House Speaker Pelosi on Legislative Losing Streak It hasn't been a good week for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She was out-maneuvered by Republicans on the FISA bill, she lost Democratic support on the genocide resolution, and she lost again Thursday on efforts to override the president's veto of the children's health insurance bill.
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House Speaker Pelosi on Legislative Losing Streak

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House Speaker Pelosi on Legislative Losing Streak

House Speaker Pelosi on Legislative Losing Streak

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It's been a tough week for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats on Capitol Hill. Today, the House Speaker lost what's considered a signature fight with President Bush over children's health insurance. Yesterday, she was outmaneuvered by Republicans on the overhaul of the government's eavesdropping program, and her own Democrats deserted her on a resolution about the slaughter of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: You wouldn't have known what kind of week it's been by looking at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this morning. She started the day smiling for the cameras with the young ambassador from the March of Dimes.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California; Speaker of the House): And we're very honored that he's on Capitol Hill today leading a large March of Dimes (unintelligible) for SCHIP.

ELLIOTT: Once again, with a child by her side, Pelosi made the case for expanding the popular State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP. She didn't seem deterred that it was clear by then, Democrats did not have the votes they needed to override President Bush's veto.

Rep. PELOSI: But we'll see what the votes are today, I'm pretty philosophical about the fact that we're going down the right path.

ELLIOTT: Her philosophical spirit came a day after Republicans sabotaged the Democratic overhaul of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA. In a surprise strategic setback, Democrats pulled the bill from the floor in the middle of debate to stave off a Republican move to kill the measure. Earlier in the week, Pelosi was scuttled by members of her own party on the controversial resolution to label as genocide the slaughter of Armenians during World War I.

The speaker initially said she'd bring it to a vote on the House floor, even though the White House and others say the resolution threatens the strategic alliance between Turkey and the United States. Yesterday, a group of House Democrats, including Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha came out against the full vote.

Representative JOHN MURTHA (Democrat, Pennsylvania): I must have had 25, 30 members of Democrats come to me yesterday and say, you know, very agitated about this coming to the floor right now. They have gotten the message. So I would say, if we were to run today, it wouldn't pass.

ELLIOTT: Now, Pelosi says she's reconsidering. The third strike came with today's vote on the House floor. After two weeks of an aggressive campaign to garner the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto, Democrats lost the SCHIP fight.

Unidentified Woman: On this vote, the yeas are 273, the nays are 156. Two-thirds not being in the affirmative, the bill is not passed.

ELLIOTT: In the end, Democrats were 13 votes short. After the vote, minority leader John Boehner suggested Speaker Pelosi needed to be more open to compromise.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): Running the House is a difficult job. But trying to run it yourself is an impossible job. It's not surprising to me that she's in a rough week.

ELLIOTT: But Speaker Pelosi was still smiling after the SCHIP vote. She rejected the notion that the events this week are a setback for Democrats.

Rep. PELOSI: No. This is a legislative process.

ELLIOTT: Pelosi says Democrats advanced their cause by keeping the health insurance debate in the forefront given polls showing overwhelming public support for expanding the program. As for the other issues…

Rep. PELOSI: We do have the votes for FISA, and we will be taking it up next week. There's an - in terms of Armenian genocide, the Congress will work its will on that. The committee has, and we'll see where we go next. But our top priority here this week is SCHIP. We think we made tremendous progress today.

ELLIOTT: And this might not be the last week Speaker Pelosi has to put on a good face. The President has issued veto threats on the House's FISA plan and on a host of spending bills.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, the Capitol.

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