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Pelosi To Progressives, Pundits: Don't Blame Us For Senate's Shortcomings

First Posted: 10/13/10 06:28 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:00 PM ET

Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday urged progressives and pundits alike not punish House Democrats in the 2010 elections for the lethargy and shortcomings of the Senate.

In a conference call with online reporters and bloggers, Pelosi made the case that had her chamber been given full control over the legislative process, both the party and country would be in a better place. But the Senate is a co-equal branch, and its procedural rules have forced either moderation or complete non-consideration of important reforms. The end product is, natutrally, frustration among Democratic voters and progressive-leaning thinkers. But as the party has been urged by economists like the New York Times' Paul Krugman to do more on the job creation front, the Speaker stressed the need to draw distinctions.

"I appreciate what Paul Krugman says," said Pelosi. "It would be helpful though if some of those people who are saying these things [noted] that the House did more. Remember, we did more. We passed jobs bill after jobs bill after jobs bill that were not picked up in the Senate because of the need for the 60th vote... we know what we need to do and that's what binds our caucus."

Pelosi has never been good at hiding her disdain for the Senate's pace. During the height of health care reform, her frustration would boil over in meetings after House members were repeatedly asked to compromise funds or provisions in order to secure individual Senate votes. In July, she blamed the upper chamber for failing to move fast enough on a series of bills that would have been economically stimulative -- a failure that, in turn, made Democrats seem incapable of creating jobs.

On Wednesday, Pelosi repeated the mantra, only this time putting a numerical figure on how many jobs she thought the Senate's penchant of slow-paced negotiation had cost the country.

"We passed a bigger recovery package than passed in the Senate," Pelosi said. "We had the votes, we passed it in the House and it got cut in the Senate. We knew that we needed more and I think that probably could have accounted for a half a million jobs, at least the difference between the two bills. If there was any thought that a bigger bill could have passed in the Senate we could have passed a bigger bill in the House."

And for good measure, she took a swipe at the Senate for punting on climate change legislation, which the House passed a year and a half ago. "The glaciers are melting faster than the Senate seems to be able to act," she said.

There is an inherent concern among operatives that Pelosi is right: House Democrats will take the brunt of voter anger for the shortcomings of the current Congress. That, simply, is a product of the electoral system, in which every House member is forced to run every two years while approximately a third of the Senate is in campaign mode.

This, indeed, seems to be affecting the Speaker's mindset heading in to the 2010 elections. But while her pox-on-their-house posture gave off the appearance that she has lumped all senators, regardless of ideology, into the same bag, that's not entirely true. Her displeasure is predominantly for the Republicans in the chamber who have institutionalized the filibuster to halt the legislative process. And when making the pitch to the primarily progressive audience, she argued that a Congress populated with stymied Democrats was better than a Congress populated with a majority Republicans.

"If people are unhappy about the progress being made wait till you see what happens if the Republicans were ever to gain power," said Pelosi. "It is a choice; it is choice. We all haven't gotten everything we wanted but everything we got on these issues came form the Democrats. And again, we don't intend to lose it but we don't expect that people will stay home because they didn't get everything they wanted when they are going to get nothing that they want if Republicans were to win."

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