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Majority Lost for Lame Duck?

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Moderate Democrats, many of them defeated Nov. 2, have little reason to cooperate with Speaker Nancy Pelosi when they return for the lame-duck session of Congress.

It doesn’t look like Nancy Pelosi’s final weeks as Speaker will be about unity.

The California Democrat continues to eye votes in the lame-duck session on a host of liberal priorities, including immigration reform, gay rights, spending bills and taxing the wealthy, despite the Democrats’ overwhelming defeat Nov. 2, according to several senior Democratic aides. The idea has moderate Democrats exasperated and warning they could align with Republicans on bills and procedural items during the next few weeks.

A Democratic leadership aide cautioned that “no decisions have been made on any legislative items for the lame duck.” But several others said Pelosi has been talking behind the scenes about pushing a host of liberal agenda items before Democrats are relegated to the minority party in the House. Pelosi is running for Minority Leader in the 112th Congress.

“It is like she missed the memo that we lost the election,” one senior Democratic aide said of Pelosi’s lame-duck ambitions. “So far, no one in the Caucus has been able to focus on moving forward,” the aide added. “Her decision to stay has become a huge distraction and is damaging and dividing the Caucus. If she were really listening to her Members, she would be leaving.”

Rep. Jim Matheson, a co-chairman of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition who has called on Pelosi to step down from leadership, said the potentially big agenda and Pelosi’s decision to remain in leadership show that “people are in denial.”

“It’s just amazing to me,” the Utah Democrat said. Matheson added that he didn’t know how Pelosi would get support from lawmakers who just lost re-election in part because they had to take a number of unnecessary tough votes. “I don’t know how you do it. ... How many votes have we had to take in the House that have never moved in the Senate? And we’re still playing that game?”

Matheson said a potential Caucus vote on delaying leadership elections could be an opportunity for Members to send a message that they aren’t happy with Pelosi or her agenda.

Another moderate Democrat, who has come out publicly against Pelosi and is still hoping she will ultimately step aside, said Members have discussed voting down her lame-duck bills and siding with Republicans on procedural votes to express their displeasure at her decision to run for Minority Leader. A senior aide for a defeated Democrat predicted Pelosi will have to accept a stopgap spending bill and not much else.

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