Test of Wills in the House as Pelosi’s Popularity Plummets

Look for the House to work late into the night on Friday or possibly Saturday as the new majority will encounter its first real test of wills with the minority over earmarks on three Appropriations bills to be considered on the House floor this week.

Earmarks are growing as a symbol of business as usual in the House, and Appropriations Chairman David Obey’s (D-Wis.) unwillingness to give ground to the Republicans will likely spark a huge fight. My sources tell me that the GOP has over 200 amendments prepared to force Obey to relent and open up the earmark process to public scrutiny.  Obey will likely go to the Rules Committee to force a closure of debate on the spending measures, sparking a bigger rebellion amongst the minority.

This test of wills is inevitable. The good news for staff and lobbyists is they are doing it this week, not the week before the July 4 recess. Hopefully this clash will work itself out before it becomes necessary to screw up the vacations of a lot of people in town.

I remember we had several such tests of wills when Republicans took the majority in 1995, working all-nighters and occasionally on weekends. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a necessary part of the legislative process.

The interesting part today is that while the Republicans in 1995 were doing things that really changed the system, like cutting spending, the Democrats are doing things that defend the status quo, like preserving the earmark process. And that explains in part why Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) approval ratings are heading south in a hurry.

Sixty-five percent disapprove of the way Congress is handling its jobs, while only 27 percent approve, according to the latest Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll. Pelosi gets a 39 percent disapproval rating and only a 35 percent approval rating, with her disapproval rating increasing by 18 percent since January.

The reason for the negative reaction is because the American people see the Congress doing its business as usual. And there is ample reason for that impression. As the new majority defends the earmarking process, Congress is doing business as usual.

Credit should go to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team for once again exposing and exploiting the Democratic majority’s principal weakness: its inability to make the Congress work better for the American people.

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