Before heated Oval Office meeting, Pelosi said she wants 'women to see that you do not get pushed around'
Posted December 12, 2018 3:19 p.m. EST
(CNN) — Rep. Nancy Pelosi sat in a heated Oval Office meeting on Tuesday to discuss border security and a potential government shutdown surrounded by men.
"You do not have the votes in the House," she said.
It was a defiant moment from the House minority leader to the President to the United States, telling him his signature campaign promise of a border wall did not have the support it needed. For Pelosi, she knows standing up to the men in the room is part of the process. And she knows what it takes to get things done in Washington.
"I put on a suit of armor, eat nails for breakfast," said Pelosi in an interview with CNN's Dana Bash in October as part of the Badass Women of Washington series. "I know how to take a punch."
This is not the first time Pelosi has been in a meeting like this, and she draws on her past experiences of being the only woman in the room.
"When I went to my first meeting at the White House, you know, I tell this story ... but when I went in the door and saw the small meeting with the President, vice president and the leadership of House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, I realized it was unlike any meeting that any woman had ever been to at the White House," she remembers.
"I'm sitting there, and all of a sudden I'm squeezed in my chair. I'm like, 'What is this? I'm squeezed in my chair.' Then it was Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth. They were all there at the table with me. Then I could hear them say, 'At last, we have a seat at the table.' Imagine. Then they were gone. My thought was, 'We want more,'" she says.
Pelosi is a long way from her first meeting at the White House and when asked whether meetings like the one on Tuesday are difficult for her, she had a simple answer: "I don't have any trouble." She does, however, notice the difficulties that come with a situation like that.
"Have you ever been to a meeting when you're at the table, and a woman makes a suggestion, and then they go to the next person, and then two persons later a man makes the same suggestion, the other gentleman at the table say, 'That's a great idea'"? Pelosi asks.
"What I have learned later in life, I've concluded, that the reason that they didn't recognize the merit when a woman suggested it is they didn't even listen. They did not even listen to the woman. That's why I say to people, 'Make sure that you have a give-and-take on what you suggest, because some man's going to get the credit for your idea,'" she says.
Pelosi said she realized after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in 2016 how important it was for her to stick around and be present in high level meetings. She said she wants to be an example to women.
"I want women to see that you do not get pushed around. You don't run away from the fight. You compete," she says.
And fight she did on Tuesday. When Trump commented about her ability to speak because of her current battle to retake the role of speaker of the House of Representatives, Pelosi did not stand down.
"I also know that Nancy is in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now," Trump said.
"Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as a leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory," Pelosi responded.