How big a difference does the House Speaker really make?

What about Pelosi’s effect in terms of legislation? It’s true, Democrats passed a lot of major legislation in 2009 and 2010. But by far the most important factor in that success was that Democrats had total control of government — they had the presidency, a clear majority in the House and either 59 or 60 seats in the Senate. Pelosi is considered a liberal hero for one specific move: imploring Democrats to keep trying to push through the Affordable Care Act, even after the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts in early 2010 opened the door to GOP filibusters and was viewed as a signal that voters might be leery of the health care proposal. But Barack Obama, the sitting president, was also in favor of the pushing-ahead strategy. And so was much of the Democratic Party.

Was Pelosi a central figure in stopping the repeal of Obamacare once Republicans won the House (and eventually the Senate and presidency)? Maybe. But remember that repeal actually passed the House, because ultimately, it was a party-line vote and Republicans had the majority. Pelosi couldn’t stop them.

Pelosi kept her party unified while it was in the minority, said Green. “I also think her role in passing the ACA was truly significant, and it would have been difficult for others to replicate it.”

But, Green added, “while Pelosi did exercise some remarkable leadership on passing the ACA, she had a lot of help — and she was hardly the first speaker to accomplish significant legislative leadership.”

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