The Great Debate

Why Pelosi will be the next minority leader


By Joshua Spivak
The opinions expressed are his own.

Even after the Democrats crushing defeat on Election Day, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that she wants to keep leading the Democrats as the minority leader. Despite some grumbling and complaints, the odds are very good that she has the job locked up. It may seem unusual, but Pelosi’s behavior is normal for the House. Moreover, the history and current membership of the House may make her reelection a certainty.

In the 20th century, the Democrats lost control of the House four times. The last time, in 1994, Speaker Tom Foley lost his reelection campaign. However, Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, the number two ranked Democrat, followed the traditional path up the ladder, and was immediately chosen as minority leader. When they lost the House in 1952 and 1946 Speaker Sam Rayburn took over as the minority leader, a pattern was started by Speaker Champ Clark when the Democrats were swept out in 1916.

This is not surprising. Democrats had control of the House for nearly two-thirds of the 20th century. The party maintained strong internal control of the leadership ranks — members rose up from whip to leader to speaker. Every Democratic speaker previously served as either majority or minority leader.

The party’s members have rejected attempts to break their line of succession. When John Murtha, with the considerable backing of Nancy Pelosi, tried to jump the line in 2006 by running for majority leader against Steny Hoyer, Murtha was crushed nearly two-to-one. Though there are exceptions  — in 1976, a scandal meant the majority whip had no chance of moving up — but the battle for Democrats has traditionally been for the whip role, which itself has only been elected since 1986.

The Democrats have deposed lower ranking elected leaders like leader of Democratic Caucus and committee chairs, but no Democratic speaker or leader, either majority or minority, has been overthrown, though Jim Wright did resigned due to scandal.

Pelosi or Boehner may still have to walk the plank

One of the ironies of America politics is that the House of Representatives, designed to be the “mob” of political power, is the top-down, well-run branch of government, and the Senate is the every man for himself body. Unlike the Majority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker has immense sway over the House and can, when necessary, bend it to her will.

With that type of power, it’s not surprising that its leaders have to ward off intra-party threats to their power. In John Barry’s The Ambition and the Power, Barry compares overthrowing a Speaker or Minority Leader to Regicide. And, though unlikely, both sides of the aisle are talking about just such an event.

Pelosi may be forced to, or even want to step down if her party loses the House. Even if the Democrats win, numerous Blue Dogs have intimated in the campaign that they will not vote for her (Heath Schuler claimed that he will run against her if no one else does). Others have talked about electing a whole new House team for the Democrats.

Hold your wallet — here is TARP 2

 Diana Furchtgott-Roth– Diana Furchtgott-Roth is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. The views expressed are her own. –

This week Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner unveiled a financial stabilization plan that could cost $2 trillion, in addition to the $790 billion that Congress plans to spend on economic stabilization. All this without any consultation with Congress.

That’s financial stability?

The Dow Jones Industrial average fell almost 400 points Tuesday on the news, and the Asian equity markets followed. This steep decline is symptomatic of the unease that permeates financial markets.

Moving beyond conventional remedies

diana-furchtgott-roth1Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The opinions expressed here are her own.

WASHINGTON (Reuters.com) – The stock market is falling, retail sales are down, GM and Xerox announce layoffs, and economists predict GDP declines in the 3rd and 4th quarters.  Even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has called for a stimulus package.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prescription for economic stimulus centers on more infrastructure spending, as well as more aid to states, Food Stamps, rebate checks, and unemployment benefits, a package that could cost up to $300 billion.