Nancy Pelosi’s Political Flex

Tom Brenner for The New York Times

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We’re less than a month into the new Congress, but one thing has already become clear: Don’t mess with Nancy.

Over the past week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been flexing her muscle all over Washington. The latest, and perhaps most glaring, example came on Wednesday, when Ms. Pelosi requested that President Trump delay — or skip altogether — his State of the Union address.

“The date of the State of the Union is not a sacred date. It’s not constitutionally required; it’s not any president’s birthday; it’s not anything,” she told reporters this morning. “It is a date that we agreed to — it could have been the week later.”

Her comments clearly got under the president’s skin. Late Thursday afternoon, he revoked her military transport for a secret trip to Afghanistan — a visit to a war zone that Mr. Trump derided as a “public relations event.” He suggested Ms. Pelosi, third in line for the presidency, fly commercial. To Afghanistan.

Ms. Pelosi’s aides and supporters quickly pointed out that her plans included thanking the troops and meeting with the commanders of the war that Mr. Trump is trying to end. Mr. Trump, in fact, made his first visit to a warzone during this same shutdown.

Now, none of the fighting over flights gets the country any closer to ending a government shutdown that’s crippling the finances of 800,000 federal workers and starting to have economic impacts far bigger than even the White House anticipated.

But it is some awfully crafty politics by Ms. Pelosi.

A 78-year-old, wealthy San Francisco liberal, Ms. Pelosi is nobody’s idea of an everyman politician. Forget fast food — Ms. Pelosi eats dark chocolate ice cream for breakfast. Her campaign superpower involves twisting the arms of rich donors. She doesn’t really use Twitter, never mind Instagram.

And yet, right now, she might just be the most powerful politician in the country.

Dozens of Democrats spent months campaigning against supporting Ms. Pelosi as speaker. (Worth noting: G.O.P. attacks on her far outpaced mentions of any other congressional leader in campaign ads for the last three cycles.) In the end, after a weekslong campaign by Ms. Pelosi put down any hint of rebellion, only 15 members cast ballots against her.

Now, she’s getting her revenge, wielding one of the most powerful tools in her disposal: committee assignments.

Ms. Pelosi kept Representative Kathleen Rice’s name off the list of suggested members for the Judiciary Committee, a powerful spot that will be at the center of investigations into Mr. Trump — and any possible impeachment. Ms. Rice was one of Ms. Pelosi’s most outspoken critics.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, who pushed against Ms. Pelosi but ultimately voted for her for speaker, got a perch on the influential Financial Services Committee,…

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