By Josephine Hearn - 11/10/05 12:00 AM EST
A year after their demoralizing election performance, House Democratic leaders yesterday were giddy as they basked in gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia as well as the demise of Republican-backed voter referendums in California.
Emerging from their caucus meeting, House Democratic leaders were buoyed by Tuesday’s off-year elections, saying they foreshadow what is to come in 2006.
Before telling reporters that the results bode ill for Republicans’ efforts to pass budget cuts slated for today, the Democrats reveled in their wins.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) took aim at the defeat of California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) redistricting initiative.
“It was a political humiliation,” she said of the defeat, after being introduced by Rep. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as “someone who taught the Terminator what girly man really means.”
“He knows about political humiliation,” Pelosi added. “He was engaged in it two years ago, and now the tables have turned on him.” Pelosi and other California Democrats raised millions to fund opposition to the measure.
Pelosi then turned to congratulate Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who in turn took to the podium to congratulate Pelosi.
Pelosi came forward again later to reel off a string of one-liners on the governor: “Arnold Schwarz-enegger should rethink his career plans!” “He got a resounding no, no, no, no, no across the board.” “He didn’t understand that he can’t write the ending on this like you do in the movies.”
“But we’re not gloating,” she cautioned. “We’re hearing the message as well, and we’re going on to present a clear message to the American people that together, America can do better,” she said, sounding the Democrats’ likely 2006 election slogan.
When a reporter shouted a question to Menendez about his well-known interest in succeeded Governor-elect Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) in the Senate, the lawmaker smiled slyly.
“Next question!” he joked, eliciting a round of hearty laughter from the assembled Democrats.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) came forward to school the press on 18th-century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville’s relevance to the budget vote before Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) warned centrist Republicans not to cave to their leaders.
“Too often we have found that those moderate Republicans who do not believe in the policy nevertheless vote for it,” Hoyer said. “I think yesterday’s election ought to give them serious pause when [former House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay [R-Texas] talks to them tomorrow.”
Democrats were filled with optimism at their caucus meeting yesterday.
“There was a celebratory atmosphere,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), noting that Democrats attributed their widespread victories in part to national discontent with President Bush. “The plummeting of the president’s popularity has taken its toll,” she said. “I would hope that the message that has gone through is that the economic policies of the Bush administration are not popular with electorate.”
Schakowsky and other Illinois Democrats plan to send a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) asserting that the impending budget cuts will hurt Illinois families.
At a meeting of House Democratic whips following the caucus meeting, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean also attributed the gains to voters’ unhappiness with Bush and to Democrats’ effectiveness in organizing.
Republican leaders did their best to try to change the subject.
Hastert released a letter to Pelosi that urged her to appoint Democrats to the House special committee on Hurricane Katrina. The committee has been one of the few issues this fall where Republicans have gained some traction politically with Pelosi. Democrats from the affected areas are involved in the investigation, but Pelosi refuses to officially appoint Democratic members.
Still, the spoils of the day belonged to Democrats.
Two Democratic aides high-fived in the hallway. Election night parties “can be either really good or really miserable,” quipped one. “Last night was really good.”