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Pelosi Gains Spot on Arnold’s Agenda

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday issued an 11th-hour invitation to meet privately with GOP Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger when he visits Capitol Hill today, working her way into his schedule crowded with Republican sessions.

Pelosi’s office contacted Schwarzenegger about the sit-down late Tuesday afternoon after the governor-elect’s agenda was largely put together. Schwarzenegger’s camp had not previously reached out to the Democratic leader.

The two prominent Californians plan to meet mid-morning today, after Schwarzenegger participates in three back-to-back meetings with Congressional Republicans.

Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said the Minority Leader wanted to meet with Schwarzenegger as a follow-up to an earlier conversation the duo had after the actor-turned-politician won the recall election. During that earlier phone call, she said, both Pelosi and Schwarzenegger indicated a desire to meet privately when he traveled to Washington for the first time as governor-elect.

Crider cited scheduling conflicts as the reason for the delay in getting Pelosi on Schwarzenegger’s busy agenda, which earlier in the day included private meetings with top Republican Congressional leaders and California Members.

“They both had very busy schedules,” said Crider.

She said Pelosi wants to talk with Schwarzenegger about the “critical issues facing California,” including the state’s budget troubles and the wildfire crisis in the southern part of the state.

In a conference call laying out the details of Schwarzenegger’s visit, transition committee spokesman Rob Stutzman did not directly address why the governor-elect had no special plans to meet with Pelosi. Pelosi was planning to attend a bipartisan, bicameral California delegation meeting with Schwarzenegger this morning, providing an opportunity for the two to see one another.

“At the moment, the only meeting he has with the Minority Leader is part of that reception,” Stutzman said earlier Tuesday.

That session is expected to be just a meet-and-greet lacking a substantive agenda.

Schwarzenegger’s trip is being billed as a visit designed to bolster relationships and make a pitch for federal help in the wake of major wildfires in his home state. He is making the trip in advance of taking over as governor, a position he assumes next month after the brutal recall election that ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

“He’s going to Washington to establish relationships and build upon existing relationships so he can govern effectively,” Stutzman said.

The governor-elect’s crowded Hill schedule heavily favors time with Republicans, including meetings with Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.). But he will also have face time with California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer in two separate meetings.

Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver, will also squeeze in a private lunch with Sen. Edward Kennedy (Mass.), Shriver’s uncle, and his wife.

Schwarzenegger begins his day by meeting with the California Republican delegation, followed by a session with the full House GOP Conference and then the House Republican leadership. Republicans sought the sit-down sessions with Schwarzenegger, according to House GOP leadership aides.

“Clearly, California being the state that it is, it’s important for the newly elected Republican governor to get to know the House leadership and vice versa,” said Kyle Downey, spokesman for Rep. Rob Portman (Ohio), chairman of the House GOP leadership.

After meeting with the leaders, Schwarzenegger then chats with the entire California delegation, including Democrats — and rounds out the morning by sitting down with Sens. Boxer and Feinstein. The governor-elect completes the first half of the day by sitting down with Frist and Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

Stutzman said even though Schwarzenegger’s agenda is largely dominated by meetings with Republicans, he is making time for Democrats. “It’s a bipartisan schedule,” he said.

Schwarzenegger will also use the visit to meet with the secretaries of Energy, Transportation, Agriculture and Education. He is also attempting to meet with officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discuss federal assistance for the wildfire damage.

Schwarzenegger will not meet directly with President Bush. They already huddled last week in California.

Stutzman said even though California’s wildfires are creating a major crisis in the state, Schwarzenegger didn’t believe he needed to cancel his Washington visit. He stressed that Schwarzenegger is keeping tabs on the situation with regular briefings and conversations with Davis.

“He’s the governor-elect,” Stutzman said from California. “He’s not here in a command and control position.”

The spokesman added, “He’s not in a position to direct resources. He’s not governor yet. I don’t see any reason for him to cancel the trip.”