CAMBRIDGE — House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from California, said the GOP tax law that passed in December is impeding budget negotiations — not the issue of what to do with the undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, so-called Dreamers.
“If there was not one Dreamer on the face of the earth, we would still not have an agreement in this budget debate,” Pelosi told a crowd of about 200 people gathered Thursday morning at a town hall event at the Cambridge Public Library. “It’s going to increase the deficit even though they said it’s going to pay for itself; well it isn’t.”
Pelosi blasted the Republican tax law as part of the 100-city “Repeal the TrumpTax Tour” organized by the Tax March, a progressive group formed last year to pressure President Trump to release his tax returns.
The town hall event had the air of a midterm primary election campaign stop as Pelosi was joined by US Representative Katherine Clark, a Democrat from Melrose, and US Representative Michael E. Capuano, who is being challenged by Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, considered to be his most serious challenger since he was elected to the Seventh Congressional District seat 20 years ago. Nine years ago, Pressley became the first woman of color elected to the council.
Capuano, who introduced Pelosi Thursday as “the third toughest woman I’ve ever met” behind his mother and wife, told reporters after the event that he has known Pressley for a while and “she’s a good person, she’ll make a good candidate, and welcome to the race.”
Having a primary challenger, he said, won’t change the way he approaches his political campaign.
“Every time I’ve ever campaigned, win or lose, no one has ever said I don’t give it 150 percent. I’ll be giving it 150 percent again,” Capuano said. “I think my record speaks for itself, but I know I need to go out and reconnect with constituents in many ways, which is obviously harder to do going back and forth to Washington every week, but we’ll do it.”
The Seventh Congressional District is the state’s only one where the majority of residents are black, Asian, and nonwhite Hispanic.
Pelosi addressed the issue of minority representation, crediting African-American women for being the drivers behind Democratic wins in last year’s Virginia state elections and Alabama’s Senate election.
“That’s what’s really exciting about the election that’s coming up because there’s so much new energy coming forth,” Pelosi told the crowd. “We may not have won elections in Alabama, perhaps Virginia, without the vote of African-American women. They are the smartest voters.”
Capuano highlighted his middle-class roots when criticizing the Republican tax overhaul for taking away homeowners’ ability to deduct the interest on home equity loans. He said he remortgaged his house twice to pay for his two children’s education.
“I’m not a rich guy, I’m not a poor guy; middle class,” he said. “This bill takes that away — you remortgage your house, no more deduction for that interest. To me that’s a sin. That’s telling people like me who live in a two-family house ‘you and your children stay in your place. Don’t you dare try to get up that ladder because we’re not helping.’ ”
The Cambridge event was held hours after Pelosi sent a letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, calling on him to remove Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, as the Intelligence Committee’s chairman. Nunes is the primary author of a memo that is said to question the conduct of the FBI and the Justice Department in the early days of the investigation of potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Pelosi told reporters after the event that releasing the memo would be “dangerous and reckless.” Later Thursday, Trump cleared the way for the release of the memo despite warnings from Justice and Democrats that it could harm national security.
In his most direct nod to the midterm elections, Capuano told the crowd, which included at least one Trump supporter, that: “We are paying the price for elections we have lost. . . . The most important thing you can do about this is to make sure that come January 2019, Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House of Representatives.”
Katheleen Conti can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.