I consider Nancy Pelosi to be one of the worst political figures of my lifetime: hyper-partisan, small-minded, and wrong on issue after issue. And I thought her speech on the House Floor yesterday — tearing into the president and Republicans when her job was to rally support for an economic rescue plan — was extremely unwise and irresponsible. It set exactly the wrong tone for a tough vote. But the assertion by Republican leaders in the House that as many as a dozen of their members who were leaning toward voting for the legislation ended up voting against it because of Pelosi’s speech is extraordinary.
Let’s see if we have this straight: whichever side of the issue you were on, yesterday’s vote was considered one of the most important ones members of Congress will ever face. Many respected voices argued that an economic catastrophe might follow in the wake of its defeat. Opponents of the legislation considered it a terrible violation of free-market principles. The stakes could not be higher.
After the legislation was defeated and only one-third of House Republicans backed the plan, John Boehner and Roy Blunt took to the microphones and indicated that Pelosi’s speech had been so alienating and offensive that a significant number of House Republicans changed their mind and voted against the bill.
Can they be serious? Do they realize how foolish and irresponsible they sound? On one of the most important votes they will ever cast, insisting “the speech made me do it” is lame and adolescent. The vote, after all, was on the legislation, not the speech. And to say that a dozen members of your caucus voted not out of principle but out of pique is a terrible indictment of them. I hope we learn the names of these delicate figures whose feelings were so bruised and abused.
I have been defending House Republicans for a week against friends who thought they were acting in an irresponsible fashion. I argued they were people with admirable free-market principles who were simply trying to improve legislation and have their voices heard, something to which they were certainly entitled. And I thought they made the bill better than it was. But yesterday’s vote, and the excuses that followed the vote, have made me reassess my judgment. Watching Boehner, Blunt, and Cantor blame the outcome on the Pelosi speech was an embarrassment.
We are in one of the most dispiriting moments I have ever witnessed in Washington, when political authority seems to be collapsing all around us. House Republicans have contributed to this, and it’s a shame.