Pelosi is safe - CBC not so much - in leadership stakes

There's been fair amount of imaginative talk (as here, for instance) based on the Chuck Todd morning line on the Dem leadership-to-be.

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:

  1. No challenger conceivably has the votes to beat her.

  2. 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.

  3. 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:
  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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)

Comments

8 Comments

Re: Pelosi is safe - CBC not so much - in leadersh

There are plenty of 'mods' in the CBC. It's not a mutually exclusive group. John Lewis is a big fan of Joe Lieberman. Also, valuing seniority is not a quality entirely absent from moderates.

Dems should stick by Hastings and take the media and GOP hit from a 20 year old scandal. Jane Harman is part of an ONGOING investigation involving AIPAC by the FBI and that doesn't stir so much as a feather in DC. Alcee Hastings was acquitted of something a generation ago and it's still an issue in 2006.

New Reps. will have won because they are fighters, not because of any 'moderate' credentials. Don't underestimate John Murtha's cred with these people.

Pelosi is not unpopular on blogs. Getting rolled by the House GOP majority is unpopular and bloggers vent by voting against Pelosi in a meaningless poll. Harry Reid gets higher marks because the Senate has rules that allow for more minority maneuvering, not because he's done a better job.

Finally, Rep. Louise Slaughter is BELOVED by the blogs. All it would take is one blog post stating  her case on who she supports (the Pelosi line) and it will whip most of the leaners into the Pelosi/Slaughter/Murtha/CBC camp.  

by joejoejoe 2006-11-02 03:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi is safe - CBC not so much - in leadersh

As I listed on Tuesday, there are seven CBC-ers who are members of the NDC, Blue Dogs or both - Lewis is not amonst them. (In fact, his 108th DW-NOMINATE rating puts him at 14th most liberal rep. Not to say that the rating doesn't have its flaws, natch.)

On Hastings, there is no way in which, if he'd been a GOP, lefties wouldn't be howling about him getting the HIC chair. Do that, and he's a banker for the GOP in the 08 campaign.

As for Harman, that FBI investigation is now no longer active. Who knows from whom, in this election season, the information came from on the basis of which the investigation was started.

I said I think Pelosi's own job is safe: but there is a clear diproportion between the NDC/Blue Dogs in the House and the number of leadership spots they're likely to take in the 110th.

Harman's proposed ejection is a clear poke in the eye to them, and kow-tow to the CBC; Rahmbo's got to get some reward; Pelosi has to stamp her authority.

You've got trouble with a capital T/And that rhymes with C/Which stands for - CBC

by skeptic06 2006-11-03 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi is safe - CBC not so much - in leadersh

The netroots are going to have to take it a little easier on Hoyer.  No, I'm no fan; but we are not going to have some kind of progressive majority, we're going to have a coalition, even in the best-case scenario.

I don't think the moderates like Pelosi much at all, because she forces them to cast so many votes that are unpopular back home.  Letting the moderates have Hoyer in a leadership position sends the message that they're welcome, and it sends a message to conservative Dem voters across the country that we're a big tent.

The New Deal, the Great Society, all the great liberal victories of the past were accomplished with the help of a coalition.  In the past, liberals had to ally with a bunch of Dixiecrats who were flat-out racist; in the present, I know it's annoying when the moderates sell us out from time to time, but the coalition is much less distasteful.

If you told me the moderates were fine with Murtha then I'd be okay with him too, but I suspect (even though Murtha is conservative) that they're quite loyal to Hoyer.  With that understanding I am strongly behind Pelosi and Hoyer for the top two spots.  I trust Nancy to bring us good things, and more than that, I trust our committee chairs!

by Steve M 2006-11-02 03:52PM | 0 recs
Hoyer is asshole

Go read the Washington Monthly article on him.  Howard Dean wasn't very progressive as Gov in Vermont. But he supports all kinds of reform--broad systemic reform.

I want leadership that is looking forward not back--leaders with decision-making models that are not based on: do it only if it keeps them in power.

Right now the dems would be best off to forget the moderate and liberal labels.  Is the leadership going to represent bold new ideas or the same old old ones.  I think I know where Pelosi, Hoyer and Rahm stand.....

by aiko 2006-11-02 06:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Hoyer is asshole

None of that is relevant.  If you dump Hoyer, you splinter the coalition that makes up our first majority in 12 years.  It's not an option and people need to be more realistic about it.

by Steve M 2006-11-02 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Hoyer is asshole

So just shut up, go along and do what I am told.  Same ole, same ole....

by aiko 2006-11-02 07:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi is safe - CBC not so much

I'm willing to bet that Murtha is more popular with the Blue Dogs and Hoyer with the New Democrats.

I doubt very seriously that "the mods" will have 100 votes in the new House. Maybe 80 tops (with only about 40 to 45 of them being New Democrats) which leaves about 150 to 160 good guys (depending on the size of our majority).

Don't underestimate the pull Murtha has. Not only with the incoming members, many of whom he helped elect. But also with some people like Jane Harmon whom he saved during her primary battle in June.

I think Hoyer may have to be a sacrificial lamb here. Too many people are still pissed at him for the time he cut Pelosi's legs from under her with competing press conferences on the war. I agree it can't be a straight progressive leadership - but Murtha has A LOT of friends in the Blue Dog caucus and pretty conservative notwithstanding his position on the war (and really who isn't against the war at this point). That by itself may spell doom for Hoyer.

We may have to give Harmon her choice of Committee chair, and we know what that'll be.

I think we owe Clyburn and the CBC. They are our most loyal group and are ALWAYS being passed over. We owe them the position of whip.

The Rahm thing is just plain ridiculous. No doubt it was a trial balloon by Rahm himself.

by JackBourassa 2006-11-02 09:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Pelosi is safe - CBC not so much

I suspect that, in a popularity poll head to head with Hoyer, Murtha would get a lot of support - some of it for his stand on the war, some of it for him being a mod who is not Hoyer.

The most important factor, I think, is that Murtha is seen as Pelosi's surrogate: the way in which he put himself out there for the #2 slot, and then pulled back, rather gave the impression that he was acting as Pelosi's surrogate to stop Hoyer getting any idea that he could get away with any monkey business with impunity.

Pelosi's interest is clearly in as stable a foundation for the 110th leadership as she can manage.

I can't see Murtha running for Maj Leader unless Hoyer makes a suicide run against Pelosi. Who would moider de bum.

As far as the size of the mods group, if the number was 80, that still only leaves them 35 or so short of a majority in the caucus. Clearly, coalition-building skills would be needed by leading mods, and they would have to settle for much less than their ideal solution.

I can see that they might well get to such a majority with a proposal limited to Harman for HIC chair and Rahmbo for Whip.

I certainly think they'd want to try.

And, with his defense apps chair, Murtha has a luxury bedroom on the gravy train that is something rather more than a consolation prize for the Leader job.

by skeptic06 2006-11-03 07:42AM | 0 recs

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