From the diaries by Erick
Speaker Pelosi could very well be playing with a ticking time bomb. I am not saying that the House Democrats are likely to blow but the possibility is certainly there. Lets take a look at some things that have transpired since the election…
I must say that following the most recent election I was impressed with the way in which Speaker Pelosi, for the most part, kept battles from being fought for leadership posts and committee chairs. There was however one fight she allowed to happen and I think this is where she might have started to want to get nervous. She allowed a fight for the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee which did have Rep. John Dingell (Michigan-15) for a chairman. Rep. Henry Waxman (California-30) won a tough fight for the gavel and in the process freaked out centrist Democrats, as well as Democrats that are particuarly found of the senority system (this includes the Congressional Black Caucus). Centrists were already nervous about the shift left the Caucus Leadership had taken and they were shook up even further when Waxman, who is seen as more liberal than Dingell, took the gavel.
The second thing that should make Speaker Pelosi nervous is a possible fight over the gavel for the Oversight and Government Reform Committe which had been previously held by Waxman. It looks like Rep. Edolphus Towns (New York-10), who is next in line according to senority, has done a good job of shoring up support, but don’t think for a minute he isn’t terrified of a young whipper snapper blowing past his senority and grabbing the gavel. Don’t think he doesn’t think every day about the fact that Speaker Pelosi didn’t intervine for Dingell who had senority. I’m not saying a fight is going to happen, but don’t be surprised if one does.
The third thing she should be nervous about involves yet another committee gavel. This time it belongs to Rep. Charlie Rangel (New York-15) who is the Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Rangel has found himself in a lot of hot water lately concerning his ethical behavior. His controversy with Speaker Pelosi has arisen lately with an old fashioned he-said, she-said. He says that she has assured him of the gavel for as long as he wants it and she says that isn’t what she said. My guess is Rep. Rangel might be trying to put words in the mouth of the Speaker in an effort to keep those young, senority-hating whipper snappers from challenging his grip on the gavel.
You might think that Dingell losing his gavel and Towns and Rangell possibly losing their gavels might suck for them, but why in the world would that make Speaker Pelosi nervous? Well it should make her nervous because it brings to surface many real tensions (senority vs. whipper snappers, centrist vs. liberal, etc.)that naturally exist in a Democrat caucus that is trying its darndest to put on a united face behind President-elect Obama.
The fourth and final thing I think the Speaker should be nervous about is the susposed upcoming announcement that Rep. Xavier Becerra (California-31) will leave Congress to become the U.S. Trade Representative. Rep. Becerra is currently the Vice Chairman of the Democratic House Caucus. The fact that Speaker Pelosi almost completely cleared the field for him to win this spot was one of her greatest accomplishments after the election. If he does indeed leave there will be a Royal Rumble for his leadership spot. Names already mentioned for a spot that isn’t technically open yet include: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Florida-20), Rep. Joseph Crowley (New York-7), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio-9), Rep. Kendrick Meek (Florida-17), and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (Illinois-9). Fights this big never end without hurt feelings and every person that loses is going to be looking for someone to blame. It may be the Speaker or some faction of the caucus, but bottom line its gonna hurt party unity.
In conclusion, I’m not saying this will all come to pass, but Speaker Pelosi has good reason to be nervous/