On a Wednesday night in September, while President Biden backslapped in the Republican dugout during the annual congressional baseball game, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat nearby, sober-faced and wagging her finger while speaking into her cellphone, toiling to salvage her party’s top legislative priority as it teetered on the brink of collapse.
On the other end of the line was Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, a crucial swing vote on Mr. Biden’s sweeping social policy bill, and Ms. Pelosi, seated in the V.I.P. section behind the dugout at Nationals Park, was trying to persuade him to embrace $2.1 trillion in spending and climate change provisions she considered essential for the legislation.
In a moment captured by C-SPAN cameras that went viral, Ms. Pelosi appeared to grow agitated as Mr. Manchin, according to sources apprised of the call, told her that he could not accept more than $1.5 trillion — and was prepared to provide a document clearly laying out his parameters for the package, benchmarks that House Democrats had been clamoring to see.
The call reflected how Ms. Pelosi’s pivotal role in shepherding Mr. Biden’s agenda on Capitol Hill has reached far beyond the House that is her primary responsibility and into the Senate, where she has engaged in quiet and little-noticed talks with key lawmakers who have the power to kill the package or propel it into law.
Her efforts — fraught with challenges and littered with near-death experiences for the bill — finally paid off on Friday with House passage of the $2.2 trillion social policy and climate change package.
...While her main responsibility was wrangling the House, Ms. Pelosi devoted considerable time to Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema, both of whom hold the power to scuttle the deal in the evenly divided Senate if they balk.
Ms. Pelosi has ties to both. She has bonded with Mr. Manchin, who like Ms. Pelosi grew up in a political family, over their shared Italian heritage and Catholicism and her work on health and pension benefits for coal miners, represented in her office by a statue of a miner gifted to her by Mr. Manchin.