An Appreciation

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.

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One response to “An Appreciation

  1. I typically skip your political writing because I mostly come for the excellent soccer coverage, so I’ll just point out a couple things (and I’m not really talking about the politics, just the facts regarding the two Speakers and their effectiveness). First of all, we’ll see what happens, but it looks like the tweaked bill will pass today. And you’re ignoring that Boehner easily passed his other plan (Cut, Cap & Balance), so he was able to hold his caucus in line on that one. And yes, I recognize that CC&B was unrealistic because it had no hope of getting though the Senate, let alone signed by the president, but that makes it no different than some of the ideologically unrealistic stuff that Pelosi passed (the cap and trade bill being the best example–that was DOA, despite the fact that Democrats had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a Democratic president who supported the legislation). Also, it’s much easier to hold your caucus together when you’re in the minority. Remember that the same Boehner that you’re trashing prevented even one defection to the Democrats on the stimulus plan. Regardless of what you believe about that bill and its merit, Boehner effectively shifted all the blame (or credit, if it had worked, which made it risky for Boehner) for its failure–remember, it was supposed to keep unemployment below 8 percent–to Obama and the Democrats. And that was a much tougher task, as he was going up against a new president who was very popular at the time. And remember that when the TARP vote was first taken, it went down (which caused a 777-point drop in the stock market–the largest ever in a single day), mostly because then-Speaker Pelosi couldn’t keep her caucus in line (she would like to blame Republicans for going back on their word, but only an idiot would rely on opposition support to pass an unpopular bill by a razor-thin margin, especially when said idiot had just gotten done trashing said opposition on the floor prior to the vote). And it’s not like she lost a handful of her members. A full FORTY PERCENT (95) voted against it. So it’s not like Pelosi has an unblemished record on keeping her party in line. But you do have to give her credit for forcing many of her members to take politically suicidal votes (the best example being on the health care bill, that was passed despite vehement opposition from the majority of the public), which led to a historic 63-seat loss (the most since 1948) in the 2010 midterm elections and her relegation to minority leader. In other words, I think you’re giving her way too much credit as an effective Speaker.

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