I did a CNN interview yesterday about the kinds of problems which will face House Speaker-presumptive Nancy Pelosi and Incoming Majority Leader Harry Reid.
There will be plenty of problems. For instance, if Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker, she will be the highest ranking woman in the history of American government. Someone named "Nancy." Are you listening to this, Hillary?
But, here's the kind of thing which makes living in Washington, DC so worthwhile:
In 2001 Nancy Pelosi ran against Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer for the job of Democratic Whip - the number two job on the minority side. The guy who managed her campaign? Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania. Hold that thought.
In 2002, when Minority Leader Dick Gehpardt stepped down, according to Bloomberg News reporter Laura Litvan, "Pelosi quickly locked up the votes to become minority leader, making her the first woman to lead a major party in Congress."
After Pelosi moved up to Minority Leader, Hoyer won election as Minority Whip.
The thing about leadership fights in Congress is this: They leave deep, ugly institutional scars which never, ever fully heal.
Pelosi and Hoyer have had to work together, but they don't much like each other.
Which two Republican leaders had to work together even though they didn't trust each other as far as they could throw the statue Freedom off the top of the Capitol dome?
Dear Mr. Mullings:
Is that "statue Freedom" business some sort of red herring, or is the answer still Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay?
No herring. No gefilte fish. No nothing. That's the right answer.
What happened was, Newt's long-time friend and lieutenant, Rep. Bob Walker (R-PA), was running for Majority Whip to serve under Newt as Speaker. One version is, DeLay challenged (and beat) Walker largely on the grounds that House Republicans should be wary of handing too much power to one man.
So, Nancy Pelosi is poised to become Speaker and she is repaying the five-year-old debt to Murtha by supporting him to be Majority Leader instead of Steny Hoyer. In his AP piece, reporter Dave Espo wrote that Pelosi, "stepped into a postelection power struggle among fellow Democrats on Sunday with a letter of support for Rep. Jack Murtha in the race to pick a leader."
We spoke about this a couple of weeks ago, but to review the bidding, the Speaker of the House is voted upon by the entire House Membership. There is no requirement that Members vote for the nominee of their party. There is no requirement that any Member vote for anyone - he or she can vote "Present."
Democrats will have their leadership elections on Thursday. The GOP will do theirs on Friday.
Whether Hoyer or Murtha becomes Majority Leader, the Democrats will begin their reign with very hard feelings and a divided Caucus.
In the spirit of engendering bipartisanship, I have an idea. Actually, this is someone else's idea, but I promised I wouldn't tell who it was.
Assume the GOP ends up with 203-or so-seats when all the recounts are over. And say all 203 of those Republican Members of the House were to tell Steny Hoyer that they feel his pain over the Pelosi/Murtha thing and they have decided to vote for him for Speaker.
If Hoyer went into the election for Speaker with 203 GOP votes, he would only need to find 15 Democrats who don't like or trust Pelosi (not exactly a stretch) to get to the magic number of 218 - an absolute majority of the 435 Members - and Mrs. Pelosi would be a very important member of the House Appropriations Committee. Period.
Republicans could look the Popular Press squarely in the eye and say: "What higher level of bipartisanship can there be than crossing over the aisle to vote for the other party?"
Quick! Call Time Magazine and tell them to hold off on that "Person of the Year" cover for Nancy Pelosi.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to Dave Espo's AP piece about the race for Majority Leader a Mullfoto which pretty much describes my week, and a Catchy Caption of the Day.