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Nancy Pelosi Likely To Have The Votes To Be Elected House Speaker

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

House Democrats vote today on their leadership, determining who will be speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi is opposed without being opposed. By that, we mean some lawmakers signed a letter calling for new leadership, but no one is actually running against her. So what does she do now? Nadeam Elshami served as Pelosi's chief of staff from 2013 to 2017, and he's on the line.

Good morning.

NADEAM ELSHAMI: Good morning. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Do you see any way Nancy Pelosi doesn't win?

ELSHAMI: No, I don't. I think her ability to unite the caucus, her ability to not side with one faction of the caucus or the other and not to over promise makes her the right leader at the right time, especially with President Trump in the White House.

INSKEEP: What do you mean by not to over promise?

ELSHAMI: Well, over the years, the leader has - and as speaker, she has met with various factions within the Democratic Caucus, whether they're the Progressives or the New Dems or the Blue Dogs. And as you talk to each member, for example, and - or talk to each subcaucus within the larger Democratic Caucus and say - look, this particular piece of legislation - let's take the Affordable Care Act, for example. The Affordable Care Act is not with the Progressives wanted. It's not with the Blue Dogs wanted. However, it was the only piece of legislation that could pass the House and could pass the Senate and could get signed into law.

INSKEEP: And you're giving us an example from her previous term as speaker of the House, when she was seen as a key factor in getting Obamacare into law. Now, let me ask about the situation she will face, presuming that she wins the election in which she's running unopposed today. What is the smartest basic approach for House Democrats to the president of the United States given that Nancy Pelosi is about to become the most visible Democrat?

ELSHAMI: Sure, sure. Well, I think it's two things. One is to oppose when you must and to legislate when you have an opportunity to do so - right? - because the Democratic Caucus, if you look at it today, there are Democrats who say, we will never work with this president. But there are Democrats who insist that we must get some pieces of legislation passed.

And what you need is you need a leadership team that could say - look; we will oppose the president in every turn when it comes to doing things that we don't believe in, for example, getting rid of pre-existing conditions or repealing the Affordable Care Act or weakening Dodd-Frank. However, we will work with the president on issues that deal with jobs and infrastructure. And that - it's a fine line that you have to walk every single - excuse me - every single day as a leader. However, you know, that the push and pull within the caucus is very difficult at times for sure, yeah.

INSKEEP: Oh, because some lawmakers are going to want to go after the president more strongly.

Let's be totally frank here, though. I'm remembering that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, after a big Republican election in 2010 said, our goal is to have a one-term president; President Obama has to go. Now, he was criticized ferociously for that. But he replied, look; it's obvious he has to go if we're going to get our priorities. Isn't that a likely goal for House Democrats, to be sure that President Trump is a one-term president if they can manage it?

ELSHAMI: Well, it's no secret. You're absolutely right. There's no love lost between the House Democrats and President Trump. And one-term President Trump is - you know, we're on our way after winning so many seats this election. But yeah, it's no secret at all.

INSKEEP: Nadeam Elshami, thanks for joining us - really appreciate it.

ELSHAMI: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: He's a former chief of staff for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who is favored to be elected the Democratic leader again today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.