It was an awkward moment, one captured by C-SPAN, when Nancy Pelosi addressed the House of Representatives from the floor this morning.
She announced it was her birthday, and the gathered representatives stood and applauded.
“No singing, no singing,” she said. When some of the members began the opening bars of “Happy Birthday,” she delicately shushed them with her hands, giving a look that appeared to mean, “Really, no singing.”
The song petered out and Pelosi had the floor. At 79, she was ready to bypass the formality and was prepared to proceed with the day’s agenda.
Pelosi had received a more formal rendition of “Happy Birthday,” one led by former President Barack Obama, two days before — at a meet-and-greet with freshman Democratic lawmakers, according to The Washington Examiner.
It was an opportune time for the former president — who has been relatively low-key since he left office — to be in town, meeting with the current speaker of the House.
In 2010, working with then-President Obama and a Democratic Senate, Pelosi pushed through the Affordable Care Act. The effort followed decades of failed efforts at healthcare reform by Democrats.
This was arguably Pelosi’s crowning legislative achievement of her 32 years in the House of Representatives. According to the Los Angeles Times, the law is now a centerpiece of Democratic campaigns — and has survived repeated attempts by Republicans to repeal it.
Yesterday, the Trump administration announced that Republicans are once again reviving their efforts to quash the ACA, making the GOP the “party of healthcare,” in Trump’s words, according to The Associated Press.
The battles between Pelosi and Trump are already beginning to shape her legacy.
While Trump is new to Washington, Pelosi has spent a lifetime in politics, starting by tracking votes for her father — a man who was a New Deal congressman, and a former Baltimore mayor, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Her political mettle was on full display last December when an impromptu meeting with President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Senator Chuck Schumer regarding the potential government shutdown became unhinged.
When Trump and Schumer became agitated and exchanged barbs back and forth, it was Pelosi who remained calm and silenced the room with one statement.
“Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.”
The victory she was referring to was the Democrats taking control of 235 seats of the House in November, a historic 102 of which were won by women. When Pelosi first made it to the House in 1987, there were only 24 women serving, according to CNN.
With the constant badgering and derogatory remarks hurled her way, Pelosi remains unphased. She is now 79 years old and has five children, and five grandchildren. It is easy to imagine her managing them in the same way in which she stopped the House today.
“I put on a suit of armor, eat nails for breakfast,” Pelosi, the highest-ranking female elected official in United States history, said in an interview with CNN last fall. “I know how to take a punch.”