A Historically Memorable Speakership
by Jonathan Singer, Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 12:05:06 PM EDT
Today is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's birthday, and in light of the occasion -- as well as the monumental achievement over the past few days that was the passage of healthcare reform legislation (with student lending reform, to boot) -- I thought it worthwhile to take a moment to lay down a few thoughts on the Pelosi speakership.
When Nancy Pelosi was first elected Democratic leader in late-2002, the time was bleak for her party. The Democrats, who had been expected to fare well in the midterm elections -- perhaps even retaking the House of Representatives -- not only lost seats in the House but also lost control of the Senate. Indeed, the party's caucus in the chamber (205 members, including Independent Bernie Sanders) was as small as it had been in 54 years.
Today, after two straight elections in which Republicans sought to make Nancy Pelosi an issue, the Democratic caucus is strong and robust. At its peak earlier in this Congress, before retirements and a death marginally reduced the Democrats' numbers, the Democratic majority stood larger than any Republican majority in the House since just after the 1928 elections. Think about that. The current Democratic majority is larger than the Republicans have had in nearly 80 years -- this, after Republicans sought to make the last two battles for the House about Nancy Pelosi. Yes, there were hiccups along the road, and House Democrats lost further ground during the 2004 election. Still, today, it's quite clear that Pelosi has been, at least on an electoral level, a boon for her party rather than the albatross Republicans sought to make her.
And over the past few days, weeks and months, we have come to see that Nancy Pelosi has been a historically effective leader of the House. This week, the President signed the most monumental piece of domestic legislation in nearly a half-century. Just as Barack Obama was able to do what no President in more than 100 years had been able to do in making the case for universal healthcare coverage, so too was Nancy Pelosi able to do what no other Speaker in more than 100 years had been able to do in shepherding such legislation through the House. And not just healthcare reform legislation. The House has also passed, with the agreement of the Senate, major legislation in the areas of student lending reform, economic stimulus, jobs, anti-discrimination, credit reform, and tobacco regulation. The House under Pelosi's Speakership has also moved the ball forward on important climate change legislation, which while not yet passed by the Senate has nonetheless kept the issue at the fore.
This is an historic Speakership -- there's no other way of describing it. So happy birthday Nancy Pelosi, a leader of the House of Representatives whose name is now firmly on path to join the names like Henry Clay, Joseph Cannon, Champ Clark, Sam Rayburn and Tip O'Neill.