Nancy Pelosi’s insistence on staying in power as head of the Democrats’ House leadership is creating major divisions in the party. She faces no real threat to keep her job, which will be minority leader in the next Congress, but she faces a wide array of critics, dozens of whom believe she should quit her post, Politico reports
The political in-fighting, along with a sudden battle over earmarks
that has put Democrats on the defensive, is rocking a party still licking its wounds over the shellacking (President Barack Obama's term) it took in the midterm elections.
Pelosi was a major factor behind Democrats’ deep losses in this month’s congressional elections. Many Democratic members of Congress want to yank her authority to appoint her allies to leadership positions. Others just want more time to consider whether maintaining the same group of leaders is really helpful for the Democrats to make a comeback.
Just-defeated Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida stood up during Tuesday’s Democratic caucus meeting to declare that Pelosi is “the face of our defeat.” He put it bluntly: “We need new leadership.”
What's making the fight especially bitter is that Pelosi refuses to take any blame for the huge, historic losses Democrats suffered on her watch.
"Pelosi and the old power brokers who led Democrats back into the majority four years ago are not conceding that they might be culpable in the party’s downfall," Politico writes.
"Behind closed doors, Pelosi argued to her troops Tuesday that she was demonized in Republican campaign ads precisely because she is the party’s political rainmaker.
“'I know some of you suffered because of ads targeted to me,” she said, according to several sources in the room. “They had to take down the person who brings the resources.”
If that wasn't enough of a problem, Democrats now find themselves defending earmarks — pork-barrel projects that consume billions in spending every year as legislators dole out projects to their districts for political support.
Although there is no question that lawmakers are sent to Washington in part to represent the best interests of their district, many earmarks take the form of wasteful, make-work deals used as political favors. The actual merit of the project is a secondary concern.
That's why Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to ban them in the upcoming Congress. The nonbinding vote puts them on record — a move that will make it difficult for senators to support pet projects in the future but one that could pay huge dividends from an electorate angry over wasteful spending.
Critics such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, have railed against earmarks for years, even as they proliferated when Republicans controlled Congress. Slowly, the tide has turned in their favor, according to The Associated Press
Boehner promises that next year's spending bills won't have earmarks. The opinion of House Democrats doesn't matter much, since they'll be stripped of most of their power under a Boehner-led regime.
But Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell's surprise announcement Monday in support of a two-year moratorium on earmarks that fundamentally shifted the paradigm. Until then, the Kentucky Republican had been a strong defender of the practice. Banning earmarks wouldn't save money and would shift too much power to Obama, McConnell said in the days after the midterm congressional elections.
Despite deep misgivings among many old-timers, Republican senators followed McConnell's lead and endorsed a nonbinding moratorium on earmarks Tuesday evening by a voice vote in a closed meeting.
Earmark critics want to go further and are demanding a vote by the entire Senate to ban them for three years.
The move in the Senate GOP leaves Senate Democrats as the only faction of Congress in a position to try to save the practice — and their position doesn't seem very strong, since it's difficult to see how Boehner and McConnell would allow any earmark-laden bills to pass.
Thus far, however, some Senate Democrats seem to be in denial.
"I have an obligation to the people of Nevada to do what is important to Nevada, not what is important to some bureaucrat down here (in Washington) with green eyeshades," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "So I am not going, personally, going to back off of bringing stuff back to Nevada."
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