Republicans must learn from Pelosi’s mistakes

Defending her record of leadership last summer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Politico she would defend “every grain of sand” of what she’s built in Congress. Truer words were never spoken — having passed a slew of bills no one read, with bipartisan opposition and little public support, Pelosi’s agenda increasingly looks like a House built upon sand and vulnerable to the shifting political tides.

Republicans should learn a lesson from Pelosi’s tenure: legislation must have a solid foundation of bipartisan and public support. Strong-arm tactics from the majority party undermine public confidence and undercut support for the legislative agenda. Should Republicans regain the House on Tuesday, we cannot afford to follow Pelosi’s example of silencing minority input and ignoring public feedback.

Speaker Pelosi’s low favorability rating among voters indicates widespread rejection of her efforts to ram unpopular bills through Congress. Rasmussen polls six weeks before Election Day showed Pelosi to be the most unpopular of the four top Congressional leaders, with only 12% of voters saying they view her very favorably. Without a broad foundation of support, Pelosi’s agenda may get swept away when voters have their say next week.

The democratic process was meant to be a consensus-building exercise — slow and deliberative, but producing legislation with a solid underpinning of support. Relying instead upon the unstable footing of her 39-vote majority, Pelosi has had the luxury of drafting and passing landmark legislation without securing a single vote from the minority party. Without input or buy-in from the minority, Pelosi’s extreme versions of once-popular reforms like health care have not been able to pass muster with the public.

Pelosi herself seemed to acknowledge the critical role of minority input in 2004 when she introduced the Minority Bill of Rights — a document now conspicuously absent from any official Democratic websites. The process by which legislation passes matters as much today as it did in 2004.

The ability of the minority party to amend bills on the House Floor, to recommit them to committee, or to play any significant role in shaping the final conference version of a bill is important. The use of these tools can broaden the appeal of landmark legislation and enhance bipartisan collaboration. On the other hand, procedural shenanigans like those we’ve seen during this 111th Congress undermine the faith of the people in their elected representatives and can result in legislation with no real mandate.

Should we be fortunate to win enough seats on Tuesday to retake the majority, we must be committed to allow bills to be amended from the Floor during debate (the so-called open rule). During the 111th Congress, I have yet to see a bill come to the Floor under an open rule. We should restore the Motion to Recommit to committee — a longstanding tool removed by Speaker Pelosi last year. And we must do a better job than Democrats have done of holding regular conference committee meetings, which enable minority input during the final draft of a bill.

Voters may not necessarily pay attention to every vote or provision in each bill. But they do expect certain things from the United States Congress. They want us to read the bills we pass. They want us to work together to support bipartisan solutions. And they want us to listen to them instead of forcing legislation through a manipulated process “so we can find out what’s in it.”

Instead of a collaborative effort to address problems, voters see a winner-take-all system which rewards partisanship over problem solving. If we do not take the time to build broad coalitions of support for our agenda, our efforts to lead will be no more successful than Speaker Pelosi’s fast-dissolving House upon the sand. We must not fall for the quick fix that leverages tomorrow’s prosperity to pay for today’s problems. Instead, our job is to assure the American people that we will build strong support to embrace solid solutions to long-term problems.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz represents Utah’s Third Congressional District.

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  • papa1

    Rep. Chaffetz,

    I am a life-long democrat with a long life behind me. Frankly, I am fed up with both parties. A legislative branch that does not read the bill before they vote on it is a pathetic lot. A legislative branch that excludes itself from the laws they pass show contempt for the electorate.

  • distantsmoke

    The sad fact is that Democrats only believe in bipartisanship when they are in the minority, or do not have filibuster proof control of the House and Senate.

    The sad fact is that Republicans only believe in bipartisanship when they are in the minority, or do not have filibuster proof control of the House and Senate.

    The sad fact is that Americans who choose to go into Politics are narcissist, self-aggrandizing, power hungry everymen (and every women) who plan on using their power for the benefit of themselves and their families for as long as they can get away with it.

    The Emperor has no clothes, but it doesn’t matter since no one is looking. The media have spectacularly failed over and over again to provide valid facts, historical perspective and clearly labeled right or left analysis of current events.

    If Americans are ignorant as such left wing media personalities as Katie Couric and Brian Williams lament, they have only themselves to blame. If Americans are now getting their information from alternate sources, the mainstream media has only itself to blame. A person may not know how or why, but they often can tell when they are being snowed.

    Here’s a historical fact that is never mentioned in our media. Anytime, anywhere a government has used taxation of those who work and earn to support those who do not, eventually the balance tips in favor of people seeing it is to their advantage to not work. This was true in Communist USSR. It is true in Cuba. It is true in France, Italy and Great Britain. At no time in history and in no country has that particular solution ever succeeded. Yet our politicians tell us over and over that they can tax and spend us to prosperity. There is NO historical basis for this claim. It has been tried over and over and it always fails. Yet you never ever hear the media talk about the repeated failures of this particular economic model.

    Liberals are not “always wrong”. Conservatives are not “heartless”. Until the people who choose to stand up and lead take responsibility and work honestly and effectively to SOLVE problems, America will remain in a downward spiral.

    A pox on both parties and every politician in the nation.

  • westcon

    Jason Chaffetz is right. Tea Partiers and Conservatives must hold Republicans accountable if they are going to change the status quo.