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Obama's Pelosi problem

February 10, 2010 |  9:24 am

President-elect Obama meets with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss an economic stimulus plan

When President Obama went into the lion's den a few weeks ago, he talked to the House Republican caucus about bipartisanship. All well and good, said the Republicans, but have you mentioned this to Speaker Nancy Pelosi?

“It’s really up to Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Majority Leader [Steny H.] Hoyer to carry through,” said Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) after the Jan. 29 confab. “I think the president will carry through in terms of having more meetings with us, having more discussions with us, but there’s got to be more than just discussions.”

Then on Tuesday, in yet another bipartisan outreach by the White House, Obama welcomed both sides to talk about the "key challenges" facing the country, including jobs and healthcare.

Obama tangled with Republican leaders, accusing Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of trying to "kill" his domestic priorities.

But the most pivotal moment in the meeting came when White House economic advisers Christina Romer and Lawrence Summers outlined the administration's proposal to give employers a $5,000 credit for each new worker they hire. And objection came not from the Republican side but from Pelosi, who countered that no one she knows believed the plan would actually create jobs. “She questioned the efficacy of it,” one Democratic aide told Politico.

This is not the first time that Pelosi, who represents a hardcore liberal district in San Francisco, has pushed back against the president's new bipartisan tone. A few weeks ago she objected to Obama's proposal for a three-year freeze on discretionary spending, insisting that any freeze should also apply to defense spending.

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly insisted afterward that the California representative is "a very strong supporter of this president" and that she was glad the White House convened the meeting. "She knows Democrats have to work with Republicans to pass this critical jobs bill," he said.

Obama, for his part, hit the White House briefing room afterward to sort of praise the effort -- he joked that the meeting had gone so well that McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) were “out doing snow angels together on the South Lawn.”

Then he warned that bipartisanship was a two-way street and neither side -- including Democrats -- could get their way. “Bipartisan can’t be that I agree to all the things that they believe in or want and they agree to none of the things that I want,” he said.

Madame Speaker?

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. Credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

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