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November 16, 2006
Are The House Democrats Revolting?

... against Nancy Pelosi, that is? According to Robert Novak, the impending Speakership of Nancy Pelosi has a number of them gravely concerned, and for the same reason that I pointed out on Monday. With her unexpected endorsement of John Murtha's challenge to Steny Hoyer and her demotion of Jane Harman on the Intelligence committee, Pelosi has made clear that her rule will find its basis on personal whim rather than any concern over the philosophical direction of the party:

The damage to her was irrevocable when she wrote her colleagues Sunday urging them to pick Murtha over Rep. Steny Hoyer. Close associates of Hoyer say her letter stunned him, and he was not alone. While Pelosi had made it clear that she would vote for Murtha, the public endorsement was unexpected.

Although Pelosi's apologists had stressed that this was not a public campaign, but a pro forma endorsement, she began actively campaigning for Murtha on Tuesday. Even before that, the letter itself was taken seriously within the Democratic caucus, including by Hoyer and his close associates. A speaker's written word cannot be taken lightly. ...

Pelosi's personal pique was evident in her opposition to her rival diva from California, Rep. Jane Harman, as chairman of the House intelligence committee. In line to replace Harman is Rep. Alcee Hastings, who was once impeached as a federal judge on bribery charges.

For a party that effectively stressed a Republican climate of corruption in the recent campaign to consider placing Murtha and Hastings in its leadership astonishes a wide range of Democrats. They do not believe Murtha can defeat Hoyer, but the imminence of Hastings stuns them. Well-placed Democrats have told Pelosi she cannot permit this to happen. What they hesitate to contemplate is what lies ahead based on Pelosi's performance before she has taken the oath.

As mediocre as Denny Hastert proved as Speaker, his management of the House did not revolve around his personal connections and relationships. Hastert made his decisions based on party concerns, perhaps to a fault; he would not allow legislation to come to the floor unless a majority of Republicans supported it, a policy that infuriated the Democrats, who argued that they had no voice on policy as a result.

Pelosi apparently wants to prove herself as worse than mediocre before taking the gavel from Hastert. I called Murtha an unforced error on Tuesday, and the more Murtha speaks publicly, the more obvious this becomes. Murtha is almost incoherent when on camera; he makes a terrible public face for the party. Murtha's power comes from his legendary ability to maneuver pork as rewards for allies and punishment for opponents, the exact kind of politics that Democrats claimed to oppose in the midterms last week.

And then there's Alcee Hastings, the man Pelosi wants to replace Harman as Intel chair. I started writing about Hastings in June, when his name first got floated as the potential chair for this committee, and I've mentioned him a few times since. Murtha might represent old-fashioned pork politics, but Hastings actually was corrupt enough to get impeached and removed from the federal bench -- by a Democratic Congress. If Murtha was an unforced error, Hastings is an embarrassing example of Pelosi's judgment. She needs the support of the Congressional Black Caucus to get elected Speaker, and they want Hastings to succeed Harman, if Harman doesn't get the chair. Pelosi can't afford to alienate them any further after she had the audacity to ask William Jefferson to resign from his committee assignments after the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer. (Jefferson won re-election, too.)

Steny Hoyer and Jane Harman have proven themselves capable party spokespeople, and have a record for independent thinking. Pelosi opposes them both strictly for personal reasons. She doesn't like Harman, feeling that her fellow Californian hasn't been partisan enough in her role on the Intel committee, and Hoyer ran against her for Minority Leader in 2001. For those personal reasons, Pelosi wants to turn to a corrupt ex-judge and a bumbling porker for party leadership positions, making a mockery of her promises of reform.

Democrats are in a bad position. They can't afford to throw Pelosi under the bus after promoting her as the first woman Speaker in American history. They can't afford to have Hastings and Murtha in leadership positions and then face the voters in 2008 who wanted reform and change. They can't afford to undermine her authority and openly campaign for the reversal of Hastings' appointment and the failure of her Murtha endorsement.

Days after their electoral triumph, Pelosi has led the party into a dead end, and they have two more years of her leadership to endure. Democrats will have to do one of the above tasks and resolve their conundrum, but any way they move, they damage their standing. An open revolt might be the best option for them at this point, perhaps led by Hoyer himself.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 16, 2006 5:14 AM

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» Democrats start by shooting themselves in both feet from Judicious Asininity
Captain Ed sums up the problems Pelosi has inflicted on the Democrats:Steny Hoyer and Jane Harman have proven themselves capable party spokespeople, and have a record for independent thinking. Pelosi [Read More]

Tracked on November 16, 2006 9:15 AM

» The rise and fall and rise of Pelosi - UPDATED from The Anchoress
Shortly after the elections, I wrote three small predictions, here. Many agreed with my second and third predictions, but took issue with my first: Nancy Pelosi will not be the Speaker of the House. Partly because she’s too far to the left, partly ... [Read More]

Tracked on November 16, 2006 10:49 AM

» With Murtha's Defeat, Will Pelosi Continue Catfight with Harman? from Gay Patriot
With the defeat earlier this morning of her choice for House Majority Leader in the 110th Congress, House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi suffered her first setback since Democrats won congressional majorities in last week's election. Not only did Pelo... [Read More]

Tracked on November 16, 2006 5:21 PM


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