White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took a backhanded slap at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a briefing with reporters Wednesday morning that reflected worse on Sanders than on the Democrat from San Francisco.
When asked if President Trump would sign the bill Congress was finalizing to fund the federal government through Sept. 30, Sanders was noncommittal — as Trump has been, and as they should be. It’s going to be a very big bill, and its final provisions haven’t been revealed yet. Given that appropriations bills are often freighted with inscrutably worded provisions slipped in on behalf of special interests, the president can’t give the all clear until he knows everything this measure may do.
But Sanders took what would have been a perfectly reasonable response and turned it into a Bizarro-world criticism of Pelosi’s work ethic.
“It’s hard to say definitively whether or not the president is going to sign it until we know everything that’s in it,” Sanders said. “Unlike Nancy Pelosi, we actually like to read legislation before we agree to it.”
Sanders was apparently referring to a misleading GOP attack line on Pelosi that dated back to the 2010 debate over the Affordable Care Act. Speaking to a group of county elected officials in March 2010 a few weeks before the final votes on the ACA, Pelosi laid out several of the highlights of the bill, then conceded that the legislation might be better known for the hyperbolic criticisms of its effects and the way it was being adopted. “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy,” Pelosi concluded.
Republicans seized on words two through 17 of that sentence and ignored the rest, immediately taking it out of context. The spin at the time was that Democrats were trying to rush a bill through Congress before anyone knew what was in it; that morphed into an assertion that Pelosi wanted Congress to pass a bill before she knew what was in it.
Sanders took the critique one enormous step further, asserting that the speaker doesn’t read any of the bills she signs off on. Ahem — there is one leader in Washington with a well-known (and well-acknowledged) antipathy for reading work-related materials, and that’s the guy Sanders works for, not Pelosi.
In other words, Sanders took one of Trump’s well-known weaknesses and tried to pin it on a top Democrat, using as her shaky foundation a nearly decade-old statement that she not only took out of context, but also hyperbolized. How very much like her boss.