House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came to Dallas Wednesday to raise money for her party’s congressional candidates. But before she rubbed elbows with donors, the longtime Democratic leader talked to her base about healthcare, the economy and resisting President Trump’s agenda.
Throughout the speech, she seemed to be honing the Democratic message by focusing more heavily on appealing to middle-class workers.
First, though, Pelosi weighed in on Texas politics, slamming Republicans in the Lone Star State who pushed through a ban on so-called sanctuary cities. Under the law local officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities could be charged with a crime or removed from office. It also allows law enforcement to investigate the immigration status of people they detain.
The bill led to protests in Austin and nearly caused a fist fight among lawmakers on the floor of the Texas House on Monday.
Quoting from the Bible, Pelosi called the law discriminatory and said it’s bad policy.
“What an act of cowardice. What a legislative act of cowardice,” she said.
That raised the ire of Dallas GOP chairman Philip Huffines, who blasted Pelosi in a statement after the rally.
“We do not need another liberal elite from Washington telling Texans what is best for Texas,” he said.
Throughout her speech, Pelosi seemed focused on one major point: Democrats are the party for middle-class workers. At the local Communications Workers of America union hall in Dallas, she addressed a labor-heavy crowd with an AFL-CIO banner at her back.
“I want to use some four letter words now: Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Jobs,” she said.
Pelosi said Democrats want to boost the economy by working from the bottom up. She called for a $15 minimum wage, more education spending and blocking Republican attempts to weaken labor unions. She said Republicans want to undermine Medicare and give tax breaks to rich people.
“When they give a tax break to the high end, then they say we have to reduce the deficit. So we have to reduce investments in education,” she said. “So stupid. Probably one of the dumbest things they do.”
Democrats are calling their organizing efforts Resistance Summer. It’s an effort to push back on President Trump’s agenda and Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently projected the GOP health bill would result in 23 million more people without insurance.
“Imagine that,” Pelosi said. “A health care bill that would make us worse off than before the Affordable Care Act.”
Earlier in the day, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn told a Lubbock radio station he thought congressional Republicans could work out a health care overhaul to send to President Trump by July, though it’s not clear what form that may take.
At the rally, Dallasite Madelyn Brinkley said health care’s been on her mind after she had a recent cancer scare. She’s a retired federal worker, so she says her health care is secure. But she wonders about people who might lose coverage, and whether they’d be left unable to afford the kind of biopsy she underwent to find out the tumor on her thyroid was benign.
Brinkley, who is African -American, knows people who voted for President Trump, and she thinks they were duped: Trump promised better insurance for more people but backed a bill that’s projected to do the opposite.
“You just want to overlook it because I’m going to get a better job,” she says, “I’m going to get a better life, I’m going to get a living wage. But that’s not going to happen under this administration. It’s just not going to happen. That’s why we have to resist. We must resist.”
Democrats like Nancy Pelosi are banking on that message — about jobs and resistance – to help them win back Congress in 2018.
“I think that we absolutely have a great shot at picking up the majority in 2018,” Congressman Marc Veasey, who represents parts of Tarrant and Dallas County, told reporters.
In Texas, he pointed to three congressional districts held by Republicans that Democrats think they have a good chance of swinging in midterm elections: Rep. John Culberson’s 7th District in Harris County, Rep. Will Hurd’s 23rd District in West Texas, and Rep. Pete Sessions’ 32nd District, which stretches from North Dallas into the suburbs.
“Quite frankly, when republicans were drawing the maps back in 2011 they never thought we’d be have an opportunity to be competitive in those seats,” he says.