Nancy Pelosi has not only endorsed Jack Murtha for Majority Leader; she is pulling out all the stops to get him elected:
"She will ensure that they [the Murtha camp] win. This is hard-ball politics," said Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), a longtime Murtha supporter. "We are entering an era where when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it..."
If Moran’s claims are true, Pelosi is taking an enormous gamble only a week after the election propelled her into the Speakership. If she prevails, she will likely banish her onetime rival Hoyer to the back benches and send a clear signal to her colleagues that she intends to rule with an iron hand. If Hoyer wins, she loses substantial political capital and alerts the caucus that they can successfully oppose her.
If Pelosi pushes this hard, then perhaps she can defeat Hoyer and secure the 'leadership team' she wants. But it will increase the perception that Democrats are 'cut-and-run' on Iraq, and she will have taken away the only reason that Hoyer had to be a team player. More importantly, she will have told the 'Blue Dogs,' Hoyer's many freshmen supporters, and other moderate Members that their views are not particularly important to her. That's not going to make leadership easier, but it is the best case scenario (if Moran is right).
If Murtha loses the race, it will show that a large part of the Democratic conference doesn't trust Pelosi to run the show her way. This weakness will give Committee Chairmen (like Charlie Rangel, who backs Hoyer) more latitude to run things the way they want.
This would be a return to the old style of Democratic leadership under Speaker Foley. In contrast to the Speakerships of Gingrich and Hastert, Speaker Foley was almost a 'first among equals.' His job was to manage the agendas of Chairmen like Dingell, Obey, Waxman and others. Under the subsequent Republican rule, Committee Chairs generally took marching orders from the Speaker.
That might be the nature of the fight we're looking at now. Will the Majority Leader race allow Pelosi to run the House, or leave her as a glorified feudal lord, managing competing fiefdoms?
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