fb-pixel Skip to main content
RHODE MAP

Nancy Pelosi stories from the Rhode Islanders who served with her

US Senator Jack Reed was in the Cabinet Room in 2019 when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused President Trump of withdrawing US troops from northern Syria to enable Russian President Vladimir Putin to gain a toehold in the region.White House

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she will not seek another term in Democratic leadership, clearing the way for a new generation of lawmakers to make their mark in the House.

Pelosi plans to remain in the House for the time being, but I wanted to ask the Rhode Islanders who served in the House with her for their favorite memories about working with her.

I managed to talk with almost everyone; here are their stories.

Patrick Kennedy (D)

Kennedy represented the 1st District from 1995 until 2011, which means he was in the House when Pelosi became the first female speaker in 2007. He told me that Pelosi was fiercely loyal to her colleagues, and that’s why they’ve always had her back when she needed them for a vote.

Advertisement



Kennedy said he was in rehab when the Affordable Care Act was coming up for a vote. Pelosi needed his vote so much that she hopped on the phone with his doctor and asked if she could bring him to the Capitol for four hours. The doctor signed off, and Pelosi sent a car for Kennedy. After the vote, she hugged him and said, “Okay honey, now you can go back to treatment.”

US Representative James Langevin (D)

The retiring congressman got to watch each of Pelosi’s stints as speaker, and they built a strong relationship over the years. He said one of his favorite memories was the time Pelosi handed him the gavel to be speaker pro tempore in 2010 after making the rostrum wheelchair-accessible.

”That was a powerful moment, and it was certainly personally meaningful and moving to me, but it was also a change moment for the country,” he said. “It broadcasted that all things are possible and anyone can be speaker.”

Langevin also shared the picture below of the time he traveled with Pelosi to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. At one point they were in Paris and shared a croque monsieur, a hot sandwich made with ham and cheese.

Advertisement



House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and US Representative James Langevin of Rhode Island in Paris.James Langevin

US Senator Jack Reed (D)

He has moved to the upper chamber, but once upon a time, Senator Reed was a young pup representing Rhode Island’s 2nd District in the House of Representatives. Reed had a special “in” with Pelosi because he is friends with Bernie Buonanno, whose wife, Martha Dodd Buonanno, was roomies with Pelosi in college. Their daughter, Helena Buonanno Foulkes, just ran for governor of Rhode Island.

But Reed’s favorite story about Pelosi is more recent. He was in the room (pictured below) in 2019 when Pelosi and other Democrats famously walked out on former president Donald Trump during a tense discussion about Trump’s decision to remove troops from Syria. Reed remembers Trump calling her “Nancy” instead of addressing her as the speaker, and then rambling about former president Barack Obama.

Pelosi believed the troop withdrawal would allow for a toehold in northern Syria for Russian President Vladimir Putin. She stood up, pointed at Trump, and asked why with him, do “all roads lead to Putin?”

”Nancy impressed me that day with the courage to stand up and basically call the president as being unprepared and being uncivil,” Reed said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed at President Trump during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in 2019.White House

US Representative David Cicilline (D)

Like Senator Reed before him, Cicilline also used his friendship with Bernie Buonanno so that he could try to land a spot on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

Cicilline said that two of his favorite memories of Pelosi are when she traveled to Providence so he could honor her as “Woman of the Year.” He also traveled with her and former president Obama to Cuba, and he recalls her being a workaholic.

Advertisement



He said they were up by 7 a.m. for meetings and would get back to the hotel at 9:30 p.m. when she’d ask them to having a working dinner with a bunch of economists. After dinner, she would try to figure out where in the US she could make fund-raising phone calls.

Ronald Machtley (R)

Machtley got elected to Congress the year after Pelosi, and she wasn’t yet a member of Democratic leadership by the time he left. But he used to play basketball with Democrats Chuck Schumer and Tom Downey, and “you could see that she was the person that they were looking up to.”

Years later, when Machtley was president of Bryant University, he was visiting in the Capitol with a group of students when they ran into Pelosi, who was now the speaker. He said she stopped and chatted with him just like the old days.

”My relationship with her was as a colleague as opposed to the arch enemy,” he said.

Claudine Schneider (R)

Schneider was already a member of the US House of Representatives when Pelosi was elected in 1987, and the two were members of different political parties.

They both were members of the Congressional Women’s Caucus, and Schneider e-mailed to say that “she was always reliable and collaborative/non-partisan in the best interest of women and all Americans … as she is today. That hasn’t changed.”

Advertisement



Schneider worked closely with Pelosi to stop an attempt by former senator Orrin Hatch to overturn Title IX: “I spearheaded that effort and she was my most dependable ally in securing votes to defeat his efforts,” she wrote.

Seth Magaziner (D)

The Representative-elect hasn’t been sworn in yet, so technically he hasn’t served with Pelosi. But he sent in a first-day-of-school picture with the outgoing speaker, and said that she hosted all of the new House Democrats for dinner in Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

Magaziner writes: “I will always remember one line from her speech that night: ‘In the House of Representatives, sometimes you have to have the courage to fight. You have to be willing to take a punch and you have to be willing to throw a punch … for the children!’ Everyone laughed, but she was right. Politics is a tough profession, but we do well when we stay focused on building a better world than the one we inherited.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with US Representative Seth Magaziner of Rhode Island.Seth Magaziner

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.


Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.