Harman Pushed Off of Intelligence Committee by Pelosi?

Thanks to budlawman, I came upon this article on a Pelosi-Harman fight.

Rep. Jane Harman, who has gained national prominence as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is fighting to hold on to the job amid indications she will be rotated off the panel next year.

The dispute pits the Venice lawmaker against House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. Its outcome could determine what role Harman, who once ran for California governor and is one of the most quoted Democrats on intelligence matters, will play in the next Congress -- if she is reelected.

Pelosi has informed colleagues that she intends to force Harman to step down, replacing her with Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of Florida, the second most senior Democrat on the intelligence panel.

It's hard to tell if this has to do with Pelosi placating the CBC, if Pelosi is fed up with Harman, or if this is just a normal rotation off the committee.  It might be all three.  I do know Pelosi is incredibly angry about intelligence matters and how they have been handled by Bush.  She feels personally affronted.

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Demonizing Pelosi

[Become a member of the Frog Pond].

Joe Gandelman has a good and quite amusing piece in the Moderate Voice about concerted GOP efforts to do to Nancy Pelosi what the Clintonistas did to Newt Gingrich.

You can hear the music starting now. That menacing cadence. The numbing feeling that something could soon happen. A small move that you see in the corner of your eye that makes your blood run cold. And then it happens:

Nancy Pelosi could be Speaker of the House...

That's apparently the gist of a GOP effort right now to try and rally the party's faithful.

Before I even discuss this strategy, it is worth noting that no woman has ever held the position of Speaker of the House. For a woman to rise to the top of an organization of 435 politicians would be a greater accomplishment and a more difficult task than for a woman to simply win the two step process (primary and general elections) to become commander-in-chief. If Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker, it will be a moment to celebrate on those grounds alone.

And that gets me to the analysis.

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Nancy Pelosi: Investigate Congressman Jefferson (D-LA)

You can watch the video of Leader Pelosi getting stuck with difficult questions about Democrat William Jefferson.  The transcript for the first question is here:

Q: Congresswoman Pelosi, you are standing in front of a sign that says "Honest Leadership, Open Government."  Your party has also take up the mantra of the culture of corruption, pointing the finger at the GOP.  And yet yesterday, [a businessman] plead guilty to bribing [Congressman Jefferson] for $400,000.  A couple weeks ago, Congressman Mollohan stepped aside from the Ethic Committee while his name is under investigation.  Do you think that perhaps you have to change the sign?

Ms. Pelosi.  No.  The sign is truer than ever.  A culture of corruption is a system in this Congress of the United States that the Republicans have instituted.  The Washington Post has called it a "criminal enterprise operating out of" the Republican Leader's office.  It is about all the Republican Caucus enabling their Caucus to have a strong link to the lobbying community at the expense of America's consumers.

In the case of Mr. Jefferson, I think the Ethics Committee should investigate him.  It is his private matter, and he should be investigated because of the stories that have been in the press and the guilty plea that you mentioned yesterday.  That is his business; that's not ours.

Holding our own accountable is what progressives do.  We don't assume our own personal virtue, we hold ourselves to it.  I'm not a fan of how ethics has been handled by House Democrats, and I wish Pelosi had done this earlier.  But there's no rallying around Jefferson here, merely contempt for one member's abuse of power.  

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The House Points System

From The Hill:

In his latest bid to rally his Democratic colleagues to the cause of winning back the House in November, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) is instituting a point system to track how much individual House Democrats engage in political work helpful to the party.

Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, were expected to announce the existence of the system at a political dinner for House Democrats last night. Emanuel has begun describing it in recent meetings with Democratically aligned groups.

The DCCC has long tracked how much money each Democrat raises for the committee and how much each contributes in quarterly dues. The new system is expected to be much broader, assigning point values to less easily quantifiable items such as whether members travel to other districts for political work, whether they hold press conferences in other districts, or whether they serve as a mentor to a challenger.

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said that he had yet to hear about the program but that he felt such a system could reward Democrats who aid their colleagues but have trouble raising money because they come from poor districts.

"I cannot be successful in this caucus if I'm only judged on fundraising capabilities, no matter how much I may have to offer," he said, noting that he represents a poor district in a poor state but often travels around the country to help challengers.

It was unclear how the DCCC would use the numbers it plans to amass, but one Democratic aide suggested that the totals could be pivotal in making decisions about committee assignments and that leaders would seek to reward members with high scores.

"It's something members should be thinking about in terms of wanting to get on committees," the aide said.

Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) welcomed a focus on member activity.

"Engagement certainly should be rewarded. It should be rewarded," Davis said. "It would be tragic if we lost by a few seats and there had been 10 or 15 Democrats who sat on the sidelines and simply couldn't be bothered. It has to be made clear to members that we're going to need all hands on deck."

Pelosi has made it clear to members that their loyalty to the caucus will be a key factor in making committee-assignment decisions. Last fall she threatened to remove Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) from the Energy and Commerce Committee after he missed several key budget votes.  

Fascinating.  While it's clear that loyalty and effectiveness should be rewarded, it's not clear that fundraising prowess is the best marker for loyalty and effectiveness.  This is a strike aimed at the seniority system, which allows for a certain lack of accountability among senior legislators.  Rahm Emanuel and Nancy Pelosi, regardless of their ideological disagreements, certainly share a desire to have a stronger and more unified caucus, and both believe that centralized fundraising is the key to get there.  This is a page right out of the Clinton model, which seeks to control the streams of revenue so as to increase power, enforce discipline, and cut off wayward members.

It's going to be interesting to watch this centralizing force running smack up against the decentralizing pull of the internet.  I'm sure that at least at first they'll win most, we'll win a few, we'll work together on some, etc.  Now I don't really get Pelosi; she acts like a conservative insider and votes like a progressive.  The challenge for the netroots, which is ideologically oriented against this insider's version of politics, is to develop competitive revenue streams that can build up and support a parallel infrastructure.  I'm watching these two, to see how they are setting up their incentive models.

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Rep. Mollohan Steps Down from Ethics Committee, Temporarily

Represenatative Mollohan steps down from the Ethics Committee, temporarily.  This is from Melanie Sloan at CREW, who called for Mollohan to step aside while there was a perception of ethical problems.

We commend Rep. Mollohan on doing the right thing by stepping down temporarily pending the outcome of the investigation.

When it comes to ethics, perception matters. Other congressional members with similar ethical improprieties should follow Rep. Mollohan's example and step aside from their leadership positions as well.

I think it's important to commend Congressmen when they do the right thing.  Mollohan did that today.  I know the press is going to report that a Democrat is under investigation, but that's not the real story.  The real story is that faced with the perception of an ethics problem, Democrats chose to confront it directly and honorably even though they knew it would cost them politically.

Update: Georgia10 has a must-read post.

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