Tonight the Republican leadership was unable to pass its own debt-ceiling bill. This was a bill that was hated by every Democrat in Washington, and still the Republican leadership could not convince the lunatics in their asylum. The United States economy (and therefore the world economy) is perilously close to collapse come August 2. This is acknowledged by sane people across the political spectrum even if the Congressional Republicans and the Tea Party refuse to see it. But the Republican leadership could not pass the bill. Speaker of the House John Boehner looks very weak right now as he failed to pass a bill that was too conservative even for a weak-willed Democratic Senate and President Barack Obama.
But that’s not what I want to focus on. The Republican spectrum in the current House runs the gamut from very conservative to Know-Nothing conservative. In other words, there is very little in the way of ideological difference, just degree. When the Democrats had control of Congress from 2007-2010, the ideological spectrum of the Democratic Representatives was much more vast, ranging from extremely conservative to extremely liberal. Yet, among the bills the House leadership got passed (even if the Senate did not follow) were the stimulus bill, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a Child Nutrition Act, a law that lets the FDA regulate tobacco, a major reform of health care (with a public option), a major reform of Wall Street, a jobs bill, stronger hate crimes legislation, a health and compensation bill for Ground Zero workers, the DREAM Act, a restructuring of student loans, the Waxman-Markey energy/emissions bill, and SCHIP.
This is not a comprehensive list by any stretch. Every one of those bill came about between the beginning of 2009 and the end of 2010.
The point is that despite the large and often contentious ideological spectrum that the Democratic leadership had to contend with, they still managed to pass monumental, potentially nation-changing legislation. This is why, despite only being in office for four years, many of us consider Nancy Pelosi to be one of the most effective Speakers of the House ever, up there with Sam Rayburn. Unfortunately, while Rayburn had Lyndon Johnson as the Senate Majority Leader, Pelosi had Harry Reid.
Nevertheless, as evidenced by Boehner, being Speaker does not guarantee that you can keep your party in line. That Pelosi was able to it over and over again for such major bill deserves major appreciation (and also credit to Steny Hoyer, her once bitter rival, turned effective partner.) Here’s to Nancy Pelosi, the once and hopefully future Speaker of the House.