A restive and rollicking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi repeatedly mocked President Donald Trump and House Republicans in a spirited interview with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith on Thursday.
"Did we ever think we would see the day when we would say, 'Please bring back George W. Bush'?" she asked during an Austin taping of the KLRU-TV program Overheard with Evan Smith. "We really did work together."
About Trump, she added: "This is a very unusual person to be president of the United States because I don't know if he doesn't know or doesn't care what the American people think ... Maybe it's both."
At one point, she feigned forgetting the name of the president, and then joked, "It's hard for me to say those two words [President Trump] together."
When it comes to serious policy issues, Pelosi said most of her conversations with the new president have related to infrastructure legislation. But she said she found him unimpressive in his first meeting with congressional leaders earlier this year.
"He has sort of a charm offensive, and I think his charm offensive is offensive," she said of the initial meeting at the White House, citing the false assertions he made that night that he had won the 2016 popular vote.
Pelosi conceded she was blindsided by her party's electoral loss in November: "I didn't think Hillary Clinton was going to be elected president — I knew she would be elected president."
Addressing the 2018 midterm elections, Pelosi revealed that Democrats are considering an expansive offensive in Texas, including a possible challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, who represents Sugar Land. The diversifying Houston suburb is the same region former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay represented during his reign at the U.S. Capitol, and Trump carried that district by eight points.
Earlier this year, Democrats announced they were considering mounting serious challenges to Republican U.S. Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas and John Culberson of Houston, in addition to their typical target — the West Texas district of Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.
An audience member asked Pelosi if the party intended to go after any Republicans in seats that are overwhelmingly conservative. Pelosi said no; House Democrats would spend their money only on seats they believe they can win, she said.
She said that would "absolutely" be enough for Democrats to win the gavel in 2018.
During Thursday's interview, Pelosi addressed news reports that House Republicans are considering another attempt at a health care overhaul when Congress returns from recess. Pelosi said she anticipates legislation that will be similar to the bill House leaders were unable to navigate through the chamber last month.
At the time, Republicans wanted to implement a new health law that would have eliminated the individual mandate, ended essential health benefits that insurance plans have to provide and added age-based subsidies to help pay for health insurance premiums.
But leaders soon found they didn't have the support from their colleagues or the public. Currently, Republicans are considering giving states the option to forgo certain provisions of the 2010 health law.
Pelosi did say Democrats would play ball on health care, with conditions.
"The fact is, if we can find a path where we can work together for the good of the American people, we have a responsibility to do that — as long as they take repeal off the table," she said.
Earlier in the day Thursday, Pelosi was on a 15-person community roundtable with U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. During the hour-plus forum, Pelosi and Doggett heard from members of the health, technology and business community in Austin about how the 2010 federal health law was working.
Pelosi and Doggett also took swipes at the Texas Legislature for failing to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and expressed concern over giving it more power to cherry pick what insurance companies had to cover.
"I do not have confidence in our current state government to handle essential health benefits, and I'm confident that if they were given the authority ... we would see one essential health benefit after another cut out," Doggett said.