Verne Strickland Blogmaster / August 10, 2011
YOU CAN'T TELL THE PLAYERS WITHOUT A PROGRAM -- AND AS USUAL, YOU CAN'T TELL THE PLAYERS ANYTHING!
Dozens of House Republicans have defected this year on high-profile bills on funding the government and raising the debt limit, ostensibly giving Pelosi and her liberal-leaning caucus leverage.
In short, as long as President Obama and GOP leaders are forging bipartisan deals, the leverage of House Democrats will go only as far as their willingness to buck their own president — something they’ve so far been disinclined to do.
Indeed, amid the year’s most contentious and partisan budget battles, House Democratic leaders have prioritized the appearance of party unity over the policy concerns of their caucus.
Liberal Democrats, for instance, objected to the nearly $40 billion in spending cuts included in the 2011 continuing resolution (CR) enacted in April. More recently, they howled in opposition to the debt-limit package bursting with domestic spending cuts but entirely absent any tax-revenue increases.
Although Pelosi voted against the CR, she did so quietly, without announcing her intentions beforehand or whipping fellow Democrats to join her in opposition. She even suggested she would vote yes if her support were needed to pass the bill.
Pelosi supported the debt-limit bill while conceding it was a raw deal for Democrats. Although most observers predicted House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would need Democratic votes to pass the proposal, Pelosi afterward said she thought the Republicans could secure the votes on their own.
“I’m unhappy about the fact that this was developed with a premise that the Republicans would have the 218 [votes needed to pass the debt-ceiling bill],” she told reporters last week, according to Talking Points Memo. “Since they didn’t, we should’ve had more influence.”
Half of the House Democratic Caucus rejected the final deal, while 73 percent of House Republicans voted for it.
The bipartisan deals on the CR and the debt have complicated Pelosi’s effort to win back the House because it is difficult to criticize Republicans for backing deals that Obama signed into law. Moreover, the presidential race will be center stage next year, and House Democrats have grumbled that Obama’s actions in 2011 clearly illustrate that winning back the House is not among his top priorities.
A growing number of liberal Democrats and policy groups say the White House has left Pelosi little choice through the budget debates. They’re blaming Obama’s deal-making style for undermining most of the leverage held by Pelosi and other House Democrats.