Friday, November 17, 2006

Pelosi's Ongoing Challenge

It's almost universally agreed that Nancy Pelosi's gamble that she could depose Steny Hoyer and replace him with John Murtha was a significant shot to her leadership and credibility. Apart from that, it serves to alienate her from Hoyer's constituency - which includes many Blue Dogs, moderate Freshmen and New Democrats.

Those are important groups. Unlike the strongly liberal Black Caucus and Latino Caucus, these groups will differ from Pelosi and a number of the liberal committee chairs on important policy points. The GOP Minority - if it's well led - will constantly be looking for issues and votes where they can split the more moderate Democrats from their liberal leadership.

So the moderates have voted against her on Hoyer. Now they're going public with their disagreement on the Harman-Hastings question. What will be next? At some point, I'm going to write a piece about why minimum wage poses a challenge. It could be that, or it could be somewhere else.

The point is, Pelosi's leadership is in danger if any part of her caucus gets used to parting company with her. Once is understandable, twice is unfortunate, but if it starts to become routine, her effectiveness will be seriously undermined. The last thing she wants is a situation where a rump group of moderate Democrats joins with Republicans on big issues to frustrate her goals. And while we're nowhere near that point yet, you have to wonder why - just one day into her Speakership - you can see it on the horizon.

Along those lines, Roll Call reports:

‘Tuesday Dogs’ May Join Forces
November 16, 2006
By Jennifer Yachnin and Susan Davis,
Roll Call Staff

In an effort to boost their influence in the sharply divided chamber, members of the moderate Republican and Democratic House factions indicated Wednesday that the two groups may coordinate efforts in the 110th Congress and could move to create a formal bipartisan coalition in the new session.

Members of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition and the centrist Republican Tuesday Group met in advance of the Nov. 7 elections, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) said Wednesday, to discuss areas where the groups could align.

“We have a lot of common interests,” Matheson, a co-chairman of the Blue Dogs in the 109th Congress, said of his meeting with Republican Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.), who co-chairs the Tuesday Group...

“At this point, we’re starting a dialogue,” Kirk said in an interview Wednesday, adding that the recent influx of new moderate Democrats elected last Tuesday will bolster opportunities to govern “from the political center...”

“There’s a lot more that unites us than divides us,” said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), who will be a co-chairman of the Blue Dogs next year. “The American people expect us to reach across the aisle. There may be temptation to ‘get even’ [with Republicans in the 110th Congress], but I think that would be a huge mistake...”

“We’re not going to be a rubber stamp for anyone. We’re going to help bring our party back to the middle,” Ross said of the 44-member coalition, which includes nine freshman lawmakers. “We have a lot to say about what passes or doesn’t pass when it reaches the floor...”
This doesn't sound like a group that's predisposed to bend to Pelosi's wishes. She'll need to listen to them and make sure that her agenda offers them something. That's probably a good thing, because strong-arming is not going very well for her so far.

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