In Washington, as in Iraq, a line has been drawn in the sand and the battle rages on. Lives are on the line and the future looks grim. The question that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats must answer is: do we stay the course, or stop the madness?
With the Democrat’s takeover of Congress in November, as well as a majority of state legislatures and governorships, the eyes of the country seem focused on the people’s chamber, the House of Representatives, and Pelosi its first-ever female speaker.
While enjoying only the slimmest margin of victory in the Senate, Democrats have a comfortable 53-percent majority in the House, and it is in the House where most legislation begins, making Pelosi one of the most powerful members of government. Here she and the dominating Democrats have the opportunity to move the country in a more progressive direction, rather than remaining stagnant as it has been for the last four years under the Republican leadership.
However, if her first few moments in her new role any indication, Pelosi and the Democrats could be headed for serious problems. Pelosi, a 20-year Representative from the eighth district of California, got off to a rocky start before the 110th Congress was even sworn in.
There were blistering attacks by the right-wing media and the Republican leadership. On the Fox News show “Hannity and Colmes,” a news banner presumed that Pelosi would “turn America into San Francisco.” It portrayed Pelosi as a left-wing zealot pushing her liberal agenda on unwilling Americans, which could not be farther from reality.
Next, Pelosi lost an important battle in her own party. Although she publicly endorsed Pennsylvania’s John Murtha for House majority leader, her Democratic colleagues disagreed and overwhelmingly elected Steny Hoyer from Maryland to the position, citing Murtha’s prior ethical miscues. That situation could be a clue that Pelosi’s agenda is not in line with other individuals in her own party. This is particularly bad for the Democrats as any in house fighting within the party could severely strain the fragile relationship that the Democrats hold with the American voters.
Those setbacks aside, Pelosi remained unfazed and poised when she announced a dramatic 100-hour plan (the terminology borrowed from Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office) to enact legislation on popular issues such as a minimum-wage increase, federally funded stem-cell research, prescription drug price relief, and ethics reform.
Pelosi’s progress thus far has been laudable. The House has already voted to raise the minimum wage to more than seven dollars per hour over two years, passed a sweeping ethics bill, and lifted the ban on federal funding for stem cell research, even though the bill was vetoed by President George W. Bush.With a lame-duck president in office and the 2008 election cycle already cranking up, the question remains whether Pelosi and the Democrats will continue to play it safe or become more aggressive in resolving more difficult and divisive subjects. The American people gave them a considerable amount of political capital, and how they spend it could determine who sits in the oval office come January 2009.
It remains to be seen whether the Democrats will find a cohesive voice or if they will continue to be bullied into compromise (or concession) by the Republicans, as they have for the past decade.
As the American public continues to become disillusioned with the war and support for extreme measures is growing, the legislative branch may be headed for a monumental showdown in 2008.