John Nichols has written many insightful blogs at The Nation magazine about the recent power struggles within the House Democratic Caucus. Below he details how Speaker Pelosi will soon be Minority Leader Pelosi and the challenges ahead. In a previous post I detailed how she was attacked in advertising in this past election and likely will be in 2012 (see Why does the Right Demonize Nancy Pelosi?)
Pelosi Easily Retains Leadership Post; Now She Must Lead | The Nation
While the focus has been on the House drama with Republicans drooling at more demonizing. The Senate has received little attention because party leadership has not changed hands there. The upper chamber of Congress began Obama's Presidency with a 60 seat (supposedly filibuster proof) super majority with Harry Reid as the Majority Leader.
Sen. Reid began the 110th Congress, along with President Obama, with high expectations from the public. The Republicans were determined to oppose their agenda every step of the way and to expose the cracks in that supermajority. What response did the former boxer from Nevada in this obstinance?
They were successful in getting the stimulus reduced to a level that would have less effect than was needed so they could later argue that these policies just don't work. On Health Care, Single Payer provisions were scuttled from the outset and the public option could have been kept in the bill through budget reconciliation (which would only require a simple majority vote) but where was Harry?
Before the election recess, a vote on repealing the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans could have been taken but Harry chickened out. Even if the repeal had been blocked by the Reps in the Senate it would have put them on the spot and it could've passed the House easily. The financial reform bill also was stronger in the House than in the Senate. Polls were showing that these reforms were popular and taking a stand on these things could have made a difference in the recent election for the House as well as the Senate Democrats. Other bills that House passed but the Senate has wavered or balked on are the Employee Free Choice Act which makes it easier for employees to form unions, the repeal of the don't ask don't tell policy which would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the US military, and on Nov 17 the Paycheck Fairness Act which would have corrected paycheck imbalances between men and women. On the foreign policy side the New START treaty with Russia to reduce nuclear both sides weapons may be stalled and never passed.
Yes Sen. Reid's party is still in control of the Senate and it's traditions give the minority party a lot of leverage. However his party is just barely in the majority and he himself is lucky to still be there because he had tea party wingnut Sharron Angle as an opponent. A more level headed Republican opponent would have trounced him. More skilled Senate leaders like Lyndon Johnson found ways to get important laws passed when the people needed it. I'm not sure who that should be, Russ Feingold would have been a good choice but he's gone, but clearly a shake up in the rules and the leadership is needed but none is coming Reid is back.
Obama has caved to the Reps to get an unemployment extension and anything else passed. Maybe the title of this post should have been "Nancy remains. Now what about Harry and Barry?" Vermont Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders is now threatening a filibuster of his own for the tax cut deal. See.