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.

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  • http://CaliBlogger.com Citizen Kang

    The WSJ’s sniping about pork rings especially hollow given the silence which has greeted Republican extravagences over the last 6 years.

    But to the point, Pelosi has shown herself quite capable of whipping her caucus, and she has put herself on record, along with another 217 of her cohorts, as voting for an end to this war. And she has put those who voted against on record as well.

    Sadly, given the close vote in the house, the closer margins in the Senate, and the President’s inevitable intransigience, the proposed timetable has slim chance of success.

    However, success in getting this vote is not without consequence, and those who voted against may well find themselves making way for fresher voices in 2008.

    And that is Pelosi’s true victory.

  • superdestroyer

    I think that the bumpiness will stop sometime around December of this year. The upcoming presidential election will ensure that 2008 will be totaly devoid of these type of publicitiy stunts in Congress.

  • http://the-speculator.blogspot.com/ Ashen Shard

    I don’t see how one can call this a publicity stunt. It is a vote on something of substance, and yes it is a compromise between all the differing views though as we all know, the Bush version of compromise is giving him everything he wants. And yes, this bill is a compromise, because it is not withdrawing our troops right away, and it is not allowing them to stay there indefinitely.
    If you want publicity stunt, I would say go back and look at what the Republican Congress was voting for, such as the amendments to ban gay marriage or flag burning. Neither of those has actual substance to them, they were only put on the table to gain the votes of the extreme right.
    And I don’t think these type of bills, these type of issues will stop coming up after December. The best strategy for the Democratic Party is to continue to bring bills of substance to the floor and get everyone on record to vote on them. What may happen after December is a greater number of Republicans will be on board, voting in favor in order to hold onto their seats.
    However, superdestroyer, I wouldn’t put it past the Democrats to drop the ball and stop putting forward possibly controversial bills in order to avoid the risk. But, we’ll just have to wait and see.

  • Rudi

    The publicity stunt is allocating $20 million for victory parades in Iraq and Afghanistan by the last Congress. Instead of a real debate, they were planning for a tickertape parade, with programs from the Lincoln Group.

  • Mike P.

    Herding the cats. It seems crazy to me that some members were hesitant to vote for this because it didn’t go far enough. It sets a date for withdrawal, puts the President on notice and finally moves the Congress onto the road the American people took months ago.

    It seems to me you can’t be a “progressive” if you’re unwilling to make progress – no matter how lofty your ideals. Pelosi made it happen though, and for that she deserves the praise she has gotten.

  • http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-cjQ4r_Y_cqXPXpxyIWQePYrgXHbB nicrivera

    I personally thought that the Democratic leadership’s decision to lard the bill with pork in order to convince the more progressive members into voting for the bill was particularly spineless.

    Yes, the Republicans did this same kind of thing when they were in power (surely you all remember the internet gambling ban that Bill Frist snuck into last autumn’s Port Security Bill?). But one party doing it doesn’t excuse the party from doing the same thing.

    Democrats may have won the battle on this one, but they lost the moral high ground. Republican Congressman Ron Paul and Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich, two of the House chamber’s most adamant critics of the war abandoned the Democrats on this vote.

    Ron Paul’s argument against the bill can be found here.
    Dennis Kucinich’s argument against the bill can be found here.

  • jjc

    I personally thought that the Democratic leadership’s decision to lard the bill with pork in order to convince the more progressive members into voting for the bill was particularly spineless.

    At first blush I too was inclined to see it this way. But I’ve come around to Mike P’s view,

    It seems to me you can’t be a “progressiveâ€? if you’re unwilling to make progress – no matter how lofty your ideals. Pelosi made it happen though, and for that she deserves the praise she has gotten.

    I think that’s the long view that’s appropriate, the view that accepts that you’ll never rid the process of politics, but that you might at least improve the process and alleviate its flaws.

    The government, considered as a whole, is escalating the conflict at a time when the population wants it de-escalated. The process of getting the government more in line with the population will, of necessity, be a political one, involving movement by the population as well as by the government.

    I support this legislation because I think it will achieve at least some movement on both fronts. I think it likely that the Administration and its WSJ allies, intransigent and confrontational much as they’ve been all along in getting us to where we are now, will do some work for the centrists and Democrats in bringing the population around to the view that practical measures must follow if we are to achieve the goal of reducing our presence in Iraq.

    Complain about pork if you must, but there are now bridges to nowhere in this bill. It is perhaps only slightly better than business as usual, but this is a case where I think it makes sense to point out that the perfect should not become the enemy of the good.

  • http://CaliBlogger.com Citizen Kang

    My snarkiness about the WSJ shock, shock I tell you, that Pelosi needed to add a bit o’ pork to the legislation to corral the necessary votes should not be interpreted as meaning I favor the action.

    In fact I complained bitterly when the ethics legislation passed earlier this year didn’t have stronger restrictions against earmarks, which I believe should be banned entirely, along with PAC contributions to election campaign chests.

    I also would like to congratulate, in addition to Pelosi, those in the dreaded left-wing extreme, MoveOn, Kos, (myself), et al. who decided to support this less than ideal measure. As jjc points out the perfect should not become the enemy of the good.

  • http://homeworkrox Kayla

    she can do her home work you just need to put youmined to it and tack it as a part of life every one has to do it in a part of live it is the same a you learn some thing every day

  • http://homeworkrox Kayla

    learning is fun do wat your mined tells you wat to do n it will all work out