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.
The deal she reached late Friday to create an Assistant Leader post for Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), clearing the way for Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) to become Minority Whip without a divisive vote, does not mean moderates are going to fall in line.
“It’s not going to change the overall problem of Nancy Pelosi is once again trying to, in a final swan song, shove through an agenda that isn’t going to get through the Senate,” the aide said.
Pelosi, meanwhile, still has tools at her disposal, including fear.
“Some of us are concerned about committee assignments,” said the lawmaker who has spoken out against Pelosi. “There are concerns about retribution.”
In particular, some Members are worried because Pelosi’s closest Caucus allies, Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), are policy co-chairmen on the Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments, and are calling Members to line up support for Pelosi.
But Matheson said he’s not worried about threats of losing committee assignments. “If that type of activity went on, it would blow up the Caucus,” he said. “It would be disaster, and I think most people realize that. ... It would be Armageddon.”
Defeated lawmakers also may not want to cross the Speaker if they plan on running for re-election and want access to party campaign cash, or if they are headed to K Street and want to maintain a relationship with her.
Pelosi herself isn’t buying the argument that she bears responsibility for the Democratic defeat or that any of the party’s policies are to blame.
“We didn’t lose the election because of me,” she told NPR in an interview last week, pointing the finger at the nation’s 9.6 percent unemployment rate instead. And she said the overwhelming majority of her Caucus wants her back in the top job next year.
But Matheson took issue with Pelosi absolving herself of blame for the Democrats’ defeat.
“I think that you can talk to a lot of folks, including the 60-plus who lost their election, and I suspect you would find a different opinion,” he said.
The first controversial item she would have to whip could be the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of students and soldiers. That bill had been planned to hit the floor this week, but it was pulled from the agenda Friday afternoon after Pelosi and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus decided to take more time to whip it, according to a leadership aide.
A senior Democratic aide said there was a growing sense in leadership that it would be a “politically good move” for the House to hold a DREAM Act vote, even if the Senate fails to act.
“With the last remaining days of our majority, it sends a message to the Hispanic community that we are fully on their side and that we actually took important steps and votes that will help Hispanics,” the aide said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.