John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Life is Complicated For Speaker Pelosi

Posted on March 6, 2010
The resignation of Congressman Eric Massa complicates the life of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  And her life is already pretty complicated.

Of course, it means one less vote for a health care bill that Congressional Democrats are trying to get through a reluctant House.

And one vote is a big deal, because it looks like pro-life Democrats aren’t going to swallow what the Senate passed late last year.

The Democrats have constructed a complicated scheme to pass health care, overly complicated in my view.  The House has to somehow pass a Senate bill that includes a huge new tax increase on labor union health plans and abortion language that is still unacceptable to Bart Stupak.

Then they are going to pass another follow-on bill that will somehow reverse that labor union tax with so-called “reconciliation” instructions that the Senate then will theoretically take up and pass with 51 votes.

But first, the Senate has to hope that the Senate parliamentarian decides that whatever the House passes somehow fits in with the Senate rules, not a certain proposition.

And if the Parliamentarian decides that it is not kosher, well, then, Joe Biden has to step in and create a new precedent that will give the Republicans ample cause to shut the Upper Chamber down for a while.

In regards to the Massa scandal, Pelosi hasn’t exactly covered herself in glory.

She said she heard “rumors” of Massa’s inappropriate and possibly illegal behavior, but she didn’t do anything about them.  That doesn’t pass the smell test to me.

Having served in the House for 15 years, I know how rumors run rampant in Congress, and if you are in the Speaker’s Chair, you hear just about everything.

But it is interesting how Pelosi reacted when the same type of scandal hit the House of Representatives four years ago.

Four years ago, she mercilessly drove Denny Hastert from office over the Mark Foley scandal, accusing him of a cover up.

Today, she says that she couldn’t chase down every rumor and still be Speaker.  She is busy.

Four years ago, she demanded that Tom DeLay resign and accused the Republicans of creating a culture of corruption.   But this week, she only reluctantly accepted Charlie Rangel’s leave of absence from the Ways and Means Committee Chairmanship.

And ole Charlie is still on the Congressional payroll.

Pelosi promised to drain the swamp four years ago.  Today, she is presiding over the same swamp.

In the modern era, scandals tend to play an important role in whether Congress changes hands or not.  It was important in 1994, important in 2006, and it seems to be  playing a more prominent role in 2010.

But other, bigger historical themes play a bigger role.  Yes, the Democrats were weakened by the House bank scandal in 1992 and 1994, but the bigger issue was Bill Clinton’s over-reach.  In 2006, Foley and DeLay were bad, but the atmosphere was already poisoned by the Iraq War, making it even harder for Republicans to stay in control of Congress.

Certainly, the Massa and Rangel scandals are not good news for Nancy Pelosi, but what is even worse is the unpopularity of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.

The Speaker’s life is very complicated.  And those complications could make the choice easy for voters in the fall.