A Historically Memorable Speakership

Today is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's birthday, and in light of the occasion -- as well as the monumental achievement over the past few days that was the passage of healthcare reform legislation (with student lending reform, to boot) -- I thought it worthwhile to take a moment to lay down a few thoughts on the Pelosi speakership.

When Nancy Pelosi was first elected Democratic leader in late-2002, the time was bleak for her party. The Democrats, who had been expected to fare well in the midterm elections -- perhaps even retaking the House of Representatives -- not only lost seats in the House but also lost control of the Senate. Indeed, the party's caucus in the chamber (205 members, including Independent Bernie Sanders) was as small as it had been in 54 years.

Today, after two straight elections in which Republicans sought to make Nancy Pelosi an issue, the Democratic caucus is strong and robust. At its peak earlier in this Congress, before retirements and a death marginally reduced the Democrats' numbers, the Democratic majority stood larger than any Republican majority in the House since just after the 1928 elections. Think about that. The current Democratic majority is larger than the Republicans have had in nearly 80 years -- this, after Republicans sought to make the last two battles for the House about Nancy Pelosi. Yes, there were hiccups along the road, and House Democrats lost further ground during the 2004 election. Still, today, it's quite clear that Pelosi has been, at least on an electoral level, a boon for her party rather than the albatross Republicans sought to make her.

And over the past few days, weeks and months, we have come to see that Nancy Pelosi has been a historically effective leader of the House. This week, the President signed the most monumental piece of domestic legislation in nearly a half-century. Just as Barack Obama was able to do what no President in more than 100 years had been able to do in making the case for universal healthcare coverage, so too was Nancy Pelosi able to do what no other Speaker in more than 100 years had been able to do in shepherding such legislation through the House. And not just healthcare reform legislation. The House has also passed, with the agreement of the Senate, major legislation in the areas of student lending reform, economic stimulus, jobs, anti-discrimination, credit reform, and tobacco regulation. The House under Pelosi's Speakership has also moved the ball forward on important climate change legislation, which while not yet passed by the Senate has nonetheless kept the issue at the fore. 

This is an historic Speakership -- there's no other way of describing it. So happy birthday Nancy Pelosi, a leader of the House of Representatives whose name is now firmly on path to join the names like Henry Clay, Joseph Cannon, Champ Clark, Sam Rayburn and Tip O'Neill.

Tags: Nancy Pelosi, 111th Congress (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

it's Vladimir Putin's birthday too

I guess teabaggers will cite that as proof that Nancy Pelosi is a commie who should go back to Russia!

by desmoinesdem 2010-03-26 12:10PM | 0 recs
RE: it's Vladimir Putin's birthday too

Correction--it's not Putin's birthday, it's the anniversary of his first election as Russian president. But anyway, happy birthday to Nancy Pelosi! She has exceeded my expectations the last couple of years.

by desmoinesdem 2010-03-26 04:26PM | 0 recs
Roses should be arriving now

dKos poster Brainwrap organized a 4 day campaign to send roses to Nancy Pelosi and the result was that 2616 roses should be showing up at the Capitol right about now. Should be a nice photo-op. And I love the slogan: They throw rocks. We send roses.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/3/26/850992/-Update-x7:-They-Throw-Rocks;-We-Send-Roses:-2,616-roses-WERE-delivered-to-Nancy-Pelosi-today!!

by Bruce Webb 2010-03-26 12:40PM | 1 recs
We're all Nancy boys

When Pelosi was running for speaker in 2002 some of the guys at the DNC made buttons saying "I'm a Nancy boy." Seems like now everybody is.

Very proud of our Baltimore-born speaker.

by tib 2010-03-26 12:53PM | 1 recs
BuckeyeBlogger is not going to like this

looking forward to seeing that troll's response

by ND22 2010-03-26 01:28PM | 0 recs
Nancy had the votes,

according to Stupak:

Once it was clear that the House leadership would eventually obtain the 216 votes necessary to pass health-care reform, I was left with a choice: vote against the bill and watch it become law with no further protections for life or reach an agreement that prevents federal funding for abortions.

http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0310/Stupaks_compromise.html?showall

Interesting, possibly a couple of the Stupak bloc had already given private assurances they would vote aye plus a couple of the retiring reps (Berry, Tanner) had done the same.

by vecky 2010-03-26 03:40PM | 0 recs
RE: Nancy had the votes,

Hard to see who those votes would have been. I think Kaptur was leaning toward voting for the bill anyway, but if Stupak is right about this, he must have had only two loyalists standing with him.

by desmoinesdem 2010-03-26 04:27PM | 0 recs
RE: Nancy had the votes,

It's possible that more than a few people who came out as "No" in the last day or two were secret "yeses" who the speaker could call upon if the vote was close.

Either that or the Speaker did an excellent job of bluffing.

Sadly we'll have to wait 5-6 years for a tell all "behind the scenes" book of what happened with HCR.

by vecky 2010-03-26 04:47PM | 0 recs
"historically effective"

...sounds about right.

I think after years (1994-2006, but probably you could stretch back to 1990, given that the Democratic majority was already shrinking, as I recall, before Gingrich) of not controlling the House, and seeing setbacks and reversals, the naturally competitive, partisan nature of Pelosi's approach to governance can seem very heartening. I don't think a lot of Democrats ask themselves often enough, or hard enough, what costs come with having this sort of majority. And no one, I think, is asking a more pertinent question, about whether Nancy Pelosi is, in the end, the best person, never mind the right person, to be at the head of the parade.

I'd feel better about the way we look at Pelosi - similar to Obama, and similarly, I think, having to do with their status as "firsts" - if it were more critical, less effusive, and less prone to gloss past her flaws. She's not a great public speaker. She's leery of doing press. She's succeeded, mainly, through old school application of political machine tactics, favors given and received, and a near bulletproof congressional seat that she will probably only lose through retirement or death (as Dan Burton, and I believe his predecessor, did). We shouldn't, I think, try to dress that up as more than it is. She's a former local Chair and committed fundraiser who decided she wanted to take it further. When a similar storyline is applied to, say, Terry McAuliffe, we tend to ask if elected office is the next right step. I tend to think it would be healthy to ask if a heavily partisan, back of house focus is really the healthiest, best approach for our party - or any party - to have in a Speaker of the House. I'd at least like to say... perhaps not, or perhaps, we might want other, different skills as well.

I think our party absolutely needs power brokers like Nancy Pelosi, who know how to encourage loyalty, who raise funds effectively, and who, in the House, can unite a fractious party. But all of that strikes me as a great description for a House Whip... and not the Speaker of the whole House. That's just me. And it's what holds me back from getting too indulgent about praising Speaker Pelosi much beyond... well, historically effective.

by nycweboy1 2010-03-26 08:02PM | 0 recs

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