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Enraged moderate Democrats have been kicking around various scenarios for retaliating against Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her decision to run for Minority Leader.
The moderate wing of the party, which was decimated in last week’s midterm elections, blames its losses in large part on the California Democrat’s liberal leadership and toxic poll ratings, and many moderates are shocked that she is sticking around without even issuing a mea culpa.
“It’s like she’s a secret agent for the Republican Party,” said one rank-and-file Member, who added that it seems as if Pelosi is in denial about how deeply unpopular she has become.
According to senior aides, the tactics that have been discussed by members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and other Democratic moderates include:
• Holding Blue Dog meetings at the same time as Democratic Caucus meetings, under the logic that if Pelosi isn’t going to listen to them, they don’t need to listen to her.
• Taking down a rule during the lame-duck session to express their displeasure with the Speaker and embarrass her on the floor.
• Pushing to make the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee an elected position to weaken the Democratic leader’s power.
• Getting members to sign letters expressing their displeasure at the Speaker and threatening not to run for re-election if she remains.
• Making a push to enforce term limits against Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Pelosi’s closest allies, in their roles as co-chairmen of the Steering and Policy Committee.
• Opening formal negotiations with Republicans on budget cuts or other issues and cutting Pelosi out of the talks.
The aides acknowledged that the ideas aren’t particularly productive and most will probably never see the light of day, but frustrated moderates don’t know what else to do. “Frustration is the understatement of the year,” one senior moderate aide said. “Everybody feels like they got kicked in the teeth.”
Ultimately, they predicted, most Members won’t publicly stick out their necks because they still fear Pelosi’s wrath and need the financial support of the DCCC, which she controls, to win re-election or run again.
The letter idea in particular has been rapidly losing steam after a draft written for defeated Democrats to sign was circulated, with one moderate aide calling the idea “stupid.”
“If she’s clearly going to be the leader, what good do you get to continue to put your name on letters and write things?” the aide asked. No Members have stepped forward to claim credit for the letter or to support it.
And even though there are Democrats who are thinking about running for re-election who may not do so if Pelosi stays in charge, they aren’t likely to speak out because they don’t want to hurt their job prospects on K Street, the likely alternative destination for many of them, one aide said.
There also is frustration that no one credible has emerged to take on Pelosi; no one considers the threat by Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) to run to be anything more than a token gesture by the Blue Dog.
Moderates also fear that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) will be tossed overboard in his battle with Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) for the Minority Whip slot, adding insult to injury, despite expressions of confidence from the Hoyer camp.
“Maybe the Caucus has to learn the hard way, and Hoyer has to lose and we go through a period of darkness,” the aide said.