But more significantly, Pelosi ultimately decided to back Rangel in response to internal political pressures within the Democratic fold, particularly from the Congressional Black Caucus.
CBC members ó as well as other Democrats ó were unhappy with how Pelosi had handled the scandal surrounding former Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who was accused of taking bribes. She forced him to step down from his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee while he was still under investigation. Additionally, several members of the CBC were also under investigation for a Caribbean trip they took, and the group was feeling besieged by the Ethics panel.
"There were absolutely CBC politics in play. You had a lot of CBC members who were really standing up for the chairman," a Democratic lobbyist said of the Rangel imbroglio.
Similarly, Pelosi strongly backed Murtha throughout his ethics woes over earmarks. She went so far as to back him over Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.) for the Majority Leader post in 2006 ó even as many in her Caucus were distancing themselves from him.
Those close to Pelosi said her support for Murtha was based in large part on simple loyalty. Murtha was one of the key architects behind Pelosi's rise in leadership and one of her most trusted lieutenants. Throughout multiple investigations regarding earmarks for companies in his district, Murtha maintained his innocence, and Pelosi chose to back him rather than isolate him.
But Weiner is not particularly close to the California Democrat, nor much of the Caucus.
"He's an independent operator," a senior Democratic aide said, noting that Weiner has never fallen into either Pelosi's or Hoyer's spheres of influence.
"He kind of does his own thing," one Democratic strategist agreed. "I think it is one of the reasons why he is in this predicament. He doesn't listen to many of his colleagues, and he doesn't listen to staff."
Even in the case of former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) ó who was brought down by allegations of sexual harassment ó Pelosi opted to take a decidedly hands-off approach. While she was apprised of his inappropriate conduct with male staff, she ultimately left the handling of the scandal to Hoyer. Massa resigned several days later.
To be sure, Democrats have not always used kid gloves when it comes to those accused of ethics missteps. Democrats in the past have made it a practice to strip committee assignments from Members under federal investigation, but when Pelosi was Speaker, she seemed to struggle to force lawmakers to resign from their seats.
Still, Democrats said they are pleased with how Pelosi has dealt with the Weiner situation.
"I think she's handled this very well," Democratic lobbyist John Michael Gonzalez said. "Other than wagging her finger, I don't know what else she could do."
"In the minority, we just can't let these kind of issues weigh us down," one Democratic lobbyist said. "We've got to act quickly."comments powered by Disqus