Democratic House leader under GOP attack
By Holly Yeager in Washington
Published: October 25 2006 22:21 | Last updated: October 25 2006 22:21
Republicans have found a strange new weapon as they fight to maintain control of Congress: Nancy Pelosi.
Mrs Pelosi, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, is poised to become Speaker of the House – third in line for the presidency and the first woman to hold that post – if her party takes the majority in the midterm elections on November 7.
In the waning days of the campaign, Republicans have stepped up their attention to her, calling her a San Francisco liberal and warning about the wrong-headed policies of a “Perilous Pelosi Majority”.
They have hammered away at what they say is her weak stance on security, highlighting comments she made last month that capturing Osama bin Laden would be “five years too late . . . even to capture him now I don’t think makes us any safer”.
Dick Cheney, the vice-president, told an interviewer that Mrs Pelosi “is not in sync with the vast majority of the American people”, and represents “that side of the Democratic party that has not been supportive of and does not believe in a really robust, aggressive prosecution of the global war on terror”.
Deborah Pryce, a Republican from Ohio embroiled in a tough re-election campaign, declared that a Democratic majority under Mrs Pelosi would “take us back to the failed economic policies of the past, including massive tax increases and wasteful government spending”. A television advertisement for a Republican in Georgia declares that she will “reward illegal aliens with welfare, food-stamps, and free education”.
Whether the Republican strategy will be effective is hard to gauge. A Newsweek poll this week found that 25 per cent had a favourable view of her and 26 per cent unfavourable. But another 26 per cent said they had never heard of her and 23 per cent were unsure.
Mrs Pelosi’s office brushed aside the recent attacks. “Republicans’ scare tactics and distortions are a sign of their desperation to keep their power,” a spokeswoman said.
Elected to Congress in 1987, Ms Pelosi is the scion of a political family. Her father was a member of Congress and mayor of Baltimore, Maryland – a position also held by one of her brothers.
She has won high marks for keeping Democrats in line and is a frequent, and often harsh, critic of her Republican colleagues and the Bush White House. When reminded in a CBS interview this week that she had called Republicans “immoral” and “corrupt”, she replied: “Well, actually, when I called them those names, I was being gentle. There are much worse things I could’ve said about them.” Despite that, she has vowed to return civility to the House, pledging to allow the minority party to offer amendments and participate in debates in ways that Republicans have not.
In the first 100 hours of a Democratic majority, she has vowed to rewrite House lobbying rules, increase the minimum wage, reduce interest rates on student loans, adopt the homeland security recommendations made by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission and give the government the power to negotiate with drugs companies for lower prices for the Medicare prescription drug programme.
And, despite pressure from some liberal activists, she has also ruled out the impeachment of President George W. Bush over Iraq. “Making them lame ducks is good enough for me.”