Thursday, January 21, 2010

Turmoil in Pelosiland

Perhaps the biggest loser in Tuesday's election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate is Speaker Pelosi.

Pelosi represents San Francisco, probably, the most liberal Congressional district in the country. She has operated as Speaker as though the whole Democratic caucus is as liberal as she and her constituency. The Massachusetts Senate election was clearly a repudiation of the liberal agenda that she, Majority Leader Reid and President Obama have advanced. The healthcare reform bill now in conference is a dead letter. Cap and trade didn't have much chance before the election, it has none now.

Senator Reid has lost his 60 seat majority, so the filibuster can be more easily invoked by the opposition. This gives him political cover, and may well save his seat in Nevada. Speaker Pelosi has seen no change in the make up of her caucus. But the Democratic members of the House who are in competitive districts must now face the political reality that if they comply with the Speaker's mandates they will very likely be unelected in November.

The Speaker cannot legitimately move toward the political center. First of all, she has no concept of what that is, and secondly, the left-wing of the party will start screaming for her head if she attempts to do so. The and DailyKos group are already pissed that the agenda they espouse has not been forced through the House and Senate.

She has the option of working with the more centrist and conservative parts of her caucus, as well as approaching the Republican caucus. The Republicans certainly have no incentive to work with her in anyway, unless she is willing to offer very real concessions to their agenda.

Pelosi, as the Speaker, wields tremendous power. That power is dependent on the other members willingness to follow her as a leader. I doubt we will see a challenge to her leadership, but it is likely to become very difficult for her to whip up the votes to pass any legislation that is not acceptable to the more moderate members of the House.

It will be very interesting to watch and see how she manages what has become a very difficult situation for her.

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