Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have high political ambitions. But there may be one blemish: their low popularity.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll in mid-December showed the two at 30% and 18%, respectively. The same poll showed the Democrats’ White House preferences bunched up; registered Democratic voters listed some of their party’s past leaders as their top pick, including Barack Obama (20%) and Hillary Clinton (19%).
Schumer’s numbers were essentially where he was last year, according to the New York Times; Pelosi’s were lower than they had been since 1998, when her favorability rating was also 22%.
Some blame the incumbent party. “There is an argument to be made that the Democratic politicians are unpopular because they have been in power for so long that they have lost touch with people,” William Galston, a professor at the University of Maryland who served as a White House domestic policy adviser in the Clinton administration, told Politico. “On the other hand, they were handed control of the government, so you could argue that Democratic voters didn’t trust anyone else to run the government.”
The Democratic establishments of Ohio, Michigan and New York all fared better than the national average. Bob Casey, an Ohio senator who faces re-election in 2018, led both Schumer and Pelosi with an 82% favorability rating, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who could hold the gavel if Pelosi steps down, was a more robust 82% favorable.
Dems need Senate health bill win
Congress is back in session. Senate Republicans missed their deadline to pass health care legislation before the end of 2017, giving Democrats another reason to be frustrated.
And in the House, the party that has always been the more staunchly conservative on health care has for now gotten some late help from Freedom Caucus members. The group’s leader, Representative Mark Meadows, tweeted that he had convinced his confederates to vote for the plan. The bill is strongly opposed by many Democrats.
On Wednesday, Schumer riled up the Democrats by saying that rather than working with Republicans to pass health care legislation, the GOP should make an effort to make permanent the expiring Affordable Care Act provisions — known as Obamacare provisions — that they want to keep.
As a rule, Schumer doesn’t always hit Republicans so hard, but his lines are aimed at motivating Democrats to join the fight. And the events of the weekend surrounding the repeal of DACA — the Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children — appear to have rattled GOP leaders. As Schumer said, “time is of the essence.”
Just can’t count on the president to help
Democrats are doing themselves no favors by resisting cooperation with the administration on taxes and other topics.
In his upcoming State of the Union address, Trump will likely ask Congress to end a 17-month-old GOP legislative tactic called the debt ceiling, in which Congress must annually approve a debt limit increase without also providing new funding for federal programs. To do this, the GOP has used a procedure called reconciliation that can only be used if lawmakers have agreed to a budget.
In May of last year, Pelosi and Schumer sent a letter to Trump requesting that reconciliation be used for future budgets, including one that lays out a tax reform plan. Democrats were less willing to sign up for it when the president used the same method earlier this year to pass his AHCA repeal.
Pelosi did agree to participate in an Oval Office meeting in December, but it was so tepid that she refused to be interviewed by the press afterward.
With Republicans controlling the Senate, it’s hard to imagine how many Republican defections would save Trump’s plan to eliminate the Obamacare individual insurance exchanges.