Nancy Pelosi scrambles to thwart rebellion

by
November 16, 2010

By JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO

Nancy Pelosi is getting the first test of her might under the new Democratic reality as she scrambles to extinguish a rebellion against her power to appoint lieutenants to top party posts.

Realizing they don’t have the votes to knock the defeated speaker from the top perch in party leadership, moderate Blue Dog Democrats have set their sights a little lower, targeting liberal Pelosi enforcers George Miller (D-Calif.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), all of whom hold influential jobs because Pelosi has installed them.

Pelosi has already faced down challenges to her authority from a diverse set of lawmakers who have called on her, in public and private conversations, to step aside. But this new effort to purge her best friends from the Democratic leadership will test the extent to which she still controls all the levers of party power.

The effort is being led by Reps. Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Larry Kissell of North Carolina, moderates who have asked Pelosi to step down as leader of the party after the Nov. 2 election wipeout. In addition, a pair of liberals, Reps. Peter DeFazio of Oregon and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, are pushing to postpone leadership elections, and dozens of Democrats have publicly or privately expressed reluctance to keep the California Democrat atop the leadership ladder.

For now, behind closed doors, Pelosi and her allies sound somewhat dismissive.

Miller referred to some dissenters as “irrelevant” during a leadership meeting Monday, DeLauro called them “mischief-makers,” and Pelosi characterized them as “irritants,” according to Democratic insiders.

Pelosi aides say they didn’t hear some of the terms described by other sources — flatly denying that Pelosi said “irritants” — and contend that the dissent will abate a bit after lawmakers have a chance to vent their frustrations at a Tuesday caucus meeting. The speaker’s one-on-one conversations since the election have been positive, they say.

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