Demonized Schumer and Pelosi now deal-makers with Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) - Now, President Donald Trump genially calls them "Chuck and Nancy."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and his House counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, have used two White House meetings to become Trump's dealmaking partners. But while they have a combined 67-year record in Congress of being willing negotiators, they're also partisan Democrats perfectly happy to rumble.

"Let's put it this way, it doesn't matter," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in an interview Friday when she was asked if she likes Trump following two recent interactions that yielded a budget deal and progress on immigration. She said she doesn't know if Trump likes her, adding, "Right now, I want him to like the Dreamers," the nickname for young immigrants the two Democrats and Trump aim to protect.

On Thursday, Schumer, D-N.Y., inadvertently shared his impression of the two leaders' parley with Trump that moved an immigration agreement forward, catching uninvited Republican leaders flat-footed. At an open Senate microphone, Schumer said, "He likes us. He likes me, anyway," and described warning Trump he'd be "boxed" if he only works with one party, adding, "He gets that."

Both leaders' comments were instructive.

Pelosi, 77, who was the first female House speaker, is admired as a legislative tactician able to maximize minority Democrats' strength and as a prodigious fundraiser. Underscoring her penchant for finding allies, Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said when as governor he called congressional leaders to discuss President Barack Obama's pending health care bill in 2009, only Pelosi called back.

Recounting Wednesday's White House dinner that produced an agreement to move forward on immigration, Pelosi, the only woman present, said she was responding to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross when "the others" interrupted.

"I said, 'Does anybody listen to women when they speak around here?'" she said Friday.

But critics say that forcefulness also means Pelosi holds power too tightly, not consulting widely enough with junior lawmakers, and is part of an aging cluster of party leaders that's frustrating younger, ambitious members.

Schumer, 66, has been Senate Democratic leader since January and is viewed as a people person. He's memorized his colleagues' telephone numbers - perhaps because of the limitations of his flip phone - and is known for emotional visits and calls with senators who've experienced personal losses. Schumer has arranged dates for staffers and said this week that his life's big gap was lacking grandchildren - of which Pelosi has nine.

With Schumer's saggy suits contrasting with Pelosi's tailored wardrobe, the two leaders have known each other since serving in the House in the late 1980s. Then Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., invited Pelosi to join a group of lawmakers that dined weekly and already included Schumer. Pelosi says she and Schumer now meet or speak "as necessary," often daily.

Pelosi's four years as speaker began in 2007 and included two years under Obama that saw enactment of his health care law, an economic stimulus package and overhauled financial regulations. She also produced legislation under President George W. Bush and Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, including a bank bailout, a revamping of how Medicare pays doctors and several budget deals.

Thanks to her high profile and unabashed liberal views, Republicans have starred Pelosi in thousands of campaign ads to vilify Democrats.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP's campaign arm, says that in this spring's special Georgia election for an open House seat, Pelosi was mentioned in 90 percent of the nearly 7,500 negative ads that helped defeat Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. One by the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with GOP leaders, flashed pictures of Pelosi, liberal film maker Michael Moore and violent protesters opposing Trump's inauguration as the announcer said, "Jon Ossoff is one of them."

Pelosi is from Baltimore Democratic royalty, daughter of the city's congressman and then mayor. She moved to her husband's hometown of San Francisco and plunged into local politics, entering Congress in 1987 and leading House Democrats since 2003. She's raked in hundreds of millions of dollars for candidates over the years, cementing loyalty from many colleagues.

"The woman is on (an) airplane every weekend helping someone get elected," said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

But in a tea party-fueled backlash to the health care law and other big-spending measures, Republicans recaptured the House in the 2010 elections. Shoved back into the minority, small numbers of Democrats have tried ousting her ever since but fallen far short.

"No one can deny that she's an effective leader," said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., one dissident. Rice said "fair or not," Republicans have painted Pelosi with a negative reputation that's hurting Democrats' efforts to win elections.

The son of a Brooklyn exterminator, Schumer attended Harvard after scoring nearly a perfect 1600 on college entrance exams. He partly attributes that to a summer job with neighbor Stanley Kaplan, a test preparation industry pioneer.

At age 23, Schumer became the youngest member of the New York State Assembly since Theodore Roosevelt in the 1880s. He was elected to the House in 1980 and the Senate in 1998, climbing leadership ranks and leap-frogging into the top post over his one-time housemate in Washington, No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard Durbin of Illinois.

Schumer helped write crime and gun control bills in the 1990s and aid for the New York region after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and 2012's Hurricane Sandy. He was among eight senators who pushed bipartisan immigration legislation through the Senate in 2013, and this year helped strike compromises temporarily financing government and slapping sanctions on Russia.

He's also kept minority Democrats unanimously against the failed GOP drive to repeal Obama's health law, blocked money for Trump's wall with Mexico and kept pressure on Trump by railing against his firing of former FBI chief James Comey. That's earned tweets from Trump, who's called him the Democrats' "head clown" and "Cryin' Chuck."

"We've surpassed most reasonable expectations" this year, said Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.


AP reporter Matthew Daly contributed.