On Boehner-Pelosi Meeting, a Question of Why?

by Jonathan Strong

A meeting between top House leaders for the Republicans and Democrats prompted some head-scratching in the Capitol over what the purpose of the get-together was, in part because few insiders see Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a figure in a position to help bridge the shutdown impasse.

Adding to the mystery were two conflicting statements on how the meeting came together.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, told reporters via e-mail after the meeting that “Reps. Pelosi and Hoyer asked for the meeting, and as we’ve stated publicly, we’re willing to meet with any Democratic leader who is willing to talk.”

About two hours later, Pelosi released a statement saying, “Yesterday when I was asked by the Speaker to meet today, I was hopeful he was going to offer a proposal that would allow us to re-open government, avert a default that would harm the full faith and credit of the United States, and take us to the budget conference table.” Pelosi aide Drew Hammill tells me that Boehner spoke to Pelosi about the meeting on the House floor yesterday.

Steel says Pelosi had been asking for the meeting for several days and that yesterday on the House floor, Boehner approached Pelosi and said, “How’s tomorrow?” Hammill’s response? “Our statement is quite clear on this point.”

The meeting, between Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Pelosi, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, accomplished virtually nothing, according to sources in both parties.

“Entirely unproductive” is how one GOP leadership aide described it, saying Pelosi and Hoyer repeated “well-worn talking points” throughout the 40-minute session.

Pelosi, for her part, said, “Whip Hoyer and I reiterated that there are 200 Democratic votes to accept the Republican budget number of $986 billion to re-open government, and that we would agree to smooth the path to a budget conference. We were disappointed the Speaker did not take ‘yes’ for an answer.”