Nancy Pelosi learns the appeal of 'no'
The White House and House Speaker John Boehner (R) are arguing over just how long to temporarily keep the government running while they negotiate a final budget for 2011. President Obama and Senate Democrats want the stop-gap continuing resolution to last a month. Boehner prefers two weeks. No one seems to disagree too much on the scale of spending cuts -- $4 billion in the two-week version.
Except, that is, for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D), who blasted those $4 billion in cuts on Monday, even as she acknowledged that Democrats and Republicans should work together to prevent a government shutdown.
Reid, Obama and Pelosi are very different political personalities. But the biggest difference between them now is structural: While Reid is still majority leader and Obama is still president, Pelosi doesn't have to govern.
Situational ethics are often the only kind in Washington, and Pelosi, I bet, sees little reason to cooperate with Republicans in her chamber. Even when she was speaker, she was left of other Democratic leaders; now, her caucus, stripped of so many centrists in 2010, is far more liberal. She couldn't influence the GOP majority in the House, anyway. If Senate Democrats reach a deal with Republicans, which they can easily do without her help, then the Democrats still look like they compromised. So in the meantime, she's probably calculating, she can satisfy the base with her opposition to GOP spending cuts. And no one can blame her for anything happening -- or not happening -- in the real world.
This won't be the last time Pelosi displays consequence-free stridency, that only convenience of being in the minority. Speaking from the left, Pelosi will probably disagree more often with Reid and Obama, and Republicans will develop some narrative about how the Democrats are in disarray. Pelosi won't rehabilitate her "San Francisco liberal" image this way, but the "professional left" might be more satisfied by its representation in government. Of course, the House will remain sharply partisan, with a conservative majority mostly uninterested in genuine participation by the Democrats and Democrats rediscovering the charms of being the Party of No.
| March 1, 2011; 1:24 PM ET
Categories: Stromberg | Tags: Stephen Stromberg
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