Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Something for the Dems to Cheer About 

While I don't agree with her stance on the war, I do believe Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip, is working hard on Democratic Party concensus building in the U.S. House of Representatives (from Jim Abrams, Associated Press, Yahoo News):

"WASHINGTON - Nancy Pelosi was running on a few hours sleep after an achingly close loss, at 2:30 in the morning, on a measure setting the stage for a half-tillion dollar tax cut. Nonetheless, she was elated.

All 203 voting House Democrats had opposed it, a sign to her that she is having some success in uniting a party divided over the Iraq (news - web sites) war and still reeling from election defeats in November.

Even conservative Democrats who opposed her promotion to minority leader say they are impressed by the San Francisco liberal's performance so far. She is the first woman to head a party caucus on either side of the Capitol.

Rep. Dennis Moore (news, bio, voting record), D-Kan., said growing budget deficits have united the party against Republicans. But he also gives Pelosi credit for moving more toward the center.

"WASHINGTON - Nancy Pelosi was running on a few hours sleep after an achingly close loss, at 2:30 in the morning, on a measure setting the stage for a half-tillion dollar tax cut. Nonetheless, she was elated.

"I supported her opposition in the race for leader," Moore said. "I have been very, very pleasantly surprised by the way Nancy Pelosi has conducted herself and listened to all elements of the party. She understands as the party leader, she represents a much broader spectrum."

Pelosi, 63, took over her party's leadership in the House in January from Rep. Dick Gephardt (news - web sites), D-Mo., who stepped down to devote more time to his campaign for the presidential nomination in 2004.

As the war in Iraq winds down, Pelosi said it is time for her party to focus the country's attention on the economic issues she thinks will reverberate in the next election. "People know there has to be a better way and they are listening," she said in an interview with The Associated Press as Congress was preparing to leave for its spring vacation.

What is important, she said, is that "never again will Democrats go into a campaign where it's not clear about who we are, what we stand for, how different we are from the Republicans, and what we are going to fight for. The public will know the difference between the two parties."

Although divided last fall on the need for a war with Iraq, Democrats are solidly against President Bush (news - web sites)'s tax cut plans, opting for a much smaller tax cut they say would give more immediate relief to the struggling economy but not add to the budget deficit.

The two parties also have sharp differences on such issues as how to expand health insurance and Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Pelosi noted that every House Democrat supported the party alternative — a $136 billion, one-year package of tax relief and aid to the states — to Bush's plan calling for $726 billion in new tax breaks over the next decade.

"I'm a coalition builder. That's my orientation in politics," she said.

After Republicans picked up net gain of six House seats in November, many feared that elevating the nine-term lawmaker would alienate, or even drive into GOP arms, the conservative wing of the Democratic Party.

While Republicans have had difficulty maintaining party discipline in the first months of the new Congress, Pelosi has cultivated harmony among usually fractious Democrats by assuring that minorities and women get on key committees and establishing a rural working group to provide a voice for more conservative members.

Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, said Pelosi's decision to give less senior Democrats better committee assignments has won her support when she needs it.

"She has not been one to push her thoughts and her ideals onto fellow members of Congress to get what she wants. She looks out for the whole caucus," Michaud said.

Pelosi, among the Democrats who voted last fall against giving Bush authority to go to war in Iraq, said she does not believe that opposition will be a liability. At the same time, she said, "Democrats have to demonstrate to the public our national security credentials."

Applauding the military's success in Iraq, she said it still is an open question whether the United States will be a safer place after a war that "enflamed our enemies and antagonized our allies."

She predicted that Bush's soaring popularity as a result of success in Iraq will be short-lived.

"His re-election numbers are not that high. I think you have to make a distinction," Pelosi said. "The economy, and the issues that relate to the immediacy of people's lives, are going to determine the next election."