Democrats have a steep, uphill battle for retaking the House in 2016, and they’re having trouble agreeing how to even do that. With the historic loss in 2014, they’re now turning their sights to 2016, when the next Congressional and presidential elections will take place. One of the problems some Democrats have is with House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). They’re starting to believe that she’s part of the problem, despite being a strong, perennial leader.
The Washington Post reports that House Democrats will go to Philadelphia this weekend for a series of closed-door meetings about how to win back some of the seats they’ve lost over the last several years. Pelosi is the Democrats’ top fundraiser, and extremely influential in the party. Despite that, the Post says that one Democrat said:
We’ve lost a couple of elections in a row. If we were a private company and kept losing profits, the first thing they’d do is look at the CEO.
The CEO, in this case, is Pelosi. Effective leadership is more than just being able to raise money. It’s also about being able to help the party craft a message that will resonate enough with voters, while at the same time combatting the message that Republicans are sending. It’s about coming up with a solid plan for retaking seats, and thus, Congress.
The Post also reports that Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), says that Pelosi is “unmatched by anyone that I’ve seen in my lifetime in terms of leading a political caucus.” There is strong agreement amongst the CBC that getting back into the majority in Congress has to be their top priority.
But others in the CBC aren’t so sure. The Daily Beast reports that other black Congressional Democrats are considering turning on Pelosi. That’s because of a proposal that would impose term limits on committee leaders, and would also limit how much seniority plays a role in how committee leadership is determined. The CBC believes that these ideas would severely diminish the power and influence the black community has in Congress, right at a time when they’ve never had more influence in national politics.
Democrats are also concerned about Pelosi because she’s helping Obama get the expanded authority to negotiate and seal trade agreements that he asked for during his State of the Union address. According to The Huffington Post, the goal of such a move is to speed the process along, with only a “yes” or “no” vote required from Congress on the final agreement.
Democrats are worried that these new agreements will do what NAFTA did back in the mid-90s: Open the door for companies to ship even more American jobs to other countries. They want these agreements to safeguard jobs and wages, contain high standards for environmental protection, and include provisions for prohibiting and dealing with currency manipulation.
Incredibly enough, giving the president more authority on trade agreements is one of the rare areas where Obama and Congressional Republicans are in step.
HuffPo reports that Pelosi thinks these concerns are valid, but she believes that giving the president this expanded authority will better help ensure such safeguards remain in the final agreement. Should this legislation pass, Congress would not be able to tinker with the trade agreements before voting. That means, should these safeguards make it into trade agreements, Congress could not remove them later on.
Pelosi seems to think that Democrats can coast to wins on Hillary Clinton’s coattails, according to The Hill. That depends on whether Hillary even decides to run. Democrats don’t seem to have anybody else in mind, despite pushes for Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to run. Regardless, predicting wins based on the ability to ride someone’s coattails is dangerous.
So Pelosi has a selling job to do this weekend. She has to find a way to pull Democrats together, along with helping to craft a cohesive message about why Democrats are the way to go in 2016. If she fails in that, her influence will likely diminish severely in the weeks and months to come.
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