House Democratic leaders quickly decided last week to adopt a “less-is-more approach” on the Iraq war debate, managing to make a decision that would have taken weeks in the minority, said Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).
Having watched the Senate fail to pass a resolution, House Democratic leaders swiftly pivoted. They scrapped the idea of debating a more complex resolution proposed by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) and proposed a narrower measure.
Had the Democrats still been in the minority, the decision over how to debate Iraq would have paralyzed them for weeks, Emanuel said.
Instead, in phone calls, private meetings and discussions on the House floor, the leaders decided last week to move forward with the current approach.
However, there were bumps in the road. Democrats initially indicated that Republicans would be given an opportunity to offer an Iraq-related amendment, but then changed their minds.
The Hill reported Tuesday that that reversal led to tension between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Brendan Daly, Pelosi’s communications director, said, “Contrary to Tuesday’s article in The Hill, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, and the entire Democratic leadership are in complete agreement on how to proceed on the debate on the resolution on Iraq and on the entire Democratic agenda.”
Insiders love to analyze relationships among House leaders. For years, former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) were subjected to questions of who was really in charge of the GOP conference.
Hoyer and Pelosi have generated the same level of scrutiny because of their past rivalries. In 2001, Pelosi defeated Hoyer to become the minority whip. Last year, she backed Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) for majority leader.
But a cross-section of lawmakers loyal to Pelosi and Hoyer say that they are working well together.
“They’re pros,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a Pelosi ally. “This town likes to measure hiccups, my guess is because we’re inside the Beltway. Both of them understand the responsibility and the burden given to them.”
“Steny is doing all he can to coordinate efforts, to make sure that we have a well-coordinated leadership team,” said Rep. Ron KindRon KindJunior Dems plot strategy as leadership vote looms Ryan: Pacific deal can't be fixed in time for lame-duck vote House Democrat expects support to grow for Pacific trade deal MORE (D-Wis.), who was one of Hoyer’s deputy whips. “If there is any tension, it’s not visible to the average member [of Congress].”
While Pelosi and Hoyer do not have weekly one-on-one meetings, they talk “all the time” on the House floor and on the telephone, Daly said.