WASHINGTON – So, Rep. Brian Higgins, what do you think of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now?
"All the praise she's receiving is well-deserved," Higgins, a Buffalo Democrat who at first opposed Pelosi's return to the speakership, said Monday after Pelosi won widespread credit for outmaneuvering President Trump during the government shutdown. "She has used the constitutional powers of Congress – with the most important branch being the House – to provide that all-important check on the executive that's been missing, really, for decades."
Higgins said that three days after the 35-day partial government shutdown ended, as President Trump agreed to a government funding agreement without the $5.7 billion in funding for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border that he had insisted on since early December.
Trump repeatedly said he would not let government agencies reopen without that money, and Pelosi – exercising the congressional power of the purse – repeatedly and demonstratively said no.
"What's manifested itself is his ignorance about the Constitution and the separation of powers – and her mastery of it," Higgins said.
That's a far cry from what Higgins had to say last June, when he announced that he would not support Pelosi, a California Democrat, for another term as the party's top officer in the House.
"She's aloof, frenetic and misguided," Higgins said at the time.
Asked about those comments on Monday, Higgins said: "I said what I said back in June. I can't take that back. That's what I said, and that's what what my experience was at that time."
Noting that he was fighting for policy priorities that he felt Pelosi had ignored, Higgins said the disagreement between him and Pelosi "really came down to a breakdown in communications with her senior staff."
Higgins reversed himself in late November, saying he would support Pelosi for another term as speaker after she agreed that two of Higgins' top priorities – an infrastructure package and a bill making younger people eligible for Medicare – would be on the House agenda this year.
Trump wasn't nearly as successful in negotiating with Pelosi. He agreed to end the shutdown with essentially the same spending deal he could have had five weeks earlier, Higgins noted.
"He got nothing" in his talks with Pelosi, Higgins said. "At least I got something."
Pelosi and Trump didn't really negotiate over the wall and the funding bill needed to end the shutdown after the president stormed out of a Jan. 9 meeting with congressional leaders. Instead, Pelosi took to treating Trump to the kind of scolding a naughty child might expect.
She said Trump had a "temper tantrum" in that meeting and added: "I'm the mother of five, grandmother of nine. I know a temper tantrum when I see one."
And just like stern parents might punish a naughty child by limiting his television time, Pelosi on Jan. 13 withdrew Trump's invitation to deliver the State of the Union address in the House chamber on Jan. 29, citing the shutdown as the reason. (On Monday, Pelosi invited Trump to give that speech in the House chamber on Feb. 5.)
Last Friday, as the shutdown started causing airport delays and other problems, Trump capitulated. Afterwards, even some of Trump's strongest supporters acknowledged that the Trump-Pelosi war of wills had ended in a rout for the Democrat.
“There’s no question but that Nancy Pelosi got the better of Donald Trump," right-wing firebrand Ann Coulter said on Los Angeles radio station KNX.
"@realDonaldTrump just allowed Nancy to walk all over him," Fox Nation host Tomi Lahren tweeted.
"She has just whipped the president of the United States," added Fox Business host Lou Dobbs.
It all leaves Pelosi with a stronger hand in Congress, Higgins said.
"Her second iteration of her speakership, in the shortest of period of time – within three weeks – will define her speakership and her tenure in Congress generally," Higgins said of Pelosi, who previously served as speaker between 2007 and 2011.
Pelosi was in no mood to gloat. On the contrary, on Monday she wrote a thank-you note to Higgins and every other Democratic member of the House for holding firm against Trump's demands for money for his border wall.
"Many thanks to our House Democratic Caucus for remaining strong and unified," she wrote. "As I have said, our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power!"