Thursday, June 15, 2006

Democratic Fissures Showing

The Hill notes that on the eve of the House debate today over Iraq, a Democratic caucus meeting turned into a 'circus,' over Iraq. 'Leaders' of the 'Out of Iraq Caucus' berated Minority Leader Pelosi over her failure to lead more aggressively on troop withdrawl. Others are criticizing Pelosi for 'poor political judgment' in not preventing her ally John Murtha from announcing a planned challenge to Steny Hoyer.

Republicans could not have hoped that an opposition with such wind at their backs could become so divided so quickly, without any major shift in the electoral terrain. Republicans have had some successes lately, no doubt - Zarqawi, the economy, improved polls, a special election win in California - but nothing to explain how House Democrats have fallen apart over Iraq, Jefferson, the Murtha leadership bid, and probably immigration, before too long.

If you're a Republican, read the whole piece:

Anti-war Dems blast Pelosi over endgame
By Josephine Hearn

A series of recent internal disputes have sown discontent in some quarters of the House Democratic caucus, threatening to disrupt the unified front Democrats have used to frustrate Republicans in the 109th Congress.

Despite a superior position in the polls and impressive unity on key votes, House Democrats have been feuding in recent weeks over such issues as the seat of Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) on the Ways and Means Committee, the ambitions of two of their most respected members to be majority leader in a Democratic House and their long-standing lack of consensus on whether to redeploy troops out of Iraq.

Such tensions were in full display yesterday morning at a caucus meeting on Iraq where three members of the Out of Iraq Caucus clustered around a microphone to berate House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) loudly for failing to take a stronger stand on leaving Iraq.

At times having to speak above her colleagues, one member of the caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), told Pelosi that the Out of Iraq Caucus members have been “leaders on this issue,” according to several attendees, and that they deserve to play a more prominent role in the House’s planned debate of Iraq policy today.

“We’re all leaders,” Pelosi replied.

Several Democrats came to Pelosi’s defense. Rep. Anna Eshoo (Calif.) attempted to quiet the increasingly unsettled crowd, while Rep. George Miller (Calif.) approached a handful of Out of Iraq Caucus members, most notably Reps. Lynn Woolsey (Calif.), Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), and engaged in a “heated conversation,” one witness said.

“The whole thing was a circus,” a Democratic aide said. “The reaction of most people was to leave.”

...Caught unawares by Murtha’s challenge, Hoyer spent five days shoring up support and had contacted nearly all of his colleagues before Murtha called it off. While some members were elated to see Hoyer challenged, many others, perhaps a majority of the caucus, saw the race as ill-timed and felt Hoyer had done well by them as whip and political leader.

Some were upset that Pelosi had not deterred Murtha from launching the bid and had remained silent on the race for days after it had begun.

“The fact that she said nothing about it for so long and that she allowed him to go through with it in the first place, it shows terrible political judgment,” one House Democrat said.

Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said, “The House Democrats are unified, organized and disciplined. They’re keeping their focus on winning the House in 2006. Unlike the Republicans, the Democratic Caucus promotes diversity of ideas, and they come from the bottom up, unlike the top-down, rubber-stamp approach that Republicans use.”

The Jefferson dispute exposed fissures between Democratic leaders and many members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Democrats are expected to vote today to remove him temporarily from Ways and Means.

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