Pelosi is safe - CBC not so much - in leadership stakes
by skeptic06, Thu Nov 02, 2006 at 12:35:58 PM EST
Let's leave aside the clearly delusional notion that, under his Scenario II, a narrow Dem House win, the netroots will step forth to champion a Rahmbo bid for the Speakership. (That he put forward the notion might be thought to invalidate everything else he says. But, like I said...)
Shorn of the netroots nonsense, Todd's offering is this:
Will, say, 220 House Democrats stay united and elect Pelosi speaker, or will enough conservative House Democrats break and elect a compromise Democrat as speaker? Even the threat of Democrats peeling off and working in collaboration with the Republicans to do so might be enough to encourage a serious challenge to Pelosi inside the Democratic caucus.
Now, leaving the identity of possible challengers out of it for a moment, there are (at least) three very good reasons why the mods (Blue Dogs, NDC, unaffiliated) would wave the Signora through:
- No challenger conceivably has the votes to beat her.
- Many reps who oppose her leadership in principle (who voted for Hoyer over her in the 2001 Minority Whip race, say) would vehemently reject a necessarily highly disruptive challenge to her at the start of the first House under Dem control for 12 years.
- Pelosi is very much the keystone of the Dem House party bridge: even hardcore Pelosi-loathers among Dem reps thinking as selfishly as may be would not want to see the chaos that a challenge to Pelosi would likely bring, whether successful or not.
Look at Speaker Pelosi from the viewpoint of a hardcore opponent:
- She's never been in a majority leadership position before; she's never had to be the top elected official in the Dem party before (Scenario II assumes a GOP-controlled Senate): there are ample reasons to suppose that she may not be the prohibitive favorite to succeed herself in 2008.
- She's 66 years old: which is not old as Speakers go: the previous four Dem speakers (Foley, Wright, O'Neill and Albert) all started their first terms around that age.
But any rival would prefer someone of her age to a 50 year old who could hang on in the job for another 20 years!
- She does not have that particular legitimacy of someone who actually won the Speakership (rather than merely slid across from Minority Leader). Any challenge to Pelosi, if not (as is most likely) an immediate miserable failure, could well lead to the choice of a compromise candidate owing allegiance to no faction in particular.
Paradoxically, Pelosi may be easier for the mods to pressurize than such a compromise guy.
Now, if the mods leave Pelosi to take her lap of honor, what is their game plan likely to entail?
(I'm simplifying, obviously: the mods will be no more united amongst themselves as the lefties. But - bear with me.)
Hoyer will clearly be looking at the Maj Leader spot: I can't see that Murtha has a prayer to garner enough votes to make this interesting (as folks have pointed out, with the exception of the war, he's no lefty) - the only question is how much of their capital will the mods need (or be prepared) to spend in getting Pelosi to call him off.
The clearest casus belli is the relatively poor tally of leadership and ranking member spots currently held by mods (Blue Dogs and NDC, at least) compared with the CBC.
The Harman/Hastings thing I've discussed several times before.
The key thing for the mods (Blue Dogs/NDC number 68 now; in the 110th, with unaffiliated mods, perhaps 100?) to engage the support of enough of the ones in the middle to produce a caucus majority.
A majority for what? I don't know how these things are worked (Caucus rules are private!) but I have a feeling that running an actual ticket is not done. What the mods need is a credible threat of putting together a voting agreement carrying a caucus majority which divvies up the leadership and committee jobs (with the exception of the Speakership). (Clearly, if these private rules would require supermajorities to do anything of the sort, that would make the mods' task a lot more difficult.)
Any such scheme would be a job and a half - and, if successful, would surely lead to Pelosi's resignation and the sort of chaos I've suggested the mods will be keen to avoid. The threat would have to be left up the mods' sleeves (evident, but not poking out!).
The actual proposals from the mods would therefore have to be more modest: aimed at an adjustment in patronage to give them a colorably fair share of jobs, more or less in line with their strength in the Dem House party.
That would mean, in particular, Pelosi would have to take on the CBC: as a minimum, I'd say, Harman would have to become HIC chair, and some leadership position (Whip, probably) will need to be found for Rahmbo.
The CBC will go troppo: as well as Hastings, Clyburn (currently Caucus chair) and Lewis (currently Senior Chief Deputy Whip - really) will be the ones making way.
The mods will have to show - good practice for them! - the sort of balls and tenacity under fire that Dem MCs have not been known for just recently. (The CBC is kind of iconic in the Dem party, and hardball puts more than noses out of joint.)
But there will be at least twice as many mods as CBC-ers in the 110th House - and, assuming a 230 rep party, 100 mods (if that's the total) would need only 16 middle guys to make a majority of the majority.
To be something more than mere jam in a sandwich, Pelosi has a hell of a job on.
On the positive side - at least she'll have the job she wants...
Tags: 110th House, 2006 House Leadership Elections, Alcee Hastings, Blue Dog Democrats, Blue Dogs, Committee Chairmanships, Congressional Black Caucus, Democrat-Controlled House, Democratic House Leadership, House Democratic Caucus, House Intelligence Committee, James Clyburn, Jane Harman, John Lewis, John Murtha, NDC, New Democratic Coalition, Pelosi, race, rahm emanuel, Steny Hoyer (all tags)