- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What to make of presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Rep. Jack Murtha as upcoming majority leader, especially in light of her pledge to make the next Congress the “most honest, ethical and open” in history?

Mr. Murtha’s ethical lapses are widely known. During the 1980 Abscam investigation, the FBI videotaped Mr. Murtha discussing the possibility of accepting bribes with an undercover agent. Although he was never indicted, the scandal has plagued the Pennsylvania Democrat ever since. More recently, questions have been raised regarding Mr. Murtha’s potential abuse of his position as ranking member on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee. Complaints have also been raised that Mr. Murtha used his subcommittee powers to obstruct real ethics reform.

In addition, there is Mr. Murtha’s preposterous “solutions” to the Iraq war, which include an immediate withdrawal and redeployment of U.S. troops to Okinawa. This is the member Mrs. Pelosi wants as the face of Democrats’ new-found majority status?

So it seems, and we can think of a few reasons why. First, Mrs. Pelosi needs members in the leadership whom she can work with, and her public quarrel with the Democrats’ No. 2 leader in the House — Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Mr. Murtha’s competition — seems to preclude a united front. We also may be seeing the “real” Pelosi here, the liberal San Francisco Democrat, as opposed to the “campaign” Pelosi, who killed impeachment talk and attempted to bolster her party’s image on national security. Seen this way, Mr. Murtha’s views are much more aligned with Mrs. Pelosi. Mr. Hoyer and moderates like him might have no place in the new Democratic leadership.

With her selection of Mr. Murtha, Mrs. Pelosi believes that her far-left, antiwar base deserves to be rewarded with its choice for majority leader. It certainly won’t go over well with moderate independents and those Republicans who voted Democratic this year. In fact, even the New York Times editorial board has agreed with the very un-Murtha idea that the United States needs to increase — repeat, increase — troops levels in Iraq. No doubt Mrs. Pelosi has weighed this risk.

Behind all this is the inevitable intramural power play, a move that could endanger her. By investing herself so publicly in a fight that she could have guided behind the scenes, Mrs. Pelosi has made a gamble. The natural order of the House is that committee chairmen are strong, while the speaker is weak. If the gamble pays off, and Democrats are drummed into supporting Mr. Murtha’s candidacy, Mrs. Pelosi has demonstrated her real power. Her chairmen might think twice before crossing her in the future. Mrs. Pelosi is trying to impose her will, as she ought to.

For his part, Mr. Hoyer maintains that the Pelosi endorsement was nothing more than Mr. Murtha’s last-ditch attempt to salvage his struggling bid for majority leader. We will find out tomorrow.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide