On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will address a nationwide gathering of progressives at America's Future Now!  -- one day after the conference holds "The Great Debate: Progressive Strategy in the Obama Era,"  where attendees will discuss whether to fully back President Obama's agenda or constitute an independent force pushing for bolder, faster action.
Yesterday, during an on-the-record question-and-answer session Speaker Pelosi held with progressive bloggers and reporters , I had the opportunity to raise with the speaker the concerns that many liberals have about a lack of leadership in Washington on pressing issues such as the jobs crisis, and I asked what was her advice for progressives to help bring about a bolder agenda.
Previewing her America's Future Now!  remarks for next week, the Speaker laid out a vision for a "New Prosperity" -- a "different kind of economy" that did not suffer from extreme boom-and-bust cycles, a modern "industrial revolution," and investments creating new opportunities in "health care, education and energy." (Last week, she discussed the "New Prosperity" in her commencement address  at Cornell University. Read her remarks here. )
And how does the Speaker believe we can help realize that vision?
First, she implied that patience would be required in enacting legislation, noting a "changed climate" in Congress with increased resistance from right-leaning Blue Dog Democrats and others, "about the size of the investment packages that we are putting forward."
But despite that, she insisted Congress can "do it in pieces."
She pointed to the latest jobs bill that included $1 billion in new funding for summer jobs, extensions for jobless assistance, and the end of a tax break that has been rewarding businesses for sending jobs overseas.
While aid to state governments and COBRA health insurance subsidies were taken out of the jobs bill to appease certain Democrats, Speaker Pelosi sought to reassure that Congress would simply revisit those goals in separate legislation, keeping the overall agenda moving forward.
Second, she called for progressives to blaze their own path on deficit reduction, "not just with cuts, but by making the proper investments," arguing, for example, that "nothing brings more money to the Treasury than investment in education."
Finally, she suggested that frustrated progressives should tone down criticism, saying, "It would helpful if we worked together on it, instead of undermining each other."