John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


How House Democrats Should Pivot After Mueller

Posted on March 28, 2019
Nancy Pelosi announced she would no longer support any effort to impeach President Trump.  Robert Mueller’s report confirmed the wisdom of that decision, as it reached the conclusion that the President did not collude with the Russians to win the White House.

For me, this all brings back memories of 1999.  I was working for brand new Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, and we had to pick up the pieces after the Senate failed to convict Bill Clinton for high crimes and misdemeanors.

We weren’t surprised that the Senate exonerated Clinton.  The writing was on the wall even before Republicans moved articles of impeachment through the House. But we still had to find ways to heal a nation that had been sorely tested, come up with an agenda that resonated with American people and deal with a President who was every bit as toxic with the Republican base as Donald Trump is the with the Democratic base.

When Hastert became Speaker, after Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston had resigned from Congress, he was not well-known to the American public, nor to most of official Washington.  We found that to be an advantage, as he could work behind the scenes to keep his caucus together and find ways to work with Bill Clinton.
Nancy Pelosi, of course, is a different type of Speaker, with a different kind of public profile and a different type of challenge facing her and her caucus.  But she could learn from the Hastert experience in putting the pieces back to together after what must be seen as a failed effort to oust a sitting President.   Here are three things she should do to protect her majority and to bring the country back together.

1)     Get an agenda:  The Democratic campaign last year had all of the elements of a Seinfeld episode.  It was an election about nothing, at least of substance.  For House Democrats, they need to outline the four issues they want to address this Congress and try to tie it together into a coherent theme.  In 1999, we promised to secure America’s future by bolstering defense spending, improving health security, promising to make our schools better and cutting taxes to grow the economy.   These four buckets were specific enough to give our committees a direction to get work but vague enough to allow to fill in the blanks as they saw fit.

2)    Find Common Ground with the Senate:  Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell aren’t going to hang out and sip bourbon together any time soon.  And most analysts both in and outside Congress assume that not much will happen in the next year and a half with a Democratic House Majority and a Republican Senate Majority.  But there are several issues where Senate Chairmen and House Democrats could find ways to compromise, like infrastructure and drug pricing.  The Speaker should encourage those efforts, not try to derail them because accomplishments are what the most vulnerable members of her caucus want and need.

3)    Stop demonizing the President:  It’s hard to make a deal with the devil.  It is easier to make a deal with the duly elected leader of our nation.   I know that House Democrats want to keep going down the investigation path, but every moment they spend going down that rathole is a moment that they waste trying to make progress on issues important to their constituents.

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