Friday, November 17, 2006

Blue Dogs Make Waves: Bye, Bye Alcee?

Remember back when Hoyer beat Pelosi's pick for Majority Leader - John Murtha? I said that if Murtha lost, she faced a situation where other powers in the Democratic caucus would try to exert their own influence, and she would wind up catering to Committee chairs and acting more as a 'first among equals' than as a leader.

Well, looks like that's happening, and it's only taken about 12 hours.

Blue Dogs back Harman for Intel panel chair
By Josephine Hearn

Eighteen members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative House Democrats, wrote Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Thursday imploring her to choose Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) to chair the House Intelligence Committee next year.

"Congresswoman Harman has served as Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee with skill and distinction. ... She has helped lead the bipartisan reorganization and reform of our intelligence community and has served as a strong voice for Congressional oversight of the Administration and its national security policies," wrote Reps. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), Mike Ross (D-Ark.), Stephanie Herseth (D-S.D.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) and others. "Both our Caucus and Party have counted on Congresswoman Harman to answer forcefully and credibly to partisan critics who have questioned Democrats’ commitment to protecting our nation."..

The letter came just hours after the caucus issued a stinging rebuke to Pelosi in the race for House majority leader. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) beat Pelosi’s candidate Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) decisively, drawing on the support of many centrists such as the Blue Dogs.

Many of those same centrist feel that Harman, a Blue Dog herself, has served admirably on the committee and deserves to continue. But some progressives believe Harman has been too compliant with the Republican chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.).

Good for the Blue Dogs. As in the case of Murtha, the Blue Dogs are trying to protect Ms. Pelosi (and the rest of the House Democrats) from herself.

As in the case of Murtha, Hastings as Intel Chair would put the lie to the Democrats' promise to change the 'culture of corruption' in Washington. The Blue Dogs recognize that apart from a security risk, he would be a national embarrassment.

Fresh on the heels of Hoyer's win, Pelosi has to be tempted to 'stay the course' with Alcee. To bow to the pressure and select Harman might be perceived as a sign of weakness. That's the last thing she wants now.

Still, you have to hope she does the right thing. If she sticks with Hastings, it sounds like her hand cannot be forced. But it will come back to haunt her.

Update: If Pelosi feels she needs to push Hastings aside, the negative public response is giving her ample 'cover' to do so. The LATimes is the latest to call for Harman, rather than Hastings, as Intel chair.

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