With the defeat earlier this morning of her choice for House Majority Leader in the 110th Congress, House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi suffered her first setback since Democrats won congressional majorities in last week’s election. Not only did Pelosi publicly back John Murtha, she lobbied on behalf of her septuagenarian Pennsylvania colleague and even nominated him in today’s balloting. Despite her efforts, the current House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer defeated Nancy’s man by a comfortable margin, 149-86.
While Hoyer’s victory is good for the Democrats, it’s not all that great for their leader in the House. We now know that she does not have all that much control over her caucus. Jim Moran’s words notwithstanding, this is not an era where “when the Speaker instructs you what to do, you do it.” House Democrats will know that they can defy Pelosi and not only get away with it, but possibly also bring a majority of their fellow Democrats along with them. And they will know that there won’t be a great cost to reaching out to compromise with Republicans.
The next question for Pelosi is whether she will continue her catfight with her California colleague Jane Harman, in line to serve as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, but whom the incoming Speaker wants to sideline for Florida Representative Alcee Hastings, impeached and removed from office as a federal judge for taking bribes. Editors of the New Republic as well as the New York Times have taken Pelosi to task for preferring as disgraced former judge over a widely respected liberal Congresswoman for this important position. As Captain Ed puts it, she opposes Harman not because of her qualities of leadership but “strictly for personal reasons.”
Tammy Bruce thinks Pelosi’s behavior is “typical of what I witnessed within the Democrat Feminist establishment for so long“:
petty personal animus dictating policy with extraordinary effort put into projects to destroy other women who did not confirm or pay allegiance to the status quo.
This cannibalistic approach to politics and society has doomed the feminist establishment, far too often keeping remarkable women from being able to make a difference. Jealousy, envy, and projected anger drive women in power on the left. All the talk of empowerment, fairness and justice, is just that–talk. Dems and the average American feminist are going to see the ugly underbelly of leftist women who see other women as competition and nothing more than something to move out of the way.
No wonder columnist Robert Novak described Harman as Pelosi’s “rival diva.”
Perhaps, Murtha’s defeat will persuade Pelosi to move beyond the petty politics of personal animus as she prepares to take the Speaker’s chair. Thus Murtha’s defeat, while a temporary setback for Pelosi, could end up benefiting both her — and her caucus. The real test will be to see how she handles the House Intelligence Committee. If she overcomes her animosity and taps Harman, she could become one of those rare politicians who learns from experience. Time will only tell.
But, now we do know that Nancy Pelosi is a politician who often lets personal considerations shape her policy choices. Hardly the mark of a leader capable of cleaning up Congress and providing a “new direction.”