to approach 2018: hammering home points about how they’ll increase jobs, grow the economy, and protect health care — not impeach Trump.
Pelosi got some tough questions on gun policy
So on Tuesday, Pelosi instead hit the Republican Party for passing massive tax cuts that will add to the national debt. She talked about protecting the Affordable Care Act, one of her signature achievements as House speaker during the Obama years. And she laid out her vision for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
“No, we’re not about raising taxes. In fact, we’d like to make the middle-class tax cut permanent, maybe that’s a thing we have to do,” Pelosi said. “We have to say what does that bring to the economy. Let’s put it all on the table. What creates growth, generating good-paying jobs that reduces the national debt. That’s the direction we should go in.”
Beyond the bread-and-butter issues of the economy and health care, Pelosi also received some tough questions on gun policy from high school students, days after a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. One student asked why Democrats didn’t pass more gun control legislation when they had the majority in Congress and the White House.
While admitting more should have been done while Democrats were in power, Pelosi pointed to the fact that Congress strengthened the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (also known as NICS).
“We strengthened it. We gave it more money and we recently gave it more money as well,” she said. “You have to have 60 votes in the Senate. And that’s a major obstacle to getting many things done.”
Pelosi added she hopes Congress can pass stronger bills to stop mass shootings in the future.
“The world has changed since then,” she said. “People are much more receptive to having gun legislation. We should have; we can now.”
But that could be very difficult for Democrats, even if they win back the House in 2018. If they fall short in the Senate, it will be nearly impossible to pass tighter gun laws (even if Democrats managed to gain a majority, they would likely face a veto from Trump).
“There are other things that we can do in terms of public policy and also in terms of mental health that is very important in all this,” Pelosi said. “You have to get to systemically stop people from having guns who shouldn’t have guns in the first place.”