U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed the importance of a unified Democratic Party moving forward at a student town hall hosted by the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service and the McCourt School of Public Policy on Tuesday morning in Gaston Hall.
Pelosi currently serves as the minority leader of the House of Representatives, and under former President Barack Obama from 2007 to 2011 she served as speaker of the House, the first woman to serve in that role. She is also slated to run for re-election this fall in the 2018 midterm elections.
Pelosi answered questions from a panel of students who sat on stage with her, from posts generated by social media and from the audience. The questions touched on gun control legislation, proper size of government, net neutrality, disability advocacy and the future of the Democratic Party. GU Politics Executive Director Mo Elleithee moderated the discussion.
Pelosi emphasized the importance of voting in the midterm elections in November, saying that voting can help shape the nation’s politics.
“You are helping to shape this future. Weigh in. Do not miss this opportunity because right now is probably a bigger opportunity than ever,” Pelosi said. “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”
Outlining a path to retake the House, Pelosi encouraged Democratic candidates to create a purpose distinct from the Republican Party as a whole in the congressional election.
“Our message to our candidates and members seeking election is show our purpose,” Pelosi said. “Know your purpose. Know your subject. Have a plan, and connect to the people. This is about connecting to the aspirations and the apprehensions of the American people.”
Pelosi emphasized the importance of using shared values to unify the Democratic Party. Yet she does not believe that the Democratic Party should only support representatives who have the same opinions on controversial issues, citing her support of anti-abortion Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) as an example of the importance of diversity of stances within the Democratic Party.
“I always tell our candidates, ‘Your job description and your job title are one and the same: representative,’” Pelosi said. “When the day comes when we can say, ‘We don’t want any of our voters to be anti-choice,’ then we have a right to say we don’t want any of our candidates to be anti-choice.”
Pelosi denounced the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowers taxes on businesses and individuals, and eliminating personal deductions on taxes, among other things, as unfair and unrealistic, revealing her emphasis on justice for constituents.
“Did you know that 83 percent of the benefits of the tax bill go to the top 1 percent? In the light of the bill, 86 million middle-class families will pay more taxes,” Pelosi said. “A budget should be a statement of our values. What’s important to us as a nation should be reflected in how we allocate our resources.”
Pelosi expressed her support for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other immigrants and denounced Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for blocking a vote on a bipartisan procedural measure that would allow votes on four immigration bills.
“I say to my colleagues, you pray in church on Sunday and then you prey on people the rest of the week. What is this?” Pelosi said.
In April 2016, GU Politics and McCourt hosted a similar town hall with Ryan, also moderated by Elleithee, who emphasized the importance of dialogue between politicians and young people.
“Too often in politics we talk about young people, when we should actually be talking with young people,” Elleithee said in an April 12 GU Politics news release. “We’re excited to facilitate this conversation between students and Leader Pelosi to discuss the issues most important to young people.”
Although Pelosi criticized Republican leadership and asserted that Democrats offer a better deal for the United States, Pelosi also said that common values like justice can inspire bipartisan action to ultimately benefit as many U.S. citizens as possible.
“Issues tend to divide, but then values tend to unite,” Pelosi said. “We are bipartisan. We really are. We will proceed in a way that is bipartisan and transparent, so that people can see what the decisions are.”