The House's Last Call
At 1:11 a.m. Sunday, the House began its last roll-call vote of the summer session, passing a nearly $460 billion appropriation bill for the Pentagon. When lawmakers finally shuttered the chamber doors, Democrats and Republicans walked into an August recess after a topsy-turvy final week in which tempers flared, investigations were launched and internal caucus divisions were revealed.
While they will spend the next four weeks mostly focused on public opinion at home on the Iraq war, members left the Capitol with plenty of questions that need to be answered for leaders on both sides of the aisle.
Democrats had, without question, their best legislative run of their nascent, seven-month-old majority. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was absolutely beaming at an 8:30 Saturday night press conference after passing the second energy reform bill of the day, what she called a "flagship issue for my speakership". The action capped a week of big accomplishments for Pelosi and congressional Democrats, not the least of which was the passage of ethics and lobbying reform earlier in the week and a massive expansion in funding for health insurance for poor children. The children's health legislation, Pelosi declared, is the "crown jewel" for congressional Democrats.
But Pelosi did have one major hiccup in the waning hours, as her leadership team caved to the political reality that it had to approve a new version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that was more sweeping than what they had previously sought. This was a bitter pill to swallow, but not approving the bill would have left her open to attacks from the Bush White House that she was soft on terrorists. At the same press conference, Pelosi attacked the new FISA bill as something that "does violence to the Constitution of the United States."
Yet she then allowed it o the floor as just 41 Democrats supported the measure. It was the second time in less than three months Pelosi allowed a bill to pass without the majority of her majority. The other was the $100 billion in funding for the Iraq war without any withdrawal language attached to it. The old GOP leadership team, under the thumb of then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), only approved bills with majority of the majority support.
For Republicans, they have a new rallying cry that is politically akin to "Remember the Alamo." It's also three-words long -- "enough is enough" -- the phrase House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) uttered Friday night but was exorcised from the Congressional Record for still unexplained reasons. Outwardly, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is using it as his new motto, entitling a memo from his office sent to the more than 200 House Republicans after 8 p.m. Saturday with the motto. Underlining this phrase, Boehner wrote: "The Democratic majority revealed it is willing to break any rule, trample on any precedent, and run roughshod over its own Members to defend a left-wing, big government agenda most Americans utterly reject."
The truth is, however, that Boehner is under fire to be more defiant, more rabble-rousing, more willing to pull tactical stunts. As best illustrated by Patrick O'Connor in Politico, rank-and-file Republicans were furious about their treatment in the last 72 hours and felt Boehner was too conciliatory toward Hoyer. (Interestingly, the time stamp on Boehner's "Enough IS Enough" memo is 8:19 p.m., seven minutes before the Politico story posted, perhaps a pre-emptive effort to show strength in advance of a story questioning Boehner's power?)
Of course, like the Alamo, where Davey Crockett and the Texans lost badly, Boehner's Republican Conference was soundly defeated on almost every critical piece of legislation (save the FISA bill). Most Republican strategists outside the House look at the complaints about internal process as lacking in a clear message that will translate into true political momentum. To those strategists, the back-benchers looking for a more aggressive internal approach appear to be whiners without a real message.
Now both sides have more than four weeks to plot their next steps politically and legislatively. For now, both sides would agree, enough is enough.
Posted by: Tony | August 5, 2007 8:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Chris Baker | August 5, 2007 9:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Judge C. Crater | August 6, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Erica, Seattle, WA | August 6, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Patrick Huss | August 6, 2007 5:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ghostcommander | August 6, 2007 10:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rsoliver | August 7, 2007 1:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mascmen7 | August 7, 2007 1:54 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: the_ancient_mariner | August 7, 2007 7:40 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: gromaine3 | August 8, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: James R White Jr | August 9, 2007 2:42 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: frank bowers | August 17, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.