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Obama gives strong support to Pelosi as she faces leadership fight

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

President Obama all but endorsed Nancy Pelosi to continue to lead House Democrats on Sunday, defending her as she faces a challenge to her position from restive members of the Democratic caucus.  

Although he is reticent to “meddle” in party votes while he is on the way out the door, Obama said at a news conference that he “cannot speak highly enough” of the first female House speaker, who has been a key ally on some of his most important work as president.

“She combines strong progressive values with just extraordinary political skill, and she does stuff that’s tough, not just stuff that’s easy,” Obama said when asked whether the California Democrat should be reelected to her position.

Obama made his remarks during a news conference in Lima, Peru, where he was wrapping up a summit meeting with Asian and Pacific leaders.

Some of Pelosi's decisions have been unpopular, even with voters in her San Francisco district, he said, but she has done them anyway “because it’s the right thing to do for the American people.”

Pelosi faces a challenge from Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, a seven-term member of the House. 

Perhaps the most notable example of her support for Obama's agenda was Pelosi's steadfast support for the Affordable Care Act, which likely cost some Democrats their seats in Congress in the midterm election when Republicans took over the chamber.

In offering advice to fellow Democrats, though, Obama urged them not to follow the example of Republicans like Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who reportedly agreed with colleagues early in Obama’s presidency to oppose everything he did.

Democrats shouldn’t approach President-elect Donald Trump and the Republicans that way, Obama said Sunday.

“You give ’em a hearing,” he said. “I certainly don’t want them to do what Mitch McConnell did when I was elected.”

“That’s not why the American people send us to Washington,” Obama said. “That’s not my advice to Democrats.”

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