November 8, 2006
The Morning After in the House of RepresentativesBy Thomas Lifson
The House of Representatives appears to be securely in the hands of presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi. After the celebration of the historic first female speaker, and the Democrat leadership moves into new more spacious offices, the business of holding the majority together and positioning her party for the next election will keep Speaker Pelosi very busy indeed.
The Senate could well end up 51—49 Democratic. If it does, I hold virtually no hope that Senator Lieberman will pull a Jim Jeffords and betray his political party, even though Lieberman surely has better moral grounds for doing so, having been rejected as the Democratic nominee in the primary election that made Ned Lamont a footnote in the history books. (For a man of Lamont's vast inherited wealth, the expenditure of a few million dollars in personal funds on his campaign might have been worth it. Few of us ever have the opportunity to make it to the history books.)
Whenever a prominent public figure of a certain age drops from sight for about 3 weeks and reappears with a different facial look, I suspect plastic surgery. From the early photographs of the past couple of days, Rep. Pelosi appears to have received quite a fine tune—up from her surgeons. May she oversee public spending bills as wisely, getting real value for our money. But as others have noted, it is much more fun to spend other people's money, and the fun does tend to get out of hand.
Even though her constituency in San Francisco is loopy—leftist, Pelosi is a pragmatist, raised by a mayor of Baltimore, and more than anything she wants her term as Speaker to last more than two years. She also has a freshman class that is more centrist than the House Democratic leadership. Given the thinness of the Democrats' margin in the House, the freshmen can make trouble for her, and must be accommodated to some degree. The ones which come from highly competitive districts will not want to go along with the agenda of Alcee Hastings or John Conyers.
I expect the President to make a considerable show of reaching out to form a bipartisan approach to many issues. He is rather well—practiced at this approach from his days as Texas governor. It never worked very well for him in Washington when the Democrats were an aggrieved minority, and when senior members with living memory of being the majority called the shots. But with the Democrats now sharing responsibility for decisions, there is at least the possibility of a slight attitude adjustment. They do not want to be in a position to be blamed for failures in the war or for an impeachment effort that polarizes the country and threatens the conduct of the war.
Of course, this will demand keeping the left wingers in line, no easy task because so many of them are senior and come from safe districts. I expect the drama to provide much grist for our journalistic mills for the next two years.
If John Murtha challenges Steny Hoyer for the post of Majority Leader, there could be some sparks flying. Murtha is a bit of a loose cannon, with a tendency to speak on the fly, such as his suggestion of redeploying troops from Iraq to Okinawa. Murtha also has ethical and legal issues dating to the Abscam investigation.
The Republicans have never shown much inclination to play the same kind of hardball used against Speaker Gingrich and Majority Leader DeLay. However, memories are fresh, and payback is an appealing course of action to many. I don't expect an organized effort to assemble evidence and eventually take out Murtha. For one thing, George Soros is not interested in funding a group of professionals to do the dirty work. But the fact that there is the potential of such an effort succeeding might slightly temper Murtha, or even undo his potential candidacy for Majority Leader. Hoyer would be a much more conciliatory Majority Leader than Murtha.
But the real wild card to watch for is Rahm Emanuel, basking in the glow of his success in recruiting, funding, and ultimately electing a majority based on attractive, mostly centrist candidates to defeat GOP incumbents and take open seats. He has never lacked for energy, intelligence, and ambition, and he probably wants a leadership position. His great leverage is that everyone wants him to be available for running the 2008 campaign for the House, especially since a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign may well demand his attention.
One notable Emanuel failure, incidentally, was his choice of Tammy Duckworth to run for the seat being vacated by Henry Hyde. As Teri O'Brien pointed out yesterday in American Thinker, that particular seat was highly personal for Emanuel. He blamed Henry Hyde for the impeachment of his former boss Bill Clinton, because Hyde headed the Judiciary Committee that impeached him. However, Duckworth was snubbed by some veterans' groups, and appears to have lost by a margin of about 6000 votes.
The public face to the Pelosi—Emanuel relationship will be a smiling visage of harmony and dedication. But Emanuel is a Clinton man, and Hillary is not an easy ally for Nancy Pelosi, who now becomes the nation's top elected Democrat. The Speaker's status as third in line in the presidential succession reflects the real importance of the office. Unlike the Senate, Speakers of the House wield considerable leverage over individual members of the majority.
Hillary has never coped very well with female rivals, and I expect there to be tensions below the surface, with Emanuel the point at which tensions meet each other. Don't worry, he can handle the stress. But it could make for some very interesting maneuvering by the two powerful women. The Democrats' status as the Mommy Party is even clearer than it was before. Whether this will be a boon or a curse when it comes time to select the next president remains to be seen.
Thomas Lifson is the editor and publisher of American Thinker.