Pelosi Shows She Can Do Her Homework

Love her or hate her, political junkies will have agree on one thing: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows how to do her political homework and put a coalition together. The Los Angeles Times notes:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faced an angry group of liberal lawmakers when she stepped into her red-walled Capitol office on the afternoon of March 8.
That morning, the 66-year-old San Francisco Democrat had announced plans to push historic legislation requiring President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of August 2008 — at the latest.

But how she did it is becoming a subject of controversy. The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial titled “A Triumph For Pelosi” declares:

‘A Triumph for Pelosi’

That’s how the Associated Press described yesterday’s vote by the House to demand a U.S. retreat from Iraq, and in the perverse calculus of Capitol Hill we suppose it was. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demonstrated she can pile on enough pork to bribe enough Democrats to cobble together a bare, partisan majority to “send a message” that has no chance of becoming law. Congratulations.

The Times piece details how Pelosi did it:

But the anti-war members of her party who gathered in the large conference room overlooking the mall wanted the war over sooner. Many were threatening to defy their leader and vote against the bill.

For 2– hours Pelosi listened, parrying each complaint with an argument she would make hundreds of times over the next two weeks: Democrats had to unite behind a bill that challenged Bush’s management of the war.

Friday, Pelosi carried the day.

In the most difficult trial of her speakership, Pelosi pushed through the first legislation mandating an end to U.S. involvement in the Iraq war.

The 218-212 vote vindicated the risk she took in championing the controversial withdrawal plan before she had the votes.

What’s most fascinating here is the contrast between Pelosi and one of Washington’s past political bigwigs — former Senate Majority Leader Republican Senator Bill Frist.

Frist was a hapless leader who could have more aptly been called The Velcro Majority Leader — someone who didn’t seem to have completely done his homework when the votes were finally counted and who was about as nimble as a hippo trying to break dance in cement shoes.

The question is whether this is a harbinger to come for Pelosi. If so, President George Bush faces some rocky days ahead. The Times piece gives more info on how the vote happened:

And it rewarded the round-the-clock cajoling, lobbying and pleading by Pelosi and her top lieutenants, who worked until just before the vote to keep Democrats united behind the bill. In the end, 14 Democrats voted against it.

“She was the general here, and there wasn’t a stone left unturned, a person left un-contacted or a member whose position was left unknown,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), one of the House’s staunchest war opponents whose decision to back the bill helped put it over the edge. “It was a brilliant campaign.”

Pelosi, who closed the debate for the Democrats Friday, afterward called the vote the beginning of a “new direction.”

“This new Congress voted to bring an end to the war in Iraq,” she said.

What will happen in the end? The measure will most assuredly never become law since even if the Senate embraced it Bush wouldn’t sign it and there wouldn’t be enough votes to override the veto. But it now almost seems a universe ago from the days when the Bush administration essentially had a blank check to what I wanted from a Congress that barely provided any — let alone vigorous — oversight.

If Pelosi’s victory is one of a kind, then Bush & Co don’t have much to worry about. But if this is the way Ms. Pelosi will be doing business then Bush & Co need to fasten their seat belts since it’s going to be an awfully bumpy two years.