Pelosi promotes House election law package, Clay’s re-election bid in St. Louis area visit
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visits with Vickie Wade, executive vice president of clinical services, on a tour of the Lacy Clay
Updated at 7:15 p.m. with additional information
ST. LOUIS • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi swept through the St. Louis area Monday to promote a Democratic voting rights and ethics package, tour two social service agencies and raise money for her party’s House campaign committee.
She was accompanied throughout the day by Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-University City, who said at an afternoon event in Ferguson that “I’m so proud to serve on Team Pelosi” in the House.
The Californian in turn endorsed Clay’s bid for re-election next year. Clay is facing a repeat challenge in the Democratic primary from the woman he defeated last year: activist, nurse and pastor Cori Bush.
Pelosi issued the show of support after a reporter asked her if she expected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to campaign against some Democratic incumbents next year as she did last year for Bush against Clay.
“I won’t make a prediction,” Pelosi said at the Ferguson event. “I’ll just state a fact. That I am proud to support Lacy Clay for his re-election.” She didn’t comment further on Ocasio-Cortez.
The event, at the Urban League Empowerment Center on West Florissant Avenue, was to draw attention to House Democratic efforts to push election law changes embodied in H.R. 1, which Clay co-sponsors.
About 100 people attended, including various local-level Democratic officials.
The measure, which won House approval this month, would make it easier for people to register and vote, tighten election security against cyberattacks and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
The bill would make Election Day a holiday for federal workers, set up a partial public financing system for U.S. House campaigns and require disclosure of so-called “dark money” contributions.
The measure also would bar purges of voter rolls such as those seen in Georgia and Ohio and restore voting rights for ex-prisoners nationally. Missouri already has done that, Clay pointed out.
Pelosi said the legislation is among three major goals of House Democrats, along with reducing prescription drug costs and “increasing paychecks by building infrastructure.“
“Cleaner government is essential to the other two,” she said. “It gives people confidence that we can get it done because the voices of the people will be heard” by removing obstacles to participation.
Republican leaders call the measure a Democratic power grab and a federal takeover of elections that could cost billions.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the leader of the GOP-majority Senate, has promised that it will not come up for a vote there. Pelosi suggested that could change if popular support builds for the measure.
“This is about public sentiment,” she said.
Pelosi and Clay also talked up a separate House measure that would restore a Voting Rights Act provision thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2013. The provision required states with a history of voter discrimination to get election law changes approved in advance by the Justice Department.
Pelosi, in response to a reporter’s question, reiterated her recent comments playing down the idea of impeaching President Donald Trump.
She said Congress should be “spending our time” on issues such as health care, clean government and “the climate crisis.”
“When I said he’s not worth it, it got your attention,” she said Monday. “What he’s not worth is the financial stability” of America’s working families.
At the same time, she added, Congressional committees are exercising their responsibility to provide oversight over the executive branch.
The Urban League center, which houses job training programs, opened in 2017 on the site of a QuikTrip store that burned down during the unrest following the 2014 killing of Michael Brown.
Pelosi congratulated “all of you who had a part in the phoenix rising from the ashes of what happened before.”
After the Ferguson event, Pelosi was scheduled to headline a closed-door fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Pelosi aides wouldn’t discuss other details but sources said it was at the home of Michael Neidorff, chairman and chief executive officer of Clayton-based Centene Corp.
Earlier in the day, Pelosi and Clay toured two agencies that had gotten federal funding through Clay’s efforts.
The first stop was at the Lacy Clay Center for Children’s Health, a mental-health facility for kids on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis.
Pelosi noted that when Clay was pushing for federal support, he made a point that it would be a unique institution with an emphasis on children touched by violence.
“He promised this would be of national significance … as an example to others,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi also visited the Fathers Support Center on North Newstead Avenue in St. Louis, which helps men who have been imprisoned reconnect with their families and gives them job training and other help. She spent about an hour talking with employees and some of the agency’s clients. “You give people hope,” she told agency leaders.
Pelosi and her entourage then stopped for lunch at Cathy’s Kitchen on South Florissant Road in Ferguson. Owners Jerome and Cathy Jenkins welcomed the group.
Among those joining Pelosi at a long table for lunch were Clay, Florissant Mayor Tom Schneider, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell and state Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors.
Other Democratic state legislators and local elected officials such as St. Louis Aldermanic President Lewis Reed attended other events on the itinerary.
The Associated Press and The Washington Post contributed to this report.