U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi(D-CA) covered several topics during a discussion Tuesday evening at RiceUniversity's Baker Institute for Public Policy. The invitation-only event began with a warm introduction by the school's namesake, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. "She and I are living proof that you can be at opposite ends of the political spectrum and still like each other," Baker told the audience. Baker added that he was "impressed" with Pelosi's "passion" and her "political acumen." Pelosi touted her local ties, noting that one of her daughters, son-in-law and their children live in Houston's West University area.
Pelosi spoke for more than an hour, taking questions from the moderator and audience on topics ranging from the situation in Ukraine, to Obamacare, women in politics, immigration, the cost of higher education, and the state of journalism. When asked about prospects of more bipartisanship in Congress, Pelosi cited a controversial issue. "A good hope of bipartisanship would be that we could bring up the immigration (reform) bill," she told the audience. "We have probably 100% of the Democrats, and we just need a few Republicans." On the issue of climate change, Pelosi called Houston the "energy capital of the world" and encouraged energy companies to be part of the solution. "If I were the CEO of a major oil company, I would say I'm taking charge of this (issue), because they're always going to need my oil, but how do we manage the rest of it."
Pelosi also chided Texas and other states that have rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. "It's hard to understand why a state would not want to have that infusion of money for that purpose...it's free money," she said. The event was calm and cordial throughout, with no hostile words or exchanges. After one audience member said he was a Republican after asking a question, Pelosi lightened the mood. "My son-in-law is a Republican, and he's right here in the second row," she said while laughing. "And he's wearing a tie that's red with elephants on it, so what can I tell you."