House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats last week handed President Barack Obama the worst intraparty defeat of his administration. They joined Republicans to block legislation that would smooth the path for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal among a dozen nations that is the centerpiece of the president's foreign policy "pivot" to Asia. Over bowls of ice cream, she sat down on Tuesday with me in her Capitol office to discuss the stalemate. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.
HARWOOD: Let me ask you about what happened on Friday. In all the time that I've covered you, that was the first circumstance where I looked at you and thought, she has lost control of the situation. The conclusion that I drew was that you had been overrun by your caucus.
PELOSI: We really handled that with great care and respect for all points of view. I've had a problem since NAFTA with fast track. I don't think it's even necessary. It's a convenience for the administration, it's an advantage for the business community, but it's a hardship for workers, because it just isn't fair. And especially for us, because it was negotiated some place with Republicans. I went into it, when I said I'm trying to find a road to "yes," the indication was, I wasn't at "yes," right? A road to "yes" doesn't mean we're at yes. And I don't know how people hear things.
HARWOOD: Did you tell the president that morning that you were going to give the speech that you gave on the floor? Have you spoken to the president since? Is he angry with you?
PELOSI: I'd rather not talk about my conversations with the president. But his administration was fabulous in terms of supplying information. The trade representative, Cabinet officers, others coming in to answer questions. But this has reached a tipping point. I wrote today in the USA Today, we need a new paradigm. We have conferences on this, that and the other, the G-7, the G-8, the G-20, the G-whiz. Why are they not talking about how we can have fair trade that lifts everyone up, instead of trickle down on trade that advantages many—some, and is questionable in terms of its advantage to some? Now I've represented a city built on trade. But don't ask us to up or down the vote on fast track. That was too much.
HARWOOD: One of the headlines said, "Pelosi Knifes Obama."
PELOSI: Well that's not fair, that's just not fair.