Can House Democrats Mount a Senate-style Filibuster?
By Paul Kane
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gathered three of her top lieutenants around her this morning to talk about health-care reform, climate change legislation, credit card abuse, veterans funding, children's health insurance expansion, regulating tobacco as a drug, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, budget deficits and mortgage industry fraud, to name a few subjects.
What Peloisi and her leadership team did not discuss was the controversy swirling around her accusation last week that the CIA intentionally misled Congress about its interrogation techniques on captured al Qaeda operatives. In a roughly 30-minute press conference -- her first since last week's widely panned weekly briefing, which was televised nationally by the cable networks -- Pelosi and her allies spent 26 minutes talking about the issues they preferred to stick with, while ignoring the CIA-briefing matter. They fielded little more than 4 minutes worth of questions, only one of which dealt with the intelligence briefing matter.
"I have made the statement I am going to make by this," said Pelosi. "I stand by my comment."
But the symbolism of the moment was meant to be crystal clear: House Democrats stand behind their speaker, so please stop pestering them with questions about this matter. Pelosi assembled around her House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a former rival for leadership posts; Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and close ally of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel; and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), the No. 5 ranking Democrat in leadership.
Hoyer began his remarks by talking up the "extraordinarily close working team", one of four times in his brief remarks that Hoyer said that the House leadership team worked "close" or "closely" together along with Senate leadership and the White House. "I want to close in saying that the speaker and I consider ourselves a close team, bringing all of our caucus together to create the consensus for change," Hoyer said.
When Pelosi received her only question about the CIA matter, Hoyer edged next to her almost hoping to step in and mount his own defense of Pelosi. The unified front behind Pelosi came a day after every House Democrat casting a vote rejected a GOP effort to create a special subcommittee on the intelligence panel to investigate the assertion that Pelosi was lied to by the CIA.
Once the weekly press conference concluded, Republicans immediately accused Pelosi and her lieutenants of staging a filibuster to avoid the questions. "Speaker Pelosi stammered and filibustered around the elephant in the room because she knows full well that she has become a political liability to her fellow Democrats in Congress. Her obsession with the previous administration and her disdain for America's intelligence officials has reduced her to cheerleader status within the far left wing of her party," said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Some cable outlets were initially covering the press conference live, but turned away a few minutes once it became apparent that the other leaders were going to speak.
Pelosi has left the country now for a weeklong trip to China, a nation that she has spent decades criticizing for its human rights abuses. Worth noting: Pelosi didn't just avoid questions about her CIA briefings.
She also deflected three different questions about whether she would raise human rights as an issue with Chinese leaders, instead talking about her efforts to get the leaders of the world's largest socialist nation to agree to an effort to reach a global climate change accord by December.
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